Choosing the best bike today is an art given the numerous bike categories and other variables to consider. A newbie is bound to be confused by the process. However, the most important considerations revolve around the purpose for which you are getting a bike, where you intent to ride the bike and the different types of bikes available.
While you may be tempted to focus on personal tastes and preferences, the wrong bike can compromise your comfort, health, and safety. Here’s a discussion of the most important considerations when buying a bike, including the types of bikes available today.
Types of riding
The first consideration when looking for the perfect bike for yourself is the reason you need a bike in the first place. There are several types of riding to consider in this regard. They include;
I. Road Cycling
If you are getting a bike to ride for long miles up and down hills and open roads, you should choose a bike designed for road cycling applications. Road cycling is great for individuals looking to get a bike for exercising, staying in shape, and even participating in cycling races. Bikes that are designed for road cycling have unmatched balance efficiency on hill climbs and flat roads allowing riders to maintain high speeds.
II. Off-Road Biking
Do you want a bike to ride on dirt roads, gravel paths, and single track trails, among other areas off asphalt? Many cyclists love getting off-road for workout purposes i.e., to climb steep trails or simply explore natural beauty away from urban sprawl and car traffic. Some cyclists want the ability to combine off-road and on-road routes i.e., take shortcuts through fields or trails. If you want a bike for such reasons, you’ll need a purpose-built bicycle like a mountain or cyclocross bike that can handle bumpy rides without being damaged easily.
III. Leisure riding
You could also want a bike for leisure riding purposes i.e., casual riding for low-intensity recreation or a bike for getting you around town. When leisure riding on flat easy roads, speed isn’t a concern. You also don’t need to carry anything. In such instances, most types of bikes can be used for leisure riding, including old bikes with no gearing.
Commuting bikes are used for commutes. Going to and from work using a bicycle is a great way to keep fit and avoid transport costs. In theory, most bikes can be used for commuting. However, some are better suited for this application. Ideally, a commuting bike needs to have good braking and responsive handling. It should also have a design that allows you to carry things.
V. Bike Touring
Bike touring is another common type of riding. Maybe you want a bicycle to be able to go to places where your car can’t reach. Bike touring can give you access to largescale firms, national parks, remote wilderness areas, and many other places.
Bikes designed for this application are prepared for anything from long, endless flat roads to steep hills and descents. The bikes are also designed to carry luggage. Bike touring requires bikes with burly frames and wheels capable of handling rider and luggage weight.
Where will you be riding your bike?
Before you decide on the type of bike to get, you should also consider where you will be riding your bike. In this regard, there are:
Most types of bikes will do well on flat roads and bike paths. When riding on flatlands, you don’t need a bike with a burly frame or gears. Single-speed and hybrid bikes will work well for flatlands.
II. Hills and Mountains
If you’re getting a bike to ride up hills and mountains, you need a bike with gears to make your experience bearable. Experienced cyclists know the horror of running out of momentum during long climbs. If you want to tackle hills, consider mountain, road or cyclocross bikes that have a variety of gearing options.
III. Dirt & gravel roads
Roads with gravel and dirt present special challenges to cyclists. Bikes with skinny wheels can’t gain traction on such roads. Since wide wheels are a prerequisite, only select types of bikes are suited for riding on dirt and gravel. They include; cyclocross, hybrid, and mountain bikes. If you intend to ride on jarring gravel, you need a burly bike to cope with the shock.
You need a bike that can cope with roots, rocks, steep descent, fast turns, and slippery road surfaces if you are buying a bike to ride on trails. The bike should have wheels and a frame capable of coping with the shocks and good brakes for better handling.
Types of bikes
Since you now know the main factors to consider when choosing a bike, let’s focus our attention on the types of bikes available today.
a. Road bikes
Road bikes are designed for speed on smooth roads. They are arguably the fastest and lightest types of bikes available today, making them a favorite for individuals searching for race bikes or workout bikes to be ridden on the road for long distances.
Road bikes feature skinny wheels and drop handlebars. They can be used on paved trails; however, some people find them unstable and uncomfortable on unpaved trails. Most road bikes lack the capacity to carry heavy loads, making them unsuitable for touring or commuting purposes.
Road bikes offer aggressive riding that may be uncomfortable for individuals interested in leisure riding around town. However, they are perfect for climbing/descending hills as well as breaking wind resistance common on flat roads. Road bikes have highly customized gearing allowing cyclists to adapt to different areas. The bikes can also be modified to accommodate racks, fenders, and other accessories useful for commuters.
