The-Best-Bike-for-You

The Best Bike for You: An overview of the different types

Also available in: French

Want to get more serious about cycling, but not sure what type of bike is right for you? Winston Endall, an accomplished cyclist and outdoor associate at SAIL, breaks down the different types – gravel, road, mountain and mountain – and their features so you can choose the best bike for your needs and outdoor adventures.

In this article, you will learn more about:

  1. Mountain bikes
  2. Road bikes
  3. Gravel bikes
  4. Hybrid bikes
  5. Hybrid electric bikes
  6. Fat bikes
  7. Pro tips

Bikes Bike accessories

Please note that the high demand for outdoor gear and replenishment issues from international vendors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a more limited bike selection this year. We apologize for any inconveniences that this situation may cause and would like to thank you for your patience and understanding.

All of our SAIL stores have bikes available. However, we recommend that you check to make sure that the bike you are looking for is available at the SAIL location of your choice before visiting. Or, you may purchase your bike online for a simple and practical solution.

 

1. The mountain bike: What is it and what are its characteristics?

Mountain bike

Mountain biking is a sport that allows you to ride off-road on rugged trails, and requires endurance to make ascents and skill to tackle descents. It combines the thrill of an adrenaline sport with the relaxation of a hike in the forest.

There are several sub-categories of mountain bikes: Hardtail, cross-country, full-suspension cross-country, downhill, trail, Enduro. The models vary by brand; Evo, Fuji, GT and more.

What are the components of a mountain bike?

 

Components Details
Handlebars Mountain bikes have flat or riser handlebars
to optimize hand positions.
Tires Mountain bikes also have fatter tires of 52 mm or more
(2 inches and up) and they are usually quite knobby.
The rubber lugs spaced around the tire allows
better traction and cornering performance.
Pedals
You can opt for pedals
in which you can clip your shoes or flat
or platform pedals that leave your feet free.
Suspension There are mountain bikes with
a rigid frame and fork, without any suspension.
There are also the hardtail sub-type with
a rigid frame and a suspension fork in the front
and the full-suspension model, that is articulated
on the rear and has a suspension in the front.
Gearing Most of the mid-quality and higher mountain bikes
have one chainring up front and 9 to 12 gears.
This offers the advantage of making
the whole shifting process simpler.

Why choose a mountain bike and for what activities is it designed?

The mountain bike is an excellent choice for:

  • Exercising
  • Connecting with nature
  • Getting a rush of adrenaline
  • Focusing on ascents and descents or a mix of both; mountain biking is like hiking, but faster
  • Bike touring or camping (also called bikepacking)
MOUNTAIN BIKE
Advantages Disadvantages
• Shock absorption that makes it more comfortable
• Traction allows you to ride the roughest terrain
• Heavier
• Expensive cost and maintainance fees, especially for full-suspension bikes
• Slower on the road

What type of rider is the mountain bike for?

This mountain activity is as much a game as a sport. Mountain biking is for avid cyclists, those who prefer interval training, outdoor enthusiasts and people who are comfortable with the unknown and the diversity as the trails dictate their efforts.

What types of surfaces is the mountain bike designed for and what seasons?

Mountain biking is made for riding on the most difficult and extreme terrain, but also on paved roads or smoother trails.

Avoid venturing onto the trails in early spring as it is too muddy. It is better to wait until the trails are dry. It is also possible to ride on snow when it is well packed.

MOUNTAIN BIKE
Types of surfaces Seasons
✔ Dirt trails
✔ Sand trails
✔ Rocky trails
✔ Wooden plank trails
✔ Grass trails
✔ Slopes
✔ Mid-spring or end of spring
✔ Summer (the worst season because of hotness)
✔ Fall

 

2. The road bike: What is it and what are its characteristics?

Road bike

The road bike is designed specifically for racing and long distance rides on pavement. You can easily recognize it by its very thin wheels and handlebars that are lower than the seat so that the rider is leaning forward.

Several brands, including Brodie, Felt, Garneau and GT, offer different sub-categories of bikes including performance and endurance bikes.

What are the components of a road bike?

