Shopping for a hybrid bike is not an easy task with a gazillion of brands and options to choose from. Loosen up and brew a cup of your favorite beverage, I have narrowed down the list of the best hybrid bikes on the Internet for you to consider. If any one of these bikes matches your needs, great. If not, at least when you finish reading this post you’ll know what to look for.
In this article, you will learn about:
- Why I recommend staying away from hybrid bikes with suspension.
- How to choose between a single- and multi-speed hybrid bike.
- Why you should buy a hybrid bike with disc brakes.
First, let’s start with the bad news: there are no best hybrid bikes.
Now the good news: there are best hybrid bikes. Doesn’t make sense? It does if I add for you to the best hybrid bikes. For you then, there are best hybrid bikes. You’ll find your best hybrid bike if you know what to look for in the bicycle universe. This is why I wrote this post — to help you find your best hybrid bike.
Hybrid Bikes with Suspension Forks: A Gimmick or a Boon?
Let me start with the most important advice I can give you about buying a hybrid bike:
Don’t buy a hybrid bike with a suspension fork.
A good suspension fork costs more than most hybrid bikes you’ll find in a bike store. This is because suspension forks are complex engineering devices. Good suspension forks that is.
You don’t need a degree in economics to understand what they put on an under $1,000 bike and call it a suspension fork — rubbish, nothing else makes any business sense. You end up with a piece of junk that doesn’t do its job. Avoid this headache, you don’t need it.
Does a Hybrid Bike Need a Suspension?
The second consideration is as important as the first one: you don’t need a suspension fork on a hybrid bike.
Think about it. Bikes need suspension forks to deal with rugged, rocky trails. They’re designed to help you go downhill over boulders and ruts without slowing you down. Is this how you’re going to ride your hybrid bike? If the answer is yes, then you need a mountain bike, not a hybrid bike.
Think about it. If most of your riding is going to be on paved roads, why do you need a suspension fork? What are you going to jump over on it?
What’s worse, on those occasions when you need to stand up on the pedals to give your bike a bit of a gas, like when you’re riding uphill for example, a suspension fork will work against you. When you put your weight on your front wheel, which is what you do when you stand up, a suspension fork will give in and absorb some of your power you’re trying to apply to the pedals.
On every pedal stroke.
This is why a lot of suspension forks on mountain bikes come with locks. You can lock your fork when you don’t need suspension functionality.
Do you think your hybrid bike will come with a suspension lock? And even if does, your fork will be locked out for most of your riding. Why have it in the first place if you’re going to disable it anyway?
Guess What? You Already Have a Suspension
For those times when you need to absorb some impact with whatever it is on the road — a pothole or a curb — you already have a suspension device on you: your arms.
Use your arms — and your legs when you’re standing up on the pedals — to absorb small impacts which is what you’re going to deal with in the urban environment. Those lousy forks they put on hybrid bikes, they’re not better than your arms. In fact, it might give you a false sense of security to hit things you’re not supposed to, a road curb for example, and end up damaging your bike or injuring yourself.
Remember, the first mountain bikes didn’t have suspension forks, and yet, the mountain bike pioneers raced them on tough trails. Do you think you can manage on a bike with a rigid fork riding on paved roads?
Don’t do it — don’t buy a hybrid bike with a suspension fork.
Can You Take Your Hybrid Bike to Off-Road Trails?
Last note on this topic before I move on. You can and you should take your hybrid bike to an off road environment. All you need to do before you go is to lower the air pressure in your tires. I can’t give you exact numbers here because different tire widths need different air pressure. Proper air pressure is not the purpose of this post.
As a general rule, when you want to ride trails, you need soft tires for better grip and to absorb the impact of an uneven surface. You should be able to squeeze your tires without much effort, not all the way to the rim though.
To check if the pressure’s not too low, get on your bike and make sure the rims don’t touch the road under your weight. Put as much weight on your rear wheel as you can and try to bob up and down. You want some space between the rim and the surface when you apply your weight to the wheels. If the rim doesn’t touch the road, you’re good to go.
Be sensible with trail choices. Some of them can only be ridden on mountain bikes.
My Bike Has More Gears Than Your Bike
Let’s talk now about the next important consideration in buying a hybrid bike: the gears.
