Top 4 Hybrid Bikes for Under $500 | Budget Options & Tips
Inexpensive Hybrid Bikes | Good Rides That Won't Break The Bank
If you're into cycling as much as I am, you're probably always searching for the perfect ride, that combination of features and capability that let you ride where you want, in comfort and style. In many cases, the noble hybrid bicycle is a great option. Touted as a perfect blending of road and trail features, hybrids are more popular today than ever before. However, they've started to climb in price and getting a good one on the cheap isn't easy.
It's possible to find a good, cheap hybrid bike under $500 if you're willing to put in the time and effort to research a little. There's a fair amount of overhead in a bike shop, so understandably the best deals are available from online sources and large manufacturers. At a lower price range, however, small things can make a big difference in the build quality, and that's where you need to be careful.
This article is written in the hopes of helping you find good quality hybrid bikes for under $500, and I'll be identifying options that will hopefully last you for many years and hold their value. We'll take a look at four choices that offer exceptional value for the price tag. We'll also touch briefly on where manufacturers can skimp on components, and things you ought to watch out for.
I'm happy to answer any questions, so please feel free to leave them at the bottom.
What's a Hybrid Bicycle Anyway?
If you're reading this you probably have a fairly good understanding of what you're after, so I'll keep this section brief. In case there is any confusion, a hybrid bicycle is a multi-purpose bike that offers a nice middle ground between a full on road bicycle and a mountain bike.
They usually have moderately treaded tires, an upright riding position with standard riser handlebars. Some of them will come equipped with suspension parts, in particular front spring or air shocks. They will usually have a generous gearing range with between 8 and 24 speeds.
They're not meant for high speed or for off-roading, but they offer what neither road or mountain models can: versatility. You can ride comfortably on pavement, run across grass or sand, head down a trail or two, it's up to you.
Some of the hybrid bikes for less than $500 that I'll review will lean towards either road or trails, and I'll mention that in the reviews proper.
Schwinn Network: Hybrid Bikes Below $500 For Men & Women
I really like the Schwinn Network series, and many other Schwinns as well. They are definitely in the lower budget category of bikes, but I think they've done extremely well and consistently have a much higher standard than other 'department store' bicycles.
The Network series of bikes is an attractive, affordable option that will appeal to anyone seeking a no-nonsense machine that emphasizes comfort and utility over all else. There are 21 speeds on these bikes. Those 21 speeds are likely all you'll ever need and cover a wide range of conditions, with the added bonus of simplifying the shifting process due to the easy trigger shifters.
The frame is aluminum which helps to lighten the entire weight, keeping it quite reasonable. The rear derailleur is Shimano and it's shifted with an EZ-Fire trigger shifter. There is a front suspension fork that will minimize bumps and vibration, and there's a seatpost shock as well. The riding position is upright and comfortable.
You'll love the adjustable handlebar positioning and responsive steering. Linear pull brakes stop nicely. The only real downside is that this bike comes in one size only, 18" for men and 16" for women. Those frames should fit women from 5'5 to 5'10 and men from 5'8 to 6' tall. If you're unsure about sizing, leave a comment and I'll give you my two cents!
The Schwinn Network is a fantastic, long-lived series of good quality hybrid bikes, well below that $500 price point.
Diamondback Insight 1: A Performance Hybrid Bike Below $500
The Diamondback Insight series is one of my favorites on the market today, and the Insight 1 combines a lot of really nice features into a very affordable package, well below our target price tag.
Probably the first thing you'll notice about this bike is the frame, and rightly so. It's a 6061 butted aluminum alloy frame that is both utilitarian and beautiful at the same time. The oversized tubing ensures it is very strong and durable.
The rims are Equation double walled aluminum alloy rims, and they spin nicely. The derailleurs are Shimano Altus brand, and there are 21 speeds in total to choose from, all switchable with satisfyingly precise EF shifters.
The bike stops using standard linear pull brakes with metal arms. You'll probably be surprised at how well the brakes stop you; they are very precise.
The tires have a moderate tread and they're very suitable for either street or trails use. Clearance is excellent and it's generally a very fun and exciting bike to ride. If you want a slight upgrade, consider the Insight 2, which has more speeds and a slicker drivetrain.
XDS Cross 200: A good, affordable hybrid bicycle below $500
The XDS Cross 200 has exactly what I like to see in a good hybrid: a nice frame, good gearing range, and versatility.
