I have a Specialized hybrid bike, and when I'm out biking with friends who are on road bikes, I'm always lagging behind. Besides just plain getting better at biking, which of the following would make the biggest difference in increasing my speed?

  • Switch to clipless pedals. Right now I'm just on platform pedals with sneakers.
  • Switch to thinner tires. Right now I have 700x28c.
  • Switch to a dropbar... I think this is more of a comfort thing though.
  • Switch to a road bike! Obviously I'm wondering how close I can come without switching out the bike frame :-)


  • 4
    28 tires should be narrow enough to give you pretty good performance -- just make sure they're inflated to sidewall pressure (if not a little over). But the smoother the tire (and the less rubber thickness) the better, so a change of tire style may be in order. Drop bars give you more leverage and cut wind resistance, both major factors. Clipless pedals help a bit, but probably more in terms of endurance. Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 21:32
  • 22
    Ask a road biking friend to switch with you for a few miles.Then you'll know if is your level of fitness or your bike.
    – mikes
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 0:28
  • 1
    ^^^ a friend of similar height or inseam, presumably. Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 4:49
  • 2
    You simply need to pedal faster. Commented May 19, 2014 at 23:41
  • Make sure your bike is adjusted correctly and has the proper maintenance done, if not, friction in hubs, bottom bracket and pedal axles adds up building resistance against forward motion, making you feel tired sooner.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 14:37

13 Answers 13


It really depends on how you're lagging. If it's because of feeling tired keeping up with them then reducing friction might be an option. I'd suggest that the most likely reason for lagging behind is that there is a fundamental speed difference though. See whether you're having to pedal faster than them to keep up.

Your top speed is governed by your cogs. Take a look the number of teeth on the front and back. If you have a 13 tooth smallest cog on the back you could get that cassette replaced with one that starts at 11 teeth. Up front you're probably running a 46 tooth chainset whereas your road bike friends are probably running 50 teeth. Again, you can replace that if you fancy it. Just be careful if you do make it faster that you don't lose the low end you want for getting up hills. You should be able to get quite a decent range with the right set of cogs.

Reduced drag from narrower tires may reduce the friction allowing you to accelerate more easily and maintain speed better but won't affect your top speed appreciably.

Clipless pedals may allow you to improve your efficiency with pedalling. I would only look at these when I was happy with a bike though, rather than as a solution to a problem like that.

Update: Based on zenbike's comment I'd say the switching to a road bike warrants more consideration. Assuming it is the gears he's right that a hybrid may well be difficult to alter to run the gear ratio you want to keep up with your friends. When thinking of getting a new bike take a look at how similar it is to the ones your friends ride. Simply getting a cheap heavy one if they have light racers may well leave you with a similar problem.

If 2 bikes have the same gear ratio but one is heavier it will be able to go as fast, but it'll be more effort to get it up to speed, and a little more effort to cruise at the same speed. It's less of a problem than not having the right ratio, but you'll probably find your self lagging a little at first.

  • 1
    I agree that these are likely the issues, but be careful of compatibility when changing out your gears, especially on the front. Most hybrids run on MTB shifters and derailleurs. There is a maximum tooth count for each derailleur design, and there needs to be enough clearance on the frame to allow a larger crank to fit.
    – zenbike
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 6:48
  • Good point, I've updated my answer to try to address that. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 8:02
  • 6
    Don't underestimate the difference in aerodynamics between road-bike riding position and hybrid riding position. Even if the gear change is possible, the difference in drag is significant, and would make it somewhat difficult (assuming fitness wasn't a factor) in keeping up with a road bike.
    – alesplin
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 16:48
  • 2
    You are correct, if you're not already in your fastest gear when you're struggling, the gears aren't the problem. Have you considered asking your friends if you can swap bikes for a little bit to see the difference so that you can figure out how much difference the bike makes versus the difference in rider? Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 21:11
  • 2
    You're not going to find any silver bullet for this, every suggestion here is going to make you slightly faster and cumulatively this will add up to a significant difference. Aside from checking that you don't have brakes rubbing etc, you get the best bang from you buck by decreasing your resistance to the wind. Either hang behind one of your buddies or try to get your body a little lower. Other than that, keep at it, you'll get fitter! Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 8:32

I'd consider a few things:

