“I was the future once”. David Cameron – in his final speech as Prime Minister. The same could be said about the Hybrid Bicycle. Once the answer to the binary choice between a road bike or a mountain bike it’s now the forgotten revolutionary in a crowded market of cycling revolutions.
Hardtail, Full suspension, 29er, 650b, Fat Bike, Adventure Road, Gravel Road, Aero-road, even the folding bike is a cycling niche gone mainstream. The Hybrid got left behind but is it time to take a second look?
Like anything that tries to be all things to all people, Hybrids risk missing their target. Are they aimed at Mountain Bikers who want to ride on the road in a familiar position-not doubled over on the drops? Or Roadies who need to tackle a bit off rough but don’t want to ditch their skinny frames and put on too much weight?
This is the cycling industry, so of course there are sub-niches within a niche, with manufacturers more than happy to try to keep everyone happy. Which rather confusingly results in Hybrids that from a distance look like a burly mountain bike and Hybrids that simply look like some prankster has swapped the curly bars on a slight road bike for flat ones.
Don’t be confused.
The Hybrid that thinks it’s a MTB
These feature a heavier more robust frame, high volume grippy tyres and maybe even front suspension. It’s not going to rip up your local Trail Centre but it will tame a canal footpath and iron out a bridleway. What these Hybrids lose in top end speed they make up in knock-aroundability and stability – taking the rougher with the smooth. It’s not going to let you down and will no doubt will be a longstanding and reliable steed.
The Hybrid that thinks it’s a road bike
These feature a slighter frame that may even be the same as manufacturers mainstay Endurance road bike just with flat bars. It’s fast, has skinny road tyres, maybe 28s but could be anything up to 40 in width. On the road, it can hold its own on the morning commute speed wise with most of its close road bike cousins, with the advantage that the head up, more relaxed riding position is ideal for spotting hazards and cutting through traffic.
Whichever Hybrid you need/choose these days they are likely to be equipped with disc brakes (with none of the usual hysteria surrounding disc brakes on road bikes thanks to their MTB genes) – you will appreciate the greater, more reliable braking power, especially on a wet, winter commute. Gear shifting will be via trigger shifters (again, borrowed from MTB) and in tune with their workhorse versatility most should feature mudguard and pannier mounts.
Frame wise, aluminium is the staple, there are a few steel outliers but unless you’re buying from a specialist steel frame builder the weight or an already weighty bike is going to start to hurt. There are carbon Hybrids too, how sensible it is to invest in carbon (it is never cheap) is questionable – Hybrids have tough lifestyles, residing in work bike racks and navigating dirty, imperfect surfaces to get there. Best stick to aluminium.
The Hybrid Bike – a jack of all trades, master of none? All the big manufacturers are looking to build the ultimate bike at an affordable price
Still don’t know which type of Hybrid to choose. If your riding is mostly on tarmac, you want a Hybrid more closely related to a road bike. Whereas if you’re riding on mixed-terrain, you want the MTB-lite Hybrid.
All major manufacturers will have a Hybrid line. Boardman, Pinnacle and Ridgeback have invested heavily in the Hybrid – to enhance their cycling credentials more generally – and have strong ranges at competitive prices. All the usual suspects, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Kona and Scott all take their Hybrids seriously too. Often the Hybrid delivers a cost-effective introduction to a manufacturers range, if you like their Hybrid, they’re hoping that you like their other bikes too.
The Best Value Hybrid Bikes In 2017
Here are some of the best options we could find:
B’TWIN Triban 540 Flat Bar Road Bike – Tiagra
Good value and high specification for an on-road commute friendly ride.
Boardman Hybrid Team
One of the most popular bikes on British roads, super smooth frame equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and stand out components.
A sturdy MTB lookalike that will eat potholes for breakfast, if the Lithium is too butch, try the less weighty Pinnacle Neon.
Shimano equipped bang up to date design, borrowing looks from bang up to date on-trend Adventure Road bikes.
A stalwart of Specialized’s range and better looking in 2016 guise, what you gain in brand name kudos you lose in component spec.
It’s not quick, it’s a very good commuter and all-rounder. If it’s bad you want, the Cannondale Bad Boy with lefty-fork, 650b tyres and belt drive will set you apart on the daily grind.
The epitome of a functional Hybrid with all the core features. Looks dated against modern Hybrids or you could say that it’s just not trying to be something it’s not. Too functional, look at the Scott Solace Flat Bar – an Endurance bike in a Hybrid’s clothing (it wears its flat handlebar well).
Trek makes a lot of bikes and the FX is their best-selling City Bike. If your commute or local ride takes in some rough stuff, then the Trek DS offers something a little more robust – it’s sometimes even referred to as an MTB.
Kona throws the kitchen sink at the Hybrid bike with its Dew range with multiple variants. They’re all durable – Kona is best at making MTB after all (and not taking themselves too seriously). There’s more, the Kona Splice will give you front suspension, the Kona Esatto will take you from A toB to wherever, faster.
GT Grade Hybrid
Possibly the best-rated Adventure Road bike gets flat handlebars which makes it a Hybrid, right? And probably a very good one too, well kitted out and with GT’s strong MTB heritage.
It’s a Giant which means it comes with a cost-efficient mix of Shimano and Giant’s own brand components. It also means it’s very sensible and gets the job done without fuss.
From the British MTB gurus comes a Hybrid with their signature mountain bike geometry and top drawer components – decked out in the SRAM Rival 22 groupset, at a cycle to work scheme friendly price.
Designed for speed and looks it but speed comes at a price. It will be a rare sight on the road and even rarer off-road.
Spoilt for choice then. That’s before you consider that notably most Hybrids are available in male/female variants.
Far from dead, the Hybrid is bang up to date, dripping in technology, featuring innovations not widely seen on other types of bike – integrated lights powered by dynamos, internal hub gears with semi-automatic gears, belt drives.
Done right, they take the best of MTB and Road but 1 last nagging question: who are they actually for?
Where do I start? Commuters, parents needing to cart kids around, explorers/tourers, café/pub riders, injury-constrained needing relaxed geometry, shoppers, first bikers…
Those who want 1 bike to do it all. Hybrids are the everyday bike for everyone. It’s easier to say who they’re not for – only those Riders at the extremes of speed and/or terrain.
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