How to choose your bike: A guide to the perfect cycle for you

The ultimate guide to picking the best bike for you, plus expert recommendations.

Someone choosing a bike

by Myles Warwood |

Choosing the right bike for you is not a profoundly scientific or mathematic equation. It simply boils down to what type of riding you’re likely to do the most.

Just because you’re on a bike, it doesn't mean you have to clad yourself with Lycra and be able to knock out 100 miles in five hours. The bike is a much simpler thing than that, and you may be surprised to know there are many different types of bikes out there.

Whether you’re an inner-city rider or off-road adventurer, a school run kiddy carrier or a road rider, there will be a bike to suit what you want.

Even if you like doing all of the above, there are bikes that can handle such obstacles. However, you may not find the bike which ticks all of the boxes, and there may be some areas in which you may need to compromise to get what you want.

We've skimmed over some of the best bikes you can buy for around £1,000, we think that this is an ideal starting point at which to buy a bike, certainly if you have the help from the Cycle To Work Scheme.

What types of bikes are there?

You may be familiar with the two most popular bike types: road bikes and mountain bikes. These are pretty self-explanatory, with one being designed for tarmac and the other muddy fields.

But then there are also other types of cycles which may suit you better. Maybe you're better suited to a hybrid, urban, cyclocross, gravel, city, cargo or even an electric bike - and this is to name but a few! There are even bikes you can use specifically for indoors.

Yes, there are that many, and this may seem daunting. But we are here to help you pick through the jargon and get down to the type of bike which may suit you the best.

What sets them all apart?

There are many things other than the bike’s look which will set them apart. From subtle changes to geometry and wheelbase will make bikes racier to ride, or more comfortable. Add to that the varying break options and handlebar options – there is almost an endless way in which bikes could be different from the other.

Bike types explained: A buyer's guide to bicycles

Jump to:

Road bikes

This is probably what you think of when someone suggests bike racing - basically a bike with drop handlebars and skinny tyres.

An aggressively fast looking machine – road bikes cover a broad price range and come in many different materials, titanium, aluminium, steel, and carbon fibre - you can even make a road bike out of bamboo.

These are for people who want to ride their bike on the road, be it in a cycling club, part of a race, or to try a new exercise for extra fitness. No one says just because you have a road bike you have to go as fast as the riders in the Tour de France but you’ll likely get to your destination quickest on a road bike when compared with any other bike type on the list.

Related: The best entry-level road bikes | The best road cycle helmets

With the Specialized Allez Sport Road Bike, you get both great aesthetics and reliable performance. The aluminium frame and carbon fork bring strength, stiffness and stable handling. Maintenance is kept to a minimum with Shimano's reliable Sora gearing, and shifting across the 9-speed cassette is crisp and smooth, while the Axis brakes work well in all conditions, offering powerful yet modulated stopping. Axis Sport clincher wheels are built to last and roll well over rough roads.

Pros: Big brand name at low price, nice specification of parts and tyres, great allrounder.
Cons: only available with rim brakes, no internal cabling makes cleaning more difficult.

The Attain Pro features an Aluminium Lite frame and full-carbon forks to ensure you experience the agility and all-day riding comfort while its quality component spec gives you smooth and reliable performance anywhere. A Shimano 2x9-Speed groupset clicks through its wide gear range for climbing hills with ease while TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes control your momentum in all-weather conditions. Plus, it rolls upon aero Cube RA 1.9 wheels wrapped in high-grip Continental Ultra Sport 3 tyres.

Internal cabling, disc brakes and a big brand name like Cube on a 2022 bike for a tickle over a grand make this a sound choice. An ideal starter road bike.

Pros: reliable brand name, disc brakes, internal cables goos tyres and gearing
Cons: internal cables makes self-maintenance more tricky

The Cannondale Synapse Tiagra Disc Road Bike amalgamates a lively but comfortable alloy frame with a stiff carbon fork and reliable components to bring about a ride that is suited to the longest of mountain sportives and the most enduring training rides.

