Understanding Different Types of Bike

By | 1 November, 2012

For someone that’s pretty new to cycling, the vast array of different types of bike can be a little intimidating.  So here’s a quick guide to the most common different types of bike:

Road Bike

Road Bike

Road Bike

As the name suggests these bikes are designed for riding on the road, and at speed.  Road bikes can typically be identified by the drop-handlebars (which allow the rider to position themselves more horizontally for less wind resistance) and thin tires with very little tread (lower rolling resistance on the road, and therefore faster speed).

Road bikes often have lots of gears – 18 to 21 is typical – which help when it comes to climbing hills.  The pedals will also have clips (called cleats) on them that attach to special cycling shoes that can help deliver up to 30% more power from your legs to you bike.

Good for: fast and/or long commutes, sports cycling/training/fitness

Less good for: comfort on bad roads (with the thin tires you’ll feel every bump), drop-handlebars and cleats can be intimidating for new riders

 

Mountain Bike

Mountain Bike

Mountain Bike

These bikes are designed to be taken off-road on rough ground, and as such have a much stronger and heavier frame.  Mountain bikes have fat and knobby tires for comfort and grip, and often shock absorbers.

Bikes with no suspension are called ‘rigid’, those with front suspension only are called ‘hardtail’, and those with front and back suspension are called ‘dual’ or ‘full suspension’.

Good for: off-road cycle sports and leisure cycling

Less good for: cycling on roads (the knobby tires and suspension are very slow on roads)

 

Hybrid Bike

Hybrid Bike

Hybrid Bike

Hybrid bikes occupy the centre ground between a road bike and mountain bike. Typically they have a stronger frame and wider tires than a road bike, and as such put up with more punishment and give a more comfortable ride on bad roads.  They are designed to spend the majority of time on roads, but allow for some light off-road use.

Hybrids are often the first choice of new cyclists, as they offer a more upright riding position.

Good for: newbies or occasional cyclists, more comfortable road cycling

Less good for: speed/long distances, off-road use

 

Fixie Bike

Fixie Bike

Fixie Bike

Fixed wheel (or fixie) bikes only have a single gear, so if you want to go faster then you need to pedal faster!  A proper fixie (as opposed to a single-speed bike) will have no freewheel mechanism – the freewheel allowing the wheel to keep turning when you stop pedalling.

These bikes have achieved something of a cult status, primarily for their simplicity of design.

Good for: looking cool, low maintenance

Less good for: going up hills, going down hills (you have to keep pedalling!)

 

Touring Bike

Touring Bike

Touring Bike

A touring bike seems to occupy the middle ground between a road bike and a hybrid.  They are designed to offer maximum comfort and durability during long bike rides.

They will have drop handlebars, to offer the maximum number of different hand positions, but they will also have wider tires than a road bike and pannier racks for carrying luggage.

Good for: road trips where you are carrying your luggage

Less good for: speed, off-road use

 

Dutch Bike

Dutch Bike

Dutch Bike

This is the common name given to a ‘Roadster’, a traditionally styled utility bike that is common in Denmark and the Netherlands.  They are becoming more popular elsewhere as well, as they become fashionable particularly amongst women.

The step-through frame of the ladies models allows women to maintain their modesty when riding in a dress or skirt.  Chain and skirt guards all stop clothing becoming entangled in the mechanism.  Dutch bikes have an upright riding position and tend to be very sturdy, and with only a very limited number of gears.

Good for: riding in normal clothes, fashion statement, durability

Less good for: speed, long distances

 

Recumbent Bike

Recumbent Bike

Recumbent Bike

Perhaps the most distinctive type of bike is the recumbent, where the rider sits in a laid-back reclining position with their legs forward of their body.

This position has an aerodynamic advantage over the traditional upright position of cycling, and as such take less effort to ride.  Your body is positioned a lot lower to the ground, which has both advantages and disadvantages.

Good for: comfort (the reclined position reduces strain on the body), speed, safety (you are nearer the ground if you crash)

Less good for: safety (you are less visible in traffic), manoeuvrability (less easy to balance at low speed)

Author: Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

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