Categories: Bikes, Travel Planning

Road Bike vs Hybrid – Common Questions and Myths...

by Julie Horton - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Not Sure Which Style of Bike is Best for Your Tour in Europe?

We’ve got a pointer or two.

Congratulations, you’ve decided to take a bike tour in Europe! Now for the fun part – trip planning.  As you plan your trip, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is which style of bike you’ll use on your ride. ExperiencePlus! has some of the best bikes in the touring industry. We’ve changed and updated our fleet over half a dozen times as frame geometry, design and bike frame technology has improved.

How do I decide which style of bike is right for me?

If you have only ridden a road bike with drop handle bars at home, it’s an easy decision: stick with a drop bar bike on tour. The same logic rings true for those who prefer hybrid or fitness style bikes with flat handlebars. We don’t suggest testing out a new style of bike for the first time while on a multi-day cycling tour.  It’s best to stick with a the type of bike you know because you’ll be comfortable riding for an extended period of time, and we would not want you to discover any discomforts with your ‘test run’ in the middle of a tour.

What if I ride a flat bar (hybrid) and a drop handlebar road bike at home?

If you are used to riding both styles of bikes, here are a few things for you to consider as you select the best style for your bicycle tour in Europe. First of all our hybrid or fitness bikes are essentially a road bike with flat bars. They are lightweight and offer the same size tires you will find on our traditionally styled road bikes with drop bars. One of the most common questions we get is “I like to ride more up-right when I’m touring, but I don’t want to have a heavy bike so I’m not sure a “hybrid” works for me – what should I do?” Here is some food for thought:

Similarities between our drop bar road and flat bar road (hybrid) bikes.

Our drop bar road and flat bar (hybrid) bikes all feature:

1. Titanium frames

2. Carbon forks

3. Adjustable stems

4. Tire size = 700 x 25

Differences between our drop bar and flat bar road (hybrid) bikes

1. Upright Position: Even though all of our bikes come with adjustable stems and a less aggressive touring geometry, the adjustable stem on the flat bar bikes can give you a nearly completely upright seating position that isn’t possible on our drop bar road bikes. If you prefer the flat bar but a more aggressive riding position that is possible too.

2. Frame Styles: Our flat bar road bikes (hybrids) come in both a regular and step-through frame. So if you don’t want to swing your leg over the bike our mixte frame hybrid (flat bar road) bikes have you covered.

Mixte Step Through Frame

3. Gearing:

Our flat bar road bikes (hybrids) offer you a lower range of gears. They come with triple chain-rings and gearing similar to what you’d find on a mountain bike. This means you’ll be able to spin up even the steepest of hills. Gear heads consider the following: 42-32-24 chain-rings and an 11-34 cassette.

Our drop bar road bikes come with either triple chain-rings (30-39-50) and an 11-28 cassette, or compact double 34-50 chain-rings and an 11-32 cassette. Both options have a great range for climbing, but if you find yourself wishing you had another gear when riding hills you should consider the flat bar road bike.

4. Weight: The flat bar bikes are slightly heavier (about a pound for a similarly sized frame) than our drop bar bikes. Because of this difference the drop road bikes feel more responsive, particularly in tight turns – but this is not significant enough to affect performance for the type of cycling one does on our tours.

Hybrid Vs Road Handlebars

5. Braking: Flat bar bikes (hybrids) make braking easy because of the location of the levers. On drop bar bikes – even if you don’t have to go into the “drops,” – many people find braking to be more challenging, particularly people with small hands.

6. Hand Positions: On longer rides it’s important to have a variety of positions for your hands, which is one reason why people like drop style handlebars that traditionally styled road bikes come with. However, our flat bar road bikes come with ergonomic Ergon grips and bar end extensions allowing cyclists to adjust their positioning throughout the day.

My Bike Reflects Who I Am

There is a common belief that flat bar bikes are for weaker or less experienced riders. We’re here to say that the old adage, “real” cyclists only ride drop bar road bikes,  just doesn’t hold true. If you are a strong rider you will be a strong rider no matter the style of bike you’re on. More importantly, you’re on vacation! Be comfortable and enjoy the ride in whatever style best fits you.

Myth Busting!

Myth #1: You aren’t comfortable on a drop bar bike, but think you need to ride one to keep up.

Comfort equates to confidence. If riding a traditionally styled drop bar road bike makes you nervous, you’ll waste a substantial amount of your energy worrying instead of pedaling. If you are comfortable, you’ll be stronger!

Myth #2: I’ve always ridden a drop bar road bike but I can’t make it up the hills anymore.

It’s logical to say a rider in this situation should get the flat bar road bike (hybrid) because of the lower range of gears, but egos can get in the way. The question is what would make you feel better –  pushing your drop bar bike up a hill, taking the support van, or pedaling up the hill slow and steady on a flat bar bike?

Myth #3: You won’t be able to keep up.

Good news! Our tours are not a race. You likely chose ExperiencePlus! in part because our chalk dust navigational arrows mean that you don’t ride as a group. If you prefer to pound the pedals and ride fast and hard, you can. If you prefer to explore every small town along the way and take 100 photos a day – yes, you can too! Most people express concern about their cycling abilities by struggling with their bike choice. The bike that is the most comfortable for you is going to be the bike that allows you to perform at your best.

What if I am not used to riding a drop bar or a flat bar bike?

If both of these bike styles are new to you, we recommend visiting your local bike shop and taking both types for a test ride. If you have a shop that offers bike rentals consider renting each style and riding around for a day to see which style you prefer.

Looking to go a bit outside of the box? We also offer tandems and e-bikes on our tours in Europe! See Our Bikes page or contact us for more information!

Alternative Bikes

Julie Horton - Julie Horton is the Purveyor of Cycling Adventures at ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours. She bicycled in more than 20 countries on a year long, self-supported bicycle tour around the world, which covered more than 14,000 miles. Her career in the adventure travel industry began back in 1994 when she started leading hiking tours in the USA, Europe, and far flung locations like Nepal and Thailand. After 10 years on the trail her desire to get back on the road led her to ExperiencePlus! in 2004. Her passion for traveling by bicycle and sharing the possibilities and plans with our travelers makes her "work" at ExperiencePlus! fun and gratifying. She looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm for traveling by bike with each of you and hearing of your adventures. Email Julie(at)ExperiencePlus.com

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