With all the talk about new innovations and new styles of bike (we’re looking at you, gravel bikes), it’s easy to forget about the humble hybrid bike. It has been a faithful go-to steed for beginner cyclists, commuter riders, cycle tourists and fitness cyclists alike for the last 30 years.
A hybrid was the first bike I had when I got into serious cycling. It saw me through a few triathlons and some memorable cycle touring trips across the Peak District.
It is good to see that hybrids still have their place in a bike rider’s stable of two-wheeled horses.
If you’re looking for a reliable hybrid that can cope with variable terrain and long distances, as well as everyday errands you cannot go far wrong with the £800 Boardman HYB 8.8.
We have the Boardman HYB 8.8 women’s hybrid bike on test, but the HYB 8.8 is available in a unisex/men’s build, the frame and groupset remain the same with adjustments applying only to the touchpoints.
Boardman HYB 8.8 frame
The triple-butted 6061 aluminium frame at the heart of the HYB 8.8 is supported by a tapered carbon fork; these two features are commonplace for this type of bicycle. Triple butted aluminium means that the tubes feature three different levels of thickness, so more material is used where it’s needed and less where weight can be saved, the carbon fork dops the number on the scales further. The built bike comes in at 10.4kg.
The HYB’s geometry is based on that of the popular SLR road bike, meaning that it places the rider in a fairly fast position – at least by hybrid standards – it’s not a bike that will put you in an upright stance. The stack/reach of my size small came in at 549mm/388mm. Comparisons include the Specialized Sirrus, whose 388mm reach is paired with a 555mm stack (so it’s a little bit higher), and the Liv Alight Disc, where a 388mm reach comes with a much higher 583mm stack.
The moulds are smoothly finished, though most of the cables are routed on the outside of the frame, which I found slightly surprising for a hybrid bike at this price point; many higher-end hybrids opt for integrated cables. Whilst it doesn’t look as clean, this external approach does make maintenance easier if you work on your bike yourself, and cheaper if you tend to book in at a bike shop.
Boardman HYB 8.8 components
Kitted with the 10-speed Shimano Deore groupset, this specification is higher than similar hybrids at this range such as the Liv Alight 1 or Giant Escape 1, which at £799 both come with Shimano Atlus shifting, and the Cannondale Quick which at £800 features a Shimano Altus/Alivio/Acera mix.
The single ring Deore set up comes from Shimano’s mountain bike family, so with the HYB you are sure to be getting something that can cope with being taken on more rugged terrain.
What struck me when I looked at the bike was the dinner plate sized cogs on the cassette. With just one chainring – a 44T, the 10-speed cassette comes with a wide spread of gears, with an 11-46 cassette provides a healthy set of choices for the varying terrain you might encounter. Boardman has gone out on a limb by fitting just the one chain ring, as this is not often seen on women’s hybrid bikes.
An oft touted benefit of a single chainring is the simplicity this provides, there’s one thing less to think about when changing gear compared with a double chainring. That may be welcome, particularly to the novice cyclist, who might feel happy to just have to deal with the rear gears. Another benefit is reduced wear and tear on the chain, and less chance of mechanicals.
The single vs double chainring choice is one of personal preference. I must say I am still not entirely comfortable with single chainrings and I feel more at ease with my good old double. That said, those dinner plate sprockets do look like they could allow for some serious Everesting!
Although the cassette goes to a considerable 46 teeth as the lowest gear, over 10 speeds there will be some uneven increments between gears, and I sometimes found it hard to obtain that sweetspot cruising gear, particularly on terrain with just gentle undulations. Whilst higher-end set-ups, with 12 or even 13 sprockets at the back allow for small gaps on a single ring set up, I found that with this 10-speed shifting I’d rather have a double
Braking is effected by Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes, which are now commonplace on hybrid bikes given that they are designed for multi-terrain use. The rotors are 160mm, which should provide plenty of bite, and being larger than the 140mm rotors sometimes found on road bikes, they should be more resistant to wear and tear. Anything larger is more the preserve of the mountain bike crowd.
The HYB 8.8 comes with Boardman quick-release wheels with tubeless ready rims. The rubber provided comes in the shape of 35mm Schwalbe Citizen tyres with Kevlar guard, the focus seems to be more on preventing punctures rather than on speed. A thicker, plusher tyre might be more in keeping with that single ring and wide cassette – the two paired together could allow for some light off-road pursuits.
Some other brands have opted for a wider tyre for hybrids of a similar nature, for example, the Liv Alight has 38mm rubber and space for 40mm, and the Specialized Sirrus is specced with 42mm tyres. This said, Boardman has pitched a happy medium, compared to the slick 32mm width of the Trek FX 3 Disc Women’s hybrid. Tyre choice is personal and will come down to the mix of terrain you intend to ride.
One other thing that strikes me about the design of the HYB 8.8 Women’s is the integrated stem and handlebar. This does give the bike a stylish appearance and also helps with keeping the weight down and making the bike aerodynamic. While this is great for style and speed, those who may need to tweak the fit via swapping the stem length will not have this option.
For added comfort, the handlebars have ergonomic grips, and for your rear end, the HYB women’s saddle.
Boardman HYB 8.8 ride quality
I took the HYB 8.8 Women’s out and about on the streets of London, and then further out along some local rail trails. The bike felt sturdy and held the road well, including when I was in my bolt upright position flying down the hill on one of the roads near where my home.
When riding up one of the steepest roads near me, the 18 percent Canonbie Road, I was pleasantly surprised that the gears were in fact low enough for me to not need to get off and walk!
As mentioned, I would have liked closer spacing between the gears, particularly on flatter and undulating roads.
The 35mm tyres were comfortable enough and felt quick on the road, though I may have explored more varied off-road trails had they been wider.
For my height, 5ft 6” I was on the small sized bike, and that was a good fit for me. The handlebars were the correct width, as was the reach.
- RRP: £800
- Weight: 10.4kg
- Frame: Alloy
- Forks: Carbon blades, carbon steerer,
- Tyres: Schwalbe Citizen with K-Guard
- Cassette: Shimano CS-M4100-10, 10 speed, 11-46T
- Brakes: Shimano BR-MT200 hydraulic disc brake
- Chain: KMC, 10-speed
- Chainset: FSA Gossamer Compact, 44T, S – 165mm M/L – 170mm
- Shifters and derailleurs: Shimano Deore, 1×10
- Handlebars: Boardman Integrated 1 Piece Bar / Stem
- Pedals: Wellgo flat pedal, 9/16″ axle
- Wheels: Boardman tubeless ready alloy