This article is intended to help beginners or anyone who hasn’t ridden in a while select the best type of bike.
Start With Where You’ll Be Riding
Will you be riding on pavement, dirt, or both? Many bicycles are made specifically for a particular kind of riding surface, while some are designed to be more versatile. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the primary categories of bikes.
Road bikes are perfect for many uses, including fitness riding, commuting, long-distance rides, touring and racing. Some road bikes are designed for speed and have a more aerodynamic riding positioning, while others are designed more on comfort and have a more upright riding position. Which riding position a particular road bike has been designed for can be discerned by the style of handlebars.
Drop-bar handlebars that curve downward and back are a better choice if you are focused on speed or efficiency. These types of handlebars allow for a great number of hand positions. However, people who are not focused on speed or efficiency may find the aerodynamic, bent-at-the-waist riding position to be less comfortable than the more upright riding position associated with flat bars.
The riding position allowed by flat handlebars is generally more relaxed. It not only allows the rider to see the road a little better but also reduces strain on hands, wrists and shoulders. However, the more upright position is also less aerodynamic and therefore less efficient.
Mountain bikes are designed to handle off-road conditions including dirt, roots, rocks, and ruts. They feature lower gear ratios than road bikes in order to climb steeper hills, and most include shock-absorbing suspensions and hydraulic brakes. Traditionally, mountain bikes used 26-inch wheels instead of the larger diameter (700 millimeter) used on road bikes, but in recent years mountain bikes have become available with 27.5-inch wheels and 29-inch wheels. These larger diameter wheels and tires generally roll over obstacles more easily, although being higher off the ground and having a longer wheelbase may reduce agility. Read Mountain Bike Wheel Size for a more detailed discussion of the various trade-offs.
Almost all modern mountain bikes include front suspension, although fully rigid mountain bikes do still exist for the purists out there. Mountain bikes that lack rear suspension are referred to as hardtails, and are typically much lighter and less expensive than full-suspension mountain bikes. Read Mountain Bike Suspension Types to learn more about the differences between hardtail mountain bikes and full-suspension mountain bikes.
Hybrid bikes, as you can probably tell from their name, are designed to bridge the gap between road bikes and mountain bikes to some extent. They emphasize comfort. While they are generally more adept on roads (be it pavement, gravel or dirt) than off-road terrain, they will have more comfortable seats than road bikes, an upright riding position and sometimes suspension forks or seatposts. Some hybrid bikes even have internally-geared rear hubs for weather resistance and reduced maintenance. Hybrid bikes are a great choice for commuting to work or enjoying leisurely rides along paved bike paths.
Other Types of Bikes
There are numerous other types of bikes including city/urban bikes, fat bikes (bikes with really big tires, often considered a subcategory of mountain bikes), racing-specific bikes (e.g., cyclocross or triathlon bikes), folding bikes, e-bikes (bikes with electrical assist), fixed-gear bikes, and more. Some people might consider city/urban bikes to be a subcategory of hybrid bikes while others might consider them to be their own category. We plan to add some, if not many, of these other bike types here so please bookmark Cheap Bikes and check back periodically.