Welcome to your crash course (no pun intended) in the different types of cycling available today. Here's a quick overview with links to expanded articles throughout if you would like to learn more about a particular discipline.
Road cycling is one of the most popular cycling disciplines and involves riding on paved roads. It typically takes place on public roads or closed circuit tracks.
Road cyclists use lightweight bikes with narrow tyres and drop handlebars for efficiency and aerodynamics. This discipline includes various events such as road races, time trials, criteriums, and stage races like the Tour de France.
Velodrome or Track Cycling
Track cycling takes place on a specially designed indoor or outdoor velodrome track. Velodromes are oval-shaped and feature steeply banked curves. Indoor track surfaces are typically timber while outdoor tracks are usually concrete.
Track cycling events include sprint races, endurance races, team pursuits, and keirin. Riders use fixed-gear ultra-light bicycles with no brakes. They ride in a tight pack to capitalise on wind drafting to maximize speed.
Cyclocross (CX) is a mix of road cycling and off-road riding. It is a challenging discipline that involves racing on a closed circuit course, which features a variety of terrain including grass, mud, sand, and obstacles like barriers.
Cyclocross bikes resemble road bikes but have wider tyres for better traction and clearance. Racers often dismount and carry their bikes over obstacles.
BMX (Bicycle Motocross) is a high-intensity and fast-paced discipline that originated from motocross motorcycle racing. It soon evolved into its own distinct sport, focusing on agile and technical riding on compact dirt tracks or purpose-built BMX parks.
BMX cycling is characterised by its small, sturdy bikes with 20-inch wheels, strong frames, and single-speed drivetrains. Riders perform a variety of tricks, jumps, and maneuvers, showcasing their skill, creativity, and aerial prowess. BMX competitions can include various formats such as racing, freestyle, and park.
Gravel cycling, also known as gravel biking, gravel grinding, or adventure cycling, has gained popularity in recent years. It involves riding on unpaved roads, gravel paths, and even some singletrack trails.
Gravel bikes are designed with wider tyres for improved stability and traction on mixed terrain. Gravel cycling events range from endurance races to multi-day bikepacking adventures.
Fat biking is a type of cycling that involves riding on surfaces with low traction, such as snow, sand, or mud. Fat bikes are equipped with wide tyres, typically ranging from 3.8 to 5 inches. This set up provides massive floatation and grip compared to traditional mountain bike tyres.
Fat biking is popular in areas where floatation and traction are imperative. Snowy winters are no problem and they are just as much at home in tropical sandy landscapes. This versatility makes them ideal for exploration and adventure riding in challenging conditions.
Cross-country (XC) mountain biking is a discipline that takes place on off-road trails, usually in natural environments like forests or mountains.
XC races are typically held on looped courses that feature a mix of climbs, descents, and technical sections. The aim is to complete the course in the shortest time possible. A good level of athletic fitness is ideal for cross-country racing. XC bikes are lightweight, with front and rear suspension to handle rough terrain.
Gravity Enduro MTB
Gravity Enduro (GE) mountain biking combines elements of cross-country riding and downhill racing. Riders compete in timed downhill sections, usually on technical trails, and also have to pedal between stages.
GE events require a balance of endurance, technical skill, and speed. Bikes used for gravity enduro typically have more suspension travel than XC bikes but are lighter and more efficient than downhill bikes.
Downhill (DH) mountain biking is an adrenaline-pumping discipline that focuses on racing downhill on steep, technical, and often rocky trails. Riders aim for the fastest time from the start gate to the finish line.
DH bikes are designed with maximum suspension travel, strong brakes, and a sturdy frame to withstand the demands of high-speed descents.
E-mountain biking, also known as electric mountain biking or eMTB, has gained popularity with the advent of electric-assist bicycles. E-mountain bikes have an integrated electric motor that provides assistance to the rider's pedaling efforts.
E-mountain biking allows riders to tackle more challenging terrain and enjoy longer rides with less fatigue. E-MTBs are available in various designs, including hardtail and full-suspension models.
Each of these cycling disciplines offers unique challenges and rewards, attracting a diverse range of riders. From the endurance-focused road cyclists to the thrill-seekers of downhill mountain biking, there's a cycling discipline for every preference and skill level. Whether you're seeking speed, adventure, or a mix of both, exploring different cycling disciplines provides a fulfilling experience on two wheels.