Reactivity and efficiency are ingrained into the ride thanks to the light but robust alloy frame and stiff carbon fork. These two key components are cleverly manipulated via Cannondale’s SAVE micro-suspension technology that reduces rider fatigue markedly by smoothing the harshest bumps and cancelling out road vibrations.

A geometry that errs on the side of endurance helps to keep the rider fresh, even after multiple hours in the saddle but still facilitates a powerful pedal stroke for climbing and sprinting. 32mm wide tyres can be installed thanks to the frameset’s generous amounts of clearance and this grants the opportunity for increased compliance and control across the worst maintained road surfaces.

Cannondale’s own RD 3.0 wheelset is light but strong to allow surging accelerations and peace of mind when potholes threaten. Gear changing is courtesy of the Shimano Tiagra configuration, and this flicks through its ten sprockets with accuracy and reliability.

Confidence-inspiring stopping power in all weather conditions is bestowed by the disc brake setup. When inclement conditions are encountered, the discreet mounts on the frame and fork offer the chance of extra protection via easy and secure mudguard installation.

Pros: Great brand name at a really good price, disc brakes and great choice of gearing and looks good.
Cons: maintenance costs may be higher due to higher specced parts like disc brakes and internal cables.

Mountain bikes

Designed for all kinds of terrain, with big knobbly tyres and a wide gear ratio. There are different sub-categories of mountain bikes, with some having front suspension, full suspension, or none at all.

Typically, mountain bikers are a special breed of people who enjoy going downhill fast over gnarly bumpy terrain and then taking a bike lift back to the top of a hill.

These are great bikes for people who want to challenge themselves; they require a lot of upper body strength and a good standard of riding ability to get better at ‘down-hilling’, but they’re also capable bikes on the road. The thicker knobbly tyres will slow you down on the tarmac as will the gearing and heavier frames, but it doesn’t mean they can’t get you there.

Related: The best mountain bike shorts | The best mountain bikes for less than £500

Bianchi has made road bikes for a long time but they're no newcomers to the mountain bike scene and anyway, who says those on the trails don't deserve to ride the beautiful celeste colour scheme of Bianchi?

It is a great entry-level mountain bike, the Bianchi Magma 9.2 Alivio pairs a lightweight aluminium frame with a 100mm travel SR Suntour XCM for a fun ride with good shock absorption to soak up the hardest hits from the trails, increasing confidence for newer riders. Internal cable routing keeps aesthetics sleek and the Alivio 9-speed drivetrain with wide 11-36-tooth cassette paired to 36/22 chainrings ensures there are plenty of gears for both steep climbs and fast descents.

The shifting is smooth and reliable and Shimano hydraulic discs will bring confidence at speed, ensuring you can stop fast in all conditions.

The Magma 9.2 rolls on robust 29" wheels, improving stability over rocky and technical terrain and Kenda Booster tyres roll fast and smooth, bringing excellent traction over loose surfaces.

Pros: Great heritage in the Bianchi name, a wide range of gearing, nicely specced
Cons: no internal cabling makes cleaning more difficult

Engineered and equipped to tame the terrain beneath you, this bike is fitted with 120mm of SR Suntour suspension travel front and rear.

Alongside its SRAM SX Eagle 12-Speed drivetrain that gets you up to speed quickly, it has Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes for superb all-weather stopping power. Also, it rolls upon Schürman rims wrapped in WTB Ranger tyres for the perfect balance of reliability, pace and all-terrain traction.

Pros: Plenty of suspension, very wide range of gearing, SRAM groupset at this price range is very good
Cons: Lack of internal cabling makes cleaning difficult

Versatility is the name of the game and its low bottom bracket, slack head angle and stiff frame allow you to tackle anything that you come across; explore endless singletrack, session the pump track or rail berms and hit jumps in the bike park.

