Thinking about a hybrid... sorry!

by parksey   June 24, 2014  

I’m thinking about getting myself a hybrid bike… *runs and hides*

I love riding the road bike, but it’s not exactly an all-weather, all-purpose machine…

I have admittedly been using it for commuting, but outings on wet or slippery roads are always a slightly nervous affair, so I’m looking for a bike which gives me a bit more confidence in those situations, as well as something which I don't need to wear cleats just to pop down the shops on.

I suspect I’m actually not alone on here in wanting (or at least having a need for) such a bike, so who’s brave enough to admit they own one and offer up anything in the way of recommendations?!

It's all a bit of a minefield though... There's bikes classed as "hybrids" which basically have road bike gearing and tyres but flat bars, but then there's also "hybrids" that are basically what I would've once known as hardtail mountain bikes.

I'm just after something reasonably light and nimble. Suspension forks I would happily take or leave, but discs and wider tyres would be desirable, as much so it can handle the odd foray around the trails of the local country park. I'm a bit lost on the Shimano off-road groupset hierachy too!

It will likely be another cycle-to-work purchase, but I’d really like to keep it on the lower £500 limit if at all possible. Main thinking is to placate the wife, but also so the savings aren't completely eroded if it doesn't get the use and I decide to get rid after a year.

The Cannondale Bad Boy range has caught my eye, but even the cheapest one exceeds my desired budget unless I can get a late season sale deal in a few months’ time. There's otherwise the ubiquitous offerings from the likes of Trek, Giant and Specialized, all of which appear to offer value at/below the £500 mark.

Anything else I should be considering though?

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Go for it, the only thing I miss are the more varied hand positions.

More than made up for by having my fingers resting on the disc brake lever.

Helps avoid the inevitable black cab/iPodian/scooter...

Shimano off-road kit down to Alivio is all cracking stuff for commuting, XT is overkill by far. SLX is happy medium, but little gain on Alivio.

Oh, hydraulic discs, not cable. Fatter tyres are much better for commuting as well, the roads are... a bit poor. It's ideal if you can (not have to...) get 35mm slicks in, with a proper mudguard.

posted by jacknorell [576 posts]
24th June 2014 - 14:29

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The snobbery shown towards hybrids is a shame IMO, they can make cracking urban bikes, or just 'bikes' for most people. I had a Trek 7500 FX for a few years (until it got nicked) and it was a great bit of urban transport- I'd pick it over my road bike for riding to work on any day*. I did London to Brighton on it too with no real problems. Effectively as fast around town as my road bike and a bit better on canal towpaths and stuff too.

Anyway, I'd second most of what jacknorell said: room for tyres up to 32mm, full guards, discs if possible, and no suspension- should be plenty of fastish options from makes like Hoy, Boardman , Pinnacle etc. I think Specialized Sirruses(?) are pretty popular choices too.

*Depends on your route to work of course!

posted by Chuck [435 posts]
24th June 2014 - 15:17

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jacknorell wrote:
Shimano off-road kit down to Alivio is all cracking stuff for commuting, XT is overkill by far. SLX is happy medium, but little gain on Alivio.

SLX is a million times nicer feeling and better built than Alivio.
Not as clunky and plastic feeling.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [506 posts]
24th June 2014 - 15:34

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Have a look at Edinburgh Bicycle range. I have a Courier with Nexus gears and its been ace. They do a race version now with disks and the top one has Alfine and belt drive.

If you want to commute in all weathers get a single speed or a drum gear bike - although the oil froze on a few occasions and i could barely get to work.

The only issue for me, is that now I ride the road bike all the time, I cant face riding the Hybrid. The position is so bad. So I may bite the bullet and get rid of both my bikes and get a Cyclocross frame with Disks and Di2 and mudguards and bigger 28 mm tyres and use that for everything. I'm just worried that the Di2 rear mech would fail in the Manchester winters.

posted by dunnoh [177 posts]
24th June 2014 - 20:28

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I got one of the EBC Couriers as a short term replacement for my fixed after the BB got stripped out. I flipped the wheel to the fixed sprocket and ditched the freewheel, replaced the weird short stem and riser bar with a 120mm stem with flats and bar ends. The chain ring had to go as it was stamped steel and got eaten in 3 months flat. Still a good buy for the money just be aware they look small for their size as the frames are almost identical to cheaper Kona ones and have the same extended seat tube.

