An interest in health made you grab the old mountain bike for the commute. You take a look at the old bike with its knobby tires and wonder if there is a better option.
You still like to ride fast with your buddies on the weekend or hit the trails with your family, but the old beater isn’t suited for the everyday ride to work.
Maybe you are just getting back into cycling after a few years and want a versatile solution that you can use on the road and the trails. Either way, I aim to help you explore a hybrid bike’s options and capabilities and help you make the best-informed decision.
Hybrid bicycles combine the attributes of road and mountain bikes. Existing Hybrids have variations in suspension, gearing, and handling depending on the desired end-use. Individuals interested in a versatile bike for recreational trail riding, commuting, and cruising with a bit more comfort would benefit from owning a hybrid bike.
Hybrid bicycles have been evolving for a few decades now and have taken on many different names. Let’s dive into the specifics of hybrid bikes, and then I will tell you why I bought one.
They can now be broken up into the 6 sub-categories listed below:
- Trekking or Touring
- City / Urban
The following list of options should be considered if you are interested in owning one:
- Frame Material
- Kick Stand
Hybrid Bike Comparison Table.
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What types of Hybrid Bikes are There?
1. Trekking or Touring Hybrid
Trekking or touring bikes are specially designed for the sport of bicycle touring. Touring has been around almost as long as bicycles have. Solo adventurers and cycling clubs trek out across the county with all of their belongings carefully stored onboard or behind them in a trailer.
Touring bikes are designed with extra fittings for front and rear pannier packs to stow camping and survival gear as necessary. Bicycle touring can technically be done with almost any bike style, but enthusiasts invest in specialized rigs that can carry a large load.
This style of bike can also have a longer wheelbase to improve stability under heavy loads. Wheels and tires are selected based on their ability to carry weight and provide comfort
2. Fitness Hybrid Bike
If you search for a fitness bike, you’re liable to find many listings for stationary exercise machines. If you dig deeper, they seem to have been the brainchild of Trek Bikes and are very similar to a city or commuter bike.
Fitness bikes usually have a thinner version of a mountain bike frame which includes a flat handlebar and cushy seat to allow for an upright riding position. These bikes prioritize comfort over performance.
3. City / Urban Hybrid bike
City bikes are similar to many other hybrid bike models with a frame that resembles a mountain bike. Slight design modifications and handlebars allow for a more upright riding style. You end up with a mountain bike that allows for a more comfortable seating position and street worthiness.
Features like front fork and seat suspension help the rider absorb curb hops and uneven street surfaces. They also have thick belted tires that are designed to prevent punctures while riding over unpredictable city streets.
4. Commuter Hybrid Bike
A Commuter hybrid bike is very similar to a city bike. Where they start to stray apart is improved capability for longer distances. They are typically outfitted with lighter and thinner tires that tend to improve rides over a few miles.
Commuters often share features from touring bikes like storage capability so the rider can carry their things to and from work. I would also add fenders in lights if I intended to brave the elements and darkness to return to the grind.
5. Comfort Hybrid Bike
You can probably imagine what comfort bikes are for! Big cushy seats and, on occasion, added suspension are designed to give the rider a nice relaxing ride. The head tube tends to be extra long in addition to upright or some variation of cruiser handlebars.
These modifications are designed to maximize comfort. These bikes are very similar to fitness bikes but may more closely resemble a beach cruiser. The added benefit to a beach cruiser is additional gearing operated by a derailleur.
What to Consider When Buying a Hybrid Bike.
1. What frame material should you choose for your hybrid bike?
You can find hybrid bikes made from steel (Chromoly), aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium, and bamboo! Steel aluminum and carbon fiber are most commonly used and vary in cost. Steel frames are the cheapest, and carbon fiber tends to be the most expensive. I won’t talk much more about titanium and bamboo bikes in this post due to their rarity.
