Choosing a Bike

Of all the types of bikes to choose from, how do you know which one’s right for you?

First ask yourself, "Which type of cyclist am I?"

Are you:

  1. Recreational? (You mostly bike for leisure or part of your regular exercise routine.)
  2. Utilitarian? (You mostly bike to work or to do errands, etc.)
  3. Competitive? (You want to participate in organized races.)

Then ask yourself, "Which style of riding do I want to do?"

Do you mostly want to:

  1. Ride on trails?
  2. Commute to work or other destinations?
  3. Do long distance touring?

Answering these questions and learning the differences between the 4 main types of bikes will help you find the bike that best suits your needs.

4 Main Types of Bikes

Bicycle Type Riding Style Benefits / Recommended For Considerations Features
Mountain Bike
Mountain Bike
Recreational Off road and trail riding Small, fat tires make it difficult for gaining speed on roads and in cities Fat, small tires
Triple chainwheel
Low gears
Heavy-duty frame
Big treads
Road Bike
Road Bike
Utilitarian/ commuting/ competitive on-road, city riding
speed training and competition
dropped handle bar
thin and big tires
double chainwheel
side pull brakes
lighter but stiffer frame
Utility (City/ Commuter) Bike
Utility (City/ Commuter) Bike
Utilitarian/ recreational City riding
Typically used for short-distance commuting, running errands, shopping, etc.
Heavier than sport bicycles
Built to let people ride in regular clothes in various weather conditions
upright handlebars
medium sized tires
wide seats
chain guards
skirt guards
a step through frame (for women)
Hybrid Bike
Hybrid Bike
Recreational/ utilitarian good for on/off road riding
good for people who want to ride on trails that are both on/off road
flat handlebars
medium sized tires
medium treads
triple chainwheel
fender eyelets

Bike sizing and fit

Fit should be your main focus when buying a new bike. If you’re comfortable riding your bike and you can control it easily, then your bike is the right size.

Use these general guidelines to find the right-sized bike for you.

Aspect How to test
Frame size Straddle your bicycle frame and put your feet flat on the ground. There should be 2-5 cm between you and the top tube.
Distance between seat and handlebars For most bikes, the distance between the front tip of your seat and the handlebars should reach from your elbows to fingers. This distance will affect your riding posture: the more distance between the handlebars and seat, the more hunched over you’ll be when you ride.  
Seat height Sit on the seat, and then place your foot on the pedal. Check to make sure your knee bends slightly when the pedal is at the lowest position.  
Seat position Sit on the seat, and then move one pedal to the lowest position. Check to make sure your knee is directly over this pedal. The nose (front) of the seat should be level with the back of the seat.  
Handlebars Handlebars come in many heights and lengths.  Choose a style, size and position that will let you ride comfortably for a long time.

Bicycle shops will also help size a bicycle for you.

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