What is a Hybrid Bicycle?

Dan Cavallari

Now that a bicycle commute is beginning to replace a car commute for many Americans, new cycling enthusiasts are finding themselves asking the big question: Which bike is right for me? For those commuters not interested in a racing bike like the ones you might see on television at the Tour de France, a cruiser-style bike with one gear and thick tires may be the way to go. But for those looking for more performance and functionality combined with comfort, a hybrid bicycle will be just the right fit.

Allen keys, like those used for hybrid bicycles.
Allen keys, like those used for hybrid bicycles.

A hybrid bicycle is half performance bicycle – like those fancy racing bikes you might see on television – and half comfort bike aimed at keeping those aches and pains out of the equation on your bicycle commute. A hybrid bicycle comes with thinner tires than a cruiser-style bike to allow for less rolling resistance. It also has a multitude of gears with an easy-to-use shifting system -- don’t worry, they usually come with a super-easy gear for those steep hills on the way to work or school – and many of the aerodynamic advantages of those racing bikes, like drop bars, or handlebars that allow you to crouch into an aerodynamic position when you feel it necessary.

Hybrid bicycles can be used for regular commuting.
Hybrid bicycles can be used for regular commuting.

Hybrid bicycles are also designed with your comfort and safety in mind. While specific features vary by brand, most companies design their hybrid bicycle with enough easy-to-use adjustments to cater to your body. For example, most feature a more upright riding position to eliminate stress on the shoulders and neck, and many hybrid bicycles will feature an adjustable stem that allows you to raise or lower your handlebars with the simple turn of an allen key.

Modeled after the comfort bike -- a less performance-based bicycle meant for leisurely outings -– many hybrids now come standard with suspension seatposts and forks to take the edge off those potholes in the road, as well as ergonomic saddles that feature a cut-out center to relieve pressure on sensitive areas. These comfort features, combined with the aerodynamics and performance options gleaned from the higher-priced racing bikes, make the hybrid bicycle perfect for the day-to-day bicycle commute, the trip to the grocery store, or simply a stroll around the block.

As with all cycling activities, riders should wear a helmet and brightly colored clothing. Many states now require both a headlight and a taillight for riding at night or dusk, and all new bicycles come stock with reflectors. Be sure to make yourself visible, ride with the flow of traffic, and most of all, enjoy the ride on your hybrid bicycle.

A hybrid bicycle may feature a more upright riding position to eliminate stress on the neck.
A hybrid bicycle may feature a more upright riding position to eliminate stress on the neck.

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Discussion Comments


How much do hybrid bikes cost compared to other kinds of bikes? Also, how easy is it to find hybrid bike parts and work on your bike yourself?

I have been thinking of getting a hybrid bike but I want to make sure it is the right purchase first. I have been on some I liked, some I didn't. I want to know that I won't regret my purchase 3 months after I buy it.


I have never understood the appeal of hybrid bicycles. A previous poster said it was like combining the best of both worlds. I think it is more like getting half of two bicycles. You don't really get what you would want out of either a road bike or a mountain bike.

I ride a road bike for riding in the city I can't see any other choice. Why would I want the size and weight of a hybrid bike when I am trying to dart through traffic and squeeze into tiny places? Conversely, if I was going mountain biking, why would I want to compromise the safety and sturdiness of the bike by combining it with road bike features? You see what I mean? It is better to just pick one bike or the other.

I ride a Specialized hybrid bicycle and I love it. For the longest time I only had a mountain bike and it was terrible for going on long rides through the city. I felt like I was going half as fast as I could have been going. But I didn't want to invest in a road bike because a good one is really expensive and I like to ride on trails and across grass from time to time. I needed a bike that combined the best of both worlds.

I saw the Specialized bike in a bike shop and I really liked the way it was designed. I got in a long conversation with the bike shop guy about the pros and cons of a hybrid bike and he talked me into it. It was totally worth it. I ride it every day.

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