If you're looking for the perfect bike for commutes around town or casual rides, a hybrid may be the best option. Hybrids are fun to ride and are designed to go faster than an average cruiser, which makes them ideal for commuters. If you live in an area with a high bike-theft rate or just don't want to blow a ton of cash on a bike, it makes sense to shop around for a budget-friendly hybrid. While the price range of these bikes is quite wide, a quality hybrid bike can be found in the $300 to $400 range.
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The Right Frame
Hybrid frames have a more relaxed, upright geometry than road bike frames, but they're still a little more aggressive than cruisers. To make sure you're getting the best hybrid, consider visiting a bike shop and test riding a few bikes to determine the correct size for your body. The cheapest lightweight frame material is aluminum, but be aware that aluminum frames do a poor job at dimming road vibration, which can prove uncomfortable if you're in the saddle for extended periods. The best budget-friendly frame option is steel -- although steel is heavier, it produces a comfortable, durable frame.
Gearing and Brakes
Choose a hybrid with simple lever gears for easy shifting during rides. The number of gears you'll need really depends on your strength as a rider and the terrain you'll be riding on. If you're particularly strong or live in a relatively flat area, you can get away with a bike that has fewer gears. However, if you live in a hilly or mountainous region, you might want a 21-speed hybrid. Some of the cheapest and most simple hybrids have coaster brakes, but opt for one that has handlebar-brake levers to maximize control and allow for sudden stopping.
Tires and Wheels
Hybrid bikes typically have 700c wheels, the same as road bikes. These are the best for hybrids because they're faster and more efficient than the 26 or 29-inch wheels found on mountain bikes and cruisers. Choose a tire that's at least 28-millimeters wide and has a slightly knobby tread to handle road debris or the occasional curb jump.
Extras to Consider
Depending on your intended use, there are a few accessories you may want for your hybrid bike. A chain guard is a good idea for city or work commuting if you don't want to risk getting chain oil on your clothes. If you plan to use your bike to run errands, you may want one with a front basket or rear rack for carrying cargo. Fenders will help protect you from road gunk and puddles, and water-bottle holders are essential if you intend to ride in warm climates. Most importantly, make sure you invest in and wear a quality helmet.