A diverse and versatile sport and/or mode of transport (depending on who you ask!), cycling continues to expand into a multitude of styles, disciplines, and sub-cultures. In recent years, gravel bikes have become increasingly popular thanks to options available and advancements in technology and design. But what is a gravel bike? How is a gravel bike different from my hybrid bike? Should I make the switch to gravel? 

Gravel VS Hybrid Bikes

Whilst there are some overlaps, these bikes are generally suited for different purposes and whether you choose one or the other, or both – Will depend on your individual riding style and needs. It can be tricky to know what to invest in, especially for new cyclists. We’ve answered the most typical questions, queries, and ponderings that come when you are deciding between a gravel bike or a hybrid bike.

What is a Hybrid Bike?

Hybrid bikes, also referred to as ‘fitness bikes’ are a combination of road bike and mountain bike. They have a flat handlebar like a mountain bike and a lightweight frame like a road bike. This combination makes them ideal for everyday commuting, short recreational rides, and light off-roading.

Advantages of hybrid bikes:

  • Versatility: Hybrid bikes can be used for a variety of purposes, making them a great all-rounder from commuting to light mountain bike trails. If you are interested in tackling more rugged trails, however, then a purpose-made mountain bike may be right for you. See our mountain bike buying guide.
  • Comfort: With a flat handlebar and upright riding position, hybrid bikes are much more comfortable than road bikes if speed isn’t your main goal, especially for longer rides.
  • Ease of use: Hybrid bikes are easier to ride and handle compared to other specialist bikes, making them ideal for beginners or casual riders.
  • Affordability: Hybrid bikes are generally more affordable compared to other specialist bikes, making them accessible to a wider range of people.

Why would I choose a hybrid bike over a road bike?

If you’re looking for a more casual ride style then a hybrid bike is a great option. The more upright position is generally more comfortable and makes the bike easier to control, particularly through urban areas where you might need to react quickly. Hybrid bikes also offer more versatility as they have wider tyres so can be used for light off-road riding with friends & family.

What is a Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes are slightly more specialist bikes designed for off-road riding on rough terrain, such as gravel paths and dirt roads. They have strong, road bike-style frames, wide tires, and a versatile gear range, allowing them to tackle a variety of terrains with ease.

Advantages of gravel bikes:

  • Off-road capabilities: Gravel bikes are designed to handle rough terrain, making them ideal for fair, off-road adventures.
  • Versatility: Gravel bikes can be used for a variety of off-road activities, such as gravel grinding, bike-packing, and increasingly popular adventure racing.
  • Durability: Gravel bikes are built with strong frames and components, making them durable and long-lasting.
  • Speed: With a lighter frame and smooth-rolling tires, gravel bikes can be faster than hybrid bikes on rough terrain.

How much do gravel bikes cost?

Although gravel bikes have become more affordable in recent years they do tend to be more expensive than hybrid bikes, starting at around £850. Gravel bikes with higher-end components, such as hydraulic disc brakes and better quality gears, can start from £1400 and upwards.

Gravel bikes vs Hybrid bikes: What’s the difference?


Gravel bikes come with drop handlebars, like a traditional road bike. Hybrid bikes take more inspiration from mountain bikes, so have wider, flat handlebars. Drop bars offer different riding positions for versatility across different surfaces and terrain and may be off-putting for beginners, whereas flat bars offer a more upright position with agile handling and manoeuvrability for commuting through towns and cities.


Gravel bikes often come with skinnier, but burlier tyres which offer more grip off road, compared to smoother, puncture-resistant tyres on hybrid bikes which aim for maximum reliability.


The groupset comprises the brakes and gear system. For hybrid bikes, comfort and control are paramount, which is why their wide, flat handlebars make access to brake levers and gear shifters easier. Gravel bikes are built to take on every terrain, so demand a higher gear range and components designed for high-paced, off-road riding to that of a hybrid bike. This contributes to the generally higher price point of a gravel bike compared to a hybrid bike.


Hybrid bikes will have alloy frames, typically meaning that they will be heavier yet sturdier, and often available in a “trapeze”, “step-through” or “low-step” frame due to their commute and leisure focus. Gravel bikes however will generally be of higher quality specifications in terms of wheels, carbon forks, and components. Therefore, a gravel bike will be the lighter option thanks to its close relation to a traditional road bike frame. However, whilst the geometry will be closer to that on a road bike, a gravel bike will not be as forward and low leaning. Both will offer provisions for mudguards and pannier racks.

