Are Hybrid Bikes Good for Long Distance Cycling?

If you are looking to take part in your first sportive or long distance cycle, it can be daunting to know what kind of bike is the best fit for you. A question I get a lot is “can my hybrid bike be used for long distance?” The answer to that question is, of course it can! But there are some important aspects to consider that you should be aware of.

What is a Hybrid Bike?

Hybrid bikes are essentially specialized bikes which borrow from road bikes, mountain bikes, and touring bikes, taking different elements from each to create a unique combination. While the other three bikes have been designed for a specific purpose, the hybrid bike uses elements of each to create a more ‘general purpose’ bike that can be used in a variety of riding conditions.

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In general, the hybrid will provide the comfort of a mountain bike by borrowing its flat handlebars and seating posture. This can be very handy for novice cyclists as this is the most natural and comfortable position to ride in. The hybrid also borrows the speed from a road bike – the thinner wheels and smoother tires make for an easier ride than a standard mountain bike. Most hybrids will also take elements from touring bikes by having places to mount bags for long-distance travel – you can read our other article for a more detailed history of hybrid bikes.

So the hybrid bike lives up to its name by taking the best parts from the three other kinds of bikes. This might seem appealing, but by becoming a jack of all trades, this bike inevitably becomes a master of none.

So, Are Hybrids good for long distance?

This is a very interesting question, and like most things, the answer depends upon a wide range of factors. It is easy to brush aside a hybrid bike in favor of the bike actually designed to do the particular job at hand, however the answer has more nuance than that. Here are the things you should consider before purchasing a hybrid bike.

Terrain

Where you will be cycling is perhaps the most important question. Road bikes should only be used on tarmac. Even gravel tracks are a no-no as there is a high risk of tire and wheel damage. Going off-road on a road bike is also an incredibly uncomfortable experience.

Hybrids on the other hand offer a bit more versatility than the classic road bike. The stronger wheels and more robust build means that hybrid bikes can deal with some light off-road terrain – but don’t go descending down any rocks passes. So if there is going to be a bit of off road travel a hybrid bike makes the most sense.

Encumbrance

If you plan on cycling fully loaded with a couple of panniers then a hybrid might be a poor choice. The additional weight will at best be uncomfortable, but at worst is could have actual mechanical affects on your bikes. These bikes simply aren’t strong enough to support the increased weight.

But, if you are travelling light, then a handlebar or seat bag might be the better option. Anything above this and both the hybrid and the road bike become poor choices.

Distance

How much you are planning to ride per day on your trip is an important factor to consider. It is much easier to travel large distances on a road bike, but that being said, a reasonably skilled cycler can cover 8k plus a day in relative comfort.

The longer the planned travel distance the less the hybrid makes sense. But if the trip isn’t so intensive the hybrid bike is definitely a capable contender.

Conclusion

Hybrids can be good for long distance, it just depends what you’re doing. If you are the kind of cyclist who likes to take in the scenery and do relatively short distances, then a hybrid is the right choice for you. The longer the travel distance becomes, and the harsher the terrain gets, the less sense using a hybrid makes.

Road bikes have been designed for out and out cycling over long distances on roads, a mountain bike for off-road terrain, and touring bikes for carrying capacity. A hybrid will always be a combination of each three that can never be as good at one particular job. The hybrid bike compromises between the different demands of the other bikes and in doing so becomes less suitable for each.

That being said, if it is a matter of budget and you need one bike to fulfill multiple roles, then a hybrid is a good choice.

If after reading this you have decided that a Hybrid bike might be for you, check out this Buyer’s Guide for Hybrid Bikes.

 

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