Choosing a bike is a fun and exciting experience but also a serious one. Choosing the right bike does involve choosing fun aspects such as the color, shape, and style. But you also need to consider the practical aspects such as the style of the handlebars, the seat, the wheel size, and the overall type of bike.
When it comes to choosing a bike, you need to find something that perfectly suits you. It’s easy to assume that there isn’t much variation when it comes to bikes. But there are a number of different styles and you need one which suits your physique, height, style of riding, and the bike’s purpose.
You need a bike that will suit your height and size, as well as any disabilities or physical limitations that might require alterations. Having a disability doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot ride a bike, only that you will need something a little more personalized.
Your bike is personal and should fit you well. So it’s important to consider every type of bike, try out several different styles, and not buy anything on a whim.
Different Types of Bikes And Their Uses
There are a surprisingly high number of bike styles. There is a bike for every kind of terrain, sport, and purpose. As mentioned above, the type of bike you choose is very important. You need something that suits you physically and is also comfortable and competent enough to allow you to use it for whatever you want. To help you choose the best bike for you, consider the following different bike types.
This is one of the most common types of bikes. As the name suggests, road bikes are designed for riding on the roads. These bikes are great for commuters, casual cycling on the weekends, and road racing.
Road bikes are also designed for speed. They have light frames and thin tires which are designed to allow you to cycle quickly on tarmac. This is almost the exact opposite of mountain bikes (which are explored in more detail below).
Road bikes are generally what most people go to first when looking for a new bike. They are generally more affordable, especially if bought secondhand, and are the easiest to ride and get used to. A road bike will often be most people’s first bike.
But just because they are common and easy to ride, doesn’t mean they have to be boring or simplistic. There are so many different styles of road bikes. You can find something very modern and practical, or something more traditional and charming.
Just because bikes are practical forms of transportation, doesn’t mean they have to be boring. If all you want is something to get you from A to B and look cute while doing it, then this is absolutely fine. Alternatively, if you want a bike that is engineered to have the exact wheels, handlebars, gears, chain, and frame that you know you will need, then this is absolutely fine too.
Mountain bikes are a close second when it comes to popularity. They are sometimes seen on roads but they aren’t particularly suitable for riding over tarmac. Compared to road bikes, mountain bikes have thicker tires, a reinforced suspension, and are generally more compact and closer to the ground. The frames will also usually be thicker and a little heavier.
All of these features make mountain bikes excellent for riding over difficult and uneven terrain. This is because the thick tires will provide you with greater momentum when trying to ride over terrain that has a lot of rocks or dips. This would not be possible on a road bike as its thinner tires will have a hard time up against rocks and cause you to skid around.
On the flip side, this means that mountain bikes are difficult to ride over tarmac. They will be much slower and more sluggish.
Cyclocross bikes are road bikes that are designed for slightly different terrain. They are bikes that can be ridden on tarmac roads, as well as on grass, gravel, and unpaved trails. Due to this, cyclocross bikes have slightly wider tires and a slightly different brake system which protects the frame from mud splatters. They are also designed for racing but, of course, they do not have to be used only for racing.
These bikes usually have drop handlebars which are different from most standard road bikes. Road bikes can have a lot of different types of handlebars, but they will usually have flat straight handlebars. This is because drop handlebars require the rider to be hunched over the bikes with their face closer to the bike frame.
The purpose of the bike means it is great for weekend bike rides in the countryside and national parks. But the handlebars do mean that you won’t be able to ride as casually as you would with most other road bikes. So these are best suited for purposeful training and exercise, rather than casual cycling.
Touring bikes are road bikes that are designed for long-distance cycling. This is indicated by their name which is a little old-fashioned but is reminiscent of popular touring holidays, during which people would travel around Europe for long periods of time.
This means that touring bikes are sturdy and very durable. They do have drop bars but they aren’t quite as low as cyclocross bikes. This means that you will be more upright so you will be able to take in the landscape that you’re touring around. This will also be more comfortable for long periods of time.
Touring bikes are specifically designed for tarmac and pavements so are best kept on roads and in cities. They aren’t great for other terrains, despite their durability. That said, they are great for going uphill and are able to carry heavy loads. This means that they can support you and a decent-sized backpack. This is great for touring holidays but also commuting and running errands.
