One of the first things you have to do when you decide you want to get into cycling is choose a bike! You have to first ask yourself, “What kind of riding do I want to do?”
On the one hand, deciding to get a bike and get into cycling is so exciting! It’s great exercise and such a fun way to be active on your own, with friends, or with family.
But, on the other hand, the options can be overwhelming at times.
If you are just getting into cycling and are planning to ride mostly on the road, you essentially have two choices: road bike or hybrid bike.
In this article I will discuss these two options and share my thoughts and preferences for road bike versus hybrid bike.
I have evolved to like them both! But I like them for different times and different types of rides, so read on to learn a bit more.
My (abbreviated) bike story…
On my about page I go into “Stacy’s evolution of bikes.” I started with a mountain bike and hated it. In fact, this summer I gave it away to a friend who loves it and is getting much better use of it than I ever did.
I went to a hybrid next, hated it slightly less, and then my husband, Chris, suggested that I more seriously get into cycling and offered to buy me a road bike.
A lovely, beautiful, Trek Domane SL5. I love her.
Here she is on this week’s gorgeous fall ride.
Side note: on this gorgeous fall ride I stopped to take a photo and was so excited about taking the photo I forgot to unclip and fell RIGHT OVER. I kid you not.
I now have an apple-sized bruise on my leg, and my phone flew out of my jersey pocket onto the road where a car almost ran it over.
Just goes to show that 3 years into my road bike journey I am STILL falling, still injuring myself, and still getting up and loving it!
Anyway, I digress. You may think that I am biased towards road bikes judging by my story, but that isn’t entirely true! I have actually come to love my hybrid bike in ways that I never thought possible.
I now use and enjoy both bikes regularly, much to my husband’s chagrin. The hybrid takes up more space when it’s in the garage and is harder to get around, so he would prefer I just use my smaller road bike.
Why choose a hybrid bike?
1.Simply put, a hybrid bike is EASY. It just is. It is designed for anyone who has ever learned to ride a bike to just hope on it and pedal away. There is practically no learning curve what-so-ever.
Other than a pair of padded bike shorts and a helmet with MIPS or Wavecel technology you really don’t need anything else! Many have a kickstand (most road bikes do not because they add weight) which makes things easier too.
Also, the gear shifters are pretty self explanatory. They even have numbers on them! How handy! I was definitely surprised that there weren’t any numbers on the gear shifters of road bikes.
2. You will not feel a lot of pressure to go fast or to get clipless shoes/pedals. If you have a road bike, chances are you want to go FAST. You will want to consider being clipped into your pedals to really get the most out of each upstroke of your pedaling.
You are likely not really going to be thinking about that as much with a hybrid, and it’s so easy to just hop on and off the bike if you aren’t clipped in.
On family bike rides this is a huge bonus, especially when your kid demands water for the eleventy millionth time. And…if you are prone to forgetting things like being clipped in (see me, above!) then this is a real bonus.
3. Hybrid bikes are durable workhorses. The downside is these suckers are HEAVY, but the upside is they are really durable and hard to break. You don’t have to worry about delicate road bike tires and components, and can do a little dirt trail/gravel with no problem what-so-ever.
We have a very short gravel path in our neighborhood that goes to the next town over, and I am so much more comfortable navigating this with my hybrid because I know it’s virtually indestructible.
4. Hybrid bikes aren’t super fast, but they can be fast enough depending on what you need. When I am riding around the neighborhood with my five year old I definitely prefer the hybrid. I can keep up with him easily and the weight of it makes me have to work a little harder up our hills, so I feel like I am getting a decent workout in there.
Hybrids definitely aren’t as fast as road bikes, but if you aren’t on a group ride trying to keep up with the pack, who really cares?
5. Hybrid bikes are more comfortable than a road bike. The straight handle bars put you in a more upright position. In my experience, this tends to be much easier on the back and on your hands and wrists.
6. A decent hybrid bike can be cheaper than a decent road bike. You will pay under $1000 and get a solid hybrid bike. Mine was only around $500, but bike prices are going up as the demand for bikes increases. A decent, entry level carbon road bike will likely be significantly more…closer to the $2000-$3000 range. Yikes!
