Picking the best bike to suit your needs can be a tricky task. Whether you want to commute, get fit or just explore the countryside, the bicycle is the perfect tool to do that. But there are a confusingly huge — and growing — number of different types of bike to choose from.1

To get us started, here’s a list of our specific buying advice for a number of common types of bike: If none of that made sense to you, read on for more in-depth advice. It’s important to have a think about what you want to do with your bike and where you’ll be going because the best bike for you totally depends on this.2

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There are many different types of cycling and a multitude of bikes that will let you achieve them. Whether you’re an urban commuter, a lightning-quick road racer, a trail centre hero, downhiller, fixed-wheel fanatic, gravel path explorer or something else, there’s a suitable bike out there for you. Road bikes are best for riding on smooth, asphalted roads.3

They’ve got lightweight frames and skinny tyres designed to help you achieve maximum speed for minimum effort. They have dropped handlebars (i.e. ones that loop down and backwards) that allow you to get into an efficient and aerodynamic riding position and have gearing that’s all about maximum speed. Under the guise of slightly more relaxed ‘endurance’ bikes, they’ll let you embark on big-mile rides with friends, but also lend themselves very well to commuting thanks to their ability to cover ground quickly.4

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Many dedicated road bikes, especially ones at the racier end of the spectrum, will also lack the ability to carry luggage — so, if you need to lug a hefty load, a pure-bred road bike might not be ideal. Quick, efficient and fun Easier to damage, less comfortable for casual riders Mountain bikes are best for riding off road.5

They also have powerful brakes that use motorcycle-style discs, and more expensive machines will have suspension at both ends for better control over rough ground. The gearing is designed to get you up and down steep terrain, with a wide range to take on the varying gradients. Even if you don’t plan to tackle mountain ranges, mountain bikes can be a good choice for general leisure riding thanks to their more relaxed riding position.6

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If you fancy heading into the back of beyond, pushing your limits and exploring the path less travelled, then check out our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bikes. Great brakes, upright position, tough, versatile Heavy, slow on tarmac Hybrid bikes are a very popular choice for bike commuters, thanks to their versatility.7

They’re great if you need to cover on-road distance but don’t want to contort yourself into an uncomfortable riding position. Sitting in a more upright position may be less aerodynamically efficient but it also allows you to look further ahead, which is a huge boon in heavy urban traffic. If you want to go quickly on good roads but you prefer a more upright position or don’t get on with drop handlebars, this is the way to go.8

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Hybrid bikes often use more powerful disc brakes that give more consistent performance in wet weather, though at a slight weight penalty. They’re also equipped with plenty of mounts that allow you to carry more luggage, such as specialist pannier bags. If you need to bridge the gap between urban performance and confident handling, then our guide to the best hybrid bikes will give you all the information you need to know.9

While a hybrid bike is best suited to the city, a touring bike is designed to take on everything from a commute to a continent-crossing adventure. They tend to have the same fast-rolling 700c wheels as road and hybrid bikes, but with fatter tyres that allow you to take on a mixture of terrain in comfort.10

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The more relaxed riding position and more stable geometry of a touring bike mean that you can take on almost anything, whether it be a mountain pass when fully loaded with supplies or a quick spin to work. If you need a highly versatile all-rounder then you should take a look at our guide to the best touring bikes, whether you’re going to familiar places or off the beaten track.11

Overlapping with the touring category, gravel bikes — also known as adventure bikes, all-road bikes or bikepacking bikes — are becoming very popular and fashionable, and it’s easy to see why. Gravel bikes combine road bike looks and speed with loads of frame clearance for fitting fat, knobbly tyres of 35mm-wide or more that can get you across almost any terrain, including terrible tarmac, gloopy mud, bridleways, gravel paths and more.

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