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7 Things That Make Road Bikes Faster Than Hybrids

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “why are road bikes faster than hybrids?” They may appear to be identical to the casual rider. Both type of bikes feature basic, neither too broad nor too narrow tires that are of identical shapes and widths. Most feature front and rear derailleurs, multiple gears, and disc brakes. But there are some glaring differences.

The average road bike is much lighter in weight than a hybrid; the frame material is stiffer, the geometry allows it to be aerodynamically faster, the drop bars make it easier to sprint at high speeds, the tires are much lighter, and the position on a road bike is more aerodynamic.

people riding a hybrid and road bike

Why Are Road Bikes Faster Than Hybrids

In this section, we’ll go through all the factors contributing to why road bikes are faster than hybrids. Keep reading below to find out why.

Weight

Let us begin with one of the most apparent factors, even to viewers outside of the cycling sport: weight. This is a feature of the bike that has a significant impact on speed, especially while traveling uphill.

There are many elements that influence whether a bike is light or heavy, but generally speaking, road bikes have lighter materials and parts than hybrids.

Carbon fiber composites are becoming more commonly used in the construction of road bike frames, whereas hybrid frames still prioritize durability at the minor weight penalty of aluminum or even steel.

In terms of material selections, other parts like handlebars, stems, seat posts, and even wheels typically follow suit.

Stiffness

The bike’s stiffness, which is closely related to the frameset material of choice, determines how well it can transfer power to the pedals and down to the road.

The high stiffness-to-weight ratio of current carbon fiber frames ensures that more of the rider’s overall power output is used to produce movement.

The materials used in typical hybrid bikes, such as aluminum or steel, are more flexible and don’t allow for such effective power transfer, which is why road bikes are faster than hybrids.

Geometry and Aerodynamics

Road bikes are quicker than hybrids in terms of aerodynamics thanks in large part to the frame’s geometry, which is likely the most underappreciated yet crucial component.

Normally, only 10% of the aerodynamic drag created when riding is attributable to the bicycle, whereas roughly 90% is caused by the rider’s body mass. Why is bike geometry so crucial, then? To figure out why, let’s look at two essential bicycle frame specifications.

The distance vertically between the middle of the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube is known as the “stack,” while the distance horizontally is known as the “reach.” Because hybrid bikes often have a higher stack and shorter reach, they allow for a more upright riding stance. 

road bike geometrry

The shorter stack and longer reach of road bikes, on the other hand, allow the rider to assume a lower, stretched-out posture over the bike. This is attributed to the more aggressive geometry of these bikes.

It is simple to understand that a road bicycle frame that is tilted forward will minimize the rider’s frontal area, reducing aerodynamic drag. Road bike geometry will always make the rider speedier than hybrid bicycle geometry because lower drag at equivalent power output results in greater speed.

Bars (Drop vs. Flat)

The usage of drop bars, as opposed to flat bars, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of road bikes as opposed to hybrids. Cyclists can place their hands on the hoods, the tops, or the drops of drop bars, which are cleverly shaped handlebars. 

The most practical and common arrangement for road riding is with the hoods on the front of the drop bars, together with the braking and shifting levers. The tops are utilized for descending, sprinting, and turning, whereas the drops are often utilized for climbing.

The handlebars of hybrid bikes are flat, extending from left to right like mountain bike handlebars with only a little curve in the center.

There is just a single-hand position on a mountain bike, which is on each side of the flat handlebar. However, some hybrid bikes include an additional component on their handlebars called “bull horns.” This second-hand position is made possible by the curved extensions on the flat bar’s end. This is a hybrid-specific characteristic that we certainly cannot find on any other kind of bike.

As you might have suspected, the majority of hybrids adopt the type of shift and brake levers from mountain bikes, as they both employ similar-looking flat bars. Hybrids also use different brake levers and shifters than road bikes. Thumb and finger shifters and separate pull levers for the brakes are used on hybrid bikes in place of the vertical levers seen on road bike hoods.

The majority of road bike drop handlebars are between 38 and 44 cm broad, although hybrid bars range from 52 to 70 cm wide.

Check out this video below for more information about the differences between drop and flat bars:

Gear Ratio

The fact that road bikes are faster than hybrids is partly an effect of this. The gear ratios placed on hybrid bicycles’ drivetrains are substantially smaller than what is characteristic of road bikes since hybrid bicycles are meant to give a more pleasant ride on any and all terrains, allowing for greater cadences (smooth pedaling) at lower speeds.

Tires

Standard 700c road wheel sizes are used by both road bikes and hybrids to suit their frames and achieve the greatest possible mix of speed, control, and comfort. Some hybrids might also have wheels that are a little bit bigger or wider, as they are designed for off-road riding that is more intense.

