As a keen roadie I’m quite biased towards road bikes, but I’m also well aware as a person who sells bikes that a road bike is not every women’s perfect bike, so here’s my quick summary on a few options you could consider when buying your ideal bike. It’s by no means exhaustive.
I had to start with my personal favourite! The road bike is a fast and light machine and as the name suggests it is best ridden on roads, or at least on bitumen or paved surfaces. It’s skinny tyres will not last long on other terrain.
To me it’s just a pure pleasure to ride my Specialized Amira. It’s a women’s specific road bike which means it is designed for women and that’s not just about pretty colours. Specialized women’s road bikes are designed to meet the needs of women and that includes the frame geometry, saddle, handlebar width, gear/brake reach and compact gearing and cranks. Lots of people, and particularly bike shop owners trying to clear last year’s stock, will tell you can ride any road bike, but I’m a great believer in women’s specific road bikes and I’ve written a few blog posts on this topic previously.
Flat-bar road bike
These are the lesser relatives of the ‘real’ road bike and so called because they have flat handlebars rather than the drop variety. They’re still relatively light and swift but not as much as the road bike. You ride in a more upright position making you less aerodynamic.
We sell heaps of flat-bar road bikes where I work. They are great fitness bikes, great for commuting and great for mums who want to ride around behind their kids who get increasingly faster as time moves on.
Mountain bikes are designed to be ridden off-road. Lots of people buy them as a general bike to get around the suburbs but I believe they are off-roaders. All have front suspension and some also have rear suspension, and when ridden on the road they have a bouncy sort of feeling which I hate.
You can put slick tyres on a mountain bike and make it easier to ride on paved surfaces, but it’s still a mountain bike.
If you do nearly all your riding off road then a mountain bike is your perfect bike.
There a number of styles of hybrid bikes and although most could be considered a merging of road bikes and mountain bikes, they are always a compromise.
You can get hybrids that have front suspension and look similar to mountain bikes with thinner tyres. You can also get hybrid bikes that have no front suspension and are a bit like a chunkier version of a flat-bar road bike.
Hybrids are ideal if you want to do some off-road and some on. But realise that it’s a compromise between the two main style of bike.
There are also plenty of bikes I’d put in the category of urban bikes. This includes those pretty retro bikes with baskets on the front, cruisers and single speed fixies that groovy inner-city types ride. These types of bikes are focused more on the look and less on the function. They are best for short, fairly flat trips and could involve a pretty dress, but definitely not high heals. But don’t be seduced by the cool window display of cheap ‘urban’ bikes because you definitely get what you pay for. A cheap bike will ride poorly and in some cases be downright dangerous.
When I started riding a bit over five years ago I started with a road bike and the love affair has continued. At the time I thought I needed a hybrid bike of some sort, but my partner talked me out of it. I’m very glad he did. If I’d bought the hybrid there are two things that could have happened. One, I would have ridden it for a short while and decided it wasn’t that much fun and given cycling away altogether which would have set my life on a very different path – no blog, no job in a bike shop and no slim body. The other scenario would have seen me ride the hybrid for up to year and then upgrade to a road bike at great expense. I’m sure glad I conquered my fears and got that road bike.