Choosing a bike nowadays can be a difficult task due to the choice and variety of riding disciplines and the ever increasing number of bike types available today.
Think about what you want to do with your bike and where you’ll be going because the best bike for you depends on this.
As the name suggests, road bikes are for riding on surfaced roads. They have lightweight frames and thin tyres designed to help achieve a good speed for minimum effort. They also have dropped handlebars to provide the option to get into an efficient and aerodynamic riding position.
Within this category there are further options
These are built primarily for speed. They are lightweight and responsive. However, for some they have an uncomfortable riding position and a harsh ride.
Designed to cover big miles in comfort. These have heavier frames than racing bikes with more ‘give’ in the frames for comfort and wider tyres. They also have frame mounts to attach mud guards and luggage racks for panniers, etc.
A newer category of bike which sits between the racing and touring options. These are still relatively light but have more frame compliance, a less aggressive riding position and more relaxed geometry than the racer for increased comfort. They usually have enough clearance for wider tyres, mounts for mudguards and often have disc brakes to cope with all weather conditions.
Built for off road use these have strong frames with a more upright riding position than road bikes. They have wide knobbly tyres for good grip on almost any surface and wide handlebars for better control. Stopping is usually provided by powerful disc brakes giving reliable consistent braking even when the wheel rims are covered in mud. Low gears allow the rider to climb steep inclines. They are available as ‘hard tails’ which have a front suspension fork to help take the sting out of the trail or ‘full suspension’ which also have rear suspension. Don’t be tempted by a full suspension bike if you have a limited budget as the components will be of a lesser quality than an equivalently priced hard tail and the bike will be significantly heavier and most likely less enjoyable to ride.
A halfway point between a road bike and a mountain bike, it utilises the more upright riding position of a mountain bike combined with a lighter frame and faster rolling wheels of the road bike. Sitting in a more upright position may be less aerodynamically efficient but it is more comfortable for most and allows good visibility which is an advantage in urban traffic. Hybrid bikes often use more powerful disc brakes which provide more consistent performance in wet weather. They’re also equipped with frame mounts for the attachment of mudguards and racks.
Gravel/ adventure / all-road / bikepacking bikes
These types of bikes are becoming very popular and fashionable. Gravel bikes combine road bike looks and speed with plenty of frame clearance for fitting fat knobbly tyres 35mm plus wide to get you across almost any terrain including rough broken roads, muddy tracks, bridleways, gravel paths and forest tracks. Many will include eyelets for fitting mudguards and pannier racks, disc brakes and more relaxed geometry than a road bike to deliver better handling on a range of surfaces.
Adventure bikes that take luggage (typically frame bags, fork bags, saddle bags and bar bags) are used for bikepacking, which is essentially touring with the option of more adventurous destinations than the road bike equivalent.
Ebikes (electrically assisted bikes)
With assistance from a powerful motor, Ebikes are great if you’re a commuter who doesn’t want to arrive in a sweaty state, if you’re less confident about your fitness, want to travel further / ride for longer or are older or physically impaired and want to keep up with younger or more able riders.
Ebikes are now available in just about every category of bike from basic road bikes to high end full suspension mountain bikes.
Laws vary from country to country but in the UK (apart from Northern Ireland) electric bikes are limited to 15.5mph / 25km/h can be used on the road without a helmet or licence.
More powerful Ebikes (some with motorcycle-style throttles) are also available, but in the UK these are classed as mopeds or motorbikes and therefore need to conform to the same rules (insurance, helmets and so forth).
There is a significant price and weight premium over an equivalent regular bike for the battery, motor and control electronics but the additional cost can often be justified by using the bike more often than if you’d chosen a regular bike.