A little background - used to love cycling when I was younger, and haven't ridden a bike in probably 10 years (I'm 33). Got bitten again by the bike bug and picked myself up a new Giant Escape 1, figuring it would be a good all-around bike (running around town, potential commuting, leisurely trips with the wife, etc...)
So I've been riding a few days, and absolutely loving it. I want to start getting into longer distances, with a short-term goal of riding a century and a long-term (pipe dream?) goal of doing some cross-country touring. Anyway, as I start to ride my little hybrid longer and longer distances around the hilly terrain of Fairfield County, CT, it occured to me to look into upgrades that might benefit the stock Escape.
So I'd like to upgrade this bike to be more "century training friendly", but I also don't want to go overboard. Consider that 1) I am a novice and 2) if I actually meet the goal of doing a century and feel like I am going to continue with the sport, I will buy a specialized road/touring bike. So, I'm looking for things I can upgrade on the Escape that will enhance performance and efficiency without wasting money.
Immediately, I think of going to clipless pedals - but which to get? I like the concept of the Shimano SPD and their off-bike friendly shoes, but have heard they are not suitable for long distances. Should I go for SPD-SL pedals? Should I do something like the PD-A530's, which has SPD on one side and flat platform on the other, allowing me to use regular shoes for short trips? Or get full clipless pedals and buy platforms I can attach?
As you can see, I'm already lost out the gate...
Besides pedals, any other upgrades you can think of?
Am I out of my mind trying to put some decent mileage on this hybrid?
Any advice you can lend will be greatly appreciated!