If you’re having a hard time deciding between a mountain bike and a road bike, it’s time to look into a hybrid bike.
Hybrid bicycles combine the best elements of road, touring, and mountain bikes into a convenient multi-purpose cycle. They’re built with straight, flat handlebars that make mountain bikes an attractive option. Thin, smooth, lighter weight wheels on hybrid bikes allow you to reach higher speeds with less exertion similar to what you’d find on a road bike. If you like touring bikes for the racks and ability to transport your belongings with ease, hybrid bikes will work well for you.
History of the Hybrid Bike
Since bicycles made their debut in the mid-19th century, cyclists have found more functional and recreational uses for bicycles. At first, engineers adapted bike styles for specific purposes like racing, off-road riding, and general commuting. Today, more people want a versatile bike that lets them do everything from commuting on city roads and pavement, racing and fitness riding, to family leisure rides on bike trails in their favorite local parks.
Rather than buy separate bikes for every purpose, the bicycle industry has answered the need for a one-size-fits-all bike by introducing the hybrid bike. Even the hybrid bike continues to evolve as riders needs continue to change. Today, you’ll find five popular classes of hybrid bikes including city, comfort, commuter, cross, and trekking style hybrids. Before we talk about each class, let’s look at some of the characteristics that make hybrid bikes a favorite among all types of riders.
Characteristics of Hybrid Bikes
How it rides
In a word, comfort best describes the ride you’ll get from most hybrid bikes. With thinner wheels and tires designed to roll easily across all types of terrain, they’re built to let you switch between speed and touring in a single ride. The upright handlebars found on most hybrid bikes let you sit comfortably and help to maximize visibility while you’re riding.
Hybrid bike frames are built from aluminum or lighter weight carbon materials. While carbon is more versatile for better speeds and more road conditions, aluminum is the less expensive option.
The seats are padded and a bit thicker than seats on racing bikes, and many come with suspension seat posts. Hybrid bike seats are designed to absorb and reduce shock on rough terrain while maximizing comfort during distance and high-speed cycling.
You can find hybrid bikes with up to 30 gears. What type of riding you do the most determines how many gears you’ll actually need. If you’re a long-distance rider, go for a higher number of gears. If you commute or do more recreational and fitness riding, you can opt for a bike with fewer gears.
Linear brakes are standard on the average hybrid but disc brakes are available. Handbrake positioning and comfort are important, and with the right handlebar position braking should be easy with any style hybrid.
Equipment and Accessories
You’ll be able to choose accessories and equipment like rims, racks, and fenders. A bike shop will offer custom options that larger retailers lack or that you can add to your bike later.
Which Type of Hybrid is Best?
City bike. For urban commuting, the city bike is a must-have. Designed for short trips in variable weather conditions, most city bikes have full fenders and come with front and rear headlights.
Comfort. For recreational riding, choose a comfort bike. These bikes are best for short, fun trips weather on city roads or park riding trails.
Commuter. Like city bikes, commuters are designed for longer trips. You’ll find that you can add larger racks and baskets to handle more cargo on those longer rides.
Cross. A true all-in-one, the cross bike is a sport-touring bike that lets you tackle rougher surfaces with a little more speed.
Trekking. Trekking models allow you more flexibility than a touring bike. Also similar to a mountain bike, but the trekking bike is better suited to riding on paved surfaces.
Where to Find a Good Hybrid Bicycle
In terms of price, hybrid bicycles offer the most flexibility for any budget. You can find top-rated and high-quality hybrid bicycles at prices ranging from as little as $200 to well over $1,000. Why not take a look at our review of 12 hybrid bikes which covers a range of prices that you can choose from to suit your needs.
If you don’t have experience buying a bicycle, you’ll want to start at a local bike shop. At a local shop, an expert will be able to help you with all aspects of sizing and fitting the perfect hybrid bike. They’ll also assemble the bike for you, have accessories on hand, as well as provide warranty and repair services.
Veteran cyclists and those who have bought several types of bikes in the past and know what type and size of frame you want, you’re ready to try one of the larger retail chains. You’ll be able to buy in-store at a retailer like Walmart or you can buy a hybrid bike online where you’ll have the option to pay for assembly or do it yourself.
You might be looking for a hard-to-find or vintage model with exact specifications or you might be in the market for a used hybrid bike. In that case, listing and auction sites like eBay or Craigslist may be your first choice.
Hybrids offer the best combination of comfort, speed, and durability making them a top choice for city riders. Hybrid bicycles give you a little more speed than mountain bikes, thanks to the thinner smoother tires. With the upright seating and handlebar positioning, hybrids optimize your comfort. When you need to switch from short trips on paved roads, to faster recreation or fitness trips in the park, a hybrid bike has all the features and characteristics you’ll need.
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