Hybrid bikes have recently grown in popularity given that they are a combination of mountain bikes and road bikes which have been some of the most popular bikes in decades.
Road bikes have always been loved for their overall performance style and speed as compared to mountain bikes. However the mountain bike allows one to ride on different surfaces including pavement, gravel, and even go off road. However if you are looking for something with speed rather than a bike for off-roading, then you have to compare the road bike and the hybrid.
Average Speed of Hybrid and Road Bike Compared
In a real world study the average speed of a hybrid bike was 13.5 miles an hour across 17.8 miles with no head wind. The road bike averages 17.9 miles an hour across 14.8 miles of strong cross and head winds.
Over long distances of up to 200 km, it is possible to get an average speed of up to 18km/hr. However, for a semi-professional getting 20km/hr on a hybrid is a good speed on a hybrid bicycle. Professional bikers or even just very good cyclists can usually beat these speeds over short distances. On the other hand, a professional riding a road bike will typically average 30 to 35km/hr over moderate distances.
Looking at the raw data, it is clear that if you are looking for speed then you are better off riding a road bike over a hybrid bike.
Differences Between the Hybrid and Road Bike
- Riding Position – The architecture of the bike including the rider position, gearing, bike frame, and wheel sizes all play a role in speed. Road bikes have drop bar handles which necessitate the rider to be stretched out in front and leaning low which reduces wind resistance and drag through streamlining. Road bikes also have longer wheelbases that allow the rider to be stretched out for a more streamlined position.
- Comfort – Hybrid bicycles tend to be made for comfort rather than speed and usually have shorter wheelbases making it hard for the rider to adopt a streamlined position. Moreover, hybrid bikes come with wide tires, flat handlebars that necessitate an upright position which all cause drag and wind resistance thus reducing the hybrid bike’s speed.
- Gearing – Road bike has better gearing as it allows for more flexibility in a variety of conditions. With a road bike one can pedal more efficiently in different grade of terrain as compared to hybrids which are built for generally flatter terrain. As such, one is likely to get more efficiency and overall speed in a road bike over a hybrid
Why Are Road Bikes Faster Than Hybrids?
In general road bikes are faster than hybrid bikes because of tire width, riding position and weight. Road bikes tend to be lightweight espe4cially if you go for the high-end one which also come with lighter and smaller wheels. This means they can attain very high speed on paved surfaces as compared to a hybrid even if they are not as good on less favorable terrain.
The light frame and wheels are particularly significant in improving the speeds of a road bike. However, it is important to note that saving a few grams on the wheels of your bike will usually result in twice as much impact as compared to saving the same on the frame.
Another feature that makes the road bike faster than the hybrid bike is the drop handlebars. This allows the rider to have a more aerodynamic riding position as they ride low by leaning forward on the handlebars. This means that they slip through the air more easily as compared to the more upright rider on a hybrid with flat handlebars.
The last feature of the road bike is the skinnier tires which cause less friction thus allowing one to achieve very high speeds with lesser effort. However, it is important to note that initial acceleration on a road bike from a standstill us usually slower. Once inertia has been built up the thin tires usually make it possible to move forward very fast.
Can you use a hybrid bike as a road bike?
A hybrid bike can be used as a road bike since it has several features and similarities to a road bike. As a combination of a mountain bike and road bike, hybrids have the speed of a road bike and the comfort you would get riding a mountain bike.
However, the hybrid bike cannot be used for very specialized functions of the road bike such as high-speed racing. Still with a few modifications such as drop handlebars a hybrid bike can be used just like a road bike for long-distance riding though it will not be as fast given that it has thicker tires than the road bike.
It is important to note that riders’ interests and needs tend to overlap across the purposes of both hybrid bikes and road bikes. As such, it is important to determine what use you intend to use the bike for before you purchase one. If you need a high-speed bike for pavement or long-distance riding, then the road bike is definitely your best bet. If you need a bike for shorter commutes or leisure riding, then a hybrid bike would be best.
Hybrid vs Road Bike for Long Distance
When it comes to long distances road bikes are the clear winner since they tend to have better efficiency and speed. However, if you are reasonably fit, you can go up to 80km on a great hybrid bike which is quite some distance.
If you will be riding for more than that, then the efficiency and speed of a road bike clearly win out. However, if you are using a bike for a short commute say less than 20km you would find the hybrid is good for the purpose as it is more comfortable over short distances.
Road Bike Tires vs Hybrid
Road bikes typically come with thin and smooth tires and dropped handlebars. They are also designed to be driven with the rider in a forward-leaning position making it excellent for high-speed cycling or other racing endeavors.
The typical hybrid bike comes with very wide tires as compared to the road bike. Given the flat handlebars, you will usually have to ride upright though not as upright as a rider on a mountain bike. This makes them more comfortable but sacrifices significant efficiencies in streamlining.
If you are riding on smooth surfaces such as pavement the road bike will for the most part beat even the best hybrid bike given that it is lighter in weight and has slimmer tires. However, the hybrid bike wins on dirt, or gravel and tends to be more comfortable.
How to Make a Hybrid Bike Faster
While the road bike is overall faster than the hybrid bike there are several ways to increase the performance of your hybrid bike to make it go farther and faster. If you do not have the money for a fast road bike, you the following are some of the ways to improve your hybrid:
- Shorten the handlebars – Move the grips, brakes and shifters in which would have the effect of making your body smaller and more streamlined.
- Lower the handlebars – Lower handlebars would make you lean into the wind reducing wind resistance and drag.
- Add bar ends – Provides a greater variety of hand positions and better leverage from a standing position in steep inclines.
- Use Clipless Pedals or Toe Straps – Get a good shoe with a smooth and stiff sole, reinforced top, and pointed toe.
- Find Tires with Smoother Treads – You local bike shop will probably allow you to remove the wider 35 or 35-inch tires and get 28s at the shop for free. If they will not you can buy them wherever you can get them.
- Pedal for Cadence rather than Power – If you grew up riding single speed bikes, you would instinctively pedal heavily for speed. However, with a hybrid a steady and quick cadence provides more power and speed.
- Buy a Bike Computer – Having the knowledge of how much speed you are generating right there helps feed the internal reward system and helps you enhance what is working.
- Wear Padded Gloves and Bike Shorts – These are more comfortable and will enable you to concentrate on the cycling which will make you more efficient.
- Remove Accessories – If you are not using some accessories such as lights, baskets, and cup holders, you can remove them to make the bike lighter for greater speed.