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Real world difference of road vs hybrid commuting

SquawkSquawk Posts: 132
edited February 2016 in Commuting general
I commute 10 miles each way into London (Beckenham to Cannon Street) and have done for the last year and a half, all on my Trek 7.3 FX hybrid with panniers.

Journey to work is about 40 mins door to door, journey home is more like 46, all dependent on traffic light sequences and traffic. I haven't upgraded to a road bike simply because I can't imagine seeing much more than a couple of mins difference given all the start-stop and I can't justify the expense.

However, we're now contemplating a move out to Orpington. 17 miles each way suddenly looks like a long way on the hybrid, but in order to justify splashing out I need to get an idea of how much time I can realistically save over the commute. I commuted 16 miles each way for 5 weeks last year and I know that takes 1:05-1:15 depending on conditions.

Does anyone have any experience of that or a similar journey on hybrid vs road bike? If so, what kinda time savings do you see on average? I'll likely ride the hybrid in on Monday's with panniers loaded with a week of clothes, leaving four days of baggage free riding regardless of whether I get a new bike.

Squawk
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  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    What makes you think that you would be faster on a road bike?

    What dont you like about your current bike?

    If you buy a better/lighter/more expensive road bike then you might be faster, but if you buy a road bike of similar weight/quality to what you have now then the only difference really is the drop bars allowing you to get in a more aero position. But if your ride is all stop/start you wont take much advantage of this.

    Commuting in busy traffic where sitting a bit higher for visibility and more maneuverability are good things, many people say Hybrid is better.

    Far be it from me to put someone off buying a shiny new bike but I cant see anything you have written that justifies one?

    Having said that, your bike is not the lightest - buying a better/lighter bike could give more speed and/or enjoyment but buying one of similar spec just because of the drop bars doesnt make much sense to me.

    If you are going to buy a better bike, I would suggest a test ride on one with drops to see if you like it - that is the real litmus test...
  • imatfaalimatfaal Posts: 2,716
    I do 17 and a bit miles each way of commute - I generally use my hybrid; better brakes, better position, and less incentive to go silly.

    When, like today, I took the CX into work I find myself doing 30mph along embankment trying to keep up with the motorcycle couriers. I really do not think my CX could have taken the pounding that the hybrid has taken over the last 3 years - and the hybrid will cost less than half as much to replace when I finally trash it.

    A good hybrid is attainable without massive expenditure and, if you keep the chain set clean, will do years of service; a good road bike is more fun but can become an obsessive money pit.

    Use the hybrid - buy a nice road bike for weekends; when the weather is good treat yourself by using the road bike for the commute
  • KerSploshKerSplosh Posts: 30
    I do just over 8 miles each way on a hybrid, so not quite in the same league (used to use a road bike, but now keep it for the weekends) and whilst is slightly faster on the road bike - I don't think you can put a time on the safety or the practicality of the difference between the two. Also, I found with the roads from SE London (I start near Forest Hill) I burned through tires way faster on the road bike than I do with my sturdier (and slower) tyres on the hybrid.
  • tangled_metaltangled_metal Posts: 4,015
    I once wondered about whether my hybrid was much slower than my old road bike last year. So i got on a flat, straight road without obstructions and rode normally and with my head tucked down for more aero position. the result was about 2-3mph consistent difference in speed without any noticeable change in effort. The lower position was not able to be held for the whole ride so when the hybrid cot nicked I got a gravel bike/commuter (london road from planetx). This bike was about £100 more and about 3kg lighter.

    When I got it I was about 2-3 months off the bike so my cycling fitness was back to square one. First ride I was not right but managed the ride in about 40 minutes (previously I was doing it in about 36-40 minutes). That was an uncomfortable ride in wind IIRC and I was not feeling good at all (previous hybrid windy days took 45 minutes BTW). The next ride was 33 minutes. Now after about 6 weeks and about 20 commutes (not riding in every day obviously) i am taking 28-32 minutes consistently.

    Basically I would say that once I get back to the fitness I was when the hybrid got nicked I expect to get about 10 or more minutes saving on the trip. BTW I won't say how far the commute is because I am more than a little ashamed it is taking so long. I used to do it on my ancient steel road bike in 20-25 minutes.

    I only give this overlong summary because I found a drop bar bike to give a decent savings on commute time for me, an unfit individual. I am on a different commute than you. my ride is a steady rise to halfway then more or less downhill all the way into work. It is shorter than yours by some margin and it only has stop start at a few locations in the beginning, just before halfway and in the last bit as I hit town. The rest is a clear run (apart from some roadworks which I can get caught at).