First, we have to talk about price. Steel hybrid bikes will run anywhere from 200 to 350 dollars. Aluminum hybrid bikes are 250 to 1500 dollars, with most of them coming in at the lower half of that range. Aluminum bikes that get more expensive than $800 usually have suspension, carbon fiber parts, or premium components. Carbon fiber bikes will cost somewhere around $2000.
Buyers need to perform test rides first to evaluate fit, comfort, and feel. Most bike manufacturers have several variations of the same bike with different combinations of material and component quality. In the long run, you may be happier with a more comfortable bike and quality components that last instead of being dead set on getting a carbon fiber frame that you can brag to your buddies about.
The materials used in manufacturing the frame will dictate the final bike weight. Some of the lightest bikes made out of carbon fiber are around 20 pounds or even lighter. The average aluminum-framed bike will be right around 30 pounds. Steel bikes and low-quality bikes that weren’t designed to be light will be over 30 pounds and sometimes tip the scales at 40-50 lbs!
Weight comes into play while accelerating, decelerating, and climbing hills. As long as you are getting a decent bike, this shouldn’t be a huge factor as the impact won’t be that noticeable unless the bike is grossly overweight.
The next thing to consider is exposure to the elements and corrosion resistance. I doubt you will rush to leave your new baby out in the rain! However, if you commute every day, rain or shine, or leave it on the bike rack now and then, it may sway your decision. Steel alloys like Chromoly are made with chromium and are designed to resist corrosion, but aluminum and especially carbon fiber do a better job.
Finally, where will your bike stay while on the job? Nothing says expensive like carbon fiber! This may attract unwanted attention.
2. What size hybrid bike frame should you choose?
I could write a whole blog post on just this topic and probably will! The most common way of know what size hybrid bike you need is to measure your inseam length. Sometimes retailers will use your overall height to estimate this value, but it’s not necessarily the most accurate.
From here, we can estimate what size frame will work best. Small adjustments in seat height will ensure the proper leg extension while pedaling.
Inseam measurement is also compared to stand over height, allowing enough clearance over the top tube while standing over it. Most retailers will have a sizing chart for each bike they are offering.
For most of you, stopping there will get you as close as you need. When you start considering frame geometry and the type of handlebars for the perfect reach, things get a bit more complicated.
3. The best gearing solution for your hybrid bike.
More speeds(gears) does not mean better! The advantage of a ton of gears (e.g., 30 speed) is that you will have a higher speed range from lowest to highest gear for a given pedal cadence. In most cases, you will also have a smaller step transition from each gear, easing the cyclist’s burden.
Unfortunately, many of those gears have overlapping ratios or are not recommended for use due to the chain’s crossing pattern. Simpler 1×11 (One chainring and an 11-speed cassette) setups can compete with the range of 3×8 drivetrains while simplifying gear progression significantly.[sc name=”amz” asin=”B01LZG8R79″ ]
The disadvantage of a simpler setup is that each gear’s step-change will most likely be greater. You have to ask yourself, “How many of these gears will I use?” How many are you currently using? That’s going to depend on your fitness level, the type of terrain, and max speeds.
4. What are the best tires for a hybrid bike?
Most hybrid tires will be designed for a quiet ride with lower rolling resistance while on the road. This is achieved by using a smoother surface in the center.
Channels that can move water out of the way help maintain contact with the riding surface. Finally, more aggressive traction designs towards the edge improve traction on loose surfaces or when cornering.[sc name=”amz” asin=”B01MTCE8QU” ]
Size, width, and tire pressure can also impact the comfort and performance of hybrid bike tires. I cover these details and recommend some options here.
5. Do hybrid bikes have fenders?
Fenders keep rain, mud, and road debris from flying up into the air. Touring, Commuter, City, and urban bikes sometimes benefit from having fenders to protect the rider.
Some frames have the hidden ability to add fenders. If you want to have this option in the future, make sure you look for these mounting locations. There are also fender solutions that can be added to your bike when the bike doesn’t have the specific mounting capability.