posted by MKultra [286 posts]
25th June 2014 - 7:49

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I quite like the CX bikes with some 'chicken' brake levers for urban riding. Add mudguards and a pannier, although then you're into Tourers. I've got a 2000 Cannondale H700 hybrid which, although it's heavy, just does 'everything'. Bit of an 'old friend' but just did a carbon fork/disc brake upgrade which has lightened it up a bit. The other snag with urban bikes is you need to lug a decent lock around which just adds to the weight. That said, I do an 18 mile commute and log my rides. Nominally it's an hour but the hybrids average journey time (mainly winter) is only 10min slower than my road bike. In the sections of the ride where you're stopping at lights/junctions, the type of bike makes no difference as the hybrids/MTBs just catch up with you when you're stopped.

Shades

posted by Shades [235 posts]
25th June 2014 - 9:24

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Thanks for the input so far.

The kind of reasons that have been suggested for having a bike like this is pretty much exactly why I'm after one. Don't get me wrong, the road bike will still get used for fair(er) weather commuting, but a back-up would be handy for when it's grim out, or if I do fancy stepping towards the dark side of off-road riding.

Wasn't aware of those Revolution bikes, assume they're an in-house brand of EBC or something? Seem to offer good value though. Only immediate problem is that none of the shops are particularly local to me on the south coast, making it difficult to try one out before buying...

There is of course the CX bike angle too. A colleague recently bought a Trek Crossrip, which seems a capable bike, and there's definitely plenty of choice out there. Difficulty I'm having with CX bikes is that they just seem comparatively expensive when compared to a broadly-equivalent hybrid bike.

Take Specialized as an example - the Crosstrail Sport Disc, being their slightly more off-road focussed hybrid, low-end Acera groupset but with hydraulic discs, all for £550. Now take the Tricross CX bike, low-end Claris groupset and cantilever brakes, but it's £750. The Sport version of that, with mechanical discs and Sora, is £1000...

Not singling out Specialized, the same appears to be true of the other big names, but I'm just not sure I can see what more you're actually getting for your money, particularly when viewing them simply as "do it all" bikes?

posted by parksey [295 posts]
25th June 2014 - 11:08

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CX bikes are the fashion of the minute so I guess the price point reflects that. As I said above I would like to get one especially as a winter road bike but my bad boy does great stuff so its hard to justify to her indoors, a few years ago I did Reading to Bath on it along the town path of the kennet and avon canal and it was perfect for that.

posted by gdmor10 [46 posts]
25th June 2014 - 12:08

1 Like

I primarily ride road bikes but after a tumble on icy roads last winter im looking for a cross bike or hybrid for the winter too
I used to knock about on a Dawes discovery 301 for a few years which i loved
Ive got my eye on a Focus Mares AX cross bike or a Boardman hybrid who have a couple of really good urban models
its just a case of deciding whether to go for flat bars over drops which i am used to but you can usually get alot more for your money with a decent hybrid

posted by Rich71 [32 posts]
25th June 2014 - 15:25

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Rich71 wrote:
I primarily ride road bikes but after a tumble on icy roads last winter im looking for a cross bike or hybrid for the winter too

A cross bike won't stop you binning the bike on ice!

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [506 posts]
25th June 2014 - 15:43

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I just use(d) my hardtail MTB for commuting, a £700 bike from Cube gets you quite a lot of bang for your buck (tis what I got on CTW scheme at least).

You can take it offroad as that's what it was built for, but lock out the front forks and switch the knoblies for a hybrid/road tyre and you are good to go for a commute.

posted by sergius [85 posts]
25th June 2014 - 15:54

1 Like

glynr36 wrote:
Rich71 wrote:
I primarily ride road bikes but after a tumble on icy roads last winter im looking for a cross bike or hybrid for the winter too

A cross bike won't stop you binning the bike on ice!

A cross bike with these babies fitted will though http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b6s142p1942 bloody brilliant they are!

For commuting, go for it with the Hybrid. My beloved Boardman Team Hybrid has recently entered semi-retirement after about 10000 miles in all sorts of shitty weather and a hefty crash. It now awaits winter and with spiky tyres fitted is ready to grab and go at the first sign of ice.

