Hybrid Bicycles vs. Mountain Bicycles

Mountain Biker Biking Down Stairs in Front of Cathedral

In today's bicycle marketplace, many options abound for a cyclist's needs. Hybrid, or cross bikes, are growing in popularity for fun recreation and general commuting. For those seeking rugged off-road riding, mountain bikes make the ideal choice. While the two bike designs have similarities, each excels in its own way for its intended purpose.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid bicycles are the luxury liners of bicycle designs. They are a combination of a road bike and a mountain bike. Hybrid bikes feature relaxed frame geometry and raised handlebars, meaning that you sit up straight, usually in a comfortable saddle. They feature high gear ratios for easy shifting and pedaling, and they often have wider tires than road bikes, but narrower tires than mountain bikes, making them suitable for light off-road use like gravel roads and smooth dirt trails.


Commuters or recreational and family cyclists may be more comfortable on a hybrid bike. Mountain bikes typically are heavier and have an aggressive frame geometry that keeps riders leaning toward the handlebars. Mountain bikes may be more expensive and are designed for more abuse than many cyclists deliver. According to REI.com, mountain bikes are less-efficient commuters on pavement due to their gear ratios and knobbed tires, while hybrids are highly efficient because of more suitable gearing and faster tires.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are designed to be ridden over rugged terrain and technical trails with logs, rocks, roots and other obstacles. They have a sharp frame geometry that puts the rider in a commanding position to pedal and climb efficiently. They have lower gear ratios that allow riders to pedal through steep and difficult terrain. Because of their intended use, mountain bikes are sturdy and overbuilt to handle the abuse of the trails. They usually have larger, heavily knobbed tires and strong brakes like hydraulic disc brakes. Many mountain bikes feature a kind of suspension shock over the front tire or both front and rear, allowing the frame to comply with the bumps, jumps and challenges of the trail.

Kinds of Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes vary tremendously in their designs for intended use. Pedaling efficient cross-country mountain bikes are built for climbing speed and good off-road handling. These are also used for racing. "Trail bikes" are overbuilt, comfort-oriented cross-country bikes with full suspension, both front and rear, and higher gear ratios. Trail bikes generally seat riders more upright and have more travel in their suspension than cross-country bikes. Downhill bikes are intended to go downhill very fast. These bikes have little or no climbing gears and are predominately designed to travel well over enormous obstacles and over short cliffs not encountered in normal off-road riding. They are the heaviest of all mountain bikes. Cross-country or trail bikes are the most commonly used kinds of mountain bikes.

Best Bike for the Job

Both hybrid and mountain bikes overlap somewhat in their intended use. Mountain bikes can make terrific commuters, reliable in all weather, over railroad tracks or over potholes and other urban conditions, while hybrids can be ridden off-road in lighter conditions like dirt paths, crushed stone or gravel. Hybrids deliver the most enjoyable and comfortable ride, and because they can be ridden on many surfaces, it makes them one of the best choices for a cyclist, according to Thebikeshack.com. Mountain bikes are best suited for more aggressive terrain and off-road riding. These different types of uses affect calorie burn. Riding a hybrid bike for 30 minutes at 12 to 13.9 mph will burn approximately 298 calories for a 155-pound individual. Raise the speed to 14 to 15.9 mph, and you'll burn 372 mph in the same amount of time. Riding a mountain bike for 30 minutes will burn approximately 316 calories in a 155-pound individual.