10 Great Hybrid Bikes for Under $500

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The year 2020 gave me a new appreciation for versatile bikes. I barely had a social life because of the pandemic, so I had all kinds of time to ride. And I always felt better after getting out onto a gravel trail and riding for a while under a peaceful green forest canopy.

Having a bike that could do that, and still help me get around the city without having to brave public transit, was ideal for the times.

That’s what a hybrid bike did for me, and that’s what it can do for you.

Many of these do-it-all bikes can be had for a pretty reasonable price, which is crazy when you consider that they’re equally at home on the open road or navigating a bumpy trail. It’s like having two bikes in one.

Today we’re covering the best hybrid bikes under $500. We’ll look at them in detail further down, but first here’s a glance at our top 10. You can click on any model to jump straight to it.

10 best hybrid bikes under $500 at a glance

 GoldSilverBronze
VersatilitySchwinn GTX 2.0Royce Union Commuter BikeVilano Diverse 3.0
ComfortFelt Verza Speed 50Hiland Hybrid CommuterKAIHSD Hybrid
SpeedCo-op Cycles City BikeTrek FX 1n/a
FlairHGWXX7 HotState Bicycle Co. x The Notorious B.I.G.n/a

Choosing a hybrid bike on a budget

Hybrid bikes are as diverse as they are versatile. Some lean toward city riding, others do their best work on tougher terrain.

If you’re wondering which of the models above will suit you the best, let’s go over a few things to consider.

Hybrid bike frame

Lighter is always better for the pure road bike, and advantageous for a fast, nimble mountain bike. However, most mountain bikes would never have a cargo rack, nor would they much use for long-distance commuting. You shouldn’t be afraid of a hybrid bicycle with a heavier, more robust frame, but be aware that the longer distances you intend to ride, the more of a factor the weight and gearing will be.

Steel vs. aluminum frames

SteelAluminum
HeavierLighter
StrongerLess robust for heavy riders
Can rustDoes not rust

Handlebars

Handlebars are a personal choice but will really influence your riding style. Just about any type of handlebars can work for a hybrid bicycle, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to ride off-road with ram horn handlebars.

Brakes

Brakes are also a matter of personal preference. Nearly all new bikes come with brakes that will stop you in a hurry under normal conditions, but if you’re looking for extra performance, the possible upgrades are nearly endless. From your basic V-brakes and alloy calipers with linear feel, you can upgrade to mechanical disc brakes and all the way to hydraulic discs if you’re feeling like the Michael Schumacher of the bike lane.

Disc brakes on a bike
Disc brakes do a great job but add some cost to your bike.

V-band or V-brakes

V-band or V-brakes are great for the everyday rider. They’re generally low-maintenance, but they can sometimes get a bit squeaky. In the dirt and mud, you may find their performance drops as the rim gets dirty.

Linear-feel alloy calipers

Linear-feel alloy calipers are your standard upgrade to the most basic of brakes. Designed to offer a consistent feel for braking, they are much more desirable for any performance riding.

Mechanical disc brakes

Now you’re talking! These shiny circles of anti-speed will bring you to a stop in a hurry, even in the muddiest and rainiest conditions.

Hydraulic disc brakes

Hyrdraulic disc brakes are designed with racers in mind, so you don’t really need them unless you spend most of your time riding your bicycle downhill at a 60-degree angle. Hydraulic brakes also tend to require more maintenance and finesse to get the feel just right.

Tires

The choice here is all about how slick or knobby you want your tires.

Road

Road tires are exactly that. You want to avoid slippery surfaces, gravel, rocks, or anything that might not look like a smooth surface. Careful, you can get quite hurt if you attempt to ride through the mud with these, as the slick surface can have you eat dirt in a hurry!

All-surface

All-surface tires are like your car’s all-season tires (if you drive). You can do urban riding or trail riding pretty well, but naturally, you won’t have optimal performance in either. The slight tread on these tires makes riding through the mud a much safer affair than with slick road tires.

All-surface bike tires
An all-surface tire can take you just about anywhere.