Trapeze Frame Hybrid Bike

Deciding which is best for you

Is a gravel bike faster than a hybrid bike?

Hybrid bikes tend to be developed as a commuter or recreational bike, so control and comfort are more important than outright speed. As gravel bikes are more akin to a traditional road bike you can cover long distances at a good speed, but ultimately it still comes down to how fast you pedal your bike!

Should a beginner get a hybrid bike?

Yes! Thanks to their comfortable position, versatility, and easy access to the gear and brake levers, hybrid bikes are a great option for new cyclists. Hybrid bikes come in a few different styles, some fitted with suspension forks for more off-road riding, whilst others come pre-fitted with mudguards & Dynamo lights – so there is always an option to suit your riding style.

Can you use a gravel bike as a mountain bike?

Gravel bikes blur the lines between a road and mountain bike, so when set up in the right way there is nothing to stop you from riding light mountain bike trails on a gravel bike. That being said, a gravel bike will be more of a challenge to ride at the same speed due to its skinnier tyres, rigid fork, and narrower drop handlebars. Often, you’ll ride fire roads and wider trails on gravel bikes rather than a technical singletrack. On these, you can cover great distances – and that’s where a gravel bike really thrives.

Hang on, What makes a flat bar gravel bike different to a hybrid bike?

In honesty, there’s not really much in it in terms of form. Sharing flat bar handlebars, most brands offering flat bar gravel bikes will typically equip their gravel bikes with higher specifications than traditional ‘hybrid’ bikes. This includes a lighter frame, gravel-orientated tyres, and a more appropriate groupset.

So whilst visually pretty similar, a gravel flat bar tends to be much higher end rather than hybrid bikes which are generally seen as more of a recreational/budget-friendly option. The addition of flat handlebars makes it an appealing entry-level Gravel riding option for those who aren’t used to the more aggressive, road bike-style drop bars. Don’t forget, things like handlebars and saddles can easily be changed and upgraded!

Gravel bike vs Hybrid: In summary

Gravel BikeHybrid Bike
Perfect for:  Long distance rides, bikepacking and touring, light mountain-trails, adventure racing, off-road adventures.Perfect for: Comfortable everyday riding, beginner road riders, budget-friendly commuting, short recreational rides, town-touring, light off-roading like rural country lanes.
Not so perfect for: Speed on technical singletrack mountain trails, advanced mountain trails due to lack of suspension. Not so perfect for: Rough terrain, long distances, speed.
Maintenance: Dependent on use, but you’ll want to make sure that higher spec components are kept in good condition or face costly replacements.Maintenance: Dependent on use, but with regular weekly use, an annual servicing at minimum is recommended for safety and longevity.
Weight: Lighter, often available with carbon components.Weight: Heavier, typically due to a sturdier alloy frame.
Price: Starting from at least £850, higher specification start from around £1400Price: Starting from around £250, higher specification start from around £850.

Find your perfect bike with Paul’s Cycles

Both hybrid bikes and gravel bikes have their own unique advantages, making them ideal for different purposes. Whether you’re looking for an all-rounder bike for daily use or an off-road machine for adventure, both hybrid bikes and gravel bikes offer great options. Consider your riding style and needs before making a decision, and make sure to choose a bike that fits you best.

At Pauls Cycles, offer the best deals on quality brands that give you bang for your buck! With finance from 0% and pay later options, investing in the right bike can be made easy. Why not save further? We support most major Cycle To Work schemes, allowing you to make pre-tax salary sacrifice savings. If you have questions about sizing, see our Bike Size Guide or get in touch with our team of experts.


Adam Cross is the Customer Care Manager at Pauls Cycles and specialises in all things related to cycling lifestyle, gravel/off-road riding & road cycling. In his role, he leads advice and support for cyclists of all levels, being well versed in the sport of cycling. Riding and racing bicycles for 15 years, Adam has competed in everything from short distance time trials to ultra distance gravel and 24 hour mountain bike races. When not at work, Adam will most likely be found on the sandy tracks and trails of Thetford Forest - Follow Adam on Instagram @ay_sea_