Although there is only a handful of main bike types out there, each of them shares a unique set of features. The variation of different types of bicycles listed down below will help you navigate through the different uses.
Table of Contents
1. Road Bike
Road bikes are one of the oldest types of bicycles, and while they have adopted advanced technology over time, they maintain much of the same design. Frames are usually lightweight aluminum or carbon, with aggressive geometry that places the rider’s legs far forward almost horizontally over the pedals.
These bicycles are defined by their thin tires and road bike handlebars that allow the rider to get in a more aerodynamic position ideal for high-speed racing.
- Lightweight frame
- 700c wheels
- 23 – 30mm tires
- Drop bar handlebar, with 2 in 1 shifters & brake levers
- 2-3 front chainrings
- 6-8 speed cassette for a wide variety of gears
Shimano is the most common supplier of road bike groupsets, from the highly affordable Claris and Tourney gear sets to the expensive top-of-the-range Ultegra and Dura-Ace Di2 wireless gears. SRAM and Campagnolo are two popular manufacturers of gears and brakes for road bikes.
- Related: 8 different road bike types
Some of the most popular road bike manufacturers are Trek, Scott, Bianchi, BMC, Cannondale, Cervelo, and Colnago. They all sponsor teams in the world’s most popular annual road bike race, the Tour de France. More recently, manufacturers have branched out into designing road bikes for more varied uses, like gravel and cyclo-cross bikes.
2. Mountain Bike
Mountain biking is arguably the most popular form of cycling these days that has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Nowadays you get a wide variety of mountain biking styles, each requiring a unique bike design with specific features.
The most notable difference between mountain bikes and other bicycles is the inclusion of suspension. MTBs typically come with just a front suspension fork (hardtails) or with both front and rear suspension, more known as full-suspension mountain bikes. In very rare cases, you get some custom-made rigid MTBs with no suspension, usually for off-road touring.
- Related: Different Types of Mountain bikes
SRAM has cornered the market for MTB groupsets, while Shimano has a solid place as well.
- 27.5″ or 29″ wheels
- Knobby tires
- 1x / 2x front chainring
Mountain Bike Types
- Cross-country (XC) mountain bikes are usually hardtail bikes with minimal front travel (100mm). They are designed for riding mostly flat off-road surfaces like fire roads or through fields and forests. They are useful for short off-road tours or recreational weekend rides in the countryside.
- Trail bikes are the most common form of recreational MTBs, widely used by all types of riders, from amateur to pro. They come in both hardtail or dual suspension designs, with a wide variation in quality and price. Trail bikes are typically used for single-track riding along forest paths or over varied terrain that contains small rocks and obstacles.
- Enduro bikes are similar to downhill bikes but with a larger gear ratio for uphill cycling. They have dual suspension, usually with slightly less travel (140-160mm), and larger 29″ tires. Typically, only used for competitive racing, enduro bikes are also on the high-end of the price range and include high-end components.
- Downhill racing bikes are often the most expensive MTBs, fitted with advanced rear suspension systems, extra-long front forks (170mm+), and strong carbon or alloy frames. They are designed to take on the most extreme conditions, tackling steep downhills, large drops, and tight corners. Wheels are often a mix of 26″ or 27.5″, with thick-treaded tires.
- Mullet Bike is a mountain bike with mixed wheel sizes: usually larger wheel in the front and smaller in the rear (Like motocross bike wheels) The size varies either 29″ in the front and 27.5″ in the rear. You’ll see 27.5″ and 26″ variations as well.
3. Hybrid Bike
Hybrid bikes gained popularity during the 90s after old-style utility roadster bikes had fallen out of fashion.
Recreational cyclists and commuters wanted the convenience of a sturdy mountain bike with the reduced weight and additional speed of a road bike. Manufacturers began redesigning road bikes with stronger alloy frames, upright geometry, and straight handlebars.
