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Types of Bicycles - Which one should I buy?

This may come as a surprise to many, but there are several types of bicycles in the world (for more info, check out this Wikipedia article). However the basic types are few and easy to differentiate once you gain familiarity. The difference is generally in the geometry of the bicycle according to the type of riding intended. Therefore it is important to decide what type of riding do you intend to do (commuting, long distance, off-road etc.) before making a purchasing decision.

For riding in Pakistan, following three basic bicycle types should cater to the majority of riding styles. Your decision would be based on your preference among speed, comfort and ability to ride on rough terrain (off-road). One bicycle cannot cater to all 3 parameters so there has to be a have to prioritize among the three capabilities. Of course, if you can afford it, you CAN buy one or more of each type. 😉

A newcomer should start with a Hybrid bicycle.

Road Bikes

Road bikes (or Roadies as cyclists passionately call them) are built for SPEED. They are to be ridden over paved roads/tarmac and due to rider's crouched "aero" position, takes some time getting used to it. However once the rider gets "tuned-in", then long distance & century rides are the mainstay among road cyclists.
These bicycles are characterized by curved handlebars and thin rim wheels with usually slick tires.
Road bikes are further broadly classified into:
Cyclocross: Relaxed geometry, heavier built and slightly wider tires to enable light off-road capability (e.g. riding on gravel and cobblestone)

Endurance/Touring: Relaxed geometry. Perfect for long distance riding
Race: Aggressive geometry, lighter build, thin rims and slick tires.
Triathlon/Time Trial: Most aggressive geometry. lightest build. Build for riding short distances with maximum speed. Usually costs the most.

A beginner interested in road bikes should go for Endurance or Cyclocross bicycle. There is also a Flatbar road bicycle but that is generally not available in Pakistan.

Mountain Bikes (MTB) 

Mountain bikes are purpose built for off-road riding. They are heavy, built to last and provide decent amount of comfort to the rider. MTB's are characterized by having wide, knobby tires and shocks/suspensions. Due to being heavy and increased tire grip due to wide tires, these are the slowest when it comes to speed among bicycles types. There are mainly two types of mountain bikes.

Hardtail: These MTB's only have front shocks/suspensions that absorb the shocks when riding a rough terrain.

Full Suspension: These mountain bikes have both front and back suspensions. These are the heaviest and most expansive types of mountain bicycles. They provide the most comfort to the rider and can tackle any kind of terrain.

Hybrid Bikes

As the name suggests, these are hybrid of road and mountain bicycles merging the best of both worlds. Hybrids take the geometry & wheels from road bikes and flatbar handles and drive-train (chain, sprockets) from mountain bikes.
These are more general purpose and suited to multiple use cases therefore recommended as a first bicycle for a new rider providing most comfortable, upright sitting position.

Hybrids are also called City, Commuter or Urban Bikes. In Pakistan, the de-facto commuter bicycle is the locally mass produced "Sohrab". However at least in the main cities, several people have started using imported hybrids for commuting due to their lighter weight and ability to change gears according to incline/decline in the terrain. In contrast, Sohrab is a fixed gear, rather heavy bicycle.

In the next blog post, I will provide information about selecting proper bicycle size and locations in Pakistan where one can buy a bicycle of their choice and budget.

Next Post:  Bicycle Sizing and Shops in Pakistan


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