Choosing the most suitable bike type for your requirements and riding style can be challenging, to say the least. After all, there isn’t a dearth of different types of bikes to choose from.
Before you settle on a bike, you’d need to assess what type of activity you’d want a bike for—commuting, leisurely rides, workouts, or challenging sessions in rough terrains. There’s a suitable bike for any type of trail.
Of course, you can splurge on a bike simply because of its aesthetic appeal too—whatever floats your boat.
However, understand that the right bike can make a world of difference in your biking experience.
I’ve listed some of the popular different types of bicycles for your convenience. Go through all bicycle types thoroughly and pick one that is best suited for your riding style, skill level, and lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of 10 Common Bike Types
1. Road Bikes
Let’s kick things off with road bicycles. As you may have guessed, road bikes are created for rides on the road (smooth pavement).
Road bikes commonly come equipped with “drop” handlebars to encourage an aerodynamic riding position and a high gear ratio to help you reach top speeds. They also feature smooth, skinny tires for fast rides with the least effort.
This type of bike is lightweight; a road bike can thus cover grounds in the blink of an eye.
Technically speaking, road bicycles can be ridden on unpaved trails (mountain dirt track) too i.e. if your rear end is made of steel; if you do so though, expect an extremely uncomfortable ride.
Additionally, road bikes aren’t capable of carrying heavy loads, making them less ideal for touring and rides in the city. Moreover, know that the lightweight tires and wheels of road bicycles aren’t built to withstand shocks, vibrations, abuse, and damage caused by potholes and curbs.
Lastly, contrary to popular opinion, road bicycles can’t be transformed into mountain bikes with the mere integration of large, knobby tires.
- Fast, efficient performance on tarmac roads
- Ideal for commuting purposes
- A lot of fun
- Similar to track bikes and racing bikes
- Not suitable for off-road or icy trails
- Susceptible to easy damage
- Can be uncomfortable for casual cyclists
2. Mountain Bikes
A mountain bike, as its name suggests, is best-suited for rides on rough off-road trails. This type of bike is constructed to stand the test of time and commonly features knobby tires to offer traction and grip on all types of bike paths.
Additionally, they also come equipped with either a full-suspension or front and rear suspension fork to absorb the shocks, vibrations felt on rough terrains. The wide gearing options on mountain bicycles help cyclists climb steep trails with minimum effort.
Finally, a mountain bike isn’t complete without the presence of powerful hydraulic brakes. Unlike road bikes, mountain bikes feature a frame geometry, with flat or upright bars, that encourages a more relaxed, comfortable upright riding position.
The negative aspects of a high-end mountain bike, you ask? Well, the suspension on the bike, though outstanding for off-road trails, weighs a lot, costs a pretty penny, and is inefficient for on-road rides.
Oh, and yes, fat bicycles, because of their wide tires, are categorized as mountain bikes too.
- Ideal for rides on roads less traveled
- Can be used as a touring bike
- Outstanding and powerful disc brakes
- Durable construction
- Offers a wide range of gearing options
- Relaxed upright riding position
- Not suitable for rides on tarmac roads
3. Hybrid/City Bikes
A hybrid bike can be best described as a mixture between road bikes and mountain bikes. It features a frame geometry that encourages a more relaxed, comfortable riding position—just as a mountain bike—and has a lightweight construction with fast-rolling wheels as you’d find on road bicycles.
Hybrid/city bikes make for excellent commuter bikes as they allow a rider to see further ahead—something not possible on a road bike as the road bike gets the cyclist in an aerodynamic riding position. Hybrids are excellent choices for people who prefer flat handlebars over dropped ones and aren’t willing to compromise on comfort for speed and efficiency.
Equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, hybrid comfort bikes are extremely safe to ride on as well.
Additionally, you’ll see that hybrid bicycles feature mounts to help you store small loads. These commuter bikes offer you sections and space to install pannier bags too.
While some hybrid bikes have front suspension to cushion bumps, others are as basic as can be.
- A hybrid bike is known for its versatility (compatible with both on-road and off-road tracks)
- Comfortable riding position
- This city bike has good braking performance
- Great commuter and city bike
- This commuter bike performs closely to racing bikes
- Heavier than road bikes
- Jack of all trades, master of none (not the fastest for on-road tracks or the most dexterous for mountain bike trails)
- May or may not have front suspension
4. Cyclocross Bikes
Popularly referred to as cross bikes, cyclocross bikes are ideal companions for swift off-road riding. These bicycles are fast on all types of surfaces including paved and unpaved roads, gravel, and grass.
A glance at a high-end cyclocross bike and you’ll notice the drop handlebar, disc brakes, wide tires, and absence of fittings for mudguards and panniers. The geometry is also designed to ensure the cyclist rides in an aggressive riding stance.
A cyclocross bike, just as hybrids, can also be categorized as a mix between mountain bikes and road bikes. However, this type of bike shares more similarities to a road bike and thus provides a more road-bike feel than a hybrid.
- A cross bike offers the features of a road bike (drop handlebars) and allows you to go on off-road trails (unlike road bikes)
- Performs admirably on all types of surfaces including paved and unpaved roads, gravel, and grass
- Great adventure bikes that are ideal for dirt roads
- Aggressive frame type
- Not the fastest bike around
- Cannot be compared to rugged, durable mountain bikes or gravel bikes
5. Folding Bikes
A folding bike, as its name suggests, has a foldable feature and is thus one for people short on storage space.
The folding feature of a foldable bike makes it, arguably, the most portable and convenient bike around. Some folding bikes are even compact enough to fit under a desk!
Such a feature allows the rider to carry the bike wherever he wants to, on a train or a bus.