I replaced it with a CX for the more aerodynamic riding position as I spend a lot of time riding uphill into the wind on the way home from work. The CX is faster in both directions, but I must admit I miss the hydraulic brakes and the increased low speed stability of the hybrid.

My eyes prefer Celeste, my bum prefers titanium.

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posted by Jack Osbourne snr [310 posts]
25th June 2014 - 22:21

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I commute on a Trek 7.2 fx.

This doesn't make me any less of a "cyclist", IMHO. I do enough 000's of miles, in all weather, that parts like v-brake blocks and drivetrain have to be affordable to replace.

I solved the hand positions issue, with a set of trekking bars. They're great.

If i was buying now, I might just consider disc brakes. But I had fairly specific requirements that surprisingly few hybrids met.

(I wanted a steel fork drilled for front rack - usually only a feature on cheaper bikes - but also a threadless headset - usually only on pricier models, which tended to have alloy / carbon forks. Trek ticked all the boxes!).

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posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
26th June 2014 - 9:02

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The Trek FX 7.2 Disc is actually on my rapidly-growing shortlist of bikes to have a look at, an apparent bargain from the C2W perspective at £475. Still being drawn towards the Cannondale though...

Just a minefield really as basically everyone seems to offer two types of hybrid in their range, either a rigid fork with a slightly better gearset and narrower tyre, or a suspension fork generally with a lesser gearset but wider tyre. (Hydraulic) disc brakes seem to be more prevalent on the latter type of bike too, at least around the 500 quid mark.

Anyway, I think I've got my head round the Shimano off-road groupset hierarchy... You generally won't get better than Alivio at this price (and even then it's usually just the rear derailleur), with Acera being the more abundant choice. Would I be right in thinking (in quality terms) that Alivio is broadly like Tiagra on the road side, with Acera being more like Sora?

posted by parksey [295 posts]
26th June 2014 - 14:14

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parksey wrote:
Anyway, I think I've got my head round the Shimano off-road groupset hierarchy... You generally won't get better than Alivio at this price (and even then it's usually just the rear derailleur), with Acera being the more abundant choice. Would I be right in thinking (in quality terms) that Alivio is broadly like Tiagra on the road side, with Acera being more like Sora?

*New* Alivio, pretty good. Acera, yeah, not so much...! As someone else mentioned, SLX is nicer, but for commuting the trade-off on price isn't worthwhile.

Alivio is probably more like Sora, with Acera being Shimano's non-named road stuff...

posted by jacknorell [576 posts]
26th June 2014 - 14:20

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Nothing wrong with hybrids. I've owned a Mongoose Crossway for years. A very cheap bike, but has been excellent both on the road and for light offroad riding. I even did a 1,500 mile fully loaded tour across France on it last autumn. Certainly not the best bike you can buy, but the wheels and Continental tyres are bombproof.

I have been looking for a replacement recently though. The advice from my LBS was that the Giant Escape and Trek 7.1 FX are both pretty good. I think the disc brake models are more than £500 though. Trek have already brought out their 2015 range so many of the 2014 models are already on sale.

I was also warned against the Dawes Discovery range. Even though the shop stocked other Dawes bikes they don't sell the Discovery due to poor quality.

posted by NeilG83 [260 posts]
26th June 2014 - 15:38

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I ran a Cannondale Adventurer (flat-barred 700c wheeled hybrid) for a while when the kids were younger and I needed a more family-friendly bike (not a road or dirt racer)… and rapidly came to the conclusion that, if for any reason you could only have one bike, this was the ideal choice.
Over the years it served as my infrequent commuter, shopper, load-hauler, child-carrier, tow-path warrior, all-round good beastie… it was fast-enough to pass muster in a time trial and sturdy enough to cover me when less-equipped mates needed to borrow a bike if we ventured around the local trails. It could turn it's hand to pretty much anything.
Sadly it's gone to a new home, where hopefully it's getting similar use from a new family… saying that, I've just put my grandad's 1949 Raleigh back on the road as my 'town' bike, which isn't really that far removed from a hybrid… maybe they knew more back in the day than we'd like to admit.

