Finding the right bike is a challenge unto itself, but trying to source the right set of wheels without first narrowing down what type of bike you’re looking for can make the problem exponentially harder.
At their core, all bikes offer a similar deal – two wheels, driven by a drivetrain, powered by your legs. It’s the details that separate each subset of the bike, so let’s dive into these details.
Arguably the most popular style of bike, the road bike is what you see the pro’s riding when you watch the most popular bike racing in the world, such as the Tour De France, Giro D’Italiana and Vuelta A Espana. The reason for this is that these bikes are built for maximum efficiency and speed when riding/racing on roads.
- Lightweight materials to maximise power to weight ratio
- Skinny tyres to reduce rolling resistance
- Drop (Curved downwards) handlebars to more hand positions and better aerodynamic riding positions
- More rigid frames, lacking suspension
- A broader range of gears, to tackle the hills, flats and descents at speed.
Road bikes are ideal for anyone who doesn’t feel the urge to take their bike off the open road. Because of their design, rigidity and wheels, they’re by no means well suited to anything other than good quality tarmac.
- Road cyclists
- Hobbyists & pro’s alike, so long as you want to ride on the road.
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Mountain bikes are built, surprise to no-one, to be able to tackle mountains. Up them, down them, circling all around them. With fat tyres, good grip, comfy suspension, wide handlebars and durable frames, mountain bikes are the ATVs of the bike world, built to withstand terrain and conditions that no other bikes on this list could handle without extreme discomfort on the part of the rider.
Mountain bikes are themselves somewhat of a parent category for a whole host of more specific variations such as hard tails, full suspension, downhill bikes etc. Here, we’ll loosely group them in the interest of brevity.
- Wide handlebars for improved riding stability (Less twitchy steering)
- Front and sometimes read suspension for adding comfort over rough terrain
- Lower range of gears for making light work of steep climbs
- Thicker, plumper tyres for better grip
With Mountain bikes being the ATVs of the bike world, they can in theory be used anywhere. This means that with one, you can tackle road, gravel, mountains, parks, grass – the works. However, that doesn’t mean you should. On road, for example, mountain bikes are incredibly inefficient, thanks to an upright riding position, imperfect gearing and fat tyres. Given that, a mountain bike would be great for:
- Those looking to get into or continue riding up or down mountains
- Those looking to tackle less-than-perfect terrain, such as trails and canal paths
- Riders who don’t want to be limited to just roads
- Anyone who wants a less fragile bike that’s a little more rugged – be it for a child, teenager or adult.
Hybrid bikes are, as you might expect, a healthy mixture of road bikes and mountain bikes. They tackle the demographic of people who don’t want to be limited to where they can go with a road bike, but realise a fully-fledged mountain bike might not be practical or efficient for the amount of on-road riding they’ll be doing.
If you want the flexibility of being able to veer off through a park, down a canal or ride off-the-beaten-path, but also want as many of the benefits of a road bike as possible without compromising comfort, a hybrid bike is for you.
- An upright riding position, for comfier and more at-ease riding style
- Thicker tyres for added grip and comfort when riding on or off-road
- A broader range of gears, allowing for efficient climbing as well as high top speeds
- Sturdy frames, which sacrifice weight and aerodynamics for comfort and space to install mudguards, panniers and other accessories.
Hybrid bikes have carved out a market by recognising the strengths and weaknesses of road bikes and mountain bikes alike. Put simply, Hybrid bikes are perfect if you want the speed and efficiency of a road bike, but also some of the off-road qualities of a mountain bike.
- People who don’t want to be restricted to roads, but aren’t looking to get into mountain biking
- Commuters who want a comfy, practical ride
- Riders who want a simple, efficient and durable bike for Sunday rides, be it on road, down the canal or wherever their curiosity takes them.
Electric bikes, often referred to as eBikes, are the newest breed of bike. Again, they encompass many different types of bikes, but for the sake of this guide, we’ll group them together. Strap a battery and a motor onto a mountain, road, hybrid, or any other bike, and you’ve got an eBike.
Being fairly new to the scene, there’s a lot of variance and quality surrounding eBikes, both in the durability, and in the range available. Electric bikes act as a little helping hand – like a permanent tailwind, depending on how much effort you put in.
- Assisted power to help you go faster, further or for longer.
- Anyone who wants to go faster or further, with less effort
- Commuters who don’t want to rock up to work too sweaty
- New or inexperienced riders, who want a helping hand out on the road
Bikes we didn’t mention here, but may interest you:
Of course, within each type of bike we mentioned, there’s a whole plethora of subcategories within this. On top of that, there are types of bikes we didn’t even mention here, but more than deserve their own comment.
- TT bikes
- Cyclocross bikes
- Hardtail mountain bikes
- Full suspension mountain bikes
- Trail bikes
- Folding bikes
- Women’s bikes (Step-through)
- Touring bikes
- Kids bikes