Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced rider, this guide is designed to help you pick the perfect bike based on your needs.
I wrote this guide based on my rich cycling experience and advice from my friends who run bike shops and help customers daily.
The guide will recommend the best bike type for you based on where and how you plan to ride. It considers more than 20 bike types to ensure you get the most suitable one.
In addition to learning about the different types of bikes and their pros and cons, you’ll also discover where to buy them, what to keep in mind before you start riding, and much more.
As a passionate cyclist who has been riding bikes since age 4, I’m thrilled to share all this valuable information with you. So, let’s get started!
- How to Choose a Bike in 3 Simple Steps
- Step 1: Decide How and Where You Want to Ride
- Step 2: Set a Budget for Your New Bike
- Step 3: Choose a Bike Size to Ensure a Proper Fit
- Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start Riding
- How to Choose a Bike FAQ
How to Choose a Bike in 3 Simple Steps
Before you buy a bike, you should consider 3 main things:
- Decide how and where you want to ride and choose a bike suitable for this terrain and riding style.
- Set a budget to make the selection of the bike easier. TIP: Read this article on How much should you spend on your bike?
- Choose the right size to ensure maximum comfort and prevent injuries.
In the following sections, you will learn more details about each step. Don’t worry. I explain them in detail so they are easy to understand.
Step 1: Decide How and Where You Want to Ride
When choosing a bike, your riding style is the most important thing to begin with. Based on it, you can choose the bike most suitable for you.
There are more than 20 bike types from various categories, such as road, mountain, hybrid, etc. So, how to choose the category and the bike type when there are so many options?
I got you covered. Simply answer a few questions in the following anonymous form, and you will get the bike recommendation – no email address is needed. It’s completely free!
You can also check the following table with the most popular types of bikes and the recommended surfaces they are designed for.
|Bike Type||Recommended Riding Surfaces|
|Road Bike||Tarmac, paved roads, bike paths|
|Mountain Bike||Trails, dirt & forest roads|
|Hybrid Bike||Tarmac, paved roads, bike paths, light gravel|
|E-Bike||Depending on the type of e-bike|
Basic Types of Bikes
The following section covers the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular bike categories and their subcategories. These include road, mountain, hybrid, e-bikes, and kids’ bikes.
Road bikes are designed for riding on paved roads. Their characteristics include the shape of the handlebars (drop bars), low weight, and narrow tires. Road bikes are also aerodynamic, fast, and stiff (to maximize power transfer).
They are perfect for people who want to ride long distances on paved roads, maintain their stamina and fitness level, and race.
Road bikes pros
- They are lightweight.
- They are fast on paved surfaces.
- They allow aerodynamic riding position.
Road bikes cons
- They are suitable for paved surfaces only (this does not apply to cyclocross & gravel bikes).
- The riding position may be uncomfortable for beginners.
- They are not very stable.
Here are more pros and cons of road bikes.
Road bikes have the following subcategories.
The subcategories of road bikes differ from each other mainly in geometry, weight, aerodynamics, and tire clearance width.
- Endurance road bikes allow a more upright position compared to performance and other types of road bikes. This makes them more comfortable and suitable for beginners.
- Performance road bikes are designed for road cycling enthusiasts and pro riders. Their riding position is more aggressive compared to endurance road bikes but not as aggressive as the position on the aero road bikes. Performance road bikes are usually lightweight and stiff. These features make them a perfect choice for climbers.
- Aero road bikes are optimized to be aerodynamic. They allow riding in an aerodynamic position that is not as aggressive as on TT or triathlon bikes. Aero road bikes are popular among sprinters and racers, especially for criteriums and flats.
- Touring bikes offer a more upright riding position compared to endurance road bikes. Touring bikes are more suitable for additional cargo and, thus, for longer rides or bike packing.
You can also check the following selections of the best road bikes:
- Time Trial (TT) bikes are designed specifically for time trials. They push the rider into an aggressive aerodynamic position. TT bikes are mostly used by professionals or amateur racers because their handling is more difficult compared to that of standard road bikes.
- Triathlon bikes are very similar to TT bikes but their geometry is slightly different. They have a steeper seat tube that pushes the hips forward and saves the hamstrings for the run as 220triathlon explains.
- Cyclocross bikes offer wider tire clearance compared to road bikes. This means you can use them with wider tires suitable for rough terrains. Their geometry and gears are also slightly different. This makes them more versatile than classic road bikes. They are often mixed up with gravel bikes.
- Gravel / Adventure bikes differ from cyclocross bikes in geometry (they tend to have a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and more aggressive riding position), gearing, and wider tire clearance. You can learn more about them in this article.
You can also check the following selections of the best gravel bikes:
Mountain bikes are the exact opposite of road bikes. Thanks to their wider tires, suspension, and durability, you can ride them on almost any terrain. They are more comfortable thanks to their suspension, and their geometry is more upright than road bikes.
