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Different Types of Bikes – Explained

Jeff Balton

Different types of bikes

There are tons of different types of bikes out there and you might be asking – what type of bike should I get?

A mountain bike or a city bike, a road bike or a cruiser?…

There are so many bicycle types in 2023, but which one should you choose? How many gears? With or without accessories? Learn the answers to these questions and what kind of bike to choose below.

Let’s begin with the most popular types of bikes that you should first consider when buying a new bike. The chances are that one of these five bike types will suit your needs perfectly. These include mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes, and kids bikes. Let’s find out more about their characteristics and uses.

 

1. Mountain Bikes (MTB)


Full-Suspension Mountian Bike (Diamondback Release 5C)Mountain bikes are the most widely used bicycle type. It was designed for traversing forests and rougher or mountainous terrains. Its construction differs from a typical bicycle in many ways.

The most noticeable of these differences are the inclusion of suspension on the frame and fork, larger knobby tires, more durable heavy-duty wheels, more powerful brakes, and lower gear ratios, which are needed for steep gradients and better traction.

Related: Bike Brakes Explained

Substantial controllability and the bigger tire pattern makes riding on technical tracks easier and more comfortable.
MTB is good for riders who don’t care about high speeds but instead focus on crossing terrains that can be hard to pass and enjoy bicycle tours and marathon rides.

There are hardtail (with front suspension) and full-suspension (with front and rear suspension) bikes. The latter kind is considered more comfortable but typically costs and weighs more. The mountain bike is in fact a larger category, which also includes downhill, enduro, trail, XC, all-mountain, and so on. The price of these can vary from 250$ up to that of a good mid-class car.

Related: Road Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes – The Main Differences

 

Full Suspension Bikes

Full Suspension Bike

Full suspension bikes are a subtype of mountain bikes. They have suspension both on the fork and on the back end of the frame. They are typically more expensive than hardtail and rigid bikes and are designed for more demanding terrain.

 

Hardtail Bikes

 

Hardtails 2

As the name suggests, these are mountain bikes that have only front suspension. The tail is hard, so they are less capable than full suspension bikes when it comes to tackling rough terrain. They are usually also more affordable. They are great for riding harder packed trails, forest, and gravel roads.

 

Rigid Bikes

Rigid

These are types of bikes without any suspension. The frame is completely rigid which makes them the least comfortable type. However, they still have wide and knobby tires and a MTB frame, so they are designed to go off-road. They are a great choice for terrain that is not extreme and riders who want to save weight by eliminating suspension.

 

Cross Country (XC) Bikes

XC bikes are designed to be ridden across the countryside, on fire roads and gravel roads, but on singletrack trails as well. You can do some challenging stunts with them, but they are typically not intended for long drops and jumps.

XC bikes are either full suspension, hardtail or rigid, with a suspension of 100-120mm of travel. They have a steeper head tube angle, typically in the 69-71-degree range, which is great for sharp maneuvers. The tires are usually 29″ in diameter and less than 2.2″ in width.

 

Enduro/All Mountain

All-mountain is a cycling discipline that involves tricky downhills and physically demanding uphills. Enduro bikes are then designed to do both. They are typically found with both 27.5 and 29″ wheels, but the 29er’s are becoming more and more common. They have a very slack head tube angle and a lot of travel (front and back), so they can attack larger obstacles when going fast down the hills.

 

Trail Bikes

Trail bikes are similar to XC bikes, but they are designed for more demanding single tracks and more extreme stunts on the trails. They are characterized by a full suspension setup with more travel, usually between 130-170mm. These bikes also have a slacker head tube angle, typically between 65 and 68 degrees. It gives the rider more stability and lowers the chance of going over the bars. When it comes to the tires, both 27.5 and 29″ are the norm, but they are usually 2.3″ wide and more.

 

Downhill bikes

As you can guess, downhill bikes are made to attack the most demanding and technical downhills that there are. They are also known as DH bikes and usually have plush front suspension with up to 200mm of travel. The head tube angle is as slack as it gets and the geometry is relaxed. They are great for fast descents but are mostly useless in other cycling categories.

 

2. Road Bikes


Ridely's Fenix

Road bikes are the most specialized of all the types of bikes and are meant only for riding on tarmac. The advantages of road bikes are speed, low weight, and an aerodynamic riding position.

It allows you to ride for longer and see more. Typically, road bikes are more expensive compared to other types, but there are good cheaper models on the market. They are not meant for racing but still offer you a ride full of pleasure and fun.

Something to Consider

It is very important to get the right position on a road bike to avoid injuries. To do this, check that your knees do not lock up when pedaling. Then, move your saddle forward or backward to find the most comfortable position. Road bikes aren’t as comfortable as other types of bikes because they’re meant for speed. But remember – riding a bicycle should never be painful!

Road bike frames are usually made either using aluminum or carbon, just like MTB frames. However, racing road bikes typically have carbon frames, whereas recreational models have aluminum frames.

When riding a road bike, you must pay more attention to the road because it won’t forgive certain mistakes. Sharp curbs or potholes can cut your tires. So, compared to other types of bikes, it is not the most versatile type. Road bikes don’t have front suspension and because of that (and the high-pressure tires), your hands take more beating from road vibrations.

When riding a road bike make sure to ALWAYS wear a helmet!

Prices for road bikes start at $500 and can go up to $7,000.

 

Road Bikes Subcategories

Apart from standard road bikes, there are several other subcategories to consider, derived from the main type. These are:

  • Triathlon/TT bikes
  • Cyclocross (CX) bikes
  • Gravel / Adventure bikes
  • Touring Bikes

 

At first glance, all of these subtypes have some similarities with road bikes. They have similar frame geometry, use similar materials, and have drop bars.

Learn more: Road Bike Types

However, they also have some significant differences.

For example, TT bikes are more aerodynamic and put the rider in a low, uncomfortable position.

Cyclocross and gravel bikes have wider, knobbier tires and more comfortable geometry.

Touring bikes, on the other hand, have drop bars, but can be made with 26″ tires and sometimes have steel frames.

 

Triathlon/Time Trial Bikes

These bikes are specialized subtypes of road bikes used for triathlon and time trial races. They have much more aerodynamic frames that go through extensive tests in air tunnels. These bikes put the rider in a very low and aggressive position to further reduce the air resistance.

To achieve such high performance, comfort needs to be sacrificed. Therefore, riding these bikes can turn into suffering over longer distances. Because of that, proper bike fitting is especially important if you plan to ride Triathlon/TT bikes. They are usually quite expensive and cost $3,000 and more.

 

Cyclocross (CX)

This is a discipline that combines off-road and on-road riding. In a cyclocross race, riders will take their bikes through mud, sand, gravel, dirt, and tarmac. That’s why cyclocross bikes need to have special features, even though they look a lot like road bikes.

CX bikes are characterized by an increased tire clearance on the frame and fork to accommodate for wider tires, a more relaxed geometry, more powerful brakes, and so on. Expensive CX bikes are usually made of carbon, but aluminum and steel frames are popular as well.

 

Gravel/Adventure Bikes

Gravel bikes have a lot of similarities with both road bikes and cyclocross bikes, but they are still unique. These bikes are designed for going fast on rough terrain. They are also called adventure bikes because they are often used for bikepacking and traveling.

Related: 8 Reasons Why Gravel Is The Hottest Trend In the Cycling World

Gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase and a lower bottom bracket compared to road bikes, which gives them more stability on uneven terrain. They also have 32mm or 35mm tires, a tubeless setup, and reliable hydraulic disc brakes.

 

Touring bikes

Touring Bikes, as their name tells you, are used for traveling over long distances and spending hours in the saddle every day. They are usually bought by people who love bicycle touring and need to carry a lot of stuff with them. They usually have a strong frame made of aluminum or steel, which is easy to maintain and repair. The rear triangle is larger than on other bicycle types, which lets you hang large panniers on the rear rack without rubbing against them with your heel.

Touring bikes are all about comfort. They typically come with wider 26″ wheels, a relaxed geometry, plushy saddle, and drop bars, which lets you stay in the riding position for 10 or more hours a day if necessary.

 

3. Hybrid Bikes


 

Best entry level hybrid bike - Vilano700c

Hybrid bikes are finding more and more supporters due to their being the most versatile bikes on the market. Without favoring one surface over another they allow for comfort and efficiency in forests and streets alike. Typically, a hybrid bike has 21 – 27 gears and 28” wheels, that are around 35mm wide.

It is also possible to equip it with various accessories, making it nearly indispensable for bicycle tours. The larger wheel diameter is a definite advantage, which allows for greater speeds and lowers the rolling resistance.

So, when you are thinking about what type of bike to choose, consider hybrid bikes if your idea is to mostly cruise around on your new bike. Prices are similar to those of mountain bikes – starting at around $250. Here is a good place for discussions related to hybrid bikes.

 

4. City Bikes


ExploreyourRange

City bikes roll much better on city streets and are usually fully equipped. That is, the standard equipment includes lights, a rear rack, a bicycle stand, fenders, and a chain guard.

They are mainly designed for streets, but they won’t disappoint you on hard-packed forest roads either. City bikes typically have between 1 and 27 gears. The price depends on the equipment and quality and ranges from $250 to several thousand dollars.

If you make it your choice for urban rides, you won’t go wrong. However, there are several other types to consider.

 

5. Kids Bikes


Retrospec Cub

 

Kids’ Bikes’ wheels range between 12” and 24”. Bicycle riding for kids could start at the age of two, usually on a 12″ balance bike. Bigger tires can be used for 10-13-year-olds, and bikes with gears are usually offered from the age of five.

High-quality and durable kids’ bikes can cost from around $100. Pedal-less Bikes (balance bikes) are great for kids’ physique and usually cost even less. There are also high-end mountain and road bikes for kids, intended for children who love racing at a young age.

 

6. Fixed/Single Gear Bikes (Fixies)


Fixed and single gear bikes are built or rebuilt to be as minimalistic as possible.

A fixed-gear drivetrain has the drive sprocket (or cog) threaded or bolted directly to the hub of the back wheel, so that the rider cannot stop pedaling. When the rear wheel turns, the pedals turn in the same direction and at the same pace.

Retrospec Harper Fixie

Most fixed-gear bicycles only have a front brake, and some have no brakes at all. If those aspects don’t bother you, then they are very easy to ride on streets and lack parts that can break. They can be commonly seen among bike messengers in big cities because they force them to stay in flow with the traffic and reach their destination more quickly.

Fixies can cost as little as several hundred dollars or as much as several thousand dollars.

OR Best Single Speed Bikes

 

7. Cruiser Bikes


Sixthreezero Amelia

 

Cruiser Bikes are focused on comfort, style, and affordability, compared to mountain and racing bikes which focus more on performance. This has led them to renewed popularity in recent years. They have a classic “retro” look, reliable mechanical performance offers a comfortable ride, and come at a relatively low price.

If you want to talk with other cruiser bike owners, then Bikeforums.net  has a Cruiser subforum that you should visit. Nearly every major bike manufacturer now offers at least one cruiser model, if not an entire line. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to find one that you like and that meets your needs.

They usually cost less than $1,000 and many are priced below $500.

P.S. If you’re lazy enough like I am on the weekends, then the next bike type is the best one for you.

Related: Sixthreezero Around The Block cruiser bike review.

 

8. Electric Bicycles


RipCurrent S

Ripcurrent S

Electric Bicycles, also known as e-bikes or booster bikes, are bicycles with an integrated electric motor that can be used for assistance on the road. There is a great variety of e-bikes available worldwide, from e-bikes that only have a small motor to assist the rider’s pedal-power (i.e., pedelecs) to somewhat more powerful e-bikes which tend to be closer to moped-style functionality. However, all of these retain the ability to be pedaled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.

Related: How to Choose An Electic Bike

E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter varieties can go up to 16 – 20 mph. Today, e-bikes come in the form of hybrid bikes, city bikes, cruisers, and even road bikes and mountain bikes. They are typically used by older people or those struggling with injuries. However, commuters who don’t want to get to work drenched in sweat or those who are a bit lazy to deal with hills can use them as well.

They typically cost between $1,500 and $5-6,000 (And some even more).

 

9. Fat Bikes


Dolomite

Fatbikes are extremely popular today due to their practicality and their mean looks. They have big 26″ tires which makes them suitable for riding in deep snow, mud, on rocks, and anywhere else where the ordinary MTB isn’t as good.

Related: Best Electric Fat Tire Bikes

Fat bikes are gaining popularity very quickly, just as was the case with cyclocross bikes years ago. If you are planning a long tour off the beaten track, exploring the backcountry where it will be hard to find good roads and trails, then a fat bike is a fantastic choice.

A fat bike can cost you between $500 and several thousand dollars.

 

10. Cargo Bikes


Cargo optionsCargo bikes (also known as Freight bikes) are simple bicycles that have a cargo area at the front or the back of the bike. They can be used to transport goods, pets, and even kids and adults, depending on the size of the cargo area.

The cargo area can be a simple platform, on which you can strap your load, or it can resemble a basket or a crate. These bikes are usually made of steel because it provides a sturdier construction. They typically have just one gear, but some might have more.

Cargo bikes are very popular in European cities, especially in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, where there is a good cycling infrastructure for their riding.

They can cost between $500 and several thousands of dollars, depending on what you want to get.