  1. The weight of the bike. Road bikes tend to weigh less than a hybrid. There is a reason roadies are sometimes overly concerned with the weight of the bike
  2. The type of tire. Are you running slicks or heavily treaded tires? Slicks will roll easier on roads. Again, the weight of the tire matters, and wider tires are typically heavier than skinnier tires. However, 28's don't seem overly huge. You could try switching down to some slick 700x25c tires next time you're due for a replacement set of tires
  3. The gearing of the bike. Road bikes tend to have a narrower range of gears, leaning towards smaller cogs in the rear than hybrids. They may also have more speeds on the rear cassette, which allow for more steps within the range of gears. Often, hybrids may have 7-8 speeds vs 9-10 on new road bikes. You could possibly swap out your existing cassette with a road bike cassette with same number of speeds (like an 8-speed 11-28 cassette instead of say an 8-speed 12-34 cassette).
  4. Foot retention matters. Clipless may increase your pedaling performance, but a cheaper route could be to start off with a set of cages and straps or get some FRS straps like hold fasts or burro straps. I found this to be a big help when powering up hills and feeling more connected to my bike.

If you're really considering changing the gearing, you may just want to try out a new road bike due to the weight, geometry, and drive-train differences. It might be that you're just outgrowing this bike and moving towards a more specialized road bike, more suited to your primary riding style.

  • 9
    The weight of the bike really makes very little difference, except on a significant climb. The reason roadies like light bikes is more for bragging rights than actual function. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 20:41
  • 1
    How important weight is to you is also a factor of geography. I'm in Pittsburgh, where significant climbs are going to happen if you want to go pretty much anywhere. I also thinks it makes a difference with respect to your riding style. If you're a city commuter type, then a lighter bike is easier to handle with frequent starts and stops.
    – Benzo
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 14:30

I own a hybrid in which I made some modifications.

I changed my crank to a fifty tooth and thus I had to change the bottom bracket. This not only made my bike a little faster but the weight was reduced as well.

My tires were 32s and I put on 25s. I also reversed my handlebar stem which brought my handlebars lower. On top of that I changed the position of the handlebars.

I don't have cages on my pedals toe clips.

The conclusion to all my efforts: the bike is lighter, faster and my position on it more aerodynamic. I can keep up with my friends and their super bikes without a problem.


If you want to stick with your roadie mates, ultimately you'll need to switch to a road bike. All of the issues you raised affect your ability to stick with them, and getting sorted with a good road bike will address each of them.

Basically, road bikes use the wattage you're outputting more efficiently, they allow you to be more aerodynamic, and they're lighter. The faster you go, the more important each of these are.

You can get marginal gains from modifying your commuter, but I recommend planning for a road bike. Keep your hybrid for commuting and your road bike the real riding. You'll enjoy your time on the bike far more.


I just switched to a road bike from a hybrid. On my first time out commuting into work this morning I arrived in 32 mins as opposed to 37 previously.

Weight is a big issue. Newton's 2nd law F= ma or acceleration = Force / mass, so if your bike is twice as heavy then it will take twice as much effort to get up to a given speed.

Then you have resistance, rolling resistance and wind resistance. If resistance is greater then you will find it harder to accelerate and you will require additional effort to maintain a given speed. Rolling resistance is a function of the area of contact with the road and also the weight. Wind resistance is a function of the speed you are going, the area you are presenting as you travel forward and aero-dynamic nuances that are beyond our worries. You can see it's all worse for a hybrid.

Efficiency plays a factor which is a measure of what proportion of effort you put in goes into forward momentum of the bike. Road bikes are optimised for this with stiff frames and an efficient riding position.

We drop down gears when effort becomes too great and because the effort is greater on a hybrid you will not be able to maintain the same gear as the road guys. When you're in a lower gear you aren't going as fast, unless you compensate with a higher cadence (difficult to maintain if you're already struggling to keep up).

There is good advice on here, but minimising the resistance, optimising your efficiency and improving your strength and fitness will only take you so far.

Hybrids are great, but they aren't road bikes. If speed over tarmac is your main aim then you'll never equal a road bike. That's the conclusion I came to anyway and so far I'm not changing my mind!

  • > Hybrids are great, but they aren't road bikes. If speed over tarmac is your main aim then you'll never equal a road bike. That's the conclusion I came to anyway and so far I'm not changing my mind! Well, there are still triathlon (time trial) bikes and recumbents ;)
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 15:56
  • 4
    "if your bike is twice as heavy then it will take twice as much effort to get up to a given speed." Only if your body weight is zero. If you weigh a normal amount, the bike weight makes a small but significant impact.
    – Eric S
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 16:59
  1. Raise your saddle height(but not beyond the optimum for you leg length. There's an optimum height to deliver your best power for longer) and if adjustable lower your bars. The following will probably be condemned and is at your own risk but you can rest your elbows on the extreme of the handles slightly rearward and place your hands at the centre of the steering column. This gets you in, as near as damn it, as good an aero position as a racing bike.
  2. Inflate your tyres to maximum design pressure. This has the effect of turning fat tyres into thinner tyres more approaching a racing bike.