Road bikes have sub-categories like adventure road bikes, also known as gravel bikes, any-road bikes, or all-road bikes. Adventure road bikes are simply versatile road bikes. They look like cyclocross bikes in regards to handlebars and wide tires. However, they have a longer frame and tend to be more upright than cyclocross bikes.
b. Cyclocross Bikes
Cyclocross bikes (also known as cx bikes or cross bikes) are a combination of mountain and road bikes. These types of bikes offer the best of mountain and road bikes, all in one. They are great for riders who expect to ride on asphalt, gravel, and dirt. Cyclocross bikes can tackle many surface courses like grass, pavements, and unpaved trails.
The bikes feature drop handlebars resembling those of regular road bikes. However, the tires are wider to offer more traction off-road. Cyclocross bikes also have unique brakes designed to prevent mud from building up in the frame.
Cyclocross bikes are light in weight to boost range. However, they are somewhat wider. They also have stronger wheels compared to road bikes to boost off-road shock-absorbing capabilities. Although the gearing is customizable depending on a rider’s environment, cyclocross bikes don’t perform well up gnarly trails since they aren’t burly enough to cope with root and rock impact during riding.
c. Track bikes/fixed Bikes
Track bikes or fixed bikes (also known as fixes) are bikes meant for ridding on a velodrome (a banked oval track meant for bicycle racing). Some people prefer these types of bikes for commuting, given their simple design and easy maintenance.
Track bikes have one gear that doesn’t offer coasting abilities. So, you must pedal when the bike is moving. The bikes are common in training since they force racers to cycle consistently. Some people prefer more simplicity i.e., track bikes with no brakes since the bike’s fixed-gear mechanism is a brake in itself. Most track bikes feature drop handlebars. However, some riders fit upright or flat handlebars.
Besides racing, track bikes are also used for city riding. Some people also ride track bikes for fun or nostalgic reasons to commemorate an era when all bicycles had fixed gears. Since they have few moving parts and a fixed gear, track bikes tend to be inexpensive and require little to no repair and maintenance.
d. Mountain Bikes
Mountain bikes are designed to cope with bumpy rides common in mountainous areas. They have burly frames and tires, disc brakes, and a variety of gearing. Mountain bikes also have upright or flat handlebars. Mountain bikes are the best-suited bikes for riding down steep trails. They are light enough to climb steep trails. They feature full or partial front fork suspension that absorbs excess shock when riding in rocky terrain.
There are two types of mountain bikes in regards to suspension. Those with front and rear suspension are known as full-suspension mountain bikes, while those with front suspension are known as hardtails. Mountain bikes that lack suspension are known as rigid mountain bikes.
Although mountain bikes are capable of handling everyday riding applications, there are faster and lighter bikes for this purpose. A popular category of mountain bikes is fat bikes, which feature extremely wide tires. The bikes are designed to offer low ground pressure allowing riders to venture on soft and unstable terrain like sand, snow, and mud.
e. Hybrid Bikes
Hybrid bikes were made to offer the pros of mountain bikes and road bikes in one bike. The bikes feature upright handlebars and large padded seats to offer unmatched riding comfort. Hybrid bikes are best-suited for casual rides around bike paths and neighborhoods. They can also be used for short errands and commuting. Hybrid bikes can be used on paved roads. However, they aren’t as efficient or lightweight as road bikes.
What’s more, they aren’t good for rough off-road applications like mountain bikes. Hybrid bikes have medium-width tires and a semi-smooth tread offering adequate cushion and grip on unpaved trails and a smooth ride on pavements. Most have front suspension to deal with small bumps while others are fully rigid.
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Hybrid bikes have sub-categories like commuting, fitness, and dual-sport bikes.
Commuting bikes are generally used for transportation. These types of bikes feature practical amenities like rear racks, lights, locks, and fenders making commuting bikes utilitarian tools. The bikes can be used to commute to work, grocery stores, post office, or any other small errands. Besides convenience, commuting bikes are great exercising tools.
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Fitness bikes offer the benefits of typical road bikes. They are also known as performance hybrid bikes or flat-bar road bikes. Fitness bikes feature narrow tires and lightweight frames offering efficiency on pavements. Fitness bikes have an upright or flat handlebar. The bikes are made for individuals who hate drop-handlebars present on road bikes but are interested in light high-performance bikes. Most fitness bikes have wide tires, making them ideal for riding on unpaved trails. They also have features that allow riders to mount fenders and cargo racks.
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Dual-Sport bikes are hybrid bikes made for riders who want multi-surface versatility coupled with an aggressive riding position and style. Dual-sport bikes feature an upright or flat handlebar. However, the handlebar isn’t as upright as handlebars found on typical hybrid bikes.
