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  1. #1
    Junior Member Lorig20's Avatar
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    Fitness Hybrid vs full on road bike- can't decide

    My husband and I are coming back into cycling after many, many years. So much has changed! I originally wanted to rehab my old 1977 Schwinn, but after a couple of trips to the LBS, I'm seduced by all the pretty!

    As I did in 1977 before choosing my Schwinn, I've been doing a lot of research. Yesterday was a break through moment for me because I learned the hierarchy of Shimano components, so now I can look at specs and understand where bikes line up. Last fall when we made the decision to get bikes this spring, I decided a hybrid was probably the best for both of us. We live in the country on a gravel road, about a couple of miles away from an extensive bike trail system that covers so much of Iowa. Our number one goal is just to ride on all the nearby trails, the ones by us have a lot of distance, so there will be some longer rides. A long term goal is to progress to the point of getting involved with a group or team and perhaps participating in RAGBRAI. The hybrid appealed to me because of the better tire for the gravel we live on, I like the idea of just hoping on the bike and riding to the trail head, or riding other roads around us a little. The upright position appealed to me, my Schwinn is a road bike, and I never felt totally comfortable riding it, always wishing I'd bought the traditonal cruising style bike, but back then "racing bikes" were all the rage, so that's what I got. Btw, I am 55.

    I have been to the LBS a couple of times, and I have a short list now of two bikes, both ladies Giants. The Escape 1 is my fitness/hybrid choice and I'm also considering the Avail 2 Road bike. I started out interested in a Trek, but at the moment, I really like the Giant. I was comparing a Trek 7.5 against the Escape, and like the slightly better components on the Escape for less money. Plus I like the black/berry model of the Escape. (Looks make a difference to me, at least until I can actually get on one) The more I research, the more I look to the future and wonder if I should consider the road bike.

    So I like the looks and components of the Escape, the studier tires would be good for just hoping on and riding out my driveway and down our gravel road. But while I thought I wanted the flat handlebars, now I'm not so sure. So for me right now, the flat handlebars are the weak point. After a little research, I see that I can easily add some end bars to add some additional positions for my arms. It appears I can swap out the handle bars in the future, but I know I wouldn't want to do that right away. I hate the idea of getting something new and doing surgery on it before it barely gets dirty.

    Ok, so the Avail 1 would be a nice road bike, but I am concerned about riding around our farm and on gravel. But I feel it would be a bike I could grow in to rather than out of.

    So....get a nicely priced little hybrid, that will be good for our immediate terrain, and add some end bars for some added comfort. Or....spend a little more, get a road bike and look into changing the tires to a more gravel friendly style?

    I'm concerned if I get the hybrid, and get involved with biking, I'll start to wish I had a road bike. It's still to cold here for test rides, though this weekend is promising. I figure I'll know much more when I give them both a test ride. I also plan to test ride a comparable Trek, because right now, my short list is based on looks and components only. In the end, I'm hoping a bike will say..."take me home"

    Any thoughts that I should consider? ( and this is the "speak to other cyclists" part of the research process that was recommended in one of the books I've been reading

  2. #2
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    IMHO, going with the hybrid is a mistake. It's not going to be a good option for group rides, or RAGBRAI.

    I think what you want is a "road bike" i.e. drop handlebars that has sufficient clearance to take more robust tires.

    In the Giant line, the Invite 2, and Anyroad 1, look like good options.

    The Avail might work for you if it has clearance for 28mm tires. If it does your LBS should be willing to swap out 28mm tires with a bit of tread at little or no cost.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  3. #3
    More Speed = More Work
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    I'm a bit confused by your post: you mention "riding to the trailhead," which implies you'll be riding on trails, but then "participating in group rides" which implies road.

    So, am answering with use-specific recommendations:

    if you're going to be riding trails, get a mountain bike. Designed for trails, more comfortable, and easier to handle on trails.

    if your "off road" riding will be only the gravel road to start road rides, and you're really serious about group rides and RAGBRAI, get the Avail (note that there are other brands with good, inexpensive stuff - I like Fuji and Specialized for that range).

    However, my real recommendation is to get the Escape. You stated that you didn't really like the position of your Schwinn, and the Escape gives you the option of staying up on a flat bar (comfortable, especially for a 55 yo restarting cycling), and it has a more relaxed geometry. And if you get serious enough to do RAGBRAI, you'll probably end up upgrading anyway.

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Outside Giant, a Surley Cross check would be another good option.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  5. #5
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zero7 View Post
    I'm a bit confused by your post: you mention "riding to the trailhead," which implies you'll be riding on trails, but then "participating in group rides" which implies road.

