If you are in the market for a hybrid bike, chances are you are an avid bike rider currently who knows a lot about the kind of riding machine you are looking for. Chances are you have had a few scrapes, bumps and bruises along the way and you know what you like and what you don’t like in your bicycle. And you’re ready to move beyond your regular bike and join the ranks of first time hybrid bike buyers.
Good news! We can help you find the perfect hybrid bike for beginners like yourself.
Hybrid bikes probably take up the majority of biking tools that you can purchase today. There is no true opposite of the hybrid bike since technology and demand dictate that bicycles be whatever the rider wants them to be. Any combination of needed or desired features can be custom built to your ultimate hybrid bicycle.
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The Essential Hybrid Bike Buying Guide
This guide will outline some of the features you should be on the look out for when you are making your hybrid bike purchase. A brief overview of the major categories of hybrid bike is included to give you an idea of what you may want to use as a blueprint for your hybrid bike purchase.
Hybrid bikes are a conglomerate – just like people – when you get the combination right there is no substitute for a great one.
What Is This Thing – A Hybrid Bike?
A hybrid bike is a bike that borrows features from one distinct type of bike and marries it with the features of another type of bike to make the hybrid.
Riders are using bikes for just about everything in todays world. In an effort to be physically fit as well as environmentally conscious, bikers are taking to the open road on two wheels to help themselves and to help everyone else. The hybrid is a true renaissance machine since it is used for every aspect of biking – from the recreational to the biking utility. That is – the hybrid has a place for people who ride for pleasure and people who ride out of necessity and for people who do both and everything in between. Hybrid is all about having the tool to bike ride just the way you want to.
When you acquire a measure of biking savvy you will gain an appreciation for the hybrid bicycle. A little bit of this and a little bit of that go a long way in the hybrid biking world.
The Myriad of Hybrid: Different Types of Hybrid Bicycles
While a hybrid bike by definition is a combination of any number of bicycle features that may be on one or more traditionally different bikes, there are a few general subcategories of hybrid. However, a true list of hybrid bikes would be endless since you can combine just about anything together to make one great bike.
Knowing your capacity as a rider will greatly impact the type of riding you want to do. You may want to make your hybrid bike your commuter bike or your recreation bike or both. With a hybrid you can do just that.
Here are a few of the different types of hybrid bikes:
- Trekking Bike – This hybrid usually has the components that one would see on a bicycle touring machine, (mudguards, pannier racks and lights). This is for the rider that wants to take leisurely jaunts on their bike in different weather conditions across different types of terrain.
- Cross Bike – This combination bike is made for both utility usage as well as normal recreational use. It is noted for its flat handlebar styling and 700 c, wider tread – (1.125–1.25 in or 28.6–31.8 mm) tires. This expanse lends itself better to traversing on rougher roads including unpaved or gravel surfaces. Cross bikes are typically constructed to weigh less than typical bikes and shrug off fenders, carrier racks or lights.
- Commuter Bike – This hybrid bicycle is made for the long of short haul to and from work. The commuter is typically equipped with derailleur gears so the rider has more autonomy with shifting to various speeds. The vehicle has racks and panniers for carrying loads and work stuffs. Some models boast enclosed chain guards in order to accommodate the long pants of the commuter so that their garments won’t get caught up in the chaining system.
- City Bike – This is one tough cookie of a bicycle. City bikes are made to endure all that a rough urban terrain can dish out. Typically the city bike has a full fender package to protect against rocks or other debris that can be encountered on city streets. These machines also have rear and front lighting for riders who use the bikes all day and night – as in the city that never sleeps. City bikes are designed with a construction that is similar to mountain bikes. As a result the machines are more durable. City bikes are made with aluminum or chromoly for lighter weight. The 26″, heavily belted wheels are tough enough for glass shards or almost anything that can be found on a city street.
- Comfort Bike – These bikes are the king of the road as they are designed with great suspension to cushion the riders experience on the street. These rides also typically come with a tall head tube so the rider will be seated in an upright position. Though some have hub gears most Comfort bikes have derailleur gearing systems. The handlebars are designed to be “easy reach” for the rider. Many are classified as North Road style handlebars. The tires are smoother and slicker and typically are sized within the 26″ or 28″ range. The seating is of the plusher variety with wide range, saddle seats.
Which Features and Components Should You Look For When You Buy Your First Hybrid Bike
Before you shop it is of utmost importance that you know what you are looking for. Avid riders know this but can be caught up in all that is available. Approach this endeavor knowing what you need the tool to be able to do. Where will you be riding the bike? How will you be riding the bike? With that in mind these are the major features you should be looking at with your hybrid bike purchase.
While biking is a highly personal experience it is generally broken down into genres that include why you are riding the bike. Ask yourself; Do I ride for sport, for fitness, for pleasure, for commuting, for utility? Certainly it is not for either one of these things but for a happy combination of many reasons. What you are riding the tool for primarily will inform your purchase decisions. No – we are not trying to put you into a box! This is merely a starting ground for consideration in how to make critical choices in your hybrid bike purchase.
wheel size and type – Many hybrids are made with the larger 700c sized wheels. 26″ – 28″ wheels can be a better choice for your riding circumstance. Be certain to have your hybrid bike outfitted with wheels that make sense for what you need the bike to do. Tread size is a consideration as well. If you are riding on smooth surfaces, city streets or a combination of both wheel size and type are strong considerations.
