Thanks! Will do.
There is a class of bikes that I think is called performance-oriented hybrid. My wife recently bought a used Trek FX 7.3 on craigslist. It weighs only 24 lbs with pedals. It has flat handlebars with trigger shifters and a 3x8 drivetrain. I see it now comes with a 3x9. She hasn't decided whether to outfit it as a commuter bike or to keep it stripped down as a weekend go-fast bike. It could go either way, which is what we love about it.
Here's a picture from their current web site.
Just wanted to let you know that I decided to go the vintage mixte route. I decided that the lower price, leaving more room for tweaking and customizing with accessories I like, the lower theft attraction for an old bike, and the zippier feel of the 80's mixte vs. the new linus/public ones meant it was the right choice for me. This was especially because I found the Old Bike Shop in Arlington who sell refurbished bikes, and they are going to help me customize it exactly how I want it. If I'd needed to learn the ins and outs of fixing a vintage bike myself, I would have been a bit too nervous to do it. I'm starting a new thread on C&V for advice on accessories and modifications, and I can't wait to get it on the road. Hopefully not too long after this snow is cleared...
Thanks for all your advice! Here's a (terrible) photo of the bike as it is now, and I'll try to post one once I've made the changes.
That sounds like a great choice. Have fun with the project!
Here it is! I've taken the leap and am actually using it with the drop bars. To my surprise, I really like them. I've got it set up with planet bike fenders, a vintage rack, a battery operated taillight mounted to the rack, and a wald folding basket on one side. I'm still getting used to the bike, and still may make some more changes (the saddle, potentially a front basket), but I'm having a great time!
Well I'm a bit late in this thread and was wondering if you had considered more of an actual step-through frame like the Linus Dutchi 8. But I see you've gone a different route now. Still looks like you made a great choice!
@Giant Doofus are you planning on coming out to Cycle Memphis on March 8 with your new bike?
2011 Felt Z85 105 | Ultegra | KMC | Selle Italia | Vuelta | Topeak
2006 Marin Pine Mountain custom build Dutch-styled, disc-brake'd steel utility hauler
Great looking bike. How's carrying it up the steps?
Interesting that you ask about the brakes. When I first decided that I was going to keep the bike with drop bars, I rode it around a bit more again to see what that was like. When I'd tested the bike before, with the idea of changing out the bars for porteurs or north roads, I'd basically just kept a death grip on the tops and the suicide levers and tried to pretend I had swept back bars. That drop bar test ride, I got a little more comfortable moving around to different hand positions, and tried out riding on the "hoods" of the old brake levers. I realized that I couldn't brake with any force from any position but the drops. I could use the suicide levers as a slowing down mechanism from the tops. From the hoods I could reach the brake levers, but they were much to difficult to actually squeeze. I explained to Larry at the bike shop, and he chalked it up to the shape of the levers vs. the size of my hands.
We switch the levers to the Origin 8s, and I'm able to get a lot more force into braking. I also much prefer having real hoods to rest on. That said, it always feels like if I apply modest pressure to the brakes they will just slow me, and I have to clamp down really hard and squeeze with all my might to actually stop, especially if I'm going very fast. I haven't felt unsafe, I've just been a bit cautious until I sort out how everything works. In some ways it seems like a good thing, because being so much further forward and pointed down, I feel like I'd be more likely to flip over if I were speeding downhill and then just quickly slammed on the brakes.
I haven't been able to figure out if that had to do with hand position, or just lack of strength having never braked from that angle before, or just not being used to picking up much speed. But is there a possibility that this feeling of it being difficult to brake to a stop is related to the brakes themselves? Can you tell from the picture what kind they are? Thanks for any advice.
Experience and intuition. A woman of your size wouldn't normally be expected to have enough strength to operate that type of brake with that type of lever from at kind of position. This is one reason women gave up riding bikes like that. They don't match your physique or strength. Have the mechanic put on some dual pivot brakes. They need less hand pressure. Also you need other levers. You may like interceptor levers better than turkey levers.
And by the way, we can walk you through the upgrades here, if you prefer. The result will be just as good, and it will be satisfying. It will take more time, though.
