What is a hybrid bike?
A hybrid bike is a hybrid of a standard road bike and a mountain bike, taking the best bits of both types of bike to create a machine that is comfortable over all terrains and surfaces.
Hybrid bikes do vary – some take more influence from the road genre whilst others sit closer to the mountain bike end. Where a bike sits on that scale will influence how well it copes with uneven off-road terrain or how speedy it will be on the tarmac.
Features to expect in a hybrid bike:
- Hybrid bikes have tyres that are wider than those on a road bike, but narrower than mountain bike tyres – 28-32c is common but could go up to 42c
- Hybrid bikes nearly always have flat handlebars and a relaxed position that allows the rider to sit with fairly straight back
- Expect disc brakes on a hybrid bike, these provide quicker stopping and are reliable in wet weather
- If you plan on using your hybrid bike for commuting, look for eyelets for pannier racks and mudguards
Are there different types of hybrid bike?
The best hybrid bike for someone else might not be the best hybrid bike for you. Depending on what sort of riding you’re going to be doing, it is worth considering whether you’d be better suited buying a hybrid bike that is more similar to a road bike, or one that is more similar to a mountain bike.
If you’re doing most of your riding on roads and cycles paths, then the best option is to go for a more road-orientated hybrid bike. Quite often, these bikes will feature the same frame and fork as found on the manufacturer’s sportive road bike, but with a flat bar handlebar for a more upright position. The tyres will also be slick, and not super wide, allowing you to ride fast and keep up with traffic.
Watch: Buyer’s guide to road bikes under £500
This type of hybrid bike will normally also come with gearing that reflects its road origins, mainly designed for relatively fast riding over flat roads. At its bottom end, the gearing should also be easy enough to tackle some pretty fierce hills, although if you’re carrying extra pounds in your panniers (or on your belly) then you might struggle a little.
However, if you are going to be riding your hybrid bike on rough cycle paths and bridleways, then it’s better to go for one that will be able to cope with a terrain. The main difference with this type of hybrid bike is that it will come with a suspension fork, which will improve comfort when riding over rough, rutted surfaces. These bikes will also come with slightly wider tyres, usually with a bit of tread on too to give a little more grip.
With regards to gearing, this type of hybrid bike will genearlly have slightly easier gearing than its more road-orientated bretheren. This means that although you won’t be able to hit quite the same top speeds, having a big sprocket at the back and a tiny ring at the front, you should be able to get over that steep climb at the end of your commute with ease, even on a Friday evening at the end of a long, tiring week.
Compared to road bikes, all of the best hybrid bikes will come with wider tyres. The width will vary, but it will generally be something between 28c and 42c. Not only will this help to improve comfort, ironing out any rough surfaces, but will also add to the level of grip when the roads are wet
The more varied the terrain you plan to ride on is, the wider you’ll want your tyres. If you’re sticking mainly to the road, opt for the lower volume end.
Hybrid bike geometry
The frame of a hybrid bike will generally have a fairly relaxed geometry. This means a short top tube and tall head tube to give a relaxed and upright riding position that should be nice and comfortable, not placing any strain on your neck and shoulders.
Many hybrid bikes also feature a top tube that is sloped downwards from the front of the bike towards the back, which should make it a little bit easier to get on and off whatever you are wearing.
Another feature common to all of the best hybrid bikes is that they come with flat handlebars rather than the dropped bars found on normal road bikes. This will again mean a more upright riding position, and means that the bikes will normally use mountain bike-style shifting and braking, with the levers also being easier to reach for less experienced riders.
Many brands offer hybrid bikes specifically designed for women, whilst those models not ‘women’s specific’ are considered unisex. The differences applied to a female specific version will depend upon the brand.
In some cases, the frame may have a slightly shorter top tube, and taller head tube – this allows a slightly more relaxed position and will come down to personal preference but a shorter rider may find this more comfortable.
