Each bike is designed to excel in a specific field of biking, usually sacrificing the other fields of biking.
- Road bikes are great for long distance and efficient riding
- Mountain bikes are great for off road use, but not as efficient as a road bike
- Folding bikes are great at folding
Folding bikes are very handy! They provide wheels when you make landfall, and tuck away into tiny spaces while underway. While folding bikes may be very good at fitting into small spaces, they are not the best type of bike for covering long distances or varied terrains. Folding is about all they excel at.
Road and mountain bikes on the other hand are better at covering longer distances. Mountain bikes tend to be heavier and have wider tires which allow them to withstand the abuse of off road riding; whereas road bikes are much lighter and have narrower tires, allowing them to move along with significantly less rolling resistance.
Road and mountain bikes are great at covering distances in new places, but they can never fold up as tightly as a folding bike. This is where the space available in the boat comes into play!
Modern road and mountain bikes have quick release wheels, allowing you to easily transform a large bike into a frame and two wheels with no tools and only a few minutes. The separate pieces can be neatly tucked away into a locker, if the space allows.
If you manage your space well, you can fit many large items in the lazarettes on a sailboat. In the aft lazarette, we keep a 5 gallon pail full of rope for the stern hook, a shop vac, water hoses, shore power cables, and a large size frame (60cm frame) road bike! The wheels are removed and the frame is tucked into this storage locker.
I chose to take a road bike with us on our trips because most of the places we arrive are near roads. While I have to carry the road bike across the beach and in to shore to reach pavement, it pays off when I then need to ride a few miles to get to my destination. A mountain bike would let me bike up the beach and into shore, but would not ride as efficiently on the pavement as a road bike would. These are all compromises that we must choose to live with when deciding which bike to take along on a journey.
While a folding bike will tuck away into a much smaller locker and take up much less space on board, it would not be able to bike along the soft sand of a beach, nor cover the miles of pavement as efficiently as a road bike would. If you have the space for a real bike on board, I would highly suggest it over a folding bike. If you do not have the space on board to fit a real bike, a folding bike will still provide you a set of wheels when you make landfall.