Best Hybrid Bike Under $300 (Year 2018)
Hybrid bikes—like most products featuring the title—combine elements of other models to offer a unique design that can accommodate preferences and needs its source models can’t. In general, a hybrid bike is one that doesn’t fit into the categories of mountain, touring, or road bikes.
Instead, they offer features of all three, and each model has their own “ratio” depending on its market. Our buyer’s guide will address common questions about hybrid bicycles, as well as showcase four models under the $300 price point—for riders (or complete beginners) on a budget.
What’s the difference between a mountain bike/road bike/touring bike and a hybrid?
The main difference is that a hybrid combines elements of all three, and can’t be categorized as strictly one or the other.
Hybrids often have the straight handlebars of mountain bikes, the extra options of touring bikes (bag racks, water bottle holders, or even GPS mounts), and the lighter and thinner tires of road bikes, although these features vary depending on the kind of hybrid you need.
Hybrids can include trekking bikes, cross bikes, commuter, comfort—any model which doesn’t fit in the three “main” classifications, but borrows features from each.
Couldn’t I just ride a mountain bike in the city and on trails?
In a nutshell, yes. Mountain bikes will perform just fine in cities, but buyers should consider a hybrid if the majority of their riding will take place in cities/urban areas.
Because mountain bikes are designed for…well, mountains, their materials are thicker and heavier—which might make it difficult for city dwellers or commuters to carry their bikes in and out of their homes or offices.
In general, mountain bikes do not accelerate as quickly due to bigger tires and a heavier weight, so rethink using one in the city if you need significant speed.
However, a hybrid is not a true mountain bike—so don’t get one if you plan on traversing very rough, uneven terrain with it. Overall, a hybrid is best for individuals who need a daily/regular “travelling” bike, as well as a casual off-road model: think “local park trails” rather than “rugged mountain paths”.
There are so many hybrids out there. What kind should I get?
Again, this depends on your preference and needs. There are hybrids built for cruising and light, occasional riding, ones optimized for stroller carts or child seats, ones with front suspension for urban riding…the options seem endless, and dizzying.
First, decide what you plan to use your bike for the most. Be realistic with yourself: if you plan on using the bike on dirt roads once a year for an annual camping trip, but will be commuting to work 300+ days a year, it’s probably a higher priority to get a model suited for that instead of boasting top-of-the-line rugged-terrain features.
On the other hand, don’t cheat yourself: if you know the right bike will motivate you to hit the trails more often, get a hybrid with more of a 50-50 split. After all, the main point of a hybrid model is to give you the best of both worlds.
What kind of braking system should I look for?
Most hybrids have linear-pull brakes, which press against the wheel rims or hubs to stop the tires. While these don’t offer the responsiveness and power of disc brakes (common on mountain bikes), it’s unlikely hybrid riders will need them, due to the typical terrain they’ll encounter.
If you live in a city with frequent rain, muddy runoff, or a lot of steep downhill areas, consider disc brakes. Otherwise, standard linear-pull systems will do fine.
Should I get a folding/compact model, or a standard hybrid?
This depends on several factors, and is ultimately up to the buyer. Consider:
- If you have very little room in your home or garage, a folding bike can take up half the space (or less) of a standard bike, and make it much easier to carry to and from the street. It’s also good if your car doesn’t have a bike rack or truck bed, since most folding models can slip right into the trunk or backseat.
- If you plan on using your bike for more recreational trips than commutes, a standard bike might provide more stability and shock absorption, although this varies by manufacturer.
- Your commute. For rat-racers who have to take a subway or bus for part of their daily commute, a folding bike can allow for seamless transition. Keep in mind that many full-size bikes are denied entry on most public transport systems.
- Theft protection.If you live or work in an area with a high crime rate and don’t want to leave your full-sized bike locked up outside all day, consider this: a folding option can often be carried right into the office and stowed underneath your desk. That said, not all offices will allow bikes—even compact ones—into work spaces, so check with yours first.
- Your height and weight. Many folding hybrids just aren’t designed for very tall or heavy individuals, and won’t provide as stable or as comfortable of a ride.
Foldable bikes are a godsend to some people, and a hassle to others. Only you can decide if a folding hybrid will meet your needs, or if a traditional model is the way to go.
Best Hybrid Bike Under $300 Reviews
1. Schwinn Men’s Volare 1200, 700c Review
With 21 speeds, a lightweight build, and a lifetime warranty to boot, there’s little to dislike about the Men’s Volare from Schwinn, a name synonymous with quality in the bicycle market. Its linear pull braking system counts this one out for extreme mountain bikers, but will suit casual riders and daily commuters just fine.
Though designed with men in mind, the Volare will be comfortable to anyone of average height or taller (though some women might prefer a differently shaped/broader seat). It’s suitable for city and rural use, so commuters who need some cross-country relaxation on the weekends: look no further.
2. Schwinn Women’s Wayfare Review
While men can certainly rock the Wayfare look, its deeply slanted top bar (which is standard on women’s bikes) might deter some of them. Designed specifically for women, this model also features a wider, shorter seat, and won’t adjust high enough for most men or taller ladies.
With linear-pull brakes, 7 speeds, and a steel frame, this hybrid is designed to ride well and look good.
For shorter riders tired of having to “hop up” onto their bikes, the Wayfare is a hybrid designed with you in mind. While it features thinner wheels reminiscent of a road bike, as well as mounting features like a touring one, we don’t really see where the “mountain” elements come into play. It’s hard to imagine the Wayfare taking any sort of terrain other than pavement, tar, and very level country roads. If you plan on doing far more city riding than anything else, this hybrid is an attractive option.
3. Northwoods Springdale Women’s 21-Speed, 700c Review
For women who want to use their bike to navigate trails just as often as they’ll commute to work, the Northwoods Springdale is more of a “truer” hybrid. It has 21 speeds, linear pull brakes, and an aluminum frame, unlike the Wayfare—but it also has the slanted top bar and seat/handlebar adjustments many female riders will find comfortable.
The Northwoods Springdale is a smart choice for riders who want a nice-looking bike that doesn’t skimp on off-asphalt capabilities. We recommend it to adults under 5’10” (most women will find the seat comfortable; some men might not) who need to commute in urban areas, but want to ride comfortably on dirt roads or park trails, too.
4. Schwinn Men’s Network 3.0, 700c Review
The large frame size of the Schwinn Network is, ultimately, one of the few “men’s features” of the bike. Its top bar is slanted just enough to make us wonder if this could be a suitable unisex model, particularly for tall riders; even its seat, though narrower than those found on women’s bikes, is likely to be enjoyed by both, thanks to ample padding and a suspension post for impressive shock absorption.
A larger bike with comfort in mind, the Network is best for tall riders, male or female, who plan on sitting for extended rides. Overall, we do see this being more popular with men, but could easily see women enjoying it, as well. Its padded seat with a suspension-style post will absorb shock, whether you’re cruising on a broken sidewalk in the city, or a rocky dirt road through the country. We especially like this feature for long rides, when standard seats tend to underperform.
Anyone who needs speed, agility, and durability in a bike would do well purchasing a hybrid. These models aren’t the best in any one category, but that’s precisely the point: to have adequate performance across several, rather than perfection within one. Their versatility allows riders to enjoy smooth, fast rides through cities, countryside, parks, and wilderness—all within the same day, if they like.
We hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful in your search for a hybrid model. Remember to look for combinations of options that best suit your particular needs and riding styles: road elements for speed, touring features for long rides, and mountain elements for bumpy or wild routes. The right hybrid bicycle is the one that adapts to your lifestyle—not the other way around.