There are a wide variety of bike types available to buy, either new or second hand.
A few of the more common types are listed below.

The most popular type is the mountain bike, also known as all terrain bikes. These are easily visible by their flat handlebars, chunky frames and wide tyres.
The riding position is fairly upright, which has advantages for visibility and comfort but can be harder work in the wind.
These bikes are designed to be used off road and therefore are fairly robust.
They often come with suspension systems (which acts as shock absorbers), which smooth out the ride, but means greater maintenance worries.
MTBs brakes are the most powerful of all bike types.
The main drawbacks are weight; all that extra strength makes the bike heavier.
Big knobbly tyres tend to drag on tarmac and slow you down. It is possible to fit slimmer tyres to counter this.

Road bikes, commonly known as “racers”, are easily recognised by their curved drop handlebars.
These are designed for use on the road; they can be very quick and efficient due to their light weight, bigger wheels and narrow, high pressure tyres.
These aren’t as comfortable to ride as a mtb and their brakes aren’t as powerful either.
Some people find the riding position uncomfortable and intimidating, something that can be rectified by fitting flat handlebars.

City Bikes or Hybrids are, as the name suggests, a combination of both road and mtbs, often having a chunky mtb frame and mtb brakes with narrow tall wheels from a road bike.
These are useful in they give the best of both worlds, they also have fittings (often fitted as standard accessories from the shop) for mudguards, racks and panniers.

Folding bikes are becoming more popular especially with commuters who use more than one form of transport. Because they take up very little room they can easily be used for part of a journey by public transport or car.
These type of machines range from the classic 70’s “shopper” to modern very advanced machines with suspension and multiple gears. They are characterised by their small wheels, which provide an unusual ride.

Bmx bikes, designed for short racing or stunt riding aren’t really practical for use as a form of transport, although they are very popular amongst teenagers. They have small wheels and frames, all built to cope with a lot of abuse, this makes them very heavy and combined with the single gear makes it very hard to pedal one over long distances.

Tandems are bikes that are designed to carry two people. They can be built like road or off road bikes even recumbents.
Amongst the benefits are: they are more efficient, more sociable and they allow people with visual impairment to enjoy cycling.
They are very useful for riding with a child or with someone who is not very confident on the bike.
They do cause problems when navigating shared use paths a most access barriers can’t cope with the design of the bike.

Tricycles are three wheeled bikes. As they are very stable they are useful for people with balance and mobility problems, although they do take some getting used to.
They can either have an extra wheel at the back or have one fitted to the front; they are quite useful for carrying loads and are used in industry for this purpose. Unfortunately due to their extra width the are not as manoeuvrable in traffic.

Recumbents are bikes that allow are more laid back seating position; they commonly have the pedals much further forward from the saddle than “normal” bikes.
They can range from semi-recumbents; which look almost like a normal bike, to some ones, which are very low to the ground.

semi recumbents
They have very great benefits to people who suffer from a variety of ailments, from heart conditions to back problems.
Because of their low position they are by far the most efficient and comfortable to ride of all bicycle types.

A recumbent tricycle is very good for people with balance problems.
Their low height does present problems with visibility, but many people use them as a daily commuting machine. The are very good for touring as their high efficiency and good handling allow luggage to be carried easily.

Nearly all modern bikes have very efficient multi gear set-ups, which make it easier to get around.
City and folding bikes tend to have hub gears that hide all the mechanical workings away inside the centre of the wheel. This makes for a lower maintenance ride, often they come supplied with full chainguards to allow cycling in “normal” clothes.

Other type of bikes have derailleur gears, (colloquially referred to as an “s bend”), which offer a broader range of gears, tend to be lighter and can be customized to higher or lower gearing ranges. The downsides are they need regular maintenance, and can get clothes messy.


Article dated 2000 / 2001

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