I was given the option to add the interceptor levers/cross levers when I changed out for the Origin8s, but I decided I'd rather learn to brake from the hoods and then see if I felt like biking in traffic it would really be much better to be able to brake from the tops. So far, I'm feeling like I don't mind the position of the brakes, just the difficulty in squeezing them. If the dual pivot breaks will help, I'll definitely do that. Also, why do you say that women gave up riding bikes like that? Do you mean mixtes with drop bars? You can't mean drop bar bikes in general, because I see that all over the place. Are there other levers that would go in the same position as the current ones that would be better somehow?
On the brakes: you could try adjusting the brakes so that the pads are very close to the rims, then they will make contact with the rims as soon as you start squeezing the levers. You could also try different brake pads, or new brake pads if yours are old. If you are still unable to brake hard enough from the hoods, then try a dual pivot caliper, but you only need it on the front.
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Why do women have a hard time braking from the hoods? I'm a short guy with tiny little baby hands and I do it pretty much exclusively.
Single pivot brakes don't have a sufficient leverage. For a given amount of movement of the arms (and pads) towards the rims, the amount of movement at the levers is low. The less the movement, the greater the force required. This is fine for many of us guys with large, strong hands. Road racers preferred these brakes because they gave good feel for minute modulation. But they're not well suited for smaller hands, and they're very badly suited for bikes loaded with weight. I made the mistake of taking an extended tour with brakes like that when I was young. I compensated, but I'm lucky to have the hands I have. I wouldn't so it again.
Dual pivots are a different design that apply great force to the rims with little pressure required at the lever.
if you're comfortable using the levers from the hoods, then don't bother with the interrupter levers. Change the calipers first. This is easier than fixing a flat.
Mixtes have almost completely disappeared from the US market. I don't completely know why, but I suppose one factor is that diamond frames, being superior and lighter, now come with sloping top tubes, which reduces the need for a separate design for women. Another is that not many women want to ride wearing dresses or skirts. The sloping top tube is OK for shopping unless the rider is going to carry a heck of a lot of cargo. In that case, they now make city bikes with no top tube and no substitute. They have gigantic down tubes to keep the frame relatively stiff, but they're pretty heavy. That's OK for short trips, but it's not the type of bike you would ride for fun on weekends.
Another development is that modern bikes often have shorter reach from seat to handlebars, especially in the women-specific designs. Check that yours isn't too long. If it is, you may end up preferring a different type of handlebar.
And by the way, don't be so modest. 35 miles is a plenty impressive ride. Many of us can do that, but most of us don't do it often. With the way we can talk endlessly about bikes, you may get the impression that we're hard core riders, logging hundreds of miles a week. Many of us actually spend more time talking about bikes and working on them than we do pedaling on them. When I ride more than 20 miles in a day, it's a big deal. I do a century ride (100 miles or more in a day) just once or twice a year, and there are many here who never do that. Don't let us fool you into thinking we're more hard core than we are. We're just devoted to bikes. Some of us are devoted to riding. This is more a bike forum than a cycling forum.
This is all so helpful everyone! It seems like there are three major functional changes that I may want to make, and I think both of them could help with getting leverage on the brakes. One is changing to dual pivot brakes, one is adding interceptor levers, but another that we haven't talked about here yet is raising the bars. The bars can't go any higher (or at least not much higher) on the current stem. To my eye, they aren't quite up at the level of the saddle yet. I can definitely reach the hoods, but I'd like the resting position there to feel a little less stretched out. I figure if they could be a bit higher, and if the stem were maybe even a little shorter, I might have more leverage on the levers.
What do you all think? And does it make sense to change the brakes first or the bar height/distance? I'm hesitant to mess with changing the stem until I've gotten a little more used to drop bars, because maybe I'll just get more used to stretching out. It hasn't been hurting my neck or back, though I definitely feel like I'm still adjusting. On the other hand, I don't know if it makes sense to change the brakes until after I've tried out the current ones with the different bar position.
The interceptor levers seem like a separate question, just as a matter of personal preference whether I want that other option. Either way I want to be able to brake comfortably from the hoods.