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Which Bike

There are lots of types of bike available these days so it's wise to know a bit about them so that you can choose which suits your needs best.  Here are some of the most common types of bike:

Mountain Bikes


All Terrain Bikes, XC, Downhill, Mountain Terrain Bike - there are lots of different types of mountain bike but basically they are all made to tackle rough ground rather than tarmac roads.  They have flat bars, wide, knobbly tyres and often have suspension.


Mountain bikes are strong and absorb bumps but their slow tires and extra weight waste energy on tarmac roads.  They are good for leisure rides and short commutes and can easily cope with mud and loose ground, un-surfaced tracks and pot holes.


There are lots of cheap mountain bikes around these days but often the quality is poor and spending a little more will be better in the long run.


Fast Road Bikes


Fast road bikes or ‘racers’ are the type of bike used in races like the Tour de France.  They are light weight with ‘drop’ handle bars and thin, fast, high pressure tyres.  They are designed for speed on tarmac roads.


These bikes are good for going fast and getting fit.  Usually they don’t have mudguards or luggage racks and their thin tyres are not suitable for rough or loose ground - but on tarmac they can easily go 20-30 miles/hr.


Fast road bikes can be very expensive and made from materials such as carbon fibre but similar steel or aluminium bikes can be bought much cheaper.


Hybrid Bikes


Hybrid bikes mix features from different kinds of bikes.  They may have fast road wheels with a strong mountain bike style frame and flat bars or have touring bike features but with suspension forks.


Most hybrids make good bikes for commuting and leisure rides but won’t be able to reach the speeds of fast road bikes, go as far as touring bikes or deal with rough terrain like a mountain bike.  However they are good at everything in between.


When buying a hybrid bike, decide what sort of use you want it for - shopping, leisure, commuting - and make sure you check for the features you need.


Touring Bikes


Touring bikes come in a variety of different versions but most are also very good for a journey to work, too.  They usually have mudguards, luggage racks and reasonably wide tyres designed for road use. 


They are good for cycling around town, day tours or whole weeks away using panniers.  They are also suitable for the loose gravel surfaces found on many traffic free cycle routes or Sustrans routes.


Some touring bikes use stronger 26” wheels and are designed for rugged expeditions while others are lighter and use fast tyres and are used for Audax (long organised rides that are not races).



Recumbent Bikes


Recumbent bikes:  By sitting with your legs pointing forward in a recumbent position you reduce the amount of air resistance there is when you ride.


‘Bents can be fast and also good for people with back trouble as your back is supported by the chair like seat.  There are race versions and touring versions as well as tricycles.  Some have fairings to further reduce air resistance but they cannot be used in professional road races such as the Tour of Britain.


Often recumbents have a much lower profile and can be harder for other road users to see but there unusualness often makes up for this.


Single Speed/ Fixed Gear Bikes


Single Speed bikes have only one gear and the only way to go faster is to pedal faster.  They can be good for winter use and in town as they need very little maintenance.


Fixed Gear bikes, like single speeds, have only one gear but they have no ‘freewheel’.  This means that you cannot stop pedalling!   They are very low maintenance and can be good for commuting and training.  Recently they have become fashionable and they are often used by cycle couriers.


A fixed gear bike still needs to have a front brake even though the rider can slow down by controlling pedal speed.


Other Bikes


Tandems:  Bicycles made for two (or more) have less resistance than using a bike each - and you never loose your partner.


BMX Bikes:  These small wheeled bikes are used for tricks and special races - they are good for children, too.


Folding bikes:  If you travel by train but want to cycle from the station at the other end you can take a folding bike on as luggage without having to book a place.


Time trial bikes:  These are even faster than fast road bikes and use special handlebars, wheels and frames to improve aerodynamics.


Track bikes:  These are used on special banked tracks such as the Manchester Velodrome.  They are stripped to the bare essentials.


Cyclo-cross bikes:  These bikes are used to race through muddy woods and fields in autumn and winter.  They have been around longer than mountain bikes, don’t have suspension and have drop handlebars.