The ultimate guide to bike types

What type of bike do you ride? Do you judge other cyclists riding different bikes (don’t lie, we all do it). How much do you really know about the benefits of other types of bikes? It is easy to get set into a specific riding style, but switching it up can add some excitement to the daily commuting grind. It can also allow you to expand your cycling sphere. Here are our brief thoughts on the different bikes available, and our list of major bike types. Do you think we have it right, or are at least heading in the right direction?

Bike types (the main ones anyway)

Hybrid

Hybrid bike

A cross between a mountain bike and a road bike.

+ All-rounder, fast-ish, light-ish, good range of gearing and brake options

 Not really exceptional for any one type of riding style.

Single speed

Single speed bike

Pared down version of a geared bike. Geometry can be that of any other bike type

+ Simpler to run and fix, light, more efficient to ride if gear ratio fits terrain, fun

– Only one gear means that you may struggle on ascents and spin out on flats

Fixie

Fixie

Single geared bike with no freewheel so the cranks turn with the wheel

+ Even more simple than a regular single speed, very efficient on correct terrain, can be very light

Hard to get the hang of, only one gear means that you may struggle on varied terrain.

Road

Road bike

A bike with thin tyres and gearing options designed for tarmac. Geometry tends to be aggressive- low and stretched out.

+ Lightweight and fast. They are efficient on road and can handle hills.

Generally need adaptation to make them suitable for London streets, don’t usually have mudguard points

Time trial bike

Time trial bike

Similar to a road bike, but even more aggressive geometry – made for travelling a set course as fast as possible.

+ Usually very light and very fast

 Very specialist, not for commuting. Very expensive.

Folding

Folding bike

These bikes collapse down for easy storage and transport.

+ Smaller wheels means faster acceleration, practical for storage, can be taken on commuter trains and put in taxis

Good ones are expensive. Over long distances they are less efficient. Must be taken with you, locking not advised!

Cargo

Cargo bike

These bikes are designed for carrying stuff. Lots of stuff.

+ You can use it to pick things up, take your kids to school, etc. The gearing, brakes and frame are all built for purpose.

– They are extremely heavy and large – hard to store. Can be hard to ride and lock up. Very specialist.

Recumbent

Recumbent bike

Like a bike, but you sit in a chair instead of on a seat. The height off the ground is variable.

+ Very comfortable to ride. Good for people with limited mobility or back problems.

– Awkward riding style for some. Not so good for stop start traffic. Low ones can be very dangerous on the roads.

Dutch

Dutch bike

An upright city bike, the kind often found in European cities being ridden with effortless cool.

+ Can be ridden wearing pretty much any clothing. Generally fairly low maintenance. Comfortable for casual ridding.

– Heavy, not good for getting anywhere at pace

Comfort

Comfort bike

Like a Dutch bike it is upright but has suspension, a big saddle and extensive gearing.

+ Comfortable and can be ridden in most clothing. Usually has mounts for mudguard and rack. Gearing makes hills easy.

– Heavy, lots of parts to maintain, not good for getting anywhere at speed.

Beach Cruiser

Beach cruiser

Like a comfort or Dutch bike but very relaxed position and very wide tyres

+ Great for casual cycling. Easy maintenance and aluminium frames – good if being left outside.

– Often single speed with coaster brakes, along with wide tyres not good for cycling on tarmac at pace.

Hard tail mountain

Hardtail MTB

A mountain bike with front suspension forks, thick tyres, good brakes and wide handlebars.

+ Wide tyres and front suspension makes it easy over potholes. Gearing and brakes good for anything a city throws

– Suspension and knobbly tyres are inefficient on flat ground. Tend to be a bit heavier.

Full suspension Mountain

Full Sus MTB

A bike with suspension on both wheels, large tyres and low gearing.

+ Tend to have good brakes, very comfortable over rough ground

– Very inefficient on tarmac, heavy, low gearing can mean you spin out at higher speeds. Expensive

Fully rigid mountain

Fully rigid MTB

A mountain bike with fixed forks and wheels, a robust frame and thick tyres

+ A strong frame is good for cities. Good gearing and brakes mean you can cover long distances with ease.

– Need to put on thinner tyres for tarmac. They don’t always have mounts for mudguards.

Touring

Touring bike

Robust bikes with mounts for racks and mudguards, wide gearing ranges and somewhat upright road geometry.

+ Frames are generally good for potholes. Gearing and rider position make for comfortable city traversing.

– Tend to be heavy. Often handle better with weight on the racks.

Cyclocross

Cyclocross bike

Like a road bike but with clearance for wider tyres and a more robust frame. Often used as touring bikes.

+ Often have mounts for mudguards. Good brakes and gearing make city riding easy.

– Heavier than a road bike, tyres can be a bit nobbly for tarmac and so might need changing.

Electric town bikes

Electric bike

Comfort-style bikes with a battery for power assisted peddling.

+ Power assist makes cycling easy. Comfort features such as suspension make potholes easy.

– Very heavy. Batteries sometimes don’t have good a good mileage range. Top speed for assistance is 15mph.

Tandem

Tandem

A bicycle built for two. Style can vary from casual through touring and racing.

+ Two powering the bike is more efficient. Can cycle very close to your buddy.

– Hard to store and travel with. Can be heavy. Generally the shorter rider always has to ride at the back.

Tricycle

Tricycle

Pretty similar to a dutch bike or comfort bike but with two rear wheels.

+ Great for riders with mobility issues. Gearing is usually easier to make starting easy.

– Heavy, large to store. They are not very good for going at pace or up big hills.

Handbike

Handbike

A tricycle that is powered by hand and arm rather than foot and leg. They are available with full gearing options.

+ Great for those who would not be able to power a different form of bike. Very stable and comfortable to sit in.

– Hard to use if you are not accustomed to powering a vehicle with your arms. Bulky and non-standard for maintenance.

Mini Velo

Mini Velo

Standard frame, smaller (normally 20″) wheels, these can be built from a variety of frame types, road, hybrid etc.

+ The increased acceleration of smaller wheels, comfort of a bigger frame. Easier to store inside.

– Hard to find good quality ones. Often have non-standard parts. Lose speed on long stretches.

BMX

BMX bike

A sturdy bike for performing tricks on. They usually have no brakes and freewheels.

+ Small and generally pretty light, they are easy to store. Good for getting kids into cycling.

– Hard to ride, not good for extensive rides.

Pub

Pub bike

Last but not least, the definitely pub bike. Probably not a great idea for the commute though.

+ Social and allows you to work off the carbs while consuming them, therefore highly efficient.

– Heavy, hard to store. Non-standard parts. Disconcerting riding position.

Did I get all the main ones?

Whew, OK, that is as many as I can think of right now. Before anyone says anything, I know there are some slight variations on a road bike depending on intended distance etc (e.g.. an Audax) but that would just be getting silly. Likewise, variations on the number of wheels you put on ie. tandem tricycle. Similarly, children’s bikes tend to just be shrunk down versions of the adults ones.

Are there any major categories or bike types you have seen around or used that you think should be on this list? What is your favourite bike type and how many of the above have you tried out?

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16 Responses to The ultimate guide to bike types

  1. Harry-H 21/10/2015 at 9:40 am #

    Chopper. Audax.

    • John Holiday 23/10/2015 at 2:46 pm #

      Would take issue with your comment that recumbents are ‘dangerous’!
      Have a Windcheetah recumbent & have rarely experienced any problems with other traffic.

      • Dave 23/10/2015 at 5:37 pm #

        I agree, my Street Machine recumbent gets me lots of attention (visible) more space from motorists and no close passes /near misses. I have commuted with it frequently in London and love it to bits!

        • bob 24/10/2015 at 12:58 am #

          i agree; streetmachine commuting in london every day; most people look twice;
          lots of smiles; not dangerous.

  2. AndyC 21/10/2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Tallbike,

    Circus Bike,

    Unicycle;
    standard, usually 20″ wheel
    giraffe, anything from 4′ to 10ft is common
    touring 28″ wheel or more
    muni (mountain uni)

    Velomobile (recumbent, usually trike, with a shell)

  3. MJ Ray 22/10/2015 at 8:14 am #

    The ultimate list of recycled bike prejudices 🙁

    Dutch bikes can go fast and aren’t necessarily heavier than hybrids. Recumbents aren’t dangerous. And so on.

    I’m pretty disappointed by this article. London cyclist used to be more open to all styles.

  4. John Faughnan 22/10/2015 at 3:22 pm #

    In Minnesota fat bikes are very popular. Easy to Google. We use them for snow and ice, some all year round. Mountain with enormous tires, varying sispension, either heavy or very expensive. Great bikes.

    Here we also distinguish between gravel bike and cyclocross. Cyclocross more pure racing, gravel bikes are leading the one-bike rebellion.

    Then there are electric mountain bikes. Electric recumbent trikes are coming up fast…

  5. Kenny Astbury 22/10/2015 at 3:55 pm #

    What about 24″ cruiser bikes and also 26″ jump bikes…

  6. Alex 22/10/2015 at 8:36 pm #

    Downhill mountain bike, penny farthing, indoor track bike (although not sensible for the road). Would have mentioned fat bike but that’s already been mentioned.

  7. Andrew Wilcox 23/10/2015 at 11:58 am #

    Gravel bikes. Fat tyres. Relaxed geometry. Disc brakes. No suspension. Go faster and further off road bikes primarily for smoothish tracks

  8. Michelle Roberts 24/10/2015 at 9:07 am #

    Endurance bikes also known as sportive bikes are not on the list. Nice to see cyclocross’s being mentioned and their touring ability. 😊

  9. peter walford 25/10/2015 at 11:10 pm #

    side-by-side bikes(for two people). As the population demographic shifts towards more and more elderly people, some infirm, some with varying problems of dementia, we’re going to need more of these kind of special adaptations.

  10. Jon Fray 27/10/2015 at 2:59 pm #

    ‘Roadster’ used to be a useful term for a useful bicycle. I suppose you’ve used the term, ‘Dutch’ to describe a (probably steel framed) bike fitted with mudguards, a chain guard, swept-back handlebars and an upright riding position. Bring back Roadsters! As Carlton Reid says: ”
    The Dutch bike isn’t Dutch, it’s English (and proudly not updated since 1911)”

  11. Sheridan 30/10/2015 at 12:59 am #

    Why would you judge someone because of the type of bike they ride? And why accuse me of lying because I don’t?

  12. TOM 31/10/2015 at 1:32 am #

    “recumbents” should also include TADPOLES ( 2 front wheels, 1 rear)

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