Adventure Road Bikes
These are very versatile bikes, as the name suggests. Adventure road bikes are also known as “all-road bikes” or “any-road bikes” as they can go over a lot of different terrain. They are very similar to cyclocross bikes as they have drop bars and are so versatile. But adventure road bikes are better for touring and commuting.
Adventure road bikes are relatively modern types of bikes. They are great all-round bikes and have specifically designed saddles that make them more comfortable and supportive for long-distance cycling.
Triathlon/Time Trial Bikes
As the name suggests, these bikes are specifically designed for triathlons and racing. Triathlon bikes are best suited for someone who regularly competes in triathlons or other time trial bikes. They aren’t really suitable for beginners, or even someone who is only a hobbyist triathlete. Triathlon bikes are really only suitable for professionals or semi-professionals who will need a specific triathlon bike.
These bikes are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. They have very low drop handlebars that are usually much lower than the saddle. This means that you will be very close to the bike frame which minimizes wind resistance and keeps you more in line with the bike frame. This isn’t really comfortable for cycling for even short periods of time. They are designed for specific types of races, but even in triathlons the bike is only a third of the race. So they aren’t really suitable for everyday riding.
This is one of the most standard types of road bikes. They have lightweight frames and narrow tires suitable for moving quickly along tarmac and roads. These are great for people who want a standard road bike but don’t want drop handlebars. This is very common as most people who had bikes as children started off with flat straight handlebars and drop bars can be quite difficult to get used to.
Fitness bikes have lightweight frames and can be great for commuting or long-distance riding. They are similar to hybrid bikes (described in more depth below) as they have slightly thicker tires than road bikes with drop handlebars, but not as thick as hybrid bikes or mountain bikes.
This is another type of bike that is best suited for professionals, rather than casual riders, and definitely not for beginners. But it’s still a good idea to get a grasp of the different types of bikes out there, so you know what you should avoid as well as what to look for.
Track or fixed-gear bikes are specifically designed to be ridden in a velodrome. They are designed for racing, rather than commuting or casual riding. It is possible to ride a track bike outside of a velodrome but they can be more difficult. Track bikes only have one gear as they are designed to go around only one type of terrain. This means that they cannot coast so you will always need to be peddling.
This can make riding a track bike pretty intense. You won’t be able to use it to go riding around pretty areas on the weekend. Similar to triathlon bikes, track bikes have drop handlebars that sit very low, even lower than on a triathlon bike. This means that you will be very hunched over and streamlined against the frame of the bike. This is great for racing aerodynamics but pretty unnecessary for other kinds of cycling.
Hybrid bikes are a cross between standard road bikes and mountain bikes. They are ideal if you are looking for a bike that can get you to and from work during the week but also go over rougher terrain on the weekend.
Hybrid bikes tend to have large wheels with tires that are slightly thicker than those on a standard road bike. They won’t be quite as thick as those on a mountain bike but will essentially be halfway in between. Hybrid bikes can have different kinds of handlebars but they will usually have flat handlebars or drop handlebars.
Hybrid bikes will have the lightweight frame of a standard road bike but with the padded seat and stronger suspension of a mountain bike. Due to being a combination of mountain and road bikes, they can be ridden on tarmac. But they won’t be quite as lightweight or fast as a standard road bike. Conversely, hybrid bikes also won’t be as tough and durable against rough terrain as a mountain bike would. So, it’s the best of both worlds but isn’t ideal if you will be riding over very uneven and mountainous terrain.
This is a great option if you are interested in a hybrid bike but need something a little closer to a mountain bike. Dual-sport bikes are hybrid bikes but rather than being half and half with a road bike, they are closer to being mountain bikes.
Dual-sport bikes are great for more uneven and mountainous terrain, although they won’t be as supportive as mountain bikes. They provide more support and have thicker tires than standard road bikes and hybrid bikes.
Most dual-sport bikes also have slightly different handlebars which will be positioned slightly lower than the seat. The handlebars are usually straight and flat but drop handlebars can also be added.
Dual-sport bikes are great for commuting but also going on more difficult routes and terrain in the country.
Cruiser bikes, as their name suggests, are designed for very casual and gentle riding. They are very comfortable and have a large and well-padded seat. This bike is quite upright and has a specific kind of handlebar. They are almost inverse to drop handlebars and require the rider to hold their hands much higher up.
