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  1. #1
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    Ten Tips for Improving Hybrid Performance

    There has been a number of posts from people asking how they can get better performance from their hybrid. By “better performance,” they generally mean go faster and further like a road bike. While some people advise them get an actual road bike, hybrid riders prefer riding a flatbar over a dropbar and nothing makes a hybrid rider feel better than going by a road bike wannabe with skinny tires and lycra shorts. With that in mind, here are ten no-cost or low-cost tips for making your hybrid faster.

    1. Shorten your handlebars. Move the shifters, brakes and grips in so that your hands are as wide as your shoulders. Cut off the excess.

    2. Lower your handlebars. This will put you in a slightly more aggressive posture and slightly cut down on wind resistance.

    3. Consider adding bar ends. It can give you greater hand position variety to reduce hand fatigue and better leverage when climbing hills while standing.

    4. Use toe straps or clipless pedals. If you go with toe straps, make sure you have a good shoe - one with a stiff and smooth sole, pointed toe and reinforced top. If you just wear sneakers, you won’t be happy.

    5. Go with narrower smooth tread tires. Your LSB will probably switch out the wider tires (32 or 35) with 28’s at time of purchase for free. If not, it’s a worthwhile investment. If you never go on dirt roads or trails, then try the 25. Inflate your tires - go with a tire with a 100 psi or higher.

    6. Get a mirror. It will make you faster because you’ll ride with a lot more confidence. And it will make riding safer.

    7. Pedal for cadence, not power. If you’re like me, you grew up riding heavy single-speed bikes where “heavy” pedalling meant more speed and your legs instinctively go that way. Re-train your legs to keep a quick and steady cadence - you’ll go faster.

    8. Get a bike computer. Knowing how fast you’re going gives you instant feedback and that can help you develop better techniques and feed your internal reward system as your speeds increase.

    9. Wear padded bike shorts and gloves. It will let you ride further. Your butt will thank you. If you’re like me, tight bike shorts are not flattering, so I wear gym shorts over the bike shorts.

    10. Keep your bike clean. Clean the cassette, cranks and chain. Don’t over-lube.

    Bonus Tip: Find groups to ride with. Check with your local LBS or meetups. Biking is more fun when it’s a social activity.

    Have fun.
    Last edited by practical; 07-15-14 at 07:51 AM. Reason: more info

  2. #2
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  3. #3
    Senior Member JerrySTL's Avatar
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    There are flat-bar road bikes available. More like a roadie geometry and weight.

    I'd say if your hybrid has suspension, lock it out if possible. Maybe get a solid seatpost if yours is a suspension model. All that energy used going up and down could be put to better use going forward.

    Smoother, skinnier tires are a great idea, but use the appropriate tire pressure for the conditions. That's usually not the max pressure on the sidewalls. I use 80 PSI on my 700x32 tires on the road, but more like 65 PSI on gravel trails.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
    There are flat-bar road bikes available. More like a roadie geometry and weight.

    I'd say if your hybrid has suspension, lock it out if possible. Maybe get a solid seatpost if yours is a suspension model. All that energy used going up and down could be put to better use going forward.

    Smoother, skinnier tires are a great idea, but use the appropriate tire pressure for the conditions. That's usually not the max pressure on the sidewalls. I use 80 PSI on my 700x32 tires on the road, but more like 65 PSI on gravel trails.
    Good points. The road bike has a shorter wheelbase and can be "twitchy" and less stable. I put a flatbar on a road bike and it was a great bike, but it was different than a hybrid. Climbed hills better, but not really any faster.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    1. Shorten your handlebars. Move the shifters, brakes and grips in so that your hands are as wide as your shoulders. Cut off the excess.
    For an average adult, what do you recommend for handlebar length (from tip to tip)?

    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    2. Lower your handlebars. This will put you in a slightly more aggressive posture and slightly cut down on wind resistance.
    Fine if you want to go faster. Not fine if you want more comfort. Many, if not most, people purchase hybrids because of the upright position. They aren't looking to race.