Any good women’s specific hybrid bike will come available in smaller sizes than unisex versions, with narrower handlebars to mirror narrower shoulders, and a female specific saddle. Though it’s not at all essential for female cyclists to ride women’s specific hybrid bikes, going for this option can save cash otherwise spent on replacing a men’s saddle and wider handlebars typically fitted to unisex bikes.
Does it matter what material the bike is made from?
The majority of hybrid bikes will be made from one of three materials: steel, aluminium, or carbon.
Probably the least used of the three is steel, which although it is able to give a comfortable ride, generally makes quite a heavy bike which can be tough to haul over the hills. However the upside of steel is that it very aesthetically appealing, so can be a good choice if you’re looking for a bike to tootle down to the shops on summer days.
A much more popular choice is aluminium, which is used on the majority of hybrid bikes, everything from £200 budget options right up to more serious machines costing £1,500. The reason for it’s popularity is that, if used properly, it can provide a comfortable ride, is relatively light, and can stand up to plenty of abuse through years of use without giving up the ghost.
Finally carbon, a material more often used on expensive road bikes, is beginning to turn up on the very best hybrid bikes. This is a good choice of your looking to shave a bit of time off your commute, with carbon doing a better job of taking the power you put through the pedals and sending it through the rear wheel.
There are also quite a few hybrid bikes on the market that combine an aluminium frame with a carbon fork. This helps to keep the cost down through the use of aluminium for the frame, while the carbon fork will do a better job of soaking up judder from rough roads.
What components should I expect?
It might be a bit of a cliché, but you will generally get what you pay when it comes to gearing. Pay more and the best hybrid bikes will come with higher quality groupsets, meaning better quality shifting and less effort needed to shift between gears.
However, if you’re just using your hybrid bike to get to and from work and maybe the odd weekend ride, then shift quality might be a secondary concern to the range of gearing on offer. If you live in a hilly area, then it’s worth looking for a bike with a 32 tooth sprocket at the back to let you winch your way up steep gradients.
There are also lots of hybrid bikes that offer a triple chainset. This is good if you want some seriously easy gears, but the gear range is often not that much more than if you just have two rings at the front, and it can be harder to find the perfect gear if you want to get into a rhythm on a long flat road or steady climb.
You’ll also find that there’s a pretty even split of rim brakes and disc brakes on all but the very cheapest hybrid bikes. The differences between the two are simple, with rim brakes using two pads to grip the rim of the wheel, while disc brakes grip a rotor attached to the hub of the wheel. Both have their benefits, so it’s best to choose depending on what you want from a hybrid bike.
Rim brakes are the cheaper option and have been the preferred method of braking on road bikes since time immemorial. They’re also lighter than disc brakes, and are really easy to adjust and maintain, just requiring you to slide in a new pair of brake pads every few months or so.
Although disc brakes have been used on mountain bikes for years, they have only recently made their way onto the road, and although traditional roadies have yet to fully embrace them, they’re a perfect match for hybrid bikes. They are a little more expensive than rim brakes, so you should only expect them on the best hybrid bikes, but offer better braking power and more consistent performance in both wet and dry conditions. They’re also a better option if your commute takes in potentially muddy bridleways and cycle paths, doing a good job of clearing mud and debris from the braking surface.
Another thing to keep an eye on is the saddle that comes with the bike, and whether that suits the sort of riding that you’re going to be doing (and the clothing that you’re going to be doing it in). If you’re riding more than a couple of miles then a pair of padded cycling shorts are a shrewd investment and will vastly improve your comfort in the saddle. And once you’ve got a pair, then you shouldn’t be put off by skinny-looking road saddles, which despite they’re lack of padding will be more comfortable on your backside.
However if you’re buying a hybrid bike just for popping round the corner to the shops at the weekend, then a more padded saddle might prove more comfortable, providing better support for an upright riding position.
