The most popular bike style in the UK, you'll find that the best hybrid bikes are both practical and comfortable, and their upright riding position makes them ideal for the office run or leisurely cruising the lanes.
With (usually) 700C wheels, wide-range gears, flat bars and cantilever or disc brakes, hybrid bikes are midway between road and mountain bikes. They're the UK's most common and best-selling bike type.
The upright riding position makes the best hybrid bikes great for traffic, and for leisurely rides in the country — slow down and sniff the flowers.
Oddly few hybrid bikes come with practicalities like mudguards and rack. Budget £50-100 for them and get them fitted when you buy the bike. You'll be glad you did.
The best hybrid bikes are inexpensive transport par excellence, paying for themselves in just a few months if you live in a major city.
Who could imagine a big old lump of a hybrid – with 38mm tyres and a suspension fork and weighing north of 13kg – being any fun to cycle? Anybody riding something like that is in for a slog, right? Thankfully, nobody told those crazy French cats about accepted wisdom because in the B'Twin Riverside 920 they've managed to put together an incredible bike that combines all the practicalities of a hybrid, with a fun and enthusiastic ride and almost unlimited potential.
The Riverside 920's grin factor earns it our award for the best hybrid you can buy. After all, if this kind of town-and-country transportation isn't fun, you might as well be sitting in a car and stuck in traffic.
An affordable hybrid from family and touring cycling expert Dawes, the Discovery 201 combines a lively compact aluminium frame with excellent single-chainring Shimano drivetrain to create a bike that will inspire a smile on your commute or weekend potter.
Manufacturers know so much about making aluminium bikes these days that they can make them well, even at a budget. So while other brands may try to seduce you with the next big thing, there is plenty of value to be had with manufacturers, such as Dawes, whose products rely on proven design and construction.
Even in wet weather and headwinds, this is a fun and 'enthusiastic' bike to pedal. Power transfer isn't compromised and while overall weight at 12.5kg is good enough at this point in the market, the Disco actually rides as sprightly as a lighter hybrid. Acceleration from a standstill is easy and there's a definite satisfaction to be had as you spin up to higher speeds.
For some time now, sports supermarket Decathlon's own brands have been putting the lie to the notion that only expensive bikes are good bikes; its road models in particular have been the bargain hunter's dream. But what can it do with dedicated commuting machinery? If the Hoprider 900 is anything to go by, it's just as impressive: okay, it's not a light bike, but if your commute isn't too hilly it rides really well and is excellent value, equipped with just about everything you could need for cycling to and from work.
Tester Matt writes: “This is less a 'bike' and more a 'total cycle commuting solution'. That might sound like marketing guff (it really isn't, I've just made it up) but you'll soon understand why. For £699 you're buying a bicycle that comes fully loaded with features that cover everything from load carrying, to night-time illumination, to even basic lockable security.
“The Hoprider 900 is fantastically stable even at speed (that 19kg plus rider can sure pick up some momentum downhill) and it offers a supremely inspiring base from which to navigate the urban jungle. It might sound a minor point for riders with excellent bike control, but for more nervous or wobbly folk, the Hoprider 900 is a brilliantly benign bike for looking over your shoulder or signalling. The view forward is impressive, too: the riding position is relatively upright, which is good for visibility and also adds to a rider's road presence.”
Snowdon’s Paradox is aptly named. It doesn't look it, but it'll take many a drop-bar carbon whippet to the cleaners. And your lower back will thank you.
Tester Mike writes: “This is the first flat-bar bike I've reviewed through the prism of someone addicted to going fast in an aero position on drops. I must confess I thought I'd be concluding it would be nice for a nippy commute or for those with chronic back issues. After the first hour I realised I was being schooled in how not to underestimate based on cockpit arrangement – if you pull up to the lights or the start of a descent alongside a Paradox, more fool you if you think it's going to be an easy win. Fundamentally it rides like what it is – a high-end titanium frame designed to offer relief from harsh road surfaces with its ample seatpost (think Giant TCR geometry), yet is stiff where it counts around the bottom bracket and chainstays to give the feeling of effortless acceleration.