gearing – The gears that your bicycle comes equipped with is a strong consideration. Knowing the terrain you will traverse is key here. Also a realistic view of your individual fitness level will go a long way in determining which gearing system will be right for you. Generally speaking, talking with a biking expert will do wonders as you ponder this all-important feature. The greater your fitness capacity the less gears you need to get up the side of the mountain. The less gears you have on the machine the lighter the bike will be – weight wise. Again, it all depends on what you need the vehicle to do while having a keen knowledge of where you at. A bicycle’s ability depends greatly on the rider.
braking system – These are the brakes and there are two different types that you need to be aware of before buying your new hybrid. The two distinctly different braking systems have many pros and cons. With the major con being the expensive wheel replacement that is imminent with the rim braking system. Choosing a braking system as an integral part of your hybrid bike system is a strong consideration. Factors to consider when determining what braking system is right for you include; the terrain you will be riding on (and braking on), the weather conditions that may be present, how much finger strain you can tolerate ( rim brakes require much more finger effort).
- Rim brakes are great because you can easily see when they need to be changed. They grip onto the wheel to make the bike come to a halt. The major disadvantages to this type of braking system on your bike is that it will wear away at your tire rim. As a result, over time, your tires willh have to be replenished with more frequency than if you utilized a different braking system.
- Disc brakes are engineered to brake by having the brake pads grip onto a brake rotor. Disc braking systems come in two major categories: hydraulic disc brakes and mechanical disc brakes. The major difference between the two systems is that the hydraulic brakes automatically adjust for wear and tear while the mechanical disc brakes must be adjusted manually as they wear down.
suspension – This consideration depends on where you will be riding your hybrid bike. If you plan to be on the city streets a lot then you may want to opt for front suspension since it will cushion the impact of the pot holes you may encounter. Suspension is a feature that adds weight to your vehicle so if you are looking for a lightweight tool you may want to tough it out and skip the suspension system.
handlebar shaping and positioning – The positioning and shape of the handlebars on your bike make a major difference in your bicycle riding experience. If the seat of the bike is positioned below the handlebars it is generally a more comfortable ride for the biker. The further below the seat is positioned the more comfortable the rider. Seats that are positioned higher or in closer height with the handle bars are less comfortable and are built for greater speeds due to the extra energy that can be exerted on the pedals.
This is a particularly important feature to be mindful of when making your hybrid bicycle purchase. There are many different shapes and positions of handlebars. Consider how comfortable you need to be when choosing and determine if speed is a more important factor in what you need.
Hybrid bikes usually feature:
- flat bar handlebars – these handlebars are sturdily built and are designed for less tension on shoulders, wrists and hands. The position and shape of these handlebars allow the rider to sit upright so that they can more adequately see the road ahead.
- riser handlebars – not only do the position and shape of these handlebars allow for great vision of what’s coming next they also allow the rider to sit a little further back than the flat handlebar style. This position allows for greater rider control of the bike.
- fenders – Should your hybrid render fenders? Fenders are great for keeping debris off of yourself and fellow riders. Commuters who bike in their work clothes will want to add this feature because they will still be presentable after a puddle-littered commute in to the office. Rocks and small stones tend to stay south of the rider as well so no dings to the helmet. Fenders add considerable weight to the machine however, so this is a consideration that has both pros and cons to be weighed and evaluated.
- cargo racks and pannier bags – Most likely if you are using your bike for its utility you may want to include these. Cargo racks add weight to the product so you would have to consider if they are necessary. Many hybrid bike owners opt to have cargo racks that can be removed when they are not needed. This takes planning on your part.
- frame material – What your bike is made of is an important consideration in designing your hybrid bike. Aluminum is a popular construction material because it is lighter and makes the bike more carrier-friendly. There are advantages and disadvantages to going with a aluminum-constructed hybrid. Some riders complain that aluminum feels abrasive on the streets. Technological advances have been designed to combat some of these drawbacks.
Steel has a little more give as a bike construction material. Riders of steel bikes boast that the ride is comfy and strong. However, if you must lift the bike on your commute in to work you will feel the weight.
The most expensive of the three major bicycle construction materials is carbon fiber. Carbon fiber constructed bikes takes the best attributes of both aluminum (its light weight) and steel (its strength) up a notch – as it is lighter than the former and stronger than the latter. Depending upon your budget, it may be worth it.
No matter what you decide to go with knowing what your bike is made of is critical in making a hybrid bike purchase.
Tips and Other Considerations to Be Mindful of With Your Hybrid Purchase
Always have yourself measured for your hybrid bike. Looks can be deceiving here. Even if you feel good on the bike make certain to have a professional measurement prior to ordering your custom or off the rack hybrid.
No matter how good the bike feels, YOU MUST TEST RIDE YOUR HYBRID! There is no greater let down for a rider – even an experienced rider than to get that bike on the road and it doesn’t perform the way you need it to for the everyday. Most bike shops will offer a test riding area for your convenience prior to ordering and purchase. Request this service and ask if you can ride it on the particular type of terrain that you plan to use the bike on. A great bike shop will encourage this and gladly provide the facilitation of your request.
The Terrain is Ready For Your Hybrid Wheels
Now you have a better idea of what to look for with your hybrid bike purchase. The most important thing to consider is yourself and how you want your riding experience to be. Your informed hybrid bike purchase should produce great riding for many years to come. The great thing about biking is that you learn something new about the machine and about yourself each time you mount your bike. Each ride is a new encounter. This first hybrid bike purchase and the resultant experiences will inform additional purchases of hybrids or other types of bikes in the future. Healthy trails!
Trek 7200 image by Yohan euan o4 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons