Whether you’re looking to cut down on your carbon emissions or find your new favorite past-time, cycling is a fun and sustainable form of transportation. Riders hop on bikes for many reasons: as a form of exercise, a relaxing hobby, a competitive sport or a way to get from home to the office. And bike companies design models for every type of cyclist. So much so that, when you begin your search for the best bikes, you’ll encounter dozens of options, features and capabilities.
All that means it helps to narrow down your options. Kristin Mayer, founder of cycling apparel company Betty Designs, suggests you consider a few key criteria. First, choose what kind of surface you like to ride on. “This will help you narrow down what type of bike you need,” Mayer explains. For example, if you ride on flat and hilly pavement, you’ll want to search for a commuter, road bike, or e-bike. If you prefer dirt roads or trails, you may want to choose one of the best mountain bike or gravel bikes.
Then, consider your goals. “Do you want to cruise around and be comfortable? Or are races more of your thing?” Mayer asks. If you value comfort over speed, cruiser bikes can be a great option for flat regions. But if you’re training for a race, a road or gravel bike with a more aerodynamic design will suit you better.
Last, decide if you want advanced features (like a dropper post for mountain biking or a lightweight carbon fiber frame) or if you just need the basics. This will help you determine your budget. For example, if you’re concerned about bike weight and want to reduce impact on your joints, you may want to spend the extra money on a carbon frame.
If you plan to ride your bike frequently, Kyle McFarland, a USA Cycling certified coach of White Pine Athletics, suggests you think of your bike as a “long-term investment that will receive a ton of abuse and, ultimately, be responsible for your health and safety.” Now that you’ve honed in your search, you can zero in on the best model for you. Read on for our picks for the best bikes you can buy today.
Best Commuter Bike
A Fun And Affordable Way To Get From Point A To Point B
Best Road Bike
A Versatile Road Bike Built for Distance Riding
Best Mountain Bike
Ready For All Your Great Adventures
Easy, Breezy, And Oh So Pretty
Best Gravel Bike
Fast And Light, More Than Capable On Rough Terrain
Best Bike For Women
A Daily Rider At A Great Price Point
Best Folding Bike
For City Riders Who Need A Compact Bike
Best Cruiser Bike
Perfect For Leisurely, Flat Riding
Best Kids Bike
Affordable, Durable, Easy To Use
Best Bikes FAQs
What is the Difference Between a Mountain Bike and a Road Bike?
Bikes come in a variety of styles, and each type is built for a specific purpose:
- Commuter/hybrid bikes are all-purpose bikes that blend speed and comfort. They often fit a range of tire widths and offer a slightly upright pedaling position for added comfort. Most commuter bikes come with the option to attach fenders and racks to accommodate for weather conditions and uses.
- Road bikes are built for speed, so they generally have large, skinny tires, narrow handlebars and an aerodynamic frame design. Road cyclists tend to ride in a more bent over, rather than upright, position to reduce drag.
- Mountain bikes are made to travel over singletrack trails and rocky terrain so their frames have a unique geometry and clearance for much larger and wider tires. Additionally, while road bike frames are rigid, mountain bikes have suspension to cushion the impact of rocks and bumps. Hardtail mountain bikes have suspension in the front fork only, while full-suspension bikes have it in the front and rear.
- Gravel bikes are rigid frame bikes that blend aspects of mountain bikes and road bikes. They have a more slack head tube geometry for an upright, more stable riding position. They also offer more clearance than road bikes for wider tires, but usually not as much clearance as mountain bikes. As gravel bikes don’t have suspension, they are often made from shock-absorbing materials such as carbon fiber.
- Cruisers have a very narrow use and are designed for leisurely, comfortable rides. They are known for their tall handlebars and plush seats which put riders in a relaxed, upright position. Many cruisers have single speed drivetrains (you can’t shift gears), so they are best suited for flat terrain.