What is a basic hybrid?
To some, it may be the deal advertised in the paper with a free helmet and lock thrown in. To us at Cosmic Bikes, a basic hybrid is a bike that will dependably carry you and your gear around Chicago year-round.
The problem with hybrid bikes is that they don't have a catchy name. If they were tomatoes or cars, things would, perhaps, be different. But in the world of cycling, hybrid is not very sexy word. Yet, were it not for the invention of the hybrid bike, urban cycling in the US would not be what it is today. What started out as cross between a mountain bike and a road bike resulted in a new bike category, offering a more comfortable sitting position, and more sensible tire width than either of the parents. And, what started out as a compromise between two styles of riding, actually created a riding style all of its own. Thanks to their versatility, utility and ease of use, hybrid bikes made urban biking accessible and convenient for all. For the majority of urban cyclists, a hybrid is still a great choice, because it adapts well to a variety of uses.
When we evaluate our vendors' offerings each year, we look for a minimum of features before we decide if the bike is appropriate to carry in our store. Any basic hybrid we select will generally meet the following criteria:
- A corrosion-resistant, durable and lightweight frame (either steel or aluminum) with quality construction.
- Wheels that can take a beating. We stock hybrids with double-walled alloy rims, with sealed hubs and stainless steel spokes. Such wheels resist corrosion, and can handle rough roads and occasional potholes.
- A drivetrain that allows for a reasonable cadence on urban streets.
- Dependable brakes, including alloy (NOT resin!) hand levers. The brake mechanism itself should be sufficiently adjustable and solid to allow for squeak-free, confident braking, without shuddering. Brake levers should allow for adjustment for smaller hand sizes.
- Characteristics appropriate for street riding. We like bikes that don't go over the top with whistles and bells, but focus on well-thought-out features, such as smooth, puncture-resistant tires, saddle, and perhaps an upright stem.
- Eyelets for mounting fenders and racks. This is a small but crucially important feature of any hybrid bike that will make it easy for you to carry loads and use the bike in less than perfect weather.
- Out-of-the-box rideability. Though virtually any bike can be improved through customization, a good basic hybrid can be ridden as-is, once it has been properly assembled.
One of our favorite basic hybrids with an impressively long track record is the Kona Dew (and its more premium sibling Dew Plus, which features disc brakes). A good hybrid will retail for around $500's, will lend itself to a variety of uses outside of urban travel, and give you years of enjoyment.