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  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Hybrids or Cross Bikes
    Are hybrids (cross bikes) a good choice?  
    [ What is a hybrid? ]

A hybrid, or "cross" bike as they are sometimes called, is the answer to the question: What would you get if a road bike married a mountain bike and they had kids?

More seriously, it is a compromise between the features of road and mountain bikes. Typically, a hybrid will have three front chain rings like a MB instead of the two that is more typical of a RB, and a hybrid will have handle bars that are straight or sweep up, like a MB instead of drop down bars like a RB. The tires on a hybrid aren't as wide, or knobby as a MB, but not as narrow or slick as is typical of a road bike. A RB usually has a steeper sweep angle on the front forks which gives it a longer wheel base than a hybrid. It is common to find shocks of some kind on MBs, but less so on hybrids, and unheard of on RBs. As a result of several of these factors, the weight of a hybrid is also usually somewhere in between the lighter RB and heavier MB.

Of course, none of the differences that I've mentioned above are absolutes. People often put three chain rings on a RB, and you can get narrower, smoother tires for MBs to make them more like hybrids and do the same for hybrids to make them more like RBs. The weight is something you usually can't do to much about, and you probably wouldn't want to change the handle bars.

I think that hybrids are often used for touring because they are more suited to carrying the extra weight of luggage on a self supported tour. My bike is set up for touring in that it has a rack on the back, an extra set of mounting holes on the front forks in case I want to add a front rack, and mounting holes for a third water bottle cage. The mounting holes need to be built in. If I was going to get a hybrid anyway, I would probably look for one with the extra mount points, even if I had no immediate plans for them, just so I'd have the option later.

Potential flamers, please note. I don't mean to say that any one style of bike is better than another. Those debates can go on endlessly without ever changing anyone's mind. I'm only trying to describe the physical differences between the styles as I understand them. Please feel free to correct any errors that I've made in that regard.

Each rider will have a different set of priorities that will help them decide which set of features best suits their riding style. For me, a hybrid is the best of both worlds, but for others it may be the least common denominator between the other two.

Your mileage may vary.

Bob Heath

I have been lurking on this list for awhile and am looking forward to learning lots of good stuff. I have so far not spoken up about going on any of the rides. I ride a hybrid - not a road bike - and don't even want to attempt to keep up!

I am pretty clueless about bike maintenance, riding lingo, and anything else bike related. I just pretty much get on my bike and ride. Buying a new bike isn't an option. I have a 2 year old Schwinn hybrid. I have slightly nobby, narrower tires on it which I am thinking I should switch.

Shelley Donohue

Shelly, not everyone who rides Cycle Oregon rides a road bike. I ride a hybrid and love it! I don't like to be leaned over and find the upright position to be much more comfortable. I trained with nobbier tires and then switched to skinner, less nobby tires for the ride. You get more speed out of the more road bike-like tires. Be sure you have your bike checked out and given a "tune up" before the ride and get a "fit". That way your bike shop and you can be sure that your bike is in good condition and that you are in the best, most comfortable, greatest performance position you can be in. It really helped me!

Wendi Thornton

Thanks for the information! I am thrilled knowing I won't be the only one on a hybrid. I am thinking of riding on my current tires for the majority of the summer then switching about a month or so before.

Shelley Donohue

Your timing strategy for changing to smoother tires is a good one: train on the tuffies, do the tour on the smoothies. I think you will be surprised with how much easier they are to move around than your "mini-knobbies"

Curt Coleman

I'm a hybrider too. Worked great last year, anticipating another this year. I also trained on knobbies, changed a couple weeks before COXII. Don't think I'll put the knobbies back on for training this year. Smoothies are too nice!


Shelley, you will see every type of bike imaginable on Cycle Oregon, so you won't feel "funny" riding your hybrid

Wendi Thornton

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I think that here in Oregon, you either have two bikes.... (if you are lucky or rich) or you ride a Hybrid. I have been riding my trek.... hybrid, with the full nobbs and hoping that when I switch to the slicks, I will "fly like the wind"

David, on the other hand, turned his "hybrid" into a "road". It has the skinniest tires I have ever seen.

See you soon.

Amy and the Grahamcrackers

I ride an 8-year old Trek 830, and now that I have signed up for my first CO, I have decided that I can't begin to think of trying to do it on a mountain bike.

So I am about to buy a new bike. My question is what the folks on this list think of hybrids. I'm not a gearhead or racer; being nearly 61precludes that, at least I think. However, I want to acquire a bike which will be comfortable for touring and, hopefully, future COs. I refuse to spend more than $1,000.

I am wedded to Trek unless others can suggest a comparable, and if I decide on a racer I will probably go for the 2000. But I ask again what folks think of hybrids, such as the Trek 7000 series.

