Hybrids are great all-rounders
Hybrid bikes are practical, versatile bikes that borrow attributes from both mountain bikes and road bikes.
They are a relatively new player on the cycling scene, only first appearing around the 1990s, but becoming enormously popular by the noughties.
Hybrids are a hotbed for experimental component mixtures. There are no rules on what technology to combine from the worlds of mountain and road biking. As a result, you get sporty hybrids which are like flat-bar road bikes, suspension-fork hybrids with big tyres, and absolutely everything in between.
What they have in common is their practicality. They all have multiple uses and will usually either have luggage racks and mudguards included, or eyelets to fit them.
Sports hybrids are for riders who like road bike speed, but feel more comfortable riding a flat-handlebar bike. They are sometimes classed as flat bar road bikes.
Sports hybrids are great for fitness riding and commuting. They are fast, but still allow you a good view of the traffic with their upright posture and flat handlebar. Sports hybrids have 700c wheels, lightweight frames and road bike gear components such as Shimano Claris or Sora.
They can have either disc brakes or rim brakes. Sports hybrids are usually made of aluminium and offer good value, but at the very top end you'll find exquisite lightweight bikes built from carbon or titanium.
Terrain hybrids resemble lightweight hardtail mountain bikes. They are for riders who like to ride on rough tracks, trails and grass, rather than just on the road. They are tough, heavy-duty bikes which are lots of fun for weekend and family riding on towpaths and in parks.
Terrain hybrids have short-travel suspension forks. Higher-end models will have a lockout on the fork which allows you to effectively lock the suspension rigid to save energy while riding on road.
Terrain hybrids sometimes have mountain bike-sized 26” wheels, but more and more these days have 700c road-size wheels, with slightly knobbly tyres. These tyres will be wider than on sports hybrids, but not as large as most mountain bikes. Terrain hybrids generally have a burlier frame than sports hybrids, with an upright position to give a good view over traffic
Urban hybrids are at the cool end of the category. Urban hybrids can resemble either sports hybrids or terrain hybrids, but they are built around the demands of cycling in the city and, in particular, commuting.
The great thing about urban hybrids is they are a real driver for innovation. In their quest to come up with the perfect great looking, low maintenance city bike, manufacturers use these bikes to mix and match a variety of technologies.
On the drivetrain, you'll see things like hub gears, where the gears are contained internally in the rear hub, or belt drive, where the chain is replaced by an oil-free Kevlar hoop. Sometimes these bikes have integrated lights, phone chargers or a lock built into the frame.
Traditional hybrids are beautiful old-world machines that evoke cycling at its simplest. They are for people who want a sedate, good-looking bicycle for relaxed riding.
Traditional hybrids are usually made from steel, and are pretty heavy, although some are made from lighter aluminium. Traditional hybrids can look like bicycles from 50 years ago, yet, modern built ones often have far better and more modern technology hidden in their brakes, wheels and gears.
Many people are attracted to traditional hybrids because of their classic looks such as Dutch-style frames and wicker front baskets. They often only have one-three hub gears, though, so are best suited for short, stylish shopping trips close to home.
There is a holy trinity of accessories you need to remember to buy for your hybrid bike: lights, lock and helmet. Of course, there are many other accessories, but these are the three that you should never leave the house without.
When you buy your new hybrid, always budget for a set of lights for night riding, a lock to keep it safe and a helmet to protect yourself.
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