What Type of Bike Should I Buy?

What Type of Bike Should I Buy?

Type of Bike

So you want to buy a new bike, but what type of bike should you get? You’ve got that new bike excited feeling inside you and you can’t get the thought out of your head. Whether it’s your very first adult bike or a second or third bike, this guide will help you demystify the main type of bikes that you will come across. By the end of this article you will have a better idea of which type of bike you should buy.

The first thing to think about when buying a new bike is what kind of cycling you think will be doing. Each type of bike will suit different purposes and terrain

The questions to ask yourself are:  

  • Are you planning to just use the bike for cycling to and from work and the shops? 
  • Do you want to use the bike to go for longer exploratory rides on the weekend? 
  • Do you want to ride along canals or dirt tracks? 
  • Will you stick mainly on the road?

The type of bike you buy needs to be suitable for the routes you are regularly riding.

Bear in mind that once you start cycling you may not be able to stop! You may want to ride your bike everywhere you go. At one point when I first started commuting on my bike I wouldn’t go out unless I could cycle there. Now I get my cycling fix on long weekend rides and am happy to get on public transport for socialising.

 

The main types of bikes you might come across when shopping for a bike are:

“The first bike I bought in 2009 lasted me only a few months. I knew nothing about bikes. I just had a small budget and bought the first bike the shop suggested I get. After  a few months of cycling on it and realising just how heavy it was, I upgraded the bike to a new type of bike. A more sporty hybrid. I still have that bike as my commuting around bike.”

Charli

Hybrid type of bike for commuting with rack and pannier

Hybrid bikes - commuting, mixed terrain

What are hybrid bikes? Hybrid bikes are a type of bike that is a  combination of a road bike and a mountain bike. They have flat handle bars like a mountain bike so can feel more sturdy than a road bike. The seating position is also more of an upright posture which can be more comfortable and stable. 

This type of bike doesn’t usually have suspension like a mountain bike though, and the tyres are thinner. Not quite as thin as a road bike but they come in all shapes and sizes. My first hybrid bike had super slick tyres like a road bike, but hybrids can have tyres of anything between 28mm to 42mm wide.

Hybrid bikes are a great all rounder starting bike that can handle various terrains. They can be fast on the road getting you to work quickly. On the contrast they can also let you explore the countryside or off-road trails. 

These bikes are also great for UK autumn and winter weather where the roads can be wet, and don’t get me started talking about potholes! With the fatter tyres and more upright riding position hybrid bikes can take you through all seasons.

 

Advantages: Mixed terrain cycling & commuting. Comfortable

Disadvantages: Jack of all trades but master of none

Lady on a blue city bike

Road bikes - go fast & far on smooth roads

Road bikes are a type of bike that as the name suggests are suited for riding on the road on a tarmac surface. Preferably nice and smooth without potholes (one can dream!). This type of bike has skinny slick smooth tyres that create less friction on the road. This enables you to go faster than other types of bikes.

Road bikes have drop handle bars which have you seated in a leaning forward position. This position is aerodynamically set up to help you go faster and be more efficient but can have a reduced range of vision which is not ideal for commuting. It can also be uncomfortable for your lower back. Road bikes are favoured by those who use cycling to race or compete in cycling events and triathlons. They are also popular for long distance fitness riding on smooth roads.  

If you know you will be sticking to smooth surfaced roads and you are planning to use your bike for more than commuting, this could be the type of bike you should buy. Be aware that not all road bikes will be set up with the mounts for pannier racks or mud guards especially in the sportier style. If you need a bike that will be functional as a commuter bike as well, this may not be the best option for you.

 

Advantages: Going fast and travelling long distances

Disadvantages: uncomfortable seating position, reduced range of vision, unforgiving on uneven road surface

Purple shiny typo of road bike


Mountain bikes - off road routes, tough terrain

Mountain bikes are for riding dirt trails, forests, offroad, fields, canal paths and anything that isn’t a smooth paved road. This type of bike has thick knobbly tyres which give you a better grip on these kinds of surfaces. You’ll go over bumps and rough terrain with less feedback through to your handle bars and seat, making for a more comfortable ride on these surfaces. 

Mountain bikes also have suspension on the front and often on the back of the bike. The suspension gives you better control on these types of surfaces but would really slow you down on a paved road. They also have flat wide handle bars which give you better balance and handling on the rough terrain.

Heavier than road and hybrid bikes, this can make you feel solid and protected on the bike, and give you more control on off-road riding. Again that heaviness would slow you down riding on a paved road.

As with all the other types of bikes, mountain bikes have sub types within them depending on the type of riding you plan to do.

 

Advantages: No restriction to the terrain you can ride, comfortable

Disadvantages: Heavy, slow on paved roads.

women and type of mountain bike on a path through a field


Gravel bikes - all terrain, adventure, fast & fun

Gravel bikes are the newest type of bike to the bike scene and are certainly stealing some of the sales and limelight from road bikes. From a distance they look like a road bike, but study them closer and you will see fatter tyres and a slightly more raised seated position

Like hybrid bikes, gravel bikes are designed for all terrain riding so will happily switch from your daily commute to your weekend countryside ride. Gravel bikes are heavier than road bikes and made to withstand tougher riding surfaces. That extra weight will help you feel more stable especially on a windy day. Gravel bikes have more mounts for bottles and luggage than road bikes so could also be great to carry your gear for a day trip or a weekend away.

