RAGBRAI XLIX registration is now open!

Hybrid vs. Road Bike – question from 1st timer

I’m thrilled to be riding my first RAGBRAI, but am undecided about WHAT to ride. I have a Specialized road bike that I’ve done the occasional Century ride with. And an older Trek 7300 Hybrid that I commute on, and rode the GAP trail from DC to Pittsburgh on last year. Since I don’t need to lug my bags along for RAGBRAI I’ve considered not using the Trek, but am a bit concerned about riding the less comfortable but vastly lighter Specialized every day. Any thoughts?

12 Replies

jelly0317, March 2, 2020 at 9:23 pm

For me, it would depend on how much “less comfortable” the Specialized is. If they’re close in comfort, I’d go with the road bike.


Ken Reed, March 3, 2020 at 8:04 am

I rode my first two RAGBRAIs on a Trek hybrid and then road bikes ever since. It’s night and day. A road bike is the way to go.


Paul Hlas, March 4, 2020 at 10:01 am

Hybrids may be comfortable for a while. However, you should consider aerodynamics. You waste a significant amount of power by sitting up all day which will ultimately leave you with less energy for doing other stuff after the ride. Road bike makes sense.


Larry Klaaren, March 4, 2020 at 10:37 am

I ride my hybrid. I like sitting up and seeing what’s happening around me, and it is a much better bike on hills than my Raleigh, especially over and over for a week long period. Still cussing out that Rand Park hill in Keokuk though. If I get a little tired I take a break, but I don’t know that I am any more tired that I would be on the other bike.


KenH, March 5, 2020 at 7:01 am

Comfort beats speed for me, I don’t even own a road bike. If your road bike is even a little uncomfortable at the end of a century, how bad will it be at the end of 7 days, or more importantly I suppose, the morning of the 4th day? That is the question only you can answer. Aerodynamics will not kill you unless you ride quite fast or have the pleasure of riding into a headwind. If your hybrid has a decent aero position available (both my old and new bikes did/do) then you are set for headwinds. Hybrids typically can run wider tires than road bikes and my 8 years of riding Iowa’s roads (which are pretty much like everyone else’s roads) convince me that wider tires are better. I’ve never run less than 38’s and I currently run 55’s. I am still cautious about road cracks and the like but if I should miss one or two they are unlikely to ruin my week because the tires I ride give me much more margin for error. I’m currently riding a Trek 920, its a great bike for any ride unless you are racing.

My previous bike was a road biased Fuji hybrid. I think it had a very similar geometry to their entry/mid level road bikes but it used flat bars and it had much more tire clearance than most road bikes. After trying some others I put a Jones Loop H Bar on it and that makes an excellent long distance handlebar with a good wind cheating position.

Whatever bike you ride, if you find you are uncomfortable on it for long distance rides you should have a good bike shop do a fit for you. That might make a huge difference in how you feel and at RAGBRAI you are not doing a long ride, you are doing seven in a row. Comfort is very important!


garywilk, March 11, 2020 at 11:39 am

Think of long term for the week. Each day is more like several 15 mile rides. The first 15 miles will be slow with everyone getting out and depending upon the time you leave. After that, it will pick up. I like the road bike but that is what I normally ride. If you ride a decent pace on your road bike and keep the position comfortable, do that. If you plan to ride slower the entire day, do the Hybrid otherwise your seat, neck and other parts of you will not be happy.


Brady Bisgard, March 11, 2020 at 11:41 am

I have ridden it all on both. Both are fine as long as they fit well and are comfortable for you!

Whichever one you decide make sure you do some long back to back training days in the bike you WILL TAKE. Get your body ready for that one.


mootsman, March 11, 2020 at 7:01 pm

I assume your Specialized has road drop bars. Drop bars of course have many positions: on the bottom of the drops, on the drops by the brake, on the hoods and on the top of the bars. So on a long ride you can keep switching for comfort. But flat bars have just the one which on long rides means one position for your back, shoulders, arms etc.. You can get pretty sore doing that.


> Professor, March 20, 2020 at 1:15 pm

Trash them both and get a recumbent. Fast and comfortable.


Glenn Ruppel, March 20, 2020 at 1:46 pm

Ha I live and ride in New York City. That would basically be suicidal.


James Airey, March 21, 2020 at 9:57 pm

I have used a 7300, then a road bike and finally found the recumbent tadpole trikes and of the three would go with the trike anytime, since you will be riding long days though and this isn’t a race per say whatever is most comfortable. I have seen 2 and 3 wheel recumbents, fat bikes road, hybrids, mountain bikes and beach cruzer’s so think what will be most comfortable for just enjoying a week on the road and let that be your guide.


James Airey, March 21, 2020 at 10:03 pm

A man after my own heart, I found the tadpole trikes with a faring and that is the best ride ever for long trips. Nice to know there are becoming more of us bent riders out there for these sponsored rides.


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