www.mombee.com - Muddy bikes, Road bikes and Family rides in Malmesbury and the South West

posted by Mombee [58 posts]
26th June 2014 - 18:31

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I have an On One Pompetamine Alfine a steel frame with Flat Bars, horizontal dropouts and a Shimano Alfine 8 speed Hub. It's a very different ride from my aluminium road bike and in many ways a better commuter. The frame and 35mm tires feel like a magic carpet after the road bike, but it's a bit slower (2-3 mins over 25 minutes). The best bit though is the hub gears they're great, you can choose the right gear to pull away with, starting off from an unexpected stop is not a problem they are easy to adjust (not that you have to adjust them often) and they are so much easier to keep clean and lubricated.
I've found it copes well with "easy" family style off road trails so it's pretty flexible
Good luck with your search let us know how you get on

posted by gmac101 [35 posts]
26th June 2014 - 20:10

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I've opted for an Avanti Inc 2...a domestic NZ brand that I can get for a really decent price here ($1299 so about 625 quid). It's got cable discs, 8 speed Alfine, and Gates belt drive...which for me was the final decider. I'll be sticking some plastic mudguards on it with some lights and I fully expect it to be pretty much maintenance free for quite a long time. Keen to see what you go with. I'd def recommend the belt drive for muck avoidance.

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posted by davecochrane [105 posts]
20th July 2014 - 6:19

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That Avanti looks like an interesting proposition, particularly for the price, might have a look at what they've got in the way of UK distributors.

Whilst browsing round some local stores I have come across the Cube Hyde range, bikes that seem to be designed for urban use with discs and 42mm road tyres. There's an Acera model for £550 but also a couple of hub-geared options above that.

Definitely intrigued by the idea of hub gears though, but am concerned whether having "only" 8 gears with something like Alfine is enough? Not so much that they won't go low or high enough, rather the gaps between them will be too big.

Can anyone who rides a hub-geared bike offer any input?

posted by parksey [295 posts]
20th July 2014 - 8:02

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I picked up a one of the EBC Revolution disc hybrids earlier in the year. Only reservation was the aluminium forks, addressed with some more friendly bar ends. Bought a cross bike recently, which I'll be using for offroad and on road jaunts, with tyres for both uses. But sticking with the hybrid for commuting and utility/social rides.

Hoy, Boardman and Cube hybrid bikes looked nice, if outside my price range at the time for that sort of usage. Also considered Scott Scale 960 MTB, Boardman MTB and waiting until November when Btwin's carbon MTB hits the shops. In terms of heresy and blasphemy, don't worry. It's got wheels and pedals. It's all good.

posted by Argos74 [301 posts]
20th July 2014 - 13:37

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I have a Specialized Sirrus which I custom built with a carbon Zertz fork and slammed the front end as much as possible for going quick

wheels are Hope Hoops (Hope hubs on Mavic Open Pro), Continental 4-seasons in 25c and a road groupset consisting of Shimano 105 with Tiagra 10 speed flat bar shifters and Shimano XT v-brakes, plus S-Works carbon bar, carbon railed saddle, carbon seatpost and most importantly full length SKS mudguards for bad weather

here's an older photo with old wheelset, cranks, etc.

http://ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb10736932/p4pb10736932.jpg

my "other" bike is a Tarmac SL4 with Ultegra and Fulcrum Racing 5's

The Sirrus is a great workhorse that will take ongoing commuting abuse, but feels much quicker than other hybrids I have owned or ridden...

There are a number of manufacturers making good "sports" hybrids which are basically flat-bar road bikes that will take bigger volume tires and mudguards

posted by hampstead_bandit [225 posts]
20th July 2014 - 16:12

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I also have a hybrid and use it for family duties and bashing around on canal paths and bridle ways around london - much better than riding on the road sometimes (I have 2 road bikes and poper NTB).

I built mine up from bits and pieces using a Pinnacle cobalt frame os sale at Evans for £85. But then I have a lot of bits and pieces. It's light, handles well and has zero brand or cool factor. Which makes it all the nicer over takings expensive MTBs on canal paths.

http://www.evanscycles.com/products/pinnacle/lithium-5-2012-hybrid-bike-...

