So you are in the market for a new bike, but you don’t know where to start? You aren’t alone! Below is a basic walkthrough of the main categories of bikes to start with that then niche out from there. For many years I managed successful bike shops and I hope to pass on some of my knowledge to you.
When customers walked into my bike shop starting their hunt for a new bike one of the most important things I would ask was, “Where do you want your bike to take you?”
When I quickly count on my fingers the different styles of bikes that most good bike shops carry, I come up with 14. 14 categories of bicycles to confuse you, overwhelm you and lead you down different avenues, maybe even putting you on the wrong category so that you never ride adventure machine. These 14 categories don’t even include the different kinds of mountain bike wheel sizes, fat bikes, or thoughts of road bikes.
Today’s article is focused on breaking down the three most common styles of bikes and what their most broad use is. These styles or categories are Road, Mountain, and Hybrid. We’ll be using wide strokes to paint a picture of bicycle types that can be helpful as you start your hunt for a new bike. These do not include the niches like cargo bikes or kids bikes but we will have articles dedicated to them soon.
These bikes have round, drop, handlebars. If you haven’t been on or near a bicycle in a while then you may refer to these as a “10-speed.” They are efficient, fast, and tend to have a more leaned over and “aggressive” feel (but not uncomfortable.) They are meant to be comfortable for the long ride and have many different sub-categories for different uses. Triathlons, gravel races, bike touring, and so many more things can be in this category. A solid road bike that doesn’t have parts you will be replacing within the first season of heavy riding normally starts around the $1000 range.
These are widely popular as they are the all-terrain vehicle of bikes. Knobby, fat, tires that allow you to roll over things and go on various terrain. Most kids start off on these, and they can be found in many department stores so they are often the entry point to bike buying and riding.
At a local bike shop, your “every day” mountain bike is between $350-650. Anything under $500-650 is probably not meant to go truly mountain biking but instead plays the part for when you go down dirt paths, gravel and off the pavement. A sturdy “single track worthy” mountain bike normally starts around $800.
The hybrid is my favorite category of bikes. This category is what will get folks out of the gym, off the treadmill or better yet, off the couch! The hybrid is pretty efficient on the road, but normally has an inverted tread to allow for some sand and hard packed gravel riding. The fit is a bit more upright, feeling more comfortable to the rider going <2 hours. While there are extreme hybrids costing $2k with disc brakes, carbon forks, and features similar to a road bike, the entry level bikes normally start around $350-500. The hybrid is a bike that any cyclist should have in their garage for grocery getting, bar hopping, and greenway cruising. There is a chance you’ll grow out of this bike when you decide you want to go further on the road or hit more aggressive mountain bike trails. That is okay, the hybrid will always have a place in your collection.