Bikes

What is a Hybrid Bike? Meaning & Purpose Explained

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

The Short Answer

A hybrid bike is a versatile combination of a road bike and a mountain bike, suitable for commuting, leisure riding, and beginners. It provides comfort, control, and the ability to handle various terrains at an affordable price.

Hybrid bikes dominate cities and bike paths across the world, but what actually is a hybrid bike and what is their main purpose? 

What is a Hybrid Bike?

A hybrid bike is, much like the name suggests, a hybrid between both a road bike and a mountain bike. 



They offer the ability to do both on and off-road to a lower level than both an out and out road bike or a full-on mountain bike.

You may also see many modern hybrids also feature a motor: e-bike hybrids are a really popular option too. 

Hybrid Bike Explained

A hybrid bike is exactly what it says on the tin: a bike that is a hybrid between both a road and an off-road bike. But they don’t do one or the other as well as an out and out road or mountain bike. 

Hybrid bikes also tend to be a little heavier than a road bike but often lighter than a standard mountain bike. As aforementioned, hybrids are also available as standard push bikes, or as an e-bike, both of which are very popular.

These bikes are typically used for commuting and leisure riding due to their versatility. But what actually makes a bike a hybrid and what are they used for?

Hybrid Bike Features

Hybrid bikes typically feature a shorter top tube for a more up-right position which is similar to that of a mountain bike. Just like a mountain bike, hybrid bikes also tend to feature flat bars. 

Sometimes hybrid bikes, that are more off-road oriented, will also have a suspension front fork with a small amount of travel (the amount of suspension) to allow for tame off road trails. 

Hybrids will also often feature the ability to add pannier racks and other optional extras which is why they make such a useful commuter or leisure bike. 

Hybrid Bike Benefits

Arguably the biggest benefit of having a hybrid bike is the cost: unlike specialist road bikes or mountain bikes, a hybrid is often much cheaper than forking for either of the alternatives. A standard hybrid is often much cheaper to buy as well as maintain as  the parts tend to be more straightforward and easy to find. 

Not only that but a hybrid is also great because it can do both to a solid level. Therefore you don’t need to buy two bikes, you just need one to take you both on and off road whenever you like. A real win win. Therefore it’s a great option if you aren’t sure what bike to get.

SOurce: Canva.com

What is the Difference Between a Regular Bike and a Hybrid Bike?

Arguably, in recent times the hybrid has become the ‘regular bike’ within the cycling market. Due to its versatility and affordability, most people will opt for one when picking out an all round bike that can do a bit of everything. 

With this being said there isn’t really much, if any, difference. 

Hybrid Bike vs Mountain Bike

Hybrids and mountain bikes do share some similarities. But what are they? 

First off, mountain bikes will often have a lot more to them in terms of features, whereas a hybrid bike tends to be more simplistic and straightforward. Because of this, mountain bikes tend to be more expensive, as the high tech equipment used renders a bigger price tag.

Also, mountain bikes are more capable on off-road trails in comparison. This is because mountain bikes have more features equipped at dealing with tougher off-road terrain and features.

How Are Hybrid Bikes Like Mountain Bikes?

Both hybrid bikes and mountain bikes have flat bars and a shorter top tube than a road bike. These two aspects paired together make for a more upright riding position which is very comfortable and allows for optimal control while riding the bike.

Similar to a mountain bike, hybrids also tend to have wider tyres with deeper tread on to cope with off-road terrain such as gravel, mud and loam.

Hybrid and Mountain Bike Differences

The biggest difference between a mountain bike and a hybrid is the suspension: a mountain bike will feature more travel than a hybrid bike. This is because more suspension is needed to ride big features such as drops or rock gardens.

Similarly, mountain bikes will also often feature ‘rear’ suspension, whereas hybrids only ever feature front suspension in the form of forks. Therefore meaning a hybrid cannot produce the same cushioning ride quality that a mountain bike does over less forgiving terrain. 

Can I Use a Hybrid as a Mountain Bike? 

A hybrid can be used as a mountain bike, however it won’t be as suited to more hardcore mountain bike trails due to the lack of suspension and thinner tyres that will also have less tread. 

A hybrid also won’t be designed to take as much impact as a full on mountain bike in terms of drops and jumps.

Is a Hybrid Faster Than a Mountain Bike? 

A hybrid will often be faster along the road in comparison to a mountain bike. However expensive carbon fibre mountain bikes may be similar in terms of speed.

But if it’s a lightweight hybrid with road-like tyres then it will be faster than a mountain bike on tarmac due to having a lower rolling resistance.

Which is Better: Hybrid or Mountain Bike?

A hybrid is better for anyone wanting to ride tame off-road trails, along bike paths and along the road. However a mountain bike will be more suited to proper off-road trails and demanding terrain.

