How to Choose a Hybrid Bike? [GUIDE for Beginners]

How to Choose a Hybrid Bike

It can be overwhelming to choose a hybrid bike—there different hybrid bike types, various price ranges, bike sizes, and other features to consider.

In this guide, you find out how to choose a hybrid bike that will suit your needs, riding style, and preferences, and how to spend your money wisely.

I also explain how to set a budget, what components and features to look for, and what bike accessories you should buy to increase your safety and comfort.

Hybrid Bike Type

There are several types of hybrid bikes. Every type is suitable for different use. How to find out which one is the best for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • On what surface do you want to ride?
  • How often do you want to use your bike?
  • How do you want to ride? What is your riding style?
  • What is your budget? Will you need to buy other bike accessories?

Let me give you an example. If you decide you want to take family trips to your countryside, a cruiser bike probably won’t be the best option. But, if you have a very limited budget ($300 or $500), it also may not be easy to find a roadworthy trekking bike because they tend to be more expensive.

But don’t worry. I will guide you through the hybrid bike types below.

types of hybrid bikes
Basic types of hybrid bikes | Product pictures were used with permission of canyon.com and trekbikes.com

NOTE: Please, remember that the naming of hybrid bikes may vary from store to store. The hybrid bike naming is not very unified.

Trekking Bikes

Trekking bikes are also sometimes called fitness bikes. They are specific for their flat handlebars and more aggressive geometry (compared to other types of hybrid bikes) that allows you to ride in a more aerodynamic position that is faster.

The geometry of trekking bikes may vary depending on their type and the manufacturer. Based on my market research, I identified 3 basic types of trekking bikes:

  • Trekking bikes with more relaxed, upright geometry suitable for family trips. These bikes usually feature wider tires that allow you to ride on rougher surfaces (light gravel, dirt & forest roads, etc.). Thanks to their relaxed geometry, they are comfortable for longer trips.
  • Trekking bikes with a more aggressive geometry that allows a faster ride to maintain your fitness level. They come with narrow tires ideal for paved roads, cycling paths, or light gravel. You can use them for family trips as well, but it can take some time to get used to the riding position.
  • Trekking bikes that form a compromise between the above-mentioned two categories. They are very versatile and suitable for a large variety of terrains depending on the tire width used (the wider the tires, the better for rough terrains). They are ideal for people who want to ride on paved surfaces as well as in terrain.

Commuter Bikes

Commuter bikes (sometimes also called ‘urban’) are designed for commuting. You can use them for commuting to and from work, grocery store, or for riding around your neighborhood. They have more relaxed geometry than trekking hybrid bikes so they are more comfortable.

This type of hybrid bike is ideal for paved roads, but it can handle light terrains. Together with city bikes, commuter bikes are ideal for commuting in cities.

Commuter bikes may be equipped with extra accessories like mudguards, rack, basket, or lights. It again depends on the manufacturer.

City Bikes

City bikes are very similar to commuter bikes. According to Richard Ballantine, the author of Richard’s 21st Century Bicycle Book, they differ from other hybrid bikes by using 26” inches wheels and wider tires.

Nevertheless, manufacturers often use the same category for commuter and city bikes and don’t follow Ballentine’s book’s definitions. There are very few differences between them.

Cruiser / Comfort bikes

Cruiser / Comfort bikes are all about comfort. They have the most upright geometry of all types of hybrid bikes. They usually use larger, more cushioned saddles and when you stop, you can place both feet on the ground easily.

Cruiser and comfort bikes are perfect for cruising around the beach and neighborhoods. They often come with accessories like baskets, bells, lights, etc. They are ideal for short distances and not for medium to long trips.

The table below shows the hybrid bike types and their ideal use.

Hybrid Bike TypeIdeal for
Trekking Bikes• Maintaining fitness level and family trips
• Paved roads, bike paths, and light terrain
Commuter Bikes• Commuting to and from work, grocery store, etc.
• Paved roads and bike paths
City Bikes• Commuting in the city, cruising neighborhoods
• Paved roads and bike paths
Cruiser / Comfort bikes• Cruising around beach and neighborhoods
• Paved roads and bike paths

Setting a Budget

I assume you have some idea of how much money you can afford to spend on your new hybrid bike. But let’s talk about your budget in more detail.

You can go to a retail store like Walmart and buy a bike for $200. But, I recommend you not to do that. The experience you get from riding a cheap bike sold in chain stores won’t be good. Trust me.

My parents bought me a bike from a supermarket when I was younger. It was a pain to ride on it. It was heavy, unresponsive, and it had a suspension that did not work. Please don’t take me wrong. I was grateful for having a bike, but it was simply terrible when I later compared it with my next bikes.

If your budget is very limited and you know you will often use the bike, think about getting a second-hand bike or save more money. It will pay off in the long term – the bike will last longer, you enjoy your rides more, and more importantly, it won’t require as much effort to ride.

Generally speaking, Cruiser / Comfort bikes are one of the least expensive. They offer a limited gear ratio, low-end components, and they are not designed for long trips.

Good hybrid bikes for medium to long-distance trips start above the $500 mark. But you can be sure you will have much more fun with it than with a cheap, low-quality bike.

Also, don’t forget to set aside some money for bike accessories. If your budget is $1000, for example, I recommend buying a bike for around $800 and invest the rest into a bike helmet, cycling clothing, bottle, etc. Feel free to learn more about accessories to buy.


Components

The quality of used components (drivetrain, brakes, etc.) on hybrid bikes depends mainly on the bike’s price.

Entry-level hybrid bikes for up to $500 are equipped with low-end components that wear out more easily.

