Trying to find out which type of bike is best suited to your needs can be a bit of a minefield. There are so many different styles to choose from, it’s not always easy to know where to begin. Here, we take a look at the key differences between the main types of bike available, along with the benefits and drawbacks that will help you make a decision.
Road bikes are ideal for cyclists who want a low-impact sporting activity to keep fit, or cyclists who feel the need for speed and want a commuting bike to beat the traffic. They’re very light, slender, and have narrow tyres and long gear ratios for maximum speed. Road bikes are the masters of the asphalt, and are the way to go if you want a high performance ride on paved surfaces.
However, road bikes are not suitable for riding off road. The lightweight frames aren’t designed to cope with impacts and rough ground, and the narrow tyres, while fast-rolling on paved roads, don’t provide the grip and traction needed for loose and slippery surfaces. Road bikes have a sporty rider position too, so they may not be suitable for those seeking a relaxed and leisurely ride.
You can find more in-depth information about road bikes in our road bike buying guide.
Mountain bikes are ideal for taking off road and into the hills, or for leisurely cycle path rides where outright speed is less important. They can be easily identified by their wide and knobbly treaded tyres which dig through the dirt for grip and traction, and they have wide handlebar with a flat grip. Because of their comfortable riding position, hardtail mountain bikes also make great commuter bikes.
There are two types of mountain bike: Hardtail mountain bikes have suspension at the front and a rigid rear. Full-suspension bikes have suspension on both the front and rear wheels. The suspension lets the wheel move up and down, which smooths out the trail and keeps you in control of the bike on rough ground.
However, full suspension mountain bikes are heavier than other types of bike, and having suspension at the rear doesn’t offer the same benefits when you’re not riding off road. Compared to a road or hybrid bike, the knobbly tread pattern on mountain bike tyres has more rolling resistance on smooth surfaces, so they can be a bit slow on the daily commute.
Find out more about the different types of mountain bike with our mountain bike buying guide.
Hybrid bikes are best suited for casual, leisure, and commuter cyclists, as they have a relaxed geometry which makes them comfortable and easy to ride. The tyres are narrower and smoother rolling than mountain bike tyres, and have more tread and grip than road bike tyres. A lot of hybrid bikes come pre-equipped with extras like mudguards and luggage racks, and models without can be retrofitted with them if required./p>
Traditional style classic hybrid bikes are currently very fashionable too, and are highly popular with those who live and work in inner-city locations. Sports hybrid bikes are great for fitness training and speedy commuting for riders who prefer the extra comfort over a road bike.
Although you can take a hybrid bike over light off-road routes like canal tow paths, they’re not suitable for more severe off-road riding, and aren’t built to take the kind of punishment a mountain bike takes. Ultimately, they’re slower than road bikes on the pavement, which is a trade-off for their added versatility and comfort.
Take a closer look at the different types of hybrid bike available, with our Hybrid bike buying guide.
Cyclocross and adventure road (or gravel) bikes are very similar to regular road bikes, with a few key differences. They have wider tyres (sometimes with a knobbly tread pattern), a higher bottom bracket for added clearance, and a much more relaxed and comfortable riding position.
While virtually all cyclocross bikes have rigid frames and forks, there are some adventure road bikes (such as the Cannondale Slate) which have a short travel suspension fork to smooth out potholes and rough roads. Both cyclocross and adventure road bikes will often have the mounting locations necessary to add luggage racks and mudguards, with the exception of the high-performance cyclocross bikes designed for racing.
While they’re more capable off road than a regular road bike, CX and adventure road bikes aren’t suitable for high-impact off-roading like a mountain bike. They’re also less focussed on comfort than a hybrid bike, and so are very popular with commuters who want more speed without opting for a full-on roadie.
Take a closer look at these multi-terrain machines with our cyclocross bike buying guide.
Electric bikes give you an extra boost of power when you need it most, making light work of any hills and headwinds between you and your destination. In the UK, electric bikes can give you a boost of up to 250 watts until you reach a maximum speed of 25 kph (15.5 mph), beyond which they ride just like any non-electric bike.
Because they’re available as electric road, mountain, or hybrid bike styles, they’re suitable for any cyclist, but have proven particularly popular with commuter and mountain bikers. Charging a high-capacity 500Wh electric bike battery takes up to 4 hours, and costs approximately £0.10p. Riding in full power mode and letting the bike do all the work, you’ll typically achieve upwards of 30 miles on a single charge. When you compare the cost of charging and electric bike to putting fuel in a car, an electric bike gives the equivalent of 1600 miles per gallon - it’s no wonder they’re popular!
Against their non-electric counterparts, ebikes are typically heavier due to the weight of the motor and battery, which can make them more of a handful to manoeuvre. Because of the complex technology involved, they’re also more expensive to buy than an equivalent non-electric model.
Find out everything you need to know about electric bikes with our eBike buying guide.
Choosing a bike which is well suited for the kind of riding you’ll be doing will make cycling a much more enjoyable experience for you. No matter what style of bike you need, there are plenty of options to suit every budget, and you can always customise your bike with accessories like lights and mudguards to give it that personal touch.
If you would like any help or advice in choosing a new bike, please call us on 01792 799508, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or start a conversation using our live chat service, where one of our specialist team will be happy to help you.