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  1. #1
    DoB
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    How much is my bike holding me back?

    My background:
    I have a Trek Navigator 300 "comfort" bike that I've noodled about the neighborhood for the last three years with my kids on. This spring I took it into my head to start doing my 25 mile RT commute on the bike. I swapped the tires to 26 x 1.5 road, changed the sprung saddle for a Serfas Cosmos and set the adjustable stem as far forward and low as possible. (I also added panniers, fenders and lighting, which has no bearing on the question). I find I can run my commute at a pretty consistent 15-17 mph when moving and I can make the 12.5 miles each way in about 50 minutes.

    The question:
    I also notice people on this forum riding much more aggressive road oriented bikes. Assuming that I'm partial to at least a bit of a heads up stance for traffic and I like flat bars, is the comfort bike frame really holding me back? Could I be running 20mph with different geometry?

    Also, what is really different with my frame? From what I can tell, the seat and head angles are greater, which appears to place the seat further back from the bottom bracket. I assume the reach from seat to bars is also different, though hard to quantify. Maybe what I'm also trying to ask is, what exactly is the difference between an agressive and a relaxed frame?

  2. #2
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    I may be crazy (or I may not), but I think that tires and wheels will probably effect one's speed more than a few a degrees difference in frame angles.
    The angle of the headtube really only effects handling, and I don't think it has any effect on the ease with which a machine can be propelled. In a relaxed frame, the headtube is slanted back further so that the leading wheel leads more making the bicycle more stable.
    So far as the seat tube goes, I've heard that the more upright geometry both keeps weight of the rider more balanced between both wheels, and keeps the rider in a position to exert energy more efficiently. I don't really think it makes that much a difference for general purpose riding. I can maintain 15mph on my 37lbs. 3 speed over 30 miles without any major problem, and I can do better on my Miyata 110 - but I attribute this more to the difference in tires and overall weight than to the frame angles
    I have an old Japanese road bike with 68 degree frame angles, and actually find it more comfortable to ride than the newer bikes, but I cannot compare it fairly speedwise on the basis of frame geometry alone because of it's weight and that it also uses the 3 speed 26 & 1 3/8" tire size.

  3. #3
    . blickblocks's Avatar
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    I find that I really can't break 17 mph unless I ride more aero, but then it's also somewhat windy in this season. I really pump it and usually run an average of 19-20 mph at full speed, riding in the drops, and accelerating on the hoods. Flat bars just don't cut it for speed.

    Have you considered buying a used vintage roadie with drops? It could be a very inexpensive buy if you keep an eye out for yard sales and the like.

  4. #4
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    With what you are saving your family in auto costs, you can justify any bike you want. On the other hand, it doesn't take that much money. Go shopping for an old used steel road bike. Garage sales and used bikes at bike stores are what you want. Buy a 15 or 20 year old road bike for cheap. Make sure it has eyelets for a rack and fenders. Then try it and decide for yourself if it is faster. Even if it isn't, you have a second bike for cheap.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoB
    My background:
    I have a Trek Navigator 300 "comfort" bike that I've noodled about the neighborhood for the last three years with my kids on. This spring I took it into my head to start doing my 25 mile RT commute on the bike. I swapped the tires to 26 x 1.5 road, changed the sprung saddle for a Serfas Cosmos and set the adjustable stem as far forward and low as possible. (I also added panniers, fenders and lighting, which has no bearing on the question). I find I can run my commute at a pretty consistent 15-17 mph when moving and I can make the 12.5 miles each way in about 50 minutes.

    The question:
    I also notice people on this forum riding much more aggressive road oriented bikes. Assuming that I'm partial to at least a bit of a heads up stance for traffic and I like flat bars, is the comfort bike frame really holding me back? Could I be running 20mph with different geometry?

    Also, what is really different with my frame? From what I can tell, the seat and head angles are greater, which appears to place the seat further back from the bottom bracket. I assume the reach from seat to bars is also different, though hard to quantify. Maybe what I'm also trying to ask is, what exactly is the difference between an agressive and a relaxed frame?
    The frame style has very little to do with speed, narrower tires, with higher pressure reduce rolling resistance, a more aerodynamic riding position, reduces wind resistance. Reducing rolling and wind resistance may allow you to push a higher gear, which will increase speed. If you find that your pushing the highest 1-2 gears most of the time, then higher gearing can help, but if you spend most of your ime in the middle ring, then higher gearing will not help.

