Mountain bike and hybrid: what's the difference?

Mountain (MTB) and hybrid bikes can be quite similar in appearance. Both have straight handlebars, wide tires, disc brakes. Many hybrids have a suspension fork. Let's take a closer look.

Mountain (MTB) and hybrid bikes can be quite similar in appearance.

MTB-hardtail (without rear suspension) differs from the outwardly similar hybrid primarily in its purpose. Mountain bikes are designed for steep descents and technical ascents. Roots, ledges and steep cliffs up to one meter are a native element for a hardtail.

MTB-hardtail (without rear suspension) differs from the outwardly similar hybrid primarily in its purpose.

A hybrid bike is well suited for city rides and dirt roads.

A hybrid bike is well suited for city rides and dirt roads.

They are designed to drive comfortably and quickly on both bumpy roads and smooth highways. The hybrid combines the qualities of an MTB and a road bike. For many cyclists who choose a hybrid for commuting, the upside is its durability and the ability to fit mudguards and roof racks. Let's look at the differences using a bicycle example.

The Boardman HYB 8.6 is a typical modern hybrid bike.

The Boardman HYB 8.6 is a typical modern hybrid bike. It has a straight steering wheel and hydraulic disc brakes. Medium 35mm tires provide a good balance between shock absorption and rolling resistance. Transmission - 2 × 10 provides a fairly smooth change in the gear ratio over a wide range. There are attachment points for full-size mudguards and a trunk, so it will be convenient to transfer loads, and in the rain, water and mud will not fly at you from under the wheels. 

The new ICAN 29er Enduro full suspension bike is a monster. Trails will instantly smooth out as you roll towards them, no drop will be too big, and hucking is to be encouraged. Based around a 150mm travel carbon fiber frame this bike will take you trail riding faster than you have ever gone before.

The frame is constructed from a blend of Toray T700 and T800 carbon fibers; this has allowed our engineers to construct a great stiff, strong, and lightweight platform for you. They have used Boost spacing to make sure that your rear end is wide, along better and bigger suspension bearings to be used. This has increased the stiffness of the rear end and will aid the longevity of the bearings.

To go with this excellent frame, we have installed the impeccable Rock Shox Yari fork in 160mm travel, no reason to fear any trail now. These forks are connected to the great ICAN carbon wheels, providing you with the best trail riding experience. These carbon rims are tubeless ready and are shod with Maxxis Minions.

To allow you to stop and change gear we have fitted an SRAM X01 Eagle groupset, including their Boost BSA bottom bracket, no creaky press fit bearings for you. You are by now probably wondering if this bike comes with a dropper post and it does, the X-Fusion Manic. This post, like your gear cable and brake hoses, is routed internally for nice clean looks and crisp function at all times.

Bicycle tires

Bicycle tires

Schwalbe Big Apple and Nobby Nic On the left is the Schwalbe Big Apple, popular with hybrid owners, and on the right is Nobby Nic, a basic mountain bike tire. It can be seen that the hybrid tire is quite smooth, MTB has tires with aggressive tread. The lugs provide mechanical traction on soft trails by “gripping” the ground. On hard surfaces such as highways or heavily compacted trails, the tines cannot enter the ground. In these cases, the grip strength is determined by the softness of the tire and the size of the contact surface. Slick or semi-slick tires are usually used on hybrid bicycles. These tires are narrower than mountain bikes, as narrower widths reduce rolling resistance and weight. If you need to improve the traction of your hybrid bike on the road, it is better to get a tire that is wider than with teeth on the tread.

Bike suspension

Mountain bike suspension forks improve the bike's handling by providing more contact with the road and softening impacts on roots and gullies. Many hybrid bikes are also equipped with front suspension for comfort. 

The suspension of a hybrid bike, however, doesn't do its job very well. Telescopic forks require a large initial force to overcome internal static friction and move the fork. High quality plugs mitigate this problem to some extent, but they do not eliminate it at all. The forks of the middle price range have significant seizure. For mountain bike forks, internally friction is not important because the fork takes the hard impact - the suspension works. But for hybrid bicycles, cushioning on frequent, but small obstacles is not very effective. If you put the tires wider and inflate them softer, it will be much more comfortable to roll over small bumps or bumps. Therefore, if you are going to ride around the city without jumping on curbs or out of town, but on more or less smooth terrain without stones, roots and potholes, then your hybrid will do without a suspension fork.

Bicycle frame geometry

One of the biggest differences between a hybrid and an MTB is the frame geometry. It is this characteristic that determines the position of the cyclist on the bike, handling and feeling while riding. In most measurements, mountain bikes and hybrid bikes are not the same. The most important geometry parameters - a small steering angle, a longer top tube and a bottom bracket with minimal slack - all work to increase stability on steep rocky descents and improve handling in sharp and twisty turns. 



In the past, both hybrid and mountain bikes had a 2-3 star system, but now the situation is changing. MTB move to one leading star (1x). This way the chain is held better, the gear shifting becomes clearer. The cassettes have increased significantly in size. Instead of 8-speed cassettes with 11-28 teeth, 10-speed 11-46T cassettes and even 12-speed 10-50T cassettes are now mainly common. Hybrid bikes basically still have a 2 or 3 star system, although hybrid bikes with a 1x drivetrain that are easier to use and maintain are already starting to appear.

Carriage of baggage

 Carriage of baggage

General purpose mountain bikes usually have attachment points for the rear mudguard and rack (but neither will have an attachment point for the front fender, which is understandable). Specialized MTBs do not have the ability to attach these devices. As for the hybrid: for trips to work or out of town, a hybrid bike with a set of luggage racks is very convenient.