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What are the best bikes for recreational riding?

How to choose between a hybrid and a recreational mountain bike? What are the pros and cons? We've highlighted the differences so you can pick the perfect bike for your riding.
by Kale Griffiths - May 16, 2022
What are the best bikes for recreational riding?

Mountain Bikes vs. Hybrid Bikes - Which is right for you?

Many people are unsure if they're better off getting a mountain bike or a hybrid. There are pros and cons to both that we're going to cover today, and hopefully, you'll quickly understand which is right for you.


What is a hybrid?

About Hybrids

A hybrid bike is between a road bike and a mountain bike. They come in many shapes and forms, some more built for off-road use and others for on-road use.

"Hybrid" is a broad term that can make it difficult to understand. Our customers often won't understand that a hybrid could be anything from a flat-bar road bike to something closely related to a mountain bike. When browsing for a hybrid, be aware that the range of options will be large and you will have to narrow down the feature-set that you need.


What is a hybrid made for?

Hybrids are generally made for path and road riding. There are, of course, models made more for off-road riding, but these generally still aren't capable of more than the mildest of unpaved walking paths. We'll cover this more later on...


Why buy a hybrid?

The benefit of a hybrid over a mountain bike is all about how easy it is to ride. They were designed to be lighter, roll faster (less friction with the tyres), and sometimes more comfortable.

Some models designed for commuters may prioritise weight and rolling resistance over comfort.

Depending on your riding, you may prefer a commuter hybrid or a cruiser hybrid.


Commuter bicycles vs Cruiser bicycles


What is a mountain bike?

About mountain bikes

People often get put off by the idea of a "mountain bike" - After all, they don't plan on riding up mountains any time soon.

In the shop, we'll often use the term "recreational mountain bike" to help customers understand the difference between a bike made to ride proper trails versus something with slight off-road capabilities. When comparing hybrids and mountain bikes, what we're really comparing is "recreational mountain bikes" to hybrids.


What is a "recreational" mountain bike made for?

A recreational mountain bike can ride on unpaved paths made for walking - unlike even the hardiest hybrids, it handles even pretty extreme walking paths with ease. These mountain bikes still have a low enough gear ratio to keep up on the paths and roads while holding basic off-road capabilities.

The important part to understand here is the mountain bikes we're talking about (recreational mountain bikes) are not made for proper MTB trails as shown below, but rather most walking paths (paved or unpaved) and some on-road riding. The gearing and suspension are not made for extreme off-road trails.

MTB Trails vs Walking Paths

Why buy a mountain bike?

I'll more often recommend a recreational mountain bike than a hybrid. They offer more versatility than hybrids and have a gear range suitable for most on-road riding as well as basic off-road cycling. With the many unpaved paths made of packed dirt or limestone around Australia, you greatly miss out on the more interesting parts of cycling if you don't own a mountain bike. Our customers most appreciate their mountain bikes when going away - camping or just staying somewhere new offers interesting scenery and walking trails to explore.


What about hybrids with suspension?

About suspension hybrids

Some hybrid models also come with suspension. There are very few people I recommend these to for a few reasons.

Let's go back to the pros of buying a hybrid:


  • Weight
  • Rolling Resistant
  • Comfort


Two of those points become negligible for most hybrids with suspension forks.


  • More often than not, these hybrids come with fairly wide tyres (some even with an off-road tread). This adds both rolling resistance and weight.
  • The fork adds a significant amount of weight having much more material and a metal coil spring.


Generally even with these mountain bike-esque features, often the gearing and frames are slightly less suitable for off-road use than an actual mountain bike.


What does this mean?

You're getting a bicycle that weighs close to the amount of a mountain bike, the wider tyre with possibly more tread adds a similar amount of friction as an MTB would have, and finally, the bike can't handle rugged walking paths nearly as well as an ACTUAL recreational mountain bike.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, as I said, there are still a few people I would recommend this to. You may have noticed that I haven't talked about the comfort aspect yet...


Why buy a suspension hybrid?

A suspension hybrid has only one main focus. Making the rider comfortable. The suspension fork and wider tyres are there to offer greater comfort over small bumps as well as greater stability and grip for the rider's confidence.

While they don't want the ride to be hard, weight and rolling resistance are not the biggest priority here. These are popular for cyclists that only ride short distances with very few hills. It offers a more comfortable bike for short distance riding, and they often come in very up-right cruiser frames which many casual cyclists may prefer.


How to pick the right bike?

Okay, so you know the differences now... I hope. So how do you pick which bicycle is right for you and your riding? I think the best way is to answer some questions:


  • Where are you thinking of riding?
  • Are there local unpaved paths nearby?
  • Would you ever bring your bikes on a trip (camping or other)?
  • What are you using the bicycle for?


If you're commuting to work or use it as general transport (shopping or other), you may want to prioritise speed and efficiency over anything else. A fixed-fork (no suspension) hybrid will get you from A to B not only quickly, but with little effort exerted.

Cycling on paths and roads can quickly get boring - if you're doing this for a sport & exercise, I highly recommend looking into a mountain bike. As long as you have local trails through the bush, it makes for an interesting experience rather than the same-old scenery you see daily. If you start enjoying the sport, investing in a proper MTB to take on some trails built for mountain biking will be the best decision you've ever made.

If you're just trying to get outside and cycling for a bit of fun (and a bit of exercise while we're at it), a suspension hybrid may be the way to go. Distance and speed aren't important here - just getting out for some fresh air and maybe spending some time with the family is what cycling is all about.


Choose your next bike here

Mountain Bikes | Hybrids


What is your experience with bicycles? What are you currently riding and how do you like it? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated: 16/05/2022


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