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No longer dull, hybrid 2.0 bikes combine practicality and speed

Hybrids have been around since the 1980s, but in the last few years a distinctly modern version has emerged. Here’s why your next bike should be a hybrid 2.0.

The bikes known as hybrids combine road bike size 700C wheels with mountain bike brakes and gears. They appeared not long after mountain bikes became popular in the 1980s, providing riders who didn’t want to ride off-road with the other advantages of mountain bikes: upright position, powerful brakes, and wide gear range.

Hybrids have long been the best-selling bike type in the UK, and they’ve developed along with changes in the bikes that supply their components. In the last few years, with compact chainsets dominating on road bikes, and disk brakes providing reliable, powerful and weatherproof stopping for mountain bikes, we’ve seen a new generation of hybrids develop: hybrid 2.0, if you like.

Kinesis Tripster ACE - drive train.jpg

Kinesis Tripster ACE - drive train.jpg

Compact chainsets are good for hybrids because they can provide a wide gear range without the complication of an extra chainring, especially when combined with the rear sprocket sets intended for mountain bikes. There are still plenty of hybrids on offer with triple chainsets, but they’re now an unnecessary complication, even more so than for most road bikes.

Disc brakes are the development that really ushered in hybrid 2.0. Since hybrids get used around town a lot, they need brakes that are affected as little as possible by the weather, and immune to the effects of a wheel getting dented or knocked out of true.

Kinesis Tripster ACE - rear disc brake

Kinesis Tripster ACE - rear disc brake

Those are the big advantages of disc brakes, and there’s another bonus too. I see an awful lot of bikes with very badly set-up rim brakes, and in particular V-brakes that are flapping around with the cable unconnected; closing them is awkward and people just give up. Discs have their issues too, but at least if you get the wheel into place, they work.

What are hybrids good for?

Their upright riding position and good brakes makes hybrids ideal for short trips round town. That doesn’t just mean commuting, which actually accounts for a minority of short trips, but also general getting around, visiting friends, going to the pub or the shops and like that.

With a rack and especially with mudguards a hybrid is practical, sensibly-priced general transportation. A few hundred quid for a decent hybrid — less with a Cycle To Work scheme deal — pays for itself in a just a few months of not driving or using public transport.

But hybrids aren’t just about practical cycling. They’re great for unhurried country lane pootling. The upright riding position lets you sit up and enjoy the view and the medium-width tyres let you explore dirt roads and tracks as well a poorly-maintained back lanes.

If you’re accustomed to speeding through the countryside with your head down and bum up, a hybrid is an altogether more relaxing ride, but still capable of covering distance. And yes, you can ride poor roads and a bit of dirt on your regular road bike, but a hybrid frees you from constantly scanning for every rock and pothole.

Five examples of hybrid 2.0

Even within the hybrid 2.0 spec of double chainset and disc brakes there’s a lot of variation, along a spectrum from upright and cruisy to low-slung and speedy. Here are a few we like.

Cube SL Road Pro — £699

Cube SL Road Pro.jpg

Cube SL Road Pro.jpg

Here's a go-faster hybrid that will still take bad roads and trails in its stride thanks to its 35mm Schwalbe Kojak tyres, though being slicks they'll struggle in actual mud. Hung on the lightweight aluminium frame are a set of Shimano hydraulic discs and Sora 18-speed gears with an 11-32 cassette for a wide gear range. It's a bit short of features and extras, but there are mounts for rack and eyelets, so you can fit them without too much faff.

Charge Grater 2 — £769.99

Charge-Grater-2-Sora-2017-Hybrid-Bike-Internal-Pewter-2017-R33407M60LG.jpg

Charge-Grater-2-Sora-2017-Hybrid-Bike-Internal-Pewter-2017-R33407M60LG.jpg

Charge has always excelled at practical bikes and the Grater carries that tradition into hybrid 2.0 territory with an 11-34 cassette for a very wide gear range that'll get you up just about anything in the UK, and mudguards to keep you dry if it rains. There are mounts for a rack too, so you can set it up for touring as well as round town use.

Specialized Vita Elite — £850

specialized-vita-elite-2017-womens-hybrid-bike-dark-blue-blue-other-EV279737-5248-1.jpg

specialized-vita-elite-2017-womens-hybrid-bike-dark-blue-blue-other-EV279737-5248-1.jpg

A bike with an upright riding position doesn't need a women's version as much as a drop-bar bike, but it's nice to get components like an appropriate saddle and grips as part of the package, without having to get the shop to swap them over. The Vita Elite is the women's version of the men's Sirrus Elite and its frame has a slightly shorter reach for each size than the men's bike.

