Round Up: High-end Hybrids

Cyclescheme, 24.10.2012

Round Up: High-end Hybrids

Just because you don't want a specialised bike, it doesn't mean you don't want a good one. Here's what to look for in a £1,000 hybrid.

By definition, hybrids are not one-trick ponies; they're a blend of other bike types. Even a multipurpose bike is better at some tasks than others, however, so it makes sense to pick the hybrid that does best what you do most often.

If you want a bike for fast commuting and fitness rides, a flat-bar road bike is a good choice. For low-maintenance dependability and steady-paced trips, a hub geared hybrid or trekking hybrid might be better. And if you want to take in forest tracks as well as tarmac roads, a do-it-all hybrid will be more capable.

Almost every £1,000 hybrid will have a lightweight aluminium frame, with fittings for mudguards and usually a rear pannier rack. The fork may be carbon fibre, which saves a bit more weight, or aluminium, which saves money that the manufacturer can spend on other components.

Some hybrids will have a short-travel suspension fork, primarily for use off-road. Useful features include: preload adjustment, which lets you adjust the initial sag of the spring to better suit your bodyweight; lockout, which lets you turn the suspension partially or completely off; and rebound damping, which stops the fork springing back from bumps like a pogo stick. Air sprung forks are rare at this price but are better.

At £1,000, the gears will likely be from a mid-range 10-speed groupset such as Shimano SLX (mountain bike/trekking); Shimano Tiagra (road); Sram Apex (road); or Sram Via (urban). Sometimes the bike will have a mix of road and off-road groupsets. Whether the bike has a single, double or triple chainset – 10, 20 or 30 gears – is less important than the overall range.

Many bikes are too highly geared. Count the teeth on the smallest chainring and the biggest sprocket (which is bottom gear) and the biggest chainring and the smallest sprocket (top gear). Unless you're fit or your commute is flat, you'll want a bottom gear of around 1:1, maybe less. For riding at speed, you'll want a top gear of around 3:1 or more. Top gear won't be a problem on any hybrid; bottom gear might.

Wheels and tyres will depend on the focus of the bike. Skinny tyres and lightweight wheels best suit lighter weight riders. If you're heavier than average, wheels with 32 or even 36 spokes will limit breakages, while tyres 28mm or wider – inflated to the upper pressure limit that's stamped on the side of the tyre – will help prevent pinch punctures from potholes.

Entry-level hydraulic disc brakes, such as Avid Elixir 1 or Shimano M446, are common on £1,000 hybrids. These are progressive and powerful, much more so than the mechanical disc brakes fitted to cheaper hybrids. Flat-bar road bikes may use rim brakes, either linear pull (V-brakes) or sidepull. These are fine; just make sure there's room for mudguards underneath if you plan to fit them.

Here's a handful of different £1,000 hybrids, to give you an idea of what's on offer.

  Specialized Sirrus Expert
Specialized Sirrus Expert

A flat-bar road bike with an aluminium frame and a carbon fibre fork, the Sirrus Expert is a fast, lightweight fitness bike and commuting machine for the rider who doesn't like drop bars. Gear range is better than many flat-bar road bikes because Specialized have fitted Sram Apex: this has the standard 50-34 road compact double chainset but a wider range (11-32) cassette. There's more room for mudguards too, as it has V-brakes rather than sidepull brakes. An anatomic saddle and flared grips with bar ends provide more contact-point comfort than you might expect from a bike with 28mm tyres. The Vita range is the women's equivalent.

 £1,000
 
 
   Whyte Stirling
Whyte Stirling

With an aluminium frame, carbon fork, and a weight of less than 10kg, the Stirling might seem like any other flat-bar road or fitness bike. Yet it's quite a bit further along the sliding scale from road bike to mountain bike. It has Avid Elixir 1 hydraulic disc brakes, the rear fitted to the chainstay so it won't interfere with a rear pannier rack. It uses Sram Via gearing, which has a smaller double chainset than a road compact and so slightly easier gears for hills. And it has steadier straight line steering, thanks to a shallower head tube angle and a longer wheelbase; if you hit a rough patch of road on the way to work, you'll appreciate this. 

 £999.99

www.whytebikes.com

   Scott Sub 10
 Scott Sub 10

The Sub 10 has a fit-and-forget Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub, which allows slick gearshifts while stationary at the traffic lights. With the 22-tooth sprocket fitted, it's like having a 14-42 cassette. Look closely, though: that's a toothed belt rather than a chain. It's not as efficient as a well-oiled chain but it will never go rusty or rub oil onto your trousers. The frame comes apart at the rear dropouts when you need to fit a new belt, while an eccentric bottom bracket enables you to tension the belt correctly. The Sub 10 is rack and mudguard ready, and it has decent hydraulic discs and shock-absorbing 37mm tyres.

£999

www.scott-sports.com

  Trek 8.6 DS
Trek 8.6 DS

'DS' stands for dual sport. It's a do-it-all hybrid, designed for tarmac and off-road tracks such as towpaths, bridleways and hazard-free forest tracks. The SR Suntour NRX fork is a pre-load adjustable coil unit with 63mm travel that can be locked out when you're on road. Tyres are 700x38C, with enough tread not to slip on tracks but not so much that they'll drag on tarmac. The Shimano M446 hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano SLX/XT gears are what you'd find on a mountain bike at this price, except that the the 26-36-48 chainset is better suited to the higher speeds on road. The women's equivalent is the Neko range.

£1,000

www.trekbikes.com

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