Hybrid and Commuter Bikes

Hybrid and Commuter Bikes

One of the greatest aspects of riding a bike is that there are so many options available; what type of bike you need, the type of riding that you want to do, where you want to ride, race or not, on road or off. Many people will look at all these different options in order to choose a bicycle that will open everything up and allow them to ride on and off road, commute to work or potter down to the shops. To cater for these types of cyclists, manufacturers design and produce a range of cycles called hybrids. They combine features of mountain and road models to provide a multi purpose bicycle. Like a mountain bike they have a wide gear ratio and upright straight handlebars, but they also share the narrower tyres more suitable for riding on the road.

 

Commuter Cycles

Commuter Cycles

Hybrids often feature larger road cycle wheels to make commuting on the road less effort. Hybrid bicycles are great for casual cycling such as commuting and many will be well suited to riding smooth dirt roads. The range of models in this category is vast and can be quite daunting to those who are still unsure about what they are looking for. To help with this important decision we have divided the hybrid bikes that we sell into three distinct categories: Sport, City and Comfort. Hopefully this will allow us to explain what each type of hybrid can offer and should enable you, the buyer, to match your needs to the perfect cycle.

 

Comfort Bikes

Just as their name suggests, comfort bikes are designed to provide a comfortable ride whether on the road or on rougher terrain, such as a tow path. Like MTBs, many will come with 26” wheels (although some will have 700c wheels) and mountain bike tyres. These wider tyres hold a greater air volume and so can be run at lower pressures to provide a very comfortable ride that absorbs the bumps and offers greater puncture protection. The geometry of the bicycles gives the rider an upright and relaxed position which can alleviate any back pain, while still allowing good handling.

Commuter Frame Design

 

Frame Design

The frames will be made out of a variety of materials from steel to aluminium - all designed to be durable, strong and cope with the worst that the terrain and the weather can throw at them. Limited suspension is often included, either on the forks or in the seat post and on many designs in both places. This suspension will not allow you to cycle over large rocks off road but will smooth out the bumps on rough roads or smoother off road sections.

 

Pannier Attachments

Comfort bikes will also often be designed and manufactured to allow the fitting of pannier racks to carry everything you might need for a ride. Often the comfort, stability and strength of these bicycles make them ideal for carrying child seats or pulling a trailer so that the rest of the family can come along when you are going out for a ride. The bikes don’t have to break the bank and can range from £150-£600. At the lower end you will get basic gears and a steel frame, whilst as the price rises, increasing amounts of suspension are used, as well as aluminium frames, more gears, better shifting and accessories such a mud guards might be included.

 

City Bikes

With congestion in towns and cities adding to the cost and time spent travelling to work, more people are choosing to commute to work using their legs and getting on a bicycle. This is both good for the rider’s health and their wallet as many government initiatives reward employees for cycling. Schemes such as the Boost scheme and Cycle Scheme allow bicycles to be purchased tax free through your wages. In town centres, cycle lanes make riding easier and safer. All of these contributing factors mean that more and more people are using common sense and getting on their bikes. Recognising this fact the manufacturers are now producing excellent ranges of hybrids that are specifically designed for the daily commute.

 

Inner City Cycling

Inner City Cycling

Hybrid bikes are designed to get you to work with your bags, clothing and body in the best possible condition. A huge budget is not a pre-requisite as you don’t want a carbon-fibre frame to worry about when it is parked up in a busy street. Most models will be designed to last, with steel or aluminium frames able to cope with all weather conditions and the heavy loads that a fully laden bike has to withstand. Normally city cycles come with 700c road wheels and narrower tyres than those found on a comfort bike for lower rolling resistance and easier riding.

 

High Traffic Visibility

The position will be upright to offer good visibility in traffic. Importantly, most city bicycles come with mud guards to keep the worst of the spray and the dirt away from your clothes. Pannier racks are also likely be included to enable the transportation of extra clothing, laptops and work papers. Expect to pay anything from around £200 which will buy you a basic steel framed model with reliable gears. Spending up to £800 will get you a lightweight, fast commuter bike made from aluminium with quality components often taken from road cycles, but still strong enough to cope with full pannier racks

 

Sports Hybrid

Sports Hybrid

If you’re keen to keep fit and go on longer rides, a sports hybrid should provide the answer. These bikes come with 700c wheels just like road cycles and narrow tyres (often around 700x 28-32) to offer extra comfort and puncture resistance. The riding position is less upright, though not low like a racing cycle. The frame will range in materials from steel to aluminium but will be far lighter than a city and comfort bike which makes riding up hills a doddle.

