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Since hybrid bikes may be a compromise with no benefits, why are they still often preferred for commuting instead of drop bar bikes?

According to at least one opinion, hybrids are a compromise with no benefits. What is the downside to me purchasing a road bike instead of a hybrid?

Using drops bars instead can make you a few mph faster because the posture makes it more aerodynamic. I felt that my road bike with a pannier was faster than my hybrid bike without it! It seems like a lot of cycling commuters I see are missing out. My city's pretty bike friendly.

From what I've read, bikes with drop bars can be comfortable, be affordable, have wider tires, have fenders, and carry panniers.

Some of those features are more common in cyclocross and touring bikes than road bikes.

Interestingly, people find that drop bars make the bike more comfortable for longer distances. Often, when there's discomfort, bike fit or changing the posture or pedalling form is recommended. If the rider isn't used to such a low posture, the stem could be raised.

It's possible to get a used bike with a drop bar at a reasonable price. If a faster bike makes you drive less, you might save more even if you had to pay more for a faster bike and its parts.

It's possible to get bikes that have eyelets for mounting racks for panniers, and fenders. If they don't have them, it's possible to get adapters so that they could be mounted. Another option is bikepacking bags.

So far, the only advantages of hybrid bikes that I know of are peripheral vision and braking power. In bike friendly cities, they shouldn't be as much of an issue.

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    Even "bike friendly" cities have cars and pedestrians, and the vision and braking advantages you reference are always useful. There's always that one terrible intersection.... – Criggie Dec 24 '18 at 0:26
  • A cautionary comment - replacing drop bars with swept back hybrid bars on a road bike moves the center of mass of the handlebars, forks, and front tire back, which can interfere with the self stability of a bike if the road bike's forks curve significantly forwards to reduce trail. – rcgldr Dec 24 '18 at 5:38
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    Using drops bars instead can make you a few mph faster because the posture makes it more aerodynamic. That looks like the basis of the faulty assumption that drop-bar bikes must be uncomfortable for no other reason than it's a drop-bar bicycle. That's the same logic behind a thought like "Minivans won't work for families because they have four wheels, just like a Formula 1 race car does. And F1 race cars aren't good family vehicles." – Andrew Henle Dec 24 '18 at 13:57
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    Sorry, but your premise is nonsense. – David Richerby Dec 24 '18 at 18:11
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    @IanMacDonald Ever tried a cyclocross or gravel drop-bar bike? assets.change.org/photos/4/cu/zs/… – Vladimir F Dec 25 '18 at 9:41
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Simply, I reject the premise of your question and I'm sure I'm not alone. I say that as someone who has a tourer and a hybrid, and commutes on both - the speed difference is much less than the variability in traffic volumes.

In practical commuting conditions you're rarely aero-limited anyway, rather it's the speed of traffic, and to a lesser extent the acceleration. The extra visibility from the more upright position can mean getting away from a junction a touch sooner than in a lower position.

The biggest aero benefit from drop bars is when riding in the drops - and you don't often see people commuting in the drops. That position is much more useful for sustained effort than the typical stop-start commute.

Hybrids generally have a sufficiently forgiving fit that you can buy nominally the right size, get the saddle height right and go. No hassle, no need to be particularly flexible. Most commuters won't have heard of the concept of having your bike fitted properly, and would rightly have no interest in it.

  • On a hybrid bike, it took me about 30 minutes to get to work and on my road bike, it took a few minutes less. The route I took had bicycle boulevards that means very light traffic. The distance was between 8 and 9 km. Being faster can mean you're more likely to make it through a green light which means saving up to almost 2 minutes. I don't get too much bottlenecking. – Han-Lin Dec 24 '18 at 0:47
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    @han-Lin - Conformation bias - statistically as often as that extra speed gets you though the lights, it has you waiting while as the guy on the hybrid pulls up behind you. on average of a large number of samples, you will be fast by same percentage as you average speed is. (Unless light phases are synched to traffic speed and you can ride at traffic speed and hybrid rider cannot) – mattnz Dec 24 '18 at 0:51
  • @mattnz I think it happens for a few traffic lights. Eventually I have a hard time seeing him. – Han-Lin Dec 24 '18 at 0:57
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    I could probably find a way to extract averages of meaningful numbers of the same commute on the hybrid and the tourer. But even then, I'm more likely to use the hybrid in rotten weather, when the traffic is busier. The days I always ride the tourer (Wednesdays) tend to be quieter. So it would be hard to get away from correlations – Chris H Dec 24 '18 at 15:49
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    @Han-Lin more the ability to see further to the side when stopped at a junction with a car next to you. Even on the bar tops (and I prefer to start out on the hoods) I can see over fewer cars than on the first bars of the hybrid. Visibility straight forwards is rarely a limiting factor – Chris H Dec 25 '18 at 18:14
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You are wrong that hybrid style bicycles have no advantages over drop bar road bikes. You kind-of invalidated your premise by saying hybrids are a compromise, which means by definition certain beneficial features have been chosen over others in order to obtain a desired result. In fact all bike styles are a design compromise.

