If you just want ‘a bike’, you probably want a hybrid. It’s the jack-of-all-trades machine, with features borrowed from road, mountain, touring and town bikes. In the Venn diagram of overlapping bike varieties, the do-it-all hybrid sits at the centre.
There are sub-species of hybrid that lean more towards one usage than others: flat-bar road bikes and urban mountain bikes are sportier and more rugged respectively, while trekking bikes are more like tourers. The ‘standard’ hybrid that we’re focusing on here is more generic.
Features include a flat handlebar, 700C wheels with touring-width tyres, wide range gears, disc or V-brakes, and the facility to fit practical accessories such as mudguards and a pannier rack. Few hybrids come with these accessories but, since most cost well under £1,000, you should easily be able to include them as part of your Cyclescheme request.
These days hybrids are often called ‘street bikes’. In the past they’ve been marketed as ‘town and trail bikes’, and that description is more accurate. With tyres as fat as a cyclo-cross bike’s, and with enough tread for towpaths and tracks, a hybrid is equally at home on tarmac roads and gentle off-road trails.
Some hybrids come with a budget suspension fork. Until you’re spending closer to £1000 than £500, this will tend to add more to a bike’s weight than its performance. For the kind of terrain most hybrids will tackle, fat tyres alone will provide ample bump absorption and a more efficient ride. If you do want a suspension fork, you won’t need much travel – between 50 and 80mm is enough for a hybrid – but you will benefit from some adjustability. A fork with a suspension lockout lever and rebound control is much better than a simple, undamped spring.
Most hybrids use a ‘trekking’ triple chainset that’s sized mid-way between a mountain bike’s and a road bike’s, and this provides a good range of gears. If you want gears that go even lower, you can substitute a mountain bike chainset, so long as the front derailleur is adjusted.
Before choosing your hybrid, check in the shop that it will accept the tyre widths and accessories of your choice. The straddle cable of mini V-brakes (as opposed to full-size V-brakes) may sit too low for mudguards, while mechanical disc brake callipers can interfere with the fitting of pannier racks.
Specialized Globe Work
The Work is a simple, sturdy hybrid that?s also quite light thanks to its aluminium frame and rigid steel fork. There are fittings for mudguards and pannier racks front and rear, so you could use it for touring holidays or hauling groceries as well as commuting. A softer, wider saddle suits the bike?s leisurely and more upright riding position. The tyres have a protective belt under the tread to help shrug off potential punctures and the 38mm width will cope with potholes. The drivetrain is cheap but not nasty: while the cassette is only 7-speed, its 12-32T range gives a good spread of gears. The Work is also available with a step-through frame. Sizes: XS-XL (step through: XS-L).
Scott Sub 30
Scott?s ?speed utility bike? is lighter yet, thanks to better quality components and an aluminium fork to match the frame. An aluminium fork is less forgiving than steel, but with chunky 37mm tyres it?s not an issue. The tyres are 700C; the Sub range used to be offered with 26in wheels too but has now migrated entirely to the bigger wheel size. Budget hydraulic disc brakes provide excellent stopping power in all weathers, and the rear calliper is on the chainstay where it won?t interfere with the legs of a rear pannier rack. Scott offer a dedicated mudguard and rack set that they call ?Urban Kit?, although other brands will fit. Gearing is 27-speed Shimano Acera. Sizes XS-XL.
Ridgeback Dual Track Quest
?Dual Track? gives a good indication of where the aluminium framed, steel forked Quest can be ridden. The 700x35C Maxxis Larsen Mimo tyres have enough tread and shock absorbency for unsurfaced tracks and city streets alike. Gearing is 27-speed, a decent quality mix of Shimano?s Acera and Deore groupsets. Brakes are entry-level hydraulic discs, like you?d get on a mountain bike at this price. Hydraulic callipers are less bulky than mechanical ones, so it will be possible to fit a pannier rack despite the rear?s position on the seatstay. For £100 less, there?s the Dual Track Advance, which has 24-speed gearing and mechanical disc brakes. Sizes: 16.5, 18.5, 21in.
Marin Muirwoods 29er
Like almost all urban mountain bikes, the Marin Muirwoods has upsized to 700C wheels ? called 29er wheels when fitted with fatter tyres like these 42mm ones. And you could fit fatter tyres yet, such as Schwalbe?s Big Apples, for total town comfort, or 29er mountain bike tyres, for off-road excursions. The chrome-moly steel frame and fork allow the fitting of racks and mudguards too. Gearing is a 24-speed, mostly Shimano Acera. Brakes are mechanical rather than hydraulic discs, a slight let down at this price, but the locking quick releases for the wheels and seatpost are a shrewd addition to an urban bike, as thieves won?t be able to walk off with bits of your bike. Sizes: 17, 19, 20, 22in.
Cheap doesn’t have to mean nasty. Choose wisely and you can buy a decent new commuter bike for £250 or less.
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