11 Ways To Improve Your Hybrid Bike

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Hybrid bikes blend features from mountain bikes, road bikes, and touring bikes. These bikes ride well in a variety of settings.

Unfortunately, a hybrid bike can’t usually keep up with the speed of a road bike of comparable quality. So how do you improve a hybrid bike?

Improving a hybrid bike typically involves changes intended to achieve faster speeds. Making the bike and the rider more aerodynamic allows the bike to reach higher speeds with less effort. Reducing the weight of the bike and maintaining it properly may also increase the bike’s efficiency.

If switching to an actual road bike isn’t an option, you can use the following guide on how to improve a hybrid bike.

Man standing next to hybrid bike after learning how to improve a hybrid bike

What Is a Hybrid Bike Intended For?

Most hybrid bikes are designed based on the characteristics of road bikes, mountain bikes, and touring bikes. Hybrid bikes are popular for commuting, as you can ride them on almost any type of terrain, including road terrain and bike trails.

With a hybrid, you’re essentially getting a bike that falls somewhere between road bike performance and mountain bike performance. As with a mountain bike, hybrid bikes often have flat, wide handlebars, which puts you in a more upright position. They also often have larger tires compared to road bike setups.

How To Increase the Speed of a Hybrid Bike

You can increase the speed of your hybrid bike by adjusting or upgrading parts. You can lower the handlebars or replace them with narrower options. You may increase the air pressure in your tires or replace them with quality tires that offer less rolling resistance.

The average speed of a cyclist on a hybrid bike is between 11 and 18 mph. The average speed of people on road bikes is between 15 and 22 mph.

Achieving faster speeds with a hybrid bike is possible but may also limit some of the advantages of the bike’s design.

Cyclist going fast on hybrid bike after learning how to improve a hybrid bike

For example, a hybrid bike may include wider handlebars, wider tires, and full suspension. These features are useful when riding over rocky terrain and bumpy roads. You can remove these features to make the bike faster, but then you may struggle to ride off-road.

If you plan to ride on roads only, you may not need a hybrid bike. Instead of upgrading an existing hybrid bike, you can use that money to buy a decent road bike.

However, if you prefer the design of a hybrid bike but want a little extra speed difference, you can use the following suggestions . . . .

11 Ways To Make Your Hybrid Bike Faster

1. Use Tires With Less Rolling Resistance

The average 750c hybrid bike tires have a diameter of 622 mm, and a width of 35 to 45 mm. Most road bikes use 700c wheels, which have a standard width of 23 mm.

A wider tire creates more rolling resistance and reduces your fastest speed. If you want to travel faster, switch to narrower road tires.

Close up of hybrid bike tire purchased after rider learned how to improve a hybrid bike
A typical hybrid bike tire. Note the tread that gives you some traction on wet or uneven terrain. (© Gavin Anderson | Creative Commons)

2. Check the Tire Pressure

Low air pressure in the tires increases grip and traction, which reduces your speed. Keep the air pressure between 90 and 120 psi.

Mountain bike tires often have less air pressure. The softer tires create more contact with the ground, keeping you from slipping around on loose terrain. However, the tires don’t roll as quickly with less air pressure.

The average tire pressure for mountain bike tires is 25 to 35 psi. Hybrid bike tires are often filled to 50 to 70 psi. Adding more pressure helps the tires roll quickly and ride smoothly on the road.

You should also avoid exceeding the manufacturer’s recommendation. Exceeding the manufacturer’s maximum recommended tire pressure may increase the risk of blowing a tube.

3. Lower Your Handlebars

If you typically ride in more of an upright position, you can lower the handlebars to increase your speed. Lowering your handlebars lowers your profile, which decreases your air resistance.

Cyclist holding lowered handlebars after learning how to improve a hybrid bike

Avoid lowering your handlebars too far, as a large change in your riding position may cause back pain, discomfort, and poor handling. Start with a small adjustment to get comfortable with the change in your riding position.

You may also try raising your saddle height a few millimeters at a time. Raising the bike seat while lowering the handlebars as much as you can without causing discomfort can allow for a more aerodynamic position.

4. Use Narrow Handlebars

Using narrow handlebars is another way to increase the speed of your hybrid bike. Large handlebars measure 730 mm and longer, while 650 mm is considered small.

Choosing a length of 600 to 650 mm narrows your profile, as your arms and shoulders are closer together. You create a smaller frontal area, which results in less drag.