In the right hands, the Scout 275 Race is robust and versatile enough to provide comfort for longer XC rides, yet supple and confidence-inspiring enough to tackle steep, rough and technical Enduro trails with ease.

It features a triple-butted alloy frame with modern enduro-inspired geometry, giving a responsive and predictable performance anywhere on the mountain. Plus, it's armed with a Shimano Deore 10-Speed groupset with a wide-ranging 11-46T cassette and Shimano MT410 hydraulic disc brakes.

Pros: Very good, comfortable and grippy Maxis tyres, lower bottom bracket means a lower centre of gravity, wide range of gearing
Cons: Lack of internal cables makes cleaning difficult.

Hybrid bikes

Here’s a bike that can do a little bit of everything.

Hybrid bikes are great for people who want a bike to ride off with the family on the weekend, down canal paths and over a bit of rough stuff but can still commute to work during the week. They’re also a good city bike for short hops into town and keep you moving and active. They have wider tyres but are more ‘slick’ than knobbly like a mountain bike.

Look out for one which suits your needs and what you want – the higher end hybrid bikes will have disc brakes which means greater stopping power. Are you going to be carrying shopping or children on the back? Make sure you get one that can hold a pannier rack or a child seat.

Also, if you’re commuting, you likely don’t want to get oil on your clothes – some hybrid bikes will have a chain cover, and some may even be belt driven and not by a chain; this means no oil.

Related: The best bike locks for home and away | The best cycling helmets

The Hyde Pro features an Aluminium Lite frame that's robust and lightweight while being equipped with a Shimano Nexus internal gear hub with a Gate's CDX belt drive. This drivetrain system is sealed from the elements, ensuring smooth and reliable performance in all weather conditions and is virtually maintenance-free.

It rolls upon Tubeless-Ready Cube UX24 rims wrapped in Schwalbe Big Apple tyres, giving an exceptional balance of stability, efficiency and grip.

Pros: reliable brand, belt-driven for less oil, powerful disc brakes for added stopping power
Cons: No mudguards as standard

The Dew Plus Urban Bike from Kona features a strong and comfortable aluminium frame and fork equipped with fast-rolling Shimano wheels and a smooth-shifting Shimano Deore 10-Speed gearset.

Ideal for inner-city riding, daily commuting and leisurely urban adventures, it is comfortable and agile, has a wide 1x10-speed gear range and powerful hydraulic disc brakes for riding any incline or terrain with confidence.

Pros: Nice range of gearing, big comfy tyres which makes it good for commuting, kickstand - they're always useful.
Cons: while hydraulic disc brakes are fantastic, they are difficult to self-service.

With a lightweight FACT 9r Carbon frame and fork, the Specialized Sirrus 4.0 Hybrid Bike is perfect for anyone wanting a comfortable, efficient bike for commuting, running errands or getting fit.

The capacity to take mudguards and a rack further increases the bike’s versatility, and the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes mean that its stopping ability is just as good in the wet as it is in the dry.

Shimano’s 9-speed drivetrain uses a double chainring and 11-34 tooth cassette to provide a wide range of gears, easily operated from the handlebar shifters whilst the Body Geometry saddle and grips provide excellent ergonomic comfort for longer rides.

Pros: Fantastic range of gears, disc brakes, comfortable for commuting
Cons: No mudguards as standard

Commuter bikes

The term "commuter bike" is a broad brush to paint with - some hybrid bikes will be classified as commuter bikes, and let’s be honest, you can commute to work on whatever you feel. They might have slightly narrower tyres and have a geometry which isn’t built for speed, instead preferring a compromise between speed and comfort.

Good things to look out for here are disc brakes (it can be important to have good stopping power when cycling around the city), something which is comfortable and the ability to carry things like your clothes if you don’t wish to use a backpack.

Don’t get too hung up on the fact you want a commuter over what some brands may call a city bike or a hybrid bike – look for what’s important to you and go for that.

