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12 Different Types of Bikes for Every Terrain & Rider

WriterAcademy Staff
12 min read
Group of friends on different types of bikes ride together in the forest

Ready to rediscover the joy of childhood bike rides or embark on new off-road adventures? With such an overwhelming array of options, wondering where to start and how to narrow down your bike type of choice is only natural.

Our complete guide will help you navigate the bike-buying process and find the perfect ride that fits your unique needs.

Key Takeaways

What Type of Bike Should I Get?

Before you buy just any bike, you'll want to consider the variety of options available on the market. To simplify things, we've divided our recommendations into two categories: popular bikes and specialty bikes.

  • Most popular types of bikes: Road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, electric bikes (e-bikes), & hybrid bikes
  • Specialty types of bikes: Touring bikes, gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes, folding bikes, BMX bikes, kids' bikes, & fixed gear

Popular types of bikes are the ones you'll most commonly find in bike stores. They are loved by riders worldwide. Specialty bikes are bikes that cater to specific interests and activities. They offer distinct advantages for those seeking a particular riding experience.

What Are the Most Popular Types of Bikes?

Road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, electric bikes (e-bikes), and cruiser bikes are among the most sought-after options. They cater to different preferences and riding styles, ensuring there's something for everyone.

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Popular Types of Bikes Guide
Bike Type Riding Style Best Terrain Typical Rider(s) Comfort + Performance Price Range (USD)
Road Bike Aerodynamic, fast-paced Paved roads, smooth surfaces Fitness enthusiasts, racers, beginner riders Very comfortable and offer performance $130 - $12,000+
Mountain Bike Off-road, adventurous Dirt trails, rough terrain Trail riders, adventure seekers Moderate comfort, versatile $200 - $10,000+
Hybrid Bike Multi-purpose, casual Paved and unpaved roads Commuters, casual riders Comfortable, easy to ride $200 - $3,000+
Electric Bike (e-bike) Assisted, long-distance Varies (depends on the model) Commuters, riders with mobility issues, city riders High comfort, electric assistance $500 - $10,000+
Cruiser Bike Relaxed, leisurely Flat, paved roads & sidewalks Casual, recreational riders High comfort, easy to ride $200 - $2,000+

Whether you're craving the thrill of off-road trails, the speed of the open road, or the versatility of a hybrid, these popular bike types have you covered!

Specialty Types of Bikes

Specialty bikes are perfect for more advanced riders or those with specific preferences or terrains in mind. They're typically harder to find at your local sports, outdoor, or recreation stores. But they offer unique features and capabilities.

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Specialty Types of Bikes Guide
Bike Type Riding Style Best Terrain Typical Rider(s) Comfort + Performance Price Range (USD)
Touring Bike Long-distance, loaded Paved roads, smooth trails Long-distance travelers Comfortable for long rides $800 - $5,000+
Gravel Bike Off-road, mixed terrain Gravel roads, dirt, paved roads Adventure seekers, commuters Moderate comfort, versatile $1,000 - $6,000+
Cyclocross Bike Off-road racing, mixed terrain Gravel, dirt, mud, paved roads Cyclocross racers Moderate comfort, performance $1,000 - $8,000+
Folding Bike Urban, commuting Flat, paved roads, sidewalks City dwellers, commuters Compact, easy to carry $200 - $3,000+
BMX Bike Freestyle, street, dirt jumps Skate parks, dirt track Freestyle and street riders Compact, maneuverable $200 - $2,000+
Kids' Bike Recreational, learning Sidewalks, parks, flat terrain Children Age-appropriate, easy to ride $60 - $600+
Fixed Gear Urban, commuting, track racing Paved roads, velodromes Minimalists, urban riders Simple, low maintenance $200 - $2,500+

From touring bikes designed for long-distance adventures to gravel bikes built for off-road exploration, there's a specialty bike for every niche.

Different Types of Bikes Available Today

To help you navigate this vast world of bikes, we've prepared an in-depth overview of each type where we delve into their distinctive features, purposes, and characteristics:

Road Bikes Explained

Road bikes are specifically designed for smooth riding on tarmac surfaces. Beginners can start with a road bike to explore the world of cycling. They come in a range of prices, allowing you to choose one that suits your budget.

  • These bikes often feature frames made from either aluminum or carbon.
  • They offer a balance of durability and lightweight construction.
  • They do not have front suspension, so you may experience a slightly bumpier ride.

Mountain Bikes Explained

Mountain bikes are made for off-road trails. These bikes usually have gears from 7 to 12 that adjust speed and power based on trail incline and difficulty.

