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  1. #1
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    Hybrid or cyclocross bike for primarily road riding...your thoughts

    In the great search for my bike, I've come across a fork in the road.

    I will primarily be using the bike for exercise, little trips to the store and so forth. No commuting to work and I don't forsee it ever being used for touring or longer distance riding. It will be ridden almost exclusively on paved roads/paths though it would be nice if I knew I wanted to take a detour across some gravel, dirt and such I'd feel comfortable doing so. I've test ridden the Scott Sub 10 with the 8-speed Alfine IGH and the Gates Carbon drive and loved it; the range in the gears seems all I'd need and I'm really atrracted to the minimal maintenance of that setup. That bike led me to the bike I'm now conviced I am buying, the Norco Ceres. It's a great bike and comes highly recommended on here and elsewhere, love the steel frame and I can get it for a great price. The belt drive is groovy as sin but not a necessity; just a bonus it's on a bike at this price point. But...

    In the last week I've started looking at some cyclocross bikes with disc brakes (loving the Traitor Ruben and Jamis Nova Race) and maybe wondering if they are a better option? Totally different, especially the riding position and they are standard derailleur bikes rather than IGH, but I still like them. Far lighter, built a bit more for speed and the less-upright riding position sure adds to how quickly you can get from A to Z and not needing to navigate traffic or cars means it should be pointed straight ahead almost the entire time. Adding racks, panniers and such is of no interest to me which seems to be a big selling point of the more hybrid/commuter style bikes, including the Ceres. You can put on tires that are wider, more forgiving and versatile than the pizza cutter road bike tires and have plenty of grip and those cyclocross bikes certainly can handle the extra-curricular detours I mention above with ease. (sidenote: cyclocross looks like torture...I'm a fan...)

    I guess my question is... for those who pondered the same choice (cyclocross, more road-feeling frame vs a more "traditional" upright riding hybrid bike) for the riding I plan on doing (more for exercise, 95% paved roads), which direction did you go and if you had to do it again, would you do the same or go the other path?

    BTW, I didn't realize how fun it is to search around tand talk about bikes...and I'm still a week or so away from owning one! HA!

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    I'm not going to get into specific bikes, because I don't pay any attention since I bought my Atlantis five years ago. It will outlive me, and it's perfect for the kind of riding I do.
    Only reason I'm chiming in here is that the Atlantis, sold as an "all-around" bike, is pretty much a hybrid. It's geared lower than most road bikes (which are geared too high for many riders), it has room for fat tires (which feel more stable and handle gravel and rough roads easily), and the riding position, with handlebars about level with the seat, is comfortable for casual riders (I used to be serious; now I'm casual). It's about $3300 now (much less when I got mine), but a cheaper hybrid or cross bike will have many of the same qualities.
    We make too much of weight, I think. Lighter is better, but a pound or two won't kill you. I don't think disc brakes offer much advantage for most riders--cantis or sidepulls work fine (technically, rim brakes ARE disc brakes--the rim is the disc).
    If you do go with a hybrid or 'cross and get more serious later, you'll be surprised how much difference a tire swap will make. I got back into cycling at 40 on a mountain bike after a long post-college layoff, and did my first two centuries on it, with road tires. Old steel Mongoose, probably weighed 35 pounds...
    I don't know much about belt drive, but chains have worked fine for 150 years, and I wouldn't buy anything simply because it was low maintenance. If it works better and it's low-maintenance, fine, but keeping a bike in shape isn't hard and it's always good to know how to work on your ride.
    Have you looked at Surly? I like their attitude, and they have a range of bikes.

  3. #3
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    I personally just went through the same situation back in February. I ended up getting a cyclocross bike (2012 Specialized Crux Apex Disc model) and could not be happier. As for disc brakes not being better that is totally not true, the disc brakes work sooo much better than cantilevers and v-brakes (not sure about road brakes though). Like you I ride mostly roads and paved surfaces but it is nice to be able to ride gravel and mud and also to be a little rough with the bike and not have to worry about how it will hold up.

