Hybrid bikes on bike trails is a topic of debate for many bikers. While hybrid bikes are indeed made for both urban and trail riding, some cyclists say that such a bike is not good enough off-road. It leads us to the question — what should one be aware of when using a hybrid bike on trails.
It’s possible to ride hybrid bikes on trails. But hybrid bikes are intended for bike paths, and commuting. If the trail has obstacles like roots, rocks and steep hills a mountain bike is better suited. The term hybrid bike is a design blend of a mountain bike and road bike. Hybrids lack the suspension, frame strength and tires for “true” trail riding.
There are several things that you need to know when using a hybrid bike on a trail. However, you can make your hybrid bike stronger, so you can use it on trail riding.
There is no denying that hybrid bikes are popular. The reason is that they are versatile, allowing them to handle touring and wet streets easily. But are they suitable for trails?
The answer differs from one model to another. It depends on the tires, frame materials, suspension, and drivetrain used for the bike. That said, there are things that you need to be aware of if you want to use your hybrid bike on a trail.
Hybrid bikes either come without any suspension technology at all or only with a front fork suspension system. Meaning it does not have comprehensive suspension systems. As a result, this type of bike becomes light and efficient on roads.
However, the lack of a suspension system also limits the off-road capabilities of a hybrid bike. Without any suspension technology, a hybrid bike cannot insulate the roughness of bumpy trails.
So, if you want to use hybrid bikes on a bike trail, you need to choose a terrain that is not too bumpy. (source)
Is it a choice of getting a hybrid or mountain bike? Read this article: Differences Between Hybrid and MTB Bikes
Manufacturers incline the gearing of a hybrid bike towards speed. It also has fewer gearing options than trail-dedicated mountain bikes. The minimal gearing on hybrid bikes is that they are not designed for a wide range of trails.
In addition, the gearing on hybrid bikes starts at a higher point than a mountain bike’s gearing. For this reason, hybrid bikes can easily speed up when driven in an urban environment. However, the same configuration also limits the trail options where you can use your hybrid bike. For instance, it can be a little difficult and dangerous to ride fast on your hybrid bike in hard riding conditions. (source)
The tires used on hybrid bikes are unique in terms of design. This design provides the utmost comfort for road riding. In addition, it also provides the tires with grip when cyclists want to do some off-road riding.
Moreover, hybrid bike tires are not entirely smooth. But the pattern of their tread is also not too aggressive. For this reason, hybrid bikes on bike trails will only be a good idea if the trail is not too rough.
Tires can make a huge difference in how your bike performs. I often get asked, Can I Put Hybrid Tires on My MTB? <- so I wrote an article.
One major thing that you need to be aware of when it comes to hybrid bikes is the fact that they were made for practicality. Compared to a mountain bike that is meant for hardcore off-road riding, hybrid bikes feature many mounts. You can add panniers to these mounts, which will allow you to carry light items like bags and other items.
That means that hybrid bikes are lighter than regular mountain bikes. For this reason, using them on bumpy and rocky terrains will make you prone to fall more often and get discouraged.
But if you are biking on a light trail, a hybrid bike will allow you to do long-distance cycling.
5. Hybrid bikes have a different steering angle
Another thing worth noting about hybrid bikes is that they have a different geometry than trail-dedicated mountain bikes. The geometry of the bike frame determines:
- the position of the rider while riding the bike
- how the bike feels to ride
- how it handles trails
Hybrid bikes have many measurement differences in comparison to mountain bikes. So, if you want to use hybrid bikes on a bike trail, you need to get one with similar geometry to a mountain bike.
Mountain bikes have a slack head angle, low bottom bracket, and long tube top. These factors allow mountain bikes to be more stable when you are going through steep and rocky descents.
Additionally, the geometry of mountain bike frames improves how they steer around twisty and tight corners.
On the other hand, hybrid bikes do not have the geometry of a mountain bike frame. For this reason, you should not use them on rough and bumpy terrains. They might not support your weight when you are cycling downhill, which may cause you to have an accident. (source)
As the name suggests, you likely gleaned that a hybrid bike is a combination of a mountain bike and a road bike. This type of bike is suitable for casual riding and various types of terrain. Other compositions allow cyclists to use hybrid bikes on bike trails.
For instance, most hybrid bikes have flat bars, which is similar to what you can find on mountain bikes. Meaning the braking and shifting components are also very similar to mountain biking units. For this reason, cyclists who are using hybrid bikes will have an upright riding position, which is comfortable and safe on trails.
In addition, hybrid bikes also have larger volume tires in comparison to road bikes. So, they offer more comfortable riding than a regular road bike.
Moreover, there are hybrid bikes that are closer to mountain bikes than road bikes. If you have this kind of hybrid bike, you will be able to take on rough and bumpy trails. One good indicator of excellent hybrid bikes on rad trails is their wheel size. Hybrids equipped with the 26-inch format common on mountain bikes are more biased on off-road cycling.