They have a more upright position than a road bike, giving you more stability and comfort on longer rides. Some people say gravel bikes are  just a road bike with fatter tyres but this is not the case. Other parts of a gravel bikes geometry will be different to accommodate the off-road terrain you would be riding. When thinking about what type of bike you should buy, a gravel bike would be a great option to handle multiple types of terrain. We don’t all have the budget for more than 1 bike, but this type of bike can make you feel like you have 2 bikes in one. A bargain!

Advantages: great on all types of terrain, faster than mountain bike. 

Disadvantages: slower & heavier than road bike

 

I have the Specialized Diverge Elite gravel bike and I absolutely love it! I feel like I can go anywhere with this bike. It’s super comfy and fast and much more efficient and energy saving than my hybrid bike. It’s great on long road rides, I feel safer with the fatter tyres than on a road bike yet I am still able to keep a good speed.”

Charli

Specialized diverge elite cast blue

Folding bikes - convenient, easy storage

Folding bikes come in different shapes and sizes so you are sure to find something to fit your space and needs. They have wheel size diameters from 16″ to full size 26″. The smaller the wheel the easier it will be to carry on public transport. This type of bike has less gears than regular bikes. You will need to consider if your routes are mainly flat or have some hills before you decide on this type of bike

Folding bikes are really well set up to carry luggage so can make a great bike for commuting to and from work. As you may be able to bring them into your workplace, you dont have to worry about it being stolen or carrying multiple heavy locks with you.

They vary greatly in price, but be mindful when deciding which type of folding bike to buy. The cheaper brands may be less secure and stable, or harder and slower to fold.

Advantages: easy to transport and store, convenient

Disadvantages: Heavy, expensive, small wheels/ slow, best for short distances.

lady riding a folding bike with a beautiful view
type of folding bike folded on decking

Electric bikes - fast, fun, easy on hills

When I go out riding with my friend Danny, he rides an electric mountain bike and I ride my gravel bike. My repeated question to him is “do you have your electric on right now?”- as he speeds away from me giggling and waits for me at the top of the hill!

Electric bikes are awesome! They help you to ride further and give you assistance up hills and against the wind. They are a fantastic option If you are newer to cycling, have some health concerns or injuries, have longer commutes or just don’t want to exhaust yourself cycling. You’ll get where you want to be faster and smelling fresher too! A great option if you don’t have showers at work. 

The electric can be turned on or off with different levels of assistance. Bear in mind with the electric off, this type of bike is going to be heavier than a regular bike.

Electric bikes come as hybrid style bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes and cargo bikes. When deciding which type of electric bike to buy, you will also need to consider the type of terrain you will be riding, and which type of electric bike will suit you best

Advantages: fast riding, less sweat, hill assistance, fun to ride, alternative to using a car

Disadvantages: heavy, expensive, short battery life and long charging time

two bikes on the ouse valley viaduct

Touring bikes - multi day rides, commuting

Touring bikes are the type of bike you need if you want to do multiday bike rides carrying a fair amount of gear on your bike. If you plan on going bike-packing these are ideal. It’s exactly what they were built for.

They may look similar to a gravel bike but they are built to be much tougher to carry all your gear. They are usually made of steel which means they are heavy but tough. The tyres are thinner than a gravel bike as they are designed to be used on the road rather than off – road and dirt tracks.

Touring bikes have numerous mounts on them to carry all your gear, which road and gravel bikes don’t have. They also have a much wider range of gears than gravel bikes. This helpful for going up hills whilst carrying the extra weight of your luggage. Touring bikes can double up as commuting bikes to carry your work clothes and laptop using the racks and mounts. This type of bike should definitely be considered a bike you could buy solely for commuting. Over time you are likely to get the cycling bug and you will already have a great bike to take you on multi-day adventures.

Although touring bikes have drop handle bars like road and gravel bikes, they are more comfortable as they put you in a more upright position for long days out on the bike

Advantages: great for carrying luggage, strong, tough, multi day rides

Disadvantages: Heavy, slower than other bikes

mother and child on type of touring bikewith racks and panniers in the forest

Cyclocross bikes - fast, adventure, short rides, sporty

Cyclocross bikes are built for racing cyclocross tracks but are also ideal all rounder bikes. They are versatile and can handle a variety of terrain including rocks and snow and are the ultimate adventure bike.  This type of bike is light enough to carry over barriers on the race track,  but heavier and more stable than a road bike. 

Cyclocross bikes were created for 45 minute tracks of intense riding through mud, fields and obstacles. This type of bike is not designed for hours of riding in one go like other types of bikes.

They share a lot of similarities to gravel bikes but have a more aggressive riding position like a road bike,  making them better for shorter distances rather than full day rides. They have drop handle bars and the maximum tyre width is restricted to 33mm to comply with UCI regulations. Gravel bikes go up to 42-47.

 

 

If you really want to push your riding on shorter rides and be able to go fast on the roads but also have fun in the mud this could be the type of bike you should buy. Tyres can be switched to slicker tyres for the dryer seasons when you might want to do more road riding. 

Advantages: fun, sporty, versatile, light.

Disadvantages: limited tyre width to 33mm, uncomfortable on longer rides

cyclist carrying cyclocross type of bike in muddy field

Summary

You should by now have a much better idea of the type of bike you want to investigate further. Things to keep in mind about bicycles are :

  • Wider tyres slow you down but are more stable
  • Thinner tyres are faster but less stable.
  • Steel is the heaviest frame, followed by alloy. Carbon is the lightest.
  • The more you pay, the better quality the parts of the bike.
  • You will have fun on whatever bike you buy!

Good luck choosing your new bike!