In this guide to hybrid bikes we’ll take you through the main choices to consider when buying a new hybrid bike. We’ll also showcase some of our favourite hybrid bikes for you to pick from.
Why buy a hybrid bike?
Hybrids are the bikes that most people should have. If you want a bike for commuting, going to the shops, getting fit or just for getting around a hybrid is generally the best choice. They combine the speed of a road racing bike with the confident handling of a mountain bike to give you the best of both worlds.
Where are you going to ride?
The first point to think about when picking a hybrid is the kind of surfaces you will be riding on. There are two main flavours of hybrid bike. Some, like the Trek FX, Specialized Sirrus and Cannondale Quick are mainly intended for use on the road. They have bigger gears and skinnier tyres so that they are fast on tarmac. Other bikes like the Trek Dual Sport, Specialized Sirrus X or Cannondale Quick CX are designed to be used on a mixture of surfaces including tracks and gravel paths. They have bigger, grippier tyres and often come with easier gears and some suspension to soak up bumps.
Do you really need suspension?
As we mentioned above some hybrid bikes which are intended for use on rougher surfaces will come with a suspension fork. A couple of years ago Specialized took the suspension forks off their hybrid bikes and fitted bigger tyres instead. In their latest Gen 5 Dual Sport bikes Trek have done exactly the same. Both Trek and Specialized argue that the ride quality on the bike with no suspension and bigger tyres is the same as the ones with the fork. The big upside of removing the fork is that it makes the bikes significantly lighter, up to around 1.7kg. On a bike that would weigh between 10 and 15KG to start with this makes a difference. Making the bike lighter makes it quicker and easier to handle.
A lot of people do still want the suspension to soak up really big bumps and Trek are currently running their Gen 4 Dual Sport with suspension alongside their Gen 5 bike without, so you can choose the one you want.
How many gears do you need?
The more expensive the hybrid bike you buy the less gears it will have. The current trend is moving towards mountain bike style 1x drivetrains. This is where you have a small single cog on the front and then 10 to 12 cogs on the back. This means less moving parts so the bike is simpler to maintain but still gives you plenty of range to get up big hills. Generally what you will sacrifice is some top end speed for flat road sections. Cheaper hybrid bikes will normally still come with 2 or 3 cogs on the front and 7 to 9 on the back. If you really want to go flat out on the road then you may want to go towards a bike with 2 or 3 chainrings on the front. If you are using the bike more for generally getting around and keeping fit then a 1x setup will normally do the job.
EQ or non-EQ?
A lot of hybrid bikes now come with an EQ or Equipped version. This will be the same basic bike but fitted with mudguards, pannier rack, lights and a stand. In almost all cases it is cheaper to buy the EQ version than it is to buy a standard bike and then fit all the parts yourself. So if you want a bike with mudguards, rack and lights this is the way to go.
Men’s and Women’s bikes
All hybrid bikes that Trek and Specialized make are now unisex. They do still do some ‘stagger’ or ‘low step’ bikes which are traditionally seen as ladies bikes, but they class these as unisex as well. A couple of brands including Whyte and Cannondale do still makes men’s and women’s bikes. In reality the differences are often very slight. Normally a women’s saddle, smaller sizing and some pastel coloured paint.
This is a super simple hybrid bike. It comes with rim brakes and a basic but reliable gearing system. That’s about it. It has all the mounting points for mudguards and lights etc but doesn’t come with them. If you just want a basic bike for getting around the Sirrus 1.0 is hard to beat.
The next bike up in the range from the Sirrus 1.0 comes with a few key upgrades to make it nicer to ride and easier to live with. The biggest is the move from rim brakes to hydraulic disc brakes. These give you much greater stopping power, especially in the wet. They also tend to need a lot less maintenance and adjustment. You also get tyres with reflective sidewalls for greater visibility and you get better quality gears which will last longer. If you are going to be doing a lot of miles in all weather then it’s worth the extra money.
The FX 2 and the Sirrus 2.0 are very similar bikes. The RRP on the Sirrus 2.0 is currently £749 (although Specialized have dropped the price on the white ones down to £599). The only major difference is that the FX 2 doesn’t come with tyres with reflective sidewalls and the brakes are form a different brand. Otherwise there is not a lot to choose between them.
This is a top of the line, fully equipped bike. It comes fitted with lights, mudguards, rack and stand. On their own these parts are getting on for £200. As well as the extra parts you are also getting a bike with a carbon fibre fork which makes it lighter and smoother to ride. Plus you get a 1x10 Shimano Deore drivetrain and Shimano MT201 hydraulic brakes which are both known for their reliability.
The Quick Disc 4 is available in both men’s and women’s versions. They come with basically the same specifications and are the same price. Both have a 1x9 speed gearing and hydraulic disc brakes. Both the frame and wheels have reflective accents on them to help make you more visible to other road users. They also come with a wheel sensor which powers the Cannondale app. This records your speed and distance, calories burnt and routes. It can also alert you when your bike needs servicing and give you a breakdown of the parts in case you need replacements.
All Whyte bikes are designed in the UK. They are known for their award winning mountain bikes which get rave reviews for their handling and build quality. Whyte have used that knowledge in their hybrid bike range to produce a fast urban bike that is fast, has confident handling and is comfortable to ride. The Whitechapel comes with super reliable 1x10 speed Shimano Deore mountain bike gearing and hydraulic disc brakes.
This is a bike for design connoisseurs. Cannondale are known for their very engineering led approach to bike design and the Bad Boy is what happens when they let their engineers off the leash. It comes with a Lefty fork which gives more precise steering. The fork and seatpost both have hidden lights built into them. Gearing comes from a belt drive and internal hub mechanism while the frame has added armour to protect it from getting scratched when you lock it up. It’s a very unique looking bike but it’s also really practical and rides brilliantly.
The Gen 4 Dual Sport is the same basic bike that has been around for a few years. It is designed for use on a mix of surfaces and comes with a short travel suspension fork on the front to smooth out bumpy roads and tracks. A simple 2x9 speed gearing system and hydraulic disc brakes make the bike easy to ride. It’s a great general use bike that works well for commuting, going to the shops and general fitness rides. There is also an equipped version of this bike which comes ready fitted with mudguards, rack, lights and a stand.
The Sirrus X ditches the suspension fork found on bikes like the Trek Dual Sport in order to save around 1.7KG. The Sirrus X 3.0 then uses a lightweight alloy fork which saves another 0.8kg. As always with cycling lighter means faster so this bike is quick and fun to ride. To make up for the lack of suspension Specialized have fitted wider tyres to soak up the bumps. The rest of the equipment comes from the mountain bike world so the Sirrus X is happy spending plenty of time off-road and can be used for gravel riding as well as commuting and fitness rides.
While the Trek Dual Sport and Specialized Sirrus X are both unisex bikes the Whyte Malvern is available in men’s and women’s versions. Whyte have used their mountain bike design expertise to make these bikes lightweight and great to ride with confidence inspiring handling. Like the Trek Dual Sport they come with short travel suspension forks but also come with 1 x10 speed Shimano Deore mountain bike gearing and hydraulic disc brakes.
This is a nice simple hybrid bike at a reasonable price. It’s pretty similar looking to the Trek Dual Sport and comes with a lot of the same features including a short travel fork and lightweight aluminium frame. To save a little money it comes with mechanic disc brakes and 3x7 speed gearing. This makes it a good budget choice.