A hybrid bike is a hybrid of a standard road bike and a mountain bike, taking the best bits of both types of bike to create a machine that is comfortable over all terrains and surfaces.
Hybrid bikes do vary – some take more influence from the road genre whilst others sit closer to the mountain bike end. Where a bike sits on that scale will influence how well it copes with uneven off-road terrain or how speedy it will be on the tarmac.
Features to expect in a hybrid bike:
Here’s a look at our favourite models. Because we know most shoppers are after the best hybrid bike for their money, we’ve included mostly value orientated models – with one or two more premium options.
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Many of the bikes listed below are the 2019 versions of models we’ve reviewed before.
For £300, we reckon this represents good value for money, and with mudguard and pannier racks it’s a versatile option. It’s not quite as comfortable as some other options out there, so we’d not recommend it if you’re going on long adventures.
The Subway 1 comes in women’s and men’s builds.
Complete with front end suspension, this is a hybrid bike designed for a rider who wants to experiment with gentle off-roading such as excursions down country bridleways.
The Suntour fork offers 75mm of travel, and can be adjusted to provide a stiffer ride on the tarmac. However, coupled with the very wide wide Kenda tyres, the extra spring does take some of the joy out of road riding.
Perfect for commuting, this is a road ready hybrid that will feel light and fast on tarmac when compared with models that come with suspension or wide tyres. Triple chainset means lots of gears for the hills but the rim brakes aren’t as quick in the wet as discs would be.
The frame was let down by its very upright position, for us – but that might be a plus if you’re after a very relaxed stance on the bike.
A speedy tarmac bike which will suit those commuting mostly on the road. The carbon fork is phenomenal value and adds an enormous amount of comfort to the ride.
The newest models come under the Triban name, in this case with disc brakes and a compact 50/34 chainset with a wide spread of gears within the rear cassette.
Designed to be a trekking bike, the Riverside is comfortable on the road, and the suspension fork coupled with wide tyres mean it handles gravel and wooded paths well.
Single chainring keeps things simple, with loads of range on the rear cassette. The Mavic Allroad Aksium wheels are outstanding, and these come with comfortable 38mm B’Twin TrekkingSpeed Protect+ tyres – which are pretty bombproof.
A butted aluminium frame (Giant calls it ALUXX) with tons of standover clearance – ideal if you’re commuting in jeans. The tyres are wide and this model can go off-road, but it’s designed with tarmac in mind.
Giant has gone for integrated cables – this reduces damage over time and thus maintenance, and it looks a lot cleaner. The brakes offer super speedy stopping and there’s a huge choice of gears. Features such as a riser stem allow for a pretty upright, thus comfortable for most, position.
Available in a men’s or women’s spec build, the slick tyres mean the Lithium rolls well on the road. However, the 40c width, plus the super wide handlebars mean you can get away with taking the bike off road, treating it a bit like a rigid 29er mountain bike. There’s even enough space for up to a 2.2″ MTB tyre and there’s more than enough gears for steep hills.
Those wide bars won’t thread through traffic with ease, but if you want a bike you can commute on and have a lot of fun with on the weekend, this is a great choice.
Coming from Chain Reaction Cycle’s own brand range, the Mach 3 is made with the same materials as the brand’s ‘Razor’ road bikes. You get a quality frame and carbon fork which improves handling and reduces road buzz.
The gearing is close to what you might get on an endurance road bike, so will offer fewer small gear options for the hills but this should be plenty for anyone of moderate fitness. Vee G-Sport 38c tyres are comfortable and resilient, though in our last test we felt the bars were a bit wide for congested roads.
A nippy machine that includes a Lefty fork. Cannondale calls this a bike that’s built for the city, but the wide tyres and suspension mean this is certainly an option for someone who wants to explore off-road terrain a little. The brand has opted for a smaller wheel (650b) with a 42c tyre for 2020.
A good choice for someone who is seeking plenty of comfort, or a rider who wants to get off-road and explore a little.
Designed to be fast on the road, this creation from the Swiss engineers at BMC features a lightweight and racy frame design.
