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  1. #1
    rained out
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    New cyclist, lots of questions

    My husband and I just recently bought a pair of bikes and started riding regularly to get in better shape and take advantage of the staggering number of gorgeous trails in our area (Twin Cities, Minnesota). Because we weren't sure how much we would want to ride, we started out with a couple of cheap-ish hybrids (both bikes are Specialized Crossroads Sport).

    We like these bikes relatively well, but have already identified some problems that come up on rides of more than a few miles. We have done a few 15-20 mile rides and plan to work ourselves up to 40-60 mile rides before summer is out. The first thing we noticed was that the gooshy soft saddles on the Crossroads become hideously uncomfortable after about 10 miles, so we're already trying out some better saddles.

    Here are my questions. First, what can we do to these bikes -- within reason -- to make them better suited to longer rides? Besides the saddles, I have considered getting some narrower, less knobby tires (the stock tires are 700 X 38c) -- we can really feel the extra resistance from the fat, knobby tires on pavement. Am I right that narrower, slicker tires would help? If so, what would be reasonable for these bikes -- and what sizes can we safely put on the stock wheels? Are narrower tires even a good idea? Most of our riding is on pavement, though we also often ride on crushed limestone rail trails. We don't plan to do any real off-road or mountain biking (not that we think these bikes are up to it!)

    I assume that if we stick with this, at some point, we will feel like we need better bikes. I am not sure now what kind of bikes would suit us. Part of the reason I was initially attracted to the hybrid was the upright riding position -- I have some trouble with carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists, and really need to baby them, so I'm wary of drop bars (though they may work for my husband). Having just read a little bit on these forums and checked out a few manufacturers websites, there seems to be an overwhelming number of choices. Realistically, we would probably not want to spend more than $800 per bike. What kinds of bikes should we be thinking about for day rides and possibly some commuting? And what will save my wrists?

    Thanks in advance...

  2. #2
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hi,
    and welcome. You can get to where you want to go. it just takes time and patience. Most bikes, even expensive ones, come with lousy saddles. Unfortunately, picking a saddle can be a tricky business. A good bike shop will let you buy one, and then swap it for another if it doesn't work for you.

    I am a fan of traditional leather saddles. But picking the right one can be tough. This company specialises in them... http://www.wallbike.com/brooks/singl...ngsaddles.html

    Skinnier tires can be a big help. I suggest a tire in the 28c to 32c
    range. I'm not familiar with crushed limestone, so to play it safe, let's go with a 32. That might no seem like a big change, but losing those knobs will make a huge difference.

    I have carpal tunnle in one hand, and inflammtion of the next tunnle over in my other hand. What you want as a recreational rider, regardless of the bars you use, is a comfortable sitting position that does not put a lot of pressure on your hands. You can do that with drop bars. In addition, drop bars give you more places to put your hands allowing you to shift the pressure around more than you could with a hybrid bar.

    I suggest that you start learning about bikes. What makes a touring bike different from a racing bike, for example. When you get ready to go shopping, you will be more informed, and we will try to answer any questions that come up.

  3. #3
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    There are M and F shaped saddles. Some people like ones with a cutout in the middle. Specialized saddles are quite popular and Terry are known for the F saddles. The key is to get one the right shape, that supports you on your "sit bones" with firm padding so you dont sink in.
    A standard touring tyre (eg a 32mm Continental Top Touring) is good for mixed use road/prepped trail riding. I take mine on some more extreme trails and they cope well enough and they are good for every day, all-weather commuting. For pure road use a 28mm is faster.
    Puncture resistant tyres are a little slower and heavier but worthwhile. Specialised Armadillo are well known as tough commuter tyres.
    Your current bikes are not bad and you can probably ride them to the limit of their capability before deciding what style of replacement you prefer.

  4. #4
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    Crushed limestone is like very fine gravel, or hard-packed sand. It's usually a pretty smooth surface as long as it's not rutted. I've ridden crushed limestone trails on tires as narrow as 23mm, so you could easily go narrower than a 32.

  5. #5
    It's full of stars... atombob's Avatar
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    Tires and saddles make a huge difference. If you change those two items and maybe work with your riding position a little it'll probably feel like a new bike. I just changed to a specialized V-groove saddle with a cut out for $29.00 from a local bike shop. Made a world of difference, and I'm running 26 x 1.25 tires with directional tread, I'll change over to slicks when the rain stops. I'd start there and maybe have the bike shop look at your riding postition.
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  6. #6
    rained out
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    Thanks for the advice. I think we'll try either 32 or 28c tires (have to make up my mind which). The crushed limestone trails we ride on are quite nice, well maintained and not rutted.

    We had already heard from a cycling friend that Terry saddles were worth looking into, so we're going to try some out this weekend.

    late, excellent point about having more grip options with drop bars. I hadn't really thought of that. I've been surprised so far that 20-mile rides don't wreck my wrists, though I'm careful to wear gloves and keep my wrists straight. I avoided bicycles for many, many years, because I assumed riding would kill my wrists. I'm glad to have learned otherwise.

    I have been trying to support my weight more with my legs when riding, which I hope will help otherwise. Bike shop was not a tremendous help with adjusting when I bought the bike -- set me up with a frame based on my height, but didn't make any adjustments. I think the bike is reasonably comfy as is, but it may need some fine tuning.

    Thanks for the tips.

