Our Guide to Buying: Bikes

How can I choose the right bike?

So you want to buy a bike but you don’t know what you want? “What is the right bike for me?” is the basis of every bike buying choice. Our bike buying guide will take you through a series of questions to help you navigate your way through the myriad options available to make sure you pedal away on the perfect bike for you.

Before you even think about budget, style or model answer this simple question. Are you intending to ride your bike purely on road, off-road or a little bit of both? If you are a committed roadie with no intentions of letting your wheels leave the black top, then you are firmly in the department for skinny tyres.

Not sure what bike you need? Answer the below questions to better understand what bike will be best for the type of riding you will be participating in.

Question 1: What will you use your bike for?

What are the best bikes for commuting?

Commuting to work is a brilliant way of saving time and money whilst also getting fitter. Your ride to work may very well end up being the best part of your working day! If you are commuting by bike there are a variety of options to choose from depending on what you need your bike to do.

Folding bikes are ideal as they allow you to seamlessly transition from road to train and bike again. Small enough to tuck under a desk or train seat they are also a great option for flat dwellers. Looking for more help in choosing a folding bike? Check out our folding bikes buying guide. A hybrid bike provides you with an upright, confidence inspiring position that allows you to feel safe and stable in traffic. It’s a great style of bike for commuting and you can add a rack and panniers to carry your work day essentials.

For a single-speed or 'fixie', not only do they look cool but they are mechanically very simple, highly reliable and light weight. Choose from flat bar or drop bar and enjoy the simplicity and retro styling of these minimalist machines. Other helpful information on commuter bikes can be found on our commuter and leisure bike buying guide.

What are the best bikes for sportive events?

Sportive or endurance bikes are fast, lightweight and high performance but with a gentle nod to comfort for long distance events. Slightly higher at the front end and shorter in the top tube these bikes are designed to be ridden all day without putting any strain on your lower back, neck or shoulders. This is the style favoured for sportive events such as Ride-It and RideLondon 100.

What are the best bikes for racing?

If you know you want to race then you will be wanting the most responsive, lightweight and aerodynamic bike you can afford. The geometry of a road race bikes is not designed for comfort; they are designed to be fast. The handling is quick and the positon is aggressive to allow the most aerodynamic position possible. Specific race bikes are available for time trial and triathlons which feature triathlon bars at the front to allow the rider to stretch out and get even lower. You can find advice on TT and triathlon bikes in our road bike buying guide.

What are the best bikes for touring?

Touring bikes feature relaxed geometry for comfort and to aid bike handling when riding fully laden. A touring bike is perfect for any type of long distance cycling or commuting but importantly it will feature eyelets for mudguards and pannier racks so you can load up your bike with enough kit for an overnight stop or multi-day trip. If you are interested in adventure also look at gravel bikes.

What are the best bikes for keeping fit or losing weight?

A good place to start is with a hybrid, it can be ridden on road or off-road, is great for gentle pottering but also fast enough to make longer rides a pleasure. It is highly versatile and won’t pigeon hole you to any type of terrain or cycling experience. A hybrid can be ridden in sportives, as a commuter bike or to accompany your kid’s bikes when they start riding. On the topic of kids, if you need help in choosing a children's bike, try our guide to buying kid's bikes.

What are the best bikes for off-road cycling?

If it’s the splatter of mud, the clatter of rocks and the freedom of getting away from the towns and traffics that you crave then you are definitely looking for an off-road machine. Mountain bikes come in many forms but they are all designed to withstand the rigours and challenges of off-road riding. Off-road bikes range from cyclo-cross bikes, which are similar to road bikes, through to full-suspension downhill bikes so we need to get a bit more detailed with the next question.

Question 2: Where do you intend to ride your bike?

What sort of bike will I need for moderately technical trails and bridleways?

If you like to ride up hill as well as downhill and enjoy the fitness challenge of off-road riding as much as the technical single track you are probably best looking for a cross-country bike. These machines can be fully rigid, have front suspension or full-suspension. They have less travel than trail bikes, are less burly and as a consequence are a little lighter and not as suitable for very steep, very technically difficult terrain.

What sort of bike will I need for technically challenging trails, alpine and mountainous riding?

Enduro, trail and all-mountain bikes are designed to take you into exciting, challenging environments where you will be pushing the limits of your skill and physical fitness. Efficient pedalling platforms means that these bikes can be comfortably ridden uphill so you can cover distance but really are maximum fun when the trail heads down. Perfect for enduro racing, alpine style riding and as much single-track mayhem as you can handle. Get more advice by taking a look at our mountain bike buying guide.

What sort of bike will I need for very technical, steep downhill riding?

Only suitable for uplift days’ pure downhill bikes prove their mettle when gravity kicks in. Long travel suspension, super slack head angles and clearance for wide tyres, it is all about control and speed whether you are racing, or at the bike park.

What sort of bike will I need for dirt jump tracks?

Whether you are pulling off some huge air or getting in some time at your local pump track these bikes are designed to be robust and reliable, to smooth out your landings and complement your riding style.

What sort of bike will I need for cyclo-cross racing?

If you want to race cyclo-cross events then you need a cross bike. Designed for off-road riding a true cross bike has fast responsive handling but also enough clearance for mud and geometry that is stable and balanced for riding technical terrain. Our cyclo-cross bike buying guide has some helpful hints and tips.

If you think you will ride your cross bike for other things as well as racing, such as commuting, touring or long distance, it would be worth checking out the bikes in the adventure road category also or taking a look at our guide to buying adventure road bikes.

What sort of bike will I need for both road and off-road riding?

So you don’t want to be limited by anything as mundane as surfaces; you want to be free to follow your instincts down roads, tracks and forest roads. Here you have two more choices to make.

Question 3: Do you prefer a more upright, flat bar mountain bike position or a drop-bar road bike style?

Do you prefer a more upright, flat bar mountain bike position or a drop-bar road bike style or BMX? What bikes use flat bar handlebars?

Hybrid bikes are designed to be the best of both worlds. Hybrid bikes have a similar riding position to a mountain bike, it’s a confidence inspiring position as you sit up tall and have your hands wide for good control. Tyre choice varies from being more suitable for road to being capable of handling fairly rough terrain. A hybrid is a great choice for riding canal towpaths, cycle tracks and gravel roads.

What bikes use drop handlebars?

Adventure road is a new genre of bike, they are based on a drop-handle bar, road bike style but with in-built off-road riding capabilities. They have clearance for wider tyres, disc brakes and eyelets for fitting mudguards and racks. On an adventure road bike you can explore your local woods or ride around the world. Probably the most versatile of all bikes, adventure road is the embodiment of freedom. For more information on the best choice of handlebar, read our handlebars & stems buying guide.

What are BMX bikes designed for?

BMX bikes are strong and designed for heavy duty riding whether that means freestyle or BMX racing, in the park or on dirt. Typically designed around a 20” wheel, although others are available, they feature a rigid frame and fork, and are incredibly robust. Perennially popular with kids of all ages and a great way to learn and develop bike handling skills! Want more advice on choosing a BMX bike? Our BMX bike buying guide can help!