That's silly money really - the frame is pretty standard Taiwanese fare, but the basic idea is good. Maybe build something up to your own spec and have a ball Smile

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posted by alotronic [305 posts]
20th July 2014 - 17:20

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davecochrane wrote:
I've opted for an Avanti Inc 2...a domestic NZ brand that I can get for a really decent price here ($1299 so about 625 quid)

I can second the Avanti range- I actually picked up a Blade 2 recently through the Sport Pursuit site a few months back for £200 and have had no problems with it. I use it for my runs into town and some of the bike path routes when I don't have time for a proper run on my road bike. Speed wise I am pretty close to what I would be doing on my Allez on the run into town so I was glad to use it as a wee run around.

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posted by Otis Bragg [130 posts]
20th July 2014 - 17:56

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parksey wrote:
That Avanti looks like an interesting proposition, particularly for the price, might have a look at what they've got in the way of UK distributors.

Whilst browsing round some local stores I have come across the Cube Hyde range, bikes that seem to be designed for urban use with discs and 42mm road tyres. There's an Acera model for £550 but also a couple of hub-geared options above that.

Definitely intrigued by the idea of hub gears though, but am concerned whether having "only" 8 gears with something like Alfine is enough? Not so much that they won't go low or high enough, rather the gaps between them will be too big.

Can anyone who rides a hub-geared bike offer any input?

I've had the Avanti Inc 2 a week now, with the 8 speed Alfine hub. I cannot fault it at all. It's smooth, accelerates well (42km/h on the flat was a lot easier that I expected from a bike like this) and the belt drive hasn't left a mark on me. Only issue I've had is that an allen bolt that holds the frame together at the split point (which I believe all belt drive bikes need to have) fell out as it hadn't been properly tightened. Picking it up tomorrow with problem rectified. Now seriously considering a Rohloff or similar and belt drive for an audax/sportive build in the next few years.

davecochrane's picture

posted by davecochrane [105 posts]
8th August 2014 - 12:31

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Shades wrote:
I quite like the CX bikes with some 'chicken' brake levers for urban riding. Add mudguards and a pannier, although then you're into Tourers. I've got a 2000 Cannondale H700 hybrid which, although it's heavy, just does 'everything'. Bit of an 'old friend' but just did a carbon fork/disc brake upgrade which has lightened it up a bit. The other snag with urban bikes is you need to lug a decent lock around which just adds to the weight. That said, I do an 18 mile commute and log my rides. Nominally it's an hour but the hybrids average journey time (mainly winter) is only 10min slower than my road bike. In the sections of the ride where you're stopping at lights/junctions, the type of bike makes no difference as the hybrids/MTBs just catch up with you when you're stopped.

I think the 'chicken levers' are pointless. I only ever use mine when I'm sitting at downhill traffic lights. Big Grin

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [958 posts]
8th August 2014 - 13:47

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Acera = Claris
Alvivo = Sora
SLX = Tiagra
Deore = 105
XT =Ultegra
XTR = DuraAce

there or thereabouts.

posted by Notsofast [49 posts]
8th August 2014 - 14:38

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Have you considered a cheap and cheerful single speed hack? Perfect for commuting and about town in crappy weather...

ride slow, ride far, ride often

posted by mzungu [38 posts]
8th August 2014 - 20:16

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Agreed. I rode a fixed gear for two years after my road bike got stolen, and it was (and still is) a wonderful asset. I can leave it out in the rain without worrying; I can hop on it in normal shoes and normal clothes; I can lock it up with a Death Lock in the knowledge that there will be more expensive bikes with less expensive locks in the vicinity; I don't have to wash it, and it's improved my pedalling and general fitness.

It's worth considering alongside a hybrid. Obviously, the lack of gears and potentially less upright position will mean there are times when you need to give it a few more beans, and may be a bit less cushy, but getting it up to speed can be quite exhilarating and you can set the gear to be as light as you like. You don't have to be insufferably trendy in order to benefit from a single speed. I'm very glad to own both bikes.

posted by Quince [208 posts]
8th August 2014 - 20:29

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Having ridden MTB and "flat bar road bike" type hybrids I would say without question that suspension is much less important than decent components. Yes, road surfaces are poor but larger tyres will fix that.

Coming from a road bike your hybrid will feel over sluggish and muddy handling if you go for anything but high quality expensive suspension forks.

posted by barbarus [34 posts]
8th August 2014 - 22:59

1 Like