If you are looking for the best insights into hybrid vs road bike speed then you have come to the right place.
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, and 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 road bike speed and hybrid bike speed.
Average speed of hybrid and road bikes 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 headwind. The road bike averages 17.9 miles an hour across 14.8 miles of strong cross and headwinds.
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
Weight is one of the most obvious differences between a road bike and a hybrid bike even for people who are not cyclists. Weight tends to be highly significant on speed, particularly on uphill climbs. There are many things that inform the weight of a bike but overall road bikes are made of lighter components and materials which means they are usually lighter than hybrid bikes.
Road bike frames are now increasingly being made using carbon fiber composites as compared to hybrid bike frames which are meant to be more durable. In this regard, hybrids favor steel or aluminum frames, seat posts, stems, and handlebars and hence are usually heavier.
This usually has to do with the choice of material that is used for the frameset which usually impacts the stiffness of the bike and the ability to transmit power efficiently to the pedals and into the road. Modern carbon fiber frames come with high stiffness-to-weight ratios which means there is greater power output to generate more efficient movement. Hybrid bikes are usually made of more supple materials such as steel or aluminum which do not allow for efficient power transmission and hence there is marginal speed loss.
Geometry and aerodynamics
The geometry of a bike frame is one of the most important things which usually makes the road bike more aerodynamic as compared to the hybrid. Under normal circumstances, a rider’s body mass is about 90% of the aerodynamic drag that they produce while riding. with the bike only being responsible for about 10%.
Looking at bike geometry there are two crucial measurements that make bike geometry so important; the stack and the reach. The stack refers to the vertical measurement from the top head of the tube to the center of the bottom bracket. On the other hand, the reach is the same measurement but this time in horizontally.
Hybrid bikes usually have a shorter reach and higher stack which means they have a more comfortable ride due to the more upright position. On the contrary, road bikes come with a more aggressive geometry with a longer reach and shorter stack which means that the rider can adopt a more stretched and lower position on the bike.
The leaned forward position of a road bike frame means that you will be presenting a smaller frontal area thus resulting in lower aerodynamic drag. Lower drag while producing the same power usually means that you have more speed and hence the geometry will mean the road bike will always be faster than the hybrid bike.
Bars (drop vs flat)
Handlebars tend to be the most obvious visual difference between a hybrid bike and a road bike but apart from the difference in looks it massively influences aerodynamics which usually results in a very large difference in speed. Hybrid bikes come with wide flat bars that provide greater control and comfort at lower speeds while they force the rider to adopt a wide position with open shoulders and arms which is usually not very aerodynamic.
Road bikes usually come with drop bars as handlebars which are typically lower, and narrower and allow the rider to tuck in their arms and shoulders into a more aerodynamic and efficient position which means you can attain faster speeds.
Gear ratios tend to be a consequence as opposed to a cause of road bikes being faster than hybrid bikes. The reason for this is that hybrid bikes are designed to make for a more comfortable ride on different terrain. The gear ratios that are installed on the drivetrains of hybrid bikes are typically much smaller than those on road bikes which means you can attain higher cadences at lower speeds for easy pedaling.
For instance, the biggest gear that you could ride your bike with is the 45TX11T while some road bikes come with up to 53TX11T. As long as you can pedal at the same cadence the speed difference between these two gear ratios will be about 8.5 km/h after on the road bike.
Road bikes are known to come with thinner tires as compared to other bikes such as hybrid bikes and mountain bikes. The critical reason for the tire choice has to do with reducing rolling resistance between asphalt and rubber thus increasing speed.
According to studies, the optimal tire width that will reduce rolling resistance on tarmac roads to a minimum is between 25 and 28 mm which is the standard road tire width of a modern road bike. Hybrid bikes tend to have wider tires that sometimes go as high as 40 mm in width and in doing so they sacrifice speed so that they can provide a more comfortable ride on city rides or long commutes.
Road Bike vs Hybrid Speed: Why is a road bike faster than a hybrid?
In general road bikes are faster than hybrid bikes because of tire width, riding position, and weight. Road bikes tend to be lightweight especially if you go for the high-end ones 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 is 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 a 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 bike 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 was 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, the following are some of the ways to improve your hybrid:
- Shorten the handlebars – Move the grips, brakes, and shifters 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 – Your 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 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.
A different purpose
Based on the factors and characteristics above, it is clear that road bikes will more often than not be faster as compared to hybrid bikes. However, it is important to note that the bikes are clearly intended for different purposes rather than just pure speed.
Hybrid bikes are made for utility and comfort and hence they tend to be durable machines that are used for day-to-day rides as they can tackle different terrain from excursions on back roads over gravel paths and city commutes through steep alleys.
In contrast, road bikes tend to be performance machines that are only intended to get you from one point to another as long as they are ridden on the tarmac. However, they are also designed to deliberately disregard convenience and comfort.
How much faster is a road bike than a hybrid
The road bike is about 8 km/h faster than a hybrid bike over moderate distances even with tougher conditions such as riding in crosswinds or headwinds
How fast can a hybrid bike go: Hybrid bike top speed
A hybrid bike can attain speeds of between 12-18 miles an hour