    Personally I would say for stop/start I would want a lightweight hybrid for the upright stance. My hybrid was a spesh crosstrail disc so was heavy not least because of the suspension, rack and pannier-full. If I was considering it I would have been better getting a hybrid that was more road bike than mountain bike. I think you can get them as light as a basic road bike (say 9.5kg instead of 13.5kg) for not that much money. You get better visibility on flat bar hybrids than more aero road bikes. However I just prefer drop bars for other benefits to me.
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    This is not a very useful comparison - the road bike which is faster is also 3Kg lighter and doesnt have the energy sapping suspension - how much of it is due to the drops and how much to the weight reduction??? Obviously as you say, your ride is not stop/start in traffic either, so you can make better use of the drops than OP.

    I realise you acknowledge these facts, just wanting to make clear for any casual reader that you cannot conclude road bike is faster than hybrid unless you ride one of comparable qualities. Many people make this conclusion from the type of transition that you have made without thinking about the other differences, because the move to road bike is also a time to upgrade in general.
  • markhewitt1978markhewitt1978 Posts: 7,614
    Squawk wrote:
    I commute 10 miles each way into London (Beckenham to Cannon Street) and have done for the last year and a half, all on my Trek 7.3 FX hybrid with panniers.

    Journey to work is about 40 mins door to door, journey home is more like 46, all dependent on traffic light sequences and traffic. I haven't upgraded to a road bike simply because I can't imagine seeing much more than a couple of mins difference given all the start-stop and I can't justify the expense.

    However, we're now contemplating a move out to Orpington. 17 miles each way suddenly looks like a long way on the hybrid, but in order to justify splashing out I need to get an idea of how much time I can realistically save over the commute. I commuted 16 miles each way for 5 weeks last year and I know that takes 1:05-1:15 depending on conditions.

    Does anyone have any experience of that or a similar journey on hybrid vs road bike? If so, what kinda time savings do you see on average? I'll likely ride the hybrid in on Monday's with panniers loaded with a week of clothes, leaving four days of baggage free riding regardless of whether I get a new bike.

    Squawk

    Two areas where the road bike will win is aero and weight.

    Do you have climbing on your route? If so the road bike will likely get up the hills faster.

    Do you have significant stretches of road where you'd just head down pedaling and not having to negotiate traffic etc? As the more aero position on the road bike means you can maintain a higher speed for longer.

    If it's flat with constant lights and traffic then the hybrid would probably serve just as well.
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    Two areas where the road bike will win is aero and weight.

    Do you have climbing on your route? If so the road bike will likely get up the hills faster.

    Do you have significant stretches of road where you'd just head down pedaling and not having to negotiate traffic etc? As the more aero position on the road bike means you can maintain a higher speed for longer.

    If it's flat with constant lights and traffic then the hybrid would probably serve just as well.

    Why is a road bike lighter? Yes it will be lighter than a heavy hybrid with suspension and/or disc brakes, but many hybrids arent of that style and a road bike wont be lighter just because it has drop bars.
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,155
    apreading wrote:
    Two areas where the road bike will win is aero and weight.

    Do you have climbing on your route? If so the road bike will likely get up the hills faster.

    Do you have significant stretches of road where you'd just head down pedaling and not having to negotiate traffic etc? As the more aero position on the road bike means you can maintain a higher speed for longer.

    If it's flat with constant lights and traffic then the hybrid would probably serve just as well.

    Why is a road bike lighter? Yes it will be lighter than a heavy hybrid with suspension and/or disc brakes, but many hybrids arent of that style and a road bike wont be lighter just because it has drop bars.

    This, plus since the OP has paniers we can assume they are carrying stuff, thus all in the bike, any bike with panniers isn't light.

    The hybrid OP has is more on the flat bar roadie than City pottering type.

    I haven't noted any increase in time vs a light weight SS road bike vs MTB with paniers etc for city riding even the odd 40 mile return trip, top speed is lower but total speed vs distance is too close to call.
  • awaveyawavey Posts: 2,368
    I dont think on a commute it will make that much difference, my timings road vs hybrid are very similar to be almost just lost in the noise of ride variations, headwinds or not feeling up to scratch on the day, and my road bike weighs at least half the hybrid, even before I add all the extra stuff I sometimes have to fit in the panniers.

    ok I do tend to ride on the hoods ,and am less than aero. but the main advantages of the road bike just seem to be, it feels alot more responsive and I can accelerate quicker vs the hybrid which can take alot of punishment in all weathers

    for me the biggest real world difference is my road bike is probably twice the value of the hybrid,so unless there is secure bike storage, the road only comes out at the weekends.
  • cookeeemonstercookeeemonster Posts: 1,976
    My personal experience is that yes, the road bike will be faster but not quite as much as you think (traffic and lights etc equalise things a bit) but the times will be more consistant.

