You are looking to buy a bicycle. Simple enough. However, going into a store with row after row of bikes like we have at The Bicycle Planet can be confusing and stressful. To the untrained eye, they all look the same! Believe it or not, after reading this article, you will be able to go into any bike shop and identify the major types of bikes out there and maybe narrow down the category that sounds right for you. Basically, there are FIVE major categories of bikes. Let’s dig into them.
These are the sports cars of the cycling world. They are generally about going fast and covering relatively long distances. Think Tour de France, racing, lycra, the cyclists riding en masse on the weekends. Most road cyclists are looking for smooth pavement but in recent years there has been a new category of ‘Road’ riding called Gravel. Gravel cyclists are looking for hard packed dirt/gravel roads. These bikes tend to be a lot more comfortable and forgiving. Some of the sub-categories of Road are Triathlon, Aero, Race, Endurance, Gravel, and Touring. Price range: $680-$15,000+
These are the jeeps of the cycling world. These are the bikes that seek out dirt trails. They love dirt, rocks, and logs. These things can evoke images of jumping, full faced helmets, padding/armor, and big knobby tires. The sub categories are Hardtail, Full Suspension, and Fatbikes. These bikes are also quite durable because they are going to be taking a beating on the trails. Price range: $430-$11,000+
If the Road and Mountain bikes are the Parents, then the three following bicycle categories would be their children, aka Hybrids.
This child looks more like the Road parent. Think of a road bike with a flat handlebar (as opposed to a drop handlebar). The flat handlebar allows for a more comfortable (slightly more upright) riding position. They have smooth tires like the road bike but tend to be a touch wider so that it will feel a bit more stable for the casual rider. I like telling people that this is essentially the Honda Accord of the cycling world. They’re great for exercise, commuting, recreation. These make for great family bikes. Parents love these because they are quite versatile. Have a toddler? These bikes can accommodate a baby jogger, child seat or tagalong. Have a kid that can ride on their own? This bike will be easy for you to get on and off and to match the pace of your child. Price range: $420-$2500.
Dual Sport Hybrid
This child looks more like the Mountain parent. These bikes generally are built for super light trail/dirt riding. They are also great for urban settings where the roads are not in great shape ie potholes/cracks. Most of these bikes will have a slightly more rugged frame construction than the Fitness Hybrid. They will also tend to have suspension in the front and have disc brakes. The tires will have some more tread on them and will be wider than those on the Fitness Hybrid. Price range: $450-$2000.
This child looks like neither parent. As the name states, this bike is all about being comfortable. The handlebars will be higher than the seat allowing for a more upright riding position. The tires will have some tread and be reasonably wide to provide a feeling of stability. The saddle will be big and cushy, sometimes with suspension built into the seatpost to provide the most comfortable experience for your rear end. Some of these bikes come in a step-through version for easier on-off. And some will also come with a front shock to help even out any rough patches of road. The one drawback of all this comfort is that these bicycles weigh a bit more than the fitness hybrids, and they are not meant for speed or riding long distances. These bikes range in price from $380-$1000.
We’ve gotten A LOT of comments about this topic. Our goal is to provide a starting point for the newbie shopper who knows nothing about bikes. We’re just talking adult bikes here. For those of you that have commented that we didn’t mention singlespeed, recumbents, cruisers, gravel, cyclocross, bmx, touring, yadayada… sounds like you already know a lot more about bikes than what this article is intended to cover. We will have future articles that dig deeper into all the different types of bikes out there!