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Bike Posture/Comfort: Hybrids the worst?

Old 12-06-15, 07:44 AM
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CrankyOne
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Bike Posture/Comfort: Hybrids the worst?

There've been a number of posts about back pain, knee pain, comfort, and other issues with various riding positions. I went out this morning and did a 4 mile loop on each of several bikes; road, mountain, hybrid, Dutch opafiets, and neighbor's Electra 8i. Not surprisingly the most comfortable was the Dutch opafiets. It was also the second slowest at 21 minutes. The second most comfortable was my road bike and this was also the fastest at 13 minutes (I was also much more out of breath after this ride and it was my first loop). Mountain was next on the comfort scale and third fastest at 16 minutes (and again out of breath). Amsterdam 8i (22 minutes) and Hybrid (20 minutes) tied for least comfortable.

Comfort is hugely subjective. However... I noticed much greater back and shoulder pressure/pain on the hybrid and 8i and somewhat more on the mountain. Vastly less on the road and opafiets. I did an extra loop on the road and opafiets to make sure and both were clearly more comfortable than the others. The mountain and hybrid both had a gob of hand/arm/shoulder pressure in common. There was none on the opafiets, a bit on the 8i and a bit on the road bike. The 8i was borrowed and quickly adjusted to match my opafiets as close as possible so possibly could have been made more comfortable with more adjustment.

Speed is also somewhat subjective since I was clearly pushing hardest on the road bike which I naturally do, second hardest on mountain, etc. I'm going to repeat this experiment one day with my HRM and maybe with some Garmin Vectors to try to output the same power and see what the times and comfort are.
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Old 12-06-15, 08:02 AM
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I never owned or ridden any hybrids so I wouldn't know how they ride...What I do notice is that, hybrids are the most popular, the most common type of bike amongst commuters and casual recreational riders and mountain bikes are almost just as popular as hybrids. They can't be all that bad and uncomfortable or else nobody would be buying them.
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Old 12-06-15, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
I never owned or ridden any hybrids so I wouldn't know how they ride...What I do notice is that, hybrids are the most popular, the most common type of bike amongst commuters and casual recreational riders and mountain bikes are almost just as popular as hybrids. They can't be all that bad and uncomfortable or else nobody would be buying them.
Good point. Is this because that's the primary type of bike that U.S. stores offer? It's what they see their neighbors riding so becomes the default choice?

Also consider that the U.S. has about the lowest bicycle ridership in the world and sales have been continually declining for over a decade. So somewhere we're not doing something right.

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Old 12-06-15, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Is this because that's the primary type of bike that U.S. stores offer? It's what they see their neighbors riding so becomes the default choice?
This I think.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that most cyclists are like us. No. Most cyclists don't give enough of a crap about it to even consider there might be something like BF. Let alone posting regularly enough to have four-digit post counts.

They don't give a schidt about single vs. multi-speed, groupsets, fittings, Garmins, or as we do in Commuting Forum, puncture-resistant tires, racks, fenders and lights.

Judging by what I actually see in the bike rack at work (it's right outside the front window), at stores when I'm locking up, and at the university as I commute through, the typical American cyclist goes to the sporting goods store or an X-mart and buys based on price and appearance.

Not much different than buying a can of soup.

All that those places sell are MTBs and hybrids, so they buy the one that looks nice and they can afford. If they're feeling particularly flush, they may spring for the $149 model instead of the $99 one. They'll buy an MTB because it reminds them of their SUV, or a hybrid because it reminds them of their Prius.

I don't think comfort even enters into the picture until after they've ridden the thing.

Last edited by tsl; 12-06-15 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 12-06-15, 09:48 AM
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To add to @tsl's excellent points, most people also don't realize how expensive a decent set of wheels actual costs. When they walk into the LBS and sees that the least expensive bike in there is well over $400 they think, well I've seen bikes at the department store for $150 and it looks just as good. What do they sell at these stores? That's right, hybrids and MTB's.

Hybrids have a place in my, er,.stable. I ride it to the grocery store and lock it up there. I ride it with my young children, and the littlest one needs a tag-along attached to my seatpost. I ride it to the park when I'm too lazy to walk there. But these trips are very short ones.
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Old 12-06-15, 10:01 AM
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Hybrids can be really comfy IMHO. Like any bike the setup is important as is the intended purpose. My Trek 750 is great for picking up groceries, slow rides with my daughter, and to grab for a short ride around the neighbourhood. It's not my go to bike for long, quick, or group rides, but it serves me well for what I require of it.

