Something to Consider – What Are the Different Types of Bicycles?

So far, I have provided some information on cycling helmets, accessories, and tips for those who are new to cycling. I would be remiss if I didn’t go over the most important decision one makes when they decide to be more serious about cycling – that would be the bike itself!

What are the different types of bicycles available? Which one should you purchase? Before you purchase a bicycle, it is a good idea to put some thought into what kind of riding you are looking to do, what your goals are, and what price range fits with your budget.  There are various types of bicycles available to fit nearly all styles of riding.

When the Road Calls to You

One of the most common bikes you’ll see people riding are what as known as road bikes. They are usually lightweight, with drop handle bars (they appear to curve down forming a C-shape), and have thin tires. These bikes are designed to be ridden on the road, with speed in mind.

Originally, the frames of road bikes were made of steel. These days, in addition to steel, frames are made of aluminum, carbon fiber, or even titanium.

Within the road bike realm, there are different variants of the tried-and-true machine on two wheels.  Here are a couple examples you may see at your local bicycle shop.

  • Gravel Bikes. These have sprung up within the past few years. The frame geometry differs slightly from a usual road bike, providing more comfort for the rider (not being as far bent over). They also have slightly wider tires to help with light off-road riding.
  • TT (Time Trial) Bikes. These bikes are built with pure speed in mind, and you’ll most likely see them being ridden during time trial races or triathlons. The frames have an appearance of being flat, and are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible.  Even the handle bars are designed in a way that positions the body for aerodynamic efficiency. More than likely you won’t be riding these starting out.

What if I’d Rather Ride in the Woods?

There are valid reasons why road cycling may not be attractive to people. Perhaps you live in an area with dense vehicular traffic. Maybe the local roads always seem littered with potholes and other obstacles. Or, you want to explore forest trails, but want to cover more ground than hiking.

If you have those concerns, or just prefer being in the woods, a mountain bike would be a great choice. They are designed to handle obstacles you may encounter on the trail such as rocks, tree roots, or thick patches of dirt.

Mountain bikes have flat handle bars, and a slightly different frame geometry than road bikes. The frames are made, like road bikes, of steel, aluminum, titanium or carbon fiber. They have more weight than road bikes, and have wider, knobby tires.  These tires helps provide traction.

Listed below are some different mountain bike types available:

  • Full-Suspension. Many mountain bikes available have suspension forks integrated into the frame. A full-suspension bike contains both a front suspension fork and a rear suspension system. The benefit of this type of bike is it allows you to cover more difficult terrain without your body taking the brunt of the punishment.
  • Hardtail. This type of bike has a front suspension fork, but does not have a rear suspension system. These bikes are good for trails that are smoother/have fewer obstacles, and are decent even for road riding over shorter distances.
  • Rigid Bike. This type of bike has no suspension at all. That means your body will take more the absorption of riding over obstacles. However, my first mountain bike was a rigid, and I found it to be slightly lighter, and handle just as well as my hardtail.
  • Fat Bike. These type of bikes have become popular over the past few years. They are called fat bikes because they have tires which are wider than a standard mountain bike.  These bikes can handle almost anything, including snow.

Just Want to go Casual

Say you don’t want to spend hours out on the road, or navigate rocks, and you just want a bike you can ride around town. An urban bike may just be what you are looking for. These bikes lack the bells and whistles of more tradition road bikes, and don’t have as many gears to shift through. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful!

Frames of urban bikes are usually either steel or aluminum. They have wider tires than road bikes, and are designed for both going on the road, and light off-roading (dirt paths for example). Some have fenders over the tires, and may include front racks or pannier baskets to store things.

Prices for these types of bikes generally run lower than road and mountain bikes. If you’re looking for an economical bike that will allow you to safely commute within town, an urban bike may be something to consider.

Cost Considerations and Your Budget

While I am a firm advocate that cycling can be taken up without obliterating your budget, purchasing a bike will be the most expensive cost you’ll take on when you start.