“Comparing segments the Paradox often had me close to or maybe only 5-10% behind my personal bests, most set at peak fitness, which I am currently nowhere near. As any fule kno, Strava is utterly pointless except as a vanity mirror cum bike parts wear log, but for this purpose it represents a validation of what my heart was telling me: that the Snowdon Paradox is simply a bloody fast, light bike that will take a good thrashing while leaving you feeling refreshed.”
With its wide-range gears and fat tyres on mountain bike-style 27.5in wheels, Carrera's Subway 1 is an urban pothole basher par excellence at a very reasonable price.
The Subway harkens back to the days when a typical urban bike was a rigid mountain bike with slick tyres, a combination that exploits the mountain bike's upright, commanding position and excellent brakes while compensating for the resistance of knobbly tyres on Tarmac.
You'll almost certainly want mudguards and a rack, but at this price they're not a silly omission.
Trek's best-selling city bike has a light aluminium frame, very wide-range 21-speed gears that'll get you up any hills you're likely to find in the UK, and convenient Shimano trigger shifters.
You don't get extras like a rack or mudguards, but the frame has all the necessary fittings for them, and will even take a Dutch-style frame/wheel lock like the AXA Defender so you can't forget your lock.
The Elops (formerly B'Twin) Hoprider 500 from Decathlon comes with everything you need to pootle round town, to the office or the shops or just round the park for exercise. It's not the lightest hybrid ever, but it's very well specced for the money.
Off the peg, the Hoprider 500 comes with hub-powered lighting front and rear, mudguards, rack and kickstand. That's a great set of accessories for a hybrid (too often they're just a bare bike) and really makes this bike an excellent choice for commuting and other practical riding.
If you want something a bit more upmarket, the £649.99 Hoprider 900 has disc brakes, Shimano Deore gears and a built-in Axa Defender lock.
Decathlon's Triban RC500 promises road bike zip with the more upright position of a flat bar so you can sit up and admire the view or keep an eye out for random taxis.
The Triban RC500 strikes a balance between speed and practicality. On the speed side, well, at heart it's a road bike. Skinny tyres, narrow saddle, seat a bit higher than the bars. On the other hand, it's got a flat bar, with gears controlled by mountain bike-style triggers so you never need move your hands away from the brakes.
The frame has fittings for rack and guards so it can be practical too and the Shimano Sora components make it a bargain for this price.
The Merida Speeder 200 is a flat-barred road bike that's claimed to be both sporty and comfortable. It comes with a raft of bang-up-to-date features including comfort-maximising 32mm tyres (and room for even wider rubber) and high-quality hydraulic disc brakes. The combination of the stiff and well-finished aluminium frame and tapered carbon fork offers a dynamic, controlled ride that's equally at home on fleet-footed fitness rides and urban and suburban commutes.
Tester Simon writes: “As both a fitness rider and long-distance commuter I tried out this Speeder on a variety of short and longer rides, in flat shoes and clipped in, and it proved equally adept in both these environments, tackling my local hills confidently both ascending and descending. It might weigh in north of 10kg but that does nothing to dent the lively quality of the Speeder's ride, apart from on the steepest hills where gravity is working against you and on initial acceleration. If you want it for hard training sessions you can get out of the saddle and crank it up.
“If anything, this Speeder is an even more impressive descender than it is climber. Again, you can't lean it into corners with the same aggression as you can a bike with drops but you can still hit sweeping bends at 30mph or more with pinpoint steering accuracy from the stiff frameset and enjoy perfectly controlled stopping from the hydraulic brakes when you need it.”
The latest version of Whyte's nippy round-towner incorporates a couple of the trends we started to see in hybrids in 2019: single chainrings and fat 650B tyres. With a wide-range gear selection at the wheel there's no real need for multiple chainrings, which makes for a more straightforward gear system. The wheels are smaller than the road-racing size 700C you usually find on hybrids, but with fat tyres they end up about the same size. The fat tyres make for more grip and cushioning, which has to be a good thing round town.
Hybrids intended for women tend to have a shorter top tube than their male equivalents, and have female friendly components like a woman's saddle, as here.
The Cube Touring Pro is stable, surefooted and has a surprising turn of speed. Probably most important of all, it's very, very comfortable. In fact, with its rear rack, dynamo lights, kickstand, mudguards and chain case, it's a lifestyle bike that's truly easy to live with.
