Purchased a Crosstrail
this year, I have over 500 miles on it since May of this year. I live in Bucks County PA. I like the bike and I'm getting addicted to riding like I was to running before back surgery in 2000. I'm riding a few flat paths (Delaware Canal) but mostly streets, local parks, some grass. I'm looking to progress and start some other parks with some hills and single tracks. I'm 260 lbs and not looking for jumps or anything like that, the back won't take it, I'm not looking for anything severly technical but how far can I take this bike off road? I'm looking for some guidance.
It's not a mountain bike.
The frame will probably stand up to a lot. Bike frames are rarely what limits them.
A lot of hybrids have weird geometry and can be odd to try to ride in technical terrain or on serious climbs.
The wheels may be a problem if you ride through rocky stuff at speed.
The biggest problem is probably just tire clearance. A lot of what makes a mountain bike a mountain bike is fat, knobby tires. They provide good traction and smooth out a rough ride considerably. IMO, they're actually more important than suspension. They also protect the wheels. I don't think mountain bike wheels are always that much stronger than road wheels, depending on the target use. But force isn't nearly as concentrated by the time it reaches them with fat tires mounted. You'll have to see how big a tire you can fit on your Crosstrail. Allow a little extra for frame flex and mud, and look particularly at the seatstay bridge, chainstay bridge and front derailleur as potential problem spots.
The forks on hybrids suck and are typically a weird size. This makes it difficult to hold a line on terrain with rocks or roots trying to move your wheel sideways.
So, you can do fire roads and you can do smoother singletrack. It'll probably get frustrating after that.
"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx