Like most fitness gear, bikes are entirely personal. The best bike for your neighbor might not be right for you. It’s all a matter of aesthetics, price, weight, gearing, features, and how and where you most often ride. But there are a few key things to consider when shopping for the best hybrid bike for you. Here’s the low-down:
Drop Bar or Flat Bar
Hybrid bikes are similar to traditional road bikes in that they typically boast a lightweight frame that rolls on fast 700c wheels. What sets them apart, however, is that hybrid bikes are almost always built with a flat handlebar, while road bikes use a drop bar. The former uses a wider design for a wider hand stance that makes riding easier to control with better break access and an upright seating position. The result is a more comfortable ride that’s perfect for casual (read non-racing) cyclists and commuters, too. Hybrid bikes can feature a drop bar, too, but they’re specifically designed for a flat handlebar.
It’s All in the Gearing
In general, hybrid/fitness bikes feature two chainrings up front and usually 9-11 cogs at the rear. The latter helps to better dial in your shifts for a smoother, more predictable ride on everything from bike paths to hilly city streets. Budget hybrids sometimes include three front chainrings. It’s a setup that trades performance for price, however.
Modern disc brakes seriously changed the game for cyclists. They’re more expensive than traditional rim-style brakes, but better in every way, offering more precise control in both dry and wet conditions. Beginners and cyclists who love long rides love them, too, because they require less hand strength to operate. More budget-friendly hybrid bikes may be built with cable-actuated disc brakes. These offer similar performance but aren’t as powerful and require a bit more maintenance.
Hybrid bikes, like many of the best bikes, vary widely in price. Decent budget models start around $400, while mid-range models run north of $1,000. For the best hybrid bikes, however, expect to pay as much as a used car (upwards of $4,000 or more). Just know that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to land a decent two-wheeler.
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