John Carr

I rode CO9 on a Trek 970 with Shock. I put on Road Warrior slicks and did just fine. The only modification was I had changed my large chain ring to a bigger one. I'm not trying to talk you out of buying a new bike for CO. I'm trying to talk you out of a hybrid. Your mountain bike with a little modification is a great 'Oregon Road' bike.

I still use my mountain for cruising with the kids and when I want to do real trails changing the tires is all it takes to transform it from a road bike to a mountain bike. I do suggest have tires pre-mounted on rims for convenience. I have three sets. One for slicks, one for knobbies and one for rain/gravel.

Now for your new bike go with a real road bike with drops (or a bent, I'll be politically correct). My point is that if you are serious in doing long road rides a hybrid or mountain bike will work, but there is no substitute for lightness in components and rolling resistance that a real road bike offers.

On CO9 I was no speed daemon (UNIX pun) but I regularly blasted past bikes that cost three times my Trek 970 because of it's weight and stability. On the flats only my power and stamina kept me up with fast riders. The faster riders I passed eventually because they had flats and I had my thick road warriors and Mr. Tuffys and slime.

My final answer. Buy a real road bike and modify your old Trek's gearing as you get stronger. Do not change the Trek's low gears or you will defeat its use on real single track trails.

Lonnie 'yes i'm bi' Wormley
cycles dammit!...mountain and road!

I have ridden a Trek 7500 for two years and I really like it. Prior to that I had a Trek 820, which I also liked. I made the move to the hybrid for all the usual reasons folks do that. Like you, age was a factor (one of several) in my choosing to go with the 7500. I am staring 64 in the face, come June, and I don't push up them thar hills like I did a few years back, OK, come clean here, MANY years back! I haven't been able to ride a road bike since spinal surgery almost 17 years ago, lost some flexibility in my neck and can no longer hunker down and crane the ole neck back up for more than a few seconds. I read a very interesting article several months back which has piqued my interest in at least looking into a road bike again. The article discussed somewhat modifying a road bike by putting a bit longer stem on it and changing out the handlebars to more or less straight across ones---like a hybrid! But you get the lighter bike as opposed to either a hybrid or a straight mountain bike. I will be very soon looking into this at "my" bike shop. Ask "your" bike shop to let you take the 7500 out for an hour or so, ride on flat land and take a few hills, both ups and downs. You should have a pretty good idea what you think of the hybrid then. Also, like we see time and again from this wonderful group, make sure the bike shop people give you a proper fit on whatever bike(s) you test ride. You mentioned not wanting to spend more than $1,000. I got my 7500 on a pretty good deal and it cost me either $549 or $649, would have to move my lazy self out of this chair and go dig out the records to be exact. But that gives you something to think on price-wise. I rode my hybrid on CO XII.

You'll no doubt hear from Wendi and Carl, who also ride like models.
Good luck!

Penny (lucky to live in Colorado) Overdier

I went the hybrid route back in 95. Ended up buying a road bike in 96 and relegated the hybrid to the stationary trainer stand. Just this last year I converted it to road bars and shifters and I do take it outdoors again from time to time when I don't mind muscling an overweight porker around.

My advice regarding hybrids. *DON'T*! With minor changes your mountain brick would be better suited. Lonnie W. mentioned the tires and gearing changes. That is it! Essentially a hybrid is that with less bomb proof wheels.

A mountain/hybrid places you seated upright, with the bulk of your weight carried on your tail section. The lack of variety on hand positions gets numbing. The upright and wider "stance" of your seating position is an air brake in winds. Wider footprint tires running lower air pressure add to the rolling resistance. Then there is the weight of these bikes.

"I'm not a racer" you say? Me too, but the simple fact is lighter is better. Sure, speed is one result but the exertion required for the extra weight and rolling resistance is the real issue. Particularly over time and distance.

Grab a 5 lb weight and walk around awhile with it :-)

A road bike gives you multiple hand positions and upper body angles. It deploys your weight more evenly across the bike. Your tush will still get abused but its far less abusive than the mountain/hybrid bruise one gets on a long tour.

Also the lower rolling resistance and weight means more of your power results in motion rather than overcoming weight and resistance.

A hybrid is neither a mountain nor a road bike its, a cross between the two. Lets review what it does well..

Now that that is out of the way :-)

There are a lot of hybrid riders on this list, many think its the best thing going. I thought that way too till I rode a road bike. I'm in awe of their ability to complete a long day and still be smiling. But you do get used to what you have.

Whatever you decide to do I'm sure you'll make it work for you. I'd go the road bike route and I'd ante up between 1200 and 1400 to get one with a lighter frame and better componentry. (but then I have two custom built road bikes where the wheelsets alone come close to a grand each) I did start with an entry level road bike though and it evolved. My hybrid has all its cast offs now.