If you live in Chicago, Manhattan or Orlando, that is, where you live there are no hills to ride over, you’ll do well to narrow your search to a single-speed bike.
Single-speed bikes are cheaper compared to similar multi-speed bikes. Another important advantage of a single-speed bike is its simplicity. With no gears to change, there are no derailleurs, no gear cables, no gear shifting levers, nothing. You can’t break something you don’t have on your bike. The more simple the machine is, the more reliable it is.
Oh, and a single-speed bike is lighter too since it has fewer parts on it.
What’s more, some single-speed bikes have belt drives instead of metal chains. Belt drives are smooth, quiet, and light, they don’t rust and need no maintenance. And they last forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but longer than chains do anyway.
Life without grease marks on your legs or clothes. Life without ever dropping a chain. Life without touching that disgusting chain to put it back on. Imagine that. Single-speed bikes are cool. With belt drives, they rock.
The Hills, They’re Pretty
If where you live is as hilly as San-Francisco, you’ll need a multi-speed hybrid bike.
Selling you a bike with too many gears is another ploy marketers use to sell you stuff you don’t need — a suspension fork trick in different window dressing. Make people believe the more gears the bike has, the better it is. More value. It’s all about value for money, right? Except there’s no value in 27 gears on your bike if you only need 5 of them to get around.
It’s simplicity and reliability against unnecessary complexity all over again. You want simple, reliable machine to get you from one place to another. Do you think you need 27 gears for that?
If Pros Can Live With 10 Gears, Why Do You Need 27?
Look at professional mountain bike racing scene. You won’t see one bike equipped with a triple chainring. They’ve been replaced by double chainrings years ago and everyone is racing with a single one nowadays. This is because front derailleurs drop chains, even the best derailleurs designed for professional racing. These guys ride on some challenging trails with a single chainring and 10 or 11 gears at the rear. Ten gears is all a professional mountain bike rider needs to climb walls. Do you think you need a triple chainring and 27 gears to cruise around on paved roads?
Hybrid bikes are still sold today with triple chainrings to increase the number of gears available to the rider. Three at the front, 9 at the rear, 27 gears in total. Great value. Never mind it’s 20 gears too many. Never mind the gear ratios are so close for some gear combinations that it’s not really a separate gear anyway. From the marketing point of view, the important thing is to create value even though it’s not there. Perception of value is what’s important.
This is why you should avoid hybrid bikes with triple chainrings. Some brands sell the same bike with a double chainring for less. Take that one. And if the same model sells with a single chainring, this is the bike you want. Seven or eight gears will cover every situation in an urban environment you can think of.
For steep hills, sure, you’ll need that second, smaller chainring if riding over steep hills is what you’re going to do. And I mean steep hills.
Never Underestimate the Importance of Brakes
Good, reliable brakes are important. This is obvious. It’s one thing on a bicycle you don’t want to fail you. Ever.
You’ll see only two brake types on bikes these days: a variety of a rim brake or a disc brake (either mechanical or hydraulic).
Rim brakes stop the bike by applying force directly to the rim. Disc brakes do the same thing by stopping the disc attached to the hub of the wheel.
Rim brakes work great on road racing bikes. They’re light, simple, and do the job. They do the job because they’re designed to stop a bike shod in narrow, high-pressure tires.
Different Brakes For Different Jobs
The job of stopping a hybrid bike is not the same as stopping a racing bike. The tires are wide, the air pressure is low, the rider’s weight distribution is different. The side-pull caliper brakes that work great on a racing bike won’t work as well on a hybrid bike.
This is why there are different varieties of rim brakes. Each design tries to solve the problem of how to stop a bike with wide, low-pressure tires and a lot of weight at the rear with a type of brakes that only work well on road racing bikes.
Good quality rim brakes do work on hybrid bikes but none of them perform as good as disc brakes. This has nothing to do with quality, it’s a design issue.
In dry conditions, rim brakes are fine. In the rain, watch out. And it’s in the rain you need your brakes to perform. When the rims are wet, brake pads won’t grab them until the rims had been dried by the friction. By then, in urban traffic, it might too late.
That’s not all. Wet rims under heavy braking go dry while you still squeeze hard on them. You can grab too much and lock the wheel. On a wet road with a locked wheel you’ll crash 9 times out of 10. Not good.
