Types Of Bikes & Their Uses: Definitive Guide To Choosing The Right Bicycle

The last thing you want to do is get the wrong bike for what you’re trying to accomplish. Don’t go drop a few hundred dollars on a bicycle you can’t return and will come to dread. Learn more about these types of bikes and their uses…

How To Pick The Best Bike For You

As you go through this list of bicycles, keep these questions in mind:

  • What type of bike do your friends/family ride?
  • Who do you ride bicycles with?
  • What bicycle have you ridden in the past that you like?
  • What bicycle have you ridden in the past that you disliked?
  • Where would you like to ride your new bike?

If you are buying a bike to ride with a group of close friends, you will most likely want to get something similar to what they ride. You won’t be able to keep up with road bikes on a cruiser or a mountain bike and a road bike won’t be able to travel on the dirt, sand, or rough paths.

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A three-speed is normally what people road as a child, so you may find this bike fun once again. Certain bikes are made for certain people and different events – don’t choose the wrong one!

Road Bicycle

Road Bikes

Some bike riders prefer a road bike with thin tires and a sleeker frame. A road bike is lighter and requires less effort when you ride fast. Road bikes are best for paved surfaces and long, uninterrupted stretches of road. But some riders don’t feel steady on this style of bike. A road bike requires that you lean slightly forward while you ride. If you have back issues or concerns about safety, this may not be the bike for you.

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Cyclocross Bikes

Cyclocross bikes are lightweight, yet tough enough to deal with the extreme conditions of cyclocross racing (which involves riders taking laps around courses that may feature pavement, dirt trails and grass). Most cyclocross bikes have semi-knobby tires to handle the terrain challenges.

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Touring Bikes

Touring bikes have a few tweaks on the traditional road bike design that make them ideal for long-distance bike tours. They are designed with sturdy frames capable of carrying heavy loads on the front and rear racks and feature multiple attachment points so you can attach racks, fenders, water bottles, pumps, lights and more.

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Adventure Road Bikes

This type of bike is one of the newest categories. They are sometimes called all-road bikes, any-road bikes, or gravel bikes, and are one of the most versatile sub-category road bikes. They’re similar to the cyclocross bike with their drop handlebars and the ability to use wider tires. The frame geometry is longer and more upright compared to the cyclocross bike allowing this bike to be ridden for a long time.

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Triathlon/Time Trial Bikes

Triathlon/Time Trial Bicycles are roads bikes with a special design that maximizes aerodynamics. The handlebars are also a special aerodynamic design that allows you to crouch forward while riding to minimize wind resistance. Both types of races usually have staggered stars, where each racer starts on his/her own; these bicycles are usually not allowed to be used in mass-start races.

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Fitness Bikes

Fitness bikes have almost all the advantages of road bike’s lightweight frames and relatively narrow tires for efficiency on pavement – with a flat or upright handlebar. These bikes are designed for people who want a light, high-performance bike, but don’t like the drop-handlebar riding position on regular road bikes.

Fitness bikes are sometimes called flat-bar road bikes or performance hybrid bikes. Most of them can accept somewhat wider tires, making them suitable for use on unpaved trails. They also have the ability to mount cargo racks and fenders, which can turn them into a better commuter bike.

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Track/Fixed-Gear Bikes

Track/Fixed-Gear Bicycles or “fixies” are designed to be ridden on a velodrome, which is a banked oval track specifically for bicycle racing. Some commuters prefer track bikes, however, due to their simple design, which makes them easy to maintain. However, they only have a single gear which doesn’t provide the ability to coast. If the bike is in motion, your feet must be pedaling.

For even more simplicity, some riders prefer not to have brakes, since the fixed-gear mechanism can act as a brake. Most track bikes have drop handlebars, but riders can outfit theirs with flat or upright handlebars if it’s preferred.

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Mountain Bikes

There are many types of mountain bikes, so be sure to do more research before you pull the trigger on one of these bad boys. Mountain Bicycles are perfect for off-raid trails, and they have flat or upright handlebars with a very low gear range for pedaling up steep trails. Most mountain bikes have some type of shock absorbers or suspension to cushion bumps you might find on the trails.

Mountain bikes with front suspension only are called hardtails; mountain bikes with both front and rear suspension are called rigid. Mountain bikes can also be outfitted for use as a touring or commuter bike, although, they would not be as light or efficient as traditional touring/commuters. Fat bikes, with their extremely wide tires, are included in the mountain biking category.