BMC Alpenchallenge AC01 Sora — £1,079

bmc-alpenchallenge-ac01-sora-2017-hybrid-bike-blue-EV273280-5000-1.jpg

bmc-alpenchallenge-ac01-sora-2017-hybrid-bike-blue-EV273280-5000-1.jpg

BMC bills this aluminium-framed flat bar speedster as a super-fast urban bike: "faster than all previous BMC urban bicycles, faster than the competition, and faster than you might expect possible of a commuter bicycle with flat bars". To this end you'll find Continental's Sport Contact II tyres and a close-coupled frame — so close-coupled that at first glance it looks like there are no mudguard mounts. In fact, there are mounts for BMC's dedicated City Kit mudguards which tidily integrate into the frame, though they're a wallet-clenching £115. And lovely though it is, 1,200 quid is a lot for a Sora-equipped bike, even if it does have hydraulic brakes. 

Cannondale Quick Carbon 1 — £1,600

cannondale-quick-carbon-1-2016-hybrid-bike-black-EV239431-8500-1 (1).jpg

cannondale-quick-carbon-1-2016-hybrid-bike-black-EV239431-8500-1 (1).jpg

Quite possibly the ultimate example of hybrid 2.0, the Quick Carbon 1, as its name suggests, has a carbon fiber frame, making it both exceptionally light and very lively. We reviewed and liked the 2013 version, with reviewer Steve Worland describing it as "a thoroughbred mongrel". Steve added: "Its mountain bike-style aesthetics and riding position might initially confuse but it manages to blend many of the best aspects of quality mountain bikes, hybrids and competitive road bikes into a single tidy and lightweight package."

The Quick Carbon 1 is a rare beast in having a carbon fiber frame with rack eyelets; as well as its intended fitness riding role, it'd make a great upright day tourer.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

14 comments

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flobble [114 posts] 3 months ago
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I've been considering adding a flat bar bike to my stable for the commute, but have struggled to find one which is genuinely long and low, permitting an aggressive position akin to my race bikes. Pretty much everything I've looked at combines a longer reach (top tube) with a shorter stem and (the killer) a longer headtube/stack height.

The BMC bike above puts the grips at about the same height as the hoods on a race bike, so that's a start, but £1200...

Any one else already done the research addressing this specific issue?

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SpaceFlightOrange [7 posts] 3 months ago
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I had a Boardman Hybrid Comp for a while, to compliment my Focus Cayo, but in looking for a "winter bike" I replaced it with a B'Twin Triban 7. The Triban is a superb road bike for the money but for winter, finding a suitable set of mudguards (apart from Cruds) has proved extremely difficult.

I 'love my T7, but I really miss my Boardman. nothing I own compares for commuting. I also felt there was a bit of a stigma around having a flat bar road bike. I was wrong. Even in Winter the Boardman was great.

Cheap too! The latest range sees the Team at the same price point, but the spec is much better. Shame my company dont support the same Cycle to Work scheme that Halfords do.

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LastBoyScout [177 posts] 3 months ago
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I bought a barely used Whyte Portobello on eBay for < 1/2 price, mainly for putting daughter's bike seat on, but it's been great for local errands.

I don't find it so good for commuting, as the wider bars aren't as easy for filtering through traffic as my road bike.

Pretty soon after I bought it, I swapped the 80mm stem for a 100mm, as it felt like I was going over the bars standing up. The next size up bike would have been too big for me, I think.

I've got 2 criticisms with it.

1 - the rear hub is already knackered. The previous owner didn't know much about bikes to maintain it, but I don't think he did a huge amount of miles on it, either. I've got a replacement, but the flanges are different, so I need new spokes to swap it over.

2 - I'd like to put cyclocross tyres on it to make it better on gravel tracks, but there's not enough clearance on the chain stays. Which is a shame, as there's plenty of clearance on the seat stays and fork. I'd definitely watch that if I got another hybrid.

 

The alternative would be a 29" hard-tail mountain bike fitted with slicks, but that'll be somewhat heavier, even if you swapped the suspension fork for a rigid one.

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SDK-R [9 posts] 3 months ago
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I bought a Hybrid Specialized Sirrus Elite Disc last year for chasing my 5 year old son around the park, as it looked ridiculous using my carbon MTB and road bike for such trips.

