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  1. #1
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    Light touring on a hybrid

    I've had a Trek 720 hybrid for the past 8 years or so. I've mostly biked short distances to/from work, but this past year I started stretching my rides out a bit. I did a 100k ride (64 miles) in October on it and struggled mightily. Granted I didn't get in a lot of training time after about 1 month before the ride, but I was still in fairly good shape. It took me over 5 1/2 hours (including 2 rest stops) to complete the ride. It wasn't a race, but I felt like I was one of the last ones in.

    This year, I plan to do Cycle North Carolina which crosses the state in a week. Other than buying a nice new bike, which I can't afford right now, what sort of upgrades can I make that will make the ride a little easier? How much difference do tires make? I have 700c x 38 on the bike now. How about gearing? I have mostly the stock components that came with the bike. I also have the upright handlebars with bar end shifters.

    If I have a windfall this year, I'll just buy a new bike. I don't want to spend a lot on upgrades for a marginal return. I'll definitely up the training this year too as I think that will make a difference.

  2. #2
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    Switching to 28mm tyres will make a huge difference to your speed and efficiency. Make sure you keep the pressure as high as possible.
    You could also investigate the use of aerobars or bar ends to provide alt hand positions and a more aerodynamic position. Conversion to drop bar is rarely cost effective.
    Do you use toe clips/clipless pedals and cycling shoes?

  3. #3
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    I used to ride my MTB on metric centuries and have no problem at all keeping up - I would train with the knobbies, and then switch to slicks for the road pumped to 100 lbs.

    It was wonderful - I and the bike felt like we were as light as air going up hills.

    An increase of 10 to 15 % is wonderful - just don't train that way!

  4. #4
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    Do you use toe clips/clipless pedals and cycling shoes?
    No, but I've been looking at those. I understand you can get pedals that are clipless on one side and platform on the other. I think I would like that. I've just been using running shoes on platform pedals with no clips.


    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    Switching to 28mm tyres will make a huge difference to your speed and efficiency.
    Will a change that big require me to change wheel rims too?
    Last edited by jimmuter; 01-04-06 at 11:02 AM.

  5. #5
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    The tires will help, especially slicks or semi-slicks designed for low rolling resistance and high pressure. You should also look at your riding position - many of the earlier hybrids were fairly upright which is a poor position for efficiency in pedaling and also puts you square into the wind. A lower and longer stem might help out a lot, combined with a slightly narrower seat. All of these mods can be done for less than $100 if know what you want and look carefully. I assume your bike does not have front suspension, if it does that will also suck up energy as you pedal.

    There are also a lot of nice used roadbikes out there in the $300 range that would serve better and you could keep the hybrid as is for bike paths, city use, etc.
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

  6. #6
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    wonderful things can be done with straight bars and bar-end grips. The Antler Bar...
    The "Antler" Bar

  7. #7
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    You can use your existing rims but avoid the very narrowest varieties of 28 as it may be too narrow (there is wide variation in actual width).
    Toe clips are a cheap way to improve your efficiency with your current pedal/shoe combo.
    Next up is to use a stiffer cycling shoe.
    Then a clipless pedal system. The combo-pedals are useful for urban runabouts but are heavy and not generally used on long distance bikes.
    Most distance riders go the whole hog and ride clipless.

  8. #8
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    The biggest improvements for the current bike would be pedals/shoes. Cycling shoes have a stiffer sole than tennis shoes and transfer more power. Clipless pedals will make better use of the power you're generating.

    If you have a suspension fork you may look at replacing that with a rigid model. Suspension forks add weight and can eat up pedalling energy.

    Considering the age of your bike I'd make sure the chain and cassette are in good shape. Clean, free of rust, and well lubricated.

    Skinnier tires and a more aerodynamic riding position will help out but you're still going to be at a disadvantage to traditional road bikes.

    And finally it goes without saying that riding more (particularly longer distances) will improve your speed.

  9. #9
    Calamari to go cc_rider's Avatar
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    I'm in a similar place as you. I ride a 12 year old Trek 750 (rode a 720 before that, until it was stolen).
    The last few years I've been extending my rides. In 2005 I did 20 rides 50 miles or longer, with 80 miles the longest. The only time I was struggling was on the hillier rides. Plan to do one or more centuries this upcoming year on the 750, and maybe a 3 day tour this summer.

    Suggested upgrades -
    Pedals, either toeclip or clipless. I had used toeclips with sneakers for years but my feet would hurt after about 30 miles. I've had no foot problems since I started using Shimano mtb shoes in toeclips. The stiff shoe really helps on the longer rides. Also take a look at clipless.
    Bar end extensions - give you several more hand positions.
    Skinnier tires - less rolling resistance
    A good, comfortable seat.

    Have fun.

  10. #10
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    I will agree on the clipless - a little to get used to, but then there is no turning back once you learn to pull and push - I have read that it increases power by 30% - which is a huge difference.

