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  1. #1
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    MTB - Hybrid Confusion

    I've always considered MTN bikes to have only two categories. It's either a hardtail, having only a suspended fork, or it's a fully suspended MTB with double suspension, both front and rear.

    However, after hanging out with a few bike geeks and a couple of MTB gurus, I find that there are MTN bikes with rigid forks. There are hybrids with suspended forks. I'm totally embarassed to ask them, because I know them all quite well. Eventhough, they are all quite knowledgeable about bike mechanics and bike history, they all have the potential to be real idiots at times. I'm therefore, going to pass on asking them these two questions, in deference to you guys:

    At what point does a MTB with a rigid fork become a hybrid?


    At what point does a hybrid with a suspended fork become a hardtail?


    I'll thank you in advance for an intelligent and respectful response.

    - Slim
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  2. #2
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    A hybrid is a blending of two different styles of bikes, usually with the goal of being able to ride well on and off road. A true hybrid will be designed and built with this in mind, but in reality they tend to do neither well. They can come with various wheel sizes depending on what they are to be used for. As for your questions:

    At what point does a MTB with a rigid fork become a hybrid?

    At the very least you need to have slick tires on the bike for it to be called a hybrid. But you really need to have larger chainrings (i.e. 48, 36, 26) to be a true hybrid so that you don't run out of gears on the road.

    At what point does a hybrid with a suspended fork become a hardtail?

    Most store bought hybrids come with parts that will not survive "real" mountain biking for very long. As such you would probably need to replace almost every component with true mountain bike components. But at a minimum you would need to put on knobby tires and a "real" suspension fork because the 1" or 2" travel, spindly suspension forks that come on most hybrids are not very useful or durable offroad. But the frame of a hybrid probably has poor geometry and I would not expect it to be very durable.
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  3. #3
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    LJ was spot on

    Hybrid is what you get when you want to get the worse of both world. Not a cruiser, mtb, nor road bike. It's just some thing to fill the nitch. They put suspension fork for added comfort usually 50-80mm range just enough to take the edge off the road, and they are not design to perform well off road. Personally, I don't know a useful hybrid of any kind, for example Toyota Prius

    However, part of your question about rigid mtb well that's another story altogether. Riding a rigid mtb can be addictive and fun. It's not comfortable but you feel so connected to the terrain and your input is direct and more precise. I rode my friends rigid 29er and it was a rude awakening, it was brutal and unforgiving but so addictive, I'm actually planning to build one up myself

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ljsmith View Post
    A hybrid is a blending of two different styles of bikes, usually with the goal of being able to ride well on and off road. A true hybrid will be designed and built with this in mind, but in reality they tend to do neither well. They can come with various wheel sizes depending on what they are to be used for. As for your questions:

    At what point does a MTB with a rigid fork become a hybrid?

    At the very least you need to have slick tires on the bike for it to be called a hybrid. But you really need to have larger chainrings (i.e. 48, 36, 26) to be a true hybrid so that you don't run out of gears on the road.

    At what point does a hybrid with a suspended fork become a hardtail?

    Most store bought hybrids come with parts that will not survive "real" mountain biking for very long. As such you would probably need to replace almost every component with true mountain bike components. But at a minimum you would need to put on knobby tires and a "real" suspension fork because the 1" or 2" travel, spindly suspension forks that come on most hybrids are not very useful or durable offroad. But the frame of a hybrid probably has poor geometry and I would not expect it to be very durable.
    Thanks Again, LJSmith!

    I found your answer most helpful. Spendid!

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimi1885 View Post
    LJ was spot on

    Hybrid is what you get when you want to get the worse of both world. Not a cruiser, mtb, nor road bike. It's just some thing to fill the nitch. They put suspension fork for added comfort usually 50-80mm range just enough to take the edge off the road, and they are not design to perform well off road. Personally, I don't know a useful hybrid of any kind, for example Toyota Prius

    However, part of your question about rigid mtb well that's another story altogether. Riding a rigid mtb can be addictive and fun. It's not comfortable but you feel so connected to the terrain and your input is direct and more precise. I rode my friends rigid 29er and it was a rude awakening, it was brutal and unforgiving but so addictive, I'm actually planning to build one up myself
    Hey there Mimi!