They are suitable for people who want to ride in rough terrains that include dirt roads, trails, forest roads, singletracks, downhills, and many more.
Mountain bikes pros
- They are versatile and suitable for a large variety of terrains.
- They are more comfortable on bumpy surfaces thanks to suspension(s) and wider tires.
Mountain bikes cons
- They are heavier compared to road bikes.
- They are not as fast on paved roads as road bikes.
Here are more pros and cons of mountain bikes.
Mountain bikes can be sorted into the following subcategories.
The subcategories of mountain bikes differ from each other mainly in geometry, wheel size options, tire width, front fork travel, rear travel (if the bike has rear suspension), and dropper seatposts.
- Cross-country bikes (also called XC bikes) have ‘pedal-focused’ geometry. This means they are easier to pedal on than downhill bikes, for example. They have a shorter wheelbase that allows easy handling. According to BikeExchange, XC bikes are fitted with 90-100mm of travel at the frame and form, with some models offering up to 120mm. Cross-country bikes are ideal for racing and riding fast (especially uphill).
- Trail bikes are designed for riding trails, singletracks, and technical descents. Their geometry still offers good pedaling efficiency. You can find dual suspension trail bikes (rear and front suspension) or hardtail bikes (only the front fork suspension) on the market. The wheelbase is wider compared to XC bikes. The suspension’s travel ranges from 120-150mm, somewhere between the XC and enduro bikes. According to the BikeExchange, trail bikes are the type of mountain bike that will excel in most terrains.
- Enduro bikes are longer and lower than XC and trail bikes, as BikeExchange explains. The wheelbase is longer, as well as the position between the front wheel relative to the headtube. This provides better stability at speed. The suspension travel ranging from 150-180mm allows hitting big hits, drops, etc.
- Downhill bikes are designed for downhills (what a surprise!) that include jumps, big drops, and rough terrain. They are not suitable for riding uphills. Downhill riders usually have to take a hike, shuttle, or chairlift. The geometry of downhill bikes pushes the rider backward, which creates a lower center of gravity that is important for steep downhills. The suspension travel is usually 180-200mm.
- Fatbikes can be easily recognized by the very wide 4″ to 5″ (‘fat’) tires. Thanks to these tires, fatbikes can be ridden in snow, mud, sand, or even bog.
You can also check the following selections of the best mountain bikes:
Hybrid bikes combine features of road and mountain bikes. Yet, they are not as specialized for specific terrains. Hybrid bikes are a compromise between road and mountain bikes. This means you can ride them on various types of surfaces such as tarmac, light gravel, dirt roads, etc., but you won’t be as quick as on a road bike, or you won’t be able to ride in rough terrain (like trails) as comfortably as on a mountain bike.
They are popular among casual cyclists for riding in cities and the countryside, for short to medium-distance commuting, and for family bike trips.
Hybrid bikes pros
- They are more versatile than road bikes.
- They are comfortable thanks to the more upright geometry.
- They are compatible with a large variety of bike accessories.
Hybrid bikes cons
- They are heavier compared to road bikes.
- They are not as fast as road bikes.
- They are not as durable and versatile as mountain bikes.
Here are more pros and cons of hybrid bikes.
The subcategories of hybrid bikes are the following.
The subcategories of hybrid bikes differ from each other mainly in geometry, wheel size options, accessories, tire width, and gear selection.
- Trekking bikes (sometimes also called fitness bikes) are specific for their flat handlebars and more aggressive geometry compared to other types of hybrid bikes. Depending on the type and manufacturer, the geometry may vary. There are 3 basic types of trekking bikes:
- Trekking bikes with more relaxed, upright geometry suitable for family trips. They are usually equipped with wider tires allowing riding on rougher surfaces (light gravel, dirt roads, etc.).
- Trekking bikes with a more aggressive geometry allow a faster ride to maintain your fitness level. They have narrow tires with lower rolling resistance and thus are great for paved roads. Yet, they handle light gravel too.
- Trekking bikes are a compromise between the two categories mentioned above. They are very versatile and suitable for a large variety of terrains.
- Commuter bikes are designed for commuting to & from work, the grocery store, or for riding around your neighborhood. Commuter bikes are suitable for paved roads but can also handle light terrains. Some commuter bikes may be equipped with extra accessories like panniers, baskets, and most with lights.
- City bikes are very similar to commuter bikes but according to Richard Ballantine, the author of Richard’s 21st Century Bicycle Book, they differ from other hybrid bikes by using 26” inches wheels and wider tires. These features allow riding on roads with pot-holes. If you live in the countryside, a city bike can be the right choice for you also thanks to the mudguards that often come with it.
- Cruiser / Comfort bikes are all about comfort. They have the most upright geometry of all types of hybrid bikes and allow riders to easily place both feet on the ground. Cruiser and comfort bikes are perfect for cruising around the beach and neighborhood. They often come with accessories like baskets, bells, lights, etc.