Watch: How to fit and remove pedals
As is the case with most bikes, you’re likely to have your hybrid bike sold either without pedals, or with plasticky black flat pedals. The first thing you should do to your new hybrid bike is take these off and throw them in the bin, and invest in a more suitable pair.
The best options for commuting and urban riding are off-road pedals such as Shimano’s SPD system. Not only are these easy to get in and out of so beginners shoudln’t be put off, but they feature a recessed cleat that means you can wear shoes that let you walk instead of waddling as you do with normal cycling shoes. They are also less susceptible to clogging up with mud if you’re taking your hybrid bike off-road.
Are there any other features that I should look for?
While the frame and components will govern how good the bike is to ride, it is a bike’s other features that will decide how good it is to use day to day.
If you’re having to carry large or heavy items into work, then it can be uncomfortable to carry a rucksack which can often stick into your back. A better option is to invest in a pair of panniers, which will mean the weight is taken by your bike rather than by you.
All of the best hybrid bikes should come with eyelets in the frame that will allow it to take a pannier rack. It is possible to buy adaptor clips that will let you use a pannier rack without having the eyelets, but these won’t hold the rack quite as securely as if the frame is specifically designed for the purpose.
You should also try and find a hybrid bike that has plenty of clearance between the frame and the tyre to enable you to fit mudguards, as well as eyelets so you can fit ones with better coverage, rather than flimsy clip on ones. It might seem a shame to spoil the look of your new bike in such a way, but you’ll certainly appreciate it when cycling on wet roads.
Where to buy a hybrid bike
The vast majority of major bike manufacturers create hybrid bikes – Specialized, Trek, Giant and Boardman are all examples of brands who offer flat bar multi terrain hybrid bikes within their collections.
You can buy bikes online, but if you’re new to the cycling world then it’s a good idea to visit your local bike shop – here they can size you up to ensure that you make the right selection and roll away on a bike that fits.
Look for a retailer that allows you to test ride the bike before purchase, and promises to fit you up as part of the bike buying process, for no extra charge. Some also offer money back guarantees after 30 days, in case you change your mind.
Best hybrid bikes 2019
Here’s a look at our favourite models. Because we know most shoppers are after the best hybrid bike for their money, we’ve included mostly value orientated models – with one or two more premium options.
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Many of the bikes listed below are the 2019 versions of models we’ve reviewed before.
Halfords hybrid bike: Carrera Subway (£300)
Read more: Carrera Subway review
A comfortable hybrid which will inspire confidence in newer riders, thanks to the wide Kenda tyres.
The bike features an aluminium frame with a steel fork. In the Subway 1 there’s a women’s specific version with a few tweaks to make the bike fit female riders better, plus a sloping top tube, though the higher end Subway 2 does not come with this option.
The Subway 1 comes with Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes and Shimano Torney gears, whilst the Subway 2 has hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano Altus gears – a slight upgrade.
Halfords hybrid bike: Carrera Crossfire 2 (£330)
Road more: Carrera Crossfire 2 hybrid bike review
Complete with front end suspension, this is a hybrid bike designed for a rider who wants to experiment with gentle off-roading such as excursions down country bridleways.
The fork offers 75mm of travel, and can be adjusted to provide a stiffer ride on the tarmac. However, coupled with the very wide 42c Kenda tyres, the extra spring does take some of the joy out of road riding.
Available in men’s or women’s spec, this is an all-rounder that can do a little bit of everything, but doesn’t shine like a dedicated road or off-road bike would in its area of expertise.
Specialized hybrid bike: Specialized Sirrus 2019 (£425)
Read more: Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike review
We reviewed an entry level model from this highly popular hybrid range. Perfect for commuting, this is a road ready hybrid that will feel light and fast on tarmac.
The frame is made from high quality aluminium, with a steel fork and effective Shimano Altus groupset.
The gearing on offers is a triple crankset – 48/38/28T – with 12-32 cassette, which will provide riders with plenty of lower gears for the hills as well as higher resistance to get up to pace on the flat.
