A hybrid bike is a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. It's a versatile bike that can be used for a variety of activities. They are normally sold for commuting and general fitness riding. We often get asked whether hybrid bikes are good for long distances by people wanting to do charity challenges such as London to Paris.
You basically get 2 types of hybrid bikes. Some come with a front suspension fork and knobbly tyres. They are intended for use on mixed terrain including paths and tracks. The other type of hybrid will come with skinnier tyres and no suspension and is intended for use mainly on tarmac. If you are going to be doing a long distance challenge event it is normally the second type that you want. This is because it will be significantly lighter and have gearing which is more suited to road use. We go into this in more detail in our guide to buying a hybrid bike.
If you are going to be covering big distances on the road then a road bike will be the fastest way to do it. A road bike will come with the correct gearing and tyres to keep your speed high so you can cover a lot of miles. It is common for many recreational road cyclists to do 80km to 100km on a Sunday morning and be home in time for lunch (even with a café stop part way). So if your biggest concern is covering distance then a road bike is worth a look.
Hybrid bikes are a mix of road and mountain bikes. The more road focussed hybrids have many of the features you find on a road bike. They normally use the same 700c wheels and you will often find the same, or very similar gearing systems being used on higher end hybrids. So you will get some of the speed of a road bike.
If you are a new, or not very confident, cyclist road bikes are not ideal. They aren’t super stable and the gears and brakes take a bit of getting used to. The biggest issue for most people is the riding position. On most road bikes you will be fairly bent over. If you are not very flexible, or just aren’t used to it, this can be uncomfortable on long rides. Most hybrid bikes have a fairly upright riding position which will feel more comfortable, and confidence inspiring, for many riders.
A second issues is that road bikes are designed for use on the road. When covering long distances you may not always know the exact road surface you will encounter. While many modern endurance road bikes can handle the odd bit of gravel, a hybrid bike will make life easier if you have extended sections of paths. They generally come with wider tyres which have more grip and will add more cushioning. This is also a reason why many people are now using gravel bikes for touring.
Hybrid bikes are normally a good bit cheaper than road bikes. It is hard to buy a road bike with hydraulic disc brakes for under £1500 but you can get a hybrid with hydraulic brakes for under £800. This is because hybrids are generally simpler to make, and are made in much bigger numbers.
Finally, because hybrid bikes are often used for commuting they will normally come with all the mounting points for mudguards and pannier racks. So you can stay drier in wet weather and carry more gear. Some road bikes will have this as well but not all do. It also means that when you are done with your long distance ride you’ve got a commuting bike ready to go.
As mentioned above a hybrid bike will be slower than a road bike. This is because they are generally heavier, not as aerodynamic and come with thicker tyres and easier gears. All of this combines to less speed. If you are doing a long distance ride on your own this may not bother you. If you are going to be the only hybrid bike rider in a group of road cyclists you may struggle to keep up.
Because the hybrid bike will be heavier and have less efficient tyres and gearing you are also going to have to work harder to maintain speed. If you have a time limit, or schedule to keep, this will be more challenging.
Finally many hybrid bikes are designed for commuting around town. As a result cheaper hybrids will come with lower quality parts that are fine for short trips but may not stand up to long days of riding. Similarly because hybrids are often used for short trips the saddle and handlebar grips may not be suitable for all-day use. Make sure to give them a thorough test on your training rides!
If you’ve decided a hybrid bike is right for you there are a few things to keep an eye out for:
Hybrid bikes are good for long distances as long as you aren’t too bothered about going top speed. If you priority is to balance comfort, practicality and speed then a hybrid bike is a good option. Just go for the lightest hybrid you can afford and make sure to test out the saddle and grips.