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Types of bicycle: Which one’s the best for me?

By Christopher Ashley

Maybe you feel your current bike isn’t suitable for your needs, or maybe you just want to start cycling again after many years. Are you overwhelmed by the different types of bikes to choose from? This guide is an introduction to some of the most popular bicycle types.

Road bikes & Racers

This is a simple one. Are you going to cycle on roads? Get a road bike. They’re only called racers because pros use them in races like the Tour de France.

Road cyclists

You can race on any bike, or you can go slow on any bike – the rules are yours to make. If you’re sticking to tarmac and asphalt, a roadie will be the most comfortable, the most economical, and the least effort.

Hard tail mountain bike

Do you like to venture off road? A hard tail has no suspension on the back, but it does have front suspension to take the strain of the bumps off your arms. Over rough terrain, grass, mud, and woodland trails they’re safer, faster, and more comfortable than road bikes.

Hard tail mountain bike

Full suspension mountain bike

Do you like to plummet down the side of steep hills, off road? Perhaps you’ve found some exciting woodland passes on your rambling expeditions? Full suspension mountain bikes are for adrenaline junkies who like gravity to supply the momentum, while the rider navigates the turns with their body weight, foresight, and judicious use of disc brakes.

Full suspension mountain bike

Gravel bike

Do you like finding adventures on tarmac roads, but don’t want to be stopped from exploring a bridle path, off road trail, or you simply want to cut across a large field? Gravel bikes are road bikes with fatter tyres, more likely to have disc brakes, and the head tube is typically longer, so the drop handlebars are higher.

Charge Plug 2, Photo: Chargebikes.com

This makes it easier to steer in off road sections, when negotiating obstacles you wouldn’t find on the road. The gearing is usually a little lower than road bikes, but higher than mountain bikes. So, the best of both worlds?

Single speeds

How many gears do you really need? One. If you struggle going up a hill, just get off the bike and push – the fitter your cycling makes you the easier you’ll find those hills.

Vintage fixed gear bicycle

Gears are a beautiful piece of engineering, but they require maintenance, care, and cost you extra. If you’re on a budget or simply want to keep maintenance to a minimum, these are great bikes.

Town bikes & Dutch bikes

Their robust frames are designed for trundling about flat cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, but are gaining popularity thanks to the rise of cyclechic. A basket on the front won’t look out of place on these get-about-town cruisers and their comfort is synonymous with the “sit up and beg” handle bars.

City bikes in Amsterdam

They usually have 3 to 5 gears, with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind internal gear hub which means low maintenance – but you can always drop a gear if you find a steeper hill. If you want to arrive looking effortlessly chic, these are perfect.

Folding bikes

My fiancée bought a Brompton folding bike for her commute to work – part of which is done by train. These bikes fold up small, meaning few restrictions are placed on where you can take them. When my fiancée visited Canada recently, I left my car at a pub and got a taxi home.

Folding bike

The next morning, I borrowed her Brompton and picked up the car, the folded bike fitting easily in the boot without putting the seat down. The small wheels but extended frame make the ride somewhere between a BMX and a road bike. The next bike I bought was a Brompton.

Finally, always remember that fit comes first

Any of the above bikes will be comfortable and fun to ride. Visit your local bike shop and tell them what type of bike you need. My local bike shop, always recommend the right size and model for my body – within my stated budget.

What bike will you go with? Feel free to discuss your choice in the comments below.