Pannier and mudguard mounts are provided, making for a handy commuter.
The frame was let down by its very upright position, for us – but that might be a plus if you’re after a very relaxed stance on the bike.
Trek hybrid bike: Trek FX 3 2019 (£575)
Trek is one of the big three (alongside Giant and Specialized) and the FX has been designed specifically for riders who want to feel speedy on tarmac whilst still enjoying the relaxed stance of a mountain bike.
The frame is constructed from aluminium, with a carbon fork to absorb vibration. Shifting comes from a Shimano Alivio drivetrain, with three chainrings and plenty of rear cogs to ensure there’s enough options on the hills.
The brakes are Tektro rim stoppers, and Bontrager’s tough 35c tyres ensure there’s enough squish to soak up the bumps.
There’s mounts for mudguards and a pannier rack, too.
Decathlon hybrid bike: B’twin Triban 520 flat bar (£449.99)
Read more: B’Twin Triban 520 Flat Bar review
We’ve been singing the praises of B’twin’s flat bar packages for a while now, and happily the B’twin Triban 520 is no different.
Another speedy tarmac rider which will suit those commuting mostly on the road.
For starters , B’twin has done a great job with the 6061 frame, and it’s paired to an even better carbon fork, which at the price is phenomenal value and adds an enormous amount of comfort to the ride.
This model comes with a triple up front which’ll make winching your way up anything a total cinch. Thanks to the tidy ride quality and great spread of gears, the B’twin Triban 520 flat bar actually punches well above its weight in terms of rideable distance.
Decathlon hybrid bike: B’Twin Riverside 920 (£649)
Read more: B’Twin Riverside 920
Constructed from lightweight 6061 aluminium, this unisex hybrid bike weighs in at around 12kg, with slight differences depending upon size.
This model sports a Suntour NCX Air suspension fork, which puts it in the category of off-road ready hybrid.
The fork comes complete with a lockout – so you can use the 63mm travel or choose not to if the roads are smooth.
The Mavic Allroad Aksium wheels are outstanding, and these come with comfortable 38mm B’Twin TrekkingSpeed Protect+ tyres – which are pretty bombproof.
Overall, this bike offers excellent value for money owing to the higher end spec and we really enjoyed the ride quality and comfort offered by the fork.
Giant hybrid bike: Giant Escape 1 Disc 2019 (£625)
Read more: Giant Escape 1 disc hybrid bike review
A butted aluminium frame (Giant calls it ALUXX) with tons of standover clearance – ideal if you’re commuting in jeans.
The tyres are wide and you’ve got disc brakes, so this model can go off-road, but it’s designed with tarmac in mind.
Giant has gone for integrated cables – this reduces damage over time and thus maintenance, and it looks a lot cleaner. It’s an unusual and standout addition at the £625 price point.
The brakes are Tektro hydraulic discs – these offer super speedy stopping whilst a triple chainset (26/36/48) and wide cassette (11-34) means there’s a huge choice of gears.
Features such as a riser stem allow for a pretty upright, thus comfortable for most, position.
Evans Cycles hybrid bike: Pinnacle Lithium 4 – women’s and men’s build options (£575)
Read more: Pinnacle Lithium 4 hybrid bike review
Available in a men’s or women’s spec build, the Lithium is a ‘go anywhere’ hybrid. You can use it as a town bike, and the slick tyres means it rolls well on the road. However, the Continental Contact Speed rubber in 40c plus super wide handlebars mean you can get away with taking the bike off road, treating it a bit like a rigid 29er mountain bike.
If you want to get properly muddy, you’d probably want to swap those tyres for something knobbly. There’s enough space for up to a 2.2″ MTB tyre.
The frame is double butted aluminium, and you get Shimano MT200 hydraulic discs brakes as well as a three chainring set up plus 11-34 cassette at the back. That means there’s more than enough gears for steep hills.