  4. #4
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    Thanks, Velo. Yeah really like the Surly's like either the LHT (preferably with disc) or the Karate Monkey or Ogre are favorites for sure but they're a bit out of my price range. I'm looking at around $1,100 and both bikes I mention I can get for that price. And I guess you could put a flat bar on the Traitor or drops on the Ceres and they're damn near the same bike but one has a traditional drivetrain, the other an IGH. Ultimately, I think the drivetrain is where the choice will be made. The derailleur/cassette is way more tweakable and easier to work with the chain and such but the shifting and ride of that IGH just seemed to work so well for me and the range of gears (my biggest concern with an IGH...weight isn't too important) was ultra impressive on my test ride. Now, would I be cursing my decision to go with a heavy, less-desirable geared IGH 1/2 way up a steady 1-mile grade? It's hard to know. As I cannot take both bikes out on the routes I have been mapping out as I make a decision on a bike, there's gonna be some surprise no matter what I get. Both are versatile and both are sort of "middle grounds" as neither is a dedicated road bike nor a dedicated MTB...but like your experience with that sweet Atlantis, both is likely a great "all-around" bike and I'll enjoy the heck out of it.

    I think I've narrowed it to 2 fantastic options and I'd be happy with either and I guess I maybe lean more towards a more traditional hybrid with more upright riding, MTB geometry and such since all bikes I've owned in the past were MTBs...so the Ceres will likely be my choice. But that Traitor and a more 'cross frame/bike are really tempting me....

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondo734 View Post
    I personally just went through the same situation back in February. I ended up getting a cyclocross bike (2012 Specialized Crux Apex Disc model) and could not be happier. As for disc brakes not being better that is totally not true, the disc brakes work sooo much better than cantilevers and v-brakes (not sure about road brakes though). Like you I ride mostly roads and paved surfaces but it is nice to be able to ride gravel and mud and also to be a little rough with the bike and not have to worry about how it will hold up.
    Was there something that tilted the 'cross bike in your favor? Was ride position a factor at all? I've always been a little shy of the more hunched over riding positions of road bikes and drop bars compared to more upright on an MTB or hybrid...but at the same time I constantly find myself moving my hands around to try and find a more comfortable hand position, which the drop bars would likely help with...and I've also never really put a whole bunch of miles on a bike like I plan to do with this one...and I guess sitting upright may not be ideal?

  6. #6
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    Just the overall ride of the cross style seemed a better fit for me. I noticed that the ride position was more comfortable than a hybrid because of the road bar giving me more hand positions. I also like the faster and more responsive feel of the cross bike.

    As for the upright position not being ideal, that is purely subjective. Now if your riding in the wind or are trying to go fast then yes its not ideal. But if your primary goal is comfort, and a relaxed ride then its fine.

  7. #7
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    lower price point components work fine, if there is a sloping toptube,
    in the hybrid frame,
    no problems, you don't need to shoulder the bike and run up hills..
    [or climb A floor or 2 of stairs ]

    I have Trekking /figure8 bend bars on, the using straight/hybrid
    bar controls that come on the bike ..

    comfortable .. not too far a reach, a bit higher than the saddle.

    having a near reach, + a far reach for headwinds..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-14-12 at 09:36 AM.

  8. #8
    Gouge Away kaliayev's Avatar
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    You could also look for a used sport tourer from the 80's to early 90's. They offer a more relaxed riding position, brazeons for racks and fenders, and usually have plenty of room for wider tires. A high/mid line bike is going to be cheaper and much better than something like a Surly.
    2003 Stevenson Custom Cycles Sportive
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    All are frame/frame set builds.

  9. #9
    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    In the long run, drop bars are more comfortable, for more people, more of the time.

  10. #10
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
    In the long run, drop bars are more comfortable, for more people, more of the time.
    +1 based on my experience, too. Most noticeable on longer rides which the OP says are not in the plan.