Hydraulic disc brakes and 35c tyres allow you to ride over gravel and light off-road terrain. The double chainset is similar to a road bike set up but wide ratio cassette should make hills manageable for most riders. There are hidden quick-mount mudguard eyelets, and cable routing is internal to ensure that everything stays neat free from outside gunk.
German based manufacturers Canyon are best known for their high end, race ready road machines – but with the ‘Urban’ range, they’ve gone for something very different.
You get a neat belt drive to cut down on maintenance and potential mess, plus eight hub gears. A good choice for someone after a low maintenance machine for flat city rides. If you want top spec, models go up to £1749.
The best hybrid bike for someone else might not be the best hybrid bike for you. Depending on what sort of riding you’re going to be doing, it is worth considering whether you’d be better suited buying a hybrid bike that is more similar to a road bike, or one that is more similar to a mountain bike.
If you’re doing most of your riding on roads and cycles paths, then the best option is to go for a more road-orientated hybrid bike. Quite often, these bikes will feature the same frame and fork as found on the manufacturer’s sportive road bike, but with a flat bar handlebar for a more upright position. The tyres will also be slick, and not super wide, allowing you to ride fast and keep up with traffic.
This type of hybrid bike will normally also come with gearing that reflects its road origins, mainly designed for relatively fast riding over flat roads. At its bottom end, the gearing should also be easy enough to tackle some pretty fierce hills, although if you’re carrying extra pounds in your panniers (or on your belly) then you might struggle a little.
With regards to gearing, this type of hybrid bike will genearlly have slightly easier gearing than its more road-orientated bretheren. This means that although you won’t be able to hit quite the same top speeds, having a big sprocket at the back and a tiny ring at the front, you should be able to get over that steep climb at the end of your commute with ease, even on a Friday evening at the end of a long, tiring week.
Compared to road bikes, all of the best hybrid bikes will come with wider tyres. The width will vary, but it will generally be something between 28c and 42c. Not only will this help to improve comfort, ironing out any rough surfaces, but will also add to the level of grip when the roads are wet
The more varied the terrain you plan to ride on is, the wider you’ll want your tyres. If you’re sticking mainly to the road, opt for the lower volume end.
The frame of a hybrid bike will generally have a fairly relaxed geometry. This means a short top tube and tall head tube to give a relaxed and upright riding position that should be nice and comfortable, not placing any strain on your neck and shoulders.
Many hybrid bikes also feature a top tube that is sloped downwards from the front of the bike towards the back, which should make it a little bit easier to get on and off whatever you are wearing.
Another feature common to all of the best hybrid bikes is that they come with flat handlebars rather than the dropped bars found on normal road bikes. This will again mean a more upright riding position, and means that the bikes will normally use mountain bike-style shifting and braking, with the levers also being easier to reach for less experienced riders.
Many brands offer hybrid bikes specifically designed for women, whilst those models not ‘women’s specific’ are considered unisex. The differences applied to a female specific version will depend upon the brand.
In some cases, the frame may have a slightly shorter top tube, and taller head tube – this allows a slightly more relaxed position and will come down to personal preference but a shorter rider may find this more comfortable.
Any good women’s specific hybrid bike will come available in smaller sizes than unisex versions, with narrower handlebars to mirror narrower shoulders, and a female specific saddle. Though it’s not at all essential for female cyclists to ride women’s specific hybrid bikes, going for this option can save cash otherwise spent on replacing a men’s saddle and wider handlebars typically fitted to unisex bikes.
The majority of hybrid bikes will be made from one of three materials: steel, aluminium, or carbon.
Probably the least used of the three is steel, which although it is able to give a comfortable ride, generally makes quite a heavy bike which can be tough to haul over the hills. However the upside of steel is that it very aesthetically appealing, so can be a good choice if you’re looking for a bike to tootle down to the shops on summer days.
A much more popular choice is aluminium, which is used on the majority of hybrid bikes, everything from £200 budget options right up to more serious machines costing £1,500. The reason for it’s popularity is that, if used properly, it can provide a comfortable ride, is relatively light, and can stand up to plenty of abuse through years of use without giving up the ghost.