Last week my road bike was out of action so I used it for some 30 mile training road rides. It weighs around 12kg so going up hills was a drag but overall it worked great.

I was even considering fitting a drop bar to it for Winter training but soon found the incompatibility with bar thickness and gear fitting.

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Langsam [52 posts] 3 months ago
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flobble wrote:

I've been considering adding a flat bar bike to my stable for the commute, but have struggled to find one which is genuinely long and low, permitting an aggressive position akin to my race bikes. Pretty much everything I've looked at combines a longer reach (top tube) with a shorter stem and (the killer) a longer headtube/stack height.

Any one else already done the research addressing this specific issue?

 

Convert one of your race bikes instead to flat bars and (for example) 2x10 speed Tiagra trigger shifters. Easy.

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oceandweller [68 posts] 3 months ago
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flobble wrote:

I've been considering adding a flat bar bike to my stable for the commute, but have struggled to find one which is genuinely long and low, permitting an aggressive position akin to my race bikes.

My regular ride is a straight bar 'cross bike, a Condor Terra X with carbon forks & a mix of road & MTB bits on it. It works a treat for my preferred riding, country lanes & bridleways, quick on tarmac, agile on gravel, capable even on rocks & roots. I've done a fair few 100+ km road rides on it too, at a good pace & in great comfort.

I needed an upright riding position (bad back & neck) so I got a smaller-than-normal size & fitted a lot of spacers below the stem but I'm pretty sure a bigger-than-normal size with a slammed stem would give you the kind of stetched out position you want. (But start off cutting the steerer conservatively with loads of spacers above the stem first, & experiment with different riding positions.)

Bear in mind that you'll need MTB gears & brakes to work with straight bar shifters & levers (though SRAM are now making MTB-style trigger shifters to match their road 1x11 groups, specifically for straight bar road bikes).

You'll probably need to experiment with the stem; IME if it's too long the handling feels weird, like trying to steer a supermarket trolley, while very short makes the bike twitchy & the position too upright.

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flobble [114 posts] 3 months ago
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oceandweller wrote:
flobble wrote:

I've been considering adding a flat bar bike to my stable for the commute, but have struggled to find one which is genuinely long and low, permitting an aggressive position akin to my race bikes.

(snip)

You'll probably need to experiment with the stem; IME if it's too long the handling feels weird, like trying to steer a supermarket trolley, while very short makes the bike twitchy & the position too upright.

That's the trouble with converting bikes originally intended for drop bars - the shorter top tube means you need a massive stem to get the grips in the right place. And even though that puts your hands where they were on the drops, it still feels odd. Maybe because of hand orientation on the flat bars.

I did exactly this conversion to my wife's Cannondale Synapse (she never got on with drops), and it has always felt odd to me, though she likes it. She has a 130mm stem on a 48cm bike.

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Argos74 [434 posts] 3 months ago
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Difficult to argue with the Boardman Hybrid Pro - marked down to £750 at the moment, 9.6kg, SRAM Rival 1x chainset, aggressively speedy and handles like a dream.

 

But for a few euros under £1250, I'm looking very covetously at the Canyon Roadlite. The top of the range model comes in at 8.5kg and fitted out with some very tasty kit - full Ultegra drivetrain, internal routing, and so on. Arguably, the wheels would be first in line for an upgrade, but for a performance flat-barred road bike, struggling to find anything that even comes close.

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Roberts Clubman [11 posts] 3 months ago
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My wife got a Liv Thrive 0 on the btw scheme, and  I struggled to keep up on my old steel mtb commuter.So, I bought a Merida Speeder 500 and haven't looked back. Triple butted alloy frame full carbon fork, Shimano hydraulic discs, internal cable runs and Ultegra 11sp for £950 brand new. With a rack and mudguards fitted and the stock Maxxis Detonators swapped out for Conti Gatorskins it has been an ultra reliable all year all weathers fast commuter. Plus it's a fun ride and really moves when the mood takes.I can't fault it. For 2017 the same money will only buy you the 400 which is 105 and alloy instead of carbon forks and seatpost. But there are still 2016 500s to be had. Fatbirds Don't Fly are selling them off at £750 - that's a steal given the high spec. Update- now appear to be sold out. If you can still find one in your size -grab it quick!

