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  1. #1
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    Best hybrid-type for going up very steep hills

    Here's the issue: I live in the mountains, which has made commuting a bit daunting. The roads are either paved or hard-packed dirt for the most part, but remarkable steep. I'm looking to get a good hill-climbing, flat-bar bike, preferably a women's step-through, and am thinking of the Breezer Greenway or the Fuji Crossroads. The Fuji is a lot cheaper than the Breezer, but since my goal is to find a bike that I'm really going to use, I'd go with the more expensive one if it seemed more suitable. I've found a bike shop that has the Crossroads, but haven't found one with the Breezer. (The nearest one is 50 miles away, where it is not mountainous!) If anyone has had experience with either of these over steep terrain, or can recommend a bike that is good for that, I'd be grateful. Also, what is the best gearing to make a bike most hill-friendly.

    Thanks,
    CD

  2. #2
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    My vote is for the Breezer for two main reasons.

    1. Gearing: The Breezer has a MTB crankset (42/32/22) as opposed to a trekking crankset (48/38/28). For really steep hills (the kind you might only manage 3-5mph up), a MTB crankset is the way to go. In the little ring you'll be able to spin comfortably (relatively, of course ) as opposed to grinding away with the trekking gearing. It'll also make it possible to carry heavier loads when you need to.

    2. Rigid fork: When climbing steep smooth hills, the last thing you want is a suspension fork sapping power (the bike will bob up and down with each pedal stroke due to the fork compressing) or the added weight (only 2 lbs. extra or so but why carrying it if you really don't need it?). The rigid fork on the Breezer will allow you to stand up on the pedals and really apply power when you want to.

    I've never seen that Breezer model before but it looks like an awesome commuter bike. About the only thing you might want to change is to add some toe clips or clipless pedals for extra climbing power on the upstroke.

  3. #3
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    Thanks. Those are both good reasons to go with the Breezer. Now, if I could only find one to ride... . Any other bikes with similar components and gearing to the Breezer that you know of?

    cd

  4. #4
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    I think you mean the Fuji Crosstown, right?

    It looks like the Breezer has gearing more like a mountain bike (front crank has 42x32x22T gearing), while the Crosstown has a little higher gearing (28/38/48T). If it's mountains you need to climb, the Breezer seems to fit the bill better. You may be able to get by with either however. Depends on your abilities!

    The rear cassette can be changed out on either bike, which will allow you to go even easier gearing.

    If the Crosstown is $100+ cheaper, you could probably have the local shop change out the front crank (or even just the chainrings) & maybe rear cassette (wait to see if you really need it) to similar gearing to the Breezer and it would work just fine.

  5. #5
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    Yes, the Crosstown. What would an even easier cassette look like?
    thanks,
    cd

  6. #6
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    11-34 is a fairly standard mountain bike cassette/cogset. I see some of the Crosstown models have a 34 largest (easiest), some have 32. This will probably be good enough. But at least you have the knowledge that if what you have is not easy enough, you can go to 34. I doubt you'd really need 34. Running 22 front, 34 rear would allow you to go up the steepest of hills with extreme ease. The 1.0 & 2.0 look pretty nice.

  7. #7
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    I was a little confused by "Crossroads" as well but assumed Crosstown The Crosstown still has the strike against it of the suspension fork (in my opinion) even with a gearing change. Not that this can't be easily changed either though. I did just that on my Specialized Hardrock that I commute on. $55 for a Surly 1X1 fork (installed by me so I saved some money there). With that change and a new cassette though, the Crosstown is just as much money as the Breezer.

    Why are you so concerned about finding a Breezer to test ride? Is fit your major concern?

  8. #8
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    You might want to reconsider. Hybrids tend to be heavy. Since to you want climb hills, you might wish to look into something a bit less weight to necessitate even more gearing. You can put a triple on most anything these days.
    Mike
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  9. #9
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Probably not what you were thinking about initially, but you should look over cyclocross bikes.

  10. #10
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    You could rethink the need for a hybrid...
    The most desirable property of mtb/hybrids is usually the wide bars for easy handling. Moustache bars can bring that to road bikes, and lets you swap in fairly cheap keeping road bike shifters. nashbar has them in 52cm (wide enough) or 56cm.
    Tires are also pretty easy/cheap to customise.

    Regarding hill climbing... granny gears is not the most important criteria. Bike weight is. Well inflated tires is also very important. I have gone through a range of bikes this month, and a road bike with 40 gear inch lowest gear climbed better than a heavier mtb with 28 gear inches. I can't tell what bike will climb better than another by looking at them, but weight prejudice can make me guess.

    As an aside, you might find slightly longer crank arms can make climbing a lot easier, letting you pedal slowly, smoothly, and with less pressure, but still move forward.... (just like the swiss guy in the specialized tv commercial )

  11. #11
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    The Breezer Greenway was designed by someone who gets mountains. Also, you get quite a lot of extras for that price. I'm very happy with my Breezer bike and would have traveled 50 miles to get one.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb
    The Breezer Greenway was designed by someone who gets mountains. Also, you get quite a lot of extras for that price. I'm very happy with my Breezer bike and would have traveled 50 miles to get one.
    Which Breezer do you have?

