How to Choose a Bike That Suits Your Many Needs

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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How to Choose a Bike That Suits Your Many Needs

Choosing a bicycle has never been more complicated. Many small brands produce different bikes for road, cyclocross and mountain biking, if not more than one for each discipline. Big brands generally produce those options plus multiple dual-suspension mountain bikes, downhill bikes, commuters and several styles of road bikes to optimize your ride for bumpy, windy or uphill. And we haven’t even gotten to fixies, cruisers and e-bikes.

Since nobody has the space, time or money to have a full quiver of awesome rides at their fingertips, we’re going to attempt to narrow things down to one, trusty bike.


As with many questions I get asked as a cycling coach, the answer to this question depends on what your individual goals are. Whether it’s a multifunctional commuter, weekend warrior steed or serious road bike, the right bike has to match you and your needs. Looking at the races you plan to do and which rides you want to tackle helps nail the single best bike for you.

Here are a few scenarios:

The hardtail 29er mountain is capable on most off-road terrain. It will climb well and can be outfitted with bigger forks, a dropper-post and big-tires should you want to push the limits of what a hardtail can do off-road. A hardtail mountain bike can sustain light road riding and could even have road or commuter tires installed for long periods of training on the road. I have several clients who commute to work on slick tires during the week and switch to mountain bike tires for training after work and on weekends. Gearing limits some riders when the speed picks up on the road.

It used to be that a cyclocross bike was the most flexible way to ride road and off-road but with the adoption of disc-brakes on most bikes, it is much easier to convert your road bike from a quick Saturday group ride setup to a versatile Sunday adventure setup by swapping tires (or wheels). Using 32c or larger tires and a larger cassette are among the quick swaps that prepare your bike for any gravel or steep climbs you find on your adventures.

Enduro, free-ride or trail bikes are dual-suspension mountain bikes that go downhill and over bumpy terrain as well. They are very capable off-road and so for those with no interest in racing they are a great solution. Look for mountain bike models with lockouts and variable suspension settings to help improve your climbing and cross-country rides when not focused on the downhills.

For winter riding the fat bike is the perfect choice but what if you can only have one bike and want to ride trails in the summer or need to ride to the trails? A ‘plus-sized’ mountain bike is a flexible solution. With 3–4 inch tires, these bikes can be used in a variety of situations and often come with adjustable suspension and the ability to use a couple of different tire/wheel combinations to adapt the bike to different contexts.

Trying to choose a single bike to do everything can be a huge decision with all the options available today. Take a look at your most common rides, your biggest goals for the season and select the category of bikes that best addresses your primary needs. For any rides that are beyond your bike there are bike-shares, rentals and friends with bikes to help you find a ride for your needs.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at


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