Components Details
Handlebars The curved dropped handlebars offer
more hand positions, increase comfort,
and are more aerodynamic.
Tires Road bikes have very thin 700c tires
that are typically 25 mm (1 inch) wide.
In this case, the letter C corresponds to
an inner diameter of 622 mm (24.5 inches).
Pedals Clipless pedals are preferred on this type of bike,
as the rider may use more muscle.
On your first few rides, limit falls by snapping one foot out
before stopping so you can put a foot
on the ground without falling over. Simply twist your foot to the
side to unclip. When starting to pedal, clip one foot in and
clip the other one in once you have
gotten some momentum and can coast.
Suspension There is no suspension on road bikes,
the frame is entirely solid.
Gears Usually, there are two chainrings up front and 9 to 12 gears
on the back offering a very wide range of speeds.
The more expensive the bike, the more speeds it has.

Why choose a road bike and for what activities is it designed?

First, ask yourself the right questions. What is your motivation? Training? Enjoying the countryside? Potentially using it as a tool to get in the best shape of your life?

Whatever your answer, the road bike is an excellent choice for:

  • Training and fitness; it requires great physical effort to go uphill, but it’s a good way to even out the downhills
  • Group rides
  • Long-distance challenges, including the Century, a 100-mile challenge that is a kind of marathon for cyclists. There is also the 100-meter Century or the double Century.
ROAD BIKE
Advantages Disadvantages
• Lightweight and fast
• Quite comfortable (endurance type)
• Easy to carry
• Expensive (especially carbon frames)
• Wheels and tires are fragile (watch for potholes and obstacles on the road)
• Seat can be uncomfortable (performance type)

What type of rider is the road bike for?

Road cycling is for people who are relatively fit or want to improve their fitness, for those who are interested in biomechanics (the study of the structures and functions of living beings), for those who like to cover a lot of miles on pavement, and for mountain bike enthusiasts who want to train more seriously.

On the other hand, endurance road bikes are less popular among young people, but often enjoyed by people between 40 and 60 years old because they are more comfortable.

What types of surfaces is the road bike designed for and what seasons?

ROAD BIKE
Types of surfaces Seasons
✔ Paved main roads,

in the city or in the country,
ideally without
holes or car tracks
✔ Smooth paved roads
✔ Light, smooth dirt roads
(it’s ok to ride on them occasionally,
but not necessarily recommended).
✔ Clear, dry roads;
never ride on
on snow

✔ Spring
✔ Summer
✔ Fall

3. The gravel bike: What is it and what are its characteristics?

Gravel bike

The gravel bike is basically the ancestor of the mountain bike. The gravel bike is a great all-around touring bike and a good in-between of a road bike and a mountain bike. Its drop handlebars allow for adventure on a variety of surfaces and terrains. The reach to the handlebars is longer and offers more speed and ergonomics, thus more comfort during long rides.

Several brands like Brodie, Felt, Garneau and GT design gravel bikes.

However, as the popularity of this type of bike is rather recent but growing since 2015, there are no official subcategories. Instead, some models are made for racing, they are, therefore, lightweight and fast, and others are more versatile.

What are the components of a gravel bike?

Components Details
Handlebars Gravel bikes have drop handlebars
with flared drops for more hand clearance
and wrist comfort.
Tires Gravel bikes are equipped with 700c tires
that are typically 45 mm to 55 mm (1.7 to 2.1 inches) wide.
You can also mount them with wider tires
or 650b tires with a smaller diameter.
They have more textured tires than road bikes
with more knobs. They can be compared
to mini mountain bike tires.
Pedals They come with pedals in which
you can clip your shoes.
Suspension 99% of the bikes are fully rigid,
with no suspension.
Gearing Most of the bikes have one or two chainrings
up front and 9 to 12 gears. The more expensive the bike,
the more gears it has in the back.

Why choose a gravel bike and for what activities is it designed?

The gravel bike is an excellent choice for:

  • Getting into biking
  • Doing bike rides for pleasure or for daily commuting
  • Going on an adventure
  • Bike touring and bikepacking
GRAVEL BIKE
Advantages Disadvantages
• Good for long rides
• Faster than mountain bikes
• Tougher than road bikes
• Good in-betweener
• Heavier
• Expensive buying cost
• Slower than road bikes
• Not as tough as mountain bikes

What type of rider is the gravel bike for?

It’s better suited for serious cyclers, touring fans and mountain bikers or road bikers who want a good versatile second bike.

What types of surfaces is the gravel bike designed for and what seasons?

Gravel bikes are functional on everything from smooth pavement to easy mountain bike trails. They are not recommended for jumps and other extreme use. Although you can have lots of fun on other types of trails.