This is why I recommend disc brakes to anyone looking to buy a hybrid bike. They work in all conditions, wet or dry, snow, rain or heat, doesn’t matter. They just work.
Between hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, it’s hard to recommend one system over another.
The difference between the two is how you deliver the braking force from the levers you squeeze with your hands to the wheels. Mechanical disc brakes use cables to do its job. Hydraulic brakes use pressure created by squeezing oil inside hoses.
Mechanical disc brakes have these points going for them:
- Will never fail unless you break a cable, and even if you do, you still have another brake
- Less maintenance overall
- Easy to adjust
- Cables wear out and decrease stopping power
- Cable housing gets stuffed with dirt over time and blocks cable movements
- Less braking power by design on most mechanical disc brakes with only one moving pad that pushes the disc to the other, fixed pad
Hydraulic disc brakes’ advantages:
- Great stopping power
- Wide range of force you can apply
- Brake pads self adjust as they wear out
- You can brake with your pinkie
- Nothing to do between maintenance trips to a bike mechanic
Keep in mind:
- Heat build-up can make hydraulic brakes stop working. By heat build-up I mean long, heavy braking like when you descend from a high mountain in the Alps.
- Hydraulic disc brakes can develop leaking problems.
- Cost of maintenance and repair.
To sum it up, buy a hybrid bike with hydraulic disc brakes if:
- You want powerful, easy to use brakes.
- You don’t mind spending more up front.
- You’re prepared to spend on brakes’ regular maintenance.
Choose a bike with mechanical disc brakes if:
- You want to spend the least amount of money.
- You only worry about maintenance when you need it.
Forget These Not
Bike shopping is great fun. In the excitement of it, it’s easy to overlook small but important details. Like mudguards.
If you want to keep your bum dry when you get caught in the rain, you need mudguards. The front one will also keep your feet dry if you ride slow.
You might find yourself in a situation where the bike you found ticks all the boxes except it doesn’t have mudguards. You can buy them separately as long as the frame has eyelets to mount the mudguards to.
If you plan to attach a pannier rack to your bike, just like with mudguards, you’ll need eyelets welded on the frame for them.
Let’s Wrap It All Up
Main points to remember hunting for your best hybrid bike:
- Don’t waste your time on hybrid bikes with suspension forks
- Buy a single-speed hybrid bike for flat roads
- Buy a single-speed hybrid bike with a belt drive if you can
- Limit your choice of a multi-speed hybrid bike to a bike with a single chainring
- Buy a bike with a double chainring if you plan to ride over steep hills
- Ignore bikes with triple chainrings
- Narrow your choice to a hybrid bike with disc brakes
- If budget allows, buy a hybrid bike with hydraulic disc brakes
- If money is tight, mechanical disc brakes is the second choice
Best Hybrid Bikes I Recommend
Another ladies’ bike on our list, Fuji Silhouette can take you places as diverse as your imagination allows. Roads, paved or not, trails, charity rides. It’s got the goods to keep you going.
What I like about Fuji Silhouette 1.3 D:
- Carbon fork
- Shimano external, sealed bearing bottom bracket that will last forever and then some
- Shimano Sora cranks and derailleurs
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Rack and mudguards eyelets
Shimano Sora-equipped Cannondale with hydraulic disc brakes for less than a $1,000. Take it.
What I like about Cannondale Quick Disc 3:
- Shimano Sora is everywhere
- Tektro hydraulic disc brake
- 32-hole wheels
Breezer Liberty 1R: $1,079
Practical. That’s what this bike is. Hills or flats, rain or sunshine, the Breezer Liberty won’t let you down.
What I like about Breezer Liberty 1R:
- Shimano 105 derailleurs
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
- SRAM GXP bottom bracket
- Continental Town Ride 42mm tires
- Mudguards and a rack
Breezy Beltway 8: $1,259
Hybrid bikes don’t come better than this. Okay, they do but this bad boy will zoom you around in style and silence. Great bike with 8 internal rear hub gears.
What I like about Breezer Beltway:
- Gates CDX center-track carbon drive belt
- Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
- Shimano 8-speed Alfine internal gears
- Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 40mm tires