Best Hybrid Bike: Reviews and A Simple Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the best hybrid bike to use from modern-day bikes can turn out to be terribly tiring. There are loads and loads of specialized bikes – all intended for different purposes. To name a few, and perhaps the most common of the lot; there are road bikes (racing bikes), touring bikes and mountain bikes. However, these are all specialized bikes, meaning they are meant for professionals, and, by extension, are pricey. Really pricey.
Naturally enough, there is an alternative to fill this big gap in between, doesn’t have the drawbacks of the normal bike we’re all used to, while being able to capitalize on the advantages of the more specialized ones – speed for road bikes, handling for touring bikes and traction for mountain bikes.
Enter the hybrid bike.
The hybrid bike is just perfect for casual use – be it a daily commute, weekend exercise or even an occasional ride out with your friends. A good quality, performance hybrid bike capitalizes on efficient speed, manageable handling, comfort and is stable enough to ride like any normal bike. Adding to that is the flexibility and agility they provide, all topped off by the affordable pricing.
How we picked the Best Hybrid Bike
With more and more people all over the country adopting riding as their preferred method of transportation to and from work, surveys reporting the number of people using bicycles to work has increased by 7.5% year on year for the past three years, the market for high-performance hybrid bikes isn’t going anywhere.
The main bottleneck faced by consumers in the adoption of bicycles as their preferred method of transportation, especially over small distances, seems to be the cost of a durable, good-quality bicycle, and as such, we tried to balance that out with various other factors, including the quality of the bike, which is, in turn, dictated by the quality of its components.
With data from various sources: Consumer Reports, Bikeradar, Amazon Reviews… etc., we were able to compile a list of the best bikes not only according to expert cyclists, but also with regards to what the consumers thought of the bikes. This resulted in an aggregation of various factors such as how long the tire treads last, the sturdiness of the bike with regards to average weight (166 pounds) and the relative safety of the bike. Of course, it’s possible to just drop by Walmart and get a cheap bike at $100, but that’s at the risk of being unable to replace the parts should they (and they will) wear out, higher likelihood of succumbing to damage and your safety is that much less guaranteed.
As such, we were able to combine various factors that catered to most people, at least the average consumer, who doesn’t cycle, say, 200 miles a day, instead prefers a bike for regular fitness exercises and maybe commuting to work.
Bicycle geometry refers to the way the tubes that make up the bike’s center frame meet. The angles between them play a huge role in the way the bike handles, and despite the implied mathematics involved, don’t let that scare you. Bike geometry was adopted as a result of more practical considerations like how the bike’s handling is affected, rather than pure, raw mathematics. (If math were to be strictly followed, the bike would hardly be usable, in terms of positioning of the pedals with regard to the saddle, etc.).
As such, there are a lot of ways the bike geometry affects your biking experience, but the most essential component to understand is that the more vertical the head tube is, the more quickly the bike will turn. If it’s too vertical, however, it gets too responsive and the bike feels squirrelly and unstable.
In our search, and for the sake of efficiency, we selected bikes whose overall design was closer to that of a racing bike, which serves to increase your comfort, while ridding you of the need to sit upright (more air resistance).
Here, a good quality hybrid bike will borrow from mountain bikes, which typically feature flat handlebars, that are not only more user friendly, they are also perfect for helping you maintain that perfect posture and give you a much wider field of vision – a must-have if you’re situated in a highly populated area.
Flat-bar bikes, like most hybrid bikes, are mostly dependent on traditional V brakes and disc brakes. Choosing between them is more a matter of preference than anything else, assuming, of course, they meet quality standards. This is in contrast to, say mechanical disc brakes that should be picked over the rest if you live in an area with lots of snow or rain. However, it’s worth noting that V-brakes are harder to maintain and replace one they wear out, and disk brakes are often fitted on heavier bikes, because of various physical factors they need to cater for. They would otherwise fail after a few days’ use. As long as you’re not in a competitive sport (pro-level competitions), either type of brake should work just fine under most conditions.
Fender and rack mounts
Instead of using a backpack to carry your laptop and groceries, consider instead panniers, which not only get rid of the woeful ‘sweaty back syndrome,’ but also lowers your center of gravity, increasing your stability.
These aren’t exactly a necessity, and they are heavier and slower than those found on contemporary road bikes, but they are a nice extra to have. Any time you fear losing to the added weight will probably be gained by saving you that which you’d have otherwise lost when you stopped to fix a flat tire.
The purpose of gears, in a nutshell, is to enable the cyclist to maintain a comfortable pedaling speed regardless of the terrain or gradient, something a single-gear bike would have a difficult time trying to achieve. Let’s be clear, though, lots of gears don’t translate at higher speeds, it’s more about efficiency than anything. A good example would be the car analogy, where they use a low gear to climb a steep hill or accelerate from a standstill. On the other hand, a high gear is phenomenally useful if you want to achieve high speeds without over-revving.
However, if you live in an area that’s mostly flatlands, you could opt for a single speed bike because they require very little maintenance.
