Top Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Hybrid Bike
The word “hybrid” is one of the most overused terms in the bike industry, but what exactly does it mean? Hybrid bikes are typically mixes of road bikes and mountain bikes, with the result being well suited for general purpose riding across all types of terrain.
In a nutshell, hybrid bikes are your be-all, do-all, utilitarian traveling companions. They’re great choices for those looking to maximize their bike’s efficiency while riding, commuting, exercising, etc. With hybrid bikes, you get the best of both worlds— speed and agility for athletic riding, as well as comfort for longer rides. Hybrids provide a unique combination of features that make them ideal for any type of ride.
Common across hybrid bikes are grippy tires for ensuring traction across all terrain, easy-to-use gear shifters, and flat handlebars which deliver a more upright riding position than pure road bikes. This upright riding position also increases safety by increasing your visibility on the road. Whether you're looking to conquer challenging trails or enjoy a leisurely ride around town, hybrid bikes offer a perfect combination of performance and comfort.
As a reference, our signature hybrid bikes, the Roebling and Lorimer, feature lightweight frames which provide easy maneuverability and stability, combined with wide gearing ranges allowing for greater efficiency when tackling hills or cruising around town. With easy-to-use shifters and a variety of frame sizes to best suit your height, we have designed them to fit any rider comfortably and safely.
Frame material is an oft debated topic, and with so many options, it’s not surprising there are a similarly wide variety of opinions when it comes to hybrid bikes. While we aren’t here to dissect opinions, we will say that you really can’t go wrong with any of the frame materials referenced below. They will each have their pros and cons, but all are suitable for hybrid bicycles.
- Steel & Chromoly Steel – It’s commonly said that “steel is real” and it’s understandable why steel maintains an almost cult-like following amongst cycling enthusiasts. Favored for its strength, durability and ease of repair, steel also has a natural ability to flex which provides subtle shock absorption on unforgiving streets. Note that suspension bridges are made of steel for this exact reason – their ability to flex. Unfortunately, steel also has an unshakeable, yet unwarranted reputation for being heavy. Many of today’s hybrid bikes, our Lorimer & Roebling models being great examples, are surprisingly lightweight.
- Aluminum – Aluminum is the go-to option for budget to mid-range bikes, providing a combination of low weight, stiffness, and affordability that’s hard to beat. While the exact properties of an aluminum alloy frame will vary from one bike to the next, typically, it’s relatively lightweight with a higher level of stiffness, at a fraction of the price of carbon fiber. Despite its weight benefits, aluminum stiffness can result in a harsh ride quality. Aluminum can also fatigue over time and is more challenging to repair than steel.
- Carbon - Carbon fiber is a highly adaptable material that can be shaped and fine-tuned to precise requirements. This fine tuning often strikes a much-appreciated balance between stiffness, comfort, and weight. However, carbon is not without its downfalls as carbon framed bikes are often significantly more expensive and more susceptible to crash damage than other frame materials.
Very few of us desire to arrive at our destination dripping in sweat so ensuring an easy ride is high on our list of considerations. Topping this easy-riding list is gearing, which is essential on hybrid bikes, because it impacts ease of use, efficiency, and overall performance while riding in different terrains and conditions. Hybrid bikes are designed for practicality, comfort, and reliability, and the appropriate gearing system can significantly enhance these features.
A suitable gearing system on a hybrid bike can provide riders with more control, especially while riding on steep hills or windy terrain. It can also improve the bike's overall speed, making it easier to reach destinations quickly and efficiently. Additionally, the right gearing can reduce stress and strain on the rider's knees and legs, reducing the risk of injuries or strains. The ideal gearing system for a hybrid bike depends on your preferences and the terrain you will most often be riding on. Hybrid bikes usually have a range of gears to choose from, allowing riders to adjust the resistance or speed of their bike to suit their riding conditions.
Bikes with a wider gearing range that can also accommodate attachments like cargo racks and fenders, will serve you best. Alternatively, if you're simply looking to ride recreationally around the neighborhood or to the supermarket, we’d suggest a bike with fewer gears that’s a bit more simplistic in nature. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure you’re not buying more bike than you’ll need for your use case.
One more note, the more often and longer you ride, you'll also benefit from a comfortable saddle for ensuring your bottom never tires before your legs do.
When we think bike safety, safe stopping with road-gripping tires immediately come to mind. That said, we must not forget add-ons to ensure you can see and be seen (think bike lights) and hear and be heard (think bike bells).
