Gravel Bike Vs. Hybrid Bike: What Should You Ride?

Gravel bikes and hybrid bikes are two of the most popular types of bikes available in the market today. Many professional cyclists, hobbyists, and casual commuters invest in these bikes. This is mainly for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. 

Gravel bikes are designed to be ergonomic and versatile on different road surfaces. These bikes are also called ‘adventure bikes’ because they are durable and practical on almost all surface types. They are built for people who are into environmental escapades. 

Hybrid bikes are technically two-bikes-in-one to make them more comfortable and efficient on different surfaces. They are also called ‘cross bikes’ because they are a  cross-combination of different bike properties. They are designed to give you confidence on the road despite how rugged the terrain may be.

Similarities of Gravel and Hybrid Bikes

There are profound similarities between gravel bikes and hybrid bikes. They are both made to be durable on different road types. Each component that comprises these bikes is engineered to endure impacts, bumps, and obstacles.

Another quality that makes gravel and hybrid bikes similar is their primary reference.
They are both derived from road and mountain bikes but with different results. In simpler terms, they are both built to have the great qualities of road and mountain bikes, such as going through different terrains.

Both gravel and hybrid bikes will give you an upright posture. Their frame geometry gives you a better handling position, so you will be more comfortable as you pedal on both paved and unpaved surfaces. This makes them desirable for nature tours and even on uphill climbs. 

Differences of Gravel and Hybrid Bikes

As mentioned earlier, gravel bikes and hybrid bikes were born from the idea of mountain and road bikes, but with different final products. One of the most noticeable differences between them is their tires. Gravel bikes use thicker tires and wider tire clearance, while hybrid bikes use skinnier tires and have a smaller tire clearance.

Another difference is that gravel bikes use flared drop bars while hybrid bikes use traditional flat bars. Flared drop bars offer a great riding position and give you many options to hold it. You may ride on it in the hoods position, drops position, the top position, hooks position, or ramps position. It’s all up to your comfort and preference.

Flat bars of hybrid bikes are a more straightforward handlebar option. It offers an upright riding position and is considered the better option for beginners. It does not require any technical knowledge for you to effectively utilize it. 

What Makes a Gravel Bike?

Credits to: @vaccinium

Gravel bikes are known for their unique frame geometry compared to other modern bikes. It has a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and a more loose headtube angle. It is also known for its flared drop bars, which offer you more control and stability over your rides. This is considered as one of its primary selling points.

When it comes to properties on the road, gravel bikes are known for being versatile and durable. They can endure dirt roads, gravel roads, forest tracks, irregular terrains, and bridle paths. The wide tires that gravel bikes have give you more road grip, making passing through the most challenging road surfaces easier. 

What Are Gravel Bikes Good for?

Gravel bikes are great for multi-terrain expeditions. Its wide tires with low pressure enable you to take advantage of its effective hold on strenuous road textures. Moreover, since gravel bikes have wider tire clearance, you have the option to customize your road experience and use a wider tire as well. This makes the bike more practical on more complicated road trips. 

Gravel bike frames are generally made from carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium materials. Its lightweight frame material makes it easier to carry on ascending paths. This makes them effective on uphill tours and mountainous rides. 

Lastly, gravel bikes are great for long rides. Their geometry is made to make you comfortable even after hours of pedaling. They are that cozy to make you forget that you have already traveled a great distance. 

Gravel Bikes: The Pros

1. Switchable Tires

Gravel bike frames are manufactured to have a more capable tire clearance than most bikes in the market. This makes them capable of using different tire sizes. In fact, this is to be expected in gravel bikes and is considered a great asset as a bike. 

Typically, gravel bikes use 700c tires. This is equivalent to 29 inches in diameter. You may also use 650b tires, which measures 27.5 inches in diameter. Regarding the width of the tires, gravel bikes are capable of 25 mm. tires up to 47 mm. Although recommended, it is best to use 38 mm. to 42 mm. tires on your gravel bike. 

2. Carry All You Want

Do you have a lot to carry on your road trip? Don’t worry, as gravel bikes are designed to mount different accessories and luggage for you. Gravel bikes allow you to carry bottle cages on the main bike frame. You can also load items on your bike with a handlebar bag, downtube bag, fork bags, and panniers. 

3. Chainring Power

Gravel bikes have two chainring options, the single and double chainring. A single chainring system gives you enough power to experience the general greatness of your gravel bike. But if you are seeking more power and speed, you can turn to the double chainring system. 

To explain further, chainrings are the front gears or crankset of the bicycle. The chainrings are responsible for utilizing the pedal power you create. They then transmit this power to the rear wheel through the bike chains. 

Using a single chainring makes the bike lighter, cableless, and derailleur-less. It is much simpler and has more minor mechanical shifting. It also requires less maintenance. In double chainring, you should expect more weight on your bike. But in return, you have more gear options, and you can override the speed of your gravel bike. 