  11. #11
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    Wow. Thanks for all the input! I'm headed to several LBS today to test out a few more bikes and see if I can firmly swing into the 'cross or hybrid camp once and for all...hope to be riding late next week!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmills313 View Post
    I've always been a little shy of the more hunched over riding positions of road bikes and drop bars compared to more upright on an MTB or hybrid...but at the same time I constantly find myself moving my hands around to try and find a more comfortable hand position, which the drop bars would likely help with...
    One of my drop bar bikes has the bar up about 1" above the saddle. I get a bolt upright riding position at the tops, slightly hunched at the hoods, and more hunched on the drops. Granted, it's not as "aerodynamic" as most drop bar bikes, but with the bar set up this high, I find myself using every part of the bar a lot more than on other drop bar bikes. Velo Dog mentioned owning a Rivendell Atlantis. A lot of Rivendell bikes come with the drop bars set up high for multi-hand position comfort, for example.

    However, if it's multiple hand positions you want, you don't necessarily need to stick to drop bars. The Novara Safari from REI uses a multi-position handlebar:

    http://www.rei.com/product/807245/no...fari-bike-2012

    It's more upright than a drop bar would be.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by fat_bike_nut View Post
    The Novara Safari from REI uses a multi-position handlebar:

    http://www.rei.com/product/807245/no...fari-bike-2012

    It's more upright than a drop bar would be.
    I saw that bike a couple weeks ago but wasn't a fan. The twist-grip shifting and the bars were really awkward for me; looks like a bike that would serve you well if you were riding massive distances, though. After test riding a few bikes yesterday, I think I'm going the route of a more "traditional" hybrid with upright posture. On test rides, those bikes feel a little better to me but the difficulty is that the posture/comfort issues that would arise for what I'm wanting to do (exercise, 30-60 minute rides over a longer distances) are impossible to discover on a 5-10 minute test ride for either style bike. I imagine the more 'cross oriented bikes/frames would probably suit me better for that type of riding but I don't think I will be let down by more upright rides and flat bars considering the rides I'm looking to do are still shorter than many commutes that are handled comfortably and with ease by flat-bar hybrids. I used to ride a 20+ mile paved loop in Kansas City years ago on a Specialized Rock Hopper with knobby tires and front shock (no lock out) and I managed so I'm thinking I'll be OK. Those 'cross bikes are super rad, though, and maybe down the line I'd add one to the stable.

  14. #14
    Senior Member david58's Avatar
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    A cross bike with decent components would be my recommendation without hesitation. I got mine a year ago in April, a Fuji with 105's. Rode the snot out of it with road tires, using 28's. Did some CX races on it (having never raced before). I commute on it most days, and it works great for my long rides home. Variety of tire sizes, variety of uses, the CX bike is the best all round steed.
    2011 BMC SR02; 2010 Fuji Cross Comp; n+1 on hold today, due to college tuition and a wedding. Some day, some where, over the rainbow, I will get that 29er....

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    CX for sure. I'm not a fan of hybrids.
    I am building one at the moment on the cheap using spare parts in my garage and parts I am upgrading from my racing bike.

  16. #16
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    My commuter fleet is n+1 run amuck. It includes road, CX, hybrid, MTB and I'm working on a hybrid/IGH. Given I commute year round and am comfortable in iffy traction environments (snow and ice), I tend to gravitate to the road bike a lot in the summer, even for hard packed off road riding. It's the most fun on pavement and handles the hardpack really well. That being said, the CX is the ride of choice when it's wet because of the protection the fenders add. The CX is 90 to 95% as fast as the pure road bike and almost as much fun. It just feels more like a sedan and the road bike is more sports car. The hybrid always seemed to give a pickup truck feel. Even though I've rolled my hybrid over 10,000 miles, it's usually third in line behind the road and CX in the summer (winter is another story). A long way of saying I have the same decision to make every day and usually choose the CX over the hybrid.

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    Solid advice, david58, DataJunkie, labrat...

    Like I mentioned, it's difficult for me to really know which one will be the best fit because what I'm concerned about is impossible to replicate on a test ride: extended ride comfort issues. In that respect, your opinons and experience are pure gold. It's sort of like an office chair. When you sit in that one that's super over-stuffed it feels like butter; it's fantastic for the few minutes you're there pondering what you're going to get and would probably work well when you're sitting at your desk 12+ hours a day busting your butt at work though it's certainly nowhere near as comfortable as it was at first the longer you sit in it. But then there's the really strange ergonomic one that at first sit may feel a little odd and not as comfy as the big over-stuffed one but 12 hours later you feel great. I guess that's my biggest concern at this point, that the over-stuffed chair (the hybrid) may not end up feeling as comfy 30-45 minutes into a ride as it did at first sit and the ergonomic one (the CX bike) is going to be more comfortable on longer rides looking for exercise. I'm pretty sure the hybrid will work, but I admit I have no experience and it's all a guess and it's also really subjective. One man's definition of "comfy" may be well into another man's definition of "total PITA" and that's purely on me to decide whether something is comfortable or not.

    So, I'm not 100% decided just yet, just pretty sure I'm going to go the hybrid route though I will see about taking the 2 bikes I have narrowed it down to on extended test rides to see if I can get a more definitive feel, especially for the CX bike.


  18. #18
    Senior Member a1penguin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
    In the long run, drop bars are more comfortable, for more people, more of the time.
    +1 It may depend on what you consider a "long ride". If it's more than 10 miles, drop bars will be more comfortable and the more aero riding position will give you a faster ride. I read a number of posts where people starting out purchase a hybrid and six months later are looking for a road bike. There are people who take their hybrids on longer rides, but most people use road bikes for road riding.
    2012 Cannondale Synapse 3, 2012 Trek 7.5 FX Disc, 2003 Trek 2200 WSD, 1997 Specialized Rockhopper Al Comp

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    Quote Originally Posted by a1penguin View Post
    +1 It may depend on what you consider a "long ride". If it's more than 10 miles, drop bars will be more comfortable and the more aero riding position will give you a faster ride. I read a number of posts where people starting out purchase a hybrid and six months later are looking for a road bike. There are people who take their hybrids on longer rides, but most people use road bikes for road riding.
    Yeah I guess it's all relative. Having not ridden a bike for exercise in probably 10 years I look at a 10 mile R/T ride and consider that a long ride right now though I could see how that balloons to 13 miles then 15 miles then 20 miles rather easily if you're having fun, so I'm sure my definition of a "long(er)" ride will change over time. The hybrid I am thinking of buying has flat bars now though the shop has photos of the bike with drop bars and they say that many people prefer doing that if they're riding long(er) distances. So, if the flat bars end up being less than ideal it's nice to know that it's easy to swap bars out and make the switch. The CX bike could, presumably, do that just as well switching to flat bars but I don't imagine many people make that switch over going from flat bars to drop on a hybrid.

    Here's the page showing the bike converted to drop bars with the hydro brakes swapped out for Avid BB-7's
    http://www.joe-bike.com/commuter-bikes/norco/

  20. #20
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Yea drop-bar hydro discs are still in the premium early adopter price range..

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Yea drop-bar hydro discs are still in the premium early adopter price range..
    Can someone explain why the hydros won't work with drop bars? This has fascinated me since I read it could not be done a week ago or so but never knew why!

  22. #22
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    Hydros require hoses/cylinders built into the levers. There are no drop-bar levers that have these components. There are a small number of external converter boxes that take a Bowden cable and use it to actuate a hydraulic cylinder, that's the only option at the moment. Look up the TRP
    Parabox.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A10K View Post
    Hydros require hoses/cylinders built into the levers. There are no drop-bar levers that have these components. There are a small number of external converter boxes that take a Bowden cable and use it to actuate a hydraulic cylinder, that's the only option at the moment. Look up the TRP
    Parabox.
    Thanks, A10K!


