Cycling is notorious for being an uncomfortable sport.
Granted, often the perceived discomfort is misplaced: most people who associate discomfort with cycling should likely blame it on poor sizing or the wrong bike style.
However, I’d be remiss to skim past these complaints. Cycling does not need to be uncomfortable.
Follow these tips when shopping, and you’ll get a comfortable ride that will let you crush your fitness goals while falling in love with the sport of your life.
Tip #1 Get The Proper Size
When you browse the bike aisle at Walmart, you will see rows of bikes sorted by style and “size.” On closer inspection, there are only three sizes: 24″, 26″ and 27″.
Now, they are also starting to have some 29″ and 700c sizes (700c and 27″ are often interchanged on their displays.)
The maddening thing about this sizing system is that it does not show you bike size, only tire size.
Which is about as useful as ordering your ice cream flavor by cone type.
(See? Even that sentence makes no sense)
All bicycles come in different frame sizes. Larger frames fit taller people, and shorter frames make riding accessible to shorter folks.
This is a key component for comfort. If you are scrunched up on a bicycle that is too small, you will suffer from wrist pain, knee pain, and neck pain. Ride long enough this way, and it can lead to irreversible problems.
Small bikes are essential, especially if the rider is under 5 feet tall. Getting a frame small enough to allow for confident dismounts is a matter of safety.
When you get on one of these, you should be able to raise the seat, so your leg is almost straight when on the pedal in the bottom position. Initially, this position might feel a little tall, but it will feel right once you start riding.
In this position, you should be able to comfortably reach the handlebars and sit upright in a natural position.
Some of the fitness hybrids will lean you forward, but even then, it should not cause undue pressure on your wrists.
Tip #2 Get The Proper Comfort Features
Hybrid bikes are great for both asphalt and gravel riding. Some of the models are designed with comfort in mind.
These models offer shocks on the front wheel and under the saddle to smooth the road.
Additionally, the saddle normally has a plush feel to it. If the saddle isn’t comfortable, you can look at swapping out the seat.
Ride the bike you are thinking of purchasing. Ten minutes should be more than enough time to pick up on any major comfort issues.
Tip #3 Go For The Right Features
Some of these hybrids are excessively heavy. If you are a small person who needs to load it in the back of a pickup with 4-inches of lift, weight matters.
Many of the more sport-oriented models way almost as little as road bikes. These often have slightly narrower tires and are designed for longer distances.
Most of the models are designed for comfort and to offer smooth urban riding. But if you want to do more sport-oriented riding (such as triathlons), you want to watch the weight and find one of the lighter models.
What Makes A Women’s-Specific Hybrid Different?
For the past hundred or so years we’ve associated women’s bikes with a step-through frame design. Ostensibly, this swoop in the top tube was created to allow room for women’s skirts.
As a side note, this lower top-tube design was first popularized by monks who needed bikes that had room for their robes.
In an era where there are fewer gender differences in dress code, the sloped top tube is considered an antiquated design. Many women-specific bikes have done away with it.
However, for the shorter rider, this design feature is all-but-essential. Thankfully, most of the manufacturers still incorporate it on their 15-inch and smaller frame sizes, to provide that easy, step-through access.
This feature is also helpful for men and women who struggle with lifting their leg over the seat. The patient who has recovered from hip surgery will appreciate the easier access, regardless of gender designations.
Distance To Handlebars
Ideally, these models will have a shorter distance between the handlebar and the seat to allow for a more upright ride.
Study after study has demonstrated that women enjoy sitting more upright then men do. This varies from rider to rider. For some, it will have no bearing.
Ladies with shorter torsos or who are buxomer will subconsciously appreciate the more upright position that a shorter top tube creates.
Typically we are talking about less than an inch of difference, but it can make all of the difference on long rides.
The Best Cheap Hybrid Bikes For Women
The Wayfarer is an excellent classicly-styled model. The 700c road wheels are taller than the common 26-inch models. This taller wheel translates into more effortless speed.
The fenders keep mud and water from flinging on the rider, and the mounted rack makes this one a perfect object for riding as a commuter or simply using it for evening beer runs.
The rear derailleur and shifters are a little weak and won’t hold up to aggressive shifting. The trick with these entry-level shifters is that you let up off the pedal when you shift and then pedal lightly for one revolution to allow it to shift into gear.
This model only comes in the 17-inch frame size, so you need to be at least 5’2″ for this model to be a good fit. But it should fit women up to 5′ 11″.
This 2016 model is close to closing out, but if you can still find it, you are bound to get a steal. (Otherwise, just go with their current version of this).
This is a sportier model than the wayfarer and is ideal for the lady who wants a fitness-focused bicycle. You could ride this one around town, take it on cross-state gravel rails-to-trails rides or use it to compete in your first triathlon.
The frame is lightweight, making this one a real pleasure to pedal.
They also didn’t skimp on the gearing quality. The disc brakes deliver dependable stopping, and the Shimano Altus is a reliable middle-of-the-road shifting option that should hold up to 10,000+ miles of normal use.
As you can see, there are some significant variations inside the “hybrid bike” category.
A hybrid combines the best of both road and mountain bikes. It is an excellent, affordable option for daily fitness.