The saddle is much lower than the handlebars which requires the rider to sit even more upright. Cruiser bikes also often have balloon tires which are thicker and filled with more air than most standard bikes.
Cruiser bikes are also hybrid bikes, hence the thickness of the tires. But, unlike most other bikes, cruisers aren’t great for long-distance riding. These bikes are great for commuting and running errands but aren’t great for going over difficult terrain.
Cruisers can be ridden by anyone but are very popular with children and adolescents. They come in a wide range of different styles and are best suited for flat terrain. One way in which these bikes are very different is in their brakes. In order to stop a cruiser bike, you will need to pedal backward.
Flat-Foot Comfort Bikes
These bikes are a subcategory of cruiser bikes but are of a very traditional style. Flat-foot comfort bikes have a very distinctive frame as there is a large dip in the middle. The top tube is very curved and has a very elegant style.
Another distinctive feature is that the pedals are slightly further forward than the seat. This allows you to sit very upright and comfortably. The handlebars are usually straight and flat and aren’t rounded or wide as other cruiser bikes.
One of the most famous types of flat-foot comfort cruiser is the Raleigh bike. These are very classic and beautiful bikes. If you were to imagine someone riding a bike through the countryside with a basket on the front, a Raleigh bike is probably what you will imagine.
These cruiser bikes are beautiful and perfect if you are looking for a specifically elegant style, rather than something overly practical and sporty.
A city bike isn’t really a specific type of bike, but it is a very commonly used phrase so it’s worth understanding. A city bike is essentially any kind of bike that is designed for commuting or navigating around urban spaces. They are usually road bikes, which is understandable, but will sometimes have features that are similar to some hybrid and cruiser bikes.
City bikes will generally allow the rider to sit upright and will very rarely have drop handlebars. The handlebars will generally be straight and flat but usually angled toward the rider, rather than side by side. The pedals will also usually be further forward than the saddle and allow the rider to sit more upright.
City bikes will also usually be quite load-bearing and support a backpack or other luggage. They will usually have a rack over the back wheel to tie items to.
BMX bikes are very well-known and are very small bikes. They are popular with children due to their size and general usage in stunts. They are not only for children but are often difficult for adults to ride due to how small and compact they are.
BMX bikes are very close to the ground and are often used by stunt riders. You will very likely have seen people, especially children and adolescents, riding BMX bikes around towns, cities, and suburbs but they aren’t designed for commuting.
These bikes have very thick tires and could be used for very difficult terrain but are better suited to stunt riding.
Folding bikes are very modern bikes. They have been developed in recent years to help commuters, especially those living in cities. They can be easily folded up so that they are the same height and diameter as their wheels, both of which are very small. This means that they can be kept under your desk or in the trunk of your car. They can also be easily brought onto a train, subway, or plane without taking up much space. They are ideal for the frequent traveller.
Folding bikes are much more compact than most other bikes and also lower to the ground due to their small tires. The top tube is also quite close to the ground, whereas the saddle and handlebars are much higher. This allows the rider to sit very upright.
Some folding bikes can be difficult to ride and maneuver. They also require some getting used to as they can be difficult to fold and unfold. But, once you have got the hang of it, they are very efficient bikes that are ideal for city living.
Recumbent bikes are very interesting bikes. They are very distinctive and allow the rider to sit low to the ground. The seat is also much more comfortable and features a backrest and a wider seat. In this position, the rider is essentially sitting on top of the top tube.
The pedals of a recumbent bike are much further forward than on a standard bike. This is due to the style of the seat. The rider sits down and leans back with their feet out in front of them. The handlebars are usually straight and flat and sitting on a very tall head tube that leans back toward the seat.
The wheels of recumbent bikes are generally smaller than on standard bikes. If they were the same size, they would be very difficult to maneuver and the rider would struggle to remain balanced. Although there are different types of recumbent bikes, most will have a bigger wheel at the back and a smaller wheel at the front.
Most people associate tricycles with small children who are not yet able to ride a two-wheel bike or need stabilizers. But tricycles can actually be very practical. This is especially true if you want to start cycling more but need to take a lot of bags or items with you on your commute.
Tricycles provide the rider with a lot more stability and often feature space in between the back wheels that can be used to store luggage in a basket. Tricycles are also great for older cyclists or people who struggle with balance. Adult tricycles allow more people to cycle and make cycling more accessible, which is definitely a good thing.
