Whether you fancy a smooth ride down a well paved road or an ambitious excursion through Red Rock Canyon or around Lake Mead, the Las Vegas Valley offers plenty of opportunity to get on your bicycle and go for a ride!
Cruising city streets, exploring unpaved but well maintained paths, and doing serious off-roading all have their place, and can all be a great way to spend an afternoon. But it’s helpful to keep in mind that the riding styles (and even the bicycles best equipped to navigate them) of each type of route are very different. In each case, you’ll want to stay smart and protect yourself, and your feet, from damage.
For the road:
Roads and paved trails are a great choice if you’re after a smoother ride, nimbler handling, or more speed. Road bikes tend to be lighter and faster than other types, with much narrower tires and a frame configuration that has you leaning a bit forward for better aerodynamics.
The downside is that “true” road bikes tend to have a much stiffer suspension, and those skinny tires can’t take a lot of abuse. Forget going off-road—even bumpy city streets and cracked pavement can pose problems. The pitched-forward geometry might not be as comfortable for some people either. Road bikers are especially prone to chronic pain in the knees, heels, and balls of the feet, especially if the bike isn’t the right fit or the seat or handlebars are positioned incorrectly.
If you want to stay safe, make sure you get yourself properly fitted, stick to smooth terrain, and—of course—watch out for traffic!
For the wilderness:
If you’re going to be doing some serious off-roading, a mountain bike is a must. Thick, chunky tires and added suspension help you absorb bumpy, unpaved terrain. Mountain bikes also put the rider in a more upright position for better balance, which can be more comfortable over longer distances.
On the downside, mountain bikers are more prone to acute injuries like sprains, fractures, knee dislocations, and the like, since rugged trails place more obstacles in your path and afford more opportunities for an untimely crash. Mountain bikes also tend to be heavier than road bikes due to sturdier frames and all that extra suspension. They are also less mechanically efficient, and the wider tires provide more friction and contact with the ground. All these features mean they require much more effort to ride, so If you’re doing most of your riding on well paved roads and trails, a mountain bike is going to wear you out a lot faster than a road bike and lead to chronic injuries.
To stay safe, make sure you choose routes that aren’t too technically challenging for your skill level, and bring along any supplies you may need in case of emergency. Food, water, a first-aid kit, and a way to contact help are a must.
For a little of both:
Let’s be honest: most people aren’t strict road racers or mountain purists. If owning multiple bikes really isn’t an option for your budget, you’ll probably buy a comfortable hybrid bike that can handle a pothole or dirt path without too much trouble, but isn’t going to slow you down and wear you out on smooth pavement. Hybrids come in many different styles and configurations, so you’ll want to find a good local bike shop that can help you pick out a bike with the best combination of features for your riding style.
In general, hybrids really shine in urban settings, where the streets might not be as smooth as you’d like them to be and the local parks might offer some well-packed dirt trails. The downside, of course, is that your versatile jack-of-all-trades bicycle is a master of none—not as fast or efficient as a road bike on pavement, and not really suitable for more rugged or challenging off-roading, either.
No matter how and where you ride, always make sure you take smart precautions to protect yourself and your feet. That includes making sure you have the right bicycle and equipment for the route, getting a proper fit, learning and respecting the rules of the road (or the off-road), and staying within your own limits in terms of length, speed, and technical challenge.
If you do find that regular riding is causing you to suffer pain in your feet, shins, knees, or even lower back, there may be a specific injury or biomechanical flaw that we can address and correct. Dr. Noah Levine is a foot doctor in Las Vegas who has helped many cyclists get back in the saddle after a lower limb injury. To schedule an appointment, please give us a call today at (702) 839-2010.