    So, am answering with use-specific recommendations:

    if you're going to be riding trails, get a mountain bike. Designed for trails, more comfortable, and easier to handle on trails.

    if your "off road" riding will be only the gravel road to start road rides, and you're really serious about group rides and RAGBRAI, get the Avail (note that there are other brands with good, inexpensive stuff - I like Fuji and Specialized for that range).

    However, my real recommendation is to get the Escape. You stated that you didn't really like the position of your Schwinn, and the Escape gives you the option of staying up on a flat bar (comfortable, especially for a 55 yo restarting cycling), and it has a more relaxed geometry. And if you get serious enough to do RAGBRAI, you'll probably end up upgrading anyway.

    Good luck!
    I took her reference to trials as Bicycle trails, like Rails to Trails trail, not mountain bike trails.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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    Consider a cyclocross bike?

    has the tire clearance and allows you to take it on light trails whether its on or off road.

  7. #7
    Senior Member iamtim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Sarcasm View Post
    Consider a cyclocross bike?
    That's what I would recommend. I rode a Lemond Poprad as my primary bike for years. Worked great both on road (with skinny tires) and light off-road (gravel/dirt bike trails, etc.) Of course, I switched out the 'cross crankset for a compact double, which added a bit of cost to the bike.

  8. #8
    Junior Member Lorig20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zero7 View Post
    I'm a bit confused by your post: you mention "riding to the trailhead," which implies you'll be riding on trails, but then "participating in group rides" which implies road.

    So, am answering with use-specific recommendations:

    if you're going to be riding trails, get a mountain bike. Designed for trails, more comfortable, and easier to handle on trails.

    if your "off road" riding will be only the gravel road to start road rides, and you're really serious about group rides and RAGBRAI, get the Avail (note that there are other brands with good, inexpensive stuff - I like Fuji and Specialized for that range).

    However, my real recommendation is to get the Escape. You stated that you didn't really like the position of your Schwinn, and the Escape gives you the option of staying up on a flat bar (comfortable, especially for a 55 yo restarting cycling), and it has a more relaxed geometry. And if you get serious enough to do RAGBRAI, you'll probably end up upgrading anyway.

    Good luck!
    I'm sorry, when I say trail, I'm talking about an paved trail and the trail head is a parking area with a comfort station and picnic tables. Most "trails" I ride should be paved. But since I only live a couple of miles from there, the thought of just hoping on my bike and going just sounds more enticing that loading the bike up and going to the trail head. I think I am slightly leaning toward the Escape because it's reasonably priced, and if I become a serious rider, I think I could justify adding a road bike in the future. My husband has this get a good one and it should last the rest of our lives attitude (my last bike purchase was 37 years ago!) But if it becomes "our thing" I'm sure he wouldn't be against upgrading.

    Like I said, I'll know more when I actually get on them. I also plan to extend my research to some other brands and shops around here. Just so I'm making an informed decision.

    Also, when I test ride, I'll ask the shop's opinion of hybrid/make handle bars a little more comfortable vs road bike/ get tougher tire route.

  9. #9
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Sarcasm View Post
    Consider a cyclocross bike?

    has the tire clearance and allows you to take it on light trails whether its on or off road.
    Quote Originally Posted by iamtim View Post
    That's what I would recommend. I rode a Lemond Poprad as my primary bike for years. Worked great both on road (with skinny tires) and light off-road (gravel/dirt bike trails, etc.)
    That's essentially what the 3 bikes I suggested are. Only difference is they're more aimed at all around riding, than cyclocross racing.

    True cyclocross bike has a bit tighter geometry, and forgoes things like water bottle cage bosses, and fender/rack mounts.

    With the "gravel grinding" trend now, there are a lot of bikes that you could call "cyclocross" bikes but are aimed at wider use than cyclocross racing.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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  10. #10
    Optically Corrected KLiNCK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Sarcasm View Post
    Consider a cyclocross bike?

    has the tire clearance and allows you to take it on light trails whether its on or off road.
    ^+1
    From the Giant line-up take an Invite 2 out for a test ride (once the weather warms up!)
    "Succeeding....despite best intentions"

  11. #11
    Senior Member iamtim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    That's essentially what the 3 bikes I suggested are.
    That's what I get for not actually looking up what was suggested.

  12. #12
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorig20 View Post
    Also, when I test ride, I'll ask the shop's opinion of hybrid/make handle bars a little more comfortable vs road bike/ get tougher tire route.
    I think you're making an assumption that's not necessarily valid; i.e. that the hybrid bike will be more comfortable. There's no reason that a road bike properly fit to you can't be comfortable. You can set up the position on the road bike to make it as upright as you want it to be.

