How well-versed are you in the world of bicycles? Do you know a tandem from a cyclocross? What’s the different between a hybrid and a cruiser?
The kind of bicycle you decide to purchase will very much depend on what you’ll use it for most often: commuting, touring, racing or exploring mountain trails. No matter what you need it for, there will always be a bicycle type to suit your requirements.
Let’s take a look at the various bike types available to the prospective cyclist.
Touring bikes are a specific kind of road bike that are intended for pavement riding, but have the durability to last for much longer distances than other forms of road bike – they also make excellent commuter bicycles. A variety of fenders and cargo racks can be fitted to them, and their frame encourages the rider to remain upright, making long-distance rides more comfortable. Touring bikes generally have a lower gear range, allowing them to transport heavier cargo up steeper hills.
Road bikes are designed for smooth pavement riding, with smooth, skinny tyres and lowered handlebars also making them perfect for road racing. They can be used on paved trails but are usually unsuitable for unpaved tracks. They’re not ideal for commuting or touring due to their light weight and lack of attachment options.
Fitness bikes are perfectly suited to people who want a high-performance bike that’s also light but don’t enjoy the drop-handlebar design of regular road bikes. Fitness bicycles are generally lightweight with narrow tires, making them ideal for pavement riding. They’re often known as flat-bar road bikes, or sometimes as performance hybrid bikes. They can usually have fenders and cargo racks attached, making them suitable commuter bikes, and they can also be fitted with wider tyres for cycling on unpaved trails.
Mountain bikes are, as you might expect, geared towards those who enjoy cycling on rough off-road trails. They’re designed with flat or upright handlebars and low gear ranges to help cyclists get themselves up steeper trails. The majority of mountain bikes feature good shock-absorption and suspension. They can be fitted with cargo racks to be used as commuter bikes, though they’re naturally heavier and less-suited to long-range travel. Bikes with very wide tyres, known as fat bikes, are also categorised as mountain bikes.
Cyclocross bicycles are road bicycles that are used in races on mixed surfaces, such as pavements, gravel, grass and unpaved trails. They generally feature drop handlebars and have wider tyres to accommodate changes in riding surface. Cyclocross bikes have a unique style of brake that stops too much mud building up in the frame – they’re also known as cross bikes, abbreviated as cx bikes.
Adventure Road Bikes
Adventure road bikes, sometimes known as all-road, any-road or gravel bikes, are an extremely versatile form of road bike with drop handlebars and the potential for wider tyres. They’re similar in design to cyclocross bikes, though their frames are longer and more upright. Adventure road bikes can be used for touring and commuting, though they’re not as durable over long distances as actual touring bikes.
Hybrid bikes bring together the best aspects of road bikes and mountain bikes, with larger seats and upright handlebars to make riding more comfortable. They’re perfect for short-distance riding, especially along bike paths, though they can also be ridden on paved roads (they’re not as well-suited to this as road bikes). Hybrids can be used on bike trails (paved and unpaved) but are not up to scratch when it comes to off-road trails, where a mountain bike is most comfortable. They have medium-width tyres with enough grip to make them suitable for both pavement and trail cycling, and usually feature some front suspension, though many are fully rigid.
Similar in design to hybrid bikes, cruiser bicycles are well-suited for casual riding, with comfortable, upright positions and larger seats. They often feature balloon tyres and swept-back handlebars, and normally come in single or 3-speeds. Most cruiser bikes have coaster brakes, meaning you need to pedal backwards in order to stop. They’re great for cycling short distances on flat roads and often come in a wider range of colours and styles than other bicycle types.
Triathlon/Time Trial Bikes
Triathlon/Time Trial Bicycles are road bikes specifically designed to have excellent aerodynamics for increased speed when riding. They feature low handlebars that allow the rider to lean over them while cycling in order to further reduce wind resistance. Due to the nature of triathlons and time trials, these kinds of bikes are not allowed in mass-start races.
City bikes are often known as commuter or urban bikes, though they are not a distinct category in their own right as many other kinds of bicycles can easily be used for the same purpose. City bikes normally encourage the rider into an upright position as in the case of a cruiser or hybrid bike, and feature wheels similar in size to hybrid bicycles. They often have certain features that make them more suited to riders wearing normal clothing, such as chain guards, fenders and skirt guards. They are also known as Dutch Bikes due to their similarity to those used in major Dutch cities, as well as other cities around Europe. City bikes often also feature a gear hub that helps with maintenance and everyday use, as well as built-in generators to help power lights during night-time rides.
BMX bikes are most commonly used by children and young people because of their smaller frame, but adults also use them as stunt bikes to perform a variety of tricks and manoeuvres. They usually come in a wide range of colours and styles to appeal to a younger audience.
Track/Fixed-Gear Bicycles (also known as ‘fixies’) are bikes ridden inside a velodrome during Olympic competitions. A velodrome is an oval track with a steep bank all the way round, in which riders compete in high-speed races. Track bikes have only one gear, so riders cannot coast – if the bike is moving, they must continue to pedal at all times. The majority of track bikes feature drop handlebars, though some have flat or upright handlebars. Many commuters use track bikes as they’re straightforward to maintain.
Recumbent bicycles come in both two-wheeled and three-wheeled designs, and feature a low and long design, as well as a full-size seat and backrest. They are often cited as one of the most comfortable options for riders around the world, though they are significantly more difficult to ride uphill and can be awkward to transport between start and end points.
Tandem bikes are well-known as bicycles built for two, and they now come in a wide variety of types, including cruisers, hybrids, mountain bikes and road-racing tandems. Bicycles can also come in 3 and 4-person versions.
Perhaps less common than tandems, adult tricycles are perfect for older people who still have the energy and enthusiasm to cycle but maybe lack the appropriate levels of balance and power to handle a normal bike. They’re particularly popular with environmentally-aware riders.
Dual-Sport Bicycles are a form of hybrid bike that features the ability to travel over a range of surface types with greater aggression and speed. They usually have front suspension, flat or upright handlebars and narrower saddles. They can be used effectively as commuter bikes and touring bikes, especially on unpaved trails.
Folding bikes have smaller wheels, making them more difficult to handle than normal bikes. However, they’re perfect for those with limited space, or those needing to transport their bike easily. City-dwellers with small apartments often opt for folding bikes, which can be stored away without taking up precious indoor space. They can be taken on busses or trains over a longer commute, and can even be transported on airplanes and boats.
Flat-Foot Comfort Bikes
Flat-Foot Comfort Bicycles, finally, come under the category of cruiser bikes. They feature elongates frames that encourage the rider to pedal ahead of the seat position, allowing them to put their feet flat on the ground in between rides. This serves the dual purpose of also allowing cyclists to achieve the normal full leg extension when riding.
There you have it – a full range of bicycle types to choose from. Always research thoroughly before purchasing a new bike, and ensure that the kind you select is suitable for the form of cycling you intend to engage in.