NOTE: Hybrid bikes include many types, but there is no uniform definition. Some manufacturers call their bikes as they like to, so their naming may not match the descriptions above.
Interested in a hybrid bike? Make sure you check the following selections of the best hybrid bikes:
Kids’ bikes are a specific category of bikes. They differ from each other mainly by wheel size. Therefore, it is important to find the right size of bike for your child, especially if he or she is just starting out riding a bike.
The following table shows the recommended bike wheel sizes for children of various ages and heights.
|Bike (wheel size)||Age||Height|
|12″ balance bike||2-4 Years||82 – 100 cm|
2’8″ – 3’3″
|14″ bike||3-5 Years||98 – 106 cm|
3’3″ – 3’6″
|16″ bike||4-6 Years||104 – 122 cm|
3’5″ – 4’0″
|20″ bike||5-8 Years||120 – 130 cm|
3’11” – 4’3″
|24″ bike||7-11 Years||127 – 142 cm|
4’2″ – 4’8″
|26″ bike||10+ Years||140 – 158 cm|
4’7″ – 5’2″
You may also be interested in these tips on How to teach a child to ride a bike.
E-bikes have become incredibly popular in the last few years, and it seems this trend is nowhere close to stopping. For example, in the Netherlands, the sales of electric bicycles surpassed the sales of ordinary ones as early as 2019.
They are popular because they are offered in many different variants. There are electric road, mountain, hybrid, cargo, and many other e-bikes on the market. If you know what type of bike you want, there is a high probability that you will find it in the electric option as well.
If you hear about e-bikes for the first time, know that electric bikes have undergone a lot of innovation in recent years. Their electrical components, like the motor, battery, and controller, are integrated into the design. They look almost like ordinary – leg-powered – bikes.
Yet, even on an electric bike, you have to pedal because the battery capacity that powers the motor is limited. Nevertheless, electric bicycles are especially suitable for casual riders, people with limited mobility, and seniors.
Other Types of Bikes
These are the other types of bikes. They are not very widespread because they are designed for very specific use cases and disciplines.
- BMX is an abbreviation for ‘bicycle motocross.’ These bikes allow the rider to perform stunts, jumps, and other tricks. This means BMX has to be optimized to withstand stresses, be easily maneuverable, and durable. BikeExchange distinguishes several BMX sub-disciplines, including a park, street, flatland, trails/dirt jumping, and race. To find out more about BMX bikes, I recommend BikeExchange’s how to choose a BMX bike guide.
- Folding Bikes are designed to be foldable. They are popular in cities because they are relatively easy to transport (for example, on public transport), provide fast transport across a city with high traffic, and are compact. If you have little space in your apartment, a folding bike can be the solution.
- Track Bikes are used for track cycling, which is ridden on a velodrome. These bikes have only one gear, no brakes, and no freewheel. This means they are ridden almost exclusively by track racers.
- Cargo Bikes are also called freight bikes. Their construction allows for transporting cargo. These bikes are used in urban areas, as well as in factories, airports, warehouses, etc.
- Tandem Bikes are bikes ridden by one or more persons. Tandem refers to the seating arrangement, not the number of riders. This type of bike is used for bike touring, or in the Paralympics, and other competitions.
- Monocycles use only one wheel. They are often mixed up with unicycles. Monocycles are bikes where the rider sits inside a large wheel. Conversely, when riding a unicycle, the rider sits above the wheel. These bikes are very unstable and require a very good balance.
- Tricycles are more stable than monocycles, thanks to usually having 3 wheels ensuring stability. For these reasons, tricycles are popular with seniors, children, and the disabled (they use handcycles). Tricycles are also used to transport people (rickshaws) or cargo (freight trike).
Step 2: Set a Budget for Your New Bike
Your budget for a new bike should also depend on the type of bike you choose. For example, e-bikes are more expensive than regular bikes.
At the same time, if you are serious about cycling and you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of components, you will need to invest more money. I realized that cycling is not a cheap sport after a few years.
On the other hand, cheaper alternatives can also be found – you don’t always have to buy a new bike. If you’re just starting out, you can buy a second-hand one. There is no need to invest all your savings into cycling.
|Bike Type||Price range|
|Road Bikes||$500 – $1500 (road bikes for beginners) |
$1500 – $3000 (road bikes for advanced riders)
$3000+ (road bikes for pros and enthusiasts)
|Mountain Bikes||$500 – $1500 (mountain bikes for beginners)|
$1500 – $3000 (mountain bikes for advanced riders)
$3000+ (mountain bikes for pros and enthusiasts)
|Hybrid Bikes||$300 – $1500|
|E-Bikes||Depending on the type of e-bike, the price ranges from $700 to $10,000.|
Most of the ‘standard e-bikes’ cost between $1000 to $4000.