Transporting you from A to B with reliability and style, this hybrid city bike features a durable 6061-T6 double-butted aluminium frame with internal cable routing as well as sporty, eye-catching looks. Vitus has also kitted out this model with high-quality SRAM APEX gearing that keeps maintenance low, while its Shimano UR300 hydraulic disc brakes provide powerful and consistent braking performance.

Pros: Comfortable design, disc brakes, a wide range of gears
Cons: while internal cabling makes cleaning easier maintenance of these can be much more of a hassle and more expensive.

Cinelli has equipped this bike with a single-speed groupset, Tektro C-310 V-Brakes, Shining 700x wheels and Kenda Kwick Trax tyres. And, it features an elegant and durable finishing kit from Cinelli (with a flat handlebar) and weighs in at only 10.2kg.

The Tutto Plus is your do-everything high-performance urban steel frame bike. It’s designed to morph from a full-on messenger work bike (complete with panniers) to a crit race bike, to a single-speed cross machine, to an indestructible commuter (with mudguards). This model is for those who prefer a flat bar.

Pros: Cinelli has been fixie bike market leader for a while, a beautiful looking bike great for nipping about town.
Cons: Pricey for a bike with rim brakes and no internal cables.

Ultimately versatile, the Orbea Carpe 10 Disc Hybrid Bike is designed to fit around your busy lifestyle. Built on a high-quality Aluminium 6000 frame, this bike is robust and lightweight, making it perfect for daily commutes and leisure rides, while the inclusion of a rear rack means you can even carry your shopping home, too.

High-quality Shimano components deliver crisp and reliable shifting through the 10-speed Deore gearset, while hydraulic disc brakes are the perfect addition to help you stop with modulation in any weather. When it's raining, you'll enjoy the benefits of the included SKS EDGE mudguards to help you stay free from mud and puddles.

Another fantastic addition to this bike's specification is the dynamo-powered light set. A Spanninga Pixeo rear light and Kendo XDAS front light are powered by the dynamo and won't run out of batteries, so you can ride safely in the knowledge you're easier to spot on the road.

Pros: Mudguards and pannier rack fitted as standard, front light fitted as standard, plenty of bike for your money
Cons: While hydraulic disc brakes are fantastic, they are difficult to self-service.

Cyclocross bikes

Cyclocross is back in fashion, thanks to a great cycling rivalry between Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, Belgian Wout van Aert and new to the party Britain’s new cycling sensation, Tom Pidcock. These are specialist bikes and as such finding one for around £1,000 will be difficult, unless you can pick one up second hand.

But what is cyclocross? If you’re unfamiliar, imagine riding your bike around a course on a field with 50 other people; pretty soon, that course will end up very muddy and slippy. This is what cyclocross riders enjoy doing. Why? We don’t know why, especially as these races are generally held over the winter months, so when you fall off (and you will fall off), the cold, wet mud sticks to you like an egg on your face. The bikes look something like what a road bike and a mountain bike would produce after a nine-month gestation period.

These bikes often have more clearance between the forks to allow for wider knobblier tyres and may even have flared bars to help with handling and rider control.

They ride well over many different types of terrain and can accommodate narrower tyres if you ever want to ride on the road. While your riding position won’t be that of an out and out road rider, it’ll be pretty close, and few would be able to tell the difference.

Building on the prodigious success of the SuperX, Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO CX Disc Cyclocross Bike also takes its cues from the brilliant SuperSix road bike, making it faster and more efficient than ever.

The carbon frame and fork both feature Cannondale’s Speed Release thru-axles for quicker wheel changes and the frame benefits from Ai offset design with shorter chainstays for snappier accelerations. OutFront geometry ensures that the handling remains composed and stable on technical courses whilst the aerodynamic tube shapes help with the speed on faster sections. T

yre clearance is huge, with 13mm of clearance on either side when using UCI legal 33mm rubber, so the chances of the frame getting clogged up with dirt are much reduced.