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Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid Bicycles were originally conceived to provide the advantages of both road bikes and mountain bikes. Their large, padded seats and upright handlebars provide a comfortable riding position and are best for casual riding around the neighborhood or bike paths, short-distance commuting, and errands around town. They can be ridden on paved roads, but are not as lightweight or efficient as road bikes.

They are ideal for paved or unpaved bike trails but are not appropriate for rough off-road mountain bike trails. The tires are usually a medium-width with a semi-smooth tread, to provide a fairly smooth ride on pavement, but enough grip and cushion on unpaved trails.

Most hybrid bikes have front suspension to smooth out small bumps, but some are fully rigid. Hybrid bikes used to also be referred to as cross bikes, but that term is not used anymore in order to avoid confusion with cyclocross bikes (see above).

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Dual-Sport Bikes

Dual-Sport Bicycles are a sub-category of hybrid bikes oriented towards riders who want the multi-surface versatility of a hybrid bike but want a little more aggressive style and riding position.

They have a flat or upright handlebar, although not as upright as regular hybrid bikes; they usually have a smaller, more performance-oriented seat, rather than a large comfortable seat. Most have front suspension. Dual-sport bikes make good commuter bikes and are also good for touring on unpaved trails.

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Cruiser Bikes

Cruiser Bicycles are similar to hybrid bikes, in that they are designed for casual riding, and have a very comfortable, upright riding position, and a large, comfortable seat. Cruisers usually have wide “balloon” tires, and handlebars that are even more upright, and in some cases, swept-back compared to hybrid bikes.

Most cruiser bikes are single-speed or 3-speed and have the old-fashioned coaster brake (where you pedal backward to stop). They can be used for short-distance commuting and errands, as long as your route is fairly flat. Some cruiser bike manufacturers make a wide array of colorful models available, to suit the fashion tastes of any bike aficionado. Cruiser bikes are the bicycle of choice for both East- & West-Coast Instagram “Influencers.”

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Flat-Foot Comfort Bikes

Flat-Foot Comfort Bicycles are a sub-category of cruiser bikes. They have an elongated frame design that pushes the pedals a few inches forward of the seat, which allows you to ride with the seat low enough to place your feet flat on the ground when stopped – you can still get the full extension of your legs while pedaling.

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City Bikes

The term “city bike” doesn’t really refer to a specific category of bikes; it’s more of a general descriptive term. They might also be called “commuter” or “urban” bikes, although many of the bikes listed on this page can be used quite well for riding and commuting in a city. However, there is a certain type of bike that some people have in mind when they use the term “city bike.”

This bike has characteristics of both a hybrid bike and a cruiser bike–usually the upright riding position of a cruiser, but the wheel size of a hybrid bike. A city bike might also have some or all of these features that make it more amenable to riding in regular clothes, as opposed to cycling-specific clothing:

  • Fenders
  • Chainguard
  • Skirt guard on the rear wheel

A city bike might also have an internally-geared rear hub for ease of use and maintenance, and a built-in generator and lights for safety when riding after dark. These bikes are also sometimes called “Dutch bikes,” because of their resemblance to the everyday bikes used in Amsterdam and other bike-friendly European cities.

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BMX Bikes

BMX Bicycles are extremely popular with children because of their small size and versatility. However, they can also be used by adults (and kids) to perform various tricks and stunts. If you are looking to commute, THIS IS NOT THE BIKE FOR YOU.

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Folding Bikes

Folding Bicycles are ideal for those who need to travel with their bike, want a bike to keep on their boat or plane, or who live in small apartments without excess storage space.

They’re decent for commuters who need to take their bike on a bus or train for part of their commute, or who don’t have a safe place to park their bike at work. Most folding bikes have smaller wheels, which makes the bike a little less efficient and trickier to handle than a standard bike, but most folding bike fans feel the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

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Recumbent Bikes

Recumbent Bicycles have a long, low design and a full-size seat with a backrest. Recumbents are available in two-wheel and three-wheel designs. Many recumbent riders feel that they are the most comfortable option available for bicycling. However, they are more difficult to pedal up hills, and they can be a challenge to carry from one place to another in a motor vehicle.

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Tandem Bikes

Tandem Bicycles are “bicycles built for two.” They come in all styles, from cruiser tandems and hybrid tandems for the bike path or boardwalk, off-road mountain bike tandems, and high-performance road racing tandems.

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Adult Tricycles

Adult Trikes are ideal for older folks who still want to get around under their own power, or those with balance issues or other special needs. They are also popular in environmentally-conscious industrial/warehouse applications.

Written by Chief Health

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