You’ve reached that point of no return…! You need a bike in your life or yours have reached it’s end..so it’s time!
Picking the best bike for you can be tricky business. Whether you want to get to work, get fitter or just be able to explore the countryside then the bicycle is the perfect tool to do that, but there are a confusingly huge – and growing – number of different types.
Consider what you want to do with your bike and where you’ll be going, as the best bike for you very much depends on this. Whether you want to commute to work, get muddy thrills in the countryside or hit the road for pleasure, there’s a bike that can do that.
To make things more difficult you would obviously like something that is practical and looks great. There are many different types of cycling and a multitude of bikes that’ll let you achieve them. You can be an urban commuter, a lightning-quick road racer, an off-road trail blaster, downhill nutter, fixed-wheel fanatic, towpath explorer or regal roadster, there are more than enough choices in bikes out there for you.
These bikes are all about riding on surfaced roads – usually fast! They’ve got lightweight frames and thin tyres and have dropped handlebars that allow you to get in an efficient and aerodynamic riding position and gearing that’s all about getting maximum speed out of your ride.
Road bikes also lend themselves very well to commuting. However, the speed-focused riding position with the dropped handlebars can be uncomfortable for some riders and the lightweight wheels and tyres can get damaged easily from kerbs and potholes. It’s also not a good choice if you have to lug around some baggage to and from work.
Mountain bikes (multi terrain bikes)
Built to take on and handle the most rugged off-road terrain nature can offer, mountain bikes are tough, with wider knobbly tyres designed to find grip on almost any surface. Powerful brakes that use motorcycle-style discs and more expensive bikes will have suspension at both ends for better control over rough ground. The gearing-structure is designed to get you up and down steep terrain, with a wide range to take on the varying gradients. Even if you don’t plan to tackle mountains, mountain bikes can be a good choice for general leisure riding due to their more relaxed riding position, though we recommend you change the knobbly tyres for some slicks otherwise it’ll be very hard work on tarmac. While suspension is great for pure off-road riding, it means extra weight, costs more and can be inefficient, so it’s best avoided if you plan to spend most of your time on-road.
Halfway between a road bike and a mountain bike, a hybrid takes the comfy riding position of a mountain bike and pairs it with lightweight frame and fast rolling wheels of a road bike. They’re great if you need to cover on-road distance but don’t want to contort yourself into an uncomfortable riding position. Sitting in a more upright position may be less aerodynamically efficient but it also allows you to look further ahead, a huge boon in heavy urban traffic. If you want to go quickly on good roads but you prefer a more upright position or don’t get on with drop handlebars, this is the way to go. The only major downside with a flat-bar bike is that you’re not as aerodynamic as you are on a race bike and therefore not quite as quick.
Hybrid bikes often have more powerful disc brakes that give more consistent performance in wet weather. They’re also equipped with plenty of mounts that allow you to carry more luggage, such as specialist pannier bags.
If you need to bridge the gap between urban performance and confident handling, then our guide to the best hybrid bikes will give you all the information you need to know.
While a hybrid bike is best suited to conquering the city-scape, a touring bike is designed to take on everything from a normal
commute to a continent crossing adventure. Normally they have the same fast rolling 700c wheels as road and hybrid bikes but with fatter tyres that allow you to take on a mixture of terrain in comfort. The more relaxed riding position and more stable shape means that you can take on almost anything, whether it be a mountain pass when fully loaded with supplies or a quick spin to your job.
Fixed wheel/single speed bike
A popular choice of track cyclists & hardcore cycle messengers, the fixie is the ultimate in simplistic cycling. A true fixie has no freewheel, so you always have to pedal if you’re moving. That brings an unprecedented degree of connection and control once you get used to it, but fixies are definitely not for beginners. They’re lightning-fast in the hands of an accomplished rider and the lack of complexity means they require minimal maintenance. That means they’re very attractive for confident commuters that don’t mind suffering if they live in a hilly location and are willing to keep total control at all times but it’s a high level of commitment for the average cyclist.
Once you’ve got the hang of riding a fixie, they’re among the best bikes for commuting. This is what makes them popular with cycle couriers, who also like their reliability – a legal minimum fixie with just a front brake has almost nothing on it to go wrong.
City bike/ Roadster/ Cruiser
A city bike, also known as the roadster or cruiser, does a great job of providing short-range transportation in flat areas. What’s appealing about this style of bike is its simplicity. There’s very little to go wrong if you’ve just got one gear, and hub gear versions with up to 11 gears are still largely bombproof.
Typical roadsters have chain-guards, wide seats and flat pedals, so you can hop aboard in your regular clothes. Self powered dynamo lighting and a lock are often built in, so a roadster is a one-stop purchase. They shrug off potholed streets too, while an upright riding position gives you a commanding view of traffic. The downsides tend to be their heavy frames, and while the riding positions are comfortable they’re not the most efficient. The best city bike is a machine that combines functionality with style, so these really are machines that express the your personality, whether it’s classic Amsterdam cruiser or traditional mailman machine.