The Top 9 Bike Types: A Guide to Finding the Best One for Your Cycling Needs

September 28, 2020

The Top 9 Bike Types: A Guide to Finding the Best One for Your Cycling Needs

Are you looking to take to the streets, mountain trails, sandy beaches, or other paths? The bad news is that you won't find a bike that performs well in all situations. The good news? Depending on your needs, you can find the perfect mode of transportation.

If you don't know how to get started, you've come to the right place. We'll go over every aspect of cycle buying in this guide. By the end, you will feel confident enough to choose the right bike for your cycling needs. 

Buying your first bike can seem overwhelming if you don't have any support. Professional bike riders often follow specific procedures to guide their search. Before getting started, you'll want to know a few essential tips in choosing the best bike:

  1. Know the Terminology: Like most hobbies, the cycling world has a specific set of terms it uses. While shopping for a bicycle, get to know the language that cycling pros use, so that you know what you're getting.
  2. Map Out Your Journey: As mentioned, not every bike will be ideal for every situation. A downtown commuter will need a different set of wheels than an adventurer hitting the rocky trails. Map out the conditions and paths you'll be riding before you start shopping. It will help steer you in the right direction.
  3. Dress to Test: If you have the opportunity to test-ride the bike, do it! When you are ready to take it for a test spin, dress in comfortable clothes so that you can focus on the performance. 

Part of learning the terminology comes from knowing the anatomy of a bicycle. It might seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to look at the reviews and know whether a bike suits your purposes. 

  1. Frame: Most frames consist of metal, although the type varies depending on the purpose of the machine. Sometimes, you'll see aluminum, and other times you'll see steel or titanium. If you have a larger budget, you might look at carbon fiber frames. The frame construction affects things like durability, weight, and performance.
  2. Wheels: Similar to car tires, you'll be dealing with rubber wheels for your device. Aside from the rubber exterior, there's the rim and the hub, which connect via the spokes. The type of wheels will determine the paths your bike can handle.
  3. Brakes: There are three kinds of braking mechanisms. Coaster hub brakes are for beach rides. Rim brakes are a catch-all that available on various bike types, and disc brakes are for heavy-duty braking.
  4. Drivetrain: You can have up to 30 gears, with 12 in the back and 3 in the front. The standards use a traditional chain, but some utilize a belt drive.
  5. Suspension: The suspension stabilizes rides along bumpy pathways. The front and read hydraulic shocks allow you to take bumps and jolts in stride and continue your cycling journey. The lighter and more adjustable your suspension, the more expensive they'll be.
  6. Contact Points: The contact points include the pedals, the seat (also known as the saddle), the handlebar, and the stem.

With the terminology in mind, you'll be ready to determine the right bike for your needs. Once you start shopping, you can get right to business, knowing what aspects you'll need to pay attention to in order to find the best bike for mountain biking, roads, or anything else.

When looking into the nine bike types, ask yourself a few questions before getting started. 

  1. What am I using this vehicle for - mountain trails, commuting, flats, etc.?
  2. How often will I ride?
  3. What storage space do I have?

With those questions in mind, you're ready to learn about the most popular bike types and which one works best for your needs. 

Road Bike

1. Road Bikes

Are you planning on riding to and from work, the store, and the homes of your friends and family? For any of these situations, you're most likely going to be traveling across road systems. 

Though all bikes can ride on the road, road bikes will optimize your journey along paved paths. The frame and drivetrain will be critical to consider here. The wheels for road bikes will grip the paved pathways, and the drivetrain is crucial if you live somewhere with flats or hills. With more uphill climbs, you want more gears. 

Some road bikes also come with unique pedals that allow you to lock in your shoes. Check out the pedals to see if you need to purchase specific shoes, as well.

Mountain Bike

2. Mountain Bikes

If you love going out in nature and pushing your limits, a mountain bike is for you. These bikes traverse dirt trails and can handle unexpected rocks and sticks. 

Mountain bikes have stockier frames that are more durable. They also have suspension systems suited for bumps and shocks. Finally, they have larger tires to handle the bumpy terrain. 


3. BMX

If you want to ride human-made courses with dirt jumps and sharp turns, BMX vehicles are for you. These are the types you most often see in competitions. 

BMX bikes can get up to high speeds in short periods and maintain your momentum after jumping. As with mountain bikes, they have bulky suspension systems. 