  7. #7
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    You want a firm saddle that is just wide enough at the back to fit you sit bones and narrow at the front so it doesnt rub the inside of your thighs. I am very happy with my $15 saddle, but if you buy a more expensive one check the swapping policy of the shop. Get bar ends to provide some variation in the hand position. Always travel with spare tubes, a multi-tool and a pump so you dont get stuck 20 miles from home with a flat tire.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Primevci's Avatar
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    whats the point of the cutouts on the saddles?

  9. #9
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Primevci
    whats the point of the cutouts on the saddles?
    Some say it's a marketing ploy, some say it's to save weight, some say it's for your thang.

  10. #10
    rained out
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    One more question regarding tires: do the brand and price matter? Is there a reason not to buy cheap tires?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Primevci
    whats the point of the cutouts on the saddles?
    It's to avoid putting presssure on the perianal nerve.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staple
    One more question regarding tires: do the brand and price matter? Is there a reason not to buy cheap tires?
    Depends on what your objectives are.

    High performance bicycle tires will have a kevlar bead rather than wire, which makes them lighter. They will also have caseings that are made up of many more but much finer thread. That makes the caseing very supple which reduces the tire's rolling resistance. Finally, they tend to use thinner tread rubber which both reduces the weight and makes the tire more supple. Unfortunately, they will also puncture more easily and probably wear out sooner. My higher performance tires always become unuseable due to sidewall or tread cuts before the tread rubber wears out.

    Arguably the most puncture resistant tires are Specialized Armadillos. They have a puncture resistant caseing that wraps from bead to bead under the tread rubber. Remember what I said about high performance tires being lightweight and having supple caseings? Armadillos ain't that way. They're both stiff and heavy. You're trading performance characteristics for puncture resistance.

    Whenever I see badly dried out or weather checked tires, they are invariably cheapies. I can't tell if that's because of the kind care and use they're gotten or if inexpensive tires use a less high tech rubber compound. I suspect it's a little bit of both.

    Within the triangle formed by these three extremes you can find a lot of tires. Everybody has their favorites. If you are in the market for better performance or better puncture resistance, you're probably going to have to pay extra for it.

  13. #13
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staple
    Thanks for the advice. I think we'll try either 32 or 28c tires (have to make up my mind which). The crushed limestone trails we ride on are quite nice, well maintained and not rutted.

    We had already heard from a cycling friend that Terry saddles were worth looking into, so we're going to try some out this weekend.

    late, excellent point about having more grip options with drop bars. I hadn't really thought of that. I've been surprised so far that 20-mile rides don't wreck my wrists, though I'm careful to wear gloves and keep my wrists straight. I avoided bicycles for many, many years, because I assumed riding would kill my wrists. I'm glad to have learned otherwise.

    I have been trying to support my weight more with my legs when riding, which I hope will help otherwise. Bike shop was not a tremendous help with adjusting when I bought the bike -- set me up with a frame based on my height, but didn't make any adjustments. I think the bike is reasonably comfy as is, but it may need some fine tuning.

    Thanks for the tips.
    I ride my raleigh hybrid on our local WI limestone trails with 700X25's (came W/700X32) without any trouble except in early spring when the frost has just come out and they are still soft. There are numerous items that can be adjusted to your preferences. Things like the saddle forward and back on the mount, up and down height, tilted front or back. that bike probably also has an adjustable handlebar riser. When I first started riding my new bike this spring I took along the proper wrenches and adjusted things, drove a few miles to see and moved it again if I didn't like it. One of the first things I did was replace the "comfort" saddle with something narrower and harder. I now have about 400 mi on it and think it's where I want it.

  14. #14
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    Sounds like you may be sinking some money into new bikes in the future. Enjoy.

  15. #15
    rained out
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    Quote Originally Posted by samp02
    Sounds like you may be sinking some money into new bikes in the future. Enjoy.
    Oy. Tell me about it. Between new tires and saddles for the two bikes, some basic emergency tools, and a hitch rack for the car, we've already spent way more than I would have imagined a couple of months ago. Because we needed another expensive hobby! (Husband is a home-theater geek).

    We're both trying out Terry Liberator saddles, and though we haven't had the chance yet to ride more than a couple of miles (maybe today, if the weather improves), they seem promising. My sit bones feel nice and "anchored" on the saddle, which was never true with the soft, cushy saddle that came with the bike.

    dedhed, it's reassuring to hear that you've done well on a hybrid with narrower tires on limestone trails in WI. Looks like WI has some nice trails within a couple hours of the Twin Cities, so we plan to do a little riding there, too. That is, if the rain ever stops!

    Thanks -- you all are a great resource.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Polonswim's Avatar
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    I agree with everything that has been said. The more you ride, the more you find out what you want in a bike and somethings you don't want. This is totally off topic, but who is the nice young lady in atombob's picture?

  17. #17
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    Heck, I ride a $500 mt. bike and I'm no newbie. If you're not racing you don't need expensive bikes. Some things are nice to have, but for casual riders who apparently haven't even owned bikes for a while, $800 per bike is overkill at this point.

  18. #18
    Campy or bust :p cryogenic's Avatar
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    These tires get rave reviews from many of the commuters here... might wanna check 'em out.

    http://www.biketiresdirect.com/produ...il.asp?p=SCMAR

  19. #19
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by staple
    One more question regarding tires: do the brand and price matter? Is there a reason not to buy cheap tires?
    Cheap tires are fine as long as they fit. Some people may rave about the armadillos for their puncture resistance, depending on where you live (i.e how dirty the roads are) you might need them. The roads around here are quite clean so i've never needed them, only in downtown does the danger increase.

  20. #20
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator
    Some say it's a marketing ploy, some say it's to save weight, some say it's for your thang.
    Some say it was done in the 1800's too.

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