Over time, hybrid bikes have given rise to several variations, including commuter hybrids, cross bikes, city hybrids, and comfort bikes. Although all similar in frame design, wheels, and handlebars, each variation is slightly tweaked towards a specific use case.
- 650b (27.5″) or 700c wheels
650b x 1.9″ – 2.1″ tires
- Flat bar-type handlebar
With ergonomic grips
- Rigid fork, or a short travel suspension
Suspension range 60-80mm
- Lightweight frame
Hybrid Bikes Types
- Commuter hybrids are lightweight, fast bikes that come with racks and/or a basket, specifically designed for commuting to work and back with small amounts of luggage. They typically have 700c wheels with thin tires, chain guards for long suit pants, front and rear lights, and mudguards.
- City hybrids are often tougher than commuters, with smaller wheels and thicker, knobbly tires. They’re designed for city riders who go beyond the streets, taking shortcuts through rougher urban landscapes like parks, vacant lots, and service lanes.
- Comfort bikes, as the name suggests, are designed for comfortable recreational riding. These typically have fatter tires, low-slung geometry, and fewer gears. They are commonly used by casual cyclists on weekends to ride along the boardwalk or visit city parks with friends.
- Cross bikes, other times are known as dual-sport bicycles are much like standard hybrid bikes, but with thicker tires and occasionally front suspension. Useful for commuting or light touring through areas with varied terrain, they typically have mudguards, rack mounts, and night lights.
4. City Bikes
City bikes are the go-to choice for those who simply need a bike to get from A to B with not too much of a hustle. Often the cheapest selection compared to other bike types, city bicycles are best suited for city riding.
- Basic build
- Simple brakes and gearing
- 26″ wheels
- Integrated fenders, mounts for racks & baskets
Those bikes are focused on comfort and practicality, so they provide an upright riding position and lots of comforts. The frame is usually made from aluminum or steel, and the handlebar is often curved and positioned higher than the saddle, which is typically soft and cushiony.
City bikes often come with multiple accessories such as fenders, racks, a basket, lights, a dynamo or a dynamo hub, a bell, hub gearing, and so on. They usually have a low number of gears or come as a single-speed.
5. Electric Bike
Electric bicycles (e-bikes) have recently exploded in popularity, but that doesn’t mean they’re a new invention. In fact, the very first electric bicycle patent was put forward by Ogden Bolton Jr as far back as 1895. It described a standard road bike with a motor in the rear hub and a battery in the central triangle.
Luckily, the number of different types of electric bikes is almost as wide as the variation of bicycles.
Almost 120 years later, electric bikes still use an almost identical design, albeit with “slightly” better technology. Modern e-bikes typically have powerful motors that can achieve speeds up to 28mph (45km) and small, removable lithium-ion batteries that last the entire day on one charge. Some bikes have special frame designs to accommodate motors integrated into the bottom bracket between the cranks (mid-drive), while others have a motorized hub in the rear wheel (hub drive).
E-bikes come in three specific classes:
Class 1: Pedal assist
Aka pedelec bike. This bike requires the rider to pedal in order to operate and pedal-assist sensor (PAS) to work.
Class 2: Throttle (+ optional pedal-assist)
Throttle-operated e-bikes have a more powerful motor that can propel the bike without the need for pedaling. This class is mostly equipped with a pedal-assist as well.
Class 3: Speed Pedelec (+ optional throttle)
Speed pedelecs are the same as for Class 1 pedelecs but without strict speed restrictions. They can reach speeds of up to 28 mph (45 kph) but in many areas require an additional license to be operated.
>>> Read more: Electric Bike Laws
Class 4 e-bikes are not considered street-legal due to their overpowered motors, and high-speed limits. Any eBike which is faster than 28mph and has a motor power greater than 750W is considered a Class 4 eBike.
