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17 Different Bike Types Explained

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Unsure of which bike type is best for you?

We understand that there are many different types of bikes on the market, and it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. That’s why we created this guide – to help you understand the pros and cons of each type so you can make an informed decision.

Once you know which type of bike is best for you, YesCycling has a wide selection of bike reviews in every price range to choose from.

Let’s dive into the world of cycling with those 17 bike types:

Road Bikes

Road bike

Every bicycle built for traveling at speed on paved roads is classified as a road bike, designed and built for endurance but not necessarily for the speed riders whose ongoing goals include competing in races.

Road bikes offer more gear combinations but fewer “hi-tech” racing features and share the following commonalities: narrow, high-pressure tires that decrease rolling resistance and bent (dropped) handlebars that position the rider in a forward/downward posture that reduces air resistance. 

Typically lightweight and engineered with disc or rim brakes, road bikes usually come with derailleur gears. Considered the grandfather of all contemporary bicycles, road bikes are an industry stalwart that sets the standard for bicycle types in today’s market.

Aero Road Bikes

aero road bike

Known formally as aerodynamic bikes, Aero bikes are iterations of the road bike that employ aerodynamic principles to control the experience.

Debuting around 1985, when cyclists began complaining that manufacturers were producing bikes that were aerodynamically inefficient, dramatic changes in styling were made that allow hands and body to assume positions that are optimal for racing. 

Aero bikes feature extended aerodynamic fronts with spoilers, advanced guard bodywork, aero wheels to withstand friction, combinations of gears, and carbon framing.

Engineered for competitions, riding tours, and personal use, aerodynamic principles deliver fast easy gear changes and operation. While heavier than non-aero bikes, these cycles can be stiff, and not every rider tolerates long and low race geometry, making this a specialty bike that appeals to a distinct audience of riders.

Bikepacking Bikes

bikepacking bike

This bicycle genre was born of a movement known as “bikepacking,” which began trending with such enthusiasm. The bicycle manufacturing industry started making bikes to accommodate consumers who travel with gear.

Bikepackers engage in multi-day mountain tours, and in order to sustain men and women undertaking these treks, these bikes are tricked out with features like fittings for luggage and the trappings of sustainable living on the road. Bikepacking models come with lightweight and artfully designed features, so the rider is able to stay provisioned throughout the adventure. 

Attracting athletes who have no desire to set up tents, bikes designed to meet these riders’ desires are in high demand and tend to be “less overbuilt.” Frames aren’t as stiff, mounts are more diverse, and chainstays tend to be shorter because they are made for off-road terrain.

This bike style may have higher gear ratios, feature drive trains more often than not, and require fewer field-serviceable components.

Read more: Our Favorite Bikes for Bikepacking

Cyclocross Bikes

cyclocross bike

Cyclocross bikes are engineered for fun and versatility. These models feature a specific drop-bar form to tackle cyclocross activities involving mud, grass, sand, and other challenging terrains.

Frames are built according to optimized geometry so that riders can navigate technical courses fearlessly. Cyclocross bikes have shorter frame reaches, taller bottom brackets, and offer the rider taller positioning. 

Because they are meant for rugged terrain, knobby tires are essential beneath a frame with expanded clearance at the frame, and a fork rebuffs mud and debris that can bog riders down.

Known as a CX bike, cyclocross bikes features are similar to those found on mountain bikes and sport disc brakes and tubeless tires. Many of these bikes feature mounts and fixtures designed for racks and mudguards.

Endurance Road Bikes

endurance road bike

Relatively new to the market, endurance road bikes (aka sportive or gran Fondo bikes) feature specific carbon layups to improve frame compliance, relaxed geometry for more comfort on long rides, enhanced clearances suiting wider tires, and disc brakes that stand up to myriad weather conditions.

Some models offer short travel suspension that delivers even more comfort. 

Explicitly designed to make long days on a bike easier and more comfortable (hence the term endurance), this model’s body configuration protects the lower torso from shocks and vibrations transmitted via seat-posts and saddles.

Read more: Best Bikes for Seniors

Endurance bikes are best known for their ability to tone legs, so bikers travel longer. Increasing in popularity, look for more manufacturers to get into this niche.

Flat Bar Road Bikes

This hybrid bike is optimized for road use and built upon designs used to manufacture fitness bikes.

Flat handlebars replace drop bars, frame construction, and geometry borrow significantly from conventional road bikes, and the light- or middle-weight frame promotes an aggressive, aerodynamic posture preferred by cyclists craving speed.

Neither wheel hosts conventional suspension, while the carbon or steel front fork can help moderate shaking and vibrations. 

Flat bar road bikes require 700c wheels and their drivetrains are an amalgam of bike styles that include mountain bike trigger-shifting. Linear-pull brakes have been displaced by disc brakes used for mountain bikes.

