Looking to get a new bike? If it’s been a while since your last purchase of one, you might want to take a step back and take a more careful look at what the market has to offer. Many people choose their first (or first few) bikes without putting much thought into them, simply getting the first thing with two wheels that’s within their price range. But the truth is that the market is quite well developed and has a lot to offer to those who know what they are looking for. The most important detail to be aware of is that there are various different types of bikes available to choose from, and each of them serves a completely unique purpose. Make sure to at least be aware of the options you have before committing to your purchase.
The most common type of bike you can find on the market – both new and used – a road bike is designed to, as the name implies, take you around city roads. It can vary in its exact design, but the most common features are relatively thin tires, a sturdy frame, and a relatively lightweight build. They are also often designed to be used in an upright position, or close to it – though there are some designs that will have you leaning forward, especially racing-oriented ones. Gear range may also be an issue if you frequently have to switch in your local area, as many road bikes tend to lean towards higher gears, making slower cycling less comfortable.
A mountain bike is primarily built with one purpose – to endure a lot of abuse. They typically feature sturdier frames (which can end up heavier as a result), a better gear range than road bikes, and more features designed to prevent the bike from becoming unusable after some damage (like dirt protectors, covered gears, and more). Mountain bikes also usually have much wider tires designed to take you through all kinds of uneven terrain, where a regular bike might crawl to a complete halt. Suspensions and other similar features meant to improve comfort on bumpy rides are also commonly found in these. More expensive mountain bikes may also come with custom-made aluminum frames that combine durability with reduced weight, though these can cost quite a lot as some of them are not welded but cast entirely.
Electric bikes have been gaining a lot of popularity in recent times. They are usually based on regular city bike designs, with an added electric motor that can drive the bike either entirely, or partially as an assist to your pedaling. The main design features don’t tend to differ too much from ordinary designs, but there are some important differences to note. The most crucial one is what happens once the battery is dead. Many models will still allow you to ride the bike as a normal, manual one, but you might meet some resistance in the pedals depending on the design. This will be especially noticeable on uphill rides. Depending on your local terrain, that may not be much of an issue, but it’s still something worth keeping in mind.
If you frequently find yourself lugging around a lot of stuff – for example, if you take your bike to the grocery store – a cargo bike might be just what you need. Understanding how to choose a cargo bike can be a bit of a learning experience, as they come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages that you’ll have to carefully consider. Velosurance has a pretty good write-up on the subject, and following the tips of someone with enough experience in the field like them is a good idea if you don’t want to be disappointed by your purchase.
For those who plan on using their bike to shorten certain parts of their commute, a folding bike can be a great investment. It works exactly as you would guess from the name – it looks like an ordinary bike (usually without the top bar on the frame), but can be easily folded down into a compact shape that can be carried around like a briefcase. Folding bikes are great for light city rides and are perfect for taking on the bus or train, but they are definitely not designed to take any serious amount of abuse. Make sure that your trips with this type of bike are limited to flat, well-maintained roads, as repairing a broken folding bike can be an expensive ordeal.
These are the main types of bike that most people would be interested in – there are other, more specialized designs, but you likely won’t care much for them until you really get into the hobby and explore what it has to offer. Until then, make sure that you choose your first purchase carefully, and keep the bike well-maintained in the long run to maximize the value of your investment.