Compared to a road bike hybrids trade mass, speed and efficiency for comfort, control, safety and and affordability. A more upright riding position is more comfortable for casual, infrequent cyclists and offers better visibility and control. Flat, wider bars also provide more control and position the brake levers more naturally to hand. Flat bar frames also position the front wheel relatively further forward which helps prevent the rider going over the bars under hard braking.

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I'm a bike shop employee of five years, and I've been a bike commuter for ten. In general, a modern gravel or cyclocross bike is more efficient, more versatile, and just as or more comfortable as a hybrid (when fit properly). So why buy a hybrid? Because they start off at half the price of a road bike. Basic mountain components are dirt-cheap compared to road parts, and the frames usually use cheaper aluminum and forgo carbon forks. A lot of our customers looking to commute are college students on a limited budget, so price is definitely a factor.

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The hybrid I use to get around town and short distances:

  • has dynamo lights
  • a rack with no risk of heel strike
  • wide mudguards
  • 35mm tyres
  • a chainguard
  • triple chainring & mtb gear ratios allowing me to tow a heavily laden trailer up steep hills.
  • very easy to hop and just ride wearing anything including a suit.
  • Reassuring in icy conditions

Whilst you could rig up a drop bar bike to have all that stuff, the ones you get "off-the-shelf" are typically touring bikes with a higher price point in most shops due to being a fairly niche product (unfortunately!).

Also - the vast majority of people don't suffer from an n+1 mentality. They own a bike. In the probably rare instance that they want to go on a leisurely family outing with the bikes, a hybrid/mtb fits the bill.

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A hybrid is more of a all-rounder workhorse. Besides I imagine not everybody likes dropbars. For as long as there is demand, manufacturers will keep making them.

Otherwise a rhetorical question, which really has no answer, imho.

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I too have a bunch of bikes, including both a race-style road bike and an upright bike. The upright was actually my nineties road bike; I put fenders and upright bars on it, originally to have a rain bike. It's essentially a hybrid. I've commuted 5 miles each way to and from work for over a decade.

With that context I'll say, the rain bike has become my daily commuter and I much prefer it. I don't really care if my commute takes 90 seconds longer. I'd rather have all the dorky commute bike conveniences--fenders in case it rains (often hard to fit on road bikes), a rack so I don't have to wear a backpack and am less sweaty, an upright posture to able to better see traffic and pedestrians. Hybrids also typically have room for wider tires, which are less likely to get stuck in ruts--I live in San Francisco, which has lots of train tracks. It's just more chill to ride.

In short, hybrids are preferred for commuting because they have many benefits.

  • Of these, fenders, a rack and wide tyres can be fitted to great many drop-bar bikes. My gravel bike certainly does allow them. A posture can be adjusted bu spacers under the stem and a frame choice - touring, cyclocross and gravel frames tend to be more upright than road racing bikes. – Vladimir F Dec 25 '18 at 16:08
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I have this theory "The Couch On Wheels Mentality". This means, most people, likes being comfortable the whole time.

Most riders are casual riders (most can't even hop a pebble) the less they get involved in the exercise the better. A drop bar bike get you involved in the handling, you need to push your weight onto those bars, you need to check your 7 and 5 o'clock for cars (5 and 7 o'clock in England and such) and if it's a fixie you would be pedalling, etc.

Whereas in a hybrid you are upright on a fat seat, pedalling makes you sweat less because of assistance, your waist doesn't work that hard, etc.

Basically it comes down to preferences. For me, in Santiago de Chile, the perfect whip for commuting is a Dirt Jump Bike, or a BMX. Round fat wheels because streets have pot holes, you can hop if you need to, compact and light enough so you can take them in elevators (this city has lots of tall buildings) and if you ride brakeless chances of getting it stolen are slim to none.

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    "pedalling makes you sweat less because of assistance" You seem to be confusing hybrids with e-bikes. "Hybrid" does not imply motorized. – David Richerby Dec 24 '18 at 18:18
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    Huh, not going to lie to you, but the downvotes on this tells me I'm not really understand what "hybrid means". For me hybrids are asisted bikes for casual riding, I'm going to blame marketing on this one(mostly myself) I feel so ignorant. – dmb Dec 25 '18 at 6:02

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