    A windy day could add 10-15 minutes onto my 18 mile commute...with the road bike it was nearer 5 and with less aches and pains in the neck and shoulder area. A lighter bike of whatever bar style will help you when pulling away from lights - blast away 30 odd times and it really adds up on a heavy bike
  • SquawkSquawk Posts: 132
    Ok thanks all,

    Given the above I'd say the only way to really know is to borrow a road bike and time it. If I do get around to it I'll resurrect the thread and post the results.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    17 miles each way is a lot of time on the bike, I'd be most concerned about choosing the most fun machine
    and the occasions where being aero matters.

    With traffic lights your choice of bike makes little difference to overall time.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,748
    Panniers is going to offset a chunk of any aero benefit anyway.

    As for weight, a flat barred rigid hybrid, all else being equal, is lighter than a road bike as the bars and controls are lighter, my hybrid is 9Kg with a fairly average alloy Carrera frame and only moderately high end parts, if you prefer a Hybrid you can have the same wheels and tyres and brakes (wheel end) as a road bike, you can run a flipped stem and zero rise bars, that will put your hands in about the same position as on the hoodz of a normal road bike which is where most people ride most the time, you can also move your hands inboard of the controls for a slightly improved aero if you want it.

    Most the time a fast road setup Hybrid will be just as fast as a similar budget Road bike.
  • cyberknightcyberknight Posts: 1,238
    I have a 10 mile each way commute and use a road bike or a rigid mtb , both with panniers.
    Over the distance i can save maybe 3 minutes on the road bike compared to the mtb but the mtb will knacker me more , once up to speed theres not much in it as far as top speed goes as i try to ride as aero as possible on the mtb but its getting it up to speed and the hills which make the weight felt.
    FCN 3/5/9
  • my mtb with skinny tyres is 5-10 mins slower over 14 miles.

    I don't like the massive wind-blocking profile so use road/cross bike all the time for commute. It is not just a little more aero, it is heaps better in a headwind when the upright position sucks all my energy and fun,

    More importantly a dropped bar gives you loads more comfortable hand positions if you're riding 34 miles/day and narrower bars are better in traffic/paths/bollards etc. Upright is also poor in crosswind and you cannot lower centre of gravity while cornering so loses speed there too. So the actual riding pleasure is less because you can't shift your hands and body around properly: you are just sitting on the bike and not really riding it. If have 34 miles pannier-free riding daily for four days in a row then you could have a lovely time on a dropped bar bike.

    Also almost got blown off my road bike in cross winds yesterday, if I had been sitting upright I would have definitely been in the hedge! but this may not matter if you are not on exposed roads.
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    Can we stop comparing to mountain bikes please? Its just pointless - that wasnt what the OP asked about and its obvious that even with rigid forks and skinny tyres they will not match a road bike. The question was about hybrids and more specifically about the end of the hybrid spectrum which is more like a road bike with flat bars.

    Hybrid is a really broad spectrum but with mountain bikes that have been partially converted, you are not just at an extreme end of that spectrum, you actually dropped off the end of it into something completely different.
  • Hi, If the definition of a hybrid is an mtb/roadie mashup then I turned my mtb into a hybrid twenty years ago and my comments stand. Have a look at any old steel mtb. Upright angles and riding position, level top tube, rigid fork, skinny tyres, flat bars. I call that a hybrid, call it what you like, you might not share my definition, who cares. In reply to OP is I save several minutes on drop bars and much more comfortable and safer over similar difference compared to hybrid. Best of luck to OP. Just cycled fourteen miles on flat bars on tarmac and my wrists were sore.

    regards

    Alan
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    Hi, If the definition of a hybrid is an mtb/roadie mashup then I turned my mtb into a hybrid twenty years ago and my comments stand. Have a look at any old steel mtb. Upright angles and riding position, level top tube, rigid fork, skinny tyres, flat bars. I call that a hybrid, call it what you like, you might not share my definition, who cares. In reply to OP is I save several minutes on drop bars and much more comfortable and safer over similar difference compared to hybrid. Best of luck to OP. Just cycled fourteen miles on flat bars on tarmac and my wrists were sore.

    regards

    Alan

    The bit in bold is largely because of your definition of hybrid. Little of it has anything to do with the drop bars. If OP is comparing hybrid with road bike they probably have a very different definition i.e. a road bike with flat bars and maybe discs.
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,155
    Hi, If the definition of a hybrid is an mtb/roadie mashup then I turned my mtb into a hybrid twenty years ago and my comments stand. Have a look at any old steel mtb. Upright angles and riding position, level top tube, rigid fork, skinny tyres, flat bars. I call that a hybrid, call it what you like, you might not share my definition, who cares. In reply to OP is I save several minutes on drop bars and much more comfortable and safer over similar difference compared to hybrid. Best of luck to OP. Just cycled fourteen miles on flat bars on tarmac and my wrists were sore.

    regards

    Alan

    Is the OP riding your bike?

    No they are riding a Trek 7.3 FX hybrid which is essentially a flat bared road bike.
  • Thanks Roger, I'll just check up on the Trek 7.3zzzzzzzz ckruxez`54f sorry I dozed off on the 15th page of the Trek hybrid catalogue and my face hit the keyboard. As if it mattered. This is funny. Guy asks for a view, I give one and find I have been riding the wrong type of hybrid all along. Just brilliant, keep it up.
  • SquawkSquawk Posts: 132
    Bit of a thread res, but since I bought a road bike it seems appropriate.

    So, real world difference on my 10 mile commute is... censored all.

    Actually that's not quite true. On a few occasions I've managed to get through a couple of sets of lights that I wouldn't have managed on the hybrid, saving a minute each time. The road bike is hugely faster than the hybrid though: in three days of cycling I've set PRs on strava on pretty much every segment I ride on the commute, having ridden most of them over 100 times previously. I took over 30 seconds off my best time up the hill from Peckham.

    So, in short. Much much faster if the traffic and lights are non-existent or you can be free flowing, but on a commute where that's not really the case you don't save much time at all.

    Still worth it though, love riding the road bike.
  • squiredsquired Posts: 1,216
    If you have some money spare and like riding the bike you already have you might be better off looking at a set of fancy wheels and narrower tyres (obviously depending on what you already have on the hybrid).

    Different bikes can make a noticeable difference, but there is also great value in sticking with a bike that fits you perfectly and rides well (assuming that is that case with your hybrid). If you are riding further you may also need to spend a little on new clothing, so bear that in mind. What works for your current commute might not be so great for your longer ride, but you'll only really find that out once you've started doing it.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    So, real world difference on my 10 mile commute is... censored all.

    So, in short. Much much faster if the traffic and lights are non-existent or you can be free flowing, but on a commute where that's not really the case you don't save much time at all.

    Still worth it though, love riding the road bike.

    Nailed it from the go... :wink:
    17 miles each way is a lot of time on the bike, I'd be most concerned about choosing the most fun machine
    and the occasions where being aero matters.

    With traffic lights your choice of bike makes little difference to overall time.
  • BarteosBarteos Posts: 657
    First of all there is no such thing as a "fast bike".

    Your speed will be determined mostly by your body position (how aero it is) and choice of tyres.
    Whether the bike is called road, hybrid or mtb isirrelevant. It's how you set it up that matters.

    E.g. a hybrid or a mountain bike with GP4000s and slammed stem will be "faster" than a road bike with Gatorskins and plenty of spacers...

    Personally I'd go for drop bars for more comfort during longer commutes.
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,748
    Agreed, my Hybrid has narrow (580) bars at about the height of hoodz, it is also just on 9Kg which is semi-decent roadbike territory, the biggest issue is the sail (pannier) on the back, and I'd have that attached to a full road bike anyway, getting a full on road bike will almost certainly save next to nothing for me (no lights at all on my commute), most the other commuters on my run are on road bikes and I'm faster than more than I am slower than......and probably the oldest of the lot.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    The problem is the term 'hybrid' - covers such a vast amount of bike types, from flat bar, censored in the air road machines, to 20kg Pashley shoppers. 'Road' bikes are somewhat more narrow ranged, but they vary too.A lot of crossover and variation, and a lot the user can do with simple spec changes.
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    Or, for the ultimate hybrid - truly the best of both worlds...

    12190806_818483881606847_8462077348344323980_n.jpg?oh=371554b68b721ea62d328527e8455768&oe=56C00261
  • Or, for the ultimate hybrid - truly the best of both worlds...

    12190806_818483881606847_8462077348344323980_n.jpg?oh=371554b68b721ea62d328527e8455768&oe=56C00261
    hahah!

    In my experience, I have a road bike and a hybrid. I use the hybrid most of the times for conmuting.
    Yes, the road bike is faster and the handle bars are not as wide so I found is easier to filter thru traffic too. But also all depends which hybrid. My custom boardman pro is 8.8kg, and is very fast with the new light wheels and carbon bars.
    For me, conmuting in my fast hybrid, road bike for everything else! :D
  • andyebandyeb Posts: 407
    Yet another person I've heard of who has gone from a hybrid to a road bike and now enjoys cycling more.

    Nice one :D
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