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  1. #1
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    Carbon's Place in a Hybrid World

    This may be slightly blasphemous in the Hybrid forum but I did want to pick the brains of some of the great minds here and some of you may understand where I'm coming from:

    I'm cruising around on a Trek 7.3FX and am a fan of it so far. Here's my question. I know the 7.5 and above have a carbon fork. What are the benefits of maybe slowly upgrading to a carbon fork / seatpost / stem and handlebars? Would this make my bike better able to keep up with the road bikes on some of their rides and add a bit of pep to the 7.3 or would it be wasting money? In particular Nashbar's cyclocross fork has caught my eye as something that would let me keep the vbrakes and hybrid nature of the fx (maybe one day discs? ) and the price isn't so hard to swallow.

    Note: I like the 7.3 as a fitness machine and would like to start using it in the spring to get involved in some of the local club rides. Right now I'm riding it in my neighborhood for 10-15mi a day getting into riding shape for some of the longer stuff the local club does. The roads are certainly not great around here and I'm wondering what my options might be to make a better riding bike in town but will still let me keep up with the pack of roadies riding their brakehoods.

  2. #2
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    My Specialized Crosstrail from a few years back came with carbon seatpost and handlebars. I'll share my limited experience:

    Putting carbon on your bike won't help you keep up with anybody. The weight difference won't be enough to matter. Possibly swapping the fork will make enough difference to be noticeable. But if you're trying to keep up with road bikes, the bigger issue is probably aerodynamics.

    What carbon did though, at least with the parts I had, was to attenuate the bumps. I could feel my carbon bars flex slightly at bumps in the road. There was some flex in the seatpost too, which had those Zirt inserts that Specialized puts on some of their parts.

    The bars are gone now though. After a few years of riding they got dinged to the point where I began to distrust them. The idea of catastrophic handlebar failure makes my blood run cold. I replaced those bars with aluminum ones.

  3. #3
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    I have a 7.5 FX with a carbon fork. I also upgraded my seatpost and handlebars to carbon. I sincerely doubt it makes me go any faster. But it gives me a "psychological advantage"!!

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    Try the Trek with the carbon fork and then ride your bike and see if there is a difference!

  5. #5
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    Unless you're a major racer, the miniscule reduced weight is not worth it. Though a CF fork would be worthwhile if you want the improved shock absorption.

    I also have a 7.3FX and it is indeed a great bike. But what I'm upgrading is the saddle (it's comfortable enough, but it could be alot better), clipless pedals, bar ends, and wider tires (I'm taking it touring). If you're interested in keeping up with the group rides, the clipless pedals and new handlebars would be a much much much better investment than a new fork.

    If you're using the bike to get into good shape, your physical condition is much more important in determining your speed than the bike is. If you want to improve your speed, go riding more often and go on longer rides. It will do much more good than buying new stuff, and it won't cost anything.

    On another not, like jonathon said, catastrophic carbon fiber handlebar or seatpost failure scares the crap out of me. I've heard of people who have broken carbon fiber seatposts. That is not something I would ever want to happen to me. In either case, I don't want to end up with a piece of carbon fiber in my rear or my face smashed into my stem.

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    Thanks for the info, its about what I expected on the Carbon Fork. On a more "aero" note, would drop bars or at least trying to stay lower in the saddle make a significant difference?

  7. #7
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Here's an interesting page I ran across this morning:

    http://www.exploratorium.edu/cycling/aerodynamics1.html

    It's got a wind-resistance calculator built into it. I plugged in a weight of 180lbs, a wind velocity of 0, a grade of 0, and speeds of 10 and 20mph. The calorie expense to sustain 20mph versus 10mph is 1.3 vs 0.17. To double your speed, you have to put out over seven times the energy. That nonlinear relationship is down to wind resistance.

    Anyway, interesting stuff. Just ran across the above link and thought I'd post it back here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbphill View Post
    Would this make my bike better able to keep up with the road bikes on some of their rides and add a bit of pep to the 7.3 or would it be wasting money?
    Wasting money. What size tires are you using?

