Can I Ride My Hybrid Bike on Trails?
We often get asked, "Is my hybrid bike okay to ride on the trails outside of town?" The answer is yes. Hybrid bikes can be ridden on trails. You probably don't want to try and a hybrid bike around trails after a week of rain. If you pick the trail and when you go, you can easily have as much fun as if you were on a mountain bike.
Friends have said I can't do it
My friends told me that I couldn't ride a hybrid bike on trails. Your friends are wrong. A hybrid bike is called a hybrid as it is a mix and match of 2 styles of bike, a road bike, and a mountain bike.
Yes, you have road sized wheels, but that won't hold you back. Many mountain bikes now come with a 29er wheel which is the same size as a road wheel. The mountain bike rim may be wider and allow wider tyres, but you don't see narrow tyres holding cyclocross racers back, or even slightly wider gravel bike tyres.
It is all about the tyres
Tyres are one of the most important features on every bike, and generally should be your first upgrade on any new bike. New tyres can make your bike feel like a new or different bike.
If your hybrid comes with more road-biased tyres, then change them to tyres with a bit more of a dirt bias. You'll want some knobs on the side, and if you're going to keep your road speed up, then you'll want to have a file style central tread.
What tyres do you recommend?
The TLE is the tubeless model, and we'll be running a future article all about the benefits of tubeless setups for hybrids. The Raceguard is your more budget-friendly option. It is a bit heavier and has a little bit more rolling resistance than the TLE model.
We are also currently writing our guide to hybrid tyres, so feel free to bookmark us and check back.
Do I need suspension?
Many people get the idea of suspension wrong. It is not for providing comfort. It is for keeping your wheel in contact with the ground, which is excellent at high speeds and less of an issue if you're just out on a cruise.
If you want to provide comfort to a hybrid, the best place to start is your tyres. Do you see a trend developing here?
A lot of flowy trails that will be fun to take your hybrid down will not need suspension. You'll even find many mountain bikers will lock their suspension out on these trails to make their bike more efficient.
Locking out your suspension basically means to switch it off.
Hybrid suspension travel
The other thing about hybrids with front suspension is that they typically do not offer a lot of travel. The amount of travel you get is usually between 30 and 80mm. Not having it on a bike that you just ride about on, will not make a noticeable difference on comfort.
Not having it though will make a noticeable difference to the weight of your bike, the handling of your bike, and future bills — all of this in a good way.
If you have two hybrid bikes at £500, one with front suspension and one without, the one without front suspension will be lighter and will generally be fitted with a high-value groupset. Both of these things will make more difference to your riding.
An excellent groupset will make gear changes easier. Especially going uphill or if you have the bike loaded. Both are great options if your hybrid is also used for commuting. It will also be easier to tune and service your bike at home.
Servicing your bike at home is another down point for hybrid suspension forks. Many of which will not be serviceable or even tunable to things like your weight. In fact, some entry-level forks use shims of plastic to make their forks feel stiffer. Once these have worn, you'll be throwing your forks in the bin. Not great from an environmental standpoint.
You'll also find that riding on roads during winter will severely damage your forks. The only way to stop salt damage to the fork stanchions is to make sure you clean your bike after every ride in winter. No one wants to do that, though.
Back to the trails
Yes, suspension will allow you to go faster. Do you want to race around or enjoy the trails though? If you're going to race around and beat Strava times, then you'd be better suited with a mountain bike.
If you want to cruise along trails and take your time and see the world, then a hybrid bike is a great choice. You'll find a bike that lets you get out and explore, doesn't cost the earth, and can also perform multiple duties. Heck, you could even turn your hybrid into a tourer, and that is an article for the future in itself.
So remember and check back and we'll have more articles designed to keep cycling fun.