Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride. –Eddy Merckx
When most people think of cycling, they’re thinking about street biking. Street biking is the practice of riding a bike on a paved surface or main road. Street biking includes things like commuter bikes and cruiser bikes, as well as road bikes made to speed along on pavement. But there’s more to street biking than just choosing a bike and going with it. You need to consider the method of travel you’re looking for.
There’s a difference between cruising along and seeing the sights and speeding along down roads or even taking part in a race. You may be interested in street biking for the commuter aspects, or you may be looking for a cost-effective way to get from one location to another, without impacting the environment. And of course, along with manually powered bikes, plenty of electric commuter bikes are made to take to the road, allowing you to get from one location to another with little to no power from you, all while minimizing your carbon emissions.
Choosing the right street bike can become a hassle, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, and choosing between the comfort of a cruiser, a bike for a heavy rider, the speed of a street bike, or the all-around greatness of a multipurpose bike, can all seem overwhelming. That’s why we offer plenty of reviews and articles all about street bikes, so you can invest with confidence knowing you’re choosing the best bikes, and gear, available on the market. Not only can you be sure your next bike trip will be a success, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the best of the best when it comes to street biking equipment.
But there’s more to street biking than meets the eye, and this source of transportation and exercise has a long history that’s well worth exploring. Continue reading to learn all about the history of street biking, as well as plenty of tips and tricks to make choosing a new street bike or gear easier than ever before.
A Brief History of Street Biking
The history of the street bike is the same history as cycles in general, but most people don’t think far enough back when they look for the start of bicycles. Many historians point to the draisine as the predecessor of modern bikes. German Baron Karl von Drais invented the draisine (Laufmaschine in German) in 1817 as a way for people to get around faster without having to use a horse. This was later called a hobby-horse. This vehicle had no pedals and was propelled by a person sitting in the center and running their legs along the ground to get up to speed. These can be found today as balance bikes, which are usually much smaller and geared toward children just learning how to balance on a bike. While this machine was useful at the time, it worked best on smooth roads, and because it could disrupt pedestrians, it was less than popular with lawmakers at the time, who enacted many laws against it. Similar machines were developed in England and France at the time, but they all gave way to the penny farthing-bike.
Penny-farthings, which were also called high wheel, high-wheeler, and ordinary bikes, were the first machines to be called bicycles, which referenced the two-wheel design. It was popular in the 1870s and 1880s, and the large wheel allowed it to go faster than walking would allow. However, the height of the machine and the high likelihood of falling made them less popular with riders, and many pedestrians found them annoying. In some cases, people would set up traps in local parks in the form of hidden strings that would catch riders and knock them off their bikes! With the invention of the safety bike, advertised as such because they were seen as safer than penny-farthings due to both wheels being the same size and the bike itself being much shorter, they quickly became more popular than the penny-farthing and led to the modern bikes we see today.
It wasn’t until modern times that we see the wide away of bike designs that we have on the market today. With the invention of gear systems for bikes, bikes became more specialized than ever, and developed into the many styles we see today. But street bikes, including road bikes, electric bikes, and cruisers, are all directly related to those early designs. This can be seen in the road bike’s development for smooth surfaces, the cruiser’s design for comfort, and the electric bike’s dedication to providing an alternate mode of transportation for people looking to get somewhere with less energy than walking.
Street Biking Gear
While choosing the right type of bike is important, the most important part of biking is having the right protective gear. It is important to have a well-fitting helmet whenever you ride your bike, even if you don’t have any local laws that mandate it. Loose-fitting helmets can fall off your head while riding and provide little to no protection in the case of a crash. A well-fitting helmet should be secure on the head, with little to no room to rattle around while biking. The strap should be secured under the chin with just enough room to breathe, without digging into the surrounding skin. Once you choose the right helmet, there are some other safety things to consider, such as elbow pads and knee pads. While these may seem like overkill to some, the more protected you are while biking, the less likely you will be injured in the case of a crash.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right biking gear is the apparel you’ll need to keep yourself comfortable and safe on the road. In most cases, you’ll want a set of bike shorts to help keep you cool and reduce chafing while biking. On top of this, many bike shorts come with padding in the rear to reduce pain over long bike trips, though this is less necessary with a cruiser, as cruisers tend to have larger seats than the average bike. You’ll want to also check out things like bike jackets, cycling pants, under armor insulating shirts, cycling arm warmers, and bike gloves to help increase your overall comfort levels while on the road.
This only scratches the surface of choosing the right gear for your bike ride, as there are plenty of other pieces of essential gear to keep in mind, such as water bottles, GPS systems, backpacks for bike commuting, reflective and light-producing add-ons, and more. After all, making sure you are well prepared for the road ahead can make your next biking trip better than ever.
Choosing the Right Street Bike
The first thing to consider when shopping for a street bike is what kind of biking experience you’re looking to have. If you’re in an area that has a low number of hills, or you are looking for recreational biking, a cruiser may be the right choice for you. If you’re looking to weave through city streets, on the other hand, a road bike (check out our favorite road bikes for commuting) offers a compact design that is made for speed and a smooth ride. Looking to speed up your morning commute? An electric bike can offer either partial or full power to your ride, allowing you to make your trip into work with record time, while still doing your part to reduce environmental impacts.
Keep in mind, with bikes, in many cases you get what you pay for. While a cheaper bike may seem like a great deal now, it may not seem like such a good idea when you have to replace your bike a year or two down the road. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a bike just because the cost is high. It’s important to find a good balance between expensive and practical to find a bike that will last you for years to come.
Another thing to keep in mind when looking for a new street bike is maintenance. You want to find out what kind or upkeep you should do on each bike style, so you can keep your new bike in tip-top shape for years to come. Regular tune ups and using the right bike chain lube can keep your bike working like clockwork and ensure you don’t have to make any serious replacements down the road. While it’s possible to do your own tune ups, getting your bike checked out by a professional can help avoid any potential complications from DIY projects, and ensure you can ride with confidence for years to come.
Once you know what type of bike you are looking to invest in, the next thing to do is to find out what works for each individual bike. hybrid bikes (check out our articles on great hybrid bikes under $300, hybrid bikes under $500, hybrid bikes under $1,000, hybrid bikes under $1,500, and hybrid bikes for commuting) have different specs than road bikes, and both are different from most electric bikes on the market. While it can feel overwhelming to choose the right bike for you, we’ve gone ahead and reviewed the top bikes available on the market, so you can rest easy knowing you’re choosing the right street bike for your needs.
Hit the Road
No matter if you’re looking to cruise along the boardwalk or go zooming through city streets, street bikes can help you get from one location to another in no time at all. While it may feel overwhelming to choose between all of the available street bike styles on the market, with a little research and some helpful reviews, choosing the right bike for your needs can be easier than ever. So what are you waiting for? Strap on your commuter bike helmet and get ready to take to the streets. There’s so much out there to explore.