Can I ride a hybrid bike on mountain bike trails? Yes, in fact, there are hybrid bikes that are specifically designed to get you pedaling through flowy mountain bike trails. Pick your trail carefully and you'll have hours of fun on a hybrid bike. You just want to avoid accidentally hitting a double diamond black run on a hybrid.
Ignore the Haters
People will tell you that riding trails on a hybrid just can’t be done. They will then list you a load of reasons why you can’t take your hybrid off-road: “It doesn’t have suspension”, “It doesn’t have knobbly ires”, or “It is meant for smooth surface riding.” These people think they have a point but sadly they are just misguided.
These people have bought into the marketing tale that bikes all have a niche, and you can only ride those bikes for that niche. If you ride a bike outside of that niche, it will explode in a ball of fire and everyone will laugh at you. Marketers love this idea as they want you to spend more money than you need to, to think that you can have fun. Fun doesn't need to be expensive.
Let's look at the idea that “a hybrid bike doesn’t have suspension”. The quick answer here is that you do get some front suspension hybrids.
We can also look at "back in the day" mountain bikes and they were fully rigid. Many people riding 24-hour races on mountain bikes will do so using rigid forks. Together these pretty much mean you can ride a bike with rigid forks off-road. In some places, it may even be better thank a bike with suspension.
Stop the bob
On flat, non-technical trails, you should more than likely want to lock your suspension out (turn it off). The reason for this is that when you pedal, your suspension will bob. This action will waste your energy and slow you down a little. You'll also be having a similar issue when you're climbing a hill.
The lack of suspension can bring you arm pump on the way down, If you take your time and get down slowly and safely you should avoid this issue. There are pros and cons to every decision.
The next issue is that a hybrid doesn’t have knobby tires. You can reasonably make the argument that most bikes that are sold don't have great tires and the first upgrade to your bike should be a set of tires. You also don't always need knobby tires for riding offroad.
Have look at the Schwalbe tires website, they have a tool on there for cutting off or downsizing the knobs. You want tires that are a mix of road and offroad features and thanks to gravel bikes there is a huge growth in this market.
Summer dreaming in Scotland?
I am going to go on a limb here and suggest that a lot of people riding hybrids do so during the summer rather than winter. The weather is slightly less miserable, you might even be getting a tan, and the trails are hopefully drying out. A dry trail is great for a hybrid bike.
As trails dry, they become more like riding on a bumpy road, and they might feature fewer potholes than the roads around you. Your big knobbly tires will do nothing here. There is nothing for them to bite into and give you grip. All the knobs do is become noisy. They can even cause you to slide out when cornering.
When the trails are bone dry, they become less technical to ride. Making for a fun riding experience that will make you smile for days to come.
On the road again
The other answer about off-road riding is to look at cyclocross racing or gravel riding. Cyclo-cross racing is generally carried out in winter on a muddy, snowy field. The bikes used to look like road bikes, the bike designed purely for roads. That is because cyclo-cross used to be raced on road bikes with knobby tires.
It was a form of winter training for professional cyclists. Cyclocross has grown in popularity, and now it even has bikes that are specifically designed specifically for the event. These bikes are almost a road bike version of a hybrid bike. You'll find people racing hybrids at some beginners' races.
The ability of a hybrid bike to race cyclocross must surely help to put to bed the myth that you can't use them off-road. You will rarely find worse off-road conditions than you will see at a cyclocross race. The ground is often churned up and rutted by hundreds of people racing. If you can survive a cross race you can survive the majority of offroad riding situations.
You must be really tyred?
Let us loop back round to tyres. You will want to change your tires on your hybrid if you are racing cyclocross. That does not reflect poorly on a hybrid’s ability to ride trails. You will find that most bikes will need their tyres changed to suit exactly where you want to ride. That is because bikes come with generic tyres designed to cope with average situations, most of us don't live in those average conditions.
There is also a chance that the bike manufacturer has fitted fit tyres that are manufactured close to their supply chain. The tires that suit a manufacturer might not suit you. You can haggle with us to get tyres that suit you rather than the manufacturer.
So now you see you can ride a hybrid bike on mountain bike trails.
Always remember these simple tips
- Make sure you have good quality tires that fit your bike and are suitable for trails (and the occasional tough terrain).
- Keep your eye on the weather, and make sure you’re riding in conditions that are safe.
- Always look down the trail and not at your front tyre.
It isn’t always guaranteed that you’ll be able to safely ride the trails on your hybrid, but as long as you follow the safety tips and watch that weather, you’ll be fine.
Get outside and shred your bike and if you need a hybrid bike we have a small range that we have picked specifically to deal with Scottish conditions.