    And if you plan on doing rides longer 10 miles or so, you're likely to find that the hybrid bike, with only one hand position is actually less comfortable than the road bike which offers multiple hand positions.

    So it really comes down to how you see yourself using the bike. If you're doing one hour rides on the bike path, the hybrid will be fine.

    If you see yourself going out for 25-40 mile rides, , and evolving into to riding with groups or doing organized rides, odds are high you'll quicly regret buying the hybrid.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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  13. #13
    Junior Member Lorig20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KLiNCK View Post
    ^+1
    From the Giant line-up take an Invite 2 out for a test ride (once the weather warms up!)
    The Invite 2 is what drew me to the Giant brand. I saw the review in Bicycle Times magazine and researched it. Looks like it has disc brakes? Remember I'm basically a newbie (though I'm learning as much as I can before buying to avoid buying the wrong bike) I'm not familiar with disc brakes and when you say Cyclocross my eyes start to glaze over. The Invite is slightly over budget, but if it's the right bike for me, budgets can easily be stretched.

  14. #14
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    Get the hybrid, especially when your husband is a "get one bike and have it last forever" mentality.

    Here is why:

    If you get the bike bug, it often comes with upgraditis, and you will be replacing whatever you bought first anyway, so the hybrid now gets you the least out of pocket today, before the bike swag bleeding starts.

    If you do not get the bike bug but still enjoy the together time, you most likely won't be doing group rides, but charity rides and trail riding can be done more easily on the hybrid. You have spent the least amount of money.

    If you totally hate cycling, you ditch the hybrids in a yard sale, and the 50% hit you take on any like new bike sale will cost you the least money.

    And finally, even if you buy a 100 other bikes, a hybrid is nice to have on a silly afternoon when you want to ride to the park with a floppy hat on, or spin around with a kidding cart strapped to the rear axle.
    Quote Originally Posted by Man in Black
    Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

  15. #15
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorig20 View Post
    The Invite 2 is what drew me to the Giant brand. I saw the review in Bicycle Times magazine and researched it. Looks like it has disc brakes? Remember I'm basically a newbie (though I'm learning as much as I can before buying to avoid buying the wrong bike) I'm not familiar with disc brakes and when you say Cyclocross my eyes start to glaze over. The Invite is slightly over budget, but if it's the right bike for me, budgets can easily be stretched.
    Disc brakes are common on mountain bikes, becoming more common on cross bikes, and starting to be found on road bikes.

    They work fine, and offer some advantage, particularly in wet weather. Personally, I wouldn't make the type of brake, disc or rim a deciding factor.

    The Invite will do all you want, it will easily handle your gravel roads, and is up to long rides on the pavement. If you get to the point you want to do fast rides on pavement, it's just a matter of putting narrower tires on it, to make it faster on pavement.

    I think it will give you a lot of flexibility.

    And the "cyclocross" reference for your purpose basically just means a road style bike that can handle big enough tires to ride in the dirt/gravel.

    So don't get hung up on the terminology. Real question is whether it can accomodate the tires you want for the riding you want to do.
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  16. #16
    Junior Member Lorig20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    I think you're making an assumption that's not necessarily valid; i.e. that the hybrid bike will be more comfortable. There's no reason that a road bike properly fit to you can't be comfortable. You can set up the position on the road bike to make it as upright as you want it to be.

    And if you plan on doing rides longer 10 miles or so, you're likely to find that the hybrid bike, with only one hand position is actually less comfortable than the road bike which offers multiple hand positions.

    So it really comes down to how you see yourself using the bike. If you're doing one hour rides on the bike path, the hybrid will be fine.

    If you see yourself going out for 25-40 mile rides, , and evolving into to riding with groups or doing organized rides, odds are high you'll quicly regret buying the hybrid.

    And that right there is what concerns me. Right now 10 miles seems like a lot and it is. But my long term goal is more miles.