6. Fat Tire Bike
Fat tire bikes have grown in popularity over the past decade, particularly in beach towns and snow resorts. As the name suggests, fat bikes have fatter than usual tires that can ride over soft terrain like snow and sand without sinking. During the 80s when mountain bikes became popular, some adventurous riders modified single-speed balloon-tire cruisers to venture into the deep backcountry, giving rise to the precursor of fat bikes.
Early fat bikes typically used common mountain bike frames with widened forks to accommodate tires up to 3″ thick. Other than the thicker tires, they usually had the same gearing systems and handlebars but often with no brakes because disc brakes didn’t exist yet and caliper brakes didn’t fit over the tires.
- 26 wheels
3.8″ – 5″ wide tires
- Rigid fork
Alloy, steel or carbon
- MTB geometry frame
In the early 2000s, specialist bike brand Surly introduced one of the first real fat-tire bikes, the Pugsley, which had a custom-built frame and fitted specially designed wide rims. Despite its popularity amongst expedition cyclists, the fat bike fad only really took off much later in the 2010s. Nowadays, fat bikes are a common site on popular beach resorts the world over.
Popular fat bikes include the Specialized Fatboy, Salsa Mukluk, Trek Farley, and Rocky Mountain Blizzard. Due to the heavy extra weight from the large tires and wheels, fat bikes are not ideal for fast cycling on hard surfaces. You should only get a fat bike if you specifically intend on spending a lot of time in snow or sand.
7. Cargo Bikes
If you need to haul a lot of cargo but don’t have access to a car or prefer not to use one, then a cargo bike might be the solution.
Many people don’t realize just how much stuff can be transported via bike and cargo bikes come in all different shapes and sizes to suit any requirements. From standard road bikes with a small front and rear basket to massive trikes big enough to carry a fridge, there’s a cargo bike for your needs!
Various different cargo bikes include: Cycle Truck / Long John / Longtail Bike / Bakfiets
Cargo bikes are characterized by having:
- Increased payload capacity
- Extended length for racks
- 20″ – 26″ wheels
8. Folding Bike
Sailors, RV-campers, and whoever has set their goal to travel light knows the benefits of folding bicycles. A bicycle, in general, takes up a good chunk of valued space, while many of us would still want to travel with their bicycle. There are many different brands and types out there.
- Fold-up frame geometry
Frame, handlebar, and the pedals
- 14″ / 16″ / 20″ wheels
Foldable bikes are bicycles that can be folded into a compact size and easily transported on trains, buses, and airplanes. This also allows riders to store or carry them around easily. Foldable bikes use various folding mechanisms, some of which are better than others.
Foldable bikes are ideal for someone who does not have a lot of storage area for a full-size bicycle. Also, if you often travel by plane, bus, train, etc. a folding bike will make your life a lot easier.
9. BMX Bike
BMX bicycles were first designed in the late sixties, taking inspiration from motocross motorcycles. They are usually based around 20″ wheels, but 24″ wheels can be found as well. ‘Real BMX’ bikes are always made with a single-speed cassette and a rigid frame. They also have high-rise handlebars which make maneuverability easier.
Two main types of BMX bicycles are designed for either racing or freestyle riding. They are very similar, but there are some tiny differences between the two. Freestyle models often have rear and front stunt pegs which make doing tricks easier. Besides the two rest of the sub-category is also known as: Freestyle, Flatland, Street, Vert, Park, Trail, Dirt jump, etc.
- 20″ wheels
- Reinforced frame & hubs
- Availability to add pegs or grinding & tricks
As always, prices vary differently from one shop to another and from one model to another. Entry-level models cost around $300, mid-range models usually cost less than $1,000, whereas pro models cost between $1,000 and $1,500.
10. Recumbent Bike
A recumbent bike, also known as a bent is a bicycle that allows the rider to be in a laid-back position while cycling.
This position allows for the weight of the rider to be better distributed, so it reduces low back pain and other problems. It is also believed to be the most efficient way for a human being to cycle on two wheels as the position of the human body is most ergonomic towards comfort and power output.
