Road Vs. Hybrid Bikes

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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The 10-speed bikes that made bicycling popular in the 1970s were largely road bikes. In the early 21st century, road bikes are still popular, but compete with other popular models such as the more recently developed mountain and hybrid bikes. True to its name, the hybrid bike is a cross between the road bike and the mountain bike.

Purpose

Road bike is usually a general term for bikes designed to travel on pavement. Three types of road bikes are commonly identified: touring bikes for long trips and tours, racing for competition and intensive training, and sport as a cross between touring and racing. A hybrid bike, without modifications, can handle road riding and off-road riding on simple terrain such as well-groomed single track.

Geometry

The hybrid bike often has a smaller frame than a road bike, for ease of getting on and off. As a result of this small frame, poorly designed hybrids have a high bottom bracket and crank, which can impede getting on and off the bike due to the greater distance between the rider's foot and the ground. This feature is a holdover from mountain bike design. All hybrids have handlebars elevated to seat height or above to allow the rider to sit somewhat upright, as with mountain bikes and casual riding bikes, like cruisers. In contrast, road bikes have low bottom brackets, with handlebars at seat height or below to improve the rider and bike's aerodynamics.

Wheels

Both road bikes and hybrid bikes typically use 700c wheels, the largest size tire used in mass production. Road bikes, however, tend to use narrower tires and wheels for speed, with widths 23 mm and below. Hybrid wheels, meant for speed and comfort, never get narrower than 23 mm and are usually much wider, sometimes 35 mm or more. Tires in widths between these extremes are best for daily road or easy off-road riding.

Other Components

Hybrid bikes may have suspension on the seatpost or front fork to improve the comfort of the ride. Though hybrids and most touring bikes can be fitted with fenders and cargo racks, sport and racing bikes generally prize a low weight for speed and do not have room for these features. Hybrid and touring road bikes often have a wide range of gears, up to 27 speeds, but sport and racing bikes will have fewer, about 12 to 18.

Photo Credits:

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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