    Quote Originally Posted by bbphill View Post
    Right now I'm riding it in my neighborhood for 10-15mi a day getting into riding shape for some of the longer stuff the local club does. The roads are certainly not great around here and I'm wondering what my options might be to make a better riding bike in town but will still let me keep up with the pack of roadies riding their brakehoods.
    There is no point in talking about faster unless you indicate actual numbers!

    What is your average speed for those short rides? Are you making a real effort? How fast do you need to go? How longer is the "longer stuff"?

    ======================

    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    Putting carbon on your bike won't help you keep up with anybody. The weight difference won't be enough to matter.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    Possibly swapping the fork will make enough difference to be noticeable.
    No, not noticible. The real value of the carbon fork is going to be (possibly) comfort.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    But if you're trying to keep up with road bikes, the bigger issue is probably aerodynamics.
    Yes.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 10-26-09 at 08:17 AM.

  9. #9
    Flying Under the Radar X-LinkedRider's Avatar
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    Okay, also as a hybrid rifer and tourer these would be the real benefits and could be downfalls of carbon stuff on your bike. Riding an FCR3 (Giant equivalent to your fx7.3) I can probably understand how your bike feels pretty well. A carbon front fork will decrease road impact on your hands arms and wrists. It will probably lighten the bike a bit but not to the point where you will notice it when you are touring. The big impact is in the stress and friction that it absorbs instead of passing it along to the handlebars.

    A cf seat post is probably the most useless of all the addons like that, aside from water bottle cages. For the MINIMAL amount of friction reduction you will feel, the seat post is more of a "looks" upgrade. the disc brakes option is nice if you feel like swapping out your whole braking system. (at that point you should have just bought a bike with disc brakes.) Unless you do a lot of winter riding, and rain riding, the disc brakes aren't really necessary.

    I think I would consider a CF stem or handlebar setup if I was going to upgrade anything beyond the front fork to cf.

    The only downfalls could be price, strength (depends on quality of cf) and you'll likely be giving up eyelets on the front fork that could prove useful for touring.
    12' SuperiorLite SL Pro w/ Sram Rival | 10' SuperiorLite SL Club w/ Sram Force | 06' Giant FCR (Dropbar) w/ Shimano 5700 | 10' GT Avalanche 3.0 Disc

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Wasting money. What size tires are you using?
    There is no point in talking about faster unless you indicate actual numbers!
    What is your average speed for those short rides? Are you making a real effort? How fast do you need to go? How longer is the "longer stuff"?
    700 x 32c Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase (stock)

    I've been able to do +/- 30mi averaging conservatively 13-14mph on the weekends. The group rides are up to 70mi and average at least 16mph I'm told. I realize I am the limiting factor, I just want to be able to hang with the roadies by the time the weather gets nice again. I haven't been out there yet as I know I'm not nearly in the shape to keep from being dropped, I just want to make sure my rig is ready by the spring as well.

  11. #11
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Drop bars will make the most noticeable increase in speed, as well as switching to narrower tires. But then you might as well have a road bike.
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  12. #12
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    Buying a real road bike will make a big difference. Getting in shape will make the biggest difference. Good luck
    1999 Waterford RSE-11, 1995 Waterford 1200, 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp
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  13. #13
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    Realistically, if you want to keep up with the roadies you need to get a road bike. Unless you are relatively strong and the roadies are relatively weak, there is nothing you are going to do to your hybrid that will allow you to keep up with them over the long haul.

    I have a hybrid, a road bike and a touring bike. There is a place for all of them. My advice, buy yourself another bike.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbphill View Post
    700 x 32c Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase (stock)

    I've been able to do +/- 30mi averaging conservatively 13-14mph on the weekends. The group rides are up to 70mi and average at least 16mph I'm told. I realize I am the limiting factor, I just want to be able to hang with the roadies by the time the weather gets nice again. I haven't been out there yet as I know I'm not nearly in the shape to keep from being dropped, I just want to make sure my rig is ready by the spring as well.
    Probably, the most effective "single" change to the bike is going to be something that improves your aerodynamic position. That. basically, means drop bars and that isn't an inexpensive change to make (about $300-400). You might find that narrower and higher pressure tires might help some (that's cheap to try).