SRAM’s 1x Force 11-speed groupset provides the hydraulic brakes that are essential for control in muddy conditions and the 11-speed drivetrain. The lack of front derailleur removes one of the major problems when CX racing, as that area often collects mud and grass, causing shifting problems and adding drag.

SRAM’s two large paddle shifters are easy to operate even when cold and wet, so shifting sprockets is never an issue and the internal cabling reduces mud contamination. The Vittoria Terreno Mix TNT tyres are a good all-around option that can be run tubed or tubeless.

Pros: Internal cabling, strong and powerful disc brakes, low centre of gravity
Cons: Maintenance costs might be high

Specialized’s Crux Comp comes from a long line of successful cyclocross bikes, with victories aplenty at every level from grassroots to World Championships. This latest FACT 11r carbon frame has shed 400 grams and now weighs around 900 grams depending on size and paint scheme. In a sport which involves not just plenty of rapid accelerations but also shouldering the bike numerous times per lap, the weight reduction is very welcome.

Carrying comfort is also aided by the flattened top tube and larger front triangle opening, which, along with the aggressive angles for fast handling, marks it out as a thoroughbred CX bike rather than a gravel machine.

The DT Swiss R470 Disc wheels with 33mm Specialized Tracer Pro tyres are both tubeless-ready, so can be easily run without inner tubes, which is particularly useful for low-pressure running and grip off-road. Mud clearance is excellent as the frame offers 8mm per side with regulation 33mm tyres, ideal for avoiding getting slowed down by mud and grass clogging things up.

Braking duties are carried out by SRAM’s Force level hydraulic disc brakes, offering consistent and powerful retardation even in the worst winter conditions. SRAM also take care of shifting courtesy of their 11-speed Force 1x groupset, with the large single paddle being easy to operate in the extremes or with cold, wet hands.

Pros: Internal cabling, strong and powerful disc brakes, great wheels and tyres
Cons: Maintenance costs might be high

The Energie VRS features a strong, lightweight and stylish aluminium frame and carbon fork, giving you a superb balance of stability, agility and control anywhere. It is also equipped with an SRAM Apex 1x11-Speed groupset with Apex hydraulic disc brakes. And it rolls fast and stable upon Tubeless Ready WTB ST Light i21 TCS rims wrapped in high-grip Schwalbe X-ONE Allround tyres.

Pros: Lower price point for entry-level, hydraulic disc brakes and internal cabling, strong aluminium frame
Cons: Not as well recognised as some of the other brands out there

Folding bikes

Folding bikes are such a neat travel tool. They help out two types of riders, commuters who hop on a train for part of their journey or want to keep their bike under their desk at work or who have limited space inside a city flat to store a bike. They also serve a purpose for people who are touring but are space-conscious if you have a caravan or motorhome.

They’re convenient little things and have seen an enormous boom, certainly in London with the Brompton brand, which you could class as the market leaders. We’re huge fans of these bikes because of what they can offer in that last mile of transport.

Brompton’s C-Line Explore Mid Bar Folding Bike is a versatile commuting machine thanks to its 6-speed drivetrain that offers more ratios than some other models, enabling it to cope with more challenging terrain or longer distances. Mudguards are included for protection against rain and road spray whilst the Schwalbe Marathon Racer tyres balance speed and cushioning along with a good level of puncture protection. The tyres also benefit from reflective sidewalls to increase visibility when riding after dark.

Equipped with Brompton’s Mid type handlebar, the bike suits a wide range of riders and combines control and efficiency with a confidence-inspiring position.

Pros: One of the best on the market, very popular meaning many replacement parts, every nice to ride
Cons: many options mean it can be slightly confusing to choose the right one for you

The aluminium frame gives a supple and sturdy performance as you tour through town and features a reliable folding mechanism and locking device to ensure safe and secure storage. Driven on by an eight-speed Shimano Tourney TX drivetrain, this terrific Tern bike finds a gear for any urban situation while the V-Brake stopping system gives you superb control as you weave your way through pedestrians and traffic.