Knobbies

Throw on the gnarly, knobby tires and hit the trails! Designed for mud and anything else you can throw at ’em, these tires are certain to give you the bike you need when you’re flying down trails with confidence. They’re a bit noisy on pavement and make for harder pedaling. You might attract a few odd looks from the spandex crowd.

Hybrid bike suspension

Hybrid bikes are generally either fully rigid—meaning no suspension—or front-suspended with a front fork. It’s handy to have an adjustable front fork for when you want to ride uphill, but it isn’t necessary. For doing drops and jumps on any mountain bike trails, they are almost certainly necessary—unless you have the skills and strength to absorb your own landing.

Fully rigid suspension

This is what it means to have no suspension in the back or the front. A hard-tail in the rear and a solid fork in the front. Great for smooth surfaces, speed, and hill-climbing. There’s no squish in your suspension to steal your momentum forward.

Front fork suspension

Having a shock absorber upfront is a real boon to off-road riding. No longer do you have to use your arms as your suspension and remain as active in the seat. Hit those jumps and drops with quite a bit more ease! Remember, though, you’re not a dedicated mountain bike, and you still have a hard-tail in the rear. Big air means a big shock when landing. Stay safe.

Giant hybrid bike with front fork suspension
Having front-fork suspension like you see on this Giant hybrid will soften the ride on rough terrain, but slow you down a bit on smooth pavement. (© lcd | Creative Commons)

Hybrid bike gearing

Hybrid bikes perform a wide range of duties, and that is reflected in your gear options.

Single-speed gearsets

Many people scoff at the lowly one-speed, thinking it is a throwback to the Flintstone era of cycling. How primitive must you be trying to snail-pedal from a stop, huffing and puffing like it’s 4000 BC. Fear not, for the one-speed is actually fine for urban biking and undeniably the most simple setup you can have. Mountain biking, unless downhill, really benefits from more than one gear. Top speed is generally still pretty high, but starting from a stop with any sort of backpack on or cargo… well, good luck. I hope you haven’t been skipping legs day!

7-speed gearsets

Most people could handle a 7-speed bicycle with some cargo, but the lowest gear isn’t as forgiving as some of the more geared bikes we’ve reviewed. Riding on dirt or mud with a 7-speed is far easier than with a single-speed, and this should be the bare minimum for a bike that will see off-road duty.

21+ speed gearsets

Now we’re cooking with gas! From an ultra-low ratio that makes it easy to ride from a stop, to high gearing for those wild top-speed downhill runs, there’s nothing you can’t handle with this many gears to choose from. Just make sure you clean and maintain your setup, or you’ll eventually get frustrated with some missed shifts.

10 best hybrid bikes under $500 in detail

Let’s get down to our favorite hybrid bikes under $500, broken down into several categories in which we give the nod to our gold, silver and bronze choices.

Best Balance Hybrid – Gold: Schwinn GTX 2.0

Schwinn GTX 2.0 Comfort Adult Hybrid Bike, Dual Sport Bicycle, 18-Inch Aluminum Frame, Black/Blue Check availability

The Schwinn GTX 2.0 is right at the cusp of our budget, sliding it generally a hair over. You immediately notice the rigid high-bar aluminum frame and thick front fork designed for performance off-road riding. With disc brakes, upright handlebars and a 21-speed gear system, along with a fully adjustable, wide seat designed for a comfortable ride, the Schwinn GTX is a very well-rounded bicycle that will handle paved roads and gravel trails with aplomb.

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Linear pull
  • Suspension: Front fork
  • Tire size: 28 inches
  • Tire type: Mixed-use
  • Speeds: 21
  • On budget: Slightly above
  • Focus: No focus—good balance of road and off-road

Best Balance Hybrid – Silver: Royce Union Commuter Bike

700c Royce Union RMY Mens 21-Speed Hybrid Comfort Bike, 17 Check availability

The Royce Union red 21-speed bicycle comes in among the middle of the pack. An all-red frame combined with the black accents of the components give it an almost firetruck look. One of the main advantages of the Royce Union bike is that it comes shipped almost fully built, allowing you to take delivery and ride within a few minutes. The plush sprung seat and soft-grip pedals offer a less harsh ride than some of the more dedicated, sportier bicycles. The Royce Union leans more toward the comfort side of hybrid bicycles. However, the suspended front fork is there to soak up bumps and rip it up down muddy trails when you seek a little adrenaline.

