Evolving a Cannondale CAAD2 hybrid into a more roadworthy ride.
I've had a Cannondale H400 (2001) bike built on a CAAD2 frame for a few years now. When I first got it, I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and took with me places where a hybrid represented a fairly good choice. One weekend I might load it up and roll onto a ferry to spend the weekend on my boat at Friday Harbor, and biking around the island. Another weekend I might take it with me to an uncle's place in Sunriver where light trail riding was part of the agenda. And on weekdays I might ride it from my place in Portland to downtown to enjoy dinner with some friends.
But upon moving to Los Angeles, some of that changed. Now I rarely see any terrain other than city streets, and coastal roads. Now I ride about 50-60 miles per week; 30 on one of my weekend days, the rest throughout the week, either in the morning before work, or just to run errands. Sometimes I'll pack it up and make a day of it with my wife and friends. It's got a rack, and sometimes dons panniers and/or a trunk if I'm using it for errands or for a day out and about in the city. But usually it's just me and a water bottle.
Anyway, it's becoming increasingly apparent to me that a hybrid isn't quite the thing I either need or want (or both). I would like it to be more of a road bike. I've already done the following:
Upgraded pedals to clipless (SPD) with shoes.
Switched from 700c 38 slightly knobbys to 700c 25 slick Armadillos.
Switched to a narrower non-Gel seat (which I actually find more comfortable; the old Selle Royale gel seat that came with my bike was too wide, and too cushy for me).
I have been very happy with the improvements to performance that I've gotten by switching to clipless pedals (as opposed to cumbersome clip pedals with tennis shoes, haha), and even more dramatic seems to be the improvement I've seen by switching to some slick 25's.
But I remember my high-school days when I used to kick around on an old worn out ten-speed, and I have to admit, I found the drop handlebars to be more comfortable over longer distances than my H400's raised MTB style handlebars. On my longer rides (25-40 miles) I find that my left hand goes numb sometimes, and I believe it has a lot to do with not having enough options for hand placement with MTB style handlebars.
So this leads me to my first question: Is it going to be worthwhile for me to upgrade to drops (which will also mean new shifters and brake modulators), or is the CAAD2 frame geometry too far in the "hybrid" direction to be worth swapping out the handlebars?
If I do make such a swap, will I need to also upgrade the stem / gooseneck? The current stem has an adjustable rise.
And while I'm on the topic of upgrading this bike, let's talk about gearing and derailleurs. With my current configuration (8 in the rear, three in front) I find that 100% of the time I'm in the middle chainring up front. Even if I'm cruising along at 18-20mph, I'm still in the middle up front, and somewhere between 5 and 7 in back (of 8). I'm pretty careful to keep my cadence high; I've always paid attention to that. But it seems strange to me that at road speeds, I don't feel inclined to jump into the larger chainring in front.
Also, in the rear, I have NO need for "1", and always feel that there's too much of a jump between "6" and "7". Admittedly, as the season progresses I do find myself spending more and more time in 6 and 7 and less in 4-5.
Is there a gearing configuration that's more appropriate for this bike, and for the street / road riding that I do? Am I simply not in good enough shape yet to feel comfortable in the large chainring up front? I see road bikes with larger front rings than mine, and somehow you guys are using them Am I that out of shape? haha
Ok, so to summarize: Is it possible, and worth-while to upgrade my handlebars to drop bars? Is a CAAD2 frame too much of a hybrid frame to benefit from this "upgrade?" And should I consider looking at different gearing for this bike since it never leaves the pavement?
This is my first post to this forum. I'm anxious to see how it's received.