Where to Buy Your New Bike?
When buying your next bike, you have 2 basic options:
- Buy your new bike online, or
- Buy it in person in a local store.
If you decide to buy a bike online (on the manufacturer’s or retailer’s website, eBay, Craigslist, and similar websites), you should keep in mind that you won’t be able to do a test ride in advance and if you need to return the bike, you have to pack it which may be a hassle.
On the other hand, the prices of bikes online are often more cost-effective, shopping online is convenient, and you have access to a wider selection of bikes. Feel free to try one of these best online bike stores.
Local bike shops are better at providing you with advice and guidance on how to choose a bike. They can do discounted bike maintenance, and it is also easier to return a bike to them.
However, their selection of bikes is limited, and the prices may be higher compared to online stores.
I bought my road bike online, and I am satisfied with it. It was securely packaged and assembled. The only thing I had to do was to attach the wheels and tighten the handlebars.
To wrap this up, it depends on you which option you prefer. I am a lazy person in some things, so I prefer an online store.
Step 3: Choose a Bike Size to Ensure a Proper Fit
Choosing the right bike size can be difficult, especially if you are on the edge of 2 sizes. At the same time, different types of bikes use different sizing.
Manufacturers can also have their own sizing. So the question is…
How to choose a bike size?
The size of the bike is usually determined by the length of your inseam or your height. There are plenty of methods out there you can use. Feel free to read more about them in my article on How to Choose a Bike Size. It also contains a bike size calculator that will calculate the bike size based on the bike type and your inseam length.
Disclaimer: You will find a lot of different sizing charts on the internet. Remember to always double-check the sizing chart for the selected bike because it may differ from a universal sizing chart.
Once you choose the correct bike size, you should also set the saddle height and saddle position (eventually, the cleats and handlebar position, stem length, etc.). I recommend watching the following video, where Neill Stanbury, an Australian-based bike fitter, explains how to do a simple bike fit at home.
Why should you take your time to choose the right bike size?
There are 3 main reasons for it:
- Preventing injuries – with the wrong bike size, you can strain some parts of your body more than necessary. This can lead to injuries and further health problems.
- Comfort – if you’ve ever ridden a bike that was too small or too big, you know it wasn’t a very comfortable ride. With the right bike size, you increase your chances of a comfortable ride.
- Performance – the optimal bike size will allow you to perform better. Your muscle involvement will be balanced. This means you will ride more efficiently, and your overall performance will improve.
Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start Riding
I would like to share a few tips on how to keep yourself safe on your bike and how to stay motivated so you don’t lock your bike in your garage or basement after a first ride.
Always Wear a Helmet
Did you know that 61% of bicyclists killed in the USA in 2018 were not wearing helmets? Helmet use was unknown for 24%.
To increase your safety on the roads, always wear a helmet. I remember my first serious crash on a road bike. My doctor told me I would have risked a concussion and maybe even brain damage without a helmet.
I wear a helmet every time I sit on my bike, and I recommend you do the same. With a helmet, your head will be better than without it. A bike helmet is a must. If you don’t have one yet, feel free to check the selection of the:
Don’t Push It – Enjoy It!
You won’t enjoy any activity in the long run if you force yourself into it. You have to find some motivation. I enjoy cycling for several reasons.
Cycling helps clear my mind. I forget about everyday problems and relax mentally. You may know a similar effect when you do sports like running, yoga, etc.
Thanks to cycling, I met a lot of great people and visited places I would otherwise never have visited. That huge load of experiences and fun was worth the sweat.
And last but not least, cycling keeps me fit. I am more physically and mentally resilient. I don’t have to catch my breath when walking up the stairs. I have better self-discipline that allows me to finish things, etc.
If you struggle with a lack of motivation for cycling, make sure you read the article about the benefits of cycling. It includes more than 10 benefits of cycling that you will take advantage of every day.
This article explains the most popular categories of bikes – road, mountain, hybrid, e-bikes, and kids’ bikes.
Before you choose a new bike type, make sure you try the interactive guide. I created it together with bike owners and bike dealers. It will help you make your decision, especially if you are a complete beginner and don’t know what type of bike to choose.
In the 2nd step, I shared more info about the price ranges of the various bike types, the places where to buy them, as well as their pros and cons. I prefer buying things online because it is more convenient for me.
The last, 3rd step of choosing a bike is dedicated to explaining one of the most common questions – how to choose a bike size? Feel free to use the manufacturer’s sizing chart or ask the seller to recommend the correct bike size based on your height or inseam length.
Once you start riding, make sure you always wear a helmet. It will increase your safety. To keep yourself motivated to ride a bike, do it for fun, and don’t push it too hard to prevent burnout.
Now you know how to choose a bike. If you are still unsure about the right bike type, contact me.