In Hybrids, an Industrial Revolution
Part of our assignment was building up a new portion of our fleet with flat handlebars, modified cousins of the (then) newly popular mountain bike. These ‘flat-bar hybrids’ were revolutionary in the industry, particularly in Europe, where a blend of quality components, easy gearing, and road tires with a comfortable upright riding position was unheard of. Hybrids were instantly popular among the Butterfield set, and to this day, two-thirds of our European travellers choose one for their cycling adventure.
Flash forward a quarter-century to find that same once-scruffy mechanic, yours truly, now at the front end of the process, entrusted to lead our Operations team in the search for the next great hybrid for our trips. Our Cannondales have served us well, but now they’re off to other destinations – Myanmar, Morocco, Argentina – for a well-earned, more exotic tour of duty. In their place come the newest and best bikes we’ve ever—well, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the introduction, a word or two on just what we were looking for, and how we found them.
Hybrids are a challenge to design. Intended primarily for the beginner/intermediate active traveller, they need to nail the three physical touch-points between bike and body: handlebar (which determines riding angle and back comfort); saddle (comfort here needs no explanation); and pedals (essentially, appropriate gearing). And then there is the fourth key, stability, which is a mix of overall balance and tire width. While providing all this, they also need to be lightweight, sturdy, and stylish. It’s a tricky recipe.
More Than a Supplier
And so our search for the next-generation hybrid began nearly a year and a half ago, at Interbike, North America’s largest bicycle industry event. After initial conversations with some twenty manufacturers, over the course of many months we narrowed the list down, eliminating those who could not deliver the specifications we required or who didn’t fit with the B&R brand. Once at the short-list, the hard work began as we meticulously spec’ed out every element, from frames to bottle cages to custom colours – maniacal attention to detail is a trademark of our trips, and it’s no different with our equipment. We were not looking just for a supplier but for a partner, and in the end we found one we are proud to team with: Italy’s industry leader, Bianchi.
With a history dating back to the late 19th century(!), Bianchi is a legend in the cycling world. The bike we have designed with them is perfect for our travellers, and worthy of the lofty reputation of both brands. Interestingly, for B&R this is the first-ever hybrid fleet to come from Europe, and we’re very excited to be breaking new ground in this way. The new rides hit all of the key elements mentioned above, with that trademark Italian design flair to boot. They will debut this spring across Europe.
Ready to Ride?
Chris knows our new Bianchi fleet better than anyone, but you’ll have to trust us when we say words can’t do these bikes justice. Click the button below, find a European adventure that suits your palate, and find out for yourself just how our hybrids handle. (Spoiler alert: exceptionally well.)
About the Author
B&R’s self-proclaimed “once-scruffy” Director of Operations and Planning Chris Mark is something of a hybrid himself: he oversees trip planners in selecting new and exciting regions to ride, and bike mechanics in ensuring the ride is as smooth as possible.