 

Converted Touring Cycles

The bicycles will not come with mudguards or panniers but the frames will allow them to be fitted, with many making ideal touring bikes that can be converted for the commute to work. If you are looking for a cycle to use both in the week, to get to work, but also want a model for a leisure ride at the weekend, this could be the style for you. The gear ratios are less like an MTB (still giving a broad range) but will often give a higher ratio to make the most of fast roads and downhill runs. Sports hybrids are a really fun way to enjoy recreational riding for those who want a little bit more speed and wish to cycle greater distances enjoying the country lanes. Expect to pay £200 for a basic steel framed design with grip shift gears. Spending up to £800 will get you an aluminium frame, quick fire gears and often better brakes including some with disc brakes.

Here is quick check list of what each type of hybrid commuter cycle has to offer.

 

Frame Materials

The frame is a crucial component as without it you would have no bike! The materials that they are made out of can vary greatly, with each material offering different strengths, ride feel and prices. Here is a brief list of the most common materials used in manufacturing hybrids.

 

  • High-Tensile Steel
    PROS: Strong, most affordable, comfortable ride; usually found on entry-level bikes 
    CONS: heavy and can rust if not cared for
  • Chromoly Steel
    PROS: An affordable steel alloy that gives a light weight and a comfortable ride 
    CONS: Can still rust if not cared for; more expensive than High-Tensile Steel
  • Aluminium
    PROS: Light, strong, affordable, rust/corrosion resistant, great ride 
    CONS: More expensive than High-Tensile Steel, the ride can be harsher than steel
  • Carbon/Aluminium composites
    PROS: Light strong and rust/corrosion resistant, comfortable ride 
    CONS: Most expensive, can be susceptible if a crash occurs and is hard to repair.

 

Gearing

Hybrids borrow the gear systems from road bikes and MTBs depending on the type of riding. Most comfort and city bicycles will use mountain bike gears systems that include a wide ratio of gears, using either seven, eight or nine cogs on the rear wheel with normally 14-36 teeth.

Commuter Gears

As a general rule the more you pay, the more gears you get, with seven speed models at the lower end and nine speeds at the top end. The cycles will have three chainrings at the front on the chainset, normally with 48, 38, 28 teeth that will enable the rider to climb the most demanding of hills if the legs are willing. The gears are changed using a variety of systems either with a grip shift where a simple twist of the wrist is used to change gear (normally found on lower end bikes) or different types of quick fire thumb levers that are all sequenced using two levers on your bars.

 

Sports Cycle Gearing

Many sport bikes will still use MTB gears, but as the price rises over £400 models start to feature road bike systems. These hybrids will still normally use three chainrings to provide a good spread of gears. The major manufacturers of components used by bicycle companies for the gears on their hybrid cycles are Shimano and SRAM who make a range of gear components at all price points. Both companies offer great value and performance however Shimano are the larger brand so their gears will be found on more designs.

Front Suspension

 

Suspension

With the growth of MTB riding, suspension technology has improved dramatically with several well known manufacturers such as Fox and Rock Shox pushing each other to develop better systems. Some of this technology is finding its way into hybrid bicycles, not to enable them to jump rocks but to ever increase their smoothness; cutting out road vibration and bumpy uneven paths. The suspension works simply by compressing and absorbing impacts to give greater control when the wheel would otherwise jolt underneath.

 

The most common type of suspension employed in the forks use coil springs or elastomers with varying amounts of movement or travel - anywhere between 20mm and 60mm. The more you have the rougher the surface you can ride over, but most hybrids will sway towards the shorter travel. If you require more suspension you would be better off looking through our mountain bike section.

Suspension Seatpost

 

Suspension Seat Posts

The other way to damp down the ride is to fit a suspension seat post. These are an inexpensive way of smoothing out the bumps and can also be easily added to your rigid bike at a later date. They provide suspension and comfort exactly where it is needed, under the seat. They absorb vibration and impacts that would otherwise be transmitted to your seat and lower back. You will be very surprised how much difference a suspension seat post can make to the feel of your bicycle on rough terrain and roads covered in pot holes.

Commuter V-Brakes

 

Brakes

Stopping your bike is of course all important for your own safety and those around you. It can be particularly important to have well maintained brakes on hybrids as many are used in traffic with cars all around. A good set of brakes will give you control of your speed and great stopping power to suddenly come to a halt. Most hybrid cycles are equipped with rim brakes called V-brakes which are linear or direct pull brakes operated by cables attached to levers on the bars. These are easy to maintain, have good performance and are relatively inexpensive to replace.

Commuter Disc Breaks

Meanwhile, the less common disc brakes are being used more and more, especially on specific city / commuter bikes. They work in a similar way to car brakes, with hydraulic fluid in hoses closing callipers at the base of the fork that close around metal discs on the hub. The braking systems are extremely powerful and reliable but can be expensive and so will normally only be found on models at the top of each manufacturer’s range.

Hub brakes are the third kind of brake that manufacturers use. They are integral to the front and rear hubs on the wheels, slowing the hub and stopping the bike. They are usually found on bicycles designed for less rigorous riding as they trade durability and easy maintenance for stopping power. So for everyday use in all weathers where the brakes fitted need to be reliable and easy to adjust, V-brakes are often preferred. For short journeys to the shops hub brakes would be the ideal solution.

Commuter Saddles

 

Saddles

One of the most important areas of a bicycle is the saddle as it is the major point of contact between the rider and the bike. Saddle choice can be a very personal one as many seemingly comfy, well padded saddles will not necessarily suit a cyclist’s seat bones and so can actually be very uncomfortable. Shape is everything and some will find the more minimalist saddles fit better and thus be more comfortable. Designers have put a lot of time and money into researching ergonomics and comfort features to try and provide many different shapes to suit all types of rear. All sorts of foam and gel padding allow the rider to remain seated on rougher roads.

Manufacturers such as Selle Italia and Fizik have created anatomical shapes and cut outs that will relieve and hopefully eliminate pressure on soft tissue and prevent numbness and pain. Other features to look out for can include flexible frames and cushioned springs, with many of these features coming included in one seat.

There is no definitive guide to choosing a saddle with trial and error the best way. When you find the correct seat, remember who makes it, which model it is so that when you need to change the seat or bicycle you know exactly which one to purchase.

 

Size of Bike

Although it is not as vital to get a perfect fit for a hybrid bike compared to a road cycle, it is still very important for control, safety and to prevent joints such as your knees and back hurting. A general sizing guide is listed below.

 

Saddle Height

All hybrid bicycles will come with adjustable seat posts to get the correct saddle height and pedaling efficiency when set to the ideal position. To find the right position, sit on the saddle with one leg hanging free and your hips square (not tilting to either side). Set the saddle high enough so that your other heel can just touch the pedal with your leg straight, and with the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, in line with the seat tube. For most people this results in a saddle height that leaves some bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke, when you're pedalling with the balls of your feet over the axle of the pedals. It should also prevent you from having to rock your hips through each crank rotation. This should get you close enough to your optimum saddle height in the absence of a proper bike fitting.

 

Handlebars

Remember that on many comfort cycles the stem can be adjusted to get the correct reach to the handlebars. Handlebar shapes vary with flat bars often found on sports hybrids and more curved riser bars popular on comfort / city bikes. Other bar shapes such as butterfly bars can be found on some models and offer alternative hand positions which add to the comfort. At AW Cycles if you like the bicycle but are not sure about a particular aspect (such as the shape of the bars), don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team who will be able to change or adjust certain aspects of the bike.

 

Hybrid Bike Accessories

When purchasing you hybrid bike we recommend that when you set a budget leave some room to purchase the riding and commuting essentials of locks, lights, pannier racks and panniers. Clothing and helmets are also a vital aspect of riding on the road and can make all the difference to you enjoyment of the ride and your safety both in terms of protecting your head and your visibility to other road users. For more information on the types of clothing and helmets have a look through our clothing guides.

 

Lights & head lamps

When cycling in fading light or in the dark on the road, the law requires the rider to have a front light and a rear red light. It is also common sense from a safety point of view both to help you see where you are going and most importantly to allow cars to see you. Bicycle lighting essentially comes in four different types.

At the lower end of the price range are standard battery filament bulb lights, which will allow cars to see you and are sufficient for riding around lit streets. They tend to be large and quite battery thirsty.

Commuter Lights

The second type is LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights that are very powerful, energy efficient and small. Depending on the amount of LEDs in a light they can be suitable for town riding or for limited use on unlit roads.

The third type is rechargeable battery lights, designed with a variety of different rechargeable units that attach to the bike and light either LED or standard filament bulbs. These lamps are very powerful and can be used in pitch black environments such as forests, but they are very power hungry and need to be charged after each outing

The fourth type is a dynamo which works with a generator rubbing on the tyre to create power for bulb or Led. These are by far the most energy efficient lights and with modern technology are no longer the heavy units they used to be.

Commuter Pannier Racks

 

Pannier Racks – Front

Front pannier racks can be attached in many different ways, with some attaching to specific braze on clamps on the front forks and others able to attach with or without. All are designed to carry either a front bag and/or front panniers either side of the wheel. Many will have a maximum weight limit so check before purchasing if you are planning to carry heavy loads.

Pannier Racks – Rear

Most racks are designed to fit a broad section of bikes and frame sizes. If you are in any doubt contact us for advice on whether the rack will fit your model. Some racks are more heavily built than others and so will carry heavier loads - anything between 20-35kg.

 

Pannier Racks – Rear Beam

Beam racks are designed to clip onto the seatpost of the bicycle with an easy clamp. They can be a convenient and quick solution for commuters and trail cycles so that the rider can carry light loads and easily remove the rack when it is not needed. These rear racks are very much weight limited so be sure to check to see the weight each model is designed to accept.

 

Pannier Bags

Commuter pannier bags

Pannier bags come in all different shapes and sizes and designed to fit on front, rear or side pannier racks. They come in many different sizes ranging from as little as five litres all the way up to 50 litres which can carry everything you might need for a spot of cycle touring. Most are very weather resistant with many coming with extra waterproof covers to keep everything inside dry. Companies such as Vaude and Topeak manufacture sets of pannier bags designed to work with side panniers, so that they can fit securely onto your bicycle and use the space efficiently.

 

Handlebar Bags

Commuter handle bar bags

These bags fit onto you handlebars and provide useful extra storage for commuting or touring or simply transporting the shopping. They range in size but can have an effect on control and the handling of the bike so can’t be too big. The carriers quickly and simply attach to the bars with brackets so that it can be removed when not required. All handlebar bags are weather proofed to protect everything inside. Due to the position of the bag (right in front of the rider) many designs have inbuilt see-through map holders to keep the map dry and visible to for easy navigation.

 

Rear Rack Packs

commuter Rear Rack Bags

A rack pack is very similar to a pannier bag but they are specifically designed to clip into certain racks and so tend to be manufacturer specific, only working with racks from the same company. Rear bags are ideal for commuting and light touring and because they are securely clipped in to the rack they are also a good option when off road riding. All are weather proofed and some even come with pull out compartments to give small inbuilt side panniers that increase the amount that can be carried.

 

Locks & Security

If you intend to leave your bicycle in a public place, an accessible area at work or even outside in a shed or garage at home, locking it up and preventing any thief from getting their grubby hands on it is vital. Locks come in many different forms including; cable locks, chain locks, shackle locks and D- locks. Two locks on the bike are better than one left at home. If someone is going to bust open your D-lock, then why make it difficult for them? Look at what people actually use in your area and purchase wisely. Some bike thieves are tooled up for D-locks so get a cable lock too. The cable can be used to secure the bike to a greater variety of street furniture, making door to door shopping that bit easier.

Whatever the lock, make sure it attaches to the cycle or the rack with a tidy bracket. If you purchase locks with a bike they can be fitted. Should the lock not fit the frame then this can be resolved, possibly with a different type of lock or bracket.

If your bicycle is stolen we stock data tags which will mean that the police can identify it from an electronic fingerprint on a transponder which is listed on a sophisticated database. This will provide a further deterrent to those who want to steel your bicycle.

 

Mirrors

Cycling mirrors are a very useful safety aid when riding in heavy traffic. They enable the rider to see cars coming from behind and help to judge when it is safe to pull out or turn into a road. Sometimes when a cyclist looks suddenly over their shoulder it can cause the bike to swerve in the direction that they are looking, which is normally out towards the traffic. Mirrors are a good way of avoiding this, although we would always recommend that anyone riding in traffic practices manoeuvres and keeping the bike straight as a basic cycling proficiency. The mirrors clamp onto the bars and can be adjusted to the right angle for ultimate visibility.

 

Basic Bike Maintenance

A healthy bike works better, is safer and more fun to ride than one that has been neglected by its owner. Servicing and repairs are inexpensive compared to a car. Depending on how often you ride, you should maintain your bicycle on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. No matter how expensive or new the model is, it must be serviced at least once a year by an experienced bicycle mechanic.

Commuter bike maintenance

 

Doing It Yourself

You can carry out many repair and maintenance jobs yourself. To make this task easier, have the right tools, allow yourself plenty of time and do the job methodically. The reward for your effort is the satisfaction of doing the job yourself, while learning new skills and gaining the confidence to carry out more difficult repair tasks.

Tool Kit

The basics are a puncture repair kit, tyre levers, screwdriver, set of Allen keys, set of spanners (or a small shifting spanner), cleaning rags, an old toothbrush and lubricants such as light oil and grease. More advanced work will require specialist tools.