- Most ergonomic body position for cycling
Price range. Recumbent bicycles are generally more expensive than regular bikes because of the technology, time, and effort that goes into making them. Average models cost around $1,500, but some high-end models can cost upwards of $5,000. This type of bike is best suited for those who have been experiencing back or knee pain when cycling.
11. Kids Bike
Kids bikes have come a long way from the old days of basic single speeds with training wheels, now accommodating kids of all ages and skill levels.
The most basic of kids bikes is the Balance Bike, a simple two-wheeled bike with no pedals, gears, or brakes. When seated, the child can keep their feet firmly on the ground and push to get going or to stop. This is ideal for beginners in the 2-3 year age group that still need to learn how to balance. Check out our kids section to find out more from kids e-bikes to full-suspension MTBs.
12. Women’s Bike
Traditionally, bike manufacturers designed women’s bikes with a lowered top tube to accommodate long dresses and make it possible to step through the frame rather than swing a leg over the rear wheel when mounting.
These days, most women typically cycle with similar clothing to men and don’t require a lowered top tube to step through, but yet the trend continues.
- Shorter top tubes
For a better reach
- Low-step frame geometry
For easy on/off
Women’s bikes also usually come in a slightly smaller selection of sizes and have some minor changes, like saddles with a hollow center. Typically, they are also designed with patterns and color schemes traditionally believed to appeal to female riders. However, for all intents and purposes, women don’t require a bike with any special differences to men, so long as it’s the right fit.
Few bike manufacturers usually don’t cater specifically to women, but there is one brand that has found popularity lately. Juliana and Liv Cycling are a women’s specific bicycle brands that are dedicated to manufacturing bikes with characteristics specially designed with the female form in mind.
13. Cruiser bike
Cruiser bikes are designed almost exclusively for casual recreational riding.
They are most popular in beachside towns where cyclists use them to cruise along the boardwalk on lazy summer days. Typically, they have a laid-back, relaxed frame geometry that places the rider low down and far back on the bike. This allows for comfortable cruising but makes it more difficult to go fast or cycle uphill.
- 26″ wheels
With balloon tires
With coaster brake
- Mustache-type handlebar
- Double-spring saddle
Cruisers are commonly built from inexpensive materials like cheap steel or aluminum and often have a single-speed drivetrain with a simple coaster brake. This cuts down on the number of components required, making cruiser bikes cheaper and more attractive to recreational cyclists. They usually don’t have suspension but have very large, soft tires that swallow up any vibrations on the road. Some cruiser bikes include a basic 3-speed rear hub to give the rider a few more options if they live in a hilly town like San Francisco.
While some cyclists use their cruiser bikes to get to work, they aren’t great commuters as they are heavy and seldom have rack mounts. In coastal towns, you’ll find trendy young hipsters modify their cruiser bikes with bright colors, unique frame designs, and decorative add-ons. This trend has gained a particularly large following at the annual Burning Man event in Nevada, where thousands of people from around the world attend with colorful, modified cruiser bikes.
14. Adventure / Touring bike
Another long-distance bike that’s commonly used among bikepacking. Somewhat similar to a gravel bike, touring bicycles are built for longevity and durability by allowing them to carry loads of bags, packs, and anything else you’ll be needing on the road.
- 26″ / 27.5″ (650b) / 700c wheels
- 2-3x front chainring
For a wide variety of gears
- Drop-bar handlebar
- Rack & fender eyelets
All around the frame & fork
People have traveled long-distance routes by bicycle for a long time. Even just ten years ago, the 26″ wheel size was among the most common among bicycle tourers. Today, touring bikes have generally rigid mountain bike geometry frames, 650b (27.5″) wheels, and a drop-bar handlebar. There are also plenty of eyelets for racks.
Although the main brake type used among touring bikes these days is the disc brake, you’ll still see the occasional rim brake on some older models being used to to the ease and cost of maintenance.
A recent update that the touring bike world has seen is the introduction of belt drivetrains that are being used contrary to the chain and derailleur systems. Carbon belt drivetrains offer a silent, clean, and pretty much maintenance-free ride, and the expectancy of a belt is known to be around 19k miles!
15. Fixie / Single-speed bike
Fixie and single-speed bikes are bicycles that have no gears, just one rear cog running off a single crankset.
The term fixie is short for ‘fixed-gear and was made popular by bicycle couriers in cities like New York and London. Nowadays, there is a thriving underground fixie scene, particularly amongst young urban hipsters and students. Fixies and single-speed bikes are used almost exclusively in large cities where you seldom need to go very fast or climb steep ascents.
- Single-speed drivetrain
With a fixed or freewheel rear hub – flip flop hub for both
- 700c wheels
- Road bike geometry
- Coaster brake
- Drop-bar / flat bar handlebar
Fixie’s differ from single-speed bikes in that their rear cog is fixed rather than free-wheeling, so you can’t coast along without the pedals turning. The advantage of this is that you can brake by pushing back on the pedals, the disadvantage being that when going very fast downhill you have to keep your legs turning. Fixie’s also making it easier to trackstand – that is, to stay balanced in one place on the bike without putting a foot down.
On a single-speed bike with a freewheel cog, you’ll need at least one caliper brake or you won’t be able to stop. Many fixie riders prefer the simplicity and low maintenance of having no caliper brakes, although this is illegal on the roads of most major cities.
16. Gravel Bike
Gravel bikes are lightweight racing-style bikes designed for use on mild off-road terrains like dirt roads, fire roads, country lanes, and smooth singletrack. The idea is to provide a lighter, faster way of cycling in the great outdoors without the clunkiness of mountain bikes.
Many people think gravel bikes are just road bikes with thicker tires, but there are actually many more differences that make these bikes ideal for off-road riding. Most notably, gravel bikes have very specific frame geometry that makes them far more comfortable when riding long distances on loose, rocky ground. They also have thicker, stronger frame materials designed to handle the abuse of rough, rocky terrain.
- Related: Gravel vs. All-Road Bikes Guide
- 650b wheels (27.5″)
700c x 34mm – 45mm
- Represented by MTB-specific brands
- Road geometry, MTB components
Some gravel bikes are specifically designed for racing, with lightweight frames, thinner tire clearance, and more aggressive geometry. Other gravel bikes are aimed at bikepacking and light touring, with a more relaxed geometry, stronger frame, wider tire clearance, and rack mount points.
In general, gravel bikes come with relatively thick road tires in the 40mm range, with medium tread so that they feel comfortable on the pavement but can also handle loose dirt and mud. This makes them great all-round bikes for recreational riders who find themselves riding on a mix of off-road and on-road surfaces.
Since they are made from tougher materials and tend to have higher-grade components, you won’t find many cheap gravel bikes. They tend to go from around $1,000 upwards, with $2,000 being a good starting point if you want a decent gravel bike.
17. Cyclocross bike
Cyclocross is a lesser-known cycling discipline popularized in France during the early 1900s when cyclists would race to the next town using any route possible.
This would often involve cycling through fields, hopping over fences, and running up hills. Typically, the only visible landmark to aim for was the steeple of the next town’s church, giving rise to the discipline’s original name, steeplechase.
- 700c wheels
- Road-bike geometry
Eventually, cyclocross was formalized into a professional sport that mixed elements of mountain biking, crit racing, and cross-country cycling. Competitors race around an off-road course using modified road bikes, often required to dismount and carry their bikes over obstacles or up hills. Due to the intense physical nature of the sport, with the rough and dirty conditions, it hasn’t found widespread popularity outside of Europe.
Cyclocross bikes are much like road bikes, but with wider tire clearance and stronger frames. Unlike gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes have more aggressive racing geometry, making them less comfortable for long-distance riding. They typically have tires in the 700x35c range with a medium grip, able to handle dirt and grass without creating too much drag on hard surfaces. While the differences between the three are minimal, small changes are necessary to get a competitive edge when racing.
18. Klunker bike
Klunker bikes are a new breed, a mixture of retro cruiser, fixie, and BMX bikes.
This is a bike for the free-spirited cyclist who likes funky things and takes their time when going for stroll. The set-up on these bikes is quite basic while having all the comfort factors. The sense of riding one is definitely out of the ordinary, in a good way!
- Cruiser frame
- BMX handlebar
- MTB tires
- Single-speed drivetrain
19. Tandem Bike
What is a Tandem bike?
A tandem bicycle is generally a 2-person bicycle with two saddles and two pairs of pedals.
The most typical tandem bicycle is equipped with a freewheel and a single derailleur which means that both riders can contribute the effort at the same time, or individually. Although the majority of tandem bikes are built in the way pictured above, there are also parallel tandem bikes where the bikes are welded together side by side, and tandem bikes where the cyclist sitting on the back is facing backwards.
- 2-person bike
- 24″ – 26″ wheels
- Increased weight capacity
- Synchronized or independent pedaling
People use tandem bicycles mainly for fun, and there’s a very small portion of followers who also take part in bike races. Three-person tandem bikes are also represented on rare occasions.
20. Swing Bike
No introduction needed, just check that out
What Type of Bike Should I Get?
Before deciding which type of bike is right for you, you should first ask yourself a few important questions to determine your needs:
- What type of riding do I want to do?
- How often do I ride?
- What’s my budget?
- Do I want to compete or ride recreationally?
- Can I afford more bikes or do I need a do-it-all bike?
Once you have an answer to these questions, you will have a much easier time determining which type of bike to go for. Getting the wrong type is not the end of the world, but it can be frustrating because you’ll have to sell it and go shopping again.
Bikes also differ significantly in terms of wheel sizes, brakes, drivetrains, etc., so check out a quick guide on these specifics below.
Types of bike wheels & sizes
- 12″ – Kids’ balance bike.
- 14″ – Kids’ bike wheel size, suitable for 3-5-year-olds in general.
- 16″ – Kids’ & foldable bicycle wheel size. Suitable for 4 to 6-year-olds.
- 20″ – Kids’ bike wheel size, recommended for 5 to 9-year-olds.
- 24″ – Kids’ bike size ideal for riders aged 8 to 11.
- 26″ – Old-school standard, still used among fat and cruiser bikes.
- 27.5″ (650b) – One of the most average size bike wheels, used among touring, mountain, and hybrid bikes.
- 700c – Found on road bikes, built for faster rides.
- 29″ – Common among mountain bikes.
Different types of bike valves
Schrader, Presta, Dunlop. Presta valves are often found on modern bicycles, from the road to hybrid and mountain bikes, while the Schrader, the same type as cars use, can be found on cruiser bikes and on most city bicycles. Dunlop valves are also known as English or Woods valves.
Types of bike brakes
- V-brake – Old-school bike brake found on cheaper and simpler bicycles.
- Coaster brake – The back-pedal bike brake type that’s often found on the city- and cruiser bikes.
- Mechanical disc brake – Cable-actuated disc brake.
- Hydraulic disc brake – Disc brake system with oil being used instead of the cable.
Types of drivetrains
Different types of bicycles also share different setups.
- Derailleurs – Front and/or rear derailleur bicycle is the most common bike type out there that allows a cyclist to switch between multiple gears. Mechanical and electronic shifting are available.
- Internal gearing – Used among 3-speed cruisers, and some city bikes.
- Gearbox – A rare specimen, the most known name in the game must be Pinion.
- Belt-drive – With a service interval of 19,000mi (30,000km) Gates Carbon belt drive system allows a perfect alternative to traditional derailleur systems.