In which we examine why hybrids should not exist

My Christmas holidays have been spent in a house where the bathrooms have those very modern basins that almost can’t hold water. You know, like this, except ours didn’t glow:

According to some this is an AMAZING sink.
Good design merges form and function but it sometimes seems that the more money you spend the more form dictates the design and you end up with a piece of  unusable rubbish. Admittedly I’m something of a water buffalo at the best of times and I’m yet to do the dishes without leaving the floor awash, so naturally I favour deep and function sinks. But still… what moron would design a flat sink? I could barely even spit my toothpaste out without covering the bathroom in paste. And then you add to it those hair-trigger mixture taps and my groin was covered in water every time I washed my hands. Combined with the the shiny bathroom tiles and we had to erect a Slippery When Wet sign on permanent display. Every time I went to the bathroom it turned into a skating rink.

One of the guests drying her hands after using the bathroom.
Bicycle design can stumble down some strange paths but rarely is bad design tolerated by those who have to ride it. Sure, you see guys riding round with handlebars so narrow they can barely steer…


And something as simple as a skid requires vaulting around the bicycle like it’s a piece of gym equipment…

Fixie skid followed by double-twist dismount.

But on the whole bicycle design is dictated by the people who ride them ride them, hence BMXs for jumping shit, mountain bikes for mountains and tri-bikes for men who wear mid-riff singlets. Sadly, however, there are bicycles that are designed for people who don’t really ride, for which I reserve a special type of scorn. To wit I present, the hybrid.

Long thought to be a real animal, the platypus is in fact a hybrid of a duck and an otter.

I can see where the idea for the hybrid came about. Back in the eighties people started using their mountain bikes about town and saw there were several advantages to their design for this on-road riding. But there were some disadvantages also. So then some nutter wondered, what if we crossed a mountain bike with a road bike? Sounds good in theory, yeah, but the hybrid didn’t live up to the hype. It’s like when I woke up the other day thinking, “What if I crossed a Jack Russell with an Alsation? I’d have a rat dog capable of chasing rats the size of small children?” Yes, no and maybe. The real problem here is that giant rats don’t exist. And the dog would be ugly as sin. The hybrid bicycle suffers in much the same way.

A grotesque aberration. A dog that can track a rabbit, then flush it out of its burrow. A Jack-A-Bee

The hybrid bike could just as easily been designed by someone who asked, “What if we designed a bike for people who don’t actually ride?”

The bike I rode had the bars way up high but the seat set way back from the bottom bracket, so that when I rode out of the saddle the bars just about hit me in the chin, but when I peddled sitting the bars were a surprisingly long way away.

The other thing about this bike that I disliked instantly was all the gears it had. What use could anyone have for all those gears, I sneared to myself as I rode off. Turns out, you live in Buderim, you’ll need nearly all those gears. Coming home from Mooloolabah I climbed a 13% gradient. Now, if you know as little about gradients as I do, then just take it as read that anything that requires a gradient sign on the roadside is sufficiently steep to require loads of gears also. The single speed that I had moments before regretted not bringing on holiday with me would have seen me popping some cartlidge straight through my knee.

I must say though that even as unfit as I am and as steep as the hill was I still didn’t manage to get the chain down onto the smallest front chainring. Surely the point at which that thing is required is the point at which you can get off and walk faster.

Hybrids rarely turn out any good. Those who like to drive large cars but still want to bullshit themselves about their contribution to the environment have been buying hybrids for about a decade now, but for what gain? The best of the hybrids still can’t match the Mini Cooper for fuel economy. And when you compare 4.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres against 6 or 7 (for a small car) or 10/11 for a large car…well it all seems  like death by degrees compared with the obvious and simple solution. You know, getting off your fat arse and riding a bike.

An evolutionary dead end?
There has been speculation, which is endlessly misquoted by those who dislike hybrid cars, that the carbon emissions required to manufacture the batteries for a hybrid is not compensated by the reduced emissions. As I’ve said in the past, with matter like these, it all depends on how you do the accounting. I’m sure someone else has done research to prove just how good a hybrid is…and I don’t care either way. They’re all meaningless arguments because the sole purpose of the hybrid is the massage the conscience of the buyer. At this, they are 100% efficient.
Bike riders are by default greenies but some still seek to set themselves apart from the pack by being a deeper shade of green. Arguments can break out about the various materials used for manufacturing the bikes. Aluminium requires massive amounts of energy to manufacturer, carbon requires toxic chemicals, steel is real and hence requires the endless re-hashing of tired cliches…but the real point here is you could make bicycles out of recycled panda tears and they’d still be the most efficient form of transport ever invented. Bamboo bikes are a last refuge for those who really must out-green the green. But aren’t they merely just hybrids of another type? Are bamboo bikes, with their steel lugs or epoxy/hemp/chewing gum joins just a hybrid of various possible bicycle materials? As impossible and uncomfortable a match as the mythical Jack-A-Sation and the platypus? And aren’t they necessarily and therefore inferior? Or is it just possible that my brain is putting together a loose hybrid and it is I who is inferior? I’ll agree with either point of view until someone can prove me wrong.

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