Won't get you to a road bike speed but will bridge the gap somewhat at no cost.


I have a hybrid with a flat bar, a "FBR1 Norco". I cut down the bar length to be 18 inches (45 centimetres) the same width as a road bike handle bar. This is very short for a mountain bike, but my hybrid is for straight road, the loss of width was outweighed by the ability to tuck my elbows in for aerodynamics. I also raised my seat to get into a real aerodynamic riding position.

I also fitted short bar ends, and this helped to get a more aggressive position. When I ride it is like I'm riding a road bike but if I'm on the tops of a road bike, while not as aggressive as the drops (which would be impossible for you to mimic on a flat bar.) It works great for me.

Second, I would get the clipless pedals and shoes. You can get so much more power with them.

Tyres / tires - A diameter of 28 mm should be totally fine for road. I'd prefer no smaller than 28 mm BECAUSE as the tyre width decreases you end up battling the uneven surfaces. This makes for an uncomfortable ride. Over the long haul you lose some of your endurance which equates to your overall speed.

Last thing, my friend loves his bar ends, but they are mounted inside the brakes on the bar. This allows him to tuck in as if they were mini aero bars on a Triathlon-bike. You can actually buy mini aero bars that would help you get more aerodynamic. Sample picture found at https://roadcyclinguk.com/news/deda-carbon-blast-mini-aerobars-first-ride.html#cgbR0024BxVg65RL.97

enter image description here

  • Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Your answer raises some good points, but its a little chatty. Stack exchange is not your average forum where discussion is notmal. Instead, SE is all about the questions and the best possible answers. Consider browsing the tour at bicycles.stackexchange.com/tour (which gives you a badge too)
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 8:24
  • 24 hours later I've edited the answer. If I've lost your meaning do feel free to edit further.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 7:53
  • I think those tri bars would be disallowed in any race or organised event. I've even seen MTB events where bar ends must be removed as one of the terms of participating.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 7:58

Bar ends, yes, but move them in as far as you can on your bars. This forces your arms in and reduces wind resistance. If your bar is a little bent, rotate forward and down. Lower the stem, and make certain your seat height is correct for your legs and feet. This will lower your body so you are less a billboard, particularly with headwinds. I use metal half clips on my platform pedals. This forces me to be pedaling on the balls of my feet and let's me use calves in addition to my quads. Tire pressure close to max. I have a Cateye, and in addition to monitoring avg speed, I also monitor cadence. My comfort zone there is between 85 and 95. Lastly, a new cassette/freewheeling that eliminates that useless - for me - bailout gear and a four tooth change between fifth and sixth. Mine is now 13 - 25. A lot better than the original.

  • 1
    OP could go full-way and install aerobars on the hybrid. Would look a bit daft and attract derision from the roadies - plus loss of access to brakes and gears makes it harder to ride.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 2:29

Let me contradict some of the other answers here. Weight is not going to make a lot of difference to your speed or endurance, so just ignore it. If you don't believe me, try the following experiment: Pack a 500g weight (about a pound) somewhere that you can comforetably carry it (e.g. in a backpack, or around your waist). Go on a few rides and measure your speed. The compare your speed without the weight. You'll have to do a few experiments to get good experimental data. The fact is your body weight fluctuates from day to day more than you're likely to be able to shave off your bike. (remember F=ma applies to whole thing you're moving -- including your body weight, backpack, water, etc.)

On the other, ride geometry, aerodynamics, and power-efficiency can make a huge difference. Here are some important factors:

  1. clipless pedals : buck for buck experience tells me this is your biggest win. It makes a big difference in power transfer.
  2. frame stiffness: while bike weight (unless your talking >1kg) isn't going to make much difference, a stiff frame which allows for efficient power transfer will. Changing your bike doesn't seem to be an option for you, but adjusting your seating position and height so you get most effective oomph from your pedalling is worth trying.
  3. Aerodynamics makes a big difference for a strong headwind, or at higher speeds. So drop bars, a longer stem, or possibly bar ends could help you out here.
  4. Rolling resistance can be a big factor too, and this is a cheap one to improve -- get kevlar bead, high pressure tires with a slick surface (if your current tires have a degree of knobbyness to them, you'll notice a big difference here). Light tires make a much bigger difference than frame weight because of rotational momentum.

Also note weight, including rotational weight, only affect acceleration (and maybe climbing a teeny bit), not how much work it takes to maintain cruising speed. Rolling resistance and wind resistance affect what your top speed is. So if your can keep up with your colleagues cruising speed but not acceleration, focus on weight. Otherise focus on aerodynamics and rolling resistance.