    Also, I am really looking forward to try a properly fitted bike. When I got my bike in the 70's, I don't even remember fitting. It's a woman's, and I'm assuming the smaller of the sizes. I'm probably right around 5 feet these days. I never really found it comfortable and can't wait to see how today's bikes will feel. My first visit to the bike shop, the sales person asked the basic questions and determined the Hybrid was right for me. But I'm trying to look ahead a bit

  17. #17
    Bridge Burner RollCNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    And if you plan on doing rides longer 10 miles or so, you're likely to find that the hybrid bike, with only one hand position is actually less comfortable than the road bike which offers multiple hand positions.
    Merlin, I agree that stock hybrids can be uncomfortable, with cheap round grips. But if someone spends a similar level of intelligence to fitting their hybrid as they do a road bike, a hybrid can be essentially as comfortable as a road bike. Ergon grips and bar ends offer multiple comfortable hand positions, and a change in wrist attitude that you do not see in using hoods and drops on a road bike. I have done many centuries on a flat bar hybrid, done 150 mile days on a flat bar hybrid, and have seen the same level of discomfort (which some discomfort from lack of prep was expected) that I see when I do the same ride on a road bike.

    I know that you have sense behind your posts, but lots of folks throw around the "you only have one hand position and could never ride 20 miles" non-sense about hybrids. I am not saying you did that, just that it happens.
    Quote Originally Posted by Man in Black
    Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

  18. #18
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    I'm in a little different camp than most of the BF family. Being that my wife and I have ridden bikes since we got married back in 72 and still prefer ridding hybrids. Most here started with hybrids and worked there way up to a "real bike". That said my over 60 year old body just fits the hybrid geometry better than a road bike. I still use a road bike once in a while as I have a Giant TCR Composite. We ride almost every day as we live in FL and are retired. Last year was a little over 8,000 miles on our Giant Escape RX 0s. We loved these bikes so much that this winter we bought a couple of Giant Escape RX Composites for this year. While we take care of our rides, they do spend a fair amount of time hanging off the back of our RV touring the country. IMHO you can't do much better than Giants for the $$. If you want to read the threads I have on the Escapes here are the links:http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...X-0?highlight= and http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...(s)?highlight=

    Good luck with your decision.

  19. #19
    I'm doing it wrong. RJM's Avatar
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    Buy the hybrid, it will do pretty much everything you want it to do and allow you to get it off the pavement and onto rails to trails type dirt stuff if you ever feel like it. Get the road (race) bike when you have decided you want to ride faster road rides and want to really keep up with the group when they hammer out pacelines.


    For other options I suggest checking out the Rivendell site in their "learn" section for an alternative to regular bike shop opinions. http://www.rivbike.com/kb_results.asp
    There are really good "do it all" bikes out there.
    I am biased though.
    "...this place is to trolling as salt licks are to deer hunting." - 3alarmer

  20. #20
    Junior Member Lorig20's Avatar
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    Thanks for the wonderful discussion! I am finding this to be a great community. I enjoy the different points of view. I think it will come down to what I feel when I actually test ride.

  21. #21
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    I would say go with a road bike. If biking becomes your thing, you will regret not getting one. And if it isn't your thing, the sort of bike I am suggesting (relaxed geometry road bike tour touring adventure bike) isn't all that much more than a mid priced hybrid anyway. Reason is, the sort of road bike I recommend can do everything a hybrid can do, but a hybrid cannot do everything a true road bike can do, or at least not as well. If it fits well, no reason you can't take a road bike for a leisurely 10 Mile ride. While people do ride hybrids long distances, drop bar road bikes are better suited for the task.

    If you think you might need to ride some gravel, rough pavement or dirt, I would suggest a relaxed geometry steel road bike with clearance for somewhat wider tires (28 mm or even 32 mm), like the Jamis Quest Comp, Surly Pacer, or All City Space Horse or Mr. Pink. These are all bikes that could handle varied terrain, but can also be set up to ride long distance and multi day rides. And all have wheels that are light but durable, capable go mounting a variety of sizes and types of tires.

    I bought my wife a Jamis Satellite last year, which is the same bike as this year's Quest. We ditched the 25 mm tires for 28 mm Panaracer Urban Max tires and it is fine for crushed limestone, and the occasional gravel or dirt trail. Last summer, we rode 15 to 30 mile rides together at moderate speeds. We set up her bike with a rack and bag for day an light touring.

    I have a drop bar bike as well, the now discontinued Salsa Casserol, set up with 32 mm Panaracer Ribmo tires. It can pretty much handle broken pavement, dirt, crushed limestone, and packed gravel. I also did about 8 or 10 group rides with it last summer and found it far better suited for longer rides (25 Miles or longer) than my hybrid. Though the Casseroll is discontinued, the All City Space Horse is very similar. All City, Salsa and Surly share the same parent company.
    Last edited by MRT2; 03-08-14 at 09:28 AM.

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    IMO a hybrid is a crappy MTB trying to be a crappy road bike.

    Or is it a crappy road bike trying to be a crappy MTB?

