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8 best hybrid bikes for city commutes and keeping fit

·9 min read
With the pandemic changing our transport needs, it might be time to invest in a new ride (iStock/The Independent)
With the pandemic changing our transport needs, it might be time to invest in a new ride (iStock/The Independent)

Hybrid bicycles incorporate elements of traditional road bikes with ideas taken from mountain biking, usually with a flat handlebar that allows for a comfy, upright sitting position. The best designs will allow you to fit mudguards and luggage racks, making them even more practical.

Many hybrids now use disc brakes, which are often more powerful than traditional rim ones and will work well in damp conditions. Some use road-bike-sized 700c wheels which allow you to speed along rapidly, while others will be shod with 650b, or 29in, wheels that have crossed over from mountain biking and can cope with rougher terrain.

When buying, look out for a decent frame and fork – usually alloy, although there are carbon fibre models on the market now. You can upgrade parts for a better kit over time as the ones the bike came with wear out.

Put some thought into the type of terrain you will be riding before you buy. For darting around town, you can usually get by with a simple set up with a single chainring at the front and a good spread of gears at the back.

For hillier areas, you might want to look at a model with two or three chainrings at the front to give a wider selection of gears. Another advantage of a single chainring is that it keeps the weight down slightly as you’re not carrying around another handlebar gear shifter and front mech – there’s also less to go wrong!

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If you want extra comfort and good grip look for wider tyres – again they are something you can upgrade as the old ones wear out, maybe for a pair of super-fast slicks if you really want to zip around.

The pandemic cycling boom means hybrids are in big demand right now, with many models in very short supply. We have still managed to put some of the best through their paces in town and country to find a selection we think you’ll have a lot of fun riding. Don’t worry too much if your chosen model goes out of stock – keep checking our retailers’ websites for updates on when they will be back on sale.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best hybrid bike’s in 2021 are:

Boardman HYB 8.9

Best: All-round hybrid bike

This one has got the performance to match its good looks. The integrated stem and handlebar setup is clean and stylish, while the alloy frame and carbon fork mean it weighs in around the 10kg mark – something you’ll appreciate if trading up from a mountain bike or cheaper hybrid. Boardman has gone for 12-speed gearing with a single chainring at the front for simplicity and an astonishing 51 teeth on the cassette. Such a combination will let you tackle just about anything that British roads can throw at you.

The 700c wheels are equipped with quality 35mm Schwalbe marathon tyres that should offer plenty of grip when you use the powerful Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. You can also fit mudguards and a pannier rack to make it a great everyday commuter.

Buy now £1000.00,

Ribble hybrid AL

Best: For thick tyres

Ribble have kept things simple by fitting a single chainring up front on this 11-speed machine. Unless you live in a ridiculously hilly area you’ll do just fine with the spread of gears it offers. Fat 47mm tyres on 650b Mavic aksium wheels will soak up bumps and ruts in the road, and the hydraulic disc brakes will pull you up quickly in an emergency. If your budget runs to it and you plan to ride to work in all weathers, buy the more expensive “leisure fully loaded edition” with its added mudguards and pannier rack.

One thing we would change at an early opportunity is those leather-look hand grips – they are comfy but not as hardwearing as a standard rubbery set.

Buy now £899.00,

Raleigh strada city crossbar

Best: For beginners

Here’s one from the best-known name in British cycling. It might have city in the name, but those wide 47mm tyres on 650b wheels will let you explore gravel roads and tow paths when you head out of the urban jungle.

You get 16-speed gearing and hydraulic brakes for your money, with fitted mudguards and the option of adding a luggage rack. An alloy frame and fork means it weighs in around a none-too-shabby 12kg. There’s an open-frame version too – sometimes billed as a “women’s” shape but great for anyone who doesn’t want to throw their leg up in the air to mount the bike – if you don’t want a traditional crossbar set up.

