We find the name as confusing as you do. And so do the bike manufacturers, which is why so many of them mark their hybrids with anything besides that term. Still, it's an important bike type and the term is used enough that you should understand it.
A little history will help. In the seventies, the groovy bike was the ten-speed with its skinny tires, drop handlebars and narrow seat. A decade later, the to-die-for machine was the mountain bike, with its fat tires, indestructible components, super-low gearing and ultra-comfortable wide, flat handlebars. Both these bike types sold like crazy in their heyday and continue to sell well today. Why? Because they're each perfectly suited for their intended purpose: on- and off-road riding.
But what if you enjoy riding both dirt roads and pavement? What if you want a responsive bike that's more rugged than a lightweight road model? What if you're looking for the comfort and convenience of flat bars but want to ride at a good clip and for long distances? What if you want low gears and carrying capacity? If that's you, a hybrid is likely your best bike choice.
Hybrids combine the best of the two most popular bike types. What's interesting is that after millions of ten-speeds were sold in the seventies and mountain bikes in the eighties, a great many were ridden a few times and then permanently parked because it wasn't the right bike for that person. Lots of people bought mountain bikes looking for something more comfortable than the ten-speed they had. But, they were disappointed when they felt how much more effort was required to pedal the bike down the road. Likewise, hoards of people were miserable sitting all hunched over trying to reach the drop bars on a racing bike.
On a hybrid, you get the comfort of the flat handlebars with the zippiness of lightweight wheels. But, the bike is durable enough that you can take it off road (though hybrids are best for smooth groomed paths and dirt roads, not rugged trails and technical singletrack) and carry plenty of gear for commuting or touring. Many hybrids include suspension for additional comfort. And they come equipped with low gearing for easy hill climbing and tough tires that resist punctures.
We've got an excellent selection of hybrids and you're welcome to come in and check a few. We won't hold it against you if you call them by name, either.