Any bike that isn’t a mountain bike or a road bike could be considered a hybrid bike or specialty bike. As such, lumping hybrid bikes and specialty bikes together makes for a pretty large category with a wide variety of bikes.
If you already know what you’re looking for in a hybrid bike or specialty bike and just want to compare makes and models, visit the appropriate page (e.g., City Bikes (Urban Bikes), e Bikes (Electric Bikes) or Cruiser Bikes) and review the tables of recommended bikes. If you’re not sure what to look for in a hybrid bike or specialty bike, then read the following sections to help answer some of the questions you may have.
There are several types of hybrid bikes but far and away the most popular style of hybrid bikes are city bikes, which are also often called urban bikes or commuter bikes. Some people might even consider cruiser bikes to be a type of hybrid bike, although here we include cruisers in the specialty bikes category. Regardless of the monikers, all hybrid bikes have one thing in common which is that, as their name implies, they combine features of mountain bikes and road bikes to create bikes with a wide range of uses.
Hybrid bikes tend to have tires that are narrower than those of mountain bikes but wider than those of road bikes. They generally have saddles that are wide and comfortable and may even include some type of shock-absorbent suspension. Some hybrid bikes even feature internally-geared rear hubs, which eliminates the need for derailleurs.
City Bikes (Urban Bikes)
Urban bikes are designed to handle the quick starts and stops associated with city riding and bike commuting. They feature an upright riding position, have sturdy wheels and tires to handle potholes and other rough pavement, often include disc brakes for responsive braking in any weather, and have gearing to accommodate quick acceleration to keep up with city traffic.
Specialty bikes comprise virtually everything else that doesn’t fit neatly into the categories of mountain bikes, road bikes, or hybrid bikes. For example, specialty bikes includes cruiser bikes (also known as beach cruiser bikes, beach bikes, or just cruisers), e-bikes (electric bikes) and folding bikes. I’ll be adding information about folding bikes soon. 🙂
The cruiser style dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, and was extremely popular in the United States during the 1950s. Although its popularity tapered off after that, the cruiser style of bike has enjoyed a significant resurgence in recent decades. Their classic retro style, reliability and durability, comfortable ride, and relatively cheap price (compared with modern mountain bikes and road bikes) continues to make cruiser bikes very popular.
Cruiser bikes, sometimes referred to as beach cruiser bikes or comfort bikes, focus on comfort and styling above all else. Think wide balloon tires, a wide and cushy saddle, an upright riding posture, classic expressive styling, and cruising the boardwalk at the beach. Cruisers will often have old-fashioned coaster brakes and a smaller number of gears than urban bikes or street bikes. A bike that fits most of these criteria but has more gears might be considered a comfort bike rather than strictly a cruiser.
e Bikes (Electric Bikes)
Most e bikes, or electric bikes, look much like a traditional bike but include a battery pack and motor. They can be pedaled just like a normal bike but the rider can also choose to engage the electric drive to provide assistance when necessary or desirable.
Electric bikes have numerous advantages over electric scooters or gas-powered scooters. Generally, they do not require a drivers license or insurance. In many places they can be used legally on sidewalks and bicycle paths. They are lighter than electric scooters and cleaner than gas-powered scooters. E bikes are also generally easier to park than a scooter because they fit into a normal bike rack. Because of their traditional bike frames and wheel sizes, they are also compatible with bicycle-friendly public transportation such as busses, light rail, and trains.