Bike Categories and their differentiation
Spring is upon us in Colorado.
Road bikes on the road. Mountain Bikes on the trails (and car racks quite notably). In the cities I am seeing more Cargo bikes, City Bikes, Folding bikes. Just like in kayaking and golf, you need to right tool for the task and bikes are built for many environments and uses.
I see bikes fitting a general matrix of the following. I expect some will dissagree with me and for sure you can stretch categories to get more specific performance in multiple columns.
There are of course variations within each of these categories.
In Folding Bikes, for instance, you can find: Folding Road Bikes, Folding City Bikes, Folding Touring Bikes, Folding E-Bikes
In Cargo Bikes you can find electrical assist versions, rear-end Cargo, front-end Cargo (Bakfiets), setups for delivery, setups for on-street selling, setups for passenger hauling. You can also add a trailer to most bikes to make them "cargo savy".
In every category there are in fact variations which will effect general performance, durability, price and other details. Still, it is always good to start in one or two categories to look at what is available to you and what will best suit your usage. If you have a base with capacity and the budget, it is quite likely that you will consider and potentially aquire multiple categories of bike.
If you are like me a few columns will be most at play when I am choosing my bike for the day. Because I like the speed, and because I have increased my gear range, I am riding my road bike quite a lot these days. It is fun to go fast. I can't carry gear and I don't go much off road, but it feels good. When I travel for work I generally have my folding bike with me. It is easy to bring along. It gives me great accessiblity to the places I am going. I like the extra speed and range this gives me. I can also carry some gear and do some touring with it. Around town, I jump on an ebike, city bike or folding bike to do my errands. Sometimes I will take an e-bike out on the road and try to ride really hard and far with the goal of getting a good workout and seeing how far I can go before depleting the battery. In the mountains and on trail, most generally my mountain or touring bike (I do not specifically have a Gravel bike just now, but my Touring bike has been a Gravel bike for many decades. I also set up my folding bikes with bigger tires and make them very good gravel bikes in so doing.
Boiling all this down though, I think it is important to think of both the specificity of your goals and the balancing generality of them. It is important to think about what modifications may or may not be possible for you. Can you put bigger tires? Can you mount a rack? Can you mount 2 racks? Where do you want to go? How far do you want to travel? How fast to you want to ride? How will you handle the bike when you are not riding it? Can you store it well? Can you easily take it with you in the various vehicles you may want to bring a bike along with along with?
Going to the "golf club" analagy. Do you have a putter, an iron and a driving wood? Can you combine those needs into one (some do). Generally you will sacrafice speed when you add durability. You will sacrafice speed and to some extend durability if you want a bike with smaller wheels and is able to pack into a suitcase. But doing these things may also give you more actual usage. You can carry more gear. You can travel further places or fit in a smaller apartment.
In the end, getting on a bike, any bike, will expand your life, speed your general movement, and give you a fresh perspective that in turn will bring benefits again and again.