Buyers Guide: Hybrid Bikes Explained
Are you looking to buy a new hybrid bike but don’t know where to start? Are you intrigued by switching up your daily commute by going to the office by bike instead of the car or the bus, but don’t know how to begin that journey? We understand that choosing a hybrid bike can feel a little bit like finding your way through a maze, filled with wrong turns and blind alleys – so we’ve created a buyer’s guide to hybrid bike features that should keep you on the right path.
It’s probably worth explaining a little about what a hybrid bike is before we begin, and what type of riding it’s meant for. After all, it’s good to know that what you’re buying is the right ‘tool for the task.’
A hybrid bike is, first and foremost, about versatility. It combines the easy handling and bulkier tires of a mountain bike with the pace and lightweight feel of bikes made for the road. The hybrid also embraces a few little neat features from urban cruisers. They combine the best aspects of every type of bike, able to handle different sorts of terrain with consummate ease.
What to Look out for When Buying a Hybrid
Here are some of the features that are key when choosing the right hybrid bike for you. The term hybrid is applied to a very broad range of bikes, so not every single one you encounter will match up to every single point we mention here. Think of this as your one-stop shop for understanding all things hybrid.
A hybrid bike typically features a lightweight aluminum frame, making it versatile and easy to handle. Aluminum is extremely tough too, which is reassuring should your bike get knocked around a bit in the rough-and-tumble of daily use. Of the other frame materials used to build bicycles, steel is probably the most common on hybrid bikes as it offers a good ride quality, although it can be heavy.
The frame’s geometry - the angles of the different joints on the frame - is carefully designed with comfort in mind, putting the rider in an upright but efficient position. This allows you to ride short to medium distances quickly without any aches or pains.
Hybrid bikes are equipped with flat and wide handlebars with soft grips. The benefit of the flat bars is that you’ll ride in a relaxed position that most people are really comfortable with – you only really need ‘drop’ handlebars if you’re looking to get very aerodynamic in the pursuit of raw speed. That’s not what a hybrid bike is about.
The width of the handlebars allows for greater control when you’re steering and stops you pinching your shoulders tighter together than they might naturally want to be. Long-term use of bars that are too narrow for your body type can lead to shoulder and neck pain.
Soft grips are about comfort and cushioning. The hands are one of three contact points between your body and the bike and as such you want them to be particularly looked after. You will be able to enjoy short trips and longer weekend picnic rides in equal measure without aching palms or numb fingertips.
You’ll often see a hybrid bike with disc brakes, but the more traditional rim brake options are also very common. All our hybrid bikes employ the easy-to-maintain rim brake option, as we believe our riders prize simplicity and ease-of-use. If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden a bicycle, or have been getting by on an older bike, you’ll be impressed with how reliable modern brakes really are.
Tires are the connection between bike and ground so it’s important they're stable to give you confidence when riding. The quality and also surface-appropriateness of the tire is the biggest factor in keeping you upright.
A hybrid bike will have wider tires than a road bike, without going to the other extreme of super-sized mountain bike tires. A hybrid will typically have a good tread pattern on the tire for grip and stability but also be light enough to pick up a little speed when you’re riding on smooth bike paths and asphalt.
Most likely you’ll find tires from 28mm to 32mm wide on your hybrid, but some are able to take up to 42mm. The bigger the number, the larger, grippier and slower the tire will be.
Hybrid bike front suspension systems allow the bike to smoothen out additional obstacles and bumps in the trail should you decide to leave the asphalt of the bike path and venture off-road. In the interest of comfort, most hybrid bikes have increased suspension in the front fork, better absorbing any lumps and bumps in the road, and protecting the rider from impact.
While nobody is claiming the suspension on our Pave n' Trail bike is going to help you hit difficult downhill MTB runs, it will give you a far greater range of activities and riding surfaces than you might otherwise be able to tackle. It’s about setting you free from the confines of one type of riding and truly enjoying your hybrid’s versatility.
Because the standout feature of hybrids is their versatility, we don’t like to put a definitive number on how many gears they ought to have. In fact, the type of terrain you plan to ride your new bike over much better determines gear choice. Planning to go up and downhill a lot – perhaps you live in a hilly city like San Francisco or Asheville, NC? If that’s the case, you’ll want to invest in a bike with a few gears to help take the sting out of those inclines.
If you’re not planning on heading up anything steeper than the ramp up to your office mezzanine, having 21 different gears on your hybrid bike is going to feel a lot like overkill – not to mention adding a lot of unnecessary weight. You might be best with a few gears or even running your bike with just the one – known as ‘single speed.’
Decide what’s best for you – our hybrids come with a choice of gears.
There’s nothing worse than riding your bike and getting a soaked butt in the process from moisture sprayed up off the road. Nobody likes sitting at their desk at work, or in class at school, with a dirty damp patch on the back of their shorts. That’s why most hybrid bikes will either come with fenders – also sometimes known as mudguards – pre-mounted on the bike, or with mounting eyelets for you to add your own.
Fenders keep the spray from the road off of you and your bike and also act as a courtesy to other bikers who may be behind you – who otherwise would get a face-full of dirty road water.
Racks and Other Carrying Solutions
From time to time you’ll need to carry stuff along with you. Most hybrids will come with a rear cargo rack as standard that you can use to carry a couple of bags full of all your essential and bulky items. Just make sure to invest in a good set of waterproof bags if you’re planning to ride through all weather or carry important electrical items like your laptop.
Many of our sixthreezero hybrid bikes can be further customized beyond just the cargo rack. Want to have a few small things easily at hand as you ride, maybe a camera or a spare bit of clothing? You can add a front basket to bikes like our ExploreyourRange hybrid model. Likewise, if you’re a keen surfer then why not add a surfboard rack – yes, a surfboard rack – to your bike so that you can ride to the waves and throw the board in the water?
At sixthreezero, we offer quite a few different hybrid bikes with slight variations between each model. Each is specifically designed for different lifestyles.
Named for the types of surfaces it’s intended for riding on, the Pave n’ Trail can take you from paved roads to off-road trails and everything in between. If you’re heading out for a bit of exercise or just running down to the grocery store to pick up some provisions, this is the bike for you.
The zippy, nimble handling of the ExploreyourRange makes it the ideal urban bike. It has a higher seat position so you can go that little bit quicker, plus a range of seven gears to help you manage anything the city might throw at you. It’s worth nothing this model is made for paved streets, so it doesn’t feature front suspension – it should still be able to handle the occasional bit of track or trail, but don’t go throwing it down any steep declines!
Our EvryJourney model is designed to take you places comfortably and in style. It has a super-comfy padded seat, a relaxed frame design, and riding position, plus it comes equipped with fenders and the all-important cargo rack as standard.
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