    Two directions you can go, depending on budget:

    1) Get a road bike, doesn't need to be new, unlike cars, bikes and components from even the 1970's can be found today, that are in excellent shape, and usually oldies are quite reasonably priced.

    2) Put drop bars on your current bike, you need to swap out the brake levers and possibly shifters, then go with even narrower, higher pressure tires.

  6. #6
    RIP Gonzo So Cal commuter's Avatar
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    I have the exact distance you do, I am on a touring bike with 700 by 25mm tires, and I make the 12.5 trip in 45 minutes. 43 is my fastest with no tail wind. I average between 18 and 21 mph. Hope this helps.
    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -HST

  7. #7
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    If you're bike is heavy and you're upright and acting like a big windsail, you're using more effort than someone on a lighter bike in a more aero position to go the same speed. Consequently, for the same effort, they can go faster than you. At some point, wind resistance is the biggest obstacle to overcome, but in the meantime, using a lighter bike and presenting a lower profile to the wind will make it easier for you to pick up some extra speed for the same effort. Looks like you're ready to make the jump if you can maintain 15-17 mph consistently on a hybrid.
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



    We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

  8. #8
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    There are a lot of small differences between a comfort bike and a commutrable road bike, each makes a contribution to efficiency:
    Bike weight
    Suspension (or lack of)
    Riding position
    Wheel weight and aerodynamic profile
    I think you would be better off getting a purpose built long distance commuter. This could be an older style road bike, a light touring bike or a flat bar road bike.
    The key features would be a lightweight frame with clearance for med tyres (28-32mm) + fenders and rack fittings and bars that permit a lower riding position.
    Flats will do but drops give a wider selection of alt hand holds.
    Also look at medium gearing from a triple or compact double chainset and some pedal retension system (toe clips or clipless).

  9. #9
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoB
    The question:
    I also notice people on this forum riding much more aggressive road oriented bikes. Assuming that I'm partial to at least a bit of a heads up stance for traffic and I like flat bars, is the comfort bike frame really holding me back? Could I be running 20mph with different geometry?
    A question you might ask yourself: How important is it to you to boost the top speed on your commute? And is that benefit worth the cost in comfort, and money to you? Forget the "expert's" Conventional Wisdom about the need for speed/efficiency in every bicycling endeavor if it doesn't apply to your situation.

  10. #10
    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    A question you might ask yourself: How important is it to you to boost the top speed on your commute? And is that benefit worth the cost in comfort, and money to you? Forget the "expert's" Conventional Wisdom about the need for speed/efficiency in every bicycling endeavor if it doesn't apply to your situation.
    I agree.

    I'm sure you could save 5 minutes with a change in bike. I know go about 3 or 4 mph faster with drops, but it isn't comfortable for me. I also go about 15 mph on my comfort bike. Nothing wrong with that. And, I enjoy it!
    Cleveland, OH
    Breezer fan

  11. #11
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    Quote Originally Posted by blickblocks
    I find that I really can't break 17 mph unless I ride more aero, but then it's also somewhat windy in this season. I really pump it and usually run an average of 19-20 mph at full speed, riding in the drops, and accelerating on the hoods. Flat bars just don't cut it for speed.

    Have you considered buying a used vintage roadie with drops? It could be a very inexpensive buy if you keep an eye out for yard sales and the like.
    +1 for the vintage roadie idea. I'd also consider putting skinnier tires on the Navigator.

    @blickblocks...what kind of windspeeds are you dealing with? is that 17mph average across a given trip or your max speed pedaling on flats?
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  12. #12
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    I'm with ILTB on this. Do you really WANT to go faster, given that you would need to pay for the increase in speed? 12.5 miles in 50 minutes is already quite respectable. If you want to go faster, you can buy more of a road bike, but honestly...I cover the same distance in about that amount of time on my touring bike. I could do it faster, but the trip would go from a pleasant, mildly strenuous ride to a decidely unpleasant, sweaty and painful ride. I know which one I prefer.

    The one possible advantage of a 'faster' bike here would be that it might allow you to complete the commute in the same amount of time for less work. That would be nice. But ILTB is right - speed and efficiency really aren't the goals in commuting, and shaving five or ten minutes off your commute doesn't really accomplish much.

  13. #13
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Agreed it totally depends. This spring I switched from a hybrid to a road bike. I have found the drop bars so much more comfortable that I'm now strongly considering putting drops on the "hybrid" after a paint job.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Scorer75's Avatar
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    As others have asked, is speed that iportant???

    My morning commute is 17 miles.

