What bike should I buy?
So, you've decided you want to buy a bike - great! Cycling is one of the most accessible and rewarding things you can do, whether you want to get fit, lose weight, or just get around. Choosing the right bike can be a minefield though, with an increasingly vast range of bikes available all designed for different purposes. But fear not, we're here to help and in the guide below you'll find all you need to know to help choose the right bike for you.
Firstly, it's important to think about what you plan to do with your new bike and where you're going to ride it, as this will have the biggest impact on the type of bike that suits you best. Will you just be sticking to the roads, or will you be heading off-road more often than not? Are you planning long rides into the countryside, or just need something to get to work on? However you answer these questions, there will almost certainly be a bike that will serve you proud.
Best for: Riding on tarmac, riding fast, and covering long distances
Road bikes, as you might expect, are designed for riding on surfaced roads. Characterised by skinny tyres, lightweight frames and dropped handlebars, road bikes encourage you to travel fast and eat up the miles. With a huge surge in popularity in recent years, you can now pick up a road bike to meet almost any budget, all the way up to the carbon fibre superbikes that you'll see in the Tour de France. With the ability to cover ground quickly, road bikes can also lend themselves well to commuting.
With their aggressive riding position some people might struggle to get comfortable on a road bike, and they can be less resilient to knocks and potholes than their beefier off-road siblings. If you need to carry a lot of luggage on your bike it's also worth bearing in mind that not all road bikes will have the required mounts.
There's a number of different niches within road bikes themselves:
- Sportive & Endurance bikes - these are designed for riding long miles, and tend to have a more relaxed geometry, or use certain manufacturing tricks to create a smoother ride.
- Road Race bikes - these are the crème de la crème of the road bike world, with aggressive positioning and superlight frames, and best suited to experienced riders.
- Aero road bikes - these bikes are designed specifically with aerodynamics in mind, so you'll find short head tubes, chunky airfoil tubes and deep section wheels.
- Time Trial bikes - another niche of road cycling is time trialling, where you compete to set the fastest time against the clock. These bikes are the most aerodynamically-extreme and use bar extensions to narrow your front profile. Definitely one for the racers!
Best for: Trail centres, off-piste rough terrain, bridleways and canals, pumptracks and jump parks
Mountain bikes are designed for charging round woods and trails - basically everything that road bikes aren't! As such, they have a number of design features that make them better suited to this terrain such as larger knobbly tyres for better grip and powerful disc-brakes to help you stop more effectively on uneven terrain. Depending on your preferred riding and budget you'll likely go for either a front suspension hardtail bike or a full-suspension bike with front and rear suspension which provide better control off-road. Mountain bikes can be great all-rounders too, with a more upright position and wide gearing range.
On the downside, however, mountain bikes are usually heavier than road bikes and the suspension can be inefficient when riding on smoother roads. The knobbly tyres will slow you down if you plan to do a lot of riding on tarmac as well.
As with road bikes, you'll find a few different options when it comes to mountain bikes:
- Full suspension - with both front and rear suspension, these bikes range from cross country whippet rigs to downhill monsters, and are the ideal choice for riders looking to get fast and rowdy.
- Hardtail - Hardtails take more skill to ride than their full suspension counter parts with their rigid rear end ensuring that you can't just let the suspension do the work for you. The result is a more engaging ride, less maintenance, and value for money.
Best for: General leisure riding
Hybrid bikes are the great all-rounder of the cycling world, combining the very best of road and mountain bike style and technology to give you the perfect mix of reliability and ride-ability - fast when you need it to be, but tough enough to cope with bumps and potholes.
The do-it-all design of a hybrid bike includes wide, straight handlebars and an upright sitting position for comfort and stability, with sturdy frame and mid-sized tyres. If you're not sure just what kind of riding you'll be doing, hybrid bikes are the perfect choice because they combine the best elements of performance, comfort and durability.
Gravel & Cyclocross bikes
Best for: Rough roads, limited off-road riding, and getting muddy!
Sitting somewhere between road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes, cyclocross & gravel bikes - or 'adventure' bikes, for some manufacturers - are essentially more capable road bikes, with drop handlebars but chunkier tyres and wider clearances to allow better handling on rough roads and trails. These bikes can be a great choice if you like the speed of a road bike but want something more capable, as many will also come with rack mounts and mudguards fitments, and with the better braking provided by disc brakes. Geometry is usually more relaxed than a road bike, but you can still find out-and-out cyclocross race bikes which will all be about speed.
Best for: Commuting, and those short on space
Folding bikes are an engineering marvel, and a convenient and practical alternative to the traditional bicycle. Best suited to short rides, you can ride to the station, fold your bike up, jump off at the other end, ride into the office, and stash your bike under your desk for the day. As you might expect, folding bikes are popular in big cities and due to their design they won't ride quite as well as a conventional bike.
In recent years, we have also seen a rise in electric folding bikes but what is the benefit of them? As folding bikes are often used by commuters, the added bonus of a motor and battery means they can commute further but not break into a sweat as they have a slight assistance over their ride.
Best for: Pretty much everything, really
We're huge fans of electric bikes here at Rutland Cycling, and they're becoming increasingly popular for both experienced riders and those new to the sport. The beauty of an electric bike is that first and foremost they are simply great bikes - but with the extra assistance of an electric motor to help you pedal. That means you can ride further than you might have been able to before, go out more often as you'll have used less energy, get up hills that might have bought you to a halt before, or get an extra loop in at a trail centre before heading home. With electric road bikes, electric mountain bikes, and electric hybrid bikes all available, there will almost certainly be something electric to suit you.
A road bike is a sleek and aerodynamic bike, with drop handlebars, capable of tackling long distances in a short amount of time. On the other hand, a hybrid bike can come in all different shapes and sizes and is usually used for commuting and leisure cycling.
On a Mountain bike, the common wheel sizes are either 27.5 inch (more agile and playful on the trails) or a 29 inch wheel (faster rolling and more stable). On a road bike and some hybrid bikes the wheel size is 700c which often house slightly skinnier tyres than standard which make them faster on the road.
The specification between each variation of bike will change quite a lot. For example, the gearing on a mountain bike has a wider range of ratios to get you up a steep mountain and then back down whereas a road bike has ratios set up for speed on the road.