The key to cycling on asphalt lies in the size and gauge--or thickness--of the bicycle tires, but other considerations when choosing bikes for asphalt riding include the desired distance to be traveled, the condition of the road surface and the desired posture of the rider. Three main bike types--road, touring and hybrid--offer the best alternatives for riding on paved asphalt surfaces.
Road Bikes for Speed
Road bikes are the lightest, sleekest and fastest option for asphalt road riding. The thin-gauge wheels and tires travel quickly and with minimal resistance along paved surfaces because of the small amount of rubber touching road. Multiple gears make it easier to pedal when ascending steep asphalt road surfaces and increase the power of each wheel revolution when peddling downhill. The thin-gauge wheels and tires don't fare as well when hitting asphalt potholes as bikes with thicker rims and tires. Road bikes require a bent posture for riding, contributing to less wind resistance than upright bicycles. The Trek bicycle company notes that road bikes are designed exclusively for paved road use, such as on asphalt surfaces. Road bikes are the best choice if you want to ride fast.
Touring Bicycles to Carry Your Gear
Touring bicycles closely resemble road bikes in shape and frame size but have mounting brackets and other fixtures for attaching saddle bags or racks and are equipped with extra gears to accommodate heavier cargo loads. The cargo attachments make touring bikes ideal for long-distance trips over asphalt roads and highways, and the thin tire gauge still contributes to speed and minimal pavement resistance. Stlbiking.com, a St. Louis-area biking site, notes touring bikes often have heavier brakes, such as those on mountain bikes, to provide extra stopping power for heavier loads. These bikes are an excellent choice if you plan to travel a long distance and carry your own gear.
Hybrid Bikes for Comfort
When riding heavily traveled city asphalt surfaces laden with cracks and potholes, the wider tire gauge and heavier frames of hybrid bikes offer a sturdier and more stable alternative, especially for beginning or novice riders. Hybrid bike tires are at least two or three times wider in gauge than most road or touring tires, meaning they cause more friction on pavement and move at slower speeds. These bikes also have heavier frames more similar to those of mountain bikes, but the flat handlebars mean a more comfortable, upright posture, and the tires remain thinner than mountain bike tires, keeping them reasonably sleek on asphalt roadways. The CARE Exchange notes that hybrid bikes often are less costly than road bikes and offer a more versatile bike that can operate on asphalt and rustic bike trails.