Tandem bikes aren’t something that you see very often but they should definitely be more popular. They aren’t the most practical of bikes and you will need a pretty solid relationship with the other rider to be able to successfully ride one of these bikes.
Tandem bikes are very long bikes with two seats, four pedals, two sets of handlebars, but only one chain and two wheels. They are essentially two bikes merged into one. But, as the name suggests, they require the riders to cycle in tandem. This means that both riders need to be in sync and cycle at the same speed, with the same rhythm, and, most importantly, they both need to brake at the same time.
Tandem bikes come in a range of different styles, some of which are designed for racing, some for an easy bike trail, and some for off-road cycling. But you are very unlikely to find a tandem bike designed for mountain biking or anything too intense.
What Bike Should You Get As A Beginner?
So, now you know about all the different kinds of bikes, what is the best fit for you? Generally speaking, a beginner should try something like a standard road bike or a hybrid bike. The best bike for you will, of course, depend on what you will be using the bike for. But there are other things to consider, such as your personal style, your height, how you want to ride, and what positioning you will find the most comfortable and practical. Here are some of the main considerations to think about before choosing your bike.
Size and Fit
While you might prefer a certain style, it’s important to consider how it will physically suit you. While saddles can, of course, be altered and bikes do come in different sizes, it’s important to find a bike that will suit your body. For example, it’s a good idea to consider the height of your bike, the placement of the top tube, and how far back the saddle sits.
Finding the right size bike for your height is also essential. You will need to find the right shape and size for your height and build so you can be comfortable and supported.
This is a really important factor to consider. Some bikes can be really expensive, especially if they are of a specific style or design. A lot of bikes will be expensive because they are intended for a specific sport and so need additional features or expensive alterations. Others will be expensive because they suit a particular style that is currently fashionable.
If you want a good quality bike on a budget, one option is to buy secondhand. This might sound a little risky but it’s worth it. You might be able to find a good quality secondhand bike online, but always make sure to check the condition before buying. Otherwise, you can check out in-person stores that sell secondhand bikes. These will be of much better quality as they will have been repaired but will be more affordable.
This is especially important when considering whether to buy something like a recumbent bike, tandem bike, or tricycle. “Just like riding a bike” might be a common phrase as people often remember how to ride as an adult if they were taught when they were younger. But this isn’t always the case and some people were just never taught. So it’s fine to consider getting an adult tricycle or a recumbent bike if you think a standard two-wheel bike won’t be suitable, especially if you have problems with balance or maneuvering.
Stability is also important when it comes to mountain biking or going over difficult terrain. You will need a bike with a frame that can support you going over rocks and mountainous terrain without becoming damaged or breaking. So, while a lightweight bike might be easier to control, it might not be strong and stable enough for this kind of biking.
Tire and Wheel Size
This is an important consideration in terms of tire thickness and wheel diameter. For most standard road bikes, the wheels will be around the same diameter, proportionally when considering the size of the bike frame. But tire thickness also needs to be considered.
As mentioned above, the thickness of the tire will depend on the purpose of the bike. On a road, you need something thin and wide that will go over tarmac quickly and smoothly. But when mountain biking, you will need something thicker and smaller to be able to move over rocks, branches, and dips without being too jarring.
Saddle and Handlebar Positioning
Saddle height can be easily altered so this isn’t too much of a challenge. But where the saddle sits on the bike in relation to the pedals is important. On some bikes, such as cruisers, the pedals are much further forward than on a standard road bike or a mountain bike.
The positioning of the pedals is important for your height, the kind of cycling you will do, and how you prefer to be positioned when cycling. This means whether you like to be streamlined with the frame or sat upright.
These are also important considerations when choosing the style of handlebar you would prefer. There are lots of different handlebar styles available which will determine how you will be positioned on the bike.
Overall, choosing the right bike is a personal choice and there are a surprising number of factors that need to be considered. You need a bike that will be suited for your commute or your weekend plans so you need to consider practical features. But you also need something that suits your personal style and personality. Not everything has to be about functionality (although of course, you shouldn’t put style over practicality).
It’s also a good idea to go to a bike shop in person to try out different styles. You don’t have to buy anything but it’s important to get the feel of a bike before buying. There are so many different styles available, you will be guaranteed to find something that suits you.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic