Five of the Best Hybrid Bikes for Under $500
In the early days of cycling, you didn't have much of a choice when choosing a bicycle. Then came the mountain bike, which turned the bicycle world on its head and suddenly made trails and off-road riding a possibility.
Hybrid bicycles are the middle ground between road and mountain bicycle styles, and they're understandably pretty popular! This article is all about finding a great hybrid bike for under $500. We'll look at the top five.
Some people have a very clear-cut riding style and can confidently choose either a mountain or road bike and have it fulfill their riding needs. However, many people prefer a multi-purpose ride: they enjoy hills and trails just as much as the morning commute to the office. A hybrid bicycle is extremely fun to ride on both types of terrain.
This article will cover five of the best hybrid bicycles and brands out there. I will review different models that I think you might enjoy.
My goal is to help you identify the features you'd most like to have on your hybrid bicycle, and which brand and style will best meet those preferences. I hope I can help!
What is a Hybrid Bicycle?
Before answer the question of which is the best hybrid bicycle for under $500, we should probably first tackle another question: what is a hybrid, or crossover, bike? Since they don't fall into one particular category or another, they can vary widely in style and features, causing confusion as to what actually constitutes a hybrid. There are a few key features that are constant among most models. I'll list them here:
- Unisex: Most hybrids are good for men or women, being built to accommodate either gender. Just make sure the bike is appropriately sized to your body.
- Wide, smooth tires: Most hybrid bikes under $500 will have a good set of rubber tires on them. These are usually pretty wide, ranging from a half inch to almost 2 inches wide. They won't be knobby like mountain bike tires, but they will have some groove in them for rain riding, and a bit of grip. These wider tires allow for a range of riding, giving stability offroad and diminishing drag on the street.
- Upright riding position: Hybrids attempt to give a smooth, consistent ride in most scenarios. Thus, they usually offer an upright riding position with a comfortable seat and riser bars to keep you from hunching. They aren't entirely dedicated to comfort, but they meet the needs of most people.
- Light suspension: Most of the best hybrid bikes around or under $500 will include light suspension. This is by no means as extensive as that on high-end mountain bikes, but it provides some cushioning and stability. The most common is a front fork suspension, also known as "shocks," but you can sometimes find rear suspension or seat post suspension, too.
- Lots of gears: Good hybrid bicycles under $500 will include a solid range of gearing options, underlining their ability to adapt to different riding conditions. Whether you need to conquer a crazy hill or a long, flat ride to work, your hybrid bike will have the right gearing to do it.
1. Shimano Hybrid Urban Commuter
One of the Best Hybrid Bikes for Women or Men
Do you want a commuter hybrid bike that has a bit more character? You could go for a vintage ride, or you could opt for a new bike that has that classic look.
Critical Cycles' seven-speed model is a great hybrid bike and is priced well under $500. It's a nice option because it has the geometry of a classic frame and a throwback look you don't often see. It's not vintage when it comes to components, though, sporting a seven-speed rear derailleur. That's a gearing range that should be plenty for most commutes.
With a strong but lightweight steel diamond frame, chrome front light, integrated rear luggage rack, and front and rear fenders, this bike's price tag is striking. While it has good tread and could handle a gentle trail ride, this is more of an urban, commuter hybrid bike. For far below $500, it's hard to ignore this wonderful bicycle by Critical Cycles.
I know it says it's a men's bike, but this one would be perfectly comfortable for a lady too. Nice wide tires will keep you stable, and no chain to worry about coming loose!
2. Diamondback Edgewood
A Very Good All-purpose Bike
The Diamondback Edgewood LX is a great choice because it's a very versatile bike. Though Amazon lists it as a men's bike, it's actually unisex, and it's got some great features. A true hybrid bike, this one has a butted aluminum frame with 6061 aluminum construction, meaning that it's strong and lightweight.
The front spring shock system has 63 millimeters (mm) of clearance, and the wheels are 700c and double walled for extra strength. This bike will perform great on trails and pavement.
A nice feature is that it has a spring shock seat, too. This adds some extra suspension and cushioning without dampening the ride, complicating the frame, or adding extra weight.
For well under $500, this hybrid bicycle has great suspension items, a strong aluminum frame, and it's very versatile.