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Linear feel alloy caliper
  • Suspension: Front fork
  • Tire size: 700C
  • Tire type: Mixed-use
  • Speeds: 21
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: No focus—good balance of road and off-road

Best Balance Hybrid – Bronze: Vilano Diverse 3.0

Vilano Diverse 3.0 Performance Hybrid Road Bike 24 Speed Disc Brakes Check availability

The Vilano Diverse 3.0 is a great budget bike. Right away, you notice the sleek leaning-tube frame design and classic black look. With consistent great reviews across many different sources, the bike has been a noted reliable workhorse with people complimenting its overall strength and durability. With an aluminum fork and frame, the weight of the bike will not be holding you back from your ride. Anyone who has ridden a steel-framed road bike over a long distance will tell you a few pounds can make a big difference. This bicycle requires assembly, so keep that in mind as part of your budget.

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Disc
  • Suspension: Front fork
  • Tire size: 700C
  • Tire type: Mixed-use
  • Speeds: 24
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: No focus—good balance of road and off-road

Most Ergonomic Hybrid – Gold: Felt Verza Speed 50

Felt Verza Speed 50 Check availability

The Felt Verza Speed 50 is the most ergonomic of bicycles on our list, coming in under budget. With comfort in mind, an upright riding position and no suspension, it falls among the lower-performing hybrid bikes for riding off-road, but it’s certainly capable of handling gravel and other moderate forest trails. Riding around the city for fun, you’ll notice how the 24-speed gear set makes it so easy to find the right gear. Shimano group components keep the shifts crisp, and V-brakes help keep things under control. Some might note the lack of a disc braking system, but this would only be evident during performance riding off-road. The Verza Speed 50 shines on paved roads, is easy to ride, and is a lot of bike for the money.

  • Frame: Aluminum Low-entry
  • Brakes: V-brake
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 700C
  • Tire type: Road tires
  • Speeds: 24
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Comfort and ergonomics

Most Ergonomic Hybrid – Silver: Hiland Hybrid Commuter

Hiland Road Hybrid Bike Urban City Commuter Bicycle with Disc Brake for Men Comfortable Bicycle 700C Wheels 24 speeds Bikes Red Check availability

The Hiland Hybrid Commuter is a nimble urban bike with some decent off-road potential. With a strong, thick-tubed, low-step frame made of aluminum, along with a 7-speed gear set and V-brakes, this bicycle is really an ergonomic urban runner that’s capable of some weekend trail hopping. Expect to be able to handle gravel and mud but be wary of any serious mountain-biking trails. The Shimano components will keep your shifting precise and trouble-free, while the padded, luxurious grips of the Hiland will ensure comfort. This crimson-cycle would stand out in front of your school or a coffee shop.

  • Frame: Aluminum alloy
  • Brakes: Linear feel alloy caliper
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 700C
  • Tire type: Road tires
  • Speeds: 7
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Urban comfort

Most Ergonomic Hybrid – Bronze: KAIHSD Hybrid

KAIHSD Bicycle Men's 26 Inch Frame Good Condition Hybrid Bike Unisex Adult Mountain Check availability

The KAIHSD doesn’t have the prettiest name, nor is it the cheapest, but what it lacks in agility it makes up for in big, beefy carbon steel. Coming with a wide sprung seat, it could very well be the most comfortable ride of all—a veritable couch on wheels! With V-brakes and the heavy steel frame, you won’t be doing any big jumps or bombing down vertical trails at top speed (or at least if you do, bring a parachute to stop). It comes with fenders and a chain protector to keep your pants grease-free, The KAIHSD is ideal for all-weather types. The major drawback to this bicycle is that it is a single-speed drive. Any riding done with this bicycle should be done with the knowledge that pedaling uphill may be difficult.