    Another point: The OP said a step-thru frame was desired. Does anybody know of a road bike that offers a ladies frame? I wish they still made those - they would be the bomb for commuting and errand running.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by godspiral
    Regarding hill climbing... granny gears is not the most important criteria. Bike weight is. Well inflated tires is also very important. I have gone through a range of bikes this month, and a road bike with 40 gear inch lowest gear climbed better than a heavier mtb with 28 gear inches. I can't tell what bike will climb better than another by looking at them, but weight prejudice can make me guess.
    Weight is all relative and commuting (for most people) isn't a race. For someone who normally adds 5 lbs. of panniers and gear to their bike for the ride to work, an extra 5 lbs. of bike isn't really going to affect how it climbs. Gearing, though, will make the difference between having to get off and walk or pedaling to the top. To get significantly lighter than the Breezer, she'll need to sacrifice quite a bit of durability and comfort in addition to dollars. Then she'll need to change the gearing anyway since typical roadbike gearing isn't setup to allow the average rider to climb mountains (even with a triple).

    I'm making a lot of assumptions though about the OP so please feel free to chime in

  14. #14
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    Huh, when did mtb gearing go from 48/38/28 to 42/32/22? My 15 yr old mtb has the former gearing w/ a 14-28 cassette in back. Maybe moutains weren't as steep back then?
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyossarian
    Huh, when did mtb gearing go from 48/38/28 to 42/32/22? My 15 yr old mtb has the former gearing w/ a 14-28 cassette in back. Maybe moutains weren't as steep back then?
    Your 15 year old MTB probably doesn't have a suspension fork with 100mm of travel either. I don't think mountains have gotten any rougher though

  16. #16
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    I thought about putting different handlebars on a lightweight road bike, or getting a flatbar roadbike, but that's not really the ride I'm after. (I have a road bike for zipping around.) I am after something like a European utility bike, but not as heavy and with excellent hill-climbing gearing. I like the step-through, not because I'll ride in a skirt, but because it tends to make jumping off the bike easier. It's not crucial, just a preference, and since both the Fuji and the Breezer have that option, those bikes seemed like good options. Both are in the 30lb neighborhood. I'm not sure if the weight of the Breezer Greenway includes all the extras--rack, fenders, light, etc, but if it does, then the bike is fairly lightweight for that kind of bike. They both seem like stable bikes, too--easy to stand up on to pedal. If there are other bikes that fit this criteria, please let me know. Thanks for all your input! cd

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    One other thing: Based on what has been written here so far, I went back and looked at the specs for the Breezer range bikes and the Fuji Crosstowns (1.0 and 2.0). The Breezer Greenway (the less expensive) has an 11-30 cogset, and the Liberty goes to 32. Both Crosstowns have 32. The Fuji 1.0 is about $500, has Deore components, and weighs in at 32lb with fenders and suspension. If I got rid of the front suspension and added a fairly light fork, the bike might weigh about 2lbs less, right? I'm not sure how much that would cost, but if it's $200, the bike is about $300 less than the Liberty and a little lighter. But would it do as well on the hills with the trekking crankset? How does 28/32 (the Fuji) compare with 22/30 (the Breezer Greenway)?

    The other wrinkle here is that I am hoping my daughter, who is daunted by our terrain here) will also use the bike to ride to school/afterschool when I'm not using it. So I want to make it as easy to pedal as possible.

    Thanks!

  18. #18
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    A coworker has a trek L300 w/ way low step through frame. It needs a wicker basket in the front to complete the styling. It has a really wide gear range from 8 spd hub, definitely comparable to a mtn bike. Not very hybrid though.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cuffydog
    One other thing: Based on what has been written here so far, I went back and looked at the specs for the Breezer range bikes and the Fuji Crosstowns (1.0 and 2.0). The Breezer Greenway (the less expensive) has an 11-30 cogset, and the Liberty goes to 32. Both Crosstowns have 32. The Fuji 1.0 is about $500, has Deore components, and weighs in at 32lb with fenders and suspension. If I got rid of the front suspension and added a fairly light fork, the bike might weigh about 2lbs less, right? I'm not sure how much that would cost, but if it's $200, the bike is about $300 less than the Liberty and a little lighter. But would it do as well on the hills with the trekking crankset? How does 28/32 (the Fuji) compare with 22/30 (the Breezer Greenway)?

    The other wrinkle here is that I am hoping my daughter, who is daunted by our terrain here) will also use the bike to ride to school/afterschool when I'm not using it. So I want to make it as easy to pedal as possible.

    Thanks!
    A 22/30 will get you 5.3 mph at 90 rpm whereas a 28/32 will get you 6.2 mph at the same rpm (assuming 700x35 tires). Not a huge difference but one that will most certainly be noticeable. It all comes down to just how steep/long of hills you are talking about. If you would never be going this slow, then the gearing will not make a difference. If you will be going this slow or slower, then you'll probably like having the MTB gearing instead of the trekking set. Have you cycled on these same roads with your road bike? How is it geared? How do you do with that gearing? How does your daughter do?

