Question: Can you ride a hybrid bike on gravel? I’ve got an old hybrid in my garage, and I was wondering if I could use it instead of buying a dedicated gravel bike. — John B.
Answer: Absolutely, you can ride a hybrid bike on gravel. But here’s what you want to consider before you do.
Most hybrid bikes actually allow for wider tires than a typical road bike. This is great news for would-be gravel riders, because you’ll definitely want wider tires when gravel grinding. Generally we would recommend tires that are 32mm wide at the very, very least for riding gravel roads. It’s hard to find a road bike that will accept tires that wide, but it’s quite easy to find a hybrid that will.
If you’ve got the room in your frame, try for 35mm or 38mm. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able fit anything wider on most hybrid frames. You can find great gravel friendly tires from brands like Specialized, Continental, Schwalbe, Donnelly, WTB, Panasonic and Rene Herse, just to name a few.
But what about those flat handlebars? Will they slow you down?
I’ll answer that part of your question with this old cyclocross video from 2008. Watch mountain biker Brian Lopes whip the competition with his flat bar setup.
If you get serious about gravel, you’ll probably want to later switch to a real gravel bike, which will give you a more comfortable geometry, the ability to use even wider tires and more hand positions if you use drop bars.
But if you only have a hybrid bike or a mountain bike in your garage, then it’s perfectly acceptable to give gravel a try with those bikes.