If the last time you rode a bike you were carrying a backpack full of schoolbooks, it’s time to saddle up.

Sure, you can ride a bike to class or to work, but you also can ride a bike for the pure joy of exploring the back roads and dirt trails, to run errands, to get a workout, or simply to see how fast you can climb a hill and ride back down.

This guide will help you choose the best style for your riding needs.

First, think about where you’ll ride – pavement, dirt or both.

Road bikes

Best for: Pavement.
Description: Generally lightweight. Good for fitness riding, commuting, touring and racing. Proper fit is important.
Basic price: $500 to $2,000.

Mountain bikes

Best for: Dirt, rocky trails, gravel roads; OK for pavement.
Description: Designed with shock-absorbing features and better braking systems, mountain bikes can handle dirt trails and the rocks, roots, bumps and ruts that come with them. They feature lower gears than most road bikes to better handle steeper terrain. Higher-priced models tend to be lighter weight. Mountain bikes can be a good choice for commuting on rough roads. Hardtail bikes feature a front suspension fork and a rigid back. Full-suspension bikes have front and rear suspension shocks making them ideal for backcountry trails or technical singletrack. They also stand up to more aggressive riding including jumps or drops of up to 5 feet.
Basic price: $400 to $2,000.

Recreational bike

Best for: Pavement or gravel/dirt roads.
Description: These bikes emphasize comfort and ease of handling. They are ideal for riding around flat neighborhoods, parks and bike paths. Some bikes feature slightly wider 26-inch tires, a comfortable seat and a relaxed sitting position.
Basic price: $400 to $1,000.

Urban bike

Best for: Pavement, gravel (but not rutted) roads.
Description: Urban bikes are rugged and sturdy with tough frames and strong wheels. They feature an upright riding position that allows you to better see, and be seen by, motorists. Commuter-friendly models might have racks, lighting and fenders.
Basic price: $500 to $1,500.

Women’s bike

Best for: Those who have the more typical woman’s body proportions of longer leg length relative to torso length.
Description: These bikes – in various styles – feature frame geometries, handlebars and wider saddles that are tailored to better fit the typical female body proportion. For instance, the top tube frame lengths on women’s bikes generally are about 1 to 3 centimeters shorter than men’s bikes, so the reach (saddle to handlebar) is shorter and fits most women better. These bikes also feature shorter-reach shifters that better fit women’s hands.

Cyclocross bike

In cyclocross, riders take laps around courses that are a mix of pavement, dirt trails and grass. Built-in obstacles require riders to dismount and carry their bikes. Cyclocross bikes are similar to road bikes and are lightweight yet tough enough to deal with extreme conditions. Most have semi-knobby tires.

Triathlon bike

Built for triathlons, these bikes put you farther forward over the front wheel than other types of bikes. They are more aerodynamic and work your hamstrings more efficiently, which helps your legs in the run phase of a triathlon. These aren’t the best all-around bikes; they can be uncomfortable for long rides and their braking is not as convenient.

Folding bike

These lightweight yet strong bikes can be folded up and placed in a carrying bag, which makes them handy for commuters and travelers.

Electric-assist bike

You increasingly see these bikes in cities. They have a battery-powered motor that can help you climb hills easily and make your commute less strenuous.

Fixed-gear bike

Fixies are bikes without a freewheel mechanism and usually have only one gear. Long associated with track cycling, fixed-gear bikes have become popular for their simplicity, low maintenance and low weight.

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