Are you on the lookout for a new bicycle? There has almost certainly never been a better time to purchase one. Bikes have become more functional, dependable, and enjoyable to ride over the last decade. This is due in part to the fact that the variety has expanded from a few basic styles (e.g., road, mountain, city) to now include a plethora of niches and categories-within-categories, as bike manufacturers are diversifying their products to cater to the various modes of riding that people enjoy.
But the plethora of choices pose a problem for you, the enthusiastic buyer: how do you know the bike is right for you and the riding you’ll do? That is, after all, the aim of this guide. To narrow down between broad categories, use the handy quick-reference section at the top to narrow down between broad categories, then jump down to learn about different options within those.
What are the different types of bikes in the market?
- Road Bikes: Bike with drop handlebars and narrow tyres designed for casual riding, mostly (but not exclusively) on the pavement. Aero, ultralight, endurance, touring, and all-road are some of the styles available.
- Mountain Bikes: For riding narrow dirt trails, rugged machines with flat handlebars and big, knobby tyres are ideal. Hardtail, full-suspension cross country, full-suspension track, and full-suspension enduro are some of the styles available.
- Gravel/Adventure Bikes: Drop-bar bikes with tyre clearance for a variety of off-road and on-road riding experiences. Gravel, bikepacking, and cyclocross are examples of cycling styles.
- Utility Bikes: Bikes intended for commuting or running errands, including activities requiring the transport of family members or cargo. Commuter, fixie, folding, and freight bikes are among the various styles available.
- Comfort/Fitness Bikes: From beach cruisers to flat-bar bikes for weekend spins on multi-user routes, there’s something for everyone. Hybrid, health, comfort, and cruiser are some of the styles available.
- E-Bikes: Electronic bicycles are bicycles that have a small, lightweight electric motor to assist the rider. They can be from almost any of the other categories here. Commuter, cargo, mountain, and road are some of the styles available.
- Fat Bikes: These eye-catching bikes have 3.8-inch or wider tyres for flotation and stability, which are also used for sand, snow, or trail riding. Mountain (hardtail and full suspension) and cruiser styles are available.
- Triathlon Bikes: With wing-shaped frames, wheel cross-sections, and aggressive rider positions, road-style bikes are designed to maximise aerodynamics.
- Tandem Bikes: Tandems are bicycles designed for two or more riders, and their frames and components are often strengthened to accommodate the extra weight. The pilot is the rider in front, and the stoker is the rider in back. Tandem bikes are available in a variety of models, including road, mountain, and cruiser, with the road being the most common.
- Park Bikes: These custom-built machines serve a variety of purposes, but they all share two characteristics: They’re designed to be used on groomed terrain, such as bike park trails or skate parks, and they’re both excellent at catching air. Dirt jumping, BMX, and slopestyle are the three main styles.
- Kids’ Bikes: With a great kid’s bike, you can get your little ones involved in the action. After you get past the department store garbage, you’ll find a wide range of options, including dedicated road and full-suspension mountain bikes designed specifically for small riders. The higher the quality, the lighter the weight and the more kid-friendly the pieces, the more fun your child will have riding.
- Tricycles: We’re not talking about toy three-wheelers here; these are adult three-wheelers designed for someone who needs or likes the stability of a third wheel. Track, mountain, and utility styles are available in both upright and recumbent configurations. Adaptive (hand-cranked) models are also available. Electric-assist is available on some trikes.
- Recumbent Bikes: Unlike conventional bicycles, which allow the rider to sit upright, recumbents allow the rider to sit in a more relaxed position. The majority of recumbents are designed for road use, but some can be used off the beaten path.
- Track Bikes: These stripped-down bikes are made specifically for velodrome racing. They have rigid frames, small tyres, a single gear that does not freewheel (the pedals turn as the bike moves), and no brakes.
If you can only get one bike, what should it be?
There is no correct answer to that question.
Everyone’s needs are distinct, so are their personalities. Most casual cyclists will want to buy a road bike or a mountain bike, but once you’ve narrowed down your choices this far, it’s a matter of choice and reason.
You must first understand your own cycling style before comparing the two styles of bikes. After all, understanding what you plan to do with your bike is one of the most crucial pieces of knowledge you can provide when making a decision.
First, consider how you plan to use the bike.
Are you looking for a way to get some exercise without the impact that running has on your joints?
Do you want to go for a ride and explore any of the local trails, or do you want to take it through the mountains?
Will you want to save time in traffic by riding your bike across the city instead of using your car for short-distance commuting?
Road Bike vs Mountain Bike
Knowing what you’re going to use it for will lead you in the right direction. If you just intend to ride on roads, a mountain bike might not be necessary. Road bikes are excellent commuting bikes because they can travel easily and cover a large amount of land.
You’ll need the more flexible mountain bike if you want to use your bike for exploration, fitness, and commuting.
Since road bikes are designed for paved surfaces, they cannot be used in the mountains. Since their tyres are so small and thin, even a single pebble or stick will send you soaring. It’s dangerous to use them on unknown or uneven terrain.
Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are not designed for riding on the track, but they can do so if you put in the extra effort to get them going.