With lots of clearance, mixed use tires and a neutral, upright seating position, you can ride this just about anywhere. It's a good mixture between road and light trail use, and a perfect commuter.
Let's dig into the specifics: the Cross 200 has an aluminum alloy frame and double-walled alloy wheels, making it pretty lightweight. It features a front suspension fork which makes the frame and wheel combination more forgiving over bumps.
The shifters are Shimano Tourney, and they're matched up to 21-speed rapid fire shifters on the handlebars. That way you can cycle through gears quite quickly.
The brakes are the standard linear pulls you'd expect to find at this price, and they're quite effective when tuned up properly.
On the whole, the bike feels solid and planted, with an excellent turn radius and a confident stance. While it likely can't handle much more than a beach path, it's great on pavement and the tires have a slight bit of bite to them, so you could easily bring it to the beach on a sunny afternoon. I also think it looks fantastic!
The XDS Cross 200 is a good hybrid bike option, and at well under $500 it's a steal. (And yes, there is a female version of this bike too!)
Vilano Performance Hybrid Bike: Inexpensive at Under $500
Vilano is a favorite of mine because they offer a lot of bike for a low price. They're better known for their line of fixed gear bicycles, but they are venturing into both the hybrid and the road bike arena and they are doing really well for themselves.
What I particularly like about their Performance Hybrid is the fact that even though they're a smaller company, they don't skimp on components, and just about everything they use is high quality and brand name. For example, the drivetrain is almost entirely Shimano. The EF-65 shifters are rapid-fire and really quick to zip through. The TX derailleurs are admittedly nothing fancy, but they do the job well enough.
This bicycle is built more for pavement than trails, but it'd do fine on either one.
The frame is gorgeous and light, a 6061 aluminum alloy coupled with a high-ten front fork, so it's pretty light. There are other nice quality touches like the sealed bottom bracket and hubs and the Kenda tires. The bike also looks fantastic, with a few paint options and very little badging. It's a cheap hybrid bike for well under $500 that I'd recommend to just about any rider.
Budget Hybrid Bikes Under $500: What To Watch For
If you're hunting for a hybrid bicycle for less than $500, you'll need to watch carefully for lower quality components, especially if you go 'off the grid' and buy something without reading any reviews first (never recommended).
Here are a couple of things you ought to watch for when you're shopping around:
Plastic In Components:
Plastic is a big part of our lives, and it has infiltrated the cycling world too. It's unrealistic to expect an inexpensive hybrid bike to not have any plastic components on it, but you should be wary of too much of it.
For example, some cheaper bikes will have linear pull brakes where the entire arm is hardened plastic. They will bend, break or degrade over time.
Another example is in the derailleur. Many low end bikes have derailleurs with lots of cheap plastic bits, and they just don't last as long.
Don't be too finicky, but do try to ensure your bike is made from the right stuff, and look for components that are primarily made of steel, chromoly or aluminum alloy.
Big bike companies can be tricky. They can throw a 'slogan' onto a piece of equipment and pass it off as brand name. When you're buying your inexpensive hybrid bike, check the component quality level carefully.
Shimano is a run of the mill but fairly safe bet, and there are others like Tektro and RockShox that you'll see in this range. If a part isn't branded, you can bet that the bike manufacturer ordered it from an unbadged factory somewhere. That doesn't mean it's bad, it just means there are no guarantees.
Keep Weight in Mind:
With low budget hybrid bikes, you shouldn't expect it to be light as a feather. But on the other hand, it's not unreasonable to expect a decent weight that's somewhat easy to tote around.
Look for a bike with an aluminum frame if you're concerned with it being too heavy, because standard high tension steel can add up quickly. All of the bikes I'll be reviewing are somewhat light, especially for the price tag.
If you're buying a cheap hybrid bicycle for under $500, you'll inevitably have a bit more money to spend on accessories. I don't have any particular suggestions in this area, but I do recommend that you invest in two things above all else.
- Buy a helmet. They will save your life even if you think they're uncomfortable or look silly. Plus, many municipalities require them by law, and I know people who have been ticketed for riding sans, so definitely get one.
- Get a bicycle lock, and not a flimsy one. The best choice is a bicycle lock that consists of a hardened steel link chain and a padlock. U-locks and cable locks are less good. Each one has notable weaknesses and a simple pair of bolt cutters or an angle grinder can get through them in no time flat. Protect your investment with a lock, it's worth the money and effort.