Mid to high-end hybrid bikes feature better components that are lighter, more reliable, and last longer.

Before you buy a hybrid bike, make sure to also consider the following features.

Brakes

Brakes are the difference between stopping at the red light or riding through the intersection. Yes, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you understand what I mean. So, what are your options? What brake types are used on hybrid bikes, and what type should you get?

During my market research, I was able to find hybrid bikes without brakes. These were bikes with fixed gear where you can break by pedaling. If you are not an experienced cyclist, I recommend buying a bike with at least a front brake. But front and rear brake is the best option.

There are 2 basic types of brakes:

  • Rim brakes are cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain, but their stopping power may be affected by bad weather, such as the rain.
  • Disc brakes have better-stopping power at any conditions, but they are heavier and more expensive.

Sources: Bicyclenetwork, Bikeradar

The general rule of thumb is that a bike with disc brakes for the same price as a bike with rim brakes has lower quality components. I prefer buying a bike with better components. You probably won’t ride as fast and in long downhills to take full advantage of disc brakes.

If you have a larger budget, let’s say for a hybrid bike for under $1000, and you are a more demanding rider, disc brakes may be better for you.

Suspension

Some hybrid bikes come with a suspension fork. It increases your ride comfort because it absorbs bums and vibrations. You avoid sore or even numb hands.

Keep in mind that the front suspension quality of cheap hybrid bikes is nowhere close to the suspension you can find on good mountain bikes. It adds more weight, and it is not as responsive. This means that if you decide to go for a ride through tough terrain, don’t expect it will absorb every bump.

A suspended seatpost is a cool feature that also improves your rides’ comfort. It is not very common for cheap hybrid bikes for around $300 or $500. It obviously adds some costs, so it is more common on hybrid bikes for under $1000.

Gearing

Why is it important to get a bike with the right gears? Well, it will be easier for you to climb steep hills or ride faster in downhills with a wider gear selection. It allows you to select a gear that suits you best.

On the other hand, if you want to ride the bike on flats, cruise beaches, or commute in a city, a hybrid bike with a fixed gear or narrow gear selection may be the way to go. It is lighter, simpler, and easier to maintain.

Hybrid bikes come with 1X, 2X, or 3X chainring.

1x chainring
1x chainring
2x chainring
2x chainring
3x chainring
3x chainring

The following gear selections are the most common on hybrid bikes:

  • A fixed gear
  • 3-speed (3×1) or 7-speed (7×1)
  • 16-speed (8×2) or 18-speed (9×2)
  • 21-speed (7×3) or 24-speed (8×3)
Cross-chaining vs. good shifting
Avoid cross-changing to reduce chain friction and drivetrain damage. Follow good shifting best practices to improve efficiency.

Easy Assembly

An easy assembly is a thing to consider if you’re not a good mechanic (don’t worry, I am neither) and you want to order the bike online.

The packing should include easy to follow instruction manual. Some manufacturers also sell their bikes already semi-assembled so that you can assemble yours within 15 minutes.

If you are not sure if you assembled the bike correctly, take it to a professional mechanic. It will cost additional money, but you avoid getting into problems due to the wrong assembly.


Hybrid Bike Size

Choosing the correct hybrid bike size is as important as choosing the correct size of your shoes. If you buy a too small or too large bike, it won’t be comfortable, and you may even risk injury caused by the wrong bike fit.

There are plenty of methods on how to choose the bike size. You probably heard of choosing a bike size based on your height. This is the simplest method, but it is not very precise.

The best method for choosing a bike size is based on your inseam length because it is the most precise and doesn’t take too much time. In my article on How to Choose a Hybrid Bike Size, you find out how to measure it and pick the right bike size.


Other Accessories to Buy

If you plan to buy your first hybrid bike, I guess you don’t even have other essential bike accessories. You don’t have to buy them all at once because they get costly when you sum them up.

The most important thing to buy is a bicycle helmet. Today’s helmets are comfortable, well ventilated, and can also look cool. Don’t underestimate your safety (check these bicycle safety tips to find out more). Make sure to get a helmet before you sit on your bike. Check this selection of cool-looking helmets to get some inspiration.

If you commute to and from work or a grocery store, you may need a bike bell to notify pedestrians and a set of bike lights to increase your visibility in the early morning or the evening.

Consider buying bicycle clothing. It is designed to take away sweat from your body and improve your comfort on a bike.

Cycling sunglasses will protect your eyes against winds so you won’t tear and against UV light that can cause cancer.

To fix the most common problems like punctured tires, consider buying a saddle bag with a spare inner tube and a mini bike pump. You will be able to fix it on your trip so you won’t have to call somebody to pick you up.

Remember, you don’t have to buy these accessories at once. I build my equipment over the years because of the limited budget I had. Think about it like a marathon, not a sprint!


Final Thoughts

Before you buy your first hybrid bike, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How often you want to ride it and where?
  • What riding style you prefer?
  • How much are you willing to invest in it?

Then, choose the hybrid bike type according to the descriptions above.

When comparing different hybrid bikes, consider whether the bike is equipped with quality components, such as brakes, suspension, gears, etc.

If you want to order a hybrid bike online and are not exactly a skillful mechanic, look for a semi-assembled bike for easy assembly.

Choosing the right size is also important. Feel free to ask the seller for advice or use the hybrid bike size chart to find the correct size.

Finally, consider buying other bike accessories, such as a helmet, cycling clothing, tools, etc. You don’t have to buy them at once. However, a thing like a bike helmet is a must-have to increase your safety.


How to Choose a Hybrid Bike FAQ

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