3. Schwinn Network 1.0
A Good, Trail-ready Hybrid Bike for Beginners
The Schwinn Network 1.0 is a good hybrid bike for less than $500 that is very nicely suited to trails due to its generous tire tread, sturdy aluminum city frame tubing, and beefy front suspension. However, it will do just fine on pavement too, and it is almost as good as a road bike for pavement riding.
Front shocks and a strong and light aluminum frame accompany a Suntour crankset and Shimano gears linked to an SRAM twist shifter on the handlebars. The Euro style 700c alloy wheels are light and the attached tires have a good amount of width, more than enough to tackle those moderate trail rides you love. It's certainly not an off-road bicycle by any means, but it can handle some gravel and dirt roads with no issues. I highly recommend Schwinn bikes in general, but the Network is an especially good choice.
This model is 18", which is 'medium' by bicycle standards, and it has an adjustable seatpost which allows it to fit a wide array of riders. Other frame sizes do exist. Also, there is a step through women's frame version of this bicycle that's a bit smaller, in blue.
Great price, great brand name. The Schwinn GTX-2 is a true hybrid bike brand that reviews really well. It's attractive too!
4. Diamondback Insight 1
A Great Performance Hybrid Bike
If you've read some of my other articles, you'll know that I'm a big fan of Diamondback Bicycles. Why? Because everyone I know who buys one still has it to this day. They last forever! This beautiful bike has a swooping aluminum frame, 21 speeds with Shimano shifters, and nice Kenda 32c tires that are designed for pavement but can handle a bit of trail riding. It's relatively light, really quick, and responsive on pavement. The riding experience is one of the best among hybrid bikes for less than $500.
This bike is available in many sizing options, from small to extra large frames, making it a bonafide unisex bicycle.
Aluminum frame, great Shimano components, high quality Kenda tires, riser bars and comfort grips and seat. It's also a gorgeous bike with a stunning arc frame.
5. Schwinn Volare
A Bike Tuned for Urban Riding
The Schwinn Volare is a capable and popular hybrid bicycle best suited for urban riding. With a simple 21-speed shifting system (more than enough for most situations) and a frame designed for efficient riding and speed, this bike makes it easy to get around quickly and comfortably. The 6061 aluminum frame and flat riser bars are optimized for an upright riding position, while the high-performance 700c wheels will glide along the pavement. It even comes with rapid fire shifters to make changing gears a breeze.
This is one of the better hybrid bicycles below $500 because it's fast, light, and capable in all scenarios. I recommend this for the city commuter or neighbourhood rider, though it's not the best choice for trails. The frame is 18" with an adjustable seat post, so it will suit most riders between 5'8" and 6'1" tall.
There is a men's and women's version of this bike, but the men's will comfortably fit a female if they prefer it!
Bonus: Watseka XP
A Great Hybrid, Electric Bike for Less
I know I said five, but I wanted to include a bonus review. This is a really nice hybrid bicycle for just over $500. This ride features a high-ten steel frame, a 6-speed Shimano shifter and derailleur, and alloy cranks. Oh, and did I mention it's electric?
With this bike you get a 250-watt electric motor and 36v battery, which can carry you for about 18 miles on one charge. If the motor peters out during your ride, you can revert to standard pedaling. It's almost like having a little motorcycle with pedal power included as a second option.
The Watseka XP is a cheap, hybrid bicycle that's occasionally under $500 (when it goes on sale) that just happens to have a motor attached to it. What's not to like!?
Things to Look out for Before Purchasing a Bike
The hybrid is a good compromise for anyone who likes to ride on different types of terrain. However, you should recognize that a crossover bike is, indeed, a compromise. Even the best hybrid bikes under $500 will be somewhat lacking in certain areas. That's not a bad thing if you can recognize your preferred riding style. Check out this list of things to watch for before purchasing a bike.
- Do you ride more on pavement than on gravel and trails? If so, Consider getting a bike with thin tires. The thinner the tire, the less friction you'll deal with, making riding an easier and more pleasurable experience. The inverse applies if you ride more on gravel and trails than pavement: if you spend most of your time riding trails, choose a wider tire with deeper grooves.
- Make sure you get a bike that fits you. Even though they're meant to accommodate a wide range of riders, it's still important that your bike fits you or you'll never be comfortable. You should only be able to stand on the balls of your feet while standing over your bike.
- Beware of cheap disc brakes. Really inexpensive hybrid bikes will sometimes come with disc brakes that are no good. I don't recommend anything too cheap. Spend a little extra and get something with stopping power!