Some people cycle for time. These are people who say, "I have Xminutes to ride today. I'm going to go as far as I can and then head back within my time frame." I met one of these guys the other day when I was handing out treats on the bike trail. His wife had told him he had 45 minutes before he had to be "present" for a family obligation. Except for the ridiculously long light he was waiting at as we were talking, he was going as far and as fast as he could -- probably 20 minutes out and 25 back. He was on a fast bike, but not necessarily a racer.
There are also distance riders. These people want to go as far as they can. Many of them aren't terribly concerned about time. The extreme distance riders are called randonneurs and they go on bike trips riding hundreds of miles.There's a whole culture associated with this type of cycling, and as you can imagine, some pretty distinct vehicles to ride in order to maximize comfort for those long hauls! These bikes might also be called "touring" -- designed to see the world at the pace of a leisurely trip.
We've all seen bike racers, who are trying to beat their last fastest time, whether on a racing bike or a mountain bike -- although the mountain bike racers like some exciting terrain to go with their time trials.
Some cyclists are strictly commuters. Their bike is their go to and from work vehicle. Many of them these days are folding, so they can take the bike inside their office to protect it from weather and thieves. In our area, only folding bike can go on the metro trains during rush hour.
Some cyclists are what I call "way of lifers". They've so incorporated cycling into their lives that it rarely occurs to them to even start the car. They cycle to get groceries, go to the gym, business meetings, etc. If thy need to go farther a little faster, these cyclists tend to some combination of the bike and public transportation. These are also the ones that have several different bikes.
And then there's my type of bicyclist. I like to have a goal. Whether it's to get groceries, run an errand, or ride on an adventure with some friends, I need to have some purpose to my cycling. I tend not to want to "just ride" for fun. I mean -- the riding I do is FUN, but there's always some underlying mission in my mind. I don't worry about my time, except if I have to be back for something. I don't worry about my distance, although I want to go at least far enough that it was worth doing. Now that I'm past 50, the first two miles are just getting my knees warmed up, so anything after that is the real ride. I do keep track of my miles, only because a group I belong to is doing the National Bike Challenge, and it helps the team. More importantly, I always check how many calories I've burned.
My bike is 20+ years old, a steel Bianchi that I bought in Germany when I was stationed there. It has held up well and I love it. But I have to admit, I am starting to look around for the last bike I will ever buy. I don't need a folding bike, since I don't go to work and don't take a bike on the metro. I don't need a racing bike as I don't intend to compete. If I get a distance bike, I can extend my range, and modify my present bike for the errands and local things I do. But do I really want to extend my range? I'm pretty happy with 20 miles in a day. The 40 mile days are exceptional and therefore noteworthy. I wouldn't want to do those all the time. It makes what should be FUN seem a lot like WORK.