  • Their handlebars give riders a comfortable, controlled grip while navigating challenging terrain.
  • Many come with shock-absorbing suspension systems that give riders a smoother, more comfortable ride.
  • The wide tires on these bikes provide good traction and stability.

Hybrid Bikes Explained

Hybrid bikes blend features of road and mountain bikes. They're great for commuting on both pavement and trails.

  • Flat handlebars on hybrids promote comfortable riding and control in an upright riding position.
  • Hybrids balance features without being too specialized.
  • Their lightweight frames make them efficient and enjoyable to ride.

Electric Bikes Explained

Electric bikes (or e-bikes) have motors to help riders. Some models work like mopeds, while others aid in pedaling.

  • E-bikes can reach speeds of 15-20 mph.
  • They cost more but make long rides easier.
  • Many manufacturers now make electric versions of their bikes.

Cruiser Bikes Explained

Cruiser bikes are great for relaxed, leisurely rides. They focus on comfort and style — often with retro features.

  • They have wide 26-inch tires for stability and smoothness.
  • They usually feature wide seats and swept-back handlebars to enhance comfort.
  • Prices vary, with more features on expensive models.

Touring Bikes Explained

Touring bikes are specially designed for long-distance cycling adventures — providing comfort and reliability. They feature disc brakes, which offer enhanced stopping power and better control.

  • Sturdy frames handle rough terrain like gravel roads.
  • Frames are designed to attach gear like panniers and racks.
  • They're ideal for carrying camping and trip supplies.

Gravel Bikes Explained

Gravel bikes are made for gravel racing and cycling. Wide tires let riders handle gravel, dirt, and off-road trails.

  • Drop handlebars offer comfort and control for long rides.
  • Low gears help riders manage steep inclines.
  • Sporty geometry promotes an aggressive riding position.

Cyclocross Bikes Explained

Cyclocross bikes are road bikes designed for cyclocross racing. They handle surfaces like pavement, gravel, and grass.

  • Their geometry balances road racing and off-road performance.
  • Aggressive tire treads and disc brakes provide control.
  • Ample clearance helps prevent mud and debris build-up.

Folding Bikes Explained

Folding bikes are a fantastic option for commuters since they can fold into a compact size, making them easy to carry and store.

  • Folding bikes feature small wheels, which contribute to their compact size and agility in urban environments.
  • Folding bikes offer a comfortable riding experience, thanks to adjustable seat heights and handlebars.
  • Folding bikes cater to various budgets: from affordable to high-end models.

BMX Bikes Explained

BMX bikes (which stands for Bicycle Motocross) are designed for jumps, tricks, and freestyle riding. BMX bikes typically have small frames and wheels.

  • They are commonly referred to as trick bikes and are favored by children, teens, and adults.
  • BMX bikes are single-speed, allowing focus on technique.
  • They often have only front brakes or none at all.

Kids' Bikes Explained

Kids' bikes are specially designed to cater to the unique needs and proportions of young riders. Many children start on a balance bike at 2-3 years old. Balance bikes help them develop balance and coordination before transitioning to pedal bikes.

  • Unlike adult bikes that are sized based on frame height, kids' bikes are sized according to their wheel size.
  • These bikes feature smaller frames and come with wheel sizes ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches.
  • Some kids' bikes are equipped with training wheels and also come in vibrant colors and playful designs.

Fixed Gear Bikes Explained

Fixed gear bikes have a single gear, requiring constant pedaling. They have a minimalistic design with lightweight frames.

  • Many models feature a front brake for safety.
  • They're good for winter riding due to better control.
  • They come in various prices to suit different budgets.

Which Type of Bike is Right for Me?

Choosing the right bike starts with understanding your lifestyle and specific needs. Consider whether you'll be using it for leisurely rides, competitive racing, or performing tricks.

Once you have a clear purpose in mind, you can move on to a budget. Take the time to explore various brands, read reviews, and compare prices. If possible, visit a bike shop to test drive the bike and get a feel for its performance firsthand.

Have Fun Out There!

Let's get you pedaling! Whether you choose a road bike, electric bike, fixed gear bike, or another style, there's no wrong way to ride. Academy offers a wide range of bikes and brands at different price points and in different styles so you can choose a bike designed to fit your comfort and needs.

From relaxing bike paths to scenic mountain views, exploring nature or biking with friends has never been easier. Enjoy your brand-new bike and the many outdoor adventures to come!