This is something of a burly bike – it’s a bit heavier than some of the more road specific versions, and those wide bars won’t thread through traffic as well as them either. However, if you want a bike you can commute on and have a lot of fun with on the weekend, this is a great choice.
Chain Reaction Cycles hybrid bike: Vitus Mach 3 Disc (£549.99)
Road more: Vitus Mach 3 Disc hybrid bike review
Coming from Chain Reaction Cycle’s own brand range, the Mach 3 offers fast stopping thanks to hydraulic brakes and can be fitted with mudguards and pannier racks.
Made with the same materials as the brand’s ‘Razor’ road bikes, you get a quality mechanical formed 6061-T6 Alloy frame and carbon fork which improves handling and reduces road buzz.
The gearing is Shimano’s Claris groupset, with a 50-34 compact chainset, and an 11-32 cassette. This is close to the set up you might get on an endurance or entry level road bike, so will offer fewer small gear options for the hills than some other hybrids but this should be plenty for anyone of moderate fitness.
Kenda 35c tyres are comfortable and resilient, though in our last test we felt the bars were a bit wide for congested roads.
Cannondale hybrid bike: Cannondale Bad Boy 4 2019 (£700)
Read more: Cannondale Bad Boy 4 hybrid bike review
A nippy machine that includes a Lefty fork, a new addition since our last review and one which would make for a more comfortable ride.
Wide Schwalbe Kojak 35c tyres make for smooth rolling over rough terrain. Cannondale calls this a bike that’s built for the city, but the wide tyres and suspension mean this is certainly an option for someone who wants to explore off-road terrain a little.
The SmartForm C2 Alloy frame has been built up with a Shimano Altus drivetrain, with 27 gears in total. There’s a triple chainset -48/36/26 – so you’ll have plenty of gears to tackle whatever terrain thrown up at you. Promax mechanical disc brakes offer quick and reliable stopping.
A good choice for someone who is seeking plenty of comfort, or a rider who wants to get off-road and explore a little.
BMC hybrid bike: BMC Alpenchallenge 02 Three 2019 (£975)
Designed to be fast on the road, this creation from the Swiss engineers at BMC features a lightweight and racy frame design.
The frame is made from triple butted aluminium, which means that the tubes feature three different thicknesses so that weight can be saved where possible whilst stiffness is offered where it’s needed.
This Shimano Sora equipped model comes with hydraulic disc brakes and 35c Continental Sport Contact tyres that will allow you to ride over gravel and light off-road terrain.
The chainset is a compact double – 50-34 – with 11-32 cassette. This sets it apart from many hybrids which have three chainrings, meaning you’ll have a few less lower gears for the hills. However, the cassette is wide enough that most should be fine on flat roads and riders with moderate fitness should still find this ample up hill.
There are hidden quick-mount mudguard eyelets, and cable routing is internal to ensure that everything stays neat free from outside gunk.
The ‘Three’ range is the entry level option, whilst the ‘Two’ models use carbon forks and the ‘Three’ versions offer hub gears with belt drives, which will ensure weather proofing and help keep your trousers free from grease. There’s a e-bike version, too.
Canyon hybrid bike: Canyon Urban 7.0 (£1799)
Read more: Canyon Urban 7.0 hybrid bike review
German based manufacturers Canyon are best known for their high end, race ready road machines – but with the ‘Urban’ range, they’ve gone for something very different.
As the name suggests, this is a low maintenance hybrid designed for city slickers to use on the road and cycle paths.
At the 7.0 level, retailing at £1,799 you get a neat belt drive to cut down on maintenance and potential mess, eight hub gears and a comfort inducing VCLS carbon seat post designed to disperse road buzz.
An innovative wheel axle and seatpost clamp design helps to ensure the oft stolen components stay attached and disc brakes make stopping almost instant.
You get mudguards and rack mounts fitted, too. A good choice for someone after a low maintenance machine for flat city rides. If the price tag seems too high, there are models from £899.