 

11. Tandem Bikes

Tandem bike

The tandem bike concept is known to many, but these bikes are not too popular in the cycling world. That is because you need two people to ride one. 

The fact that you need a second person to ride one makes them appealing to many — tandem bikes are a great way to spend time with your loved ones.

A tandem bike allows two people to ride together, regardless of the fitness level of each person.

Even though both cranksets are linked together with a chain and rotate at the same time, the two riders don’t need to produce the same power. One rider can do all the hard work, whereas the other can simply enjoy the ride.

 

12. BMX Bikes


BMX

BMX are small bicycles with 20″ wheels that are typically used by children. However, they are not necessarily made for kids. Most of us started on a BMX bike back in the days, but later on moved to different types. BMX bikes are also called Trick bikes because they are used by adults who like doing spins, jumps, and other tricks on them.

These bikes usually have just one gear, which allows the rider to pedal in both directions (go forward and backwards). They often have no brakes, but may include a front brake which helps with some tricks.

BMX bikes are usually quite cheap and cost under $500.

 

13. Folding Bikes


Electric folding bike

Folding bikes come in different shapes and sizes. They are usually the favored means of transportation for travelers and commuters because of their practicality. These bikes have foldable frames which can be taken apart in a matter of minutes. Therefore, they can easily be packed inside a suitcase and taken on a plane, or carried onto a subway or a train.

Folding bikes, apart from taking less space, also allow travelers to avoid paying expensive air fees. If you pack it inside a suitcase, you can check in with just regular baggage. These types of bikes usually have smaller wheels, but there are some folding bikes with 26″ and 700c wheels as well.

A folding bike can cost you anywhere between $200 and $2,000, depending on the components and features.

OR Best E-Folding Bikes

 

14. Recumbent Bikes


 
About Recumbent Trikes - RAD Innovations

Image source: rad-innovations.com

Recumbent bikes are very popular among older riders and those who are suffering from back issues. These types of bikes have a long and low design that almost puts the rider in a lying-down position. They have a seat with a backrest, so the force on the back is not as strong as it is on a regular bike. They are also great for knee issues, because of the forward-pedaling motion, instead of a downward-pedaling one.

Read more: Recumbent Bike Benefits

Even though recumbent bicycles are more challenging to ride uphill, they are a popular choice among some world travelers because of how comfortable they are. If you plan to spend hours on a bike every day and you have back, shoulder, or knee pain, definitely consider this type.

If you decide to go for it, you will need to pay anywhere between $500 and several thousand dollars, depending on how deep your pocket is.

 

15. Trikes


Ixip electric trike

Izip eTrike

Trikes or Tricycles, as you might guess from the name, are types of bikes with three wheels. They exist in the form of ordinary bikes, but they are also made as recumbents and cargo bikes. This bike design is perfect for carrying loads because there is a lot of room for a cargo area in the back.

Trikes are often popular among kids and among older folks who are not too confident in their riding skills. These bikes are also a popular choice in industrial and warehouse applications because of their practicality.

 

16. Lowrider Bikes


Original lowrider bikes

Lowrider bikes were really popular in the 1960s, but they are still somewhat popular today. Inspired form lowrider cars, these bikes are incredibly customizable, from sissy bars to detailed handlebars. 

 

Where To Shop For Different Bike Types?


Where to shop

  • REI – A big selection of different bike types
  • Aventuron – A large selection of different bicycle types
  • TommasoBikes.com – Tommaso road bikes
  • JensonUSA – Mainly mountain bikes

Do you know a good shop? Let us know in the comments…

Additional Bike Buying Guides You Might Like:


101 Comments

  • Fabbio says:

    Hi,

    I have used a hybrid bike for a while and looking to get something else. I mostly use it for city riding and commuting. Was considering maybe a city bike or cruiser. I am 5’8″ and 150 lbs. Any suggestions on what to look into next?

  • Oliver says:

    Hi, any advice would be helpful, I am looking for a bike, and I want to ride on trails as well as paved roads. I don’t care about the cost, but I don’t want to go crazy with the price for no reason.
    I am trying to be more fit, so I will use it a lot as an exercise tool.
    Hoping It can be electric. base on research.

    please any advice is much appreciated

  • Zee says:

    Hi, I am 32 years old with 6 ft height and 62 kg weight, i am looking to buy a bike for regular use such as going to near by grocery store and hanging around on weekends, please let me know which bike to choose and the measurement etc
    I live in Pakistan so there is not much trend of bikes and brands, its being imported from China and shopkeeprs sells

    • Editor says:

      Hi Zee,
      Sounds like you need an urban bike that is low maintenance and can accomplish things you intended it for. Now the hybrid bikes category is a great place to start. I would have suggested the city and cruiser bikes(which you can check later), but hybrid is somehow fun in several respects: You can use them for weekend adventure rides that are either long-distance or offroad(gravel) riding. They are also workhorses that you can use for commuting. As for the size, you should always choose the Large or X Large frame and make small adjustments later when you do the bike fit. Let me know if this helps.

