If you are already into the bike world you probably know this, but each bike type, whether BMX, mountain, road, or comfort, has a completely different culture. Most people, when they get into biking, choose a style and stick with those in it. Road bikers with road bikers, mountain with mountain, BMX with BMX and so on. Even within each group there are subcultures. For example, I have heard an elite endurance road cyclist disdain the efforts of crit riders (short distance road cyclists). I would just like to add that personally, I believe everyone is entitled to their own styles when it comes to bicycles; at Beverly Bikes, we don’t judge. If you want to put 700c tires with studs on your carbon Fuji SL, I’ll admit it would be unusual, but it makes no difference to me. No type of biking is inherently better or worse than any other, because in the end all bikes are just two wheeled machines. Ok with that said I’ll answer the question, Which bike? The first thing we need to ask is what do you want?
If your keyword is casual, then a comfort/hybrid bike is the way to go. Nothing too serious as far as componentry (shifting, brakes, speeds etc) goes, so it is not a big punch to the wallet, and there are plenty of choices depending on what you are looking for. Casual rail trails? Try something with a little more tread. Commuting? maybe slicks with flat bars. Looking for more comfort? Try a pedal forward bike. This kind of bike is also a popular bike for people with back, hip or knee issues.
If you are looking for intense fitness and/or community, the style would have to be road or mountain bike. I will try to make the distinction between the two as simple as possible. Once you get past prior opinions in safety and style and culture I think the best distinction between the two genres is the “high.” Endurance training (road biking) gives you more of a runner's high; an endorphin rush. Mountain biking is more adrenaline based; you feel amped up. I find younger folks tend to be drawn to the adrenaline side and older folks tend towards the endorphin side, one side just has more than the other. Road biking and mountain biking share both adrenaline and endorphins Downhill mountain biking is mainly adrenaline based. But cross country mountain biking is very much endorphin based. Granfondo races (RB) are high endorphin content and low adrenaline, but crit races (RB) are adrenaline fueled. With so many choices it is pretty easy to find something that suits you.
Finally, there is BMX. BMX is a race bike or a trick bike. This is not for the average joe. While BMX does not require as much endurance, it requires an enormous amount of bike handling skills. This is the kind of bike I would recommend to a skateboarder who is trying to get into bikes. Something you can bring to the skate park, and eventually, if this is the direction you want to go, there are BMX races on small dirt courses. The nicest thing about BMX is they are low maintenance and almost indestructible. Since they are so durable and for the most part one size fits all, they are very popular as kids’ bikes.
I think it goes without saying, this particular look at the cycling world, and how one might pick out a bike is pretty one sided. It doesn’t take into account style, location, practicality, storage budget or a myriad of other things to consider while looking for a bicycle. And I am not trying to suggest that anyone has to be subject to one style over another. I just want to bring a different perspective to the bike buying experience. Something that will make your cycling interest a habit, rather than a fleeting phase. If after this you still don’t know what you want, or even if you do, the best thing you can do is go into a bike shop and start a conversation. So if this is you, and you are in the area, swing into Beverly Bikes, have a cup of coffee and let’s talk about cycling.