Finally carbon, a material more often used on expensive road bikes, is beginning to turn up on the very best hybrid bikes. This is a good choice of your looking to shave a bit of time off your commute, with carbon doing a better job of taking the power you put through the pedals and sending it through the rear wheel.
There are also quite a few hybrid bikes on the market that combine an aluminium frame with a carbon fork. This helps to keep the cost down through the use of aluminium for the frame, while the carbon fork will do a better job of soaking up judder from rough roads.
It might be a bit of a cliché, but you will generally get what you pay when it comes to gearing. Pay more and the best hybrid bikes will come with higher quality groupsets, meaning better quality shifting and less effort needed to shift between gears.
There are also lots of hybrid bikes that offer a triple chainset. This is good if you want some seriously easy gears, but the gear range is often not that much more than if you just have two rings at the front, and it can be harder to find the perfect gear if you want to get into a rhythm on a long flat road or steady climb.
You’ll also find that there’s a pretty even split of rim brakes and disc brakes on all but the very cheapest hybrid bikes. The differences between the two are simple, with rim brakes using two pads to grip the rim of the wheel, while disc brakes grip a rotor attached to the hub of the wheel. Both have their benefits, so it’s best to choose depending on what you want from a hybrid bike.
Rim brakes are the cheaper option and have been the preferred method of braking on road bikes since time immemorial. They’re also lighter than disc brakes, and are really easy to adjust and maintain, just requiring you to slide in a new pair of brake pads every few months or so.
Although disc brakes have been used on mountain bikes for years, they have only recently made their way onto the road, and although traditional roadies have yet to fully embrace them, they’re a perfect match for hybrid bikes. They are a little more expensive than rim brakes, so you should only expect them on the best hybrid bikes, but offer better braking power and more consistent performance in both wet and dry conditions. They’re also a better option if your commute takes in potentially muddy bridleways and cycle paths, doing a good job of clearing mud and debris from the braking surface.
However if you’re buying a hybrid bike just for popping round the corner to the shops at the weekend, then a more padded saddle might prove more comfortable, providing better support for an upright riding position.
Watch: How to fit and remove pedals
As is the case with most bikes, you’re likely to have your hybrid bike sold either without pedals, or with plasticky black flat pedals. The first thing you should do to your new hybrid bike is take these off and throw them in the bin, and invest in a more suitable pair.
The best options for commuting and urban riding are off-road pedals such as Shimano’s SPD system. Not only are these easy to get in and out of so beginners shoudln’t be put off, but they feature a recessed cleat that means you can wear shoes that let you walk instead of waddling as you do with normal cycling shoes. They are also less susceptible to clogging up with mud if you’re taking your hybrid bike off-road.
While the frame and components will govern how good the bike is to ride, it is a bike’s other features that will decide how good it is to use day to day.
If you’re having to carry large or heavy items into work, then it can be uncomfortable to carry a rucksack which can often stick into your back. A better option is to invest in a pair of panniers, which will mean the weight is taken by your bike rather than by you.
All of the best hybrid bikes should come with eyelets in the frame that will allow it to take a pannier rack. It is possible to buy adaptor clips that will let you use a pannier rack without having the eyelets, but these won’t hold the rack quite as securely as if the frame is specifically designed for the purpose.
You should also try and find a hybrid bike that has plenty of clearance between the frame and the tyre to enable you to fit mudguards, as well as eyelets so you can fit ones with better coverage, rather than flimsy clip on ones. It might seem a shame to spoil the look of your new bike in such a way, but you’ll certainly appreciate it when cycling on wet roads.
The vast majority of major bike manufacturers create hybrid bikes – Specialized, Trek, Giant and Boardman are all examples of brands who offer flat bar multi terrain hybrid bikes within their collections.
You can buy bikes online, but if you’re new to the cycling world then it’s a good idea to visit your local bike shop – here they can size you up to ensure that you make the right selection and roll away on a bike that fits.
Look for a retailer that allows you to test ride the bike before purchase, and promises to fit you up as part of the bike buying process, for no extra charge. Some also offer money back guarantees after 30 days, in case you change your mind.
This content was originally published here.
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