  • J says:

    I’m in my 40s, disabled, 5’5″ and 270lbs. I’d like to try biking to get out and get some excersize but I have no idea what would be a good choice for me. I need something able to hold my weight well but not be too heavy for me to lift. I’d like to ride park trails both paved and forested but nothing intense. I was considering a hybrid or mountain bike but am curious what you’d recommend. Also, it can’t be too expensive.

    • Editor says:

      Hi J,
      First of all, if you are just getting into cycling; you need a bike with a relaxed geometry. Stir away from sports bikes. For example a hybrid, a cruiser or hardtail mountain bike can be good for you. For example, the Townie is something very relaxed and can be ridden in both paved and very light gravel. But if you are looking for more adventure, then a hardtail is ok.

    • andrew says:

      Maybe a trike

  • Deborah says:

    hi – so i’m a senior now and haven’t been on a bike in years. i was never very tall, but am now 4 ft. 10…would like to begin riding, for pleasure and do to errands. any recommendations welcome!

    • Editor says:

      Hi Deborah,
      Yes, I would be glad to do that. First of all, I am glad you are getting into cycling because it is good for your mental and physical health! You need an xs frame size for your height. You need to get a proper bike fit to ensure you are comfortable. For a start I would recommend a city bike/cruiser type for you.

  • Suri says:

    Jeff,
    My 11 year old, 4’10” tall needs a bike for commute to school (2 miles round trip with 10% incline on his way back), and accessory to carry his heavy back pack is a plus. Which bikes do you suggest and where to buy? I’m not good with tools, do bike shops assemble if I need help?

  • David says:

    Hey Jeff,

    I’m currently looking for a new daily driver which I’ll use to commute to work/university, meet up with friends and do grocery shopping with. I’m living in an urban area, which mostly is pretty flat. But every 2nd day my route changes in elevation about 50 meters. The area is also super windy, so I’ll usually have to drive against the wind, while also carrying my backpack with my laptop and such. Currently, I’m using a fixie bike and have two main issues, namely: 1. I’m always sweaty, due to my clothing, the backpack and the fixie. 2. It seems like I’m fairly slow, compared to other cyclists. 3.

    Therefore I would be very happy, if you could make any suggestion regarding bike type and which bikepacking solution might be the best fit for my use cases.

    Best regards,
    David

    • Editor says:

      Hi David,
      I would suggest you either go for a hybrid bike or a road bike. You are not racing so these bikes will serve the purpose. Geared bikes are more forgiving on climbs and since you can coast and you will not be too sweaty. You can also upgrade the tires to 28c or 32c for a more comfortable commute.You need panniers to put your belongings. Cycling with backpack can cause serious back issues.

  • Landen says:

    Hi I am 14-years-old and would like to have a bike that would make going up hill on paved roads easier. I am also looking for comfort. I am 5”5 and 115 lbs

    • Editor says:

      Hi Landed,
      If you only want to ride paved roads but with comfort in mind, then I would suggest a hybrid bike. You can get a size medium and that is a 16” frame.

  • Brian says:

    Hello; I am 6 foot 3 inches tall; 63 years old and would like to resume bike riding. I live in a city with alot of car traffic. I would enjoy a comfortable ride for pleasure and exercise but would Also like to occasionally ride in a forest area. Any suggestions you would give me would be very much appreciated. Not too expensive though. Thank you.

    • Editor says:

      Hi Brian,
      Hybrid bikes can be the best choice for you. It looks like you need a frame size of 19″ under the XXL category.

  • Julir says:

    I am an elderly lady I am 6 ft tall I would to ride ride around the neighborhood. What size would you recommend. I want something like a beach cruiser. Like the old bikes when I was a kid I have a ten speed but it is getting uncomfortable for this old body. Lol. What would you recommend. Thank you for your help

    • Editor says:

      Hi Julir,
      That sounds like a good idea. I suggest you get that or a city bike type. Ypir chart says you need : 6`0`-6`3` 183-191 cm 28`-33` 71-83 cm 18″ XL. Make sure to get a proper bike fit!

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