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Hybrid Bikes: What to Know and How to Choose
The Complete Guide to Buying Hybrid Bikes: Everything to Know
Did you know that switching from cars to bikes decreases transportation emissions by up to 67%? Biking is also known to increase cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility, and posture.
A popular favorite in the biking world is the hybrid bike, a cross between a classic mountain and road bike. It blends mountain and road bike features, making it broadly appealing and highly versatile.
Since they combine components from two types of bikes, hybrid bikes are built to serve different purposes. Some are perfect for fast road riding, while others lean toward off-road riding.
In this article, we'll give you a detailed breakdown of hybrid bikes to help you choose the perfect one.
What Exactly is a Hybrid Bike?
Hybrid bikes combine mountain bike and road bike characteristics to serve various purposes. Standard ones come with components such as medium-width tires and wide gearing. They also feature an upright geometry and a flat handlebar for comfort and versatility.
Depending on the model, a hybrid bike may look like a touring bike, a flat-bar road bike, or even a mountain bike. It performs well in different environments, including light trails, city commutes, and rural roads.
What Doesn’t Count as a Hybrid Bike?
If you are new to hybrid bikes, you may confuse them with other bikes. This is because hybrids have similarities with other types of bikes. To help you know what to look out for, here are components or characteristics that don't define a hybrid bike:
- 26” wheels
- Cruiser-style bike
- Rear suspension
- Drop handlebars
- Front basket
- Integrated rear cargo rack
- Fenders (although they can be added to hybrid bikes for all-weather riding)
Types of Hybrid Bikes
Hybrid bikes are built for adventure, leisure, commuting, or fitness. They offer comfortable and memorable riding experiences depending on their components. The common types of hybrid bikes include the following:
1. Comfort BikesComfort hybrid bikes are perfect for recreational purposes. They come with a comfortable saddle, a higher handlebar, and wider tires.
You can also find one with a front suspension or a suspension seat-post for maximum comfort when riding through all terrains. Though these bikes are slower and heavier, they may suit you if you prefer comfort over performance.
2. Performance Hybrid
Performance hybrid bikes feature a sporty fit and offer a mix of comfort and efficiency. They are usually lighter and feature a mountain bike gearing to help you climb hilly slopes with ease. Thanks to their lighter wheels and frame and narrower tires, performance hybrid bikes are perfect for athletes.
3. Cruiser Bike
Cruiser hybrid bikes focus more on fun and style rather than performance. They feature simple, reliable components that offer similar cycling experiences as comfort bikes. Standard features of cruiser bikes include a comfortable saddle, bigger tires, and a higher handlebar.
4. Urban Bike
With fewer components and a simpler design, urban bikes are built for urban commuting. You can't use them in sports or leisure activities. They also feature fenders, racks, and baskets to make urban commuting easier.
5. Dual Sport
One appealing thing about dual sport bikes is that you can ride them on any terrain. They can suit your cycling needs if you are looking for a bike that leans toward a mountain bike. As a more robust hybrid, the bike features disc brakes and front suspensions for easier commuting.
Top Features to Consider When Choosing a Hybrid Bike
The difference between most hybrid bikes is brought about by the frame type, brakes, and size of wheels and tires. Components such as saddle types, gearing, valves, and forks set the bikes apart. Here's a breakdown of each of these components as you consider buying a hybrid bike:
1. Frame Type
Hybrid bikes come with either step-over or step-through frames. Step-over frames are popular since you can conveniently mount or dismount them on racks. They are also stronger, lighter, and better suited for performance-based bikes.
The four main types of brakes found on hybrid bikes include rim, coaster, mechanical disc, and hydraulic disc. Rim brakes are lightweight, lowly priced, cheap to replace, and easy to maintain. The downside is that they don't work well in wet conditions and can wear the rims.
Since they work by backpedaling, coaster brakes don’t need any cables. They perform better in wet environments than rim brakes but are quite challenging to operate.
Though they are heavier, mechanical disc brakes work well in wet weather conditions. The disc brake uses cables to operate, just like rim brakes. They are also cheaper compared to other disc brake types but don’t have the same stopping force as hydraulic disc brakes and require more frequent maintenance.
A hydraulic disc brake relies on hydraulic fluid to operate. Despite being more expensive, they are the most powerful, reliable, and consistent brakes ever made.
3. Wheels and Tire Sizes
The standard rim diameter on a hybrid bike is 29 inches (700c). A model with a smaller wheel size of 27.5 inches (650b) pairs well with wider tires.
A 650b wheel may have tires with a width of 61mm, while a 700c wheel may have tire sizes ranging from 35mm to 45mm. Either way, a bike with a 650b x 2.2" setup is slower than one with 700c x 35mm but very comfortable.
4. Saddle Types
Hybrid bikes come with different types of saddles, depending on the manufacturer. Some have a heavily padded saddle for comfort, while other saddles are lightly padded for performance-optimized rides. You can buy an aftermarket saddle if the one on your bike doesn't fit your needs.
5. Belt Vs. Chain Drives
Belt drives require less maintenance and last longer than chain drives. They are also cleaner (since they don't need lubrication), quieter, and lighter. The downside is that they are quite costly and can only fit bikes with an internal gear hub.
Chain drives fit nicely on every bike frame, are cheaper, and pair well with derailleurs. Their spare parts are also easier to find, adjust, service, and replace. On the downside, chain drives require maintenance, are less durable, and require frequent lubrication.
