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The Down-Side of A Hybrid

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love my road bike, I do because it’s awesome.  It does one thing very well, it goes fast on a paved surface.  I also love my mountain bike, it’s awesome too, but for different reasons.  My mountain bike is good for three things:  Leisurely rides with my wife and kids, dirt roads and trail riding and it handles all three excellently.  The bike that I have a tough time understanding is the hybrid.  A hybrid attempts to take the best of a mountain bike and the best of a road bike and mush the two together – and from what I’ve seen, it does neither very well.  A hybrid, simply by the manner in which you ride it, upright, isn’t very fast.  My buddy Pete’s got a very nice hybrid with 700 x 38c road tires, and it’s not much faster than my mountain bike – if I install my 26″ road tires on it (only $20 each from my LBS) there’s no discernable difference.  At that point it’s more about the engine than the machine…  But that’s the point, why get a skinny tire bike that makes you sit on it like a fat tire bike and rob you of efficiency?

I just can’t get there in my head.  If any of you have an opinion on this, I’d love to hear it.  A friend of mine is talking about picking up biking because he’s got a fairly major back problem and was thinking hybrid until I changed his mind on Saturday to a mountain bike…

And that leads me to another interesting point that I picked up on Saturday at the bike shop…  I dropped by while it was raining on Saturday afternoon to pay for a mirror that the Matt had installed when I stopped in during my 35.5 miler on Friday and mentioned my friend – I’ve always assumed that road biking is not exactly good for one’s back – being hunched over miles on end to cut into the wind just never seemed like a good idea – or maybe better; it seemed like the opposite of what one would do to promote a healthy back and mentioned this to Matt.  His first recommendation was that my friend seek a doctor’s opinion first just to make sure he can ride, but then suggested that it’s been his experience that several people that he’s known over the years have reported that road cycling has actually helped them with back problems.

Now this gets interesting for me – I’ve always had lower back problems (or at least for the last 23 years I have).  Some days I was flat out miserable.  Last summer I bought a bite splint to wear at night (I wrote about that here) and that helped immensely, but I’d still have maybe one day every other week that required an Aleve or two to get me feeling right again…  But since I started road cycling I haven’t had a bad day since (I’ve had plenty of other aches and pains related to recovering from efforts, but nothing out of the ordinary).  There may actually be something to that.  I did a quick search and have pretty much struck out, all of the articles are related to why cycling does cause back pain and how to correct that, but I’ve been quite busy today and will be for the foreseeable future so I don’t have time to play around with narrowing the terms to find what I want – that’ll have to wait until I’m watching the Tigers game tonight.  Either way, I’ll see what I can come up with there.

In the mean time, I have been having some shoulder trouble (too much head up, body down, craning my neck) and I happened on a wonderful article with some easy fixes that have really made my shoulders and neck relax – and quickly.

If you’re having shoulder/neck pain, check this out – I’m making the stretches a part of my normal morning coffee routine.

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7 Comments

  1. jason says:

    i have a hybrid bike, a specialized sirrus elite, and it makes perfect sense really, ive never ridden a road bike and rarely do long distance rides, but i knew i never wanted a mountain bike for road riding so what did i do i got the one i was most comfortable on and made the most sense, a hybrid. i didnt need suspension, i didnt need knobbly tires, but i also didnt need the drop handlebars, super thin tires and ultra thin saddle.

    right i know i cant beat a good road bike for out and out top speed, but downhill i have achieved a respectable 40mph mostly freewheeling. ok on a good road bike with my engine downhill maybe i could do 5-10 mph more but hey i dont know all i know is my hybrid rarely lets me down.

    i understand the arguement here however a hybrid certainly has its place, its much better than a cheap mountain bike which because of being cheap is crap on mountains and it does not cost nearly as much as a high end roadie that lets face it needs a good stiff frame and great wheels to perform well.

    however dont get me wrong with the right cash injection theres no doubt an upgrade for me is a higher end road bike but until then the hybrid is going to let me race past teenagers on mtb’s and serve as a great commuter. what this article should be named is the downsides of a cheap mtb. to name but a few: cheap mountain bikes use cheap components, dont work on mountains very well and are slow, bouncy and outright silly to use as a road bike, 99% of cheap bikes are mountain bikes and are complete rubbish, for the same cost you can get a decent quality hybrid that does the same job much better because it saves on manufacturing costs due to needing no suspension or silly frame designs. so where they save on suspension costs and designs it makes up for with higher quality wheels and much lighter frames, often replacing silly cheap shocks for carbon forks.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Point taken, with an exception to cheap mountain bikes… If you’re talking about the bargain basement bikes, Huffy and so forth, fair enough, but the entry level Treks, C’dales, Giants and Scotts handle rough mountain biking conditions very well. The point there is you get what you pay for.

      Truth is, if you’re happy with your hybrid, my opinion doesn’t matter – I just failed to see the wisdom. Thanks for offering a different perspective.

  2. […] Fitness, Mountain Biking. Leave a Comment In a post I wrote back in May about a personal dislike for the hybrid bicycle , or more aptly stated, a lack of understanding as to why someone would want […]

  3. Edgar Menezes says:

    I love my hybrid as basically I ‘m not a fast rider and also do not do off road trails. Also I can ride at my own pace,admire the surroundings,scenery etc.Also better control of the bike due to raised handlebars and also decent speed.
    Edgar Menezes, Margao,Goa

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks for commenting Edgar. You use your hybrid as it was meant to be used, call it a faster version of a mountain bike – in between the slower ambling nature of the mountain bike and the all out speed of a road bike. Whatever keeps us happy and riding is all good…

  4. Abhinav Mehra says:

    Hey, I’m a tall guy with lower back issues (slip disk). I am looking to buy a bike. I was set on a Hybrid simply because I thought I should not be leaning forward for my back’s sake. Do you think a road bike would work better? For reference I am tall 6 foot 3 inches and this bike will be used for a 2.5 mile commute on paved surfaces twice a day.
    Thanks
    Abhinav

    • bgddyjim says:

      For a slipped disc I would consult my doctor first – especially considering that I don’t know how that will affect you bending over on your a bike. That said, I have always preferred riding low to the higher setup of the mountain bikes. If I was in your shoes and a sports doctor (a doctor who actually wants to see his patients be active) gave it the okay, I’d buy a road bike in a heart beat, knowing what I know now.

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