Lighter and easier to pedal, drop bar bikes have considerable aerodynamic advantages over conventional hybrids and make an optimal compromise when it comes to stability and speed efficiencies.

Gravel Bikes

Gravel bikes have been winning the hearts and dollars of riders who seek rugged surfaces on roads less traveled. More robust and durable than standard road bikes, they feature increased gear range, and frame space leaves room for the widest tires on the market.

While gravel bikes may look like cyclocross models, savvy cyclists know how differently they operate, offering versatility, fast road rides, off-trail, fire roads, and gravel. 

Comfortable to ride, gravel bikes have long wheelbases, long or tall head tubes plus a shorter top tube that positions riders for maximum performance. The slack headtube angle enables slow speeds, yet the bike won’t twitch like other road bikes.

Gravel bikes tend to be heavier, relying upon large tires that deliver serious gripping and disc brakes eliminate the need for rim-brake calipers, while gears are designed to tackle long distances at slower speeds just as easily.

Read more: Best Gravel Bikes Under $1500

Time Trial Bikes

time trial bike

Time trials have been called the purest form of bike racing, and these bicycle designs give cyclists a racer’s edge thanks, in part, to the rider’s ability to maximize aerodynamics that help them move at top speeds.

In cyclist lingo, time trial bikes cheat the wind while standing up to demands imposed by riders who love to compete. Designed to perform best on flat terrain, aerodynamics trump comfort, and weight every time. 

These machines feature forward-facing tri-bars that produce a narrow silhouette and a shorter head tube that forces the body into an aggressive position perched atop the bottom bracket.

Wheels on time training models are either solid disc or spoked. Unique features combine to push riders purposefully forward since participants cannot draft behind fellow competitors when they compete.

Touring Bikes

touring bike

Bike browsers shopping for touring bikes usually notice this bike’s vintage styling first. Touring bikes have long wheelbases, steel frames, and mudguards. These durable, versatile rides are considered the epitome of exploration bikes.

Strong, capable of hauling heavy loads, and featuring myriad mounting points, these “blast from the past” models are easy to repair, and finding replacement parts is easy. This bike’s geometry favors stability, as do the long wheelbase, chainstays, and slack frame angles. Wheels are ultra-rugged, and disc brakes come standard. 

Many touring bikes feature high spoke counts, strong double- or triple-wall alloy rims, and well-sealed hubs. The trendiest touring bikes come with front hub power sources that connect to GPS systems and lights, a prime reason this bike is ideal for multi-day bike tours.

Drop bars permit the rider to vary his hand position, and mudguards are considered essential. Ideal for multi-day rides, touring bikes rely upon panniers to handle supplies riders carry during their trips.

Touring bikes feature multiple mounting points to support everything from luggage racks and fenders to bottle cages on frames. Find road, sport, expedition, mixed terrain, foldable, recumbent, and tandem touring bikes within this collection of bikes, the choice of modern-day Sherpas who spend their days carrying all sorts of loads to and from destinations.

Hardtail Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes have stout, upright frames, and a higher clearance is essential for dealing with rocks, logs, and obstacles mountain terrain throws in the path of cyclists, which is why they are considered quintessential abuse-takers.

Wide, knobby tires with less tire pressure give the rider better traction beneath steel frames that make this a heavier ride that is prone to rust if not treated well. Aluminum and carbon fiber have begun to replace steel, though not every mountain biker finds either material to have steel’s tenacity. 

Mountain bike handlebars are typically flat, extending straight from the stem, offering a wider grip so riders can assume optimal positions for vision and control. Because the center of gravity is well-positioned, riders easily shift their weight to maintain balance.

Mountain bikes’ wide gearing range helps riders adjust to ever-changing terrain and elevations, and riders are offered from 16 to 27 possible gear combinations, one reason this bike is so popular.

Cross Country Bikes

Don’t confuse cross country bikes (XC) with Cyclocross Bikes (CX) because there are differences beyond just those inverted letters. Cross-country bikes are among the lightest mountain bikes on the market, weighing between 15 and 35 pounds and featuring front suspension forks.

Some models offer rear suspension. XC frame geometry positions the rider in a more upright position than do mountain bicycles and downhill bikes. 

Fitted with fully rigid or near-rigid carbon or steel front forks, riders enjoy superior ground feel thanks to front suspension forks fitted with air springs that absorb shocks and impact. Further, XC bikes allow riders to more efficiently channel pedaling power into acceleration, especially on uphill stretches.

Wheel size is typically 29-inches, and tires tend to be narrower, though some cyclists prefer a 27.5-inch wheel. Seatpost design differs from trail bikes, and the material of choice is either rigid carbon or aluminum.