    If you are taking about 16mph on fairly flat terrain, 16mph isn't an unreasonable target for your hybrid.

    If you want to do 70mile rides, you need to be doing 70mile rides.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbphill View Post
    I realize I am the limiting factor
    This is where the investment needs to be made!

  15. #15
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    I suppose I'm off to the Training and Nutrition pages then

    For those of you who have a hybrid alongside a road bike, what do you use the hybrid for? Is it good strength training due to more aero resistance or does a road bike become your training/practice bike too?

  16. #16
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    I use my hybrid when I have to haul groceries . Also good for commuting. It does give me more resistance but I tend to get frustrated with the wind factor. I also don't enjoy riding it for long distances.

    I wouldn't rush out and buy another bike. Work up to longer distances first, improve your motor. It's a big jump from doing 15 mile rides to serious group rides.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Probably, the most effective "single" change to the bike is going to be something that improves your aerodynamic position. That. basically, means drop bars and that isn't an inexpensive change to make (about $300-400).
    Can be done for ~$150-$200. I did my drop bar conversion for $160, with bar end shifters and Tektro levers designed for V-Brakes.
    My Bikes: 2009 Breezer Uptown EX | 1980 Miyata Six Ten | 1970 Hercules Three-Two-Speed
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  18. #18
    Flying Under the Radar X-LinkedRider's Avatar
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    But why take away the functionality of a multipurpose bike when that is what you bought it to be. I agree with the second bike theory. Also with the Bontrager Race Lite Triple Hardcase tires. They are incredible.
    12' SuperiorLite SL Pro w/ Sram Rival | 10' SuperiorLite SL Club w/ Sram Force | 06' Giant FCR (Dropbar) w/ Shimano 5700 | 10' GT Avalanche 3.0 Disc

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    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by X-LinkedRider View Post
    But why take away the functionality of a multipurpose bike when that is what you bought it to be. I agree with the second bike theory. Also with the Bontrager Race Lite Triple Hardcase tires. They are incredible.
    Drop bars do nothing to take away the functionality of a bike, and would be a considerably cheaper option than buying a new bike.

    A used bike otoh... that might be a better idea.
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  20. #20
    Member OwnRules's Avatar
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    Stick a 250cc and appropriate tries to go with on it. You'll never get beat.

  21. #21
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    My Trek FX-frame has that carbon-fork. My take on it is this: As soon as it gives me the slightest bit of suspicion - not overt damage - out it goes! Give me steel any day!

    On the plus+ side, it hasn't given me any suspicion and it's been through 2 bike-seasons so far.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  22. #22
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Probably, the most effective "single" change to the bike is going to be something that improves your aerodynamic position. That. basically, means drop bars and that isn't an inexpensive change to make (about $300-400).
    No, you can do the job for about $100. Just mount your trigger shifters on Minoura Spacebars so you don't have to buy brifters - which are most of the cost - and so can buy cheap "single speed" brake levers instead. And obviously, don't be too fussy about ultralight bars and what have you. Search this site for the "Minoura Spacebar hack".

  23. #23
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    My carbon fibre - on my Crosstrail -- click on the after picture (Yes, that's my bike)

    http://bdopcycling.com/Dashboard%20G...OOPERDLUXINUSE

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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  24. #24
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeshoup View Post
    Drop bars do nothing to take away the functionality of a bike, and would be a considerably cheaper option than buying a new bike.
    A cyclocross bike is usually reckoned to be the most competent all rounder - capable of keeping up with a racing bike on the road, handy in the dirt, and good for touring (if it has the braze ons). And a crosser is just a hybrid with drops.

    My experience says that the only place where flat bars come out ahead are hard core off roading - 45 degree descents and what have you - and perhaps inner city traffic. The biggest advantage is the reduced stress on the wrists in the on-the-hoods position compared to flats.

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