Bicycles fit into a wide range of pricing. High-performance ones can cost thousands of dollars. This is due to better materials and components. However, there are entry-level bicycles that cost less than $1000 (understandable if that still seems expensive) that can perform and serve you well for many years.

More than likely you’ll be spending some hard-earned money on a bicycle. As such, do as much homework as possible before making a purchase. You want to be happy with your bike, for there is a good chance you’ll still be riding it well years after you purchased it.

Find the Type of Bike that Suits You!

In answer to the question of “What Are the Different Types of Bicycles Available?”, you can now get the idea that there is plenty, and you are bound to find one that is right for you. This article provides a glimpse of just some types out there.  Two key factors at the start that should play into your decision are the type of riding you are looking to do, and what you can afford. Don’t purchase a bike based of how it looks, or brand.

It is very important to do some homework before making a purchase. You can search online, or go to your local bike shop and talk to a salesperson. They can provide suggestions based off information that you give them.

The good thing about cycling is if you are just starting out, you’re not limited to the bike you start out with. Over the years, you may find you want to upgrade to a bike that’s lighter, a bike that better fits your riding style, or you may decide to switch to mountain biking from road. You’re not locked in, but if you are just starting out, definitely seek out a bike that you feel fits you the best for that stage of your journey.

Have fun out there!

6 thoughts on “Something to Consider – What Are the Different Types of Bicycles?

  1. Thanks for all the information. I used to bike with my kids quite a bit. We would do 20 mile bike rides at least 3 times a week but usually more. We weren’t always on trails and we each had a different style of bike. We each had our preference which is why we had different style bikes and alternated the terrain on each ride. I have since been diagnosed with a few different kinds of arthritis and permanent nerve damage. Because of this biking has been to painful for my hands. I have even tried special gloves to no avail. Do you have any recommendations on type of handle bars, accessories or gear for low impact to make riding less painful for individuals like me. I find riding extremely relaxing and would hate to have to give it up!

    1. Hello! You mentioned trying special gloves. Not sure if you tried other ones, but I’d suggest looking for gloves that have thick gel padding (unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be as many thickly padded gloves out there as in the past). If your bike has drop down handlebars, I’d suggest looking for handlebar tape. If the bike has flat handlebars, there are ergo grip ends that attach to the handlebar ends.

      As for techniques, try to keep your hands relaxed on the handlebars, and don’t grip them too hard. Personally, I change hand position often. When on my mountain bike, if my hands start hurting, I flip my hands up like fists for lack of better description, and let them rest if terrain allows.

      There may be some trial and error to find what works for you, but hopefully this helps!

  2. Absolutely amazing guide for people like me trying to look for something more serious rather than just a casual bike. I’m looking to get into cycling for exercising so what type of bicycle will I need? One with speed and maneuverability or just a casual bike for the road? I’m a newbie so thanks for answering these questions for me!

    1. It depends on what your end goals are. A gravel bike would be something to look at getting started out. The frame geometry on them is slightly different than a traditional road bike to increase comfort (see not bent over as much). They handle well, can go long distances, and can go on smooth trails. For around the same cost, you can look at a more traditional, entry level road bike. If you’re looking to ride for speed, these are good options.

      I’d recommend going to a local bicycle shop near you, and test ride some different models. This will allow you to get a feel of how they handle, and how comfortable you feel on them.

  3. I have always been a friend of the mountain bike, as it is just so versatile. Great for the road, but also great for going through a forest. Always wondering about those really big wheeled bikes though. They look way too big to be comfortable. I also noticed there’s some sort of retro thing happening with bikes? They kind of look like they’re from the 60s, no gears, cute colours and a basket on the front. Or is there more to them than meets the eye?

    1. Agree with you about the mountain bike. Love riding mine!

      Admittedly, I haven’t seen to many retro style bikes out around where I live, but I feel people are drawn to them because of the looks you mentioned. It seems we live in times where retro style is in, and perhaps the look of those bikes are what draw people to them. They’re also relatively inexpensive, and are ideal for short rides.

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