Tester Matt writes: “Because of the nature of the Touring Pro's geometry, the front end feels tall, which provides a high riding position that is good for a commanding view of the way ahead and gives you an enhanced road presence. The slight downside is that communication between the wide handlebar and front wheel feels a little long-distance at first, and initially you may find the Touring Pro just a little unresponsive. This calms down with use and actually improves with speed.
“Despite our summer of sun, I was lucky enough – if that's the right phrase – to test this bike in typical British commuting weather and can report that the Touring Pro's surefootedness extends to wet roads. While the high position does mean your centre of gravity is equally lofty, the wide tyres and benign nature of the frame makes for stable cycling.”
Boardman is another brand that's ubiquitous on the city streets and main man Chris Boardman is similarly ubiquitous in the media advocating for cycling rights.
Boardman somehow finds time to design nice hybrids too, like this aluminium-framed, round-town speedster. It has hydraulic disc brakes for confident stopping and carbon fibre forks, which helps take the sting out of potholes.
And in one the smartest bits of speccing we've seen recently, Boardman has fitted Shimano's Deore 12-speed gearing originally developed for mountain bikes. This gives a really big gear range, from a very low bottom gear for climbing hills to a high top gear for whizzing down the other side, all operated from just one gear shifter for simplicity.
The Merida Speeder 900 lives up to its name as a supremely fast and efficient flat-bar road bike. The combination of its smooth and eager ride, impressive Shimano Ultegra spec and excellent Deore hydraulic disc brakes means that it's a whole lot of fun and not short on quality.
Tester Matt writes: 'Because I spend much of my time testing commuter and flat-bar bikes, I generally hop aboard with flat mountain bike shoes and flat pedals rather than going down the route of clipping in. However, even in this rawest of states, the sheer speed and efficiency lurking within the Speeder 900 is hard to ignore. This is a very fast bike.
"But more than just excellent straight-line speed and effective power transfer – so good, in fact, that I managed to rather upset a Lycra-clad roadie on a training ride – the Speeder's frame and fork offer a very enjoyable and involving ride experience. Front-end control at low and high speeds is fantastically accurate, which makes for a fun time in the saddle. It's so well balanced, in fact, that it really does feel like a well-sorted drop-bar road bike."
The Goldhawk Rodax is as close as you'll get to the perfect off-the-shelf urban speed machine. With a ride that marries quick control with instant power transfer and – believe it or not – impressive levels of comfort, all it needs is to be set up to your personal preference and then... enjoy.
Tester Matt writes: ”The Goldhawk Rodax is probably the most exciting and fast flat-bar bike I've tested since the (aluminium) BMC Alpenchallenge first appeared half a decade ago. The two bikes themselves couldn't be more different, but the fact that the (steel) Rodax shares the same eagerness to get up to speed is, in itself, quite an achievement. Factor in a forgiving, smooth and sublime ride, as well as that responsive performance under power, and you have an experience that is almost unbeatable.
“That smoothness is down to one major ingredient: steel. Steel bikes might not be as instantly reactive as aluminium (although this one gets pretty close), or as clever as carbon, but for an all-round bike that you can live with, it's hard to beat. In this case, the insulating quality of the steel frame deals with lumps and bumps very impressively. It handles big hits and potholes particularly well – you can't ignore them but you're not left counting your teeth. Meanwhile, small surface imperfections do rumble their way up the front, which is noticeably stiffer than the rear end, but this could be assuaged with a slight increase in tyre size.”
The Cube Editor is a fun, friendly and very practical round-town bike that's capable of much more than just getting you to work or the shops.
If you want a bike that's almost fuss-free, that you can just jump on and go ride to work, to the shops or for a day's pootling round the lanes, the Editor, with its belt drive and hub gears, is a bike you should definitely consider. That it's a friendly and appealing ride too is just the icing on the cake.
As the name suggests, hybrids have aspects of road bikes and mountain bikes. From the road comes a lightweight frame and fast-rolling 700C wheels, while mountain bikes contribute flat bars, disc or V-brakes and wide-range gears. The tyres are usually an intermediate width and tread to provide enough cushioning and grip that rough surfaces like forest roads and tow paths are no obstacle,
There are many variations under the hybrid umbrella. At one end, flat-bar road bikes are great for zipping around the lanes and even some light touring, but with skinny tyres might not be as much fun on potholed city streets. At the other end of the range are fully-equipped European-style city bikes, with mudguards, rack and even built-in dynamo lights or a rear-wheel lock.
