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Bike types in depth: What's the best bike for you?

Published 20th January 2023
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Do you ever find yourself wishing your bike could do more? From mountain bikes to folding bikes, electric bikes and more, there are so many types of bicycles available that it can be hard to choose the right one. In this article, we'll take a closer look at all the different types of bikes and their advantages and disadvantages, so you can make an informed decision about which one is best for your needs.

Types of bikes

After over a century of design time, bike manufacturers have broken the original bicycle into several types. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, so let's look at them now:

Mountain bikes

Mountain bikes are designed for off-road riding on trails and rough terrain. They have wide tires with knobby treads for better traction, powerful brakes to slow you when you're hurtling downhill and suspension systems that absorb shocks from bumps in the trail. When you ride a mountain bike, you sit in an upright position for better control.

Mountain bikes tend to have better drive chain systems with more settings than other types of bike. This means they're amazing for going up steep hills - 'mountain' is in their name, after all! And since they're designed for hard trails they tend to have the strongest frames, so they're less likely to break if put under strain.

So, mountain bikes are brilliant at rough terrain, but what about other situations? While you can ride a mountain bike on the road, the extra weight of the frame and traction from the chunky wheels makes pedalling harder than it needs to be. Another weakness of mountain bikes is that they often require more cleaning and maintenance than other types of bicycles due to their more complex gearing (although that's mostly rinsing the mud off).

There are two subtypes of mountain bikes: hardtail bikes and full-suspension bikes. A full suspension bike has shock absorbers on both the front and rear of the bike, whilst hardtail bikes have no suspension on the rear wheels. Hardtail bikes are better for beginners because they're easier to repair and maintain, whereas full suspension bikes are the better choice for experienced riders who want to ride across all kinds of terrain.

Drop bar bikes

While mountain bikes are built for rough country, drop bar bikes are made for tarmac, which is why they're also called road bikes or racing bikes. The drop bar name comes from the low-set handlebar position, which encourages your body to sit in a lower position that's more aerodynamic and maximises your pedalling power. Their frames are made from the latest materials to be as light as possible, making them great for long-distance rides or races.

However, those light frames make them more expensive than other bike types, and their small tyres aren't suitable at all for cycling off-road. Another issue is that not everyone will find the aggressive racing posture comfortable, particularly not for long periods of time.

Hybrid bikes

Hybrid bikes combine features from both mountain and drop bar bikes into one versatile bicycle. They have wider tires than drop bar bikes but narrower than ones found in mountain bikes, making them suitable for paved roads and light trails.

Hybrids also feature flat handlebars instead of drop bars for a more upright riding position that is comfortable over long distances. Because they're versatile and comfy to ride, they're extremely popular as commuting bikes. However, they're jack-of-all-trades, master of none: You won't want to ride them on rough ground and you'll trail behind in a race.

Folding bikes

A folding bike is a small bicycle that can be easily folded in half for storage and transportation. This makes it a great option for commuters who need to take their bike on public transport or store it in a small space at their office.

Folding bikes are typically smaller than traditional bicycles, making them easier to manoeuvre and carry around. They also tend to be lighter than other types of bikes, making them easier to lift onto buses or trains. However, the smaller size and lighter weight also mean that they aren't as capable as larger bikes; they're not suitable for long-distance rides or tall hills. They're best for city dwellers who need an easy way to get around town without sacrificing speed or comfort!

Gravel bike

A gravel bike is another combination of mountain and drop bar bike, but taken in a different direction. Gravel bikes are tougher than hybrid bikes, giving you the ability to ride on just about any surface.

Their tires are wider and thicker than a hybrid's, whilst not being too wide for tarmacked roads. They also feature lower gear ratios than mountain bikes, allowing you to pedal faster on smoother surfaces. The frame geometry is slightly more upright than a road bike, providing a comfortable riding position for long rides over varied terrain.

They're slower to ride than a hybrid bike, but you can take them on more challenging terrain than you can with any other bike except mountain bikes. Overall, the gravel bike is an excellent choice for riders who want to prioritise where they can go over how fast they get there.

Electric bikes

An electric bike, or e-bike, is a bicycle with a electric motor that's built into the frame. This motor can be used to power the wheels the same way an electric scooter's are. That power helps you with pedalling to make cycling easier and more efficient. E-bikes offer several advantages over traditional bicycles. For starters, they provide extra power when you need it most – when you climb hills or ride for long distances. This makes them ideal for commuting or recreational rides in hilly terrain.

On the other hand, e-bikes are typically more expensive than regular bicycles due to all the extra parts. Additionally, they require more maintenance since the battery needs to be charged regularly and eventually replaced. Finally, e-bikes are heavier than regular bikes difficult to carry or lift if you need to.

With so many types of bikes available, it's easy to find the perfect one for your needs. Whether you're looking for a mountain bike to tackle rough terrain, a drop bar bike for racing, a hybrid bike for convenience or a folding bike for long commutes or the powered help of an e-bike - there's something out there for everyone! If you want more help on buying a bike beyond which type to go for, read our bike buyer's guide today!

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