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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

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

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.

Six great hybrid 2.0 bikes

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.

Triban RC500 Flat Bar Road Bike — £499.99

Triban RC500 flat bar

The flat bar bike in Decathlon's new Triban RC range is a great example of hybrid 2.0. The riding position is fairly upright for a cruisy ride even with drop bars; with flats it's perfect for unhurried country lane exploring or the office run. There's plenty of space for mudguards, and you could easily go up a tyre size or two as well.

Boardman HYB 8.6 2019 — £600

Boardman HYB 8.6

Flat-bar bikes have always been a mainstay of the Boardman range, and the latest selection includes this great-value runabout. Shimano Acera mountain bike gears provide a wide range with a bottom ratio that should get you up the steepest urban hills even if you're laden with shopping. Tektro hydraulic brakes bring it to a halt.

Cube SL Road Pro — £699

2019 Cube SL Road Pro

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.

Ridgeback Tempest — £800

2020 Ridgeback Tempest

The Ridgeback/Genesis bike family has always excelled at practical bikes and the Tempest 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. There are mounts for a rack and mudguards, so you can set it up for touring as well as round town use.

Specialized Sirrus Elite — £1,000

specialized-sirrus-elite-2018-womens-hybrid-bike-white-EV306278-9000-1.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 women's version of the Sirrus Elite has a frame with a slightly shorter reach for each size than the men's bike.

Cannondale Quick Carbon 2 — £1,300

2019 Cannondale Quick Carbon 2

Quite possibly the ultimate example of hybrid 2.0, the Quick Carbon, 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 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.

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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

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34 comments

Avatar
handlebarcam [1323 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

Hybrids!

Huh, yeah!

Good God y'all!

What are they good for?

Well, urban riding, mostly. Short commutes and carrying a bit of shopping, if you fit a rack.

Avatar
dobbo996 [56 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
IanEdward wrote:
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!

Funny how my disc brakes work effectively and silently in all conditions. The only sound I get is the 'tinkling' from the drilled front disc when the brake is applied (motorcycle disc brakes do this too). I like a lot of front brake, probably because of my motorcycling background, which is why my Cube commuter runs a 203mm disc.  Stops on a sixpence.   

Avatar
Miller [281 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Yes, discs especially hydro are good for hybrids. Whereas v-brakes are the absolute worst, as mentioned in the article. My kids were messing around with two neighbouring kids the other day, and those kids asked me to look at their bikes. Both bikes had one completely unhooked v-brake.

V-brakes only work well with frequent maintenance with the end result that on unloved bikes they very soon competely cease to work.

Avatar
ktache [2122 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

I found V brakes to be incredibly easy to work on.   Cantilevers can be a proper nightmare, and require a lot more finesing and adjustment.  Some people are not that mechanically competent, and if they cannot even hook up their V brakes, think what happens when their disks go iffy.

And cheap disks will go wrong wrong very quickly.

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