If you’re looking for a comfortable bike for your commute which can handle gravel trails as well tarmac then a Hybrid Commuter Bike might be perfect for you.
So what is a hybrid bike?
The hybrid tag covers a wide variety of bikes that are versatile and reasonably fast. Hybrid bikes are a combination of both a traditional mountain bike and a traditional road bike.
Hybrid bikes try to take best bits of both types of bike to create a bike that’s comfortable both on and off the road. One general staple of a hybrid bike is a flat handlebar, this gives you a more comfortable upright riding position.
The range and variety of styles of hybrids is pretty big. This is because of the huge numbers of combinations of features from mountain bikes and road bikes. Broadly speaking though hybrid bikes fit into the following three main categories.
- City bikes
- Lifestyle bikes
- Recreation bikes
City Hybrid Bikes
As the name suggests, city bikes are designed for the urban jungle. They are mainly tailored to riding on tarmac and concrete for commuting.
They are more aligned to the features of a regular road bike and come with a lightweight aluminium frame, road bike gearing and road wheels with slick, fast tyres. 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.
Lifestyle Hybrid Bikes
Lifestyles bikes are all about rider comfort and are perfect for sunday cruises with the family or rides to the shops or pub. And of course they can be used for commuting too.
Lifestyle bikes have big spongy tyres, a large soft comfortable saddle and a very upright riding position. All this will sacrifice your speed but who cares if you’re not going too far and you want get there as comfortably as possible.
Leisure bikes usually come with eyelets for racks and mudguards and some even come fitted with a basket on the front handlebars.
Recreation Hybrid bikes
Recreation hybrid bikes are more akin to a mountain bikes. Proper mountain bikes are overkill for road cycling and take much more effort to go the same distance due to the increased weight and rolling resistance knobbly tyres. If you then add the weight of racks and panniers on top then this can really sap your power and speed.
Recreation Hybrids will have larger wheels and slicker tyres than a traditional mountain bike for less rolling resistance on the road. But the tyres will still have enough tread for use on towpaths and bridleways. Some can also come fitted with suspension forks.
The riding position of Hybrid bikes is more upright than that of a road bike. This is usually achieved by specing the bike with flat handlebars as opposed to drops bars like on a road bike. A more upright riding position not only gives greater visibility in traffic but also reduces the pressure on the body and the common aches and pains in the neck, shoulder, and back.
Some recreation hybrid bikes also come with suspension forks. Whilst they do add some weight and change the riding characteristics of the bike they do take a lot of the shocks out of rough roads, potholes and rough bridleways. Suspension forks are tend to be found on the more expensive recreation hybrids.
The vast majority of hybrid bikes come with 700c wheels which are larger than traditional 26inch mountain bike wheels. The benefit of a larger wheel is that the angle of the tyre to the road is smaller when you hit a bump. This means that the impact of the bump is much less and so the bumps doesn’t slow you down as much. The result is a smoother, faster ride.
Hybrid bike tyres are also a halfway house between slick road tyres and chunky mountain bike tyres. City bikes come with smooth tyres all round,not quite slick as they do have a little bit of tread to aid cornering grip but still have low rolling resistance. Recreation hybrids often have much higher volume semi slick tyres with a smoother tread on middle of the tyre and a rougher tread on the outside of the tyres for cornering on towpaths and bridleways.
Gearing on hybrid bikes also varies. City bikes, as they are design with tarmac in mind usually come with gearing similar to that of a road bike. This means usually a double or triple chainring compact chainset up front with a road cassette at the back. This keeps the city bikes speedy on the urban tarmac.
Recreation bikes are usually more aligned to mountain bike gearing. Recreation bikes often come with a compact or mountain bike triple chainset at the front and large road or mountain bike cassette at the rear.
Lifestyle bikes are quite different to city or recreation hybrid bikes. To keep things simple the gearing for lifestyle bikes is usually solely at the rear wheel. Recreation bikes usually come with either a large road or mountain bike cassette, similar to a recreation bike or a hub gear. Hub gears are reliable and low-maintenance, low fuss, but usually only offer a limited number of gear choices.
Braking is crucial to safe riding, and is especially important in busy traffic. Hybrid bikes often come with v brakes or disc brakes. V brakes offer more braking power and clearance than traditional caliper brakes found on road bikes which can be a real advantage in the hustle and bustle of city traffic. Disc brakes can be found on the more expensive Hybrid bike. Disc brakes give the strongest braking power and because they positioned away from the elements they give the beat braking whatever the weather.
So, if you’re looking for bike to commute to work but with all the choice available you’re not sure what to choose, a hybrid bike could be a safe, great all round choice. Hybrid bikes really are the way to go if you’re new to cycling or cycle commuting and want to be comfortable but quick over a variety of terrains.