Sumerian Street Rider
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Suburban Chicago
Bikes: Dahon Mu P8, Fuji Absolute 1.0
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There are several kinds of specialized bicycles: road bikes, mountain bikes, touring bikes, cargo bikes, folding bikes, and cruiser bikes to name the ones that come to mind. Each has features that are intended to make them ideal for their primary purpose. A hybrid bike is a bike that includes features from two or more of the above and it is intended to be used for a variety of purposes. Normally people consider hybrid bikes to be a combination of mountain and road bike features but they generally have or can take the racks you would find on a touring bike, use wheels and tires a touring bike would use, and may have the fenders you would find on cruiser bikes. Hybrid bikes generally use flat mountain bike handlebars but a few have road bike drop bars and many of us put "butterfly" or trekking handlebars borrowed from the touring bike crowd on our hybrids. Some hybrids have frames very much like a road bike frame, others have frames like a rigid mountain bike, and others yet have light duty suspension forks like a hardtail mountain bike though most hybrids use 700c wheels so the ones with suspension forks are a bit like light duty 29er's. If you only do one kind of riding or are willing to buy a separate bike for each purpose a hybrid is not for you. If you mostly ride on roads or asphalt paths but like to run on limestone or gravel paths too a "performance hybrid" can be ideal. If you like to ride on mild dirt trails, limestone and gravel paths, and some road riding too a "path" or "trail" hybrid which will often have a suspension fork and be ideal for you.
I don't believe there is any manufacturer that makes only hybrid bicycles. Most of the major brands make some hybrids. The Cannondale Quick bikes are performance hybrids, the Adventure and Comfort series are trail hybrids. More or less, I am sure some would argue.... Trek, Fuji, Jamis, Kona, Giant, Marin all also make hybrids and are beloved brands by large contingents here and I have probably slighted a brand or two with intending too. Very few web sites list their hybrid bikes under the name hybrid which makes it difficult for newbies to find them. They are often called path, trail, city, urban, lifestyle, recreation, etc, etc, etc, almost anything but hybrid. I don't know why, do the manufacturers feel that the term hybrid carries a stigma they are trying to avoid?
Everyone knows that the one thing you don't do with a hybrid is race it and many would argue that I left cyclocross bikes off the list of "pure" types above. I would argue that cyclocross bikes are hybrids that are designed for that kind of racing. Whether you accept that or not, if you are in the market for a performance hybrid the cyclocross bikes have many of the same characteristics and they are well worth considering too.
Perhaps you can tell from the above that the term "hybrid bicycle" is a bit fuzzy and ill-defined. That is the nature of the beast but I hope these comments help.