To the bike enthusiast, hybrid bikes could be considered the best thing since sliced bread, with all the features of a road bike and mountain bike packed into one unit.
Hybrid bikes are great over any terrain and would suit the avid cyclist, owing to its versatility between use for leisure and commute and its use on multiple terrains.
A hybrid can be considered a jack-of-all-trades, but as with most ‘all-purpose’ products, there’s a likelihood of it being a master of none.
When it comes to hybrids vs mountain bikes, would adrenaline junkies who thrive on off-road riding enjoy a full-rounded experience with a hybrid? Or can they repurpose their hardy mountain bikes for the everyday commute?
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Before making an investment in a bike or repurposing an existing one, it’s best to take your needs into account and compare which bike fits the bill. Identify and understand your riding style, and the main use for your bike.
For example, if you plan on trail cycling, cyclocross, and riding on rough terrains, then a mountain bike may be the best bike for on and off-road. If your needs lie more with travel, then your options may lead you to look at a hybrid.
It does all come down to the structure of the bike itself and its defining features, so let’s take a look at some of the main features of hybrids and mountain bikes.
|Hybrid Bikes||Mountain Bikes|
|Matches the hardiness of a mountain bike with the lightness of a road bike.||Widely spaced Knobby tires for better grip in mud.|
|Has a wider wheelbase and can accommodate wider tyres - they can endure more than road bikes.||Tougher and chunkier framework and components.|
|Enables better stability and grip due to a low center of gravity.||Shock absorbent suspension fork, suspension, and frame for better control.|
|Lesser rolling resistance.||Frame supports steep uphill climbs.|
|Enables upright seating and better comfort||26” wheels - great for rough terrain.|
Mountain bikes may come with a hardtail or full suspension, while ‘rigid’ mountain bikes have no suspension at all. These bikes are usually cheaper and easier to maintain.
However, if you’re looking for more comfort and ease in riding, bikes with suspension would be your answer.
Full suspension bikes come with suspension at both the front and rear of the frame to support greater shock absorption on both sides, especially on very bumpy and uneven terrain. The more comprehensive shock absorption facilitates a much smoother ride due to the lowered impact on the rider and also provides much better traction.
It’s worthy to note, however, that up-hill climbing might need a bit more effort with full suspension bikes. To combat this, most full suspension bikes come with the feature to lock out the rear suspension to assist with up-hill rides.
You may also consider hardtail bikes, which come with only a front suspension fork to absorb shock impact on the front wheel. Most models also come with the feature to lock out the suspension for the feel of a rigid bike ride.
These bikes are cheaper than full-suspension models, and because there aren’t as many components, maintenance is also comparatively easier.
Hardtails are generally preferred for cyclocross and racing due to better balance. However, it is worth noting that they may not be ideal for severe down-hill terrains.
Unlike mountain bikes, hybrids do not have suspension and have more in common with road bikes or ‘rigid’ mountain bikes in this aspect. The reason for this is that suspension adds extra weight, and you would typically have to put more effort into pedaling, making it more strenuous.
Since hybrids are more suited for commuting, they are built this way. Bikes without suspension ride better and are a lot smoother on paved surfaces, like streets, roads, and paved cycling paths.
Certain hybrid bikes may have suspension, but only at the front. This will help to reduce any shock impact on the front wheel. Hybrids like this may be suited for you if you are commuting in an area where the roads and streets are pretty rocky and uneven.
Mountain bikes and hybrids are generally equipped with aluminium alloy frames, which are lighter. Prices may vary according to the model, brand, and structure. Frames also come in titanium, steel, and carbon fiber.
Like aluminium alloy, titanium also provides a lighter frame, whilst also being strong, however it is significantly more expensive, therefore being used in more advanced models. This is also true of carbon fiber frames, which are also light and strong but more expensive.
Steel frames are a lot stronger and sturdier than aluminum frames and are also cheaper in comparison. However, steel frames are a lot heavier and therefore have a big impact on the overall weight of the bike.
Mountain bikes can have up to 30 or more gears and also come as single-speed models. Gears can change based on the model and structure and the number of other components the bike may have.
Sharp up-hill and down-hill cycling, off-road riding, and rough terrains may call for a bike with more gears. Cyclists who are just starting may also opt for having more gears for more ease in their ride.
The gears on a mountain bike are dependent on its chainrings, and most mountain bikes come with two or three chainrings and a range of gears to alternate between for climbing.
Mountain bikes may also come with single chainrings, complemented by a cassette with a more expansive range. These are easier to use, more straightforward, and lighter in comparison to those with multiple gears.
Most hybrids are equipped with gears between 1 and 27. Like mountain bikes, gears on hybrids are also dependent on the number of chainrings that come with the bike, so this is something you can decide on when choosing your bike.
Hybrids can come in single-speed models, and these come with a freewheel mechanism in its rear hub, giving you a riding experience quite comparable to any bike with multiple gears.
Entry-level mountain bikes and most hybrids often come with rim brakes, which consist of pads that grip onto the rims of the wheel. Rim brakes are relatively inexpensive, and it’s easier to identify when they need to be replaced. However, rim brakes eventually wear out the wheel, causing the entire wheel to be replaced.
The more advanced mountain and hybrid bikes now come with disc brakes, which may be either hydraulic or cable activated. Disc brakes consist of a brake pad that grips on to a brake motor and attached to the wheel hub. Hydraulic brakes are self-adjusting, whilst cable activated brakes require a more manual effort.
Disc brakes perform well even in wet terrain, unlike rim brakes which also require stronger effort. It is also cheaper to replace the components of the brake itself rather than the whole wheel. However, if you were to choose a bike with a hydraulic brake, it’s worth mentioning that servicing hydraulics can be quite expensive.
A hybrid bike would combine all the features of a road bike, tour bike, city bike, and mountain bike. When choosing one, consider the same factors that you would when purchasing any other bike. You would take into consideration the bike’s components and whether the bike is the right fit for you.
When considering the differences between a road bike vs a mountain bike vs a hybrid, a hybrid has a flat handlebar not commonly found on road bikes, complementing the shifting and braking components of a mountain bike, which would support an all-purpose use.
You could convert a mountain bike to a road bike by fitting it with hybrid style tyres. If you wanted to convert your pre-existing bike into an all-purpose one, however, the same could not be said about fitting hybrid tyres onto a mountain bike.
The reason for this is that hybrid bikes do not have wheelsets that are as wide as those of mountain bikes. Since they are typically found with thinner tyres, you wouldn’t be able to fit them with fat tyres commonly found on mountain bikes.
If you were wondering if hybrids are good for trails, they would certainly work well on paved or unpaved cycling trails and are much better suited to leisure rides and commutes.
Hybrids also perform well on gravel or pavement. If your purpose for a bike is more city-centered, then a hybrid would possibly be a better option for you than a mountain bike.
Some of the best budget hybrid bikes would include:
1. Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1
2. Ghost Square Cross 1.8
3. Tommaso La Forma
4. Cannondale Quick CX 2
5. Trek Dual Sport 3
Conclusively, the decision comes down to your purpose for buying the bike. If you are going to spend most of your time on paved roads, streets, and city-centric areas with the occasional venture onto cycling trails or gravel paths, then a hybrid bike may be the better option for you. Its design aims to provide comfort and practicality for rides that aren’t too challenging.
Mountain bikes are specially designed geometrically to suit rough off-road riding and challenging, rocky trails. However, you can always use them for the occasional ride on paved roads without a problem. If your riding style leans more towards thrill-seeking adventurous riding, then a mountain bike may be better suited to you.