Gravel Bikes: The Cons

1. Not Efficient on Paved Roads

Gravel bike tires use less pressure compared to road bikes and triathlon bikes. Typically, road bike tires have 80 to 120 PSI. With gravel bikes, tires usually run at 40 to 80 PSI. With this lesser tire pressure, gravel bikes tend to be less effective on smoother road surfaces.

Tire pressure is responsible for how smooth and quick your tires will roll. The more pressure your tires have, the better speed you have on paved roads. Higher tire pressure is recommended on bikes that use skinnier tires. Since gravel bikes use fat tires most of the time, their recommended tire pressure is lesser. Therefore, this makes them less potent on smooth surfaces.

2. Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are the brake system customarily used for gravel bikes. They are generally more effective and give you more stopping power than other brake system types. However, using disc brakes can give you some drawbacks.

First, disc brakes are heavier. They add more weight to your bike and further affect your aerodynamics while riding. Furthermore, disc brakes are a more expensive option for brakes up to date. 

3. Expensive to Build

Building or purchasing a gravel bike can cost a chunk of your budget. Gravel bikes use components that use modern and advanced technology to be shaped. In labor alone, building each part is expensive. 

The materials used for the gravel bike frame alone can be costly. For example, titanium. This material is considered the strongest and the most expensive for frame making. To build a great quality bike, you should expect a reasonable amount of expense.

What Makes a Hybrid Bike?

Hybrid bikes can be coined as the child of road bikes and mountain bikes. It offers the speed of a road bike and gives you the comfort of a mountain bike. This bike uses flat bars for an upright riding position. It also uses slim low-pressure tires to be more effective on tricky terrains. 

For its frame, many manufacturers tend to make a more unique version. But normally, hybrid bikes have sloping top tubes and a front suspension mechanism. It has a shorter reach from the saddle to the handlebars, making it feel like a shorter bike.

Hybrid bikes are known for their large, padded seats. This allows you to have a comfortable experience even when riding through unpaved surfaces. They are also known for having a standardized format of 26 inches. 

What Are Hybrid Bikes Good for?

Hybrid bikes are great for recreational activities, commuting, and even for workouts. Most of the time, hybrid bikes are recommended when you will course through dirt roads and gravel paths. The comfort that hybrid bikes offer makes them desirable for light and semi-demanding road activities. In fact, they are best used on paved paths and are also effective on moderately rough roads. 

Hybrid Bikes: The Pros

1. Versatile Gearing and Chainring System

Mountain bikes can use single chainring, double chainring, and triple-chainring systems. Although it is recommended for hybrid bikes to use triple chainrings. This allows you to have a more customized experience with your bike.

Regarding gears, hybrid bikes can use single-gear up to 27-gear (or more). This wide gearing system selection makes your shifts and speeds more personalized. Also, you can gain more control over your pacing on the road with more gears to choose from.

2. Diverse Brake Options

Modern bikes normally use modern brake systems such as mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes. Hybrid bikes use these too. But you also have an option to use rim brakes if you are leaning into the cheaper option.

Disc brakes offer you a more consistent and timely braking power. It is also less in maintenance in the long run. In rim brakes, aside from being economical, you have more vision with your brakes, and you can easily detect it if you need replacement. 

3. Can Carry Extra Weight

Like gravel bikes, hybrid bikes can also carry stuff for you. You can install bike cargo racks for your urban rides or even when buying supplies from the nearest grocery in your place. What’s best is that if not needed, you can easily disassemble the cargo racks from your bike’s frame. 

Hybrid Bikes: The Cons

1. Off-Road Limitations

Although hybrid bikes are made to endure multiple surfaces, they are not built to endure extreme road types. They are advertised as equal to mountain bikes when they are not as efficient as them. 

When riding on terrains, it may cause awkward handling on twisted trails due to the bike’s geometry. Furthermore, it may lead to accidents if you are not a professional and are new to handling hybrid bikes. In general, it is recommended that they be used for light off-road tours only.

2. Not the Best in Speed

Compared to road bikes, hybrid bikes make use of generously thicker tires. Road bikes typically use 23 mm. to 25 mm. tires. On the other hand, hybrid bikes usually are within 35 mm. to 45 mm. This is to make them effective on considerably more difficult surfaces. 

This trait of hybrid bike tires makes them heavier and slower than road bikes. Again, hybrid bikes are advertised as equal to road bikes when it comes to speed. Although when compared to cruiser and mountain bikes, hybrid bikes give better speed output. 

3. Lack of Suspension Fork

Hybrid bikes do not have suspension forks. This bike component is responsible for tanking the impacts encountered by a bike on the road. When the bike hits a bump, suspension forks move up, and their spring gets compressed. This system allows the impact to be lessened, if not eliminated.

Without suspension forks, off-road adventures can become uncomfortable and very bumpy. You will feel all the impacts you encounter during your ride. This can further lead to more fatigue for you and your bike.