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Giant hybrid bike in a city

Hybrid Bike Guide

What is a hybrid bike?

A hybrid bike is a general-purpose bicycle, for cycling over a range of terrains with a mixture of road and mountain bike characteristics. Hybrid bikes will usually have flat handlebars similar to a mountain bike, but come with rapid rolling 700c road bike wheels.

The flat handlebars offer a more upright riding position compared to that of a dropped handlebar road bike. This makes hybrids popular with commuters as they offer better visibility than a road bike when cycling in traffic, while the fast rolling 700c wheels mean they are quicker and more efficient than a mountain bike.

Hybrid bikes aren’t restricted to the road though. While the tyres are not as wide as mountain bikes, they are suitable for light off-roading on gravel tracks and canal towpaths. Hybrids also tend to have a wider gear range than road bikes making them easier to pedal up hill.


Are there different types of hybrid bikes?

Hybrid classic bikes

These look similar to traditional bicycles, and offer an upright, comfortable riding position. They are ideal for relaxed urban cycling as hybrid classic bikes are often supplied with chain and mudguards ready fitted.

Step through women’s bikes are very popular and may have both a basket and rack attached, making them perfect for trips to the shop or a picnic in the park.

Hybrid classic bike with a front basket

Hybrid Sports Bikes

There are two main types of hybrid sports bikes:

Road Hybrids

With narrow tyres (compared to a rough terrain hybrid) and a rigid road bike fork these hybrids are built for riding on roads and cycle tracks. Road hybrids are more like a road bike with flat handlebars. The riding position is more upright than a road bike and the handling is nimble without being twitchy.

Road hybrids are lighter weight than equivalently priced rough terrain hybrids. This makes these bikes ideal for city cycling, cycle path commuting and fitness training.

city cyclist riding a Boardman hybrid bike

Rough Terrain Hybrids

These bikes have wider tyres than a road hybrid with a mountain bike style suspension fork up front. This helps to take the sting out of rough roads and tracks so you can cycle comfortably on rough and smooth roads alike.

Rough terrain hybrids are great for riding through the park and along canal towpaths as well as on roads and cycle paths.

hybrid sports bike on a towpath

Electric Hybrid Bikes

aka Urban E Bikes

Electric hybrid bikes are on the crest of a wave right now and for good reason. With an electric pedal assist motor urban e bikes makes cycling a pleasure. These bikes flatten the hills and make it easier to get up to speed. You still have to pedal, so you still get some healthy exercise but the amount of effort you put in is up to you.

The electric motor and battery will assist you as you ride, up to speeds of 15.5mph (25km/h). If you need to get around the city quickly, without looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards when you arrive at your destination, then look for a hybrid with electric assistance.

There are many different types of electric hybrid bike. Read our electric bike guides for more on this exciting category of bikes.

urban cyclist riding an electric bike

Should I buy a hybrid bike, a mountain bike or a road bike?

Where you plan to ride your bike is the main thing to consider when choosing which type to buy.

Giant off-road hybrid bike

Off road only

For gravel tracks and forest roads then a hybrid sports bike with wider tyres and a suspension fork up front will be ideal. A mountain bike will be best if you intend to ride on technical off road trails and cross country tracks.

Specialized on-road / off-road hybrid bike

Mixture of on-road and off-road

A hybrid sports bike with wider tyres and a suspension fork up front will be ideal.

Cannondale Urban hybrid bike

Urban roads

A hybrid sports bike with narrower tyres and a rigid fork is a good choice as it offers better visibility and easier handling than a road bike but will still be fast and efficient. Hybrid classic bikes are also ideal for more relaxed urban cycling.

specialized hybrid bike for rural roads

Rural roads

A road bike will be faster and more efficient on quiet rural roads, especially on longer rides. Hybrid sports bikes are still suitable for riding on country roads if you value comfort over efficiency.


What to look for in a hybrid bike

Frame

Aluminium frames are lightweight and robust. Steel frames are heavier than aluminium but do offer a smoother ride. Carbon fibre is more expensive but provides the combination of a light frame and compliant ride.

Drivetrain

Most hybrids feature mountain bike style derailleur gears with a triple chainset upfront and a seven, eight, nine or 10 speed rear cassette.

This offers a wide range of gears with plenty of options at the lower end for easy climbing. Some higher end hybrid sports bikes will feature road bike style derailleur gears with a compact double chainset for faster riding.

While less common, hub gears offer the advantage of very low maintenance with the ability to change gear while stopped. Hybrid classic bikes tend to have a narrower range of gears suitable for lower intensity cycling on relatively flat terrain.

Womens specific hybrid bike on canal towpath

Saddles

With an upright riding position, more of your weight will go through the saddle. For this reason, hybrid classic bikes have wide saddles with plenty of padding. Too much padding can be a disadvantage with a more aggressive riding position, so hybrid sports bikes have narrower saddles with less support.

Brakes

V-brakes are common and offer good stopping power in the dry, although they become less effective in the wet. Disc brakes are powerful in both the wet and dry, but the best brakes are hydraulic discs as they offer easily controlled stopping power in all conditions.

Forks

A suspension fork will help to smooth out the trails but does add weight. A rigid fork is ideal for efficient road riding.

Wheels and tyres

Nearly all hybrid bikes have 700c wheels but tyre width does vary.

A narrower tyre (those with low numbers) will be faster while a wider tyre (those with higher numbers) will offer more comfort.

28c - 35c tyres- These tyres have a low rolling resistance and are ideal for road focused riding. The 28c tyres are typically found on high-end sports hybrids.

35c - 40c tyres - These are often combined with chunky tread and are found on hybrids with a suspension fork. They are suitable for riding on both road and trail surfaces.

40c – 50c tyres - Providing increased cushioning for a more comfortable ride these are found on hybrid classic bikes, where comfort is more important than speed.

Cannondale hybrid bike with a Lefty fork and disc brakes

Mudguards and racks

While all hybrid bikes are compatible with mudguards and racks, fitting them can sometimes be tricky. Fortunately many hybrids come with mudguards ready fitted and this is the best option if you know you require them before you buy.


Summary

Nothing beats a hybrid bike or an urban e bike for versatility. If you're after a general purpose bike for commuting, fitness training, light off-roading and for meeting up with friends - these are the bikes for you. No matter your fitness level or needs, we've got a hybrid bike for you.

Most Popular Hybrid Classic Bikes

Most Popular Hybrid Sports Bikes

Most Popular Hybrid E Bikes aka Urban E Bikes