Buy now £575.00,

Trek FX sport carbon 4

Best: Lightweight hybrid bike

Hybrid bikes don’t get much slicker than this – a sub-10kg, carbon machine that could see you keeping pace with the local roadies. Trek has kept the gearing setup simple with a single front chainring and an 11-speed cassette at the back with a 42-tooth cog to let you take on the steepest hills.

For added comfort, Trek has included their clever “isospeed” decoupler in the frame – a pivot that helps to soak up bumps and which used to only be found on the firm’s top-end machines. Flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes, in combination with fatter 32mm tyres on 700c wheels, will soon bring you to a halt.

Buy now £1775.00,

Cannondale treadwell EQ disc hybrid bike

Best for: Sit-up design

This cool urban runaround will turn heads whenever you pop to the shops or into the office. It looks like a combination of beach cruiser and Dutch-style sit-up-and-beg bike, but at around 13kg is a lot less weighty. If you use your bike for the weekly shop then see if you can get your hands on the EQ version, with mudguards and a front rack, that will hold up to 10kg of cargo – or even act as a perch for your pet pup.

Those fat 47mm tyres give a comfortable ride, while the nine-speed gearing is perfect for most journeys. A nice touch is the integrated mount on the stem where you can attach a compatible case to use your phone as a bike computer.

Buy now £899.00,

Vitus dee city bike

Best: Cheap hybrid bike

Looking for a simple, relatively cheap ride for pottering around or weekend wandering? This could be the bike for you. It’s a no-frills number from Wiggle’s in-house brand with a simple seven-speed Shimano gearing setup and cable-operated disc brakes. The wheels are the bigger 29in size usually seen on mountain bikes, with quality Schwalbe tyres – the larger size means they roll well once they get up to speed and will cope with bumps and smaller potholes. It’s got an alloy frame with a steel fork that will soak up anything the road can throw at it. Buy it if you want to see if this biking lark is for you.

Buy now £349.99,

Cube Kathmandu pro

Best: For extra features

You could take this rugged machine on the odd adventure when your weekly commute is over. It’s got some great features included in the price such as mudguards, an integrated rear luggage rack, and a built-in lighting system. There’s also a kickstand, meaning you’ll always be able to park it.

Those front shocks will soak up bumps both on the road and off it on gentler gravel tracks and bridleways, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes mean you will always be able to stop, even when it’s fully loaded. There’s a 10-speed cassette at the rear plus three chainrings at the front to help you get over hills and obstacles.

Buy now £999.00,

Orbea carpe 20 hybrid bike

Best: For urban cycling

Spanish builder Orbea has a history of turning out great road bikes, and you can see something of its racing heritage in the clean lines of this machine. As well as being a great urban explorer, it would suit anyone who wants a fast fitness machine but doesn’t fancy the drop-handlebar route.

There are a number of models but all have a great alloy frame and fork, disc brakes and full-sized 700c wheels. You can add mudguards and a luggage rack if you need them.

Buy now £729.00,

Hybrid bike FAQs

What is considered a hybrid bike?

A hybrid bike is a blend of a road bike and a mountain bike, resulting in a rugged and hardwearing model that works well on all terrains. A popular option for commuters since they’re deemed a great city bike, but they can also be a good for touring too.

Hybrid bike vs mountain bike

Both the hybrid and mountain bike feature flat handlebars, wide tyres and disc breaks, and some hybrid models, much like mountain bikes, also have front suspension. Visually, the frame of a hybrid bike is similar to a road bike and is slimmer and lighter than a mountain bike.

The second difference is that while some hybrids feature disc brakes, the majority use traditional rim brakes, which are lighter and cheaper. This is because hybrid bikes are designed for shorter and relatively flat rides. As for gears, when compared to a hybrid bike, a mountain bike will typically have a wider range of gears to help with different riding terrains.

The verdict: Hybrid bikes

It was hard to pick a best buy among our chosen bikes – they’re all great in their own ways. We went for the Boardman because it’s got a superb frame and fork with quality parts – and it looks stunning.

Other stand-out buys include the slick Orbea and the bargain Vitus, if you are looking for something for occasional use.

More bike recommendations:

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