Therefore, neither is better than the other: it really just depends on your personal needs and what you’d like to use the bike for in terms of which one is better.

Hybrid Bike vs Road Bike

Although hybrid bikes and road bikes are of course similar in some ways, due to a hybrid having road riding capabilities, they do differ in other ways.

For example, an out and out road bike is often much lighter than a hybrid bike. This is because the materials used are often much lighter. 

Hybrid bikes will also be able to handle better on off road terrain in comparison to road bikes, thanks to their wider tyres and more robust design.

What is the Difference Between a Hybrid and Road Bike?

A big difference between the two is that road bikes will often be made from lightweight aluminium or carbon fibre, whereas hybrid bikes will often be made of aluminium, meaning they are often a fair bit heavier. 

Moreover, hybrid bikes are also designed to carry items on them via pannier racks which is what makes them such useful bikes for commuting or leisure riding. 

Can You Use a Hybrid Bike as a Road Bike?

You can use a hybrid as a road bike, however it won’t be quite as fast as a road bike. But it will still do the job to a solid level.

Not only that but some hybrids are also more ‘road like’ as they have rigid forks, skinnier tyres and are often made of lighter aluminium, and sometimes even carbon fibre which helps to make a hybrid more effective as a road bike.

SOURCE: Pexels.com

Is a Road Bike Easier to Ride Than a Hybrid?

A road bike may feel ‘faster’ to ride due to improved aerodynamics and higher quality componentry which allows for less drag, which therefore arguably makes it feel ‘easier’ to ride faster on.

However, in terms of comfort and control a hybrid is much easier to ride than a road bike. This is because the position is much more comfortable and the componentry is often a lot more user friendly.

Hybrid vs Road Bike Speed

In terms of gearing, a road bike will often have a ratio that is more suited to both ends of the spectrum: going fast along the flat and allowing for getting up steep climbs. 

With this being said, typically road bikes will have around 8 speeds (cogs on the cassette) at the back, whereas road bikes will have anywhere between 10 and 12 speeds. Both often having two chainrings at the front.

What Are Hybrid Bikes Good For?

Hybrid bikes are really good for commuting in particular. This is because they are robust and straightforward to maintain, meaning they require a low amount of maintenance. Which is of course great for those with limited time due to work commitments. 

Not only that but hybrids make a great leisure bike because they are capable of taking you along roads and bike paths, as well as along canal paths and tame off-road trails. 

Hybrids also make a great option for beginners due to being easy to handle and easy to maintain. They are also accessible as you can pick up a new hybrid from most high streets sports shops.

Are Hybrid Bikes Good for Road Riding?

A hybrid bike is a solid option for riding on the road, hence they are so popular with people commuting on the road and on bike paths. 

However, they won’t be as good as an out and out road bike when it comes to riding on the road. This is because a road bike is a very specialist type of bike that only focuses on being used on the road.

Whereas a hybrid bike is made with versatility in mind to ensure you can ride anywhere regardless of the surfaces. 

Are Hybrid Bikes Good for Beginners?

A hybrid bike is a great option for beginners. Not only are they easy to ride as they tend to have wider tyres for stability for both on and off-road purposes, but they also have a comfy upright riding position which makes handling much easier.

Not only that but hybrids tend to be pretty straight forward when it comes to componentry, meaning if you are new to bikes then they are a great place to start to learn bike mechanics as less components makes it more simple and easier to grasp. 

Additionally, hybrid bikes also tend to be more affordable, making them a great option for those beginners looking to get into cycling but not wanting to splash too much cash. 

What is a Good Hybrid Bike for a Beginner?

A hybrid bike that is good for a beginner would ideally have a single ring on the front, hard fork (no suspension) and be around 8 speeds. This is because it’s straightforward to use and easier to ride as there’s less to worry about. 

Source: Unsplash.com

Is a Hybrid Good for Long Distance?

Hybrid bikes are a great option for long distance riding if you are looking for comfort and reliability. Their upright riding position which is due to a shorter top tube (than a road bike) means you won’t be hunched over.

Therefore, you will in theory be able to ride for longer due to the improved comfort, meaning your back isn’t going to start hurting from being stretched out for much.  

But, a hybrid bike is often heavier than a road bike. Therefore you will need more energy to ride along on a hybrid than a lightweight road bike. But it is largely down to the individual and what they are comfortable with. 

Hybrid Bike Pros + Cons

ProsCons
Cheap to buyNot specialist
Affordable to maintainRoad bike is better for road
Versatile Mountain bike is better for off-road
Easier to maintain 

Discerning Cyclist Store


Visit the Discerning Cyclist's Shop

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads