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What Features to Look for in Good Hybrid Bicycles

by Erica Leigh

About Erica Leigh

Erica Leigh has been writing and editing professionally since 2005, contributing to a technology and education nonprofit, renewable energy companies and various websites. Leigh holds bachelor's degrees in anthropology and linguistics from the University of Washington.

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Overview

A hybrid bicycle combines the best features of road bikes and mountain bikes to create a sturdy bike that can handle light off-roading and pavement riding around town or even over long distances. In general, a quality hybrid bike will cost more than a mediocre one, so buy the best one you can afford. A good hybrid bike is made of high-quality materials and has a low-bottom bracket, flat or riser handlebars and road-style tires.

Examine the Materials

Your hybrid bike frame and all of its components should be made of quality materials. Look for frames with seamless tubes that become somewhat thicker and wider at each joint. Professional bike mechanic Sheldon Brown recommends titanium as the most durable frame choice, but it is expensive and uncommon on hybrid bikes. Aluminum frames and parts are moderately priced, durable, lightweight and will be the option you'll find on most hybrids. Steel rusts too easily to use for components, but steel frames provide a comfortable ride. Titanium and carbon fiber components are extremely lightweight, durable and more expensive.

Handlebars and Levers

Look for a hybrid bicycle with flat or riser handlebars. As a result, you'll also get gear shifters and brake levers like those on mountain bikes. For hybrid bikes that will see long-distance rides or bike touring, look for handlebars with bar ends to give you additional hand positions, or buy separate bar ends.

Looking at Tires

Hybrid bike wheels should have tires wider than those used for touring or road riding, but narrower than the standard mountain bike tire; this means a tire 32 to 45 mm wide for 700c wheels and less than 2 inches wide for 26-inch tires. These tires provide more stability and comfort than the average road bike tires. Look for slick tires if you plan to ride only on well-maintained roads. You may choose tires that have some tread if you ride plan to take your bike on gravelly roads or hardpacked dirt trails.

The Bottom Bracket

Sheldon Brown recommends hybrid bikes with low bottom brackets. Bottom brackets hold your front chain rings and pedal cranks. A lesser quality hybrid bike will have the high bottom bracket typical of modern mountain bikes, but since you don't need to clear large rocks or other obstacles in road or simple trail riding, this is unnecessary. High bottom brackets make the constant mounting and dismounting of urban riding more difficult.

Make Sure It Fits

Even the best quality hybrid bike will not give you the ride you want if it is too big or small for you. Hybrid bikes are designed for a mostly upright sitting position, so you should not be hunched over or sitting straight up. You can adjust the saddle position and handlebars for the right position, or look at the next larger or smaller frame size. You should have 1 to 2 inches of clearance between the top of your inner leg and the top tube of the frame when you stand over the frame. Your leg should be bent only slightly when your foot is on the pedal at its closest point to the ground.

Photo Credits:

  • Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.