    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    5. Go with narrower smooth tread tires. Your LSB will probably switch out the wider tires (32 or 35) with 28’s at time of purchase for free. If not, it’s a worthwhile investment. If you never go on dirt roads or trails, then try the 25.
    I've read many posts here that say that the speed difference between 35mm tires and 28mm tires is negligible. Most people say that the comfort of a wider tire is well worth the trade.

  6. #6
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    As stated at the top, these tips are for riders who want to go faster. When shortening your handlebars, use your shoulder width as a guide. You want your arms parallel to the bike's top tube. I know there is some disagreement about tires and speed, but I just say, try it and see for yourself.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Jaeger99's Avatar
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    Good suggestions. Swapping out the fat OE 35s for 28s was the single biggest improvement I made to the ride of my bike. Clipless pedals and better grips with integrated bar ends fall in second and third place, respectively.

  8. #8
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    As stated at the top, these tips are for riders who want to go faster. When shortening your handlebars, use your shoulder width as a guide. You want your arms parallel to the bike's top tube. I know there is some disagreement about tires and speed, but I just say, try it and see for yourself.
    T do this, I would have to disconnect my arms at the shoulders.....................

    And handling and steering quickness, while feeling different, are not really faster. But the ride sure is more harsh. Ifyu are talking going from 50 to 28 in tires, you might see a difference in speed (and you will be dealing with a HUGE difference in pressure); but, the difference between 35 and 28 in miniscule, at best.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    Missed a point. Lose weight. That's the one I'm going for at the moment

    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    1. Shorten your handlebars. Move the shifters, brakes and grips in so that your hands are as wide as your shoulders. Cut off the excess.
    I put bar ends on my Giant Escape. I had to move the shifters, brakes, and grips in to fit the bar ends. I couldn't move the shifters in another mm if I wanted to.

    2. Lower your handlebars. This will put you in a slightly more aggressive posture and slightly cut down on wind resistance.
    Going to have to do this one. I don't know if I can just take the cap off the top to move spacers or pull the stem to flip. I've read something that you have to loosen the bottom, take the cap off, then tighten the cap again before tightening the bottom? I'm a little leery of this.

    3. Consider adding bar ends. It can give you greater hand position variety to reduce hand fatigue and better leverage when climbing hills while standing.
    Already did this, but not the curved drop-bar kind of bar ends. IMO, bar ends are a must for every hybrid. Mine are only 4 inches or so, but I use them 90% of the time rather than the grips. Not sure how it makes a hybrid any faster though.

    4. Use toe straps or clipless pedals. If you go with toe straps, make sure you have a good shoe - one with a stiff and smooth sole, pointed toe and reinforced top. If you just wear sneakers, you wonít be happy.
    I have clips and straps. clipless shoes are ridiculously prices and I couldn't afford them, so I have what the shop put on my bike. I'd never find a pair of shoes anyways. I wear EEEE width shoes, 1 size larger than extra wide. All I ever see is medium width shoes with bike shoes. I'd never even get my foot into that let alone it be remotely comfortable. I'd like an inexpensive pair of normal shoes for my toe-clips, but have no idea what to look for. I'm just using my every day running shoes now, which could be tighter for riding but I don't want to mess up my lacing for wearing every day either. I get numb in the feet I think from the soft running shoe sole and pushing through to contact the pedal axis with the ball of my foot rather than the force being spread across the entire pedal. Any suggestions on what to look for for an inexpensive shoe for my toe clips? I have heard Vans are good shoes for using with toe clips?

