Indian Cyclists Network

This forum is filled with discussions and blog entries for help in choosing a new bicycle – which is great, since this is the right place to get such questions answered.
Before you post your help request, here is some basic information that may assist you in arriving at the right decisions. Please do also visit the links provided at the bottom of this post for additional information.


So, here goes :

You need a new Bike. You're new to cycling, or loved cycling when you were a kid. You need to get in shape. You want to bike commute. Whatever your reasons to start or
get back to cycling – the very first thing to decide “clearly” before buying a bike is – What kind of Cycling do you want to do ?


There are three possible options. But there are many subtle sub-divisions and overlap between these choices which are not listed out.


a> ROAD BIKES : Are generally meant to be ridden "on road". Not necessarily for folks who love love racing, or speed. Maybe you just prefer long distance rides (like Brevets), or even just city commuting. In general, Road Bikes are :

  • Rigid, lightweight frame.

  • Higher and straighter top tube (tube betn' seat and handle)

  • Shorter wheel base

  • Thinner tyres / bigger rims (23~30mm wide, 700mm dia, usually)

  • Drop Handle Bar

  • Higher saddle

  • Crouched riding position

The overall geometry leads to a crouching ride position which reduces drag. Road bikes are generally ridden on tarmac roads. You could ride these daily for commuting too,
but its a bit cumbersome to carry a back pack while riding one of these. You could add a rack, pannier or carrier. In which case, it sort of becomes a “Touring Bike”. Similar geometry, but adjusted for long distance rides, instead of speed. Similar to Road Bikes, there are CX Bikes (cyclo-cross), Triathlon bikes.


b> Off Road Bikes : Typically for "off road" use on trails, hill climbs, down hills, Indian pot holed roads :) etc. Useful if you are keen on weekend off-road biking. In lay terms, these are sometimes called MTB (Mountain Terrain Bike) or ATB (All terrain Bike) – but there are many different types – usually under two categories :

  • Full Suspension

  • Hard Tail

A full suspension bike has suspension (shock absorbing) for both wheels. A Hard Tail only has Front Suspension and rigid rear end.

  • Light weight, but a frame that allows some amount of flex, thicker frame tubes

  • Lower and angled top tube (tube betn' seat and handle)

  • Longer wheel base

  • Thicker tyres / smaller wheels (2.00"~2.75" , 26” usually, but also see 29'ers)

  • Straight handle bar, wide

  • Lower saddle

  • Suspension – front only, or front + rear

  • Forward inclined riding position, centry of gravity towards rear wheel

Also under this category, you could add in specialized types such as BMX Bikes (usually smaller frames, smaller wheels-20 inch, front/rear foot pegs, great for stunts), Down
Hill (DH), Cross-Country.


c> Hybrids : Hybrids fill the gap between road bikes and off-road bikes. These are great for city commuting, and come in two flavors – Road specific (leaning more
towards Road Bikes) and Off-Road specific (leaning more towards MTB).

The Road specific Hybrid has :

  • Light weight, rigid frame, usually thin frame tubes

  • Higher and straighter top tube (tube betn' seat and handle)

  • Shorter wheel base

  • Wide tyres / bigger rims (28~38mm wide, 700mm dia, usually)

  • Straight Handle Bar

  • Higher saddle

  • No front suspension

The MTB specific Hybrid has :

  • Light weight, but a frame that allows some amount of flex, thicker frame tubes

  • Lower and angled top tube (tube betn' seat and handle)

  • Longer wheel base

  • Wide tyres / bigger rims (28~38mm wide, 700mm dia, usually)

  • Straight handle bar, wide

  • Lower saddle

  • Suspension – front only

Hybrids are good when you want a sort of “jack-of-all” kind of bike. These sometimes have a “suspension seat post” allowing about 1-2 inches of saddle travel.


d> Other Variants : From the Indian perspective, this would cover the most common "Roadster" Bikes. These are probably most ideal for Indian conditions.

  • Strong, no-nonsense frame, sometimes with dual top tubes.

  • Longer wheel base

  • Thicker tyres / bigger wheels (29" dia)

  • Comfort handle bar, wide

  • Lower saddle with spring suspension.

  • No Suspension

  • Upright riding position

And then, there are all kinds of other specialized bikes, too numerous to list out here. One popular type comes to mind – Folding Bikes – which are again available in several flavors – Road specific, City/Commute specific etc.


Let me add a couple of points that come to my mind – in no particular order.


  1. Do I need Gears ? : Yes and No. Many folks ride Road Bikes with single speed ratio. There are some who ride “fixies” - the rear sprocket is fixed allowing you
    to slow down the bike by putting pressure on the pedals – such Bikes might have just one or no brakes at all. If you are riding in the city, you probably don't need gears. If you are doing long distance, or off-roading, you probably do. So, this choice could boil down to your Budget.


  2. Do I need Suspension ? : Again, Yes and No. 


    Remember that suspension, especially Rear Suspension, places greater demands on your pedalling. So, unless you are going to do some hard-core mountain or trails riding, do not use a bike with rear suspension.


    Having a front suspension would depend on your budget and ride conditions. Many Hybrids and MTB Hard Tail's now come with adjustable suspension allowing you to either activate it (for off-road use) or lock out (for road use), and also damping adjustment to set soft or hard suspension action.


  3. Frame Size : This is one of the most important factors to decide, after you have settled on the kind of bike you need. A single number usually identifies frame
    size. Generally, it is the distance from the bottom bracket (centre of where the front crank/pedals are fitted) to the seat post bracket. European manuacturers specify in centimeters, and most others in inches. See link below for a detailed frame fit calculator. A rule of thumb is to have a couple of inches gap between the top tube and your crotch while standing on the ground, straddling your bike. You need a smaller clearance for road bikes, and a bigger one for off-road bikes, with hybrids in-between.


  4. Wheel Sizes : Road bikes usually have 700mm diameter. Off Road Bikes usually have 26 inch or 20 inch (for BMX and Folding Bikes). Roadsters usually have 28 inch wheels (I think), and then in the US 29'ers are popular. Choosing the right kind of tyres can make a big difference in your ride. If you have a MTB, and use it on off-road conditions, you need to retain the 26 inch tyres which would be between 2.0 inch to 2.25 inch wide, with knobby treads for high traction in dirt. If you ride the same bike on city tramac roads, you're gonna need a lot more pedalling effort. In which case, you could invest in a second set of road specific tube/tyres – for example 26 inch x 1.5 inch – with a slick or bald tread. This will improve your pace considerably. Changing the tube/tyres is not so difficult, so you can keep swapping depending on where you ride.


That's all that comes to mind at the moment. I've generalized a lot. Hope all the pro's and guru's out there can add more gyan to this, and correct me wherever wrong.


Advise on "Buying a new Bike" :


another Blog on choosing a Road Bike, by Mallik Kovuri :


Here's a link to the fit calculator :



Views: 921

Replies to This Discussion

Great intro to the different types of bikes. It is easy to be stymied with the myriad choices of frames and components. The main thing is to get a bike (of any kind) and start riding and keep riding!

The hybrid is a great choice to keep your options open. With slick tires a hybrid is almost as fast as a road bike, with knobby tires you can tackle some mild trails. You can hone your preferences on the bike and trade up if you want to specialize.
Incidentally I have written a blog on 'How to Select a Road Bike'. You may read at

Mallik Kovuri
Nice, detailed blog. I've added a link to it in the discussion.

Really Appreciate your effort in putting this article together...very helpful Indeed 





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