Consider a BMX machine if you're looking to get into races and competitions that require a light yet flexible frame and fast speeds. 


4. Hybrids

If you anticipate riding both paved roads and mountain trails frequently, you should consider a hybrid model. These cycling machines are adaptable and versatile, allowing you to do a bit of everything. 

Hybrid bikes don't offer the specialties that come with getting a specific model, but you'll be able to ride where you want, whenever you want. Unless you want to hone your skills by pushing yourself to the edge of one riding style, a hybrid serves well. 

Consider a Hybrid if you go between nature and city frequently and want to enjoy your vehicle while you're in both environments. 


5. Commuter Bikes

Though similar to a hybrid model, the commuter focuses on getting you across long distances. If you want to ride your bike to work across the city, you should look into various commuter models. 

The frame is critical here as you'll likely need to carry the bike into your office. You want a lighter frame to make the burden less cumbersome. Also, check out the suspension. These machines let you take every pothole and sharp turn with grace and still make it to your destination on time. 

With a commuter, you won't be able to go as fast as possible, but you'll make good speed to get where you need to go. 

Folding Bike

6. Folding Vehicles

If you live in a small space, you'll want to research folding bikes. These are suitable for commuter trips, but what makes them unique is the folding frame. You'll be able to fold up your bike and bring it into your office building, classroom, or wherever else you go. 

Consider a folding bicycle if you want a push-pedal and have no storage space.


7. Cyclocross

Do you want to be able to ride no matter what time of year, regardless of the weather? Also known as a cyclocross bike, these devices let you reach the speeds of a road bike and the maneuverability of a mountain bike. 

With cyclocross bikes, you'll want to invest in a set of slick, thin tires and some chunkier off-road tires. You can switch the tires as the seasons change. 

Consider a cyclocross if you have the versatility to tear down city roads and explore forest and mountain areas. 


8. Electric Bicycles

Electric vehicles have batteries and small motors, usually attached to the frame of the device. The machines are heavier than any of the others listed here, but they make up for it in allowing you to navigate hills with ease. 

If you have long distances to travel, the motor helps you maintain a steady pace without becoming worn out and tired. 

Consider an electric device if you have an efficient way to keep it charged and you're covering long distances or hilly paths. 

Touring Bike

9. Touring Machines

Have you ever dreamed of cycling long distances with a picnic strapped to your vehicle? Your excursion might take you into the countryside. If long-distance adventures coupled with leisurely rides sounds appealing, look into touring model cycles. 

Touring machines are similar to commuter bikes but emphasize stability and rider comfort. They also offer storage options. With these bikes, you want to pay attention to the contact points. The type of saddle and the height of the handlebars will affect your comfort. 

Consider a touring push pedal if you look going for long day trips across the city with picnic baskets and other stored goods. 

You'll also want to think about the accessories and additional parts. They can affect the overall comfort and safety of your riding experience.

The accessories you need will depend on your bike styles and riding situation. Some standard accessories include:

  • Cycling apparel - for racing, cycling apparel reduces wind resistance
  • Gloves - for long-distance rides, BMX, or mountainous terrains, gloves prevent your hands chafing on the handles
  • Shoes - with road bikes especially, cycling shoes let you lock in so that you can pedal faster and harder without losing footing
  • Helmets - these are necessary for any riding experience.
  • Wheel pump - to make sure you have optimal tire pressure before and after a ride
  • Toolkits - for fixing flats, loose chains, etc.

You also may want to consider purchasing extra parts. Do you want to have an extra pair of tires for emergencies? If you're going to utilize a touring push pedal, do you want to buy bags and storage space? What type of tire pump do you want to use? Make a list before you shop. 

You can purchase a reasonably affordable bike for around $100. However, you should be aware these machines may be cheaper because they use low-quality parts, lackluster construction, and overall generic design. Rides at such low prices are often generic models, ill-suited to any specific riding experience. 

Prices for a decent bike can run anywhere between $300 to $2,000+. The cost will depend on the bike type, brand, and design. No matter which of the bike styles you're interested in, you can find an affordable price range without sacrificing longevity or quality.

It will take some research to find the right bike for your needs. Hopefully, this guide to the various bike styles has helped you start in the right direction. Once you've settled on the device that you prefer, you'll be able to use it for decades so long as you regularly maintain it. Don't let anything stop you from getting the perfect cycle for your lifestyle. 

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