Can Hybrid Bikes Go On Trails?

Hybrid bikes are built as a combination of two or more other kinds of bikes, meaning that they are suited to a wide range of environments.

Before you buy a bike it is important to consider exactly what particular aspects you are looking for so you can decide whether a hybrid is the right choice for you.

Put simply, a hybrid is designed as a multipurpose bike, allowing the rider to travel on multiple different terrains and distances; other bikes are designed with one specific goal in mind, so while a hybrid offers versatility it will never compete with the ‘pure’ bikes.

Can Hybrid Bikes Go Off Road?

Yes, hybrid bikes can go off road for the most part (you might need to make a few tweaks), but they are never going to be as good as a good old fashioned mountain bike.

The mountain bike is designed specifically for this purpose and will have no trouble on even the roughest terrain. The hybrid bike however makes compromises in various areas that can make your off-road journey much more unpleasant when compared to a mountain bike.

Tires

A simple rule to follow for tire width is that the tire size should increase in proportion to the roughness of the terrain – so thin tires on tarmac, leading to the thickest tires on off road treks.

Just make sure you have the clearance needed depending on the terrain. The bigger the tire the more control you as a rider are going to have; improved traction, more shock absorption and improved rolling characteristics. You should also make sure that you put enough air in your tires before riding off. Doing all of the above will make your off-road ride that much smoother.

Drivetrain

Typically mountain bikes will set lower gear ratios as to provide the rider an advantage during ascents up tough mountainous terrain.

Contrastingly, road bikes will set high gear ratios allowing for faster speed on a flat.

The drivetrain of a road bike will not have sufficiently low ratios for off-roading, and small obstacles will become huge problems.

If you are purchasing a hybrid bike for off-road then make sure it is more geared towards a mountain bike than a road bike. You will be able to use your low ratio mountain bike in the city, but you won’t be able to use your high ratio hybrid off-road.

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Suspension

A lot of hybrids have a rigid fork suspension. These are great for light off-road (pre-prepared trails) and are generally good for city riding.

For actual off-road though you are going to need a suspension fork with at least 100mm of travel to smooth out the ride. But suspension is a must for serious off-road travel as it will drastically improve ride comfort and stability.

Frame

If your hybrid has a road frame with a horizontal top tube then you might not even have enough clearance for serious off-road.

The lowered stand over clearance of the frame is usually an advantage but it just won’t help in an off-road environment.

Another thing to consider is that mountain bikes are designed specifically to withstand intense off-road demands, meaning that they have been properly reinforced for the job.

That is not to say that a hybrid frame will definitely lack the quality of a mountain bike frame, just that mountain bikes were designed specifically with that job in mind.

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Final thoughts

As you become more comfortable with riding, and begin to understand the role of each component, you will gain a better appreciation for mechanically improving your bike.

Remember, you can always change parts to fit your needs.

Bikes have so many different parts and components that there are literally thousands of combinations, but there is no way to make a one size fits all bike. Different parts will be required for different journeys, meaning that all bikes will be disadvantaged in at least one way of riding.

Feel free to experiment with parts to see what works best for you. But keep in mind that specific bikes have been developed for specific purposes and if you don’t know much about bikes then there is probably no point in second guessing the manufacturer.

Even the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on handling and speed so you shouldn’t mess with your bike unless you know what you’re doing!

For more in-depth information, our detailed comparison article on hybrid bikes will help. And if you’re a more visual learner, you’ll enjoy the video from Bike Radar below:

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