    I'll use my road bike and my mountain bike depending on my mood, weather, and what I'm carrying.

    I can do the commmute on the road bike in 57 minutes, and on my mountain bike in 1 hour 10 minutes. The mountain bike is on 2" road slicks and is very comfortable. The road bike is aluminum and runs 120psi Armadillos and is anything but comfortable, but fast and fun.

    I don't think it's so much a question of is your current bike holding you back. It's more a question of is this the type of ride you want for your commute?

  15. #15
    cut my gas use in half Jessica's Avatar
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    I lean down and put my elbows on the grips,and hold my hands together in front of me, which puts me into a very similar position to the drop bars. I have been riding for years, and I only do this if there is predictably no sudden changes in my route (not when I am in heavy traffic), but I find that I go faster in that position... it also takes more energy. Because it is different, it works for a "change of pace" when I am tired or it is windy.

    I think the more change of pace you can think of, the better comfort you have in your ride. I like upright, but more weight on my feet and hands means more power, and more zoom...
    And I am sure there are other choices I haven't thought of, yet...

  16. #16
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    I usually ride a road bike and even if I sit completely upright, I notice I immediately lose about 1-2 mph in speed. When in the aero bars I gain 1-3 mph in speed for the same effort on the hoods. Beyond aerodynamics, tire pressure and style has a huge effect on speed. My 80psi MTB slicks gave me an instant 3-4 mph gain over my lower pressure knobbie on my MTB. But beyond that, my switch from my MTB with 80 psi slicks to my road bike with 23c 120 psi tires, in the same relative body position resulted in not much increase in speed.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  17. #17
    Ride 365 Lucky07's Avatar
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    If commuting is the only riding you do, and speed isn't an issue, I'd stick with the hybrid. If you specifically want to go faster, look into a road bike. But honestly, I've seen people blaze on hybrids. Conditioning and training have a lot to with speed, as well as efficiency...
    "...devil take the hindmost..."

  18. #18
    Senior Member CTAC's Avatar
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    I have the same disatance, all flat. On my road bike it takes from 35 to 50 minutes depending on traffic lights, wind and myself. Normally, it is about 45 minutes.

    I would not buy a road bike, unless you are just looking for an excuse. I'd change your seat post first, if it is not rigid, then the front fork to a rigid one. Tires high pressure 1" Continental Gator Skins slicks.

  19. #19
    Steel is Real. markw's Avatar
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    Ok, at about 12mph aero takes over. 80% of your energy is spent overcoming wind drag.
    Here's what I'm hearing, you want:

    A) comfort, a 12 mile commute on something painful is just that, painful.
    B) speed, the "comfort" bike is "comfortable" but isn't aero, so it's not fast.
    C) ability to carry stuff on your commute, ie touring/commuter style bike that's practical.

    I found a bike that makes the perfect commuter in a Bacchetta Corsa. It's light for a bent at 23lbs, I can carry stuff in the seat mounted trunk bag that's out of the way. I can carry water in a behind the seat bladder carrier, it's rolling on 23c tires, I can stick 26" x 1.5 wheels on it if I need to do some rough stuff. It's comfortable as I'm spreading my weight over 340 square inches of seat vs 34. Best off, it's stupid fast, remember that 80% rule? Which rider is the most aero in this picture?

    The drawbacks? It's not UCI or USCF legal for racing, so I'm limited to Time Trials and distance events if I want to race. You won't be fast right away on the hills, as it uses different muscle groups. In fact, my 7% average climb, which I normal do at around 10-12mph on my road bike had me walking the first few times. Now I'm at 8-10 on the bent, and getting faster. On the flats, I'm 3-4mph faster for the same effort, regularly cruising 23-25mph, and downhills, well passing Tandems can be fun.

    But for the commuter, I find it works great, at least for me, with the 600 cubic inch bag on the back, I can put clothing, food, etc in it. It gets noticed in traffic because it's different. And it gets me there faster wtih less work.

  20. #20
    Steel is Real. markw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTAC
    I have the same disatance, all flat. On my road bike it takes from 35 to 50 minutes depending on traffic lights, wind and myself. Normally, it is about 45 minutes.

    I would not buy a road bike, unless you are just looking for an excuse. I'd change your seat post first, if it is not rigid, then the front fork to a rigid one. Tires high pressure 1" Continental Gator Skins slicks.

    Now you're polishing a turd. Comfort/Hybrids aren't fast. Don't try to make it into one, your better off selling it and getting a road bike or bent if you want speed. I'd love to have a flat commute.

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