While some bikes come with a coaster brake (pedal brake), we have reservations with this system for a hybrid bike as this creates a single point of failure should your chain become compromised. Instead, we favor rim brakes which are lightweight and provide ample front and rear stopping power. They’re also economical, much easier to repair, and compatible with a wider range of bikes.
That said, disc brakes have become increasingly popular in recent years due their improved stopping power, especially in wet conditions, as well as their durability and reliability. Ultimately the choice between rim brakes and disc brakes depends on the rider’s preferences, riding style, and the specific needs of the bike.
One quick note on disc brakes – there are two different types, hydraulic and manual. Many lower priced bikes will use poor quality mechanical disc brakes to check the box that they’re using disc brakes, but you’ll likely be disappointed in their performance. The more powerful option would be hydraulic disc brakes which use fluid to amplify the force applied to the caliper. They’re noted for being more reliable, requiring less maintenance than manual disc brakes.
For tires, we aren’t talking super wide cruiser bike style tires, but we do suggest a tire width that remains wide enough to be forgiving on city streets with a low resistance, yet grippy tread for all-weather riding. If you’re riding on a well-manicured and well-maintained street, slimmer tires may be suitable. Note that such flawless streets do not exist in Brooklyn.
And if your rides take place after dark, and we say they should, don’t forget lights for being seen. Also, not to be forgotten is a bell to make sure you can be heard. Be sure to find one that will sound as sweet as it looks. And please, do not forget a helmet to protect that noggin of yours.
For more on bike safety, see our Safe Riding Guide which dives a bit deeper into the key areas for staying safe on the road.
Make Your Hybrid Bike Work for You
Now for the fun part. One of the best parts of a new hybrid bike is making it your own, AKA accessorizing! A common trait you’ll see with hybrid bikes is their ability to be customized and upgraded. This can include accessories like fenders, bells, lights, saddle bags, luggage racks, wicker or metal baskets, and more.
While the primary focus of this piece is the bike itself, it is critical to ensure your bike can easily accommodate all the add-ons you’ll need for your daily ride. We would be reluctant to purchase any bike that doesn’t offer ample options for adding on any components or accessories that you may need.
Finally, our hybrid bikes come equipped with puncture-resistant tires and plenty of mounts to accessorize your bike. So go ahead—load up your bike with a basket or rack for cargo. With our hybrid bikes, the possibilities are endless. And don't worry about your bike’s assembly: when you purchase one of our models, professional assembly is included on our dime.
Last, but certainly not least, is taking precautions to ensure your new hybrid bike lasts. Given that many hybrid bikes are ridden on unforgiving city streets, we tend to favor steel frames for their natural absorption ability. In addition to the frame, ensure your other components such as cranksets, handlebars, seat posts, spokes and rims are all made of weather resistant material, such as aluminum alloy. While this saves weight, it has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood your bike becomes a rusty eyesore halfway through your first season with it. The same can be said with your chain; be sure it has some sort of heavy-duty rust-prohibitive treatment. Our flagship hybrid bike, the Roebling, leverages a rust prohibitive EPT coating which delivers many years of rust-free riding, regardless of what Mother Nature has to say about it.
The last, but arguably most important thing - as with all bikes, we are huge advocates of having your bike professionally assembled. This gives you three distinct advantages:
- Properly adjusted bikes are safer (consider the importance of well-functioning brakes)
- Professionally assembled & dialed-in bikes have longer lifespans (consider the importance of proper lubrication and well-adjusted gearing)
- You’ll have a relationship with a local bike shop who’ll quickly and easily get you back riding, should something ever go wrong
Tooting our own horn, every one of our bikes includes professional assembly through our pioneering Buy & Ride Program. This affords you all the benefits noted above and of course also aligns you with a local shop should you ever need assistance with your ride or have questions as you embark on your riding journey.
Thanks for following along. With a hybrid bike, the possibilities are endless, so get out there and confidently explore.
Craving more bike buying knowledge? We’ve got you covered there as well. Click HERE to get our “Definitive Guide to Buying a Bike” where we share six must know things to consider before hitting that add-to-cart button.
We build bikes for vivid lives—for taking adventures, reconnecting with old friends, discovering new neighborhoods and exploring hidden gems. Inspired by the streets of Brooklyn, our bikes are built for style, comfort, and durability. Made with top quality parts, crafted with care, and sold at an affordable price, your bike is yours for life. We scrutinize every component for maximum sustainability and performance, and every millimeter of the frame for ultimate comfort and style. We take pride in our process, in our products, and in the people who sell them.