Cycling Specialties: Disassembling the Differences Between 5 Different Bike Styles

Looking for a bike, but feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the choices and cycle jargon? You are not alone. My husband is an avid cyclist, so I should know a fair amount just from proximity to endless bike conversation. However, even I feel timid walking into a bike shop, concerned my questions will be greeted with an “are you kidding me?” face. This is probably because I asked my husband the difference between a road bike and a commuter bike the other day and he nearly walked out the door in disgust.

So, whether you are deciding what type of bike you should buy to suit your needs, or you want to keep up in conversation about cycling, this is the article for you. Read on to learn more about five types of bikes and how they differ for varying rides and needs.

1. The Road Bike

If you are thinking to yourself, “aren’t all bikes ridden on the road?”, then you have a lot to learn. The almighty road bike is a special breed, with a passionate following. The road bike is meant to be ridden fast on smooth pavement. It has smooth, skinny tires and drop handlebars for a streamlined ride. The road bike can be used for fun and for on-road racing. It is lighter than other bikes and is often accompanied by a rider in all sorts of lycra.

2. The Mountain Bike

A more rugged bike designed for rough off-road trails; the mountain bike has upright handlebars, a low gear range for pedaling up steep trails, and often comes with a range of shock absorption components for suspension. The mountain bike is heavier than the road bike and often more durable to withstand mountain passes and exposure to wet, muddy terrain. For the year-round mountain biker there are now super wide tires available for riding on the snow!

3. The Hybrid Bike

The hybrid bike was designed to provide advantages of both the road and the mountain bike. They tend to have large, padded seats and upright handlebars making for a comfortable ride. They are best used for casual riding, short distance commuting or running errands around town. The hybrid is not recommended for off road mountain bike trails or long distance commuting or racing, so this is a good bike for someone who is a beginner to the bike and wants a casual option without all the bells and whistles.

4. The Commuter Bike

Unlike the three bikes above, the commuter bike has a bit of a looser definition.

Any of the above three can technically be used as a commuter bike, because you are really just looking for a way to get from home to work and back safely. However, a well-equipped commuter bike will have the ability to fit wider tires, to go on paved or unpaved surfaces, and will ideally have space to mount cargo racks and fenders.

Commuter bikes will be a bit heavier than a road bike, or will make a traditional road bike heavier, because of the gear needed to stay dry on the commute and carry work gear with you. Whatever bike you choose, commuting to work on bike is a fun and incredibly healthy way to travel!

5. The Electric Bike

Also known as the pedal assist bike, the electric bike is a great option if you want to zip around town and not show up to a meeting or dinner party super flushed and sweaty. The electric bike provides speed, efficiency and comfort for all settings. The electric bike components can be utilised in urban cruising, city commuting and even mountain biking.

The technology is constantly being improved and electric bikes are becoming a really popular option for the demographic that wants to bike but not in a hard core racing kind of way.

Before you head into your local bike shop to drop some cash on a new ride, ask yourself, which of the above bikes really suits my needs? Sure, you may see yourself winning the Tour de France, but are you really going to put the hard yards into road cycling enough to buy an expensive, light frame road bike? Or is the cruisy hybrid a more realistic option? Hopefully, the explanations above give you the confidence to engage in bike lingo conversations that will eventually lead you to your perfect ride.