The best hybrid bikes are great transport. You can pick one up for less than a hundred quid, and by the time you get up the price range to £300-600 there are some really very nice bikes. That's where we've started with this selection. If that blows your budget take a look at our guide to the best cheap hybrid bikes.
Hybrids make great urban transport for potholed streets or towpaths (CC BY-NC 2.0 Tom Blackwell:Flickr)
It's not unusual for designers of hybrid bikes to specify alternatives to the ubiquitous rear derailleur and you'll find a couple of examples in our recommendations. Hub gears are less unusual than on sportier bikes, and can pick up flat-bar singlespeeders very inexpensively because they're so simple.
Hybrids are great cheap transport. Bung even a £500 bike on Cycle To Work Scheme and you'll barely notice the payments disappearing from your pay packet. In fact, in many cities, you'll be better off. Compared to a London Zone 1-3 Travelcard at £167.10 per month, a £192.00 Bristol Plus travelpass or a Cambridge Megarider Plus bus ticket for £108 (at £25/week), the repayments for a hybrid are trivial.
Let’s take a closer look at some hybrid bike features and tech.
Traditionally hybrids had ultra-wide range gears because they used a triple chainset and between six and ten rear sprockets, following the fashion for mountain bikes up to about ten years ago. However, many people find triple-chainring gear systems fiddly. On mountain bikes they gave way to wide-range double- and then single-chainring systems. A single-chainring system — sometimes called ‘1X’ gearing — is beautifully simple, with just one control to worry about and no doubt which is the next highest or lowest gear. However, they’re still quite expensive so you don’t tend to find them on inexpensive and mid-range hybrids.
If you don’t like derailleur gears (and let’s face it, who really likes derailleur gears) a few hybrids have hub gears, with the gear mechanism entirely enclosed in the rear hub. Hub gears are harder to damage in crashes and generally maintenance-free, though if they do go wrong you’ll need a specialist mechanic to sort them out.
Very inexpensive hybrids have brakes that act on edge of the wheel, with a cable-operated mechanism that pushes brake pads against the sides of the rim. These are simple and fairly reliable, but work less well when it’s raining because the rim gets wet from the road. If the wheel gets damaged — dented by a pothole or knocked out of alignment by a crash or broken spoke — then a rim brake will rub on the rim, which is really annoying and slow. On the upside, it’s easy to see if the brake pads are getting worn and practically all hybrids with rim brakes use ‘V-brake’ style calipers that take the same brake pads.
From the middle of the hybrid price range you start finding powerful hydraulic disc brakes originally developed for mountain bikes. These provide loads of stopping power and with the braking surface being near the hub aren’t as susceptible to wet weather. They’re also not affected by the state of the rim: break a spoke or get a ding and they carry on regardless. The downside is that it’s not as easy to see brake pad wear and there are about eleventy-billion different brake pad shapes.
As mentioned above, almost all hybrids use the 700C wheel size that’s standard on drop-handlebar bikes and also used on a lot of mountain bikes as ‘29-inch’. Because they’re so ubiquitous, there’s a vast range of tyres available for these wheels, from super-skinny road racing tyres to huge, fat off-road knobblies.
Tyres for hybrids are typically 28-40mm wide, which helps keep them comfortable, with either a very light tread pattern for road riding or something a bit gnarlier to grip trails and tracks. Some sort of puncture-resistant band under the tread is common too, because getting a puncture on the way to work is a pain.
You’d hope a practical bike would have practical features like mudguards to keep you drier when it rains and a rack for the bags to carry your stuff. A few do and there are even ‘fully-loaded’ hybrids with a full suite of practical extras: guards, rack, lights powered by a hub dynamo, frame lock and even a kickstand.
At the very least there should be mounts on the frame so a rack and mudguards can be easily fitted.
Oddly, though, fully-equipped bikes are less common at higher prices. Manufacturers perhaps think buyers with more money to spend will want to choose their own mudguards, rack and so on, but we see lots of people riding nice quality hybrids without mudguards and just getting wet bums. Seems a bit daft.
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John 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.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.