    5. Go with narrower smooth tread tires. Your LSB will probably switch out the wider tires (32 or 35) with 28ís at time of purchase for free. If not, itís a worthwhile investment. If you never go on dirt roads or trails, then try the 25. Inflate your tires - go with a tire with a 100 psi or higher.
    I'm on dirt and gravel roads, so not giving up my 32 with tread. It's already a bit of a concern going down the hills with this tire. I'd say I ride 70% on the bike trail and 30% on the road, but when on the roads, 80% is gravel or dirt.
    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jaeger99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrodgers View Post
    I'm on dirt and gravel roads, so not giving up my 32 with tread. It's already a bit of a concern going down the hills with this tire. I'd say I ride 70% on the bike trail and 30% on the road, but when on the roads, 80% is gravel or dirt.
    Well the OP did say these were go-faster road performance tips - no make your bike more trail-ready tips. If I did 70% trails, I'd stick with 32s or 35s as well. But as I do only about 20% trails, I am happy with the 28s which seem to manage the gravel paths and groomed woodland trails just fine (knock wood) but do so much better on the paved roads where the bike spends most of its time.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
    T do this, I would have to disconnect my arms at the shoulders.....................

    And handling and steering quickness, while feeling different, are not really faster. But the ride sure is more harsh. Ifyu are talking going from 50 to 28 in tires, you might see a difference in speed (and you will be dealing with a HUGE difference in pressure); but, the difference between 35 and 28 in miniscule, at best.
    Have you tried narrower high-pressure tires with a smooth tread? If you want better performance on pavement (which is what this post is all about), then I strongly recommend them (as other posters with experience doing this). If you want comfort and stability on rough terrain, then obviously keep the fatter tires.

  12. #12
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    In answer to your question, yes I have, and ride a mix of sizes for what they offer. Buy quality tires is a better bit of advice...... And, have you figured out how to get your arms "parallel" to the bars?

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
    In answer to your question, yes I have, and ride a mix of sizes for what they offer. Buy quality tires is a better bit of advice...... And, have you figured out how to get your arms "parallel" to the bars?
    I didn't say "bars", I said top tube. Get your arms pointing straight ahead. As far as tires go, to each his own.

  14. #14
    Junior Member PSYS's Avatar
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    Awesome info!
    - Scott.

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    Quick question, can you take low rolling resistance tires with little tread on dirt/trails safely? I wan't to go to 28's, but can I ride them on dirt if they have no tread? This for an example: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER
    My friends have a road bike with 25/28 and they walk their bikes on anything that is not road.

  16. #16
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    These are good faster tips. The OP also says "further" which includes an element of comfort.

    I don't know that aiming for narrower tires is going to always be the a win in the further category. Lighter, higher quality tires can be such a win. For the usual road and groomed trail riding you don't need any kind of aggressive tread.

    Someone's already pointed out that slamming the handlebar height alone may not be further win for all riders. Bar ends can be a compromise that lets you have a lower position and a more upright one. For me "butterfly" trekking bars are another further mod. You can set them up so that they are on a 45 degree angle with a long enough stem/top tube so that you can get lower position like drops (though your hands are perpendicular to the stem on parallel to it in this lower position) as well as a higher position like the tops of a traditional road bar. Some also set the trekking bar flat and report they can do something like an aero bar position. Whatever, one nice things about butterfly bars, more hand positions can aide "further"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunyanderman View Post
    Quick question, can you take low rolling resistance tires with little tread on dirt/trails safely? I wan't to go to 28's, but can I ride them on dirt if they have no tread? This for an example: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER
    My friends have a road bike with 25/28 and they walk their bikes on anything that is not road.
    I'm not crazy about riding dirt roads with my 28's, but it's fine - just go slower. It kinda depends on the condition of the road. Some dirt roads are as hard-packed as pavement while some are sand and gravel and washboards which can be tough for anything less than a mountain bike tire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunyanderman View Post
    Quick question, can you take low rolling resistance tires with little tread on dirt/trails safely? I wan't to go to 28's, but can I ride them on dirt if they have no tread? This for an example: Robot Check
    My friends have a road bike with 25/28 and they walk their bikes on anything that is not road.
    Not off road, no. You can do crushed limestone paths easily. I would not take those tires on any bare dirt/mud/etc.

