QUESTION: What is a hybrid bike good for? And what’s the best hybrid bike for the money?
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: Because a hybrid bike is a compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike, it’s good as a general-purpose steed. It provides the flexibility to use it on both smooth and irregular surfaces.
As a compromise bike, however, a hybrid isn’t a top performer in either the road or mountain categories. On good asphalt, a road bike will go faster and climb more easily than a hybrid, but if the blacktop is cracked, potholed or otherwise broken up, the hybrid will be easier to control and less likely to have a flat. On gravel, a hybrid is better than a road bike, but a mountain bike will roll more easily and handle better than the hybrid, and hybrids aren’t made for rough trail riding — leave that for actual mountain bikes.
That said, some hybrids are closer to road bikes, and some are closer to mountain bikes. Those in the latter group often have a suspension front fork, though they are not usually the heavy-duty sort found on full mountain bikes.
Hybrids are also good for riders who prefer the more stable ride of wider tires and the more upright riding position that flat handlebars and less aggressive bike-frame geometry provide (and which some cyclists find more comfortable).
Thus, if you’re not competing in road events or trying to keep up with the fast group in the local bike club rides, and if you’re not planning on tackling mountain trails, a hybrid can be a good choice. You can use it for commuting, errands, exercise, light touring and recreational riding where you can pedal on both paved surfaces and unpaved paths.
Regarding what is the best hybrid bike for the money, see the Road Bike Rider article Best Fitness Bikes under $1,000.
For more about hybrids, see the BikeRadar article What Is a Hybrid Bike?
For more explanation of the various types of road bikes that can also function off the tarmac, see the Road Bike Rider article Every Different Type of Road Bike, Explained.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.