Question: I own a hybrid bike but ride tours where everyone else has a road bike. I’ve never had a problem keeping up because I train hard during the week. But I wonder — if my average speed on a typical ride is 17 mph, how much would it increase if I got a road bike? — Pat F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I hate to hedge, but the answer is: It depends!
The main factors are what tires you have on the hybrid, the comparative weight of the two bikes and, most important, your position on the two bikes.
Wide hybrid tires with a pronounced tread roll slower than typical 700x23C or 25C road tires, so you’ll gain some speed there.
A good road bike will save you as much as 5-8 pounds over your hybrid (maybe even more, if you buy a top-end model). This weight advantage is most evident on climbs, so you should be a faster climber.
If your hybrid has a flat handlebar that causes you to sit upright, a road bike’s lower, more aerodynamic position will help you cut through the wind for faster speed on the flats and descents.
It’s impossible to be certain of the combined effect on your average speed. An educated guess would be as much as 2 mph faster, assuming you are as fit and your road bike position is on the money.
But I can make one guarantee: You’ll have more fun riding in a group with a road bike.