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Old 12-06-15, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Is this because that's the primary type of bike that U.S. stores offer? It's what they see their neighbors riding so becomes the default choice?
Every LBS in my city has a wide variety of different bikes to choose from, and yet majority of bikes sold to people are hybrids and mountain bikes...And they aren't the cheapest, a lot of hybrids and mountain bikes used for commuting are within $1000-$1800 dollar range...I think the reason why hybrids and MTB are popular is because they can easily be made into great and practical commuter bikes...I love commuting on my single speed MTB as much as I love commuting on my fixed gear road bike. There is no such thing as a wrong type of a bike for commuting.
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Old 12-06-15, 10:33 AM
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Venting complaints is a popular thing to do on this forum .. is the Silent Majority Happy?
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Old 12-06-15, 10:35 AM
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Any bike that properly fits the rider can be comfortable. My fixed gear track bike is completely dialed in for me. I will ride that every day over an ill fitting hybrid or mountain bike or a dutch bike for that matter. I have no knee, back, neck, or any type of pain on my 8 mile daily commute on that track bike. The bike fits the rider, and taking it on a commute is like a warm up. I have taken it on 50+ mile rides with no issues.
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Old 12-06-15, 10:56 AM
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Just looking at Trek's and Specialized's web pages, it seems that there aren't really hybrids any more. There are "fitness", "dual sport", "utility", and "city" bike categories. Within those categories might be one or two bikes that resemble what I think of when I hear the term "hybrid". And usually, they are the cheapest models. For the most part, the fitness bikes are like flat bar road bikes, and the dual sports are like hard tail mountain bikes with less aggressive tires.


As far as comfort goes, it really depends on what you're doing. I might find a cheap hybrid with a cheesy front suspension more comfortable on a really bad road than better bikes without a suspension. I can ride any bike for a few miles and be comfortable enough as long as it's adjusted correctly. I imagine most people could unless the few miles involves some big hills or they are just really out of shape.


I'm not sure how you feel about the local bike share bikes Cranky but the only adjustment on those is seat height and people seem to manage with them. I don't know how close they are to hybrid geometry or something else. I wouldn't want to tour with one but for trips of a few miles (what they are intended for), they're fine.


If people ride a few times a year then I see no reason to spend $500 or more on a bike and it shouldn't be surprising that Americans would buy a lot of cheap bikes. Would they ride more if they had better bikes? I do think there are people who ended up with a bike that they just don't like and would ride more if they had something different. I'm not sure hybrids are any more likely to be the cause of people's lack of interest in cycling than any other bike.
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Old 12-06-15, 11:08 AM
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TSL got me wondering. The following link shows that 18,000,000 or so bikes were sold last year.

U.S. Bicycle Industry - Statistics & Facts | Statista

The searches for bike commuters in the US shows about 800,000 - 900,000 per year, but it was not as solid on how many of those were consistent commuters.

BF has roughly 9,000 active members, which is very good for a hobby/sport forum. And, the roadies are usually the group with the most activity.

Of those bikes sold, MTBs are number one.

So, we really do make a tiny portion of people who bike. However, a friend in the industry told me that there is research that shows the majority of bicycles sold have a lifetime mileage of under 45 miles. So, although we make up a tiny portion, many of us break that number on any given day each month, and it is possible that most of us break it every week.

As TenspeedV2 was saying, a lot of this has to do with fit. Many of us have seats in our garage that are not being used that cost more than a lot of those 18,000,000 bikes. Then, there are bars and stems laying around in our adventures for fit. I commute on a hybrid, but I have a small fortune into it. Part for comfort, part for the fact I love my bikes. To each their own.
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Old 12-06-15, 11:11 AM
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I'm more comfortable on a hybrid, especially in heavy traffic

I like to sit upright (it was the same when I rode motorbike) .... I feel very 'unsafe' with drop handebars
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Old 12-06-15, 11:39 AM
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For vacation a few years ago, I stayed on a large island in Belize. It's 25 miles long but substantially narrower. Cars are there but less common. Transportation is mainly golf carts and bikes.

