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Can You Ride Long Distances On A Hybrid?

August 2012
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The Hybrid

I found an interesting search this morning when checking out the site’s vitals:  Can you ride long distances on a hybrid?  Specifically a Specialized Sirrus…  I figured I’d give that question a stab because it’s a good one, and the actual answer is a more nuanced than some would think.

At $400, hell yes you can.  To tell you the truth, I’d dump $60 on some decent clip-less pedals first, but you ‘can’ get a century out of that bad boy, sure enough.  You want the right size and you absolutely need to spend a good deal of time setting it up (saddle height, handlebar reach, etc.) but I’m sure I’ll see a few in Fenton Saturday at the Tour des Lacs century.

The proper question is would you want to ride long distances on a hybrid?  I’ve got a Trek 3700 that I outfitted with road tires, effectively making it a hybrid (though with front shocks).  Last August, a couple of weeks before I bought my 1990 Cannondale SR400 I went on a 33 mile trip with the mountain bike…  I was just getting into longer rides back then and with Mrs. BigDaddy Jim away on vacation with the kids, I thought I’d stretch the legs a little bit.

That was my last long ride on the mountain bike (road or knobby tires).  When I bought my road bike the necessity of riding a hybrid, or my mountain bike with road tires, long distances went out the window for good.

Here’s a picture of both of my bikes…  My mountain bike is set up with the saddle higher than the bars, unlike the hybrid photo above, but I still catch the wind full in the chest when riding that bike.  If you look closely, even though the saddle heights are the same on both bikes, the bars on the road bike are a good 1-1/2 – 2″ lower, allowing me to cut into the wind better, and when I get into the drops, it’s not even close to a contest.  Also, the hybrids and mountain bikes tend to come with saddles that are quite a bit more cushy…  The saddle on the road bike might look more painful, but after you’ve put the proper time into getting it the right height (and you put on a pair of cycling specific shorts), it’s way more comfortable on the long trips – we’re talking an order of magnatude here, several times more comfortable.  Also, with a road bike, you’re running 23 mm tires instead of the 28-32 mm tires you’d find on a hybrid at a greater pressure of 30-45 psi depending on the tires – which decreases rolling resistence.

That said, there are people out there who like their hybrids, there are a couple of guys in our club who ride hybrids on our Tuesday night ride and I posted a comment from another guy the other day.  I can tell you for a fact, the hybrid guys in our club can only hang with the group for a couple of miles though.  They end up off on their own because the bikes are less efficient.  That ends up being the deciding factor when looking at hybrids or road bikes.  Do you want efficiency, or not.

The reality is, we do according to our training and we train to what we know (or like).  If you put in the miles on a hybrid, there is no doubt you can crank out long rides on them.

The question is, do you want to ride a hybrid long distances?  If that’s what you’ve got, then by all means, have at it and enjoy yourself.  If you’re shopping and have the cash, and are looking for long road rids, drop the coin on proper a road bike.  They’re far more comfortable than commonly thought, if set up correctly.

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10 Comments

  1. Sandra says:

    Yup! Whatever people ride, as long as they ride. Right?

  2. bikevcar says:

    You could ride a century on a penny farthing if you trained for it. Actually, you probably couldn’t

  3. Peter McArthur says:

    I did the coast to coast on a hybrid (Daves 601 Discoverer) last year and am currently training for the Tower to Tower (that’s Eiffel to Blackpool) and expect to average over 100 miles per day. So yes, you can do long distances on a hydbrid – it’s all amatter of taste and preference.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I know brother, I was being purposely flippant. My uncle did South Carolina to Mackinaw on a hybrid. Nice job on the coast to coast. That’s impressive legwork right there.

  4. Ginger Lange says:

    I know this thread is old, but I still want to chime in. I’m a middle aged female who ran for years before tearing a meniscus and transitioning to riding. Because of an old neck injury that resulted in a cervical spine fusion, I can’t ride on drop bars for long–holding my head up while leaning too far forward causes major neck/trap pain. I bought a Trek FX S 5, put 32mm road tires on it (for comfort and durability), and am doing lots of 20 to 45 mile rides. I do get passed by young riders (often in team jerseys) on the hilly greenways and parkways I’m usually on, but I also pass many riders and have yet to go out with anyone who can keep up on climbs–even though I’ve got fewer gears… Maybe that says more about my friends than my bike, but I think it has a whole lot to do with the rider’s fitness level. The FX is a nice, light bike, but it’s still got flat bars. I can maintain 18mph on flat (without a headwind) and have hit mid 30s going downhill — I honestly don’t want to go any faster. Not sure how I’d feel if I tried to ride more than 50 miles/day, but since my neck probably couldn’t tolerate that, it’s not an issue.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Ginger, whatever puts a smile on your face. I’m still stuck on the sexiness of the road bike but that’s just me and my opinion is no better than anyone else’s. If you love you’re hybrid, I love that you love it. Ride the wheels off of it, and thank you for sharing your experience.

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