    Don't be fooled by the claimed "comfort" aspect of a hybrid. They have one hand position, and on a longer ride that's going to be extremely uncomfortable. The drop bar of a road bike gives you a whole range of positions to move around between during a ride. Drop bars are just as much for comfort on long rides as they are for being aerodynamic at the high speeds of a race. They do both.

    And a good cyclocross-type bike probably handles rough off-road terrain better than a hybrid anyway. Search YouTube for cyclocross videos and see what those bikes were designed to be ridden in, on, and through.

    Even better, because it's also a decent road bike you won't really ever outgrow it.

    If you get to be a serious enough cyclist that you ride RAGBRAI, you're all too likely to view the purchase of the hybrid you had before you got a decent road bike as a waste. And you would be nowhere near the first person to think that way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    Merlin, I agree that stock hybrids can be uncomfortable, with cheap round grips. But if someone spends a similar level of intelligence to fitting their hybrid as they do a road bike, a hybrid can be essentially as comfortable as a road bike. Ergon grips and bar ends offer multiple comfortable hand positions, and a change in wrist attitude that you do not see in using hoods and drops on a road bike. I have done many centuries on a flat bar hybrid, done 150 mile days on a flat bar hybrid, and have seen the same level of discomfort (which some discomfort from lack of prep was expected) that I see when I do the same ride on a road bike.
    That's fine for you - you've found that you can ride a flat bar for 150 miles. A lot of people who can and do ride drop bars that far can't. I don't know of anyone who can ride that far but can't do it on a drop bar. (And the "I can't ride hunched over on a drop bar race bike" is a scurrilous straw man - you can set up a flat bar bike where you ride hunched over too....)

    How is the OP going to know if she can ride long distances with a flat bar?

    I know that you have sense behind your posts, but lots of folks throw around the "you only have one hand position and could never ride 20 miles" non-sense about hybrids. I am not saying you did that, just that it happens.
    It's not nonsense. A drop bar gives you more hand positions than even a flat bar with bar ends. Unlike a flat bar with bar ends, there's also a greater variation on width of the positions, which matters too as it's going to change the angle of your arms and shoulders.

  24. #24
    I'm doing it wrong. RJM's Avatar
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    The problem with most road bikes sold in bike shops is that they cannot take wider tires and they are really designed to be race bikes. If you can find a road bike that will take a tire 32-38mm wide you will have a very good do it all bike. Most hybrids from a local shop can take tires that wide. If you want more hand positions on a hybrid, you can add a clip on aero bar set up too. I would caution you against purchasing a bike that is limited in tire width until you know that you want to pursue riding fast in a club or even a race.

    RAGBRAI is a great ride that you can do on any bike you choose. My buddy did it last year toting camping equipment in a trailer hooked up to his hybrid and did fine.

    If you want to race, or ride in the fast group...you should probably get a road race bike...something a little more aggressive.
    "...this place is to trolling as salt licks are to deer hunting." - 3alarmer

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJM View Post
    The problem with most road bikes sold in bike shops is that they cannot take wider tires and they are really designed to be race bikes.
    So, don't get one of those.

    Get a cyclocross-style road bike designed for off-road use too.

    If you can find a road bike that will take a tire 32-38mm wide you will have a very good do it all bike.
    Exactly! And any decent bike shop will have such bikes.

    Most hybrids from a local shop can take tires that wide.
    As do all the cyclocross-style bikes.

    If you want more hand positions on a hybrid, you can add a clip on aero bar set up too.
    You can add a clip-on aerobar to a drop bar bike too. The flat-bar hybrid is still behind in number and variety of hand positions.

    I would caution you against purchasing a bike that is limited in tire width until you know that you want to pursue riding fast in a club or even a race.
    No one is saying otherwise.

    RAGBRAI is a great ride that you can do on any bike you choose. My buddy did it last year toting camping equipment in a trailer hooked up to his hybrid and did fine.
    I'm sure people have done RAGBRAI on all sorts of bicycles. Even unicycles. That doesn't make them good solutions for what the OP wants to to.

    If you want to race, or ride in the fast group...you should probably get a road race bike...something a little more aggressive.
    Or a cyclocross-style road bike that can do that too.

    I just don't understand where the push for hybrids comes from. If you like yours, fine. But hybrids have shortcomings - they're not really a road bike and they're not really a mountain bike.

    And the OP's stated use is that of a road bike. And no, gravel roads and bike trails do not mean a non-road bike is the solution because road bikes do just fine there.
    Last edited by achoo; 03-07-14 at 12:40 PM.

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