The bike of choice? A beach cruiser. At least that's what they looked like. kids ride on the top tubes of their parent's bikes for miles. Bags are hung from handlebars. It's flat. No derailleurs, no gear hubs. Also not that many baskets, - certainly not panniers. No lights, no helmets. You might think that the lack of cars and asphalt make those less necessary, and it's true to an extent. But people drive golf carts like mad men.

Also more often than not, no chain guards or chain cases. People wear shorts a lot of the time but you'll see people in long pants on those bikes too.

I do believe that people tend to buy what they see other people get or just what's available, but I also believe that cultures manage to end up with the bikes that make sense for them. For lots of Americans, a hybrid is probably a decent choice.


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Old 12-06-15, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post

BF has roughly 9,000 active members, which is very good for a hobby/sport forum. And, the roadies are usually the group with the most activity.
9000 cyclists on bikeforums is peanuts....Some people on bikeforums just don't realize that there are many thousands of successful, experienced, happy, hardcore cyclists out there in the world who are just not interested in showing off and posting selfies of themselves on Internet forums and receiving electronic high5's for their choice of spandex and bike brand or component group.
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Old 12-06-15, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post

What **********....No drop bars, no racks, no panniers, no gears, no clipless pedals, no cycling gloves, no cycling jersey, no spandex shorts ??...maybe they need to come on bikeforums and get "educated" on how to be a " real bike commuter".
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Old 12-06-15, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
What **********....No drop bars, no racks, no panniers, no gears, no clipless pedals, no cycling gloves, no cycling jersey, no spandex shorts ??...maybe they need to come on bikeforums and get "educated" on how to be a " real bike commuter".
Solamente si tenemos un parte del foro en español! Sin esto no había educación por ellos.
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Old 12-06-15, 01:07 PM
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Surprised no one mentions this: according to what I've read, the riding posture on road bikes is more comfortable for long distance, and upright position is better for shorter distance, which have to do with the pressue on the seat.

What I wonder is whether those on road bikes riding long distance feel wrist discomfort or pain from the pressure even though the drop bar allows flexible hand position. Also by looking at some pictures of the riding posture on a road bike such as in post #172 in this thread I wonder if the position does harm to one's digestion?

I've never ridden a road bike but wish I could ride one comfortably.
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Old 12-06-15, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post
Solamente si tenemos un parte del foro en español! Sin esto no había educación por ellos.
Actually, English is the official language and Kriol is what is most commonly spoken, though Spanish is common too.
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Old 12-06-15, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by vol View Post
Surprised no one mentions this: according to what I've read, the riding posture on road bikes is more comfortable for long distance, and upright position is better for shorter distance, which have to do with the pressue on the seat.

What I wonder is whether those on road bikes riding long distance feel wrist discomfort or pain from the pressure even though the drop bar allows flexible hand position. Also by looking at some pictures of the riding posture on a road bike such as in post #172 in this thread I wonder if the position does harm to one's digestion?

I've never ridden a road bike but wish I could ride one comfortably.
IMHO, the guy in that post is trying to achieve a flat back on a bike that is too small for him. It's an aerodynamic posture but I'd guess he's sacrificing power, maybe without realizing it. On the other hand, we're all built differently and maybe that works for him.

That posture may be more common for triathletes who use tri-bars. In that case, your wrists isn't supporting any weight at all, it's the forearms.

The way my road bikes are set up there really isn't much weight on my wrists even though I have a pretty healthy saddle to bar drop on one of them. Your back is supporting part of your weight and so are your arms. It's sort of the way a lot of us sit a lot of the time. Many people will support their upper body partially with their arms while sitting rather than sitting bolt upright.

In any case, the short answer is that the riding position represented in that post is an extreme and not typical. Even racers are often in a more relaxed position:

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Old 12-06-15, 04:11 PM
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Comfort, riding position and effort are pretty hopelessly intermixed. When you pedal harder, you inherently transfer weight to your legs and off the saddle, this is why racers can get by with minimalist saddles. For example, I'm quite comfortable cruising at 15-17mph on my road bike, if I dial back to 10 mph, the bike starts to be really uncomfortable.

Upright hybrids and beach cruisers are best suited for minimal effort. They have large wide saddles and handle best with a significant amount of weight on the saddle.