  • I agree with the shoes. Not only do they help with power transfer, they make it a lot easier to maintain high cadences, because you don't have to worry about your foot slipping off the pedal. Even if you only have a 44x14 maximum gear, you can still maintain 40 km/h at 100 RPM (as per Sheldon Brown Gear calculator). If you have a 48x12 you could maintain 51 km/h at that cadence.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 14:05

Getting your saddle height and position right will make it easier on the legs. Hybrid 46 crank set will make hill climbs easier, compared to 50 tooth crank on road bike. However by the 50 crank set on the road bike will give a higher average speed on the straights. Best buy a road bike instead of tweaking the hybrid setup and ending up with something that's never quite right or fit for purpose. It will cost as much anyway to buy and fit all the upgrade parts. Some bike shops will take your old bike as a trade in. Good luck!.

  • Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Do try and use correct grammar and full words in your future answers. Good point about "fit for purpose" - I'm looking forward to your future answers to other questions.
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 23:42

All these answers are focused on changes to the bike.

You can try some other changes, some easier and some harder.

Easy changes

  • Get more aero - wear your closest fitting clothes - a proper riding jersey if you have one and not a big flappy jacket. Tights/leg or arm warmers/smooth gloves. I have a pair of old socks with no toes that cover the cap between the cuff and the glove, also good for cold-weather rides.
  • Posture - tuck your elbows closer to your torso, hunch your shoulders to reduce the frontal area and streamline airflow past helmet and body, and bringyour knees closer to the bike while pedalling. Bring yourself further forward on the saddle too.
  • Take less stuff on your group rides. Only one water bottle, not two, and prehydrate to make up for this. Leave non-crucial tools at home-and if badness happens then sponge off the rest of the group.
  • Water - learn to drink before you're thirsty. If you prehydrate you should be good for the first 30-60 minutes but after that small sips often.
  • Fueling - learn to feed yourself better before the ride, and especially during the ride. Find what works for you - whether it be bars, gels, balls, fruit, or some combination.
  • Run strava to record your segments - this gives you incentive to put down more power to beat your times.

Harder changes

  • Pick the weather - aim for still wind days without high or low temperatures, where the road is dry. Or aim for tailwinds.
  • Ride smarter - (be a wheel sucker) taking your turn on the front is considered good etiquette, but will tire you. Feel free to cut your front-time shorter or even skip a few pulls. Depends how your rides rotate, whether its a single or double paceline. Note this may make you unpopular, but the perceptive will simply allow for your bike to be a handicap
  • Recovery day for roadies == fast day for you. Consider setting the ride as a "recovery" ride, the day after a significant road event. That way they will go slower and hopefully that will be similar speeds to your hybrid's fastest speeds.


  • Borrow a road bike. If you can swap bikes with one of the "most powerful" riders in the group, challenge them to keep up on your bike while you ride their bike and see how it goes. Note to some people this is like swapping underwear; they wouldn't consider it and would even be offended by the thought.

  • Hire a road bike - road bike hire would be uncommon here in New Zealand, but Asia and Europe tend to have a lot more bike hire. Highly unlikely if you're in the Americas.

  • Buy a used road bike for learning purposes, consider it a low-entry cost. If you don't like it, then can sell it to recover your investment. A new road bike tends to sell for well-less than its original purchase price, but a used bike could be equal for a net cost of about $0.

  • I rode a steel road bike in the late 80s and early 90s. It was nice, but time went on and bikes left life for a bit. About 2 years ago I fixed an even older 80s steel Morrison and it was awesome fun but terrible on climbs. So I bought a cheap used aluminium road bike as a short term test and am still riding it now. Partially cos new modern road bikes are awful expensive and ugly, and also that I enjoy keeping up and sometimes passing shiny modern bikes on my old $100 heap. Someday I might buy a flash new road bike, with disks and a triple and horizontal top tube.... somday.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 2:26
  1. switch to clipless pedals, you'll have an increase after 2-3 runs, as more muscles will be used.

  2. thinner and slicker tires very well pressured

  3. then ultimately, enhance your health (longer night, loose some extra weight..., stop smoking... then train twice or 3 times a week (if currently just going out once on sunday for instance))


Use the highest gear on the bigger gear and then after use the lower gear on the smaller one you'll be guaranteed to go faster than them. It may take more effort but it really helps.

My brother has a road bike and we raced, and I was faster. Roadies are lighter but they have not that much control so if you're riding to work and school then it's easy if you're more adapted to it.

Try adjusting both your gears.

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