This is for my non-cycling friends so I dont have to repeat myself 🙂
Identifying a bike is the first main part of Bikes.
If you picked it up at the local convenience store/Warehouse/k Mart then it is worth less than half its value when you walk out the door, and its possibly even unsafe. These bikes are usually mountain bikes fobbed off as road bikes, made of inferior steel metal which can bends or breaks whilst riding.
They still have their place if you just want something cheap to cycle down to the dairy and will probably leave it out in the rain to rust anyway. Chances are they will never be comfortable however, and are really a mountain bike, despite what the brochure said.
Its always better to buy a second hand brand name or decent bike online I have found, both for comfort and durability.
Identifying your bike:
Check your bikes tyres is a good way to identify what style bike you have.
Check the Valves:
Mountain bikes and Hybrid bikes usually have Shrader valves, these are handy because its the same as a car, and dont need as higher pressure (60PSI or so).
Road bikes use the Presta Valves because they have much higher pressure in the tyres (up to and around 120PSI)
You can tell the age of most bikes by whats on them, the frame style, etc.
Cheaper MTB/hybrids have twist grip gear changing. You twist your hand grips to change gears. These are pretty handy for people not confident with taking hands off.
Newer MTB are better yet with a trigger style gear change for your finger, and a thumb press to go down gears
Newer road bikes have these excellent gear levers hidden behind the brake. A Quick flick with the finger changes you up a gear, and a push sideways on the entire brake lever goes down a gear. There is no guessing where the gear is like the old days, they just ‘click’ into place. Brakes work like normal brakes when you pull them towards the handlebar still.
Older Road bikes had levers on the down tube which were hard to reach and the cheaper ones had them up where the handlebars bolt on. These have not been really used in the last 10 or more years now other than on cheap bikes. Unless you are trying to go retro, better to stay away from them.
Road bikes tend to have deep dish wheels now vs the older ones
Now, the important parts!
Road bikes are for riding exclusively on the road. Good for long rides in the country, getting fit, going to school and back. They are designed to be fast on the road and fairly comfortable once you get used to them. They will give you a sore butt as you get used to them, but this will pass (if not get a proper fitting!). You should not jump curbs, go up dirt tracks, over fields etc with them. They are light weight, easy to carry around, and dont take up much bike rack space.
The gears are made for road riding so you can get good speed going up and downhills or along the flats.
Mountain Bikes are for riding soley on dirt tracks, through bush and generally thrash them. They are the grown ups BMX pretty much. Also great for family bikes through dirt tracks and what would otherwise be a bush walk (except on a bike). They are heavy, and made of steel, with knobbly tyres for traction in mud, streams or otherwise.
They go slow on the road, mostly due to the tyres, and are not particularly good for anything but on the dirt tracks unless you fit mountain bike Slicks (smooth tyres) to them.
Hybrid is more of a comfort bike, good for people getting fit, who mostly want to ride road, but also want to ride up bush tracks occasionally with family. Its a great universal bike for most people, and probably ideal for children going to school and back (unless they have other sports). They work well pretty much everywhere and i find they are great as a general every day bike unless you want to specialize in a particular style of cycling.
Warehouse Special is a bike that look like a broken mountain bike and sold as a road bike and should only ever be bought as a gift for somebody you DONT like. Please stop buying these and calling them bikes unless you are some seriously budget person who can’t find parts in an inorganic and put them together.