My advice is free so value it as such. I was at one time sold on the hybrid and thought the road proponents were just being snobs. I learned. I learned that cheap components work well when adjusted proper, but seem to come out of adjustment more and really don't last as long. I learned that a lighter bike meant a faster riding speed and less exhaustion at the end of a long day.

One more thing I learned though. It’s not the bike, it’s the fact that you are out there riding and taking part in this great adventure.

Whatever you choose John, welcome to a truly great adventure.

Don "some day I might get a painted bike" Bolton

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As I have mentioned on here we came up with some answers to this before we went the recumbent route...

First, as a couple of people have suggested converting a mountain bike works well if it doesn't have a heavy duty frame and shocks. I am not familiar with your model.

What we found - Trek now has a 7600FX (note that "FX" - it is important!) that is just coming out. It is a 7600 that doesn't have the heavy shocks and so on. VERY nice hybrid with some decent components. They also have a 520 touring bike that has close to the same components. The 7600FX is aluminum frame, the 520 is cro-moly. I liked the feel of the 520 on the bumps better. We rode these bikes endlessly back and forth across the storm drains in back of Beaverton Bike Gallery.

Both bikes are 27 speed. The 7600FX has a reasonable range to start with, but the 520 is geared very high. This seems like a real mistake since anybody carrying or pulling luggage is going to want a decent granny gear. We were going to swap the front chain rings for something decent. We like a 19-20 gear-inch low end.

Both bikes have V brakes and are comfortable. Naturally the hybrid has straight bars and the 520 has drop bars. As per my earlier posting we decided we were more comfortable on the straights (because of our fancy bar ends) and Beaverton Bike Gallery said they would swap out the drops, brake handles, shifters on the 520.

The Jamis Coda is also a VERY nice hybrid. My son has one. Our only problem with it is our local Jamis dealer would not give us anywhere near the level of initial support that our Trek dealer would. We are talking about a stab in the dark on frame size and then order the bike for the Jamis, versus a bike fit with Aaron and everything ordered and fit to us right from the start (almost starts to feel a little like custom) for the Treks.

After my son got the Jamis Coda he took it to Aaron at BG and we poured money into it getting new handlebars, stem, and so on to make it fit right. If we could have got it at BG at the start we could have just swapped out the stuff (for difference in price and so on). Performance was willing to swap out parts, but they don't have anybody doing bike fits at ours.

If you do use straight handlebars then make sure you get the bar ends that are long and curve back. You can also pad them. This will give you many more hand positions. Easiest way to find them is to search "bar ends" on the web and start looking at pictures.

Whatever you end up with please try to get a bike fit as soon as you can (assuming you haven't already). It makes a HUGE difference in comfort both on CO and for all that training. It also helps prevent injuries caused by forcing your knees, back, etc. into contortions they are not real happy with.

Have a lot of fun either shopping or customizing your own bike!

Rox Heath

Oops, forgot to mention... Bob has ridden his Univega via Montega hybrid on 4 CO's (including CO7 with the infamous climb up to Bear Camp) and I have ridden mine (same model) on the last 3 CO's. We both have enjoyed them a lot and highly recommend a high-end hybrid for CO. BTW, Univega has now changed (devalued?) the via Montega to be a $200 bike - not at all what we bought 6 years ago!

We have our bar ends mounted vertically and by hanging on to the tops of them we are sitting upright, cruising along, looking at the scenery. (Sort of sounds like a recumbent, doesn't it? ;-) )

Yes, the racing bikes are faster (much!) Depends on what you want out of a CO (and a bike ride). Some people blast from camp to camp and the highlight of their day is their speed and perfection in riding. We have been very happy and comfortable with moseying along, stopping for pictures and scenery, and spending most of the day on the road. We get side tracked by waterfalls and ice cream cones (but resisted the camel-kissing on CO 11). Our average (including breaks and lunch) works out to about 10 mph on CO unless we push it (as we do for century days).

After a couple of months of trying bikes we could see no advantage to us in changing from the hybrid style to a road bike. BTW, Bike Gallery said it is not unusual to put straight bars on a drop bar bike - even the very high end road bikes. But we wanted touring capability and those high end road bikes couldn't easily do it.

Rox Heath

John, most of the folks on this list have road bikes, 'bents or tandems. I ride a hybrid and like it. If you are used to the upright position, the road bike position takes a little getting used to. My problem with the hybrid is its heavier than a road bike and that means more weight to press up hill. Other than that, I like my bike and you'll see me on it this year!!

Wendi Thornton

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Hybrids or Cross Bikes  

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