Handlebars aside, dual-sport bikes have smaller performance-oriented seats. Most bikes have front suspension. Dual-sport bikes are great for commuting and touring unpaved trails.
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f. Beach Cruiser Bikes
Beach cruisers are bicycles made for riding on flat terrain like boardwalks over short distances. Beach cruisers are distinguishable by their high handlebars. They also tend to have chain guards and fenders. Generally, these types of bikes tend to have few speeds since they aren’t made for hilly riding.
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Beach cruisers have sub-categories, the most notable being flat-foot comfort bikes. These bikes feature elongated frame designs with pedals located a few inches forward (of the seat). This design allows riders to sit low enough to place their feet on the ground when they stop. However, they still allow full leg extension when pedaling.
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g. Dutch/City Bikes
Dutch/city bikes have characteristics of hybrid and cruiser bikes. The name “city bikes” is more of a descriptive name than a name referring to a category of bikes. City bikes have the riding position of cruiser bikes and the wheel size of hybrid bikes. They also have fenders, chain guards, and skit guards on the rear wheels making the bikes perfect for riding with regular clothes.
City bikes may feature internally-geared rear hubs for easy maintenance and use. Some city bikes also have inbuilt generators and lights for nighttime riding applications. City bikes are also called Dutch bikes since they look like everyday bikes popular in Amsterdam.
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h. Folding Bikes
As the name suggests, these types of bikes fold. Folding bikes are designed for portability. They can fold and fit in your car, on the subway, bus, boat, etc. making them priceless travel accessories. They can also be taken when traveling by air; however, they attract additional charges. Folding bikes don’t need a lot of storage space at home. If your home is small or lacks space, a folding bike will work for you perfectly.
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Folding bikes collapse to a size smaller than the normal size (a third or smaller). Their portability advantages make them perfect for commuters interested in going “everywhere” with their bikes minus the inconveniences of doing so with regular bikes.
Folding bikes feature small wheels that make the bike less efficient. They can also be difficult to handle when compared to standard bikes. Their use may be limited to flat roads since they handle well on asphalt only. However, the benefits of owning a folding bike outweigh the disadvantages.
i. Recumbent Bikes
These types of bicycles are non-traditional, looking with features like lower sitting close to the ground in a seat that resembles a chair. Recumbent bikes have a long and low design with a full-sized seat featuring a backrest. They can have a tricycle or bicycle design. They are available in many configurations ranging from short to long wheelbases to above/under-seat steering and 2/3/4 wheel varieties.
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Many riders love recumbent bikes for their unmatched comfort. However, they may be challenging when peddling uphill. They also have portability challenges. In regards to application, recumbent bikes are popular for leisure and exercise. Older riders tend to like recumbent bikes because they allow reclining without putting undue pressure on a rider’s knees, as is the case with traditional bicycles.
j. Tandem Bikes
Tandem bikes are built for two riders. They are available in many styles, from hybrid tandems to cruiser tandems, high-performance racing tandems, and off-road mountain bike tandems. Tandem bikes allow two riders with varying abilities to ride at the same speed. The bikes are great for new cyclists, younger riders, and the blind. Tandem bike riders don’t need special skills. The bikes are popular for leisure cycling as well as exercising.
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k. Adult Tricycles
Adult trikes are three-wheeled tricycles meant for adults. The bikes are great for older individuals who want to cycle around. Adult trikes are also recommended for health reasons i.e., to individuals with balance issues or those with special needs. The bikes are also used in work applications i.e., in environmentally-conscious workspaces like industries and warehouses. Adult tricycles can also be used for fun.
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l. Triathlon/time trial bikes
These types of bikes are specifically built for time trial or triathlon events. The bikes are simply specialized road bikes with forward bullhorn-shaped handlebars and aero bars (tri-bars), allowing riders to lean and improve aerodynamics.
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m. BMX bikes
Bicycle motor cross bikes or BMX bikes are popular single-speed bikes designed for racing around short dirt tracks like motorsport. The term BMX has been used for decades to describe all single-speed bikes with a 20-inch wheel. BMX bikes are durable, robust and popular for riders who love doing tricks or jumps.
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n. Kid’s bike
The term kid’s bike is used to describe bicycles designed for kids. Every aspect of a kid’s bike is scaled-down and meant to make the bike safe and perfect for a child. While cycling is fun for kids, it should be done using an age-appropriate and safe bike.
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The above guide summarizes the most important considerations when looking for the best bike for you, your child/children, or a loved one. Before exploring the different types of bikes available today, it’s important to ask yourself why you need a bike and where you intend to ride it. While there may be other factors to consider and other types of bikes, the above information is enough to help you identify the perfect type of bike for you.