  24. #24
    Senior Member Werkin's Avatar
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    Long ago I owned an early model Bianchi Milano, which was similar to the Ceres you're considering. I prefer a drop bar to a flat bar, and don't care for a flat bar even on a mountain bike. If you go the flat bar/hybrid route, consider a Loop H-Bar. The loop bar has room for brake levers & shifters (thumb or twist) close to the grip, the grip angle is easier on the wrists compared to a flat bar, and the loop provides a place to stretch out if needed; a longer stem is required though. Be aware IGH does not mean no maintenance, there are torque limits for user power output, and entry level hubs can/do fail. I think a hybrid bike is too much of a compromise for all-around use, but for exercise, and helping you decide on what you need in a bicycle, it's as good a place to start as any. I do suggest avoiding an upright riding position.

    I have a Traitor Ruben frame built-up for road use, BTW. I heartily endorse the Ruben for an option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Werkin View Post
    Long ago I owned an early model Bianchi Milano, which was similar to the Ceres you're considering. I prefer a drop bar to a flat bar, and don't care for a flat bar even on a mountain bike. If you go the flat bar/hybrid route, consider a Loop H-Bar. The loop bar has room for brake levers & shifters (thumb or twist) close to the grip, the grip angle is easier on the wrists compared to a flat bar, and the loop provides a place to stretch out if needed; a longer stem is required though. Be aware IGH does not mean no maintenance, there are torque limits for user power output, and entry level hubs can/do fail. I think a hybrid bike is too much of a compromise for all-around use, but for exercise, and helping you decide on what you need in a bicycle, it's as good a place to start as any. I do suggest avoiding an upright riding position.

    I have a Traitor Ruben frame built-up for road use, BTW. I heartily endorse the Ruben for an option.
    Thanks, Werkin. It looks like I am going with the Norco Ceres, picking it up on Thursday. I'm starting off with flat bars and if they become bothersome for the type of riding I'll be doing and cannot be remedied with bar ends I'll make the switch to drop bars and keep all else the same (swapping for cable-actuated brakes, of course). It's a fantastic bike and I'm pleased with my choice, right now...

    Yeah the IGH aren't maintenance-free and have their weaknesses and problem spots but no matter where I landed on the component tree, top or bottom branches, nothing felt as smooth and nice to me as bikes with an IGH, add in the belt drive and I was instantly hooked. I can't remember the bike an LBS put me on at the beginning of my search (it was a Specialized) but it was a road bike and retailed for $2,400 and the shifting just didn't feel as smooth and effortless to me as that Alfine IGH...which I'm sure some would chime in and say "you're wrong, they must not have had it tuned properly" and I guess I could counter to them "maybe you should try riding an IGH, again." This could be false security and I will be cursing my IGH choice but if there's one thing that I have been rock solid on throughout this entire process it's that I far and away prefer the IGH to standard derailleur setup and all other things being equal, it's the deciding factor. If that Ruben came with the IGH? Let's not go there as I would have bought the damn thing the second I saw it! HAHA!!!

    That Ruben probably missed the winners circle by inches and were it not for the outstanding help and customer service I got from the shop that I'm buying the Ceres from I may have pulled the trigger on the Ruben as they are identically priced. Call me crazy, but the way I look at it is the price I'm getting this Ceres with an IGH and belt drive is a great value and should I decide after 3-4 months that the hybrid thing and more upright riding position isn't working for me it's likely I can sell the bike for not much loss; consider it a small "rental fee" for using the bike while I owned it. Hell, I may be in a different financial position at that time and just decide to keep the Ceres and appreciate it for what it does really well and then look at buying a more road-oriented or 'cross bike to compliment it! YES PLEASE...

    Either way, I'm just stoked I have a bike lined up and I'm gonna be getting out there and riding so all of this discussion is no longer academic and I can come back with real input on the riding! Thanks for the help and feedback, everyone!

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