My most comfortable bike is definitely my Yeti 575. Part of the comfort though is a combination of shorter stem and wide bars (stable) and the ability of the suspension to basically ignore terrain. But after about 10 miles on pavement, I really start wishing for the road bike...
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Old 12-06-15, 07:58 PM
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The flat bar hybrids I rode for 12 years were comfortable enough but not truly comfy, judging by the Girvin Flex Stem I used on the Cannondale and the CF bars with Ergon grips I put on the Novara Big Buzz. Still not truly comfy.
Current bikes are all recumbents and are all truly comfortable. My short wheelbase commuter 'bent with 20"/26" wheels is very comfy, the long wheelbase with 26"/26" wheels is even comfier and our 'bent tandem is Comfy for Two. Our tandem mileage and pleasure has increased greatly since replacing our KHS tandem.
Comfort is indeed important.
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Old 12-06-15, 08:44 PM
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Last spring I overhauled a 1992 (or 1993?) Giant Option, a high-tensile steel hybrid that must weigh 35 pounds. It was cheap when I bought it as a graduate student, and that was its chief appeal for me at the time. The bike had been sitting in my garage unused for ten years, and I did the overhaul as a project to learn how to wrench on bikes, figuring it wouldn't matter if I messed it up beyond repair. It's not an upright ride because I put flipped North Road bars on it, but it wasn't super upright even when it had flat bars.

Now I find myself reaching for that bike on most weekday mornings. I still grab the Bianchi for weekend rides and the Omafiets for wet or dark rides, but the old hybrid has a definite appeal.
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Old 12-06-15, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by vol View Post
Surprised no one mentions this: according to what I've read, the riding posture on road bikes is more comfortable for long distance, and upright position is better for shorter distance, which have to do with the pressue on the seat.

What I wonder is whether those on road bikes riding long distance feel wrist discomfort or pain from the pressure even though the drop bar allows flexible hand position. Also by looking at some pictures of the riding posture on a road bike such as in post #172 in this thread I wonder if the position does harm to one's digestion?

I've never ridden a road bike but wish I could ride one comfortably.
those claims of comfort are very subjective.

I have a road bike, MTB, path racer, upright road bike, 2 English sports, and a Dutch bike. I've listed them in order of comfort, starting with the least comfortable.
The road bike and path racer aren't ever actually "comfortable", they're just not uncomfortable when ridden as intended. The MTB isn't bad with the Porteur bars, but was dreadful for the road and long distance with the OE flat bars. The upright road bike, and English sports re fairly comfortable for most uses. The Dutch bike is positively luxurious no matter how long I ride it.

I think most people have issues with a particular type of bike because they want it to do something it isn't intended for. For me road bikes bottom the list because I'm a moderate speed rider, and dislike being hunched over facing the ground, constantly shifting my hands around the bar for relief.
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Old 12-06-15, 09:54 PM
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Too subjective.

Years ago I happily commuted on a conventional road oriented mens steel frame 10 speed with drop bars. No complaints whether I was commuting in busy Washington DC traffic, SoCal semi-urban traffic, or long weekend rides up to 200 miles with a cycling club.

Since a car wreck busted up my back and neck with a permanent C2 injury, I can't handle drops if I expect to carefully watch traffic around me. For now I'm riding a hybrid with upright bars and comfy saddle - maybe next year I'll consider flat bars and a different saddle. But I don't see myself ever returning to drops. My neck goes into painful spasms if I try to ride carefully and watchfully from that position - meaning, looking up and around to check traffic. With the hybrid and upright bars the only time I lean forward to rest my forearms across the bars only on uphills or leaning into stiff winds, and then only when there's no traffic to watch. Otherwise I find the upright position terrific for riding in traffic.
Originally Posted by Kindaslow

BF has roughly 9,000 active members, which is very good for a hobby/sport forum. And, the roadies are usually the group with the most activity.
Pick whatever suits you, but don't expect web forum chatter to confirm anything other than the very limited demographic that dominates virtually every old school web forum, whether it's bicycles, cameras, cars, stereo equipment, whatever. Reification is the norm.
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Old 12-06-15, 09:58 PM
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I agree with the price is probably the #1 reason and requisite core muscle fitness second. Most of the posts in the Hybrid forum result in people buying $400-500 hybrids. A few buy hybrids up to $1000, but it's uncommon to see someone spend $2k on a carbon fiber hybrid.

Bike purchases are largely personal preference. As are car purchases.

I encourage people to ride whatever bike they want; it's getting on any bike that is the goal.
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