Trail Mountain Bike

trail mountain bike

The very definition of versatility, trail mountain bikes deliver the geometry that makes sure a rider doesn’t get bogged down during steep climbs and technical trails while delivering a comfortable ride. Modern trail mountain bikes feature short stems, wide handlebars, and short chainstays that boost maneuverability.

Related: What Makes Full Suspension MTB’s So Expensive?

Some mountain trail bikes offer high and low settings that make climbing and descending easier. To save weight, trail mountain bikes are built with traditional shocks, usually air rather than a coil. Sporting the biggest variety of wheel options, 27.5 wheels are fast replacing 29ers because maneuverability is superior. 

Optimal tires for this bike type are narrower, lighter, and have aggressive tread patterns to tackle daunting mountain trails. Either 1x or 2x drivetrains can be found on these bikes, and while 10 and 11-speed cassettes have been standard, 12-speeds are becoming the system of choice.

Typically two or four piston hydraulic disc brakes come standard to deliver a reliable, powerful, highly-controlled stop.

Enduro Mountain Bikes

enduro mountain bike

Fans of Enduro bikes insist that this ride bridges mountain bike and technological advances borrowed from other off-road bikes. Enduros reward all cyclists, appealing to hard-core adrenaline junkies and mellower types.

This bike responds to every terrain. They are purpose-built machines that balance efficient climbing with smooth descents courtesy of front and rear suspension systems. 

Enduro bikes are durable, lighter, stiffer, feature remote lockout forks and telescoping dropper posts. Favoring 27.5-inch wheels for stability and a fast ride, Enduro technology includes innovative clutch derailleurs, tubeless tires that are essential for grip and balance, plus shorter stems, wider handlebars.

The choice of athletes who thrive on hills, mountains, and trails, Enduros rarely disappoint riders craving this array of features.

Downhill Mountain Bikes

There are subtle differences between downhill and freeride mountain bikes. Similarities include full-suspension systems that combine shock absorbers in both the front fork and underneath the saddle for a smoother ride. Both bike types are made of steel, carbon fiber, aluminum, or titanium.

Downhill mountain bikes are engineered for riders whose technical skills center around racing. They are crafted to withstand punishment and feature heavy-duty rims that won’t buckle. Riders of downhill mountain bikes travel long distances thanks to geometry and shocks that contribute to maintaining balance and control during the steepest declines. 

Conversely, freeride mountain bikes are more versatile because they deliver different gear ratios. Rider position is closer to the bike’s center of gravity, and because frames and wheels aren’t as heavy-duty, inclines are more easily conquered. In sum, freerides are designed to deal with all challenges, while downhill types meet the fast-paced demands of downhill racers.

Hybrid/Commuter Bikes

hybrid bike

By definition, hybrid bicycles are an amalgam of features found on road bikes, touring bikes, and mountain bikes. Stable, comfortable, and easy to operate, hybrids feature flat, straight handlebars, upright seating positions similar to mountain bikes, and feature lighter-weight, thinner wheels and road/mountain bike tires.

Offering greater speed and less exertion, hybrids are frequently marketed as city, cross, or commuter bikes. 

Typical features include derailleur gearing, 700c wheels, 29mm tires, full fenders, and a frame with suitable mounting points for load-carrying baskets or panniers. An enclosed chainguard allows commuters to travel without soiling long pants. Nearly identical to commuter bikes, city bikes tend to have mountain-bike size 26-inch tires, full fenders, and quick, solid handling.

Folding Bikes

folding bikes

The history of folding bikes began during WWII when the British War Office requested folding bikes to be parachuted into enemy territory with soldiers. Today, these products solve dilemmas that include storage and theft.

Folding bikes pair design and function plus the convenience of compact size. They vary in folding mechanisms, come in a wide range of weights, and are so diverse, folding mountain, road, and cruiser bikes are all available. 

There are 175+ folding bike companies operating, but products tend to have the same features: gears, drop-down handlebars, and comfort features. Folding bikes save space, transport effortlessly, and fit easily into car trunks, closets, and small apartment layouts.

The newest versions in this category are electric folding bikes with motors the size of gas-powered weed eaters.

Electric Bikes

electric bikes

There are two types of e-bikes: ‘factory’ and ‘kit’ types. They work by automatically switching on the motor when pedals are depressed. Motors may be installed within the wheel hub or at the site of the crankshaft.

According to experts, crank motors offer riders a “more authentic” experience because the motor senses the amount of power generated by the pedals, so the harder the rider pedals, the more the motor helps the process. While crank motors are more responsive than wheel hub motors, they permit electric bicycles to roll more freely since there is no additional drag. 

As for hub motors, they are simpler and less efficient because they don’t sense the amount of power generated by pedaling. This style of e-bike operates in “on” and “off” modes.

About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.