GRAVEL BIKE
Types of surfaces Seasons
✔ Gravel roads
✔ Rail trails
✔ Pavedroads
✔ Slopes
✔ Any season, as long as there is so snow on the ground

4. The hybrid bike: What is it and what are its characteristics?

Hybrid bike

The hybrid bike has been designed both for riding on pavement and on trails and is intended for leisure.

Several brands like Brodie, Evo, Felt, Garneau and Raleigh design gravel bikes.

What are the components of a hybrid bike?

Components Details
Handlebars Bikes have flat or riser handlebars.
Tires Gravel bikes are equipped with 700c tires.
Pedals They come with platform pedals (no clipping needed).
Suspension The bikes are also fully rigid, with no suspension.
Gearing Most of the bikes have three chainrings up front and 7 to 10 gears in the back.

5. What about the hybrid electric bike?

Hybrid electric bike

The hybrid electric bike has the same features, benefits and components as the standard hybrid bike, with the exception of a battery built into the frame that gives the rider more propulsion and speed and makes it easier to travel on hilly roads or during long rides.

It is well suited for commuters and people cycling to work (the battery reduces the level of exertion and therefore the sweating generated by exercise), for cycling partners who do not ride at the same speed, and for the elderly or those with minor injuries.

Why choose a hybrid bike and for what activities is it designed?

The hybrid bike is an excellent choice for:

  • Doing bike rides for pleasure
  • Daily commuting
HYBRID BIKE
Advantages Disadvantages
• Good on short rides
• Lightweight
• Affordable
• Efficient
• Comfortable
• Not optimal for maximum performance on roads or on rugged trails
• Less comfortable on long rides due to single hand position

What type of rider is the hybrid bike for?

The hybrid bike is truly made for casual cyclists, commuters, people who like riding a bike, those who wish to do recreational activities, and families.

What types of surfaces is the hybrid bike designed for and what seasons?

Gravel biking is not recommended on rough trails, unless you have big tires and suspension. Although, you can have lots of fun on other types of trails.

HYBRID BIKE
Types of surfaces Seasons
✔ Bike lanes
✔ Gravel roads
✔ Rail trails
✔ Pavedroads
✔ Slopes
✔ Any season, as long as there is no snow on the ground

6. The fat bike: What is it and what are its characteristics?

Fat bike

The fat bike is basically a mountain bike with giant tires that is more often seen in winter. The Canadian brand Garneau designs this type of bike which resonates well with the snowy regions of Quebec and Ontario.

What are the components of a fat bike?

Components Details
Handlebars Bikes have flat handlebars.
Tires Fat bikes are equipped with 101 mm to 127 mm (4 to 5 inches) wide tires.
Pedals They come with clip or platform pedals.
Suspension The bikes are mostly fully rigid, with no suspension.

Why choose a fat bike and for what activities is it designed?

The fat bike is an excellent choice for:

  • Riding in winter as it is like a riding set of snowshoes
  • Going on an off-trail adventure
FAT BIKE
Advantages Disadvantages
• Rides on any surfaces
• Smooth ride (tires absorb all shocks)
• Traction (so much rubber touches the ground so it gives you more grip)
• Heavy weight
• Slower on hard surfaces

What type of rider is the fat bike for?

The fat bike is made for serious cyclists and winter enthusiasts.

What types of surfaces is the fat bike designed for and what seasons?

You can go fat biking on almost any kind of surfaces or terrain, but they are made to handle snow and sand. Note that there might be more friction on hard or paved roads.

FAT BIKE
Types of surfaces Seasons
✔ Snowy trails
✔Mud trails
✔ Sand trails
✔ Mountain bike trails
✔ Any season, but the design has been conceptualized for winter

Pro tips for finding the best bike and other advice

  • Choose the right bike size so your new bike will be comfortable. Make sure to measure your leg length, torso length, and arm length before starting to shop for a bike. Once done, you will better be able to look at the size chart for a specific bike model or brand and see if it fits.
  • Think of buying more than one bike if you want versatility. If you’re only going to buy one bike, then make sure it fulfills your needs and goals.
  • Bet on durable clothing and accessories like a good helmet, sunglasses, gloves, and jerseys. Remember that the right gear makes a big difference for your level of comfort and endurance.
  • Don’t be intimated: progress takes time. Don’t focus on what people think, and ask other cyclists for advice..
  • Keep track of your metrics if you want to measure your improvement and compare your different rides.

 

 

Also available in: French