    Thank you for your contribution. I enjoyed reading you opinion about hybrids...

    - Slim
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  6. #6
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    Expanding what's been said a bit further...

    There are at least a couple of types of "hybrid" bikes: comfort and performance hybrids. Comfort hybrids are the bikes that tend to have suspension forks, are generally very upright riding bikes with large saddles, and don't tend to be ridden far or fast. "Performance" hybrids are more intended for either commuting or exercise, they're built lighter than comfort bikes, and move plenty fast on pavement or dirt but aren't really intended to be ridden on rough trails.

    Mountain bikes on the other hand can be defined as any bike that accepts a large tire (2 inch width is a good round number) that was built to ride off-road. They come in all shapes and sizes: rigid, hardtail, softtail, or full-suspension. Many different angles and geometries have been used over the years, so it's hard to define anything beyond having a frame that is capable of surviving extended off-road use.
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    In a typical case, a hybrid will have a flat bar with 700c wheels and narrow (28-38mm) tires.

    That does make it sound like a flat-bar cyclocross bike, but the design intent of the engineer is always important - a hybrid meant for recreational use may not be UCI-compliant, and may not handle racing abuse very well.

  8. #8
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    I will add to the already good information presented in saying that Hybrid bikes typically have a geometry set up so that the rider is in a more upright position. The angles are set such that it is comfortable to ride for short distances.Mountain bikes are designed around the intention that they will have to navigate rocks and trail obstacles so the geometry reflects that.

    Hybrid bikes typically are spec'd with lower end parts that are less durable than most mountain bikes but because of the geometry differences they won't usually perform the same as a mountain bike even if you were to put mountain bike parts on it. They may appear similar, but the two types are bikes are usually pretty far removed. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules.
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  9. #9
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    I'll play devils advocate here and disagree. I think hybrids aren't that bad. Some of them are actually quite capable. Think of them as the missing link between cyclocross and monstercross. My 2 favorite threads from MTBReview:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/vintage-retro...bs-412368.html

    http://forums.mtbr.com/29er-bikes/i-...ss-355649.html
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  10. #10
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    CS2 that's an awesome links, I have a Mojo classic with 1" headtube and handjob, now I'm thinking it would be cool to build a monstercross SS out of it. Cool idea, thanks.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimi1885 View Post
    CS2 that's an awesome links, I have a Mojo classic with 1" headtube and handjob, now I'm thinking it would be cool to build a monstercross SS out of it. Cool idea, thanks.
    The whole Monstercross thing is great. There's lots of budget cross bikes being made from old hybrids that work great.
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  12. #12
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    There are lots of bicycle types, and a lot of overlap. There are road bikes with flat handlebars and mountain bikes with drop (road style) handlebars. Mountain bikes with slick tires and road bikes with knobby tires (cyclocross bikes).

    The biggest limiting factors in performance are 1) tire size, and 2) frame geometry. Tire width and tire tread have a huge impact on the ability of a bike to go off road. If you can't fit wide tires (2+ inches) on a bike, it isn't a mountain bike. That does not mean it can't go off road, but it will be a challenge to ride some trails.

    Frame geometry is harder to answer. Road and hybrid bikes usually have a higher "standover" - meaning the distance between your crotch and the top tube when you straddle the bike. This puts the rider closer to the bike's center of gravity - at the expense of aerodynamics and pedaling efficiency.

    To answer your questions specifically:

    At what point does a MTB with a rigid fork become a hybrid?
    - Probably if tires narrower than 1.5" are installed. But as mountain bikes with the right tires aren't compromised much on the road, the question is sort of academic.

    At what point does a hybrid with a suspended fork become a hardtail?
    - If tires wider than 1.8" are installed. This isn't likely, however, as most hybrid frames and suspension forks won't accept tires that wide.

  13. #13
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    Thanks everybody for all of the astute responses. I'm a much more enlightened cyclist today, than I was last week.


    Happy Trails...

    - Slim
    God gave birds, wings to fly .... He gave us, Jamis!

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