Road bikes and hybrids could appear similar to the uneducated eye and achieve the same speed. But more careful observation will reveal some significant differences, but it still begs the question – why are road bikes faster than hybrids, and how much?
Road bikes are faster than hybrids by at least 3mph-5mph because they:
- are lighter
- have better frame geometry
- offer greater power output from a stiffer frame
- have smaller and lighter wheels
- have a more aerodynamic riding position
By analyzing the different components, such as:
- wheel sizes
- riding position
- frame geometry
Learn how these affect the rider’s ability to deliver power and reduce drag, and we will see why road bikes are faster than their hybrid counterparts.
Road Bikes Are Faster Than Hybrid Bikes Because They Are Lighter
When it comes to speed on a bike, weight is everything! The lighter the rider, the faster they can go. The more lightweight the bike, the faster it can go! When it comes to road bikes and hybrids, the road bike is lighter by default.
The more weight you need to push on a bike, the more gravity loves you. So if you are cutting 5-8 pounds from your bike weight, you will go faster without dropping any pounds yourself.
NOTE: This is why professional riders aren’t the largest or heaviest athletes around and why they achieve impressive speeds on their bikes.
Bottom line– hybrid bikes have a larger, heavier frame and wheels, making them slower than road bikes.
Road Bikes Are More Aerodynamic Than Hybrids Because Of Frame Geometry
Like weight, aerodynamics is another crucial aspect of bike speed. The less drag the bike frame and components exert and the less the rider exerts in the riding position, the faster the bike will go.
In bike frame geometry, we look at the ‘stack’ and the ‘reach.’ These two factors determine the riding position.
With a higher stack and shorter reach, the rider on a hybrid is more upright. While a longer reach and shorter stack on a road bike mean a more crouched riding position and so less drag.
Another element of frame geometry is stiffness. Because road bikes aren’t designed to absorb shock, their frame is stiffer. This allows the rider to deliver more power through the crank and into the wheels, making the road bike faster than the hybrid with its more flexible frame.
The Road Bike Is Faster Than The Hybrid Due To Dropped Handlebars
The road bike’s dropped handlebars give the rider far better aerodynamics in a crouched, bent-over position than in an upright one. On a hybrid’s flat handlebars, the riders’ shoulders are open, which presents more wind resistance than the doubled-over position on a road bike.
While you can ride reasonably upright on a road bike, this is nowhere near the upright position you can get on a hybrid. This is all due to the dropped handlebar position on a road bike. By default, you will be in a more aerodynamic position on a road bike, whether you’re crouched or upright.
This means there is less drag on the rider and the bike in motion, so air flows better and smoother over the road bike than in the hybrid. This allows for greater speed on the road and makes the road bike faster than the hybrid.
If you took a rider and measured their power output and then placed them on a road bike and then a hybrid, they would achieve higher speeds on the road bike simply due to the more aerodynamically efficient riding position.
Road Bikes Have Higher Gear Ratios Which Makes Them Faster Than Hybrids
Hybrid bikes are a blend of a road bike and a mountain bike and are designed to handle various terrains. This could include off-road trails, so hybrid bikes are geared to allow for higher cadence or peddling RPMs at lower speeds.
This makes them ideal for climbing hills and passes but makes them slower overall. Some road bikes can have a 53TX11T gear ratio, while the highest hybrid gear ratio would be around 45TX11T. This alone can deliver five mph more speed for the road bike.
Road Bikes Are Quicker Than Hybrids Because They Have Less Rolling Resistance
While that sounds like a mouthful, it refers to the width of the tires on the road bike vs. the hybrid. It is well known in cycling that the wider the tire, the more rolling resistance is created between the riding surface and the tire, which slows the bike down.
Road tires are typically 25 mm-28 mm (0.98″ -1,1″) wide, while hybrid tires are 40mm wide or 1,57″. The thinner tire on the road bike provides less rolling resistance allowing for higher speeds than on a hybrid’s wider tires.
Road Bikes Are Quicker Than Hybrid Bikes Because They Are Designed For Speed
The road bike is designed for only one thing: to get the rider from A to B in the shortest time possible. This means they have very little by way of comfort and everything by way of speed. Provided the surface is tarmac, there is no faster bike on the road.
Hybrids, like their mountain bike first cousins, are designed for a more leisurely, comfortable ride so they can handle shocks and bumps far better than their road bike second cousins. In doing so, they sacrifice their speed in the process.
Road bikes are going to get faster with time with all the improvements in:
- frame design
- lighter modern materials such as carbon fiber
So If you want fast, then the road bike is undeniably faster than a hybrid with:
- thinner tires
- lighter frames
- higher gear ratios
- aerodynamic frame geometry
Road bikes are built for speed, and all the design components contribute to this goal. Road bikes will be around five mph faster with the same rider than a hybrid.