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Road bike vs hybrid bike… that is the question.
Whether you are new to cycling or looking for an upgrade to your current bike, many cyclists find themselves trying to figure out which bike is best for them in the ultimate showdown of road bike vs hybrid bike.
There are pros and cons to the different types of bicycles, and to make it a little more confusing, the lines have been blurred recently between the two types of bikes.
For example, you can now get a hybrid bike with all the telltale signs of a road bike.
Throughout this article, we want to help you better understand the difference between road bike vs hybrid bike.
By the end of this article, you will be a little wiser about the differences between these iconic bike types and determine which one is best for you.
What is a hybrid bike?
A hybrid bike is a popular choice for many new and seasoned cyclists.
Firstly, the principle of a hybrid bike is to have all the best parts of the various bikes out in the market to create an excellent allrounder.
So instead of having a garage full of bikes, you can get away with having just one bicycle.
That sounds great, but what is a hybrid bike?
A hybrid bike is a relatively lightweight bicycle that sometimes comes with front suspension and relatively narrow tires. The handlebars will be flat, and there are fittings to add mudguards and pannier racks to the frame.
A hybrid bike has a fairly relaxed riding position, meaning that you are sat more upright on the bike. Resulting in better control and often more comfort, especially on short bike rides.
As the tires are thinner than mountain bikes and the frame relatively light, a hybrid bike can reach high speeds on roads and even off-road tracks and paths, but extra caution will need to be taken if the track is particularly bumpy or the ground too loose.
A hybrid bike is versatile, but it will not outperform a mountain bike on a technical mountain descent.
The comfortable riding position and functionality combined with the ability to build up speed on flat surfaces make hybrid bikes a popular choice among commuters.
Hybrid bikes can differ from each other more than any other bike type. However, the basics are still the same.
A bike that is an allrounder without holding you back when you are in a rush to get to your destination.
What is a road bike?
A road bike is a relatively easy bike type to identify.
They are built for speed and have characteristics that set them apart from other kinds of bikes.
However, in recent years some different bike types have been created as offshoots to a road bike, such as touring bikes, cyclocross and most recently gravel bikes.
While these bikes share some characteristics with a road bike (most notably the distinctive dropped down handlebars), road bikes are the original and still favoured bike type for many cyclists.
So with that being said, what is a road bike?
The clue is in the name a road bike is designed to be used on the road.
Road bikes are the fastest type of bicycle available on the market.
A road bike is quick thanks to the thin tires, aggressive riding position and lightweight, aerodynamic design of its frame.
If you get into road cycling, it can be easy to spend thousands on the lightest, most aerodynamic tech in the hope that it will shave off a few seconds from your next ride.
This may be a worthwhile investment for the pros, but a regular road bike will do the job and still help you get around fast for most of us.
Due to the riding position and skinny tires, road bikes should stay on the road. They are challenging to handle on uneven surfaces, and as they do not have any form of suspension will not be very comfortable for any long periods off-road.
If you have ever watched a professional road race, you may have noticed that they can ride their bikes all day.
When set up right, you will find that road bikes will allow you to cycle further than you thought possible, and you may even get used to that slim seat sooner than you thought.
Road bike vs hybrid bike: pros and cons
Now we know a bit more about road and hybrid bikes, let’s look at their pros and cons to help us find a winner in the battle of road bikes vs hybrid bikes.
- Versatility. Hybrid bikes are the swiss army knife of bicycles. They will help you conquer several different terrains with ease.
- Comfortable. A hybrid bike is very comfortable to ride for long and short rides. Thanks to the upright riding position, you do not feel too hunched or get lower back pain. Also as some hybrid bikes come with front suspension making bumpier rides a lot more comfortable.
- Easy to control. Hybrid bikes flat handlebars make them very easy to handle. They are easy to ride both on and offroad.
- Economical. Not only will you be able to pick up a decent spec hybrid bike for a relatively good price, but you will also only need to buy one bike instead of getting a road, gravel, and mountain bike.
- Jack of all master of none. The same thing that makes hybrid bikes so popular is their downfall.
Although you can use them for several different types of cycling, they are good allrounders but will never be as fast as a road bike on a smooth surface or comfortable as a mountain bike on a bumpy track.
- Limited hand positions. Hybrid bikes have flat handlebars. While some come with a little bar poking up at the end of the bar, there are limited places for you to hold the handlebars.
This is a noticeable omission compared to road bikes, curved dropped handlebars, especially during longer bike rides.
- Fast. Road bikes are fast. The frames are specially engineered to be as aerodynamic as possible while allowing you to tuck in and reduce your surface area.
You usually find skinny tyres on road bikes that also help them be faster than hybrids due to reduced friction with the road. If speed is your number one cycling goal, then a road bike is the one for you.
- Comfortable. Those curved dropped handlebars that are so recognisable on road bikes do more than making them look cool. The dropped handlebars allow for several different hand positions, making them very comfortable for a ride for more extended periods.
It may take some getting used to the almost hunched over riding position on a road bike, but once mastered, you can happily stay on a road bike for hours on end.
- Road use only. The thin tires and compact frame design mean that road bikes are unsafe and uncomfortable to ride on uneven or bumpy surfaces.
- The aggressive riding position is not comfortable for everyone, especially beginners. Although it helps reduce the riders surface area, it can feel like an unnatural position being all hunched over (especially for beginners).
- Controls can be difficult to get used to at first. With both the gears and brakes on the same levers, getting confused about changing gear is expected when first getting used to the controls.
So, What Should You Buy – Road Bike vs Hybrid Bike?
There can only be one winner in the battle of road bike vs hybrid bike, but there is no denying that both road and hybrid bikes have their uses.
Hybrid bikes are an excellent introduction to cycling for beginners.
Thanks to continued innovation, they are becoming faster, and manufacturers put a lot of thought into their design.
A hybrid bike makes an excellent commuter bike as they are reliable, and you have the option to add pannier racks to the bike frame.
Also, the riding position on hybrid bikes is generally more relaxed, which some will find more comfortable on shorter journeys.
A hybrid bike is the best option for you if you want to take your bike on a few tracks or paths with uneven surfaces and build up some decent speed on the roads.
Built for speed, a road bike is the best investment for you if you want to ride solely on the road or tarmacked paths and make sure all your effort pedalling is converted into speed.
A road bike can also make for a good commuting bike, especially if you live in or close to the city centre when offroading or uneven surfaces do not feature in your daily commute.
If you need a fast bicycle to get to work quickly or plan to participate in a charity race, then a road bike is the best bike for you.
While you can ride a road bike offroad, you should take extra care and avoid it where possible. Road bikes can be costly for the top of the range innovations and materials, but an entry-level road bike should not break the bank.
Final Verdict – Road Bike vs Hybrid Bike
So there you have it, in the quest to find out which bike is best in the road bike vs hybrid bike debate, we have come to the most critical part, the final verdict.
After careful consideration and a very close race, the winner is the hybrid bike.
Many seasoned cyclists may disagree, but for the average person, a modern hybrid bike delivers everything you need from a bicycle without breaking the bank or restricting where you can use it.
Although, hybrids may not have dropped bars or fancy carbon fibre frames. You can still build up a respectable speed and conquer most adventures.
If speed is your only vice, invest in a road bike and do not complain when you cannot go offroad.
Ultimately there are pros and cons to both types of bicycle, so you need to consider the terrain you will be riding on, how much money you are willing to spend and how vital beating the clock is to you.
Whichever bike you choose, you will undoubtedly have a beautiful time exploring your local area and embracing the joys of cycling.