What Kind of Bike Should I Get?

Your choice of bike matters. And we don’t just mean what specific bike you’ll end up choosing – the type of bicycle that you buy has a huge effect on whether or not you’ll end up satisfied with your purchase.

With so many variants and subcategories, it’s easy to get confused. We’ve prepared a short, helpful guide that will clear things up a bit – so that you can focus your search in the right direction.

What Kind of Bike Should I Get?

The feeling of being out on the road, just you and your bike is hard to describe. But in theory, it sounds pretty simple, right? There’s only one step – you just have to get a bicycle, and that’s it.

But a lot of people mess up, even when it comes to that single requirement. It’s equally important to consider what kind of bike you should get. Buying the first cool or well-made bike that you come across can easily turn into a disaster.

a man checking out a bike

Your choice of bike should be based on a couple of factors. Once you’ve established your criteria, you can go ahead and look for a bike.

In this article, we’ll cover the factors that you should consider when settling on a bike type – and we’ll briefly go over the different subcategories – who knows, maybe you’ll find out about a specific type of bike you’ve never even heard of before. Let’s kick things into gear.


Universal Criteria

There are several factors that you always have to take into account when buying a bicycle. We’ll go over the most important ones – and once you’re aware of them, you can begin searching for a bike that fulfills your needs. If you keep these universal criteria in mind, you’re bound to make the right choice.


Terrain and Environment

By far the most important item on our list – the terrain and environment that you’re going to be riding a bike in have the biggest impact on what kind of bike you should choose.

extreme cycling

Are you planning to cycle in urban areas along bike paths and over the pavement? Or are you gunning for some off-road action, conquering hills, and crossing challenging trails?

Bikes differ in how versatile they are with regard to the terrain – some can handle incredibly treacherous paths full of obstacles, while others should only be ridden on flat surfaces. Establishing where you’re going to be cycling is always the number one priority and the first thing that you should do.


Price

The second item on our list is less exciting – but it is ever-present. After you’ve figured out what type of terrain you’ll be facing, you should set a budget – and stick to it. It’s all too easy to go overboard and spend too much – sure, you’ll probably end up with a great, high-performance machine – but do you really need something that is so high-end?

This is all the more important for beginners who are making a first time purchase. Don’t be stingy – you don’t want to compromise on build quality, materials, durability, and performance – but the fact that plenty of bike components are replaceable means that it’s easy to upgrade your bike step by step, one piece at a time. Once you’ve decided on a budget, you have once again narrowed down your search.


Size

The best bike in the world won’t amount to anything if it doesn’t fit you. Before you settle on a bike model, make sure that it’s the proper size for you. When ordering a bike online, double-check that you’ve selected the right size option. Riding a bike that doesn’t fit you isn’t just unenjoyable – it can also be dangerous. A mismatch regarding size will mean that you’ll tire more easily, suffer back and wrist pain, and have a higher risk of crashing.


Purpose

Last but not least, just like you’ve asked yourself “Where am I going to ride this bike?”, you should also ask yourself “Why do I want to buy a bike?”

different kinds of bikes

Do you need a bike for your commute? Do you want an enjoyable form of low-impact exercise? Do you want to spend more time in nature, or do you simply want a recreational leisure activity? The why of the matter is an important thing that you should keep in mind.


Bike Types – And What They’re Good For

Now that we’ve established the criteria, let’s take a quick look at the different kinds of bikes that are out there.

Road, Mountain, and Hybrid Bikes

The road bike/mountain bike divide is the oldest and most enduring dichotomy of cycling. Road bikes are light, have sleek frames, and large, thin tires. As the name suggests, they’re primarily geared toward roads and urban conditions.

On the other hand, mountain bikes feature thicker, more durable tires that have aggressive tread patterns that will rip through most obstacles, and which can easily handle a wide variety of rough terrain. Mountain bikes are slightly slower, but much more versatile than road bikes, and feature suspensions to more easily overcome obstacles.

Hybrids are a relatively recent phenomenon – combining features of both road and mountain bikes. They’re dependable, solid all-rounders – but it’s tough to describe them using blanket statements other than that – each hybrid is a story of its own.

red road bike used by a model on a street

And these are just the basic subcategories – there’s a whole slew of bikes that fall into these three categories, but that are geared toward something more specific.

Gravel bikes are the most versatile, all-terrain machines on the market, hardtails feature beefy front suspensions but no rear suspension, bikes with fat tires are an interesting, adaptable new trend,  and endurance, touring, and cyclocross bikes all put interesting spins on the classic road bike formula.

But for now, stick with the basics. Once you’ve decided on a basic category, you can dig deeper to find a specific style that suits you.

Commuters, Cruisers, and City Bikes

Commuters, cruisers, and city bikes are all geared toward urban areas and are mostly used for leisure or commuting. They’re simple, dependable machines meant for casual riders – and as an added bonus, they’re usually quite affordable, simple, and easy to maintain.

pink and blue cruiser bikes

These bikes usually featureless versatile drivetrains and aren’t designed to be high-performance machines. Quite often, they’ll have mounts for fenders, racks, or panniers for additional storage space, making them an even more practical choice.

Specialized Bikes

Specialized bikes feature design elements that can’t be found in other types of bikes. This is a catch-all term – the different subcategories don’t have much in common, but we’ll quickly go over the most important ones.

Folding bikes, as the name suggests, feature foldable parts – most commonly the frame and handlebar. This, combined with their small size and low weight, makes them a formidable choice for urban commuting.

Single-speed bikes and/or fixies feature a single gear option. They’re affordable, easy to maintain, and very user-friendly. Although they’re quite similar, these two terms are not interchangeable.

Finally, electric bikes are a new, interesting trend that has taken the industry by storm. Combine a bike of more or less any kind with an electric motor, and you’ll end up with a fast, powerful machine that whizzes past pedestrians and other cyclists alike – with plenty of range to boot.

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What Kind of Bike Should I Get? 2020 Guide — Bike Hacks