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This is designed as a very basic guide to the different types of bikes available.  The type of bike you need will depend on what you want to do with it.  The main categories of bikes are detailed below.
Once you have decided which type of bike you would like you can start searching for more specific information.  Within each category you will find a bewildering choice over a broad price range.  Generally, the more you pay the lighter the bike and the better the components will work.

Road racing bike

Designed for racing on solid road surfaces, these bikes are light weight and responsive with an aggressive frame geometry built to maximise aerodynamics, not comfort.  They have high gearing to maximize speed.


They have restricted loading capacities without attachment points for racks etc. 

It is often difficult or impossible to fit full mudguards and tyre size is limited due to lack of clearance between the wheel and the frame.


They can feel unwieldy with the back and front loaded (which, whilst difficult, is possible).




·         light weight

·         responsive

·         fast

·         gives impression you mean business

·         uncomfortable enough to make dropping off to sleep unlikely on long rides

·         can feel unwieldy when loaded

·         restricted loading capabilities

·         uncomfortable for long distances

·         high gearing may be tiring on long rides

·         not suitable for off road use




Road touring bike

Designed for touring on solid road surfaces.  These bikes look very similar to racing bikes but have a frame geometry built more for comfort than aerodynamics.


They are stronger, and hence heavier, than racing bikes being designed to carry loads. 

They have mounting positions for racks and mudguards and generally have wider wheels accommodating fatter more comfortable (but slower and more energy draining) tyres.  They have a wide range of gears, some very low for slogging up hills fully laden.




·         more comfortable over long distances

·         can carry heavy loads

·         wide range of gears

·         heavier than a racing bike

·         fatter tyres cause greater rolling resistance (more friction between the tyre and the road) meaning more effort


Mountain bike

Designed for use off road.


These bikes have a low centre of gravity making handling easier.  And being designed for off road use they offer the opportunity for more adventurous rides.  They also have some very low gears that can come in handy on steeper sections, especially towards the end of a long day when your energy levels are flagging.

However, to deal with off road conditions they are built to be robust and therefore tend to be heavy.  Their tyres are considerably wider than those of a road bike and have a much heavier tread.  This is very helpful in their natural territory where suspension and grip are paramount but results in much greater rolling resistance when used on the road.  Despite a more relaxed riding position most people find mountain bikes uncomfortable to ride over long distances.



·         easy handling

·         more adventurous rides

·         lower gears for hills at end of long rides

·         heavy

·         inefficient on the road

·         uncomfortable over long distances


Hybrid/Urban Cycle

Designed to be somewhere between the mountain bike and the road bike this has more comfort than the road bike and a good spread of gears from high to low.  Weight and rolling resistance are somewhere between the two (on like for like cost machines).  They offer a compromise between the pros and cons of road and mountain bikes.  They are designed with a commuter and occasional weekend use market in mind.



·         Wide range of gears

·         more comfortable riding position

·         mounting points for racks, etc.

·         heavy

·         a compromise of good and bad features




These bikes have a completely different seating position to a traditional upright bike.  The rider is seated low to the ground with the legs stretching in front.  This gives the bike a number of positive advantages including a low centre of gravity, low frontal area so less wind resistance and a more comfortable seating position.  The fact that you are low to the ground is also touted as a safety feature because you have less distance to fall when you are knocked off your bike.  [Personally I don’t think this would reassure me much as the juggernaut’s wheel bore down on me at eye level, about to grind me into the tarmac].


Because of their low frontal area recumbents are fast. 


However, they take a lot of practice to get used to.  Balance is more difficult and they are a different beast going uphill because you cannot stand on the pedals. 


They are more cumbersome than an ‘ordinary’ bike.  Cycle paths often have barriers that would be impassable for a recumbent.  And they’re not good for jumping kerbs, pot holes or other obstructions either!




·         efficient

·         fast

·         different

·         dangerous [?]

·         cumbersome

·         weight


Penny farthing

No gears, solid rubber tyres and made out of roughly beaten iron girders.  If you have a head for height they are much faster than those old fashioned bone shakers.


Actually you can now buy new penny farthings with pneumatic tyres and brakes for about £500.





·         nice view

·         very different

·         bloody dangerous

·         bloody uncomfortable

·         no bloody gears



Rather you than me.




·         probably spend more time on your back than on your wheel

·         50% less likely to get a puncture



Or you could ride a big girl bike with stabalisers.




·         Great if haven’t mastered a proper bike yet

·         50% more likely to get a puncture