The bicycle frame
The bicycle frame of choice should be reasonably lightweight and the same time sturdy. This serves for a variety of purposes, where, for instance, you’d want to be able to carry your bike up steps or fit it into a bike rack, and at the same time, the bike should be able to withstand being knocked down. What you’ll probably want is an aluminum frame – a third the weight of steel, cheaper than carbon and has the benefits of both. The disadvantage – aluminum-frame bikes often feel stiff to ride, but you can make up for this by installing suitable shock absorbers.
Steel provides a much more comfortable ride, but steel isn’t cheap, and this extends to bikes made from it. If you’re in the market for comfort over anything else, the vibration dampening provided by steel bikes will be a big plus for you.
When anyone talks about quality, most times they end up suggesting something that lasts and will proceed to mention a price that makes the jaw drop. We took this into consideration and tried to find the right balance of price and quality during our picks.
The most worried-about component we’ve come across so far is the front and rear derailleurs. Most of them are manufactured by Shimano, a Japanese corporation, and they may not be top of the line products, but they should work just fine if you’re a regular commuter. The thing is, if you’re not a pro-tier racer, having a slightly bulkier derailleur won’t to make much of a difference, if at all. What’s more, when it eventually needs replacement, the cost should be as little as $20, maybe $30 at most.
A common complaint regarding hybrid bikes, though is that some bikes have wheels whose hub was only compatible with freewheel cogs, which are increasingly hard to find as compared to more modern cassettes. As such, we did not include any bikes that came with the sort of outdated freewheel corsets on the rear wheel. If you do opt for such a bike with a freewheel and disc brakes, good luck replacing it once it wears out. .
Ever since 25mm tires became the standard for WorldTour race teams, the benefits of using wide rims have come into the light, and chief among them is a comfort. Simply put, the wider the tire, the lower the air pressure you need and thus more comfort. A great bike for casual use though should be somewhere around the 32mm mark. However, be wary of wide-rimmed bikes coupled with front-wheel suspension, often referred to as dual-sports hybrids. These are the least comfortable bikes you’ll ever lay your hands on since the shocks are really heavy and near impossible to adjust. Think of them much the same way you’d regard riding a pogo stick all the way to work, every day. Not something you want to do.
Our Top Picks for Best Hybrid Bikes
Before anything, you need to be aware of one crucial fact regarding our top ten picks. For the most part, they are almost identical in terms of geometry and individual components. Mostly, Shimano. They were filtered using the above requirements, an affordable budget and a standard level of drive-train componentry.
Even despite our carefully selected list, we still have a few bits of advice before you buy whichever bike you settle for. First, always test ride any bike you consider buying because manufacturer claim isn’t enough to warrant a purchase as personal as a bike. Second, bikes don’t often change in terms of complexity, regarding concurring years. If the bike you like isn’t available anymore but the next year’s model will be available soon, and it’s a ‘carry forward’ model, that means nothing has changed.
With that out of the way, here is our top ten ranking for the best hybrid bikes you can easily find on the market.
The Marin Fairfax SC1 is at the top of this list for one reason, and one reason only – it’s an excellent bike. The first of which is its gearing system. The gearing system contains Shimano Tourney’s signature set of triple chainrings with 42, 34 and 24 teeth, whereas the rest of the bikes on this list have 48, 38 and 28. This is essential, in that, the more teeth you have, the larger your chainrings and the faster your maximum speed.
Second are its tires, manufactured by Schwalbe, who is perhaps the most respected tire maker in the business. Well, you may be thinking, it’s all well and good as long as they work, right? Well, perhaps, but this poses various problems. Of late, tire-manufacturing companies have been under pressure to produce more and more puncture-resistant tires, and while this is a good thing, it came with one major drawback. Since there is no an international standard for tire-manufacturers to follow, most companies make tires that aren’t easily replaceable.
Think of it like Apple and their lightning connector vs the rest of the world with USB-C. This is one specific area the Marin excels so wonderfully. The tires are easily identifiable and similar to store-bought Schwalbe tires. The Road Cruisers that come with the Fairfax SC1 aren’t the most durable product Schwalbe makes, but they should be just enough for most consumers. They are treaded enough to handle even wet weather with no problem.
Third but not least of the reasons it’s on this list is because of how light the bike is, relative to most others in the market. It weighs just 25.5 pounds, with which weight it takes the top spot of the lightest bike on the list. This will enable you to accelerate to your desired speed pretty fast, and that’s without making you feel shaky and nervous. Additionally, Fairfax’s chainstays are flattened, a piece of the design framework which increases stiffness of the bike (thereby enabling more pedaling power to be delivered to the rear wheel), and the seat stays join the seat tube at a low point such that it tightens the rear triangle, in the process increasing the bike’s responsiveness.
Finally, the Fairfax won our favor because of its saddle, which is which is firm with a single deep channel and the internally routed shifter cables, a detail once featured only on high-end bikes. Having the brake or shifter cables run inside the frame tubes has the advantage of higher damage protection, which means you’ll be to protect the cable housing.
