“Cycling is the sport or activity of riding a bicycle. Bicycle racing has three main forms: road racing (typically over long distances), track racing (on an oval track), and cyclocross (over rough, open country)”.¹

Cycling is a highly competitive sport and a great complement to cardio training. However, there are so many different varieties within the sport that it is difficult to define each one. Generally the sport is broken into three large categories: off-road, on-road, and BMX or stunt riding.


Mountain biking

Off-road cycling is dominated by the mountain bike, which is made to handle the rigors and stresses of large obstacles and rough, uneven terrain. Various designs can be used for different specialties, and many off-road cycling competitions are dedicated to one aspect of mountain or dirt bike riding. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.

Mountain biking consists of multiple categories: cross-country (XC), trail riding, downhill, freeride, dirt jumping and trials. The vast majority of mountain biking falls into the recreational cross-country and trail riding categories. This type of sport requires endurance, core strength and balance, bike handling skills, and self-reliance. However, XC or cross-country generally requires a different range of skills and a higher level of fitness than other types of mountain biking. Cross-country cycling became an Olympic sport in 1996 and is the only form of mountain biking practiced at the Summer Olympics. Advanced riders have great deal of technical skills and, in the case of free-riding, downhilling, and dirt jumping, aerial maneuvers off of specially constructed jumps and ramps.


Road riding

The term ‘road racing’ is usually applied to events where competing riders start simultaneously with the winner being the first to the line at the end of the course. Road cycling is the most widespread form of cycling.

The most famous event of this sport is Tour de France which is an annual bicycle race held in France and nearby countries. The race started in 1903 and it covers more than 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles) and lasts three weeks. Tour de France attracts riders and teams from around the world. The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are aggregated to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The course changes every year, but the race has always finished in Paris. Since 1975, the climax of the final stage has been along the Champs-Élysées. Tour de France is held in July and is the best known and most prestigious of the three major European professional cycling stage races. The other two are Giro d’Italia – Tour of Italy (est. 1909), held in May and Vuelta a España – Tour of Spain (est. 1935), currently held in August. Collectively they are termed the Grand Tours, and all three races are similar in format being multi-week races with daily stages.


BMX riding

BMX riding is often overlooked in cycling because of its unique equipment and focus on stunts rather than distance or speed. BMX competition, introduced to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, is determined by points awarded for stunts performed on specially designed tracks or obstacles.


BMX racing

BMX (Bicycle Motocross) began to take off in the late 1960s in California, around the time that motocross became popular in the United States. The motorized sport was the inspiration for the pedal-powered version, an impressive spectacle that’s since become popular all over the world. BMX racing is a type of off-road bicycle racing. BMX bicycle races are sprint races on purpose-built off-road single-lap race tracks. The track usually small a starting gate for up to eight racers, a groomed, serpentine, dirt race course made of various jumps and rollers and a finish line. The course is usually flat, about 4,6 m (15-foot) wide and has large banked corners that help the riders maintain speed.


¹ New Oxford American Dictionary (digital version), 2012-02-13