How to Choose the Right Bike for You
Figuring out which type of bike is right for you can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright frustrating. Whether you’re just starting out with cycling or you’re a seasoned pro, this guide will help you choose a bike that fits your lifestyle and needs.
Mountain bikes are for riding off-road on terrain that involves dirt, roots, twists and turns. Often noticed by their straight handlebars, wide, knobby tires, and sturdy frames, they can handle the challenging terrain. In this category, you'll need to choose between a rigid, hardtail or full suspension bike. First time buyers will lean towards picking up cross-country or trail mountain bikes. Additionally, you can also look at downhill or dirt jumper bikes. While each have slight differences, they're all a type of mountain bike but will work better in certain disciplines. Low skill level riders should seek out easier trails as they learn how to navigate particular obstacles, ramping up trail difficulty as you progress.
Designed for speed on miles of paved roads. Characteristics of road bikes include narrow tires, drop handlebars and a lightweight frame. Most feature a range of gears to dial up your speed, but single speeds and fixed gear options are available. Excellent for physical fitness and racing, for all ages and skill levels. New riders should manage the miles, adding more as fitness improves.
Gravel & Cyclocross Bikes
When you're unsure if the planned route goes from paved to gravel, this is your bike. Sort of like a road bike for the more adventurous. With drop handlebars and a comfortable frame, the tires are wider to deliver the traction necessary on loose terrain. Not ideal for low skill level, but if you have plenty of balance and control, you'll do fine on the loose gravel roads and rail trails. Cyclocross bikes are very similar, but are taken on more drastic terrain changes and raced in 1-2.5 mile loops. These races require more skill and the bikes are lightweight, featuring knobby tires, disc brakes and drop handlebars.
Sometimes called a winter or 4-season bike, it literally has fat tires so they're hard to miss when you see one roll by. The ultra-beefy tires are ideal for traction in sand or snow, so think of it as a mountain bike with a big set of wheels. All skill levels can sport this bike, but be sure to tailor your trail difficulty to your personal level.
An incredibly versatile and relaxed style, it’s great for adults just looking to get back onto a bike but are unsure where they’re going to take it. Built for fitness, adventure, commuting and leisure, they often have straight or riser handlebars and an upright ride style. Some feature skinnier tires for speed on the road, while others utilize a wider, more knobby tire for tackling a little trail. If you have no idea what you’re looking to ride, this category fits most casual, adult bike rider needs.
What is a hardtail? Full suspension?
A full suspension bike will have both front and rear suspension while a hardtail only has front suspension. Suspension absorbs bumps and impact. Fully rigid bikes won't have any suspension at all.
Is there a bike that is capable of mountain riding and racing on flat roads?
While it won't be the best for either type of riding, a hybrid bike will allow you to dip your toe into each style without having to purchase two different types of bikes.
What type of bike should I get if I'm cycling for the first time?
Think about what type of terrain you'll be riding most. Do you have local paved trails or dirt trails? Paved or gravel roads in your city? Where you ride will most dictate the type of bike.
I'm over 6ft tall. What bike should I get?
At 6ft, you can get any type of bike to fit you, as long as you buy the right frame size. Once you determine the type of bike that fits your lifestyle, head over to our “Bike Frame Size” article to dial in the fit.
What's a good bike for riding to work?
A road bike or hybrid bike will work great for getting to and from the office. Gravel/adventure bikes are also good for riding to work as they're very versatile.
Are there any adult bikes for shorter persons?
Yes! Once you determine the type of bike that fits your lifestyle, head over to our “Bike Frame Size” article to dial in the fit.
Does age affect the type of bike that I purchase?
No, but your physical fitness level, lifestyle and personal preference does. Don't get a mountain bike if you're afraid of dirt, bumps and challenging terrain, but don't get a road bike if paved roads bore you.
BIKE vs TERRAIN
★★★★★ = Best Terrain
|Type of Bike||Mountain||Road||Gravel / Cyclocross||Fat Tire||Hybrid|
|Snow / Sand||★★||★★★★★|
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A SUPER GENERAL GUIDE, MANY FACTORS COULD ALTER THESE RATINGS.