    I gained about 3/4 mph going from stock 32 to 28mm tires alone. Comfort did not suffer at all and the bike is more responsive and more fun to ride.
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  19. #19
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    I put Panaracer high road V city tires on my mountain bike for asphalt riding but still take it on dirt regularly. As long as the trail is dry and packed, it handles fine. Hopeless in mud.
    A ride on a bike is not a walk in the park

  20. #20
    Senior Member Jaeger99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunyanderman View Post
    Quick question, can you take low rolling resistance tires with little tread on dirt/trails safely? I wan't to go to 28's, but can I ride them on dirt if they have no tread? This for an example: Amazon.com : Continental Gatorskin Bicycle Tire (700x28, Wire Beaded, Black) : Bike Tires : Sports & Outdoors
    My friends have a road bike with 25/28 and they walk their bikes on anything that is not road.
    I take my 28s on crushed gravel and groomed (dirt) woodland trails all the time. No problems at all. When riding in such areas I'm not going for maximum speed - that's what roads are for.

    Now if you're talking rocks and heavily rutted trails with gnarly roots popping up all over the place, then 28s would not be the best choice.

  21. #21
    Senior Member spdracr39's Avatar
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    I'll go with 3, 4, 7, and 9. And I'll add ride more often because that will increase your speed and endurance more than all of the others combined.

  22. #22
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    I have done pretty much all of these... how do you lower the handlebars though? Do you need a different stem?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vexxer View Post
    I have done pretty much all of these... how do you lower the handlebars though? Do you need a different stem?
    Look at the spacers on your stem, are they above or below your bar? Remove your bar and then (if the spacers are below the bar) take the spacers off, put the bar back on and put the spacers on top of the bar. Tighten.
    BTW, how is biking in Fuquay Varina? I like the Raleigh, Wake area. If the biking is good, I could consider retiring there. It's warmer than Vermont.
    Last edited by practical; 07-15-14 at 04:37 PM. Reason: added info

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    Quote Originally Posted by spdracr39 View Post
    I'll go with 3, 4, 7, and 9. And I'll add ride more often because that will increase your speed and endurance more than all of the others combined.
    Disagree completely. The recreational cyclist will definitely level off to a certain point. Bike setup makes a huge difference after that. You can gain 1mph with tire change and bike setup for aerodynamics, almost overnight.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Walpurgisnacht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by practical View Post
    7. Pedal for cadence, not power. If you’re like me, you grew up riding heavy single-speed bikes where “heavy” pedalling meant more speed and your legs instinctively go that way. Re-train your legs to keep a quick and steady cadence - you’ll go faster.
    Totally true, and I wish this had been posted a few months ago! I always thought that the goal for speed was to shift up to the highest gear and then power through it, shifting down only when you were really struggling. It was puzzling to me that my wife could easily outpace me on her bike, even though she wasn't anywhere near her highest gear. I eventually noticed that all of the hardcore cyclists were pedaling with a much higher cadence than I was, and that it was rare to see anyone on their absolute highest gear.

    Lesson learned: shift for cadence, not gear number. Your legs still get a workout and become stronger. I've been doing this for a few weeks and even though it initially felt as if I was cheating by lowering the pedaling resistance, I find that I'm now taking the same trails at one gear level higher (7) and occasionally reaching for the highest gear (8) whereas previously I was one down (usually on 6 and only occasionally shifting up to 7). Whereas I used to always ride on the largest crank arm, I now stick to the middle. It has been pretty exciting for me.

    Now looking into going clipless. Bought some used Shimano M324's for cheap (platform on one side, clip-ins on the other so that I can get used to them) and found used mountain-style biking shoes for cheap as well. Got the clips screwed in and already practiced clipping in and out while stationary... it feels both awesome and frightening to be "bolted" to the bike like that. First test will be this weekend.

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