5. Switch to Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals ensure that your feet remain optimally positioned on the pedals. The design of a clipless pedal system also increases your pedaling efficiency. Maintaining precise positioning and stability may give you a slight boost in speed and power.

Clipless pedals purchased after rider learned how to improve a hybrid bike
A pair of clipless bike pedals

The cleats of cycling shoes clip to the clipless pedals. Keeping your feet clipped to the pedals allows for a firmer upstroke, which is beneficial when going uphill or over rough terrain. Using a firm pedal stroke also gives you more momentum as you climb uphill or over a pothole.

If you have never used clipless pedals before, you should practice riding around your neighborhood before cycling a long distance. New users may fall during stops until they become more accustomed to having their feet clipped to the pedals.

6. Switch to a Rigid Fork

Many hybrid bikes include a front suspension fork. Suspension forks help absorb shocks and bumps, which is great for mountain biking but reduces your speed on the road.

Switch to a rigid fork to increase the speed of your hybrid bike. In most cases, you will need a suspension-corrected rigid fork, as standard rigid forks are typically shorter.

You can also try locking a suspension fork instead of replacing it. Some suspension forks allow you to lock the suspension system, which makes the fork rigid.

Locking the suspension doesn’t cost anything but may not offer the same benefit as switching to a rigid fork.

7. Limit the Weight of Your Ride

The total bike weight and everything on the bike, including you, impacts the amount of power needed to move the bike forward. If you ride with a heavy backpack, you need to pedal harder.

Here are several ways to reduce the extra weight of your ride:

  • Switch to a lighter bike
  • Lose excess body fat
  • Avoid heavy gear

The average road bike weighs about 18 pounds. A hybrid bike may weigh 26 to 34 pounds. Getting the lightest bike that suits your needs may boost your overall efficiency.

Large man riding bike

Losing excess body fat may also help. Your total body weight contributes to the weight of the load on the bike. Your body fat does not add to your power, but muscle does. You should also avoid carrying unnecessary gear to cut down on the total weight.

8. Store Your Gear in a Saddlebag

Along with reducing the weight of the load, you can make it more aerodynamic. Compared to panniers and baskets, a saddlebag creates less wind resistance.

A small saddlebag may also keep you from packing too much. It should offer just enough space for your bike repair tools, a spare tube, and other essential gear.

9. Wear Aerodynamic Clothing

Avoid wearing baggy clothes. A loose-fitting jacket and baggy pants create more drag, which may slow you down.

You don’t need to wear form-fitting clothing, tight bike shorts, or padded bike shorts, but you should skip any clothes that catch the wind.

10. Use a Rearview Mirror

Add a rearview mirror to keep a better eye on the road without needing to turn your head as frequently. Using a rearview mirror allows you to keep your attention on the road ahead, which can help you travel faster and more efficiently.

Bike mirrors come in a variety of sizes and designs. Avoid choosing a mirror that adds too much drag. You can get a view of the road behind you with a mirror that measures just a few inches or less.

The Hafny Bar End Bike Mirror is an excellent mirror with a universal fit.

Hafny Bar End Bike Mirror, Stainless Steel Mirror, Safe Rearview Mirror, HF-MR083 (Black 62mm) Check availability

11. Keep Your Bike Clean and Lubricated

The last tip for improving the speed of your hybrid bike is to keep it clean and lubricated. Keep up with your bicycle maintenance.

The frequency of bike cleaning depends on how frequently you ride and the distance that you travel. Many experts recommend cleaning your bike at least once a month or every 20 to 25 rides. However, if you commute on your bike daily, try cleaning it at the end of each week.

Cyclist cleaning bike chain after learning how to improve a hybrid bike

Skipping bike maintenance allows debris to accumulate on the chain and other parts of the bike. The build-up may keep the chain and gears from working correctly, forcing you to work harder to keep your speed up.

Conclusion

You can increase the speed of your hybrid bike by making several adjustments or by upgrading specific bike parts. For example, increasing the air pressure in your tires and lowering the handlebars may improve your speed.

If you have money to spend at a bike shop, you can upgrade parts, such as getting clipless pedals or a rigid fork. You can also install narrower tires/skinnier tires.

Remember to avoid wearing baggy clothes and packing heavy gear. This can make a huge difference when it comes to impact on speed. Keep your ride light and aerodynamic to maximize your pedaling efficiency and overall speed.

 

Image at top: © Dominique Bernardini | Creative Commons