  • Frame: Steel
  • Brakes: V-brakes
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 26 inches
  • Tire type: Off-road
  • Speeds: Single-speed
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Urban or trail cruising

Best Urban Speedster Hybrid – Gold: Co-op Cycles City Bike

Co-op Cycle CTY 1.1 Bike Check availability

Co-op Cycles City Bike is our stealth fighter of the hybrid bikes we’ve reviewed. Coming in at a hair over budget, this is, by far, the poshest and sophisticated of our choices today. Starting with the “Nightsea” teal blue, all-black Shimano components and black alloy wheels, you have an understated and classic look. In terms of performance, the City Bike, unsurprisingly, does not have a front suspension fork and is tuned for a faster ride. With Riser Bar handlebars and trigger finger shifters, the grip is a great balance for control and confidence under a wide variety of conditions. While being a bit of a pricier bike, the looks and finely-tuned riding experience for paved roads and leisure riding.

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Disc
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 700c
  • Tire type: Road tires
  • Speeds: 24
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Urban or light trail cruising

Best Urban Speedster Hybrid – Silver: Trek FX 1

Trek FX1 hybrid bike

Check availability

The Trek FX 1 is a grey ghost, a nimble hybrid for the connoisseur of classy wheels. One of the notable features of the FX 1 is the DuoTrap S compatibility, allowing you to collect data from your bike rides. Trek also offers a lifetime warranty and stands by their products. With alloy linear-pull brakes, 21 speeds of Shimano-shifted gears, double-walled wheels and an aluminum frame, the Trek FX 1 is more of an urban speedster that can double as a weekend warrior. The lack of a front suspension fork will limit more extreme stunts.

  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Brakes: Linear feel alloy caliper
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 700c
  • Tire type: Road tires
  • Speeds: 21
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Urban or light trail cruising

Most Wild Hybrid – Gold: HGWXX7 Hot

HGWXX7 Mountain Bikes Men Women, 26-Inch/Medium High-Tensile Aluminum Frame Bicycles with V Brake, 2020 New Road Bikes for Adult Check availability

The HGWXX7 Hot is the most eye-catching bike in the lineup. I picture the designer having a fever dream where he imagined what a bicycle would look like if it were inspired by the personification of ’80s rock mixed with the aesthetics of an energy drink can. You will be flying down the trails or city streets on this mean machine: 21-speeds worth of vroom will keep your legs pumping at the right ratio while the disk brakes will slow you down in a hurry. A full Shimano setup will keep you shifting smoothly while the double ducktail fenders are both stylish and functional. The potential downside to this bicycle is the steel frame. It’s a bit heavy to be an agile road bike but strong enought to handle jumps and drops while on a mountain bike trail.

  • Frame: Steel
  • Brakes: Disc
  • Suspension: Front fork
  • Tire size: 700c
  • Tire type: Off-road tires
  • Speeds: 21
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Off-road

Most Wild Hybrid – Silver: State Bicycle Co. x The Notorious B.I.G.

State Bicycle Co. x The Notorious B.I.G. Ready To Die Check availability

State Bicycle is a company that believes in customization. From the moment you browse their bicycles, they make it known that you can tweak and modify your build the way you want it from the factory. With a striking red, white, and black design, the single-speed Notorious B.I.G. bike will wow people whether you’re riding on a sunny day on the seawall with your pals or getting some exercise on a forest path. The seat on these bikes can be adjusted to be particularly low, which is great for new riders.

  • Frame: Steel
  • Brakes: Linear feel alloy caliper
  • Suspension: Rigid
  • Tire size: 700c
  • Tire type: Road tires
  • Speeds: Single-speed
  • On budget: Yes
  • Focus: Urban or light trail cruising

So there you have it. As you can see, there is a ton of variety in hybrid bikes, but also plenty of options in the sub-$500 range. They’re all “hybrids” but they all excel at different things. If you know exactly what kind of riding you want to do, the choice should be relatively easy. If you’re not sure, we recommend you keep your options open by choosing one of the balanced models at the top. It just might be the only bike you’ll ever need.

Image at top: © Dominique Bernardini | Creative Commons

 

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