However, hybrid bikes with suspension forks are less suitable for trail riding. While the suspension fork can provide comfort when going through bumpy terrain, it also offers limited use for off-road riding. (source)
Manufacturers made hybrid bikes to suit both road riding and some light trail cycling. But they cannot handle as much abuse, so you might not be able to use them on steep terrains.
Fortunately, there are several ways that you can make your hybrid bikes suited for off-road riding.
With the tips below, you will be able to comfortably use hybrid bikes on the bike trail.
Hybrid bike tires are not wide enough for rough trails. However, if you deflate them until they reach the correct pressure, you will be able to increase their road grip. The reason is that they will cover more surface area.
In addition, decreasing the tire pressure can provide additional suspension. The reason is that a tire with a little less pressure will absorb more bumps than a fully inflated tire. This way, cyclists will be able to use hybrid bikes on the bike trail.
Tire pressure is a big debate, I polled over a hundred riders to see what they recommend. Check it out in this article: HERE
Hybrid bike frames are best suited for smooth trails that do not have jumps. So, to prevent your hybrid bike from getting abused, you need to avoid riding your bike on rocky trails. If you want to use your hybrid bike on trail riding, you need to do it on less rocky trails and choose a terrain with a nice flow.
If you know the limits of your bike, you will be able to use its full capacity without stressing it too much.
The best thing that you can do to make the most out of your hybrid bike is choosing one with a fork suspension. The fork suspension located at the bike’s front will let you absorb more shocks than a hybrid bike without a suspension system.
If your hybrid bike has a front suspension system, it will feel smoother and more comfortable to ride on any terrain. (source)
There are different kinds of hybrid bikes:
- road bike-based hybrid bikes
- mountain bike-based hybrid bikes
- commuter hybrids
Out of these three hybrid bike types, the mountain bike-based hybrid bike is a perfect choice if you want to do some trail riding. Mountain bike-based hybrid bikes are designed to provide cyclists with the best off-road capabilities that a hybrid bike can have. This hybrid bike type comes with the widest tires, suitable for rough trails and steep hills.
In addition, mountain bike-based hybrid bikes have much stronger braking systems than road-based and commuter hybrid bikes. Their frames are also quite strong, so they can provide riders with additional safety when cycling on rough trails.
This bike is the best hybrid bike on a bike trail. However, mountain bike-based hybrid bikes do not have rear suspension and low travel front suspension. For this reason, they are bouncier when used on bumpy terrain, which can be uncomfortable for bikers. (source)
Learn more about Pedals, Handlebars and Brakes
- Handlebars on MTBs are wide, find out why – Why are MTB Handlebars so Wide?
- Should you upgrade your handlebars? Read – Are Handlebars Worth Upgrading?
- Universal pedals? Read all about it here – 9 Universal Pedals for Your MTB
- Learning how to Jump? Learn more with – How to Jump a MTB with Flat Pedals
- Keep your disc brakes clean – How to Clean Mountain Bike Disc Brakes
- Is their a difference? – Mountain Bike V-Brakes vs Disc
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.
- Gavin Wright and Ben Williams, Cycling For Dummies – UK, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=ncL3CQAAQBAJ&pg=PT65&dq=hybrid+bikes+on+trails&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwipz-ezpZzzAhXNed4KHQoSANM4ChDoAXoECAYQAg#v=onepage&q=hybrid%20bikes%20on%20trails&f=false, accessed September 25, 2021.
- Patrick Brady, The No-Drop Zone: Everything You Need To Know About The Peloton, Your Gear, And Riding Strong, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=U_MsDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA6&dq=hybrid+bike+gearing&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjC9vLQq5zzAhVVJaYKHaN0DQQQ6AF6BAgDEAI#v=onepage&q=hybrid%20bike%20gearing&f=false, accessed September 25, 2021.
- Roni Sarig and Paul Dorn, The Bike to Work Guide, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=KSLrDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT30&dq=hybrid+bikes&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiwmv-5o5zzAhVQzmEKHSECA14Q6AF6BAgFEAI#v=onepage&q=hybrid%20bikes&f=false, accessed September 25, 2021.
- Airman, Volume 48, Issue 6, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=riEwDaZ8o0QC&pg=PA19&dq=how+to+fix+hybrid+bikes+to+make+it+suitable+for+offroad+biking&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNqvn5qZzzAhXTDd4KHfSHDwUQ6AF6BAgCEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20fix%20hybrid%20bikes%20to%20make%20it%20suitable%20for%20offroad%20biking&f=false, accessed September 25, 2021.
- How To Choose The Best Hybrid, https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/hybrid_buyers_guide/, accessed September 25, 2021.