Not only is the bike itself potentially cheaper, but the gear tends to be too. If you get a road bike, let’s face it, you are probably going all in. You will want clipless pedals and shoes. You will want a full kit (jersey, bib shorts). You will want a bike computer. You will want a cadence sensor. You will want….get the picture. It adds up FAST, my friends.
Why Choose a Road Bike?
After all of that, you might be wondering why you would even CONSIDER a road bike. Doesn’t hybrid just kind of seem like the way to go?
Trust me, there are reasons. And I will go over them! But the main reason?
1. A ROAD BIKE IS SO MUCH FASTER.
Ladies, that is bold, in caps, for a reason. Let me say it one more time. With FEELING!
A ROAD BIKE IS SO MUCH FASTER.
If you want to go fast, if you want to keep improving your times, if you want to jump in and make cycling your sport, your fitness, your everything, then you probably want a road bike.
Road bikes are designed for speed.
2. A road bike is also SO MUCH LIGHTER. Because road bikes are built for speed, they are built with light frames and components. The frame of a good road bike will be carbon, not aluminum, and there will be an emphasis on lightness in the other components too.
Getting my hybrid bike out of the basement is a struggle. It’s big, and it’s heavy. I have no such issues with the road bike. The overall footprint of the bike is also smaller which makes it easier to store (hence why Chris prefers this bike in the garage to the hybrid).
Honestly, mine felt so light at first it was a little unsettling, but trust me, I got used to that pretty quick when I realized how easy it was to maneuver.
3. You can more easily keep up with others in a group ride. One of the greatest things about getting into cycling for me was meeting, riding with, and learning from other cyclists in my LBS (little bike shop) cycling club. 9 times out of 10 those cyclists will also have road bikes.
The bike, combined with their experience in cycling, will likely make them faster than you and they will have to stop and wait for you on group rides. Most cycling clubs will break their rides into different groups depending on the speed of the riders (A group, B group, etc.). Other than the very entry level group you are often actually required to have a road bike.
I have found the folks I ride with to be so encouraging and supportive! They are wonderful people. But, I think that even the most encouraging and supportive of us let out a little internal sigh when we see someone join our group with a hybrid. They are just inherently at a disadvantage because the bike itself isn’t as fast.
4. You can cover greater distances more easily. If you are getting into cycling because you want to ride far and see a lot of things, a road bike is often the better choice. Because it’s faster you can cover more ground.
For example, if I plan a 30 mile ride it will likely take me about 2 hours on my road bike depending on elevation. I honestly wouldn’t even attempt more than a 20 mile ride on my hybrid because of how much longer it would take. And those 20 miles had better be relatively flat!
Hybrids are great for a sub 10 mile ride around the neighborhood, but once you start getting into bigger distances a road bike is going to get you there faster and easier, and let you go even further.
5. Once you figure out the mechanics, if you are anything like me, you are less likely to be discouraged. Hear me out on this one. Chances are if you are following me and reading my articles you might be something like me. In Stacy’s evolution of bikes there is a reason why I hated my mountain bike, hated my hybrid, and LOVED my road bike.
The road bike was light enough and fast enough that I could actually enjoy it and enjoy riding.
It wasn’t until I became a much stronger rider that I came to love my hybrid for the solid “around the neighborhood workhorse” that it is. Because my hybrid bike was so hard to get up hills it was so hard to keep up with others.
I was heavy, the bike was heavy, everything felt so sluggish. My husband was on an even heavier hybrid AND towing our son in a trailer and was still seemingly miles ahead of me. He had to keep stopping and waiting for me to catch up.
It was discouraging and demoralizing to be honest, and as a result I didn’t want to ride. When Chris suggested that he get me a road bike I might have even laughed out loud at the absurdity of me regularly riding a bike.
Buying a road bike was the best decision I (or he!) ever made. It literally changed my life.
I have found THE THING that I love, that keeps me active, that has led me to love and appreciate my body for WHAT IT CAN DO, not for what it looks like. I don’t think this would have happened for me if I didn’t get a road bike.
Women riders aren’t necessarily all one in the same though, which is why I wrote this article! For some of you starting with a hybrid bike because you just want to get started and ride and not make a huge financial investment is a fantastic plan.
You can also email me directly at [email protected]. I am here for you, and want to help you figure out the best bike for you!
Come on ladies! Let’s RIDE!