A hybrid bike can do everything you expect of a bicycle and isn’t limited to any one thing. In other words, they are the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to cycling.
We’ve talked about mountain and road bikes at length already; both of which sit on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The hybrid bike fits somewhere in the middle and has enough variety to lean towards the off or on-road side depending on what you actually want to do with it. This makes them the most versatile bikes available and we want to help you choose the right one (look out for our top recommendations towards the end!).
While hybrids cover the entire gamut between road and mountain, they tend to lean more towards road use. After all, they are primarily used for commuting, fitness and as utility machines, most of which takes place on smooth, paved roads. If that sounds like what you’re looking for, and if you want the best, consider taking a look at the Biomega NYC. This bike is a premium package of style, speed, function and technology. If that price is a bit too dear and you’re just looking for an inexpensive-yet-fast bike, it’s hard to go wrong with the Schwinn Volare. While worlds apart in price, both of these bikes serve the same purpose. Read on for a detailed hybrid bike breakdown:
Best Hybrid Bikes 2018 – Our Reviews!
#1 The Diamondback Insight & Clarity (women’s specific version) -Uncompromising Performance
We’re big fans of Diamondback here at fitnesstep1. Both the Insight and the women’s specific Clarity offer brilliant value. They use hand-built aluminum alloy frames and straight blade forks that offer precise steering. The gearing available can handle any incline you throw at it. The 32c tires, sturdy wheels along with the compliant frame helps keep the ride stable on less-than-perfect roads.
All the contact points, such as the saddle and handlebar grips are high-quality and super comfortable. We also greatly appreciate dual water bottle and fender mounts. It’s hard to fault these bikes, they are proven performers.
#2 The Raleigh Cadent & Alysa (women’s specific version) – Unbeatable value
The Raleigh Cadent (and the female spec. Alysa) is a bike that offers a lot of bang for the buck. These bikes have wider tires and thicker frames than our previous picks, making them even more comfortable when riding. They feature Chromoly forks that are not only super strong but also soak up road vibrations for a smooth, yet responsive ride. Sure, some people may see the omission of disc brakes as a compromise but so long as you’re mostly using the bike in dry conditions, you won’t be left wanting for stopping power with the mini V-brakes that come fitted to these bikes. All in all, these are some of the highest value bikes we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing and we’re confident that you cannot go wrong with them.
All in all, these are some of the highest value bikes we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing and we’re confident that you cannot go wrong with them.
#3 The Schwinn Discover & Discover Women’s – Comfortable cruiser
If you’re someone who wants to ride for short distances in comfort without spending a lot, the Schwinn Discover is a smart choice. These bikes are inexpensive without being cheap. The objective here is comfort, practicality and style; Indeed, they look like they’re worth much more than the price tag would suggest. This is the only bike with a front suspension fork on our list and while we’re not big fans of those, it just seems to work on this bike. The bike also comes standard with fenders and a carrier.
What Schwinn has done here is made sensible choices based on what the bike is about and what it isn’t. You won’t be setting any speed records on these but you will cover your journey in style and comfort. By biting off only what they can chew, they’ve been able to produce a bike that’s affordable but makes no compromises when it comes to its core purpose. Schwinn’s lifetime warranty sweetens the deal further.
#4 The Raleigh Redux – Urban Assault
If we were to only judge recommendations by the amount of fun the bike is, the Redux would be at the top of our list. Part of the reason why it’s so much fun is because it is built like a mountain bike but designed to be ridden on city streets. The frame is light enough to carry up a flight of stairs and strong enough to handle anything an urban environment can throw at it.
A single chain-ring up front cuts down on weight as well as maintenance. The bike isn’t wanting for gears however, thanks to a large 9 speed cassette at the back. Wide tires roll over obstacles and beat roads into submission. Comfortable, fast, strong with a clean, blocky design. If you value fun above all else, pick this and we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.
#5 Women’s Special: The Viva Juliett – Chic & Sophisticated
Last but not the least is the Viva Juliett, a women’s bike that’s beautiful inside and out. The bike is a work of art and is extremely desirable; if not for oneself then as a gift for a loved one perhaps? Either way, we found it hard to take our eyes off it for several minutes and suspect that should you own one, the bike would attract a lot of attention and would be quite the conversation starter.
Leather saddle and grips, a dress guard, rear rack and a bell all round up this regal machine. The 7-speed internal gear hub minimizes maintenance and is very well mannered, as you would expect. A number of high-quality and beautiful parts adorn the Chromoly TIG welded frame. This is as fine a bike as they come.
