The comfort bike and the mountain bike have informed one another’s design. According to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Russ Mahon constructed the first bike to be ridden off road in 1973. He outfitted a 1930s fat tire bike with a derailleur and thumb shifters to create a prototype of today's mountain bike. Mountain bikes became commercially available in the latter part of the 1970s. Bicycle enthusiast Sheldon Brown says the mountain bike appealed to the casual cyclist, because it offered greater comfort than the skinny-tire touring bike with drop handlebars. The modern rendition of the comfort bike resembles a mountain bike, but it is designed for more casual riding compared to the mountain bike.
Riding Style: Why Do You Want a Bike?
The comfort bike and the mountain bike are each used for a distinct style of bike riding. A comfort bike is more oriented towards riding on city roads. It can be ridden on even gravel or dirt trails, but the comfort bike is not designed for riding up and down rocky mountain trails. A mountain bike is explicitly designed for off-road use. Although it can be ridden on pavement, it is not the most efficient bike for doing this due to resistance from the tires and suspension.
Frame and Build: The Comfort Bike
The comfort bike is designed for a more upright riding position. Comfort bikes have a shorter top tube that offers the rider a more upright position. The handlebars are mounted higher to further support this upright position. The seat, or saddle, is wider and has springs to offer additional support. Typically, the rider is able to place both feet on the ground when seated on the comfort bike. Although tires with more grip can be installed on a comfort bike, the tires tend to be are fat and smooth to facilitate riding in the city.
Frame and Build: The Mountain Bike
Although mountain bikes are designed to be more upright than road bikes, they are more aggressive than the comfort bike. The straight handlebars support an upright position. Brown explains that as mountain-bike racing has grown, mountain bike designs have changed to accommodate competition-oriented riding. The result is longer top tubes, lower handlebars and narrower saddles. Modern mountain bikes are built to travel across trails, uneven pavement and rocks. Some mountain bikes feature suspension for increased shock absorption. Mountain bike tires have knobby treads that are designed to grip uneven surfaces such as dirt and gravel.
Comfort Versus Performance
The comfort bike is built for a casual rider who uses it for occasional recreation and commuting. The comfort bike's upright position eliminates strain in the shoulders, neck, and back. The mountain bike, especially the contemporary design, is built for performance. As a result, the causal rider may find the mountain bike uncomfortable. The bike's more aggressive design can create muscle strain for riders unaccustomed to holding their bodies in a more forward stance.
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