6. Should you add a Kickstand to your hybrid bicycle?
Most bicycle purists wouldn’t be caught dead with a kickstand on their ride. Pros would consider this weight unnecessary, and if you’re on rough terrain, it could actually be dangerous or distracting.
However, the weight difference from an added kickstand would only be noticed, if at all, by world-class athletes. If you often struggle to find a place to balance your bike, only to find it falling down on the concrete, you might want to consider one.
It’s true a rough ride can dislodge a kickstand, but in my opinion, these trails may be better off left to the mountain bikes. If you are considering a kickstand to add to your bike, you can check out my post, where I review a few models that can be added later.
Touring and commuter bikes rely on their ability to carry cargo. Frame strength and attachment locations are key features to look for if you plan on loading up your bike.
I took a look at some of the available front bike basket solutions here. Rear racks help you install storage solutions on top or panniers that hang down alongside the rear tire.
Hybrid bikes typically have flat or drop-style handlebars. Drop handlebars allow riders to shift riding positions which can help during long rides. Leaning forward also reduces wind drag and improves stability in high speed or windy situations.
Flat bars allow riders to sit more upright and can improve stability and maneuverability on rougher terrains. Some flat bars bend towards the rider with varying “sweep” angles, further improving the ability to ride in the upright position.
9. Hybrid bike brakes and the advantages of disc brakes.
There really isn’t anything wrong with classic rim brakes, that is, brakes that clamp down on your tire rims. They work great for casual bikers and keep the cost of the bike down.
However, there are a few advantages to disc brakes that may make them worth the cost depending on how you will ride your bike:
- Tire sizes will only be limited by the ability to fit in the frame. Larger tire sizes can interfere with rim brakes unless they, too, are modified. You could even swap out rims and tires to suit the conditions.
- Trail debris and mud that is picked up by the wheel and sticks to the rim will quickly interfere with rim brakes. Disc brakes tend to stay much cleaner.
- The disc is a much cheaper wear surface than your bike’s rims.
- Disc brakes, especially hydraulic actuated, have improved control over rim brakes.
- Disc brakes dissipate heat better and have improved performance when braking at high speeds.
How much do hybrid bikes cost?
Steel hybrid bikes will run anywhere from 200 to 350 dollars. Aluminum hybrid bikes are 250 to 1500 dollars, with most of them coming in at the lower half of that range. Aluminum bikes that get more expensive than $800 usually have suspension, carbon fiber parts, or premium components. Carbon fiber bikes will cost somewhere around $2000.
Can I convert my Mountain Bike into a Hybrid?
Many mountain bike riders have converted their older mountain bikes into something more street-worthy. The most common changes are tires that have treads designed for road use and handlebars that have risers.
Fenders, storage racks, and other modifications are easily added to make the bike suit your needs.
Can I convert my Hybrid Bike into a Cruiser?
Some people want the comfort of a beach cruiser with the suspension, gearing, and component quality of a mountain bike.
A plush seat along with handlebars that are swept back further make this a possibility.
Why Did I Buy a Hybrid Bike?
Back in 1996 I bought a mountain bike. You may have heard of it, Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo, at the advice of a good friend and coworker. Growing up, I only had old 80’s road bikes and BMX bikes. I couldn’t believe how much fun that bike was.
We would fly down washed-out mountain logging trails as a group until we were numb, despite the suspension. Often we would weave in and out of trees through hair-raising single-track trails and tumble down rock beds when we miss judged our routes.
Now that I am older, the speed is slightly lower, and the trails are quite a bit more tamed. When I was searching for a new bike recently, we had just moved close to the beach, and the wife and I were interested in beach cruisers.
Besides, what if I wanted to take my new bike out on the trail every once in awhile?
I wasn’t quite sure I wanted a single-speed bike that seemed one-dimensional. I decided on a hybrid bike and figured I would make some modifications to make it closer to a cruiser. I have been happy with the purchase and love the versatility of my hybrid bike!