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kev-s [260 posts] 3 months ago
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Had my Whyte Shoreditch for 3 years now, mainly used for commuting (20 mile round trip each day) and its been faultless

Carbon forks, hydralic disc brakes, deore rear mech and shifters as standard

 

Only thing ive changed is the tyres to durano plus and binned the crappy crank for a deore one to match the rest of the groupset

 

Best £600 ive ever spent, they are on offer at the moment for £500

https://www.winstanleysbikes.co.uk/product/79587/Whyte_Shoreditch_2016_M...

 

 

 

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IanEdward [93 posts] 3 months ago
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Quote:

Disc brakes are the development that really ushered in hybrid 2.0. Since hybrids get used around town a lot, they need brakes that are affected as little as possible by the weather, and immune to the effects of a wheel getting dented or knocked out of true.

I'm beginning to suspect that for a lot of people, disc brakes are fundamentally UN-suited to town and commute use, especially when it's wet.

I've just spent £20 on one set of SRAM sintered pads to see if they offer any improvement on the stock pads that came with my mountainbike (a Trek Superfly, which converted into a fantastic long low and fast commuter incidentally). Currently the braking in the wet is screechy, howly and juddery. The mechanics in the local shop tried all the usual excuses (contaminated? nope. Glazed? nope. out of adjustment? nope) before shrugging their shoulders and admitting that 50% of their working day now seems to be devoted to trying to de-squeek disc brakes.

I think someone needs to develop a system that still works in cold, wet conditions with infrequent stops from slow speed, as I think most disc brakes still hark back to the downhill mountainbike days and are developed for scrubbing off lots of speed in short bursts.

Perhaps these new pads will prove me wrong, fingers crossed!

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Mungecrundle [704 posts] 3 months ago
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I managed to kill my first set of brake pads (in 15 years of using disc brakes) just a couple of weekends back. It was sunny so I decided to do my post winter strip down on my mtb / commuter. I have always taken a somewhat cavalier attitude to the brake pads themselves, just throw them in the degreaser with everything else, wash them off in soapy water and refit. Occasionaly I have had to work them over with a scouring pad or a bit of rough wet and dry, same for the discs to remove any glazing.

This time however they refused to work properly and started to howl like Justin Bieber with his testicles in a vice and when I took them out the surface had glazed after only a few rides. I guess I must have really contaminated them in the dirty degreaser. But as they were pretty much worn out I replaced them with these cheapo Clarks pads from Amazon.

Clarks Organic Disc Brake Pads for Shimano Deore Br-M515/M475/M525/M465/M495, Tektro Auriga Comp./Dracom Moto Aquila/HDC-300/Mota 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005PVLIJQ/ref=pe_1909131_77697001_tnp_email...

I figured at this price I could afford to give them a go and chuck them if they were no good.

Have to say that so far they bedded in very quickly, are utterly silent and they even came with their own retainer / spring which appears to be a little bit more powerful than the original at pushing them back from the disc.

I'm no expert, but my understanding was that brakes only howl when something in the system is able to resonate. Assuming that the problem is not a contaminated disc / pad interface, a bit of copper slip grease between the piston and the back of the disc pad is supposed to be very effective, though obviously use sparingly to prevent contamination of the braking surface.

Discs are perfect for urban commuting, I like to think that I can pretty much keep up with the flow of traffic, and as a result if all the other vehicles are able to stop on a dime, then I need to be able to do so as well, in all weathers.

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ri9rashed [3 posts] 3 months ago
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Few months past I was confused when I started for my office. I saw some of my colleagues came to office riding bicycle. It looked like fashion. When I got a motivational mail from one of our colleagues, it became clear to me. It was a part of an exercise and a comfort journey to the nearby places.

I decided to buy a bicycle, but a question arose where could I buy my bike and what type it would be.

One of my colleagues suggested for hybrid bikes. I didn't have direct knowledge about bikes. Finally, I got a hybrid bike "Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike" for me. At first, I was amused that I have a bike at all. But afterward, I was very much pleased riding the bike. It has SR Suntour suspension fork with spring system which always supports me from heavy stress.

Not only that it has Promax alloy linear pull brakes, a strong braking system that enables to stop the bike instantly.

So I'm so happy for the hybrid bikes.

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Geraldaut [24 posts] 2 months ago
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Ha! I have a Specialise Globe with Nexus gears for communting and hauling around the kids (used to have one seat in front and another in the back). These days I just have a dutch seat for kids up to 32kg in the back. The bike weighs now 20 kgs. That is a real training bike at my commute every day!

With mudguards, full chain guard, big bag in front, 42 mm tyres and this 5kg seat in the back feels like a truck. On weekends I then feel like flying on my 10 kg Gravel bike...