 

Daily Maintenance

Whenever you intend to ride, first give the bike a quick look over. Check the brakes and tyre pressure. Properly inflated tyres are easier to ride on, prevent damage to the wheel rims when hitting bumps and reduce the chance of punctures.

 

Weekly Maintenance

If required, lubricate exposed moving parts of the cycle with a bike lubricant. Do not get oil on the tyres or rims and do not use penetrating spray oil on bearings.

Oil: Front and rear derailleur gears; front and rear brake pivots; brake and gear levers; and a small amount on the chain. Hold the lube over the rear cassette and turn the chain whilst pouring the lube. This will lube the chain and any excess will only be lost onto the cassette. After each ride wipe off the chain with a rag to remove any excess muck that has collected.

Monthly Maintenance

Check the major items on your bicycle as follows:

 

Wheels

Check the tyre pressure and condition. The valves should be upright and not leaking. The wheels should be straight and true, without dents or other damage. Replace broken spokes and tighten loose ones, or we recommend either getting one of our expert wheel builders at AW cycles to mend and true the wheel or if you are not close to our store use a mechanic at you local cycle shop. The process is not expensive (costing £20- £30) but is vital for the performance and safety of your bicycle. Check axle nuts and cones and tighten if necessary (refer to the manufacturer’s website of instructions to show you how). If in doubt you can contact one of our expert mechanics.

If the wheels have quick release mechanisms (especially the front wheel), make sure they are securely fastened otherwise the wheels could fall out, causing a crash and severe injury to the rider.

Commuter bike brakes

Brakes

Check brake blocks for wear and make sure they contact squarely with the rim and not the tyre. Replace worn or frayed brake cables. Adjust brakes so that, even when braking hard, there is still some clearance between the levers and handlebars.

 

Gears

Check derailleur gear action and cables (derailleur repairs are best left to a mechanic). Clean the chain with a rag soaked in degreaser and re-oil. Clean the rear sprockets.

 

Steering

Check for looseness in the handlebar and stem, tighten with an Allen key to the recommended torque. Be aware that with all carbon products the correct torque must be adhered to as the carbon can be damaged causing it to break - sometimes without warning.

 

Pedals

The axle must spin freely. Check the pedal axles and bottom bracket axles for excessive looseness.

 

Frame

Inspect for damage. Ensure that the seatpost height is correct and that the bolt is tight.

 

Puncture Repair

If your bike tyre goes flat, do not automatically assume it is punctured - especially if the leak is slow. Rotate the wheel until the valve is at the top and then submerge it in a glass of water. If bubbles form then replace the valve. If the problem is a puncture, here is the recommended way to repair it:

Release the brake callipers and remove the wheel by unbolting it, or loosening the quick release levers if fitted. Rear wheels are easier to remove if the chain is on the smallest gear at both the chainwheel and the cluster.

Remove the tyre by either carefully prising it off with tyre levers or by squeezing the tyre into the rim well and peeling it off at the opposite point of the rim.

Check around the inside of the tyre. If the sharp object that caused the puncture is still there remove it. If the puncture is on the inside of the tube, check the rim of the wheel and the rim tape.

Check the tube for a hole. Do this by pumping it up and holding it underwater while looking for bubbles, or listen and feel for escaping air. Then mark the hole.

Use sandpaper from a puncture repair kit to roughen the area around the hole. Spread glue thinly and evenly on the tube, wait for it to dry, position the patch over the marked hole and put pressure on it. (A faster method is to use one of the new glueless patches).

Pump up the tube slightly. Slip one edge of the tyre into the rim. Push the tube's valve into the rim's hole and then, starting from the valve, push the tube inside the tyre. Make sure the valve stem is upright and that the tube isn't twisted.

Begin to place the second edge of the tyre onto the rim. (Only about 75 per cent of the tyre will go on easily, the rest needs to be coaxed onto the rim). For really stubborn tyres, use tyre levers to edge the tyre on slowly making sure not to pinch the tube. When completed, pump a bit more air into the tube to check that it isn't caught and that the tyre is properly seated on the rim. Once satisfied, you can inflate the tyre fully.

Alternatively you can always carry a spare tube with you when out on your bike. Follow the basic tyre removal steps, being sure to check that the object that has caused the puncture has been removed and insert a new tube. Once home you can repair the tube in warmth taking your time so that it can be properly repaired and used another day.

For a full list of the repair services that we offer at AW Cycles, take a look through our workshop pages for service prices and how to book your bike in. For any further advice please contactone of the experienced mechanics who will be able to answer your questions.

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