Road bikes employ tires that are lighter, slimmer, and narrower than those on hybrid bicycles. The ideal road bike tires are made to be as swift as possible. Therefore, everything here is directly tied to speed. Road tires with minimal tread are quick on asphalt but slick on any off-road surface. 

Tread refers to the grooves and lines that run across the surface of the tires. Most roadies choose tires that are either 25mm or 28mm wide. However, most road tires range in width from 21mm to 38mm. Road tires are generally less durable than hybrid tires, yet more lightweight and faster. 

Because they are broader, heavier, and bulkier than road tires, hybrid tires are much more resistant to punctures. Most hybrid tires are wider than 32mm, and most hybrid frames can accommodate tires up to 38mm or even 40mm wide.

Position

road bike sitting positions

The riding postures of a road bike and a hybrid differ significantly, as you would have already guessed.

The rider’s posture will be lower and slimmer on a road bike than it would be on a hybrid bike since a road bike focuses on speed and aerodynamics. As a result of shifting their bulk forward, the rider may experience some lower back pain and increased pressure on their wrists and arms. 

In comparison to hybrid bikes, road bikes feature a considerably longer top tube and reach, which extends the rider and makes them more aerodynamic.

Hybrid bikes have an upright and relaxed riding stance since they are made for casual and pleasant riding. Their top tubes and reach are often shorter than those of a road bike, which encourages the rider to sit upright instead of leaning forward on their bottom bracket while pedaling. 

The frame is made to keep you straight and in charge when you are seated because if you take a hybrid off-road onto small gravel roads or local trails, you’ll also want a better-balanced center of gravity.

Is a Road Bike Easier to Ride Than a Hybrid?

While road bikes are typically used for long-distance rides, hybrid bikes are recommended for commuting and leisurely outings. As we already explained, the hybrid enables you to ride with optimal posture by putting most of the rider’s weight on the seat and sitting up straight. 

When riding a road bike, the rider bends forward as the weight is divided uniformly between the lower and upper extremities, balancing the entire body. For racers, this posture is beneficial since it improves handling and lets the body exert greater pressure.

The hybrid can often be used on both smooth and rocky terrain and integrates the design of a road bike and a mountain bike. The majority of hybrid bikes, however, cannot handle the same kinds of terrain as a normal mountain bike.

woman riding on a hybrid bike

How Much Better is a Road Bike Than a Hybrid?

The hybrid’s tires, the relative weight of the two bikes, and—most importantly—your position on the two bikes are the key determinants of which bike is better. Wide hybrid tires with noticeable tread move more slowly than standard 700x23C or 25C road tires, so you’ll get some speed there.

You might lose up to 5-8 pounds of bike weight by switching from your hybrid to a nice road bike (maybe even more if you purchase a high-end model). Because climbs are where this weight advantage is most noticeable, you should be a quick climber on slopes.

If your hybrid’s flat bars force you to sit straight, a road bike’s lower, more aerodynamic posture will let you cut through the wind for greater speeds on the plains and slopes. It’s hard to know for sure how everything collectively will affect your average speed. If you are as fit and are riding your road bike correctly, an educated guess would be up to 2 mph faster.

Hybrid Bike Pros and Cons

Hybrids are a terrific option if you don’t have the money to buy both a road bike and a mountain bike. However, they can’t reach the same high speeds as a lighter, faster road bike. The hybrid also enables the biker to adopt a more comfortable stance.

A real mountain bike can tackle a variety of terrains that the hybrid cannot. Instead, the hybrid can manage relatively difficult terrain and dirt roads. It is not a bike made for riding in the mountains.

In conclusion, the hybrid is significantly more adaptable and can manage both fairly rough and smooth conditions than the road bike. Because of the upright handlebar design and plusher saddle, the hybrid provides a more pleasant riding experience. Hybrids are also a better option for novices because their upright riding position provides greater control and enhanced visibility.

Road Bike Pros and Cons

man riding road bike in the woods

The road bike is the best option if speed is your top concern. When compared to a hybrid bike, the road bike’s frame is generally lighter. The frame of the road bike and the placement of the seat make it obvious that these bikes are made for speed. But, if you’re looking for a new bike to carry you to and from the office, you might want to choose a more versatile model that can withstand a variety of weather and road conditions. The road bike often only performs effectively on flat, cultivated terrain and lags in wet weather.

In conclusion, because the rider must adopt a more aggressive position, road bikes are more aerodynamic than hybrid bikes. The road bike is best suited for racing and fitness training due to its lightweight frame and narrower tires.

Road bikes are a wonderful option for long-distance rides as well since the drop handlebars and the lightweight frame provide the biker greater power and enable them to travel farther.

Final Words

The many features of a road bike are the reason why road bikes are faster than hybrids. However, they are used for different purposes. Therefore, one is not necessarily better than the other. Which bike you prefer is based on what you intend to use it for.