  20. #20
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    I would definitely be going that slow. I live on the spine of a mountain--very steep. The road bike has a triple, so it does okay on the hills, but it doesn't like the dirt roads. My daughter is not a strong rider, so anything that could encourage her would be a plus. What I don't quite understand from your post is that is seems with a 22/30 (the Breezer) I'd be going slower than with the 28/32 (the Fuji), but then you recommend the mtb gearing, which is the Breezer, not the Fuji. What am I not getting?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cuffydog
    I would definitely be going that slow. I live on the spine of a mountain--very steep. The road bike has a triple, so it does okay on the hills, but it doesn't like the dirt roads. My daughter is not a strong rider, so anything that could encourage her would be a plus. What I don't quite understand from your post is that is seems with a 22/30 (the Breezer) I'd be going slower than with the 28/32 (the Fuji), but then you recommend the mtb gearing, which is the Breezer, not the Fuji. What am I not getting?
    The bike will go as fast as you pedal it Variable gearing allows you to pedal at the same speed (cadence) yet go different speeds. This is what I was trying to demonstrate. Another way of looking at it is that for the same speed, you'll be able to pedal at a higher cadence with the Breezer than on the Crosstown. For most people, being able to pedal at around 90 rpms is most efficient. As cadence drops, you become less efficient. If you are most efficient at 90 rpms and you need to go 5.3 mph, then the gearing on the Breezer is better than the gearing on the Crosstown (which would have you pedalling at a slower cadence for the same speed).

    Someone feel free to chime in with a better explanation if you've got one

  22. #22
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    If it's as steep as cuffydog makes it seem, I can imagine how hard it might be on a non-mtb geared bike. There's a 17% (sick but true) grade hill I've done on my triple road bike exactly twice. It's almost impossible without stops, and it's not something I consider lightly. I've been passed by mtbs that make it look easy.

    This is not what cuffydog wants. It shouldn't be a gigantic chore every day just to get home. NOBODY is going to do that except a masochist.

    cuffydog, do you have access to a newer (5 years old or less) mtb that you can ride up the hill? A hybrid with mtb gearing should be similar--easier, because of the slicks. Alternatively, borrow one of the hybrids (any shape) with the correct gearing (22 front inner chainring, 32 or 34 largest rear gear) from the bike shop where you plan on buying and ride the hill. That's really the only way you'll know if it's going to work. They should let you take one on an extended ride. Tell them it's a deal maker/deal breaker.

  23. #23
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    I'm pretty sure I can try a Fuji, but not the Breezer (since no one in VT sells Breezer Range bikes), which is why I posted the question initially. The Breezer sounded like the right bike, but even if I could try one, I couldn't try one here, in this terrain, which is what matters. And yes, these are the sorts of hills that make most people decide to drive, even for short distances. I really don't want to do that any more, and I want to encourage my daughter, and then her friends (by coming up with a ride your bike to school challenge) not to do that, either. Thanks, CD

  24. #24
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    you mentioned you have a road bike already... how does climbing those hills go? what is its easiest gear inches?

    Either of the bikes you are looking at, should have an adequate gear range for a begining or intermediate rider to make it up reasonably hard hills. You'll also improve the more you do them. Perhaps if the hills are very long, would 22/30 become useful. Basically, if you are having problems keeping 50-60 rpm in those gears, you could be walking the bike at the same speed as 28/32. Also, if the hill is close to home, you might prefer to get more of a workout from it.

    On my mtb with slicks, I find 48/18 to be a really nice cruising gear on flats with toe clips. I only have 2 harder gears for downhills. With wide handlebars, 1.5" tires, and modern brakes, and momentum of a heavy bike, going down hill in top gear feels very safe, stable, and worthwhile. That's 48/14 for me. You might find 42 is too light for a top gear.

  25. #25
    Senior Member ch9862's Avatar
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    CD, first off I think joejack hit the nail on the head with MTB chainrigns and rigid fork. My first bike was a hybrid with touring chainrings (28/38/48), MTB cassette (12-30) and suspension fork and I had tough time climbing hills on it. It's true that when I got stronger gearing was no longer a big problem, but first few months weren't fun.

    If you are stronger and faster type, cyclocross bike might be the ticket (lighter but will go off road and carry some load), but if you're after user-friendliness first, hybrid would get my vote (it'd be cheaper, too).

    I'd be a bit wary of a step-through frame. My wife has a hybrid with one, and it not only feels flimsy and softish but caused problems with bottle cage - she had to find side-loaded one and it's still not easy to pull some bottles out of it. The Breezer's frame looks like a good compromise, and the bike seems like a very good fit for what you're describing.

    Quote Originally Posted by cuffydog
    The Breezer sounded like the right bike, but even if I could try one, I couldn't try one here, in this terrain, which is what matters.
    No idea how the Breezer climbs - but I'd be surprised if there was a big difference between two hybrids with rigid forks. Maybe even a hardtail MTB with rigid fork and slicks would give you an idea?

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