Hybrid Bike Characteristics
What makes a hybrid bike great is its ability to do many things well. That being said, certain characteristics are emphasized depending on the main purpose and target audience of the bike. They are: –
The two bikes mentioned above both overlap this category. Speed-focused hybrids are often just road bikes with flat handlebars and that is not a bad thing at all. These bikes offer most of the speed and efficiency you would expect from a road bike while being more comfortable and accessible than their drop-bar cousins. The flat bars by themselves let a rider adopt a more upright and intuitive riding position, which in turn broadens their appeal. Just getting into riding? The speed focused hybrid could be your gateway drug. Have a bad back? No problem. Not as fit or as flexible as you used to be? A fast hybrid will let you keep most of your speed while providing a lot more comfort. In other words, with the right bike you can have your cake and eat it too. Quite possibly, the ultimate expression of this type of bike is the Kestrel RT-1000 Ultegra/105. For something a little less hardcore, keep reading
Performance bikes emphasize ergonomics. The comfort of flat-bar road bikes Is relative to full-on road bikes while a true hybrid must be truly comfortable. This means that rather than just fitting flat bars to a jumped-up road bike, the bike frame must use a different geometry. This ensures that you are in an upright position regardless of whether you want to use it for an intense workout session or simply go to the store. These bikes are designed to keep their momentum even when roads are less than ideal. While speed-focused bikes clearly value speed over comfort, Performance hybrids are constantly walking the tight rope between a fast ride and a comfortable one. It is a difficult balance to strike and neither attribute must be compromised. But when done right, these bikes are what define the hybrid bicycle. A bike that fits this description really well is the Diamondback Interval.
Comfort, Practicality and Style
Bikes that prioritize comfort and practicality offer an unmatched ride quality, coupled with things like fenders and carriers to make life easier for commuters. The position is always upright, the handlebars usually swept back and the saddle is plush and comfortable. The frames are designed to iron out road irregularities and there is usually a suspension fork to compliment it. While they can be ridden fast when needed, these bikes are better suited to cruising around. Classic designs make these bikes incredibly stylish. The Schwinn Discover is a fine example of the breed.
Before we list our top picks, it’s important to review the following information: –
Size and Fit
To get the most out of it, a bike has to fit right. The right size of frame and overall fit generally becomes more important if the bike will be ridden intensely and for long periods of time versus a bike that’s for leisure and short commutes. Therefore, it’s important that buyers of road and speed focused hybrids pay extra attention to ensure they have the right size for their height and leg length. The following chart will help in selecting the right frame size: –
While most hybrids use flat handlebars as standard, some offer a more upright position than others. This is usually dictated by the angle and length of the stem, in addition to the overall geometry of the bike frame. A bike with an adjustable stem may be of value to those who are particular about their riding position. That being said, most bike shops will be able to replace the stem with a different one as desired and also adjust the handlebars to your liking. Flipping the stem upside down is one of our favorite hacks for a more aggressive riding position. The use of ergonomic bar ends can also offer you an extra hand position and increase riding comfort. If in doubt about size, or when you find yourself between frame sizes, the smaller frame is almost always the better choice.
Frame & Fork Materials
Carbon fiber and Aluminum are the two materials usually used to construct these. Unless you’re absolutely sure you want carbon, we’d recommend sticking to aluminum for the frame. Not only is this a lot more cost effective, aluminum also offers superior durability and impact resistance. Carbon may be light and strong but it is often brittle. An important consideration when buying a bike is to make sure that there is provision for things like fenders, bottle cages, panniers etc. if you need them.
When it comes to the fork, carbon is fine and may even be preferable. The combination of an aluminum/alloy frame with a carbon fork usually offers a good balance between weight, cost and durability. We’re proponents of fixed, rigid forks over suspension forks. The reason for that Is that we don’t think suspension forks are needed if the bike is being used in a reasonably urban environment. It also adds extra weight and moving parts which we’re not big fans of. That being said, it might be a good option for some people.
The rest of the components are a mix-n-match from the road and mountain biking worlds. With the exception of a few advances in electronics, not much has changed. Make sure your bike has disc brakes and support for wide tires if you plan on using it in wet/muddy conditions or on loose/uneven terrain. Now that you how to select the right size and frame, we can move on to our bike recommendations: –
Hybrid Bikes we recommend:
The Biomega NYC – Form & Function
We were so impressed by the NYC that we listed it right at the top of the article. This bike is a brilliant blend of technology and style. It’s not by accident that we’re kicking off our recommendations with it. While the simple, timeless design is aesthetically appealing, the frame is light and well made. What makes the NYC really stand out though is its carbon fiber belt drive system, which makes it a chain-less bike. This means that there is virtually no maintenance required and it runs cleaner, quieter, smoother than regular bikes (also no more chain marks!). Further complimenting the belt drive is Shimano’s Alfine® DI2, an 8-speed integrated electronic gear system and there is also the option of an 11-speed variant. Here’s a video highlighting how the gears work: –
Rounding up the package are Shimano’s excellent hydraulic disc brakes.
While the componentry is impressive, what really makes us love these bikes is their attention to detail. For example, the frame design has a smartly integrated front mudguard and the forks on the white models glow in the dark. If we were only allowed to have one bike for the rest of our lives, this would be it.
The Biomega NYC is available with the following variants: –
- NYC 2 Speed
- NYC Lady 2 Speed – Low-step, women’s specific version
- NYC 8 Speed
- NYC Lady 8 Speed – Low-step, women’s specific version
- NYC 11 Speed
- NYC Lady 11 Speed – Low-step, women’s specific version
The great thing about hybrids is that no matter what your riding style, there is a bike out there for you. A good hybrid is first a good bicycle before anything else. Go ahead and choose any of the bikes we’ve recommended, we’re confident that you’ll have a great riding experience.