6. Schrader Vs Presta Valves
Hybrid bikes may come with Schrader valves or with Presta valves. These valves differ in terms of their mode of operation and type of pump fitting needed to inflate.
Schrader valves are thick, more durable, and use a fitting that is more commonly available.
On the other hand, Presta valves are tall and narrow, making them ideal for 700c tubes. Their locking mechanism provides a slightly better seal at the valve meaning they lose less air over time.No matter which type of value you use, it’s good to have a spare tube on hand for an unexpected flat.
7. Suspension Vs. Rigid Fork
Rigid forks are common in hybrid bikes since they perform well on paved surfaces. They are also cheaper (unless they are made of carbon fiber), long-lasting, and efficient.
You can also find a hybrid bike with a suspension fork to improve comfort on gravel paths and bumpy roads. Though they are slower and more suited for off-road use, suspension forks are easier on the wrists.
Choose a fork design based on how you will be using your hybrid bike. Suspension forks are ideal for mixed-terrain rides, while rigid forks suit city commutes, road riding, and bike paths.
Accessories to Buy with a Hybrid Bike
If you are getting a hybrid bike for the first time, certain accessories can improve your riding experience. Since they cost more when you sum up their costs, you don't have to get them all at once.
A bicycle helmet is one of the essential accessories you can get for your hybrid bike. Look for one that is comfortable, cool to wear, and adequately ventilated. The helmet should sit level (not tilted back) on the head.
If you use your bike to commute on a busy road, get a bike bell that will alert pedestrians as you pass the road. Bike lights can also help you see clearly in the evening or early morning. Don't forget to invest in comfortable bicycle clothing that can absorb sweat during the rides.
Cycling sunglasses, which can protect your eyes against debris and wind, are also a must-have accessory. They prevent your eyes from excess UV light exposure, which may cause cancer.
You may buy a saddle bag fitted with a mini bike pump and spare inner tube. These accessories will help you fix minor bike problems like punctured tires.
How Hybrid Bikes Compare to Other Bikes
Since hybrid bikes are built for comfortable and casual upright riding, their frames reflect this design principle. They borrow design cues from mountain bikes and material structures from road bikes. Hybrids compare to other bikes in the following ways:
1. Kids' vs. Adult Hybrid Bikes
The adults' hybrid bike version is similar to the kids' one. Differences emerge with the shape and size of components, such as saddle shape, brake lever design, and frame geometry.
Kids' hybrid bikes feature a kids' saddle, brake levers suited for kids' hands, and smaller wheels. They also have a lower frame height and shorter reach measurement.
2. Mountain Bikes
Since most mountain bikes are built for off-road rides, they perform better on mountain trails. Hybrid bikes have limited off-road capabilities, unlike mountain bikes. Their tires and suspension are ideal for riding on light trails like gravel paths.
Hybrid bikes come with fork travel ranging from 40 to 80mm, while the one on mountain bikes ranges from 100 to 200mm. They also have 650b or 700c wheels, while mountain bikes have 27.5 or 29-inch wheels with wide tires and slacker geometry.
3. Commuter Bikes
The term “commuter bikes” is used to describe bikes used for commuting. Examples of these bikes include mountain, city, fitness, cruiser, hybrid, and road bikes.
You can use a hybrid bike for commuting, depending on your preferences. However, the bike can't outperform a city bike in terms of commuting.
4. Touring Bikes
Though you can use a hybrid bike for touring, it isn't well equipped for this purpose.
Touring bikes feature flat or drop handlebars to improve wrist comfort and wide gearing to tackle hills. They also come with a number of mounting points built into the frame and may include pre-installed fenders for rain protection and pannier racks to support more loads.
5. Road Bike
Road bikes are ideal for road racing or any speed-oriented ride. Unlike a hybrid bike, a road bike features drop handlebars, no suspension, and compact gearing. You can also find the bike with an aggressive riding position, thin and smooth tires, and carbon fiber frames.
6. Gravel Bike
Both hybrid and gravel bikes can tackle paved and unpaved roads. However, gravel bikes feature a drop bar that makes them ideal for sporting. They also have wider 650b or 700c wheels, carbon frames, wider gear ranges, and aggressive geometry.
With gravel bikes, you can switch the tires and fit larger tires and wheels for improved comfort and grip on bumpy trails. Since they feature lower gearing, they are slower than road bikes on paved surfaces.
7. Fitness Bike
Fitness bikes are a lightweight version of hybrid bikes optimized for road rides. Thanks to their speed, weight, and simple design, they are suitable for working out.
Instead of having step-through frames and wide tires like hybrids, they have lighter aluminum frames. Fitness bikes also feature a rigid fork, a more aggressive geometry, 700c wheels, and narrower tires.
Buy a Hybrid Bike Today
As discussed in this guide, each hybrid bike has unique characteristics and features. Choose one that fits your cycling habits, weight, and height. Since hybrid bikes are also available in different frame sizes and use cases, choose one that fits your needs.
Trust Cannondale with your hybrid bike needs to make your riding experiences fruitful and memorable. We seek to revolutionize cycling with our wide range of iconic bicycles that have helped push people further. Find a Cannondale dealer in your city today to buy a hybrid bike of your choice.
Come ride with us.