However, don’t expect a folding bike to have all the specs you’d find on a regular bike. Understand that compromises have been made to accommodate the folding feature.
How do you spot a folding bike? Well, it usually comes with a folding frame, features small wheels, and has an upright geometry.
- One for people short on storage space
- Convenient and portable
- Lacks the specs you’d find on a regular bike
- Slow speed and not suitable for off-road trails
- Trickier to handle because of the small wheels
6. Electric Bikes
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are widely sought after for their ability to remove the challenges faced by riders on standard pedal-powered bicycles. The motor of an e-bike kicks in as soon as you start pedaling, pushing you to reach your destination in record time without breaking a sweat.
Imagine riding on a windy day and having the fierce tailwind at your back pushing you forward like the nitro in a car—that’s what riding on an electric bike feels like.
Hate climbing uphill trails? Go for an electric bike!
Ideal for those who aren’t the fittest around or those who wish to reach work in a less sweaty condition, the electric bike is convenient, comfortable, has high conversion value and good luggage capacity, and helps you reach your destination with minimum effort.
However, I must admit that e-bikes can be quite heavy.
- Offers an easy, comfortable ride
- Helps you go twice the distance for half the effort
- Requires frequent recharging
- Expensive price range
- Not the most “fitness-oriented” bike
7. Women’s Bikes
In the past, bikes were only designed with the male anatomy in mind; thankfully, that is not the case anymore.
The large influx of women cyclists has forced bike manufacturers to go back to their drawing boards and design more women-specific bikes. After all, a female’s body is quite different from a male’s.
Today’s women’s bikes are geometrically designed to accommodate the narrower shoulders, shorter torsos, smaller hands, and longer legs of women.
Therefore, women’s bikes, in comparison to men’s bicycles, come with shorter cranks, stack height, and top tube, narrower handlebars, and have cutout saddles.
Truth be told, women’s bicycles have a different frame geometry altogether. Don’t be surprised to see a step-through frame or sloping top tube design in a woman´s bicycle; after all, this design is most convenient for cyclists wearing skirts and dresses.
- Designed with the female anatomy in mind
- Women’s bikes are designed to offer comfortable riding to women cyclists
- More stylish than men´s bicycles
- Women’s bikes come with lighter frames
- Available in all price range
- Not suitable for a male rider
8. Touring Bikes
Touring bikes, or cargo bikes, are as versatile as a bike can get. Not only is a touring bike an excellent choice for city rides, but it is also ideal for continent-crossing adventure on rough trails.
Expect the wheels on touring bicycles to be similar to road and hybrid bikes. However, the tires differ in size as a touring bike requires fat tires to get past rough terrains.
Touring bikes, or cargo bikes, are also designed to carry the most load out of all bicycles. Therefore, they are extremely durable and have more than enough space for your panniers, saddlebags, and mudguards.
It should also pique your interest to know that a touring bike has stable geometry and thereby facilitates a relaxed riding position.
In short, none comes close to a touring bike in terms of providing ultimate comfort in long-distance riding sessions.
However, it is important you know that touring bicycles have drop handlebars and lower gear range than your average road bike.
- Features fat, wider tires to help the bike get through rough terrains
- More than enough space for your panniers and mudguards
- Touring bikes are designed to offer a relaxed riding stance
- Can carry the most load
- Slow speed
9. Kids’ Bikes
Kids’ bikes differ according to a kid´s age and skill level.
For the preschoolers and youngins, balance bikes would be ideal. Then, as the kids grow older, you can switch up the wheel size, from a 16-inch to gradually upgrading to a 20-inch and then, 24-inch wheels.
When choosing a bike for your 12- year old, go for a bike with decent geometry, a wide range of gearing options, powerful rim brakes, and tires that are compatible with both on-road and off-road travels.
If your kid is confident of his/her skill level, you can purchase a smaller version of a popular adult bike, with the suspension, disc brakes, and all other bells and whistles.
- There is a kids’ bike for kids of every age, skill level
- BMX bikes are also classified as kids’ bikes
- Kids can outgrow the bikes quite fast and the upgrade costs can be expensive
10. Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bicycle models are usually equipped with tall backrests to promote proper spine alignment. These bicycles put the cyclist in a reclined, seated position; therefore, they don’t put as much stress on the hips, ankles, knees, as standard upright bikes.
Recumbent bikes encourage riders to pedal with outstretched legs and thereby, reduce the pressure on the joints, tendons, and ligaments in the lower parts of the body. As a result, these bike types are usually favored by senior citizens or injured riders looking to get back into shape.
Don’t fall under the wrong impression that recumbent bikes aren’t useful for fitness programs. These bike types work the same muscle groups as upright bikes, albeit in a safer and more convenient way.
- Excellent for physical therapy sessions
- Ideal for those with back pain and knee pain
- Like normal bikes, recumbent bikes can help riders maintain their strength and cardiovascular fitness
- Commonly used as fitness bikes
- Since these cruiser bikes have a low profile, riders won’t have proper visibility while riding the bike
We’ve reached the end of the article and I hope you are, by now, able to select a bike for your riding style. Regardless, here’s a summary to help you choose from the different types of bikes.
Road bikes are for road cycling and on-road trails while mountain bikes are for off-road adventures. Hybrid bikes, just like cyclocross bikes or gravel bikes, offer a bit of everything, while folding bikes with their folding feature, are great for those short on storage space.
Electric bicycles have motors to assist you during rides and touring bikes have been designed to go the distance most comfortably. Recumbent bikes are ideal for those with back and knee pain.
Lastly, women’s bikes and kids’ bikes are self-explanatory.