Finished off with town bike essentials such as a bell, a kickstand and an integrated luggage socket, the Tern Link C8 Folding Bike is an innovative and compact option for the modern commuter.

Pros: cheaper alternative to a Brompton, quick and easy to fold down
Cons: Doesn't fold down as small as a Brompton, heavier than some others on the market.

Touring bikes

They are designed for carrying loads over a long distance while remaining comfortable on the bike. These are great if you’re travelling around by bike a lot. Bike touring has seen a massive boom in the UK since the pandemic, and eBike touring has increased with the electrical assist, enabling more people to ride and increase their distance covered during the day.

Generally, these have flared bars that will help with comfort and handling and nice big thick but slick tyres, which will be nice and comfy over many different terrains. Look for ones with plenty of storage space and plenty of holders for water bottles. If you’re planning on being on this bike for the majority of the day, make sure it’s comfortable and pleasant to ride.

This stunning gravel bike is built for adventures and is inspired by Nukeproof's athletes and their desire for a do-it-all training bike with something a little extra. It features a rock-solid aluminium frame that's triple-butted for maximum strength as you ride from A to B and everywhere in between.

Coming equipped with the capacity to add panniers, bike racks and mudguards, this model is perfectly suited for everything from commuting to work to big adventures in the wilderness.

A couple of years old now, but it was new for 2020 was the addition of the latest gravel dedicated Shimano GRX 1x groupset. Spec’d for simplicity and off-road performance with Shimano’s clutch derailleur 1x 11 speed set up (11-42t) drivetrain.

The new Factory Digger also integrates its dropper post actuation in the Shimano brake lever to offer ultimate confidence when it gets technical on the trails. The Digger is again equipped with a “wider than average” drop handlebar for that mountain bike stance.

Pros: Nice big chunky tyres for grip, internal cabling and disc brakes, nice range of gearing
Cons: Maintenance costs might be high due to internal cables and disk brakes

The Cinelli Zydeco LaLa is ideal for gravel riding, road cycling and off-road adventure cycling. It features a Columbus triple butted alloy frame and carbon forks for the perfect balance of agility and strength at a low weight.

Plus, this modern geometry engineered bike features mounts for mudguards and a rear cargo rack, so you have comfort and convenience on every ride. This bike is equipped with a Shimano Sora drivetrain, giving gears to conquer steep climbs and providing efficient pedalling performance for those longer days in the saddle.

Also, Cinelli has fitted this road bike with Tektro disc brakes that ensure you have powerful and reliable braking performance in all riding conditions. And, it rolls on reliable Formula hubs, stable Shining A250 rims and grippy Kenda Flintridge tyres.

Pros: Nice range of gears, lovely looking bike, easier to maintain
Cons: Pricey for no internal cables, might struggle on muddier terrain on those tyres.

Get out and explore more on the Cannondale Topstone 3 Gravel Bike. An excellent introduction to the world of gravel riding, this bike is ready for adventure. With a lightweight carbon fibre fork combined with a strong alloy frame, this gravel bike handles nicely while offering robust durability for thousands of off-road miles.

The wide-ranging gearing ratio comes courtesy of an 11-34t cassette and sub-compact chainset, all operated by the Shimano Sora 2x9-speed levers and derailleurs for quick and easy shifting. The wheels are built to last too and come fitted with 37mm wide WTB tyres, which give excellent traction and stability off-road while maintaining enough speed on the tarmac to ensure you get to the trails fresh and ready for fun.

Pros: Nice brand name, internal cabling, nice range of gears for comfort
Cons: Maintenance costs might be high

Myles is a Commercial Content Writer for What's The Best, Parkers and CAR. His areas of expertise include cycling, fitness tech and hot hatches.

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