The Fuji Absolute sells for the same price as the Marin and also shares many of the same components. However, where the Marin triumphs over it are the design finesse that the Fairfax engineers focused on so much. For this reason, it does ride a bit heavier,
Another area the Marin beats the Fuji is in terms of performance when it comes to climbing steep inclines. Despite possessing disc brakes, the chainrings that come with the Fuji aren’t as high-performing as the Fairfax’s. Additionally, the Fuji is two pounds heavier, putting it at a greater disadvantage, still.
We did mention that the Fuji Absolute shares many features with the Fairfax – this includes the internal shifter-cable routing, steel fork, and a firm, comfortable saddle. In fact, dig into it a little and you’ll find the Fuji manages to oust it in some regards e.g. more comfortable synthetic rubber handlebar grips and mechanical brakes that allow for far better modulation.
The final area where it gets kind of hazy with the Fuji is the tires. Unlike with the Marin, Fuji’s tires are made by their parent company, and as such, they are impossible to find online or in stores. This doesn’t necessarily imply they are bad tires, far from it, in fact. They will offer a relatively great grip, but they aren’t as great at shock absorption as Schwalbe’s Road Cruisers.
The first thing about the Jamis Coda sport that stands out in most models is the steel frame. The frame weighs 27.9 pounds, is quite light, considering its materials.
Steel is a metal, and being a metal, it possesses a property known as malleability. Which allows for it to be bent one way, and will be able to be bent back. This is important because, despite aluminum also being a metal, it has far lower malleability than steel and in the event of a crash. Nevetheless, restoring an aluminum-frame bike can be a bit of a hassle. This gives the Jamis Coda an upper hand against its aluminum-made competitors, despite a few extra pounds.
If you’re one for speed, the Jamis Coda has slightly longer chains than our top pick, which enables it to accelerate a wee bit faster, but at the cost of agility. For that reason, despite being a very respectable bike, it isn’t for you if you occasionally ride in high-density traffic (thereby requiring more maneuverability),
Best Hybrid Bikes: The competition
As was mentioned before, most bikes on this list are fairly similar. Meaning that if you can’t find any of the bikes above, you’ll be in good hands with the ones we outline below.
The Continuum Onyx retails at twice the price of the Marin, and while this may come as a shock, it’s actually quite affordable for a belt-drive hybrid, since most similar models retail at almost twice its current price. Whatever way you look at, though, the relative affordability is only one of its perks.
It also comes with an aluminum fork, a hydraulic disc brake system and a Gates carbon drive belt (Gates is the manufacturer of the best belt drives out there; think of them as the Shimano of belt drives). Stepping away from the norm, it also features a NuVinci geared rear hub drive, unlike most other hybrid bikes that feature the traditional cassette-and-derailleur system. However, if you run into hiccups with it, you can only replace on order from their website.
Carbon belts have one big plus over traditional chains for turning the bike’s gears and wheels – they don’t need lubrication and are thus far cleaner than their counterparts. However, this does come with an uptick in price, since using a belt drive requires an internally geared hub, which can cost as much as $1,400.
Formerly called the FX 7.2, the Trek FX 2 comes with front and rear derailleurs from Shimano (the same found on the Marin), inclusive of an upgraded cassette (this time it’s Shimano, again instead of the Marin’s SunRace). However, the Marin has it beat when it comes down to internal routing – which the FX 2 doesn’t feature, below-par chaining gearing and Bontrager’s standard H2 tires, which aren’t puncture-resistant
The latest model does come with some extras worth checking out: the company’s proprietary DuoTrap S and Blendr stem capabilities. The former lets you fasten any compatible mounts for cameras, lights or bike computers to the handlebar end of the stem while the latter lets you install a speed and cadence sensor compatible with the company’s hardware onto the chainstay. If you’re interested in keeping track of performance metrics, though, odds are high you’ll be graduating from a hybrid to a road bike soon.
The Escape 2 finally introduced puncture-resistant tires to their long line of products, but still uses an aluminum fork, which puts it as a disadvantage over the rest of the bikes on this list. However, the tires are still OEM (original equipment manufacturer) meaning they are only available if ordered through the company/
Going for this bike may save you a few bucks. But it comes at the cost of comfort – riding along a rough pavement will feel like you’re riding in an old military jeep (they had no shock absorbers whatsoever). Probably a consequence of choosing an aluminum fork over a steel one.
The Alight 2 comes from the same parent company as the Giant, but once again falls short in terms of comfort. It also features an aluminum fork, which doesn’t do much when it comes to dampening pavement noise.
Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, the Alight falls short in some areas. Despite having the same retail price as the Giant. The Alight 2 is a pound heavier, its brake and shifter cables are routed internally. Furthermore, it comes with a soft squishy saddle, all in contrast to the Giant. Perhaps most daunting of all is the fact that it comes with tires that are woefully lacking in puncture protection.
The main reason the Cannondale Quick 7 comes last is that despite featuring the same components as the Marin (apart from the front derailleur, which is a Shimano Altus and not a Tourney, and the cassette is from Shimano, not Sunrace) it’s a tad more expensive.
In fact, there seems to be a consensus that this bike isn’t totally worth the price. Plus, you can get better quality than they offer for less money.