They’re not as quick or as powerful on the track, but unlike road bikes, which can’t travel on mountain paths, these bikes won’t put you in danger if you ride them on the road. They just get a lot harder to handle and a lot less comfortable.
Let’s take a closer look at these two bikes now that you’ve (hopefully) decided how you’ll use your bike.
Road bikes (also known as racing bikes) are designed to go fast.
These are excellent commuting choices because the narrow tyres will travel easily on paved surfaces if there are no obstacles in the way. They’re becoming increasingly popular, and they’re now available with disc brakes.
These bikes come in a variety of styles. Aero bikes are designed to reduce the amount of drag you feel when riding.
These are high-performance racing bikes that prioritise speed over comfort and other features. Uphill climbing is the aim of ultralight bikes. They’re light and airy, but they’re not very flexible.
Endurance bikes are built more for touring racing. These are designed for riders who plan to travel longer distances per ride, with a focus on comfort over speed and climbing.
Types of Road Bikes
- Aero: These bikes have wing-shaped frame tubes and wheels to minimise drag to a bare minimum.
- Ultralight: These bikes are designed for long climbs and use the lightest materials possible, but they may not be as good for all-around use.
- Endurance: Many riders will prefer these models because they have a more upright rider position, slightly wider tyres and gearing ranges, and, in some cases, vibration-absorbing technology in the frame.
- Touring: These compact roadsters are designed to provide all-day comfort and cargo capacity.
- All-Road: These small roadsters are designed for all-day comfort and cargo space.
Pros and Cons of Road Bikes
To sum up, take a look at some of the advantages of these bikes
- Built for speed, it’s extremely light and manoeuvrable.
- Your torso should be over the handlebar for maximum strength.
- The optimal riding position is for optimizing leg speed and strength.
- Components are simple to keep in good working order.
- Friction is reduced by using a light frame and thin tires.
- There are several options depending on your budget.
Alas, these bikes
- Aren’t nearly as tough as mountain bikes.
- Because of the high fear range, they can’t be used on any unpaved terrain.
- They’re also difficult to travel slowly on.
- May cause a lot of strain to your wrists and neck.
These bikes are much more adaptable and long-lasting than road bikes. They’re built to handle dirt trails and a variety of terrains.
These bikes have wider handlebars and are normally equipped with forks that withstand shocks. They can withstand pebbles, twigs, and minor bumps in the route without launching you into the air.
These usually have big tyres with a lot of treads, ensuring stability when riding. Hydraulic disc brakes and drivetrains that can manage steeper climbs and descents are also included.
A rigid frame and suspension forks are standard on hardtail bikes. These are the most popular and least expensive.
XC full suspension mountain bikes are also available. These are for riders who do not go as far. The rear suspension on these bikes keeps the frame light, allowing for increased efficiency while climbing.
Trail full suspension bikes are ideal for longer rides because they combine performance climbing with downhill riding. On the road, these have big tyres and plenty of stopping power on the brakes. Finally, complete suspensions concentrate a significant amount of power in the rear wheel.
These can travel for long periods of time without being exhausted. They’re designed to be well-balanced and capable of handling any terrain on long trips.
Mountain bikes are extremely adaptable. They can be used on almost any surface, including roads. Some people choose to use them on dirt roads. Others like to use them to climb steeper hills without exerting the same amount of effort as road bikes do.
As a general rule, the more difficult the trail, the more rear suspension you’ll need on your vehicle. If you’re mountain biking, it’s also a good idea to have some extra gear, such as a helmet and gloves.
Types of MTBs
- Hardtail: Suspension forks on a rigid frame are popular, as the name implies. They are usually the least expensive, but there are also high-end racing models.
- XC Full-Suspension: The rear suspension has a shorter journey (110mm or less) to prioritise low bike weight and efficiency under control, particularly on climbs.
- Trail Full-Suspension: Suspension with a medium journey (120-150mm) that combines climbing efficiency and descending skills.
- Enduro/Gravity Full-Suspension: These bikes are designed for maximum control when descending, particularly on steep, technical terrain, with 160mm or more of rear-wheel travel, powerful brakes, and aggressive tyre treads.
Pros and Cons of Mountain Bikes
To help you settle, take a look at some of the advantages of mountain bikes
- Extremely tough frames can withstand a lot of pressure.
- Provide plenty of traction, making climbing a breeze – even on steep uphill climbs.
- Potholes and rocks are no match for wheels.
- The extra suspension makes it easier to control.
- Riding is far more pleasant.
Some of its downfalls are
- They are much heavier than road bikes, making uphill climbing challenging at times.
- They have much more rolling resistance.
- They work on the pavement like snow tyres, maximizing the amount of work they must do to travel at speed.
- They are less effective due to the suspension stealing pedal stroke strength.
- They can’t move as fast.
- Riding on paved roads takes a lot more time.
Both kinds of biking have advantages and drawbacks, as you can see.
They’re made for very different and unique reasons, and neither is tailored for the domain of the other.
The best way to figure out which is right for you is to think about what you’ll be riding it for and where you’ll be riding it.