    One thing that I was told was that if you trying and make it a complete circle, not just mashing the pedal down, it makes a big difference - and I agree. Going up hills become much easier, you are just spinning away it feels.

  11. #11
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    You may want to consider putting on a Trekking Bar . That will give you more hand positions, but I'm now sure how well grip shifts would mount on them. I know that there's a thread or two on them in this forum, search for trekking bar or butterfly

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by crtreedude
    I will agree on the clipless - a little to get used to, but then there is no turning back once you learn to pull and push - I have read that it increases power by 30% - which is a huge difference.

    One thing that I was told was that if you trying and make it a complete circle, not just mashing the pedal down, it makes a big difference - and I agree. Going up hills become much easier, you are just spinning away it feels.
    No way clipless makes a 30% difference. Maybe 10-15% over regular shoes with stiff soles. You don't really get much pull out of it, only eliminate some of the energy required to push the off-side leg up. That said, I use them most of the time.
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

  13. #13
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    I got rid of my road bike with clipless pedals. I got sick of having to "gear up" for every ride. I didn't notice too much of a difference between platforms and clipless (although there was some advantage). Where I thought the clipless pedals excelled were on steep mammerjammer hills, where I would get out of the saddle, support all my weight w/ my arms, and start hauling UP on the pedals. On the new all-purpose bike I hope to get this spring, I'm going to try platforms w/ Power Grips (which for some reason get a bad rap) which would allow me to wear normal sneakers all the time, but still give me some of the advantages of being clipped in.

  14. #14
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuter
    Other than buying a nice new bike, which I can't afford right now, what sort of upgrades can I make that will make the ride a little easier?
    Practice riding longer distances. That's your best bet.

    The multiday organized tours I have been on generally do 60 miles/day average. You have all day to cover the distance. If you ride fast, you just get to camp a bit earlier and have more time to kill. Instead, why not just take it easy, enjoy the ride, and not worry about speed. You know you can cover 60 miles. You just need to practice doing it so you can do it everyday for a week.

    While you can certainly put narrower tires on the bike, they will undoubtably be higher pressure and give you a harsher ride on rough roads. If you're fine with this, then go for it. The smaller tires will reduce weight slightly (depending on the tire you choose) and, if the pressure is high enough and/or the tread pattern is slick enough they will have less rolling resistance and give you some free speed.

    Forget about replacing the gears, bars, seat, etc., unless there is a problem with them as they are now. If you have saddle "issues" start looking for a new one now. HINT: Many touring cyclists ride Brooks saddles. There's a reason for this.

    Although bar ends are rapidly going out of fashion, if you don't have them already, they do provide additional hand positions that will help reduce numbess. Raising your bars up near the level of your saddle will also help reduce numbness in the hands (and crotch, if that's a problem for you).

  15. #15
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    If you have saddle "issues" start looking for a new one now. HINT: Many touring cyclists ride Brooks saddles. There's a reason for this.
    My saddle is OK, and if I had a really nice bike, I'd probably outfit it with a Brooks. On my current bike, that would feel a little like putting gourmet steak sauce on a veggie burger.

    I appreciate everyone's input and will explore the suggestions to find out what works best for me.

  16. #16
    Patrick Barber weed eater's Avatar
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    shimano m324s are the pedals you are talking about, with cleat-things on one side and regular pedals on the other. they are not the lightest pedals around but they increase the versatility of your bike considerably and I used them for 5 years while I was SPD'ing. Now I use Crank brothers system, and while I like it a lot more than SPD, CB doesn't make a pedal that can be used as either flat pedal or cleated. I have compensated for this by increasing my number of bicycles .

    That all said, it's also really easy to switch pedals once you get the hang of it. It's feasible to use clipless for longer rides and your current flat pedals for 'round the town...assuming your bicycling activities are that distinct (mine never seem to be).

  17. #17
    I am not a car Map tester's Avatar
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    I have the m324s and really like them. This winter I am wearing a pair of Rockport boots when it is too cold or wet for my Shimano sandals. It's great have the option of wearing very different shoes with no pedal prolbems. +1

    I also have the touring bars on one of my bikes and like the different hand positions it allows. +1

    Quote Originally Posted by weed eater
    shimano m324s are the pedals you are talking about, with cleat-things on one side and regular pedals on the other. they are not the lightest pedals around but they increase the versatility of your bike considerably and I used them for 5 years while I was SPD'ing. Now I use Crank brothers system, and while I like it a lot more than SPD, CB doesn't make a pedal that can be used as either flat pedal or cleated. I have compensated for this by increasing my number of bicycles .

    That all said, it's also really easy to switch pedals once you get the hang of it. It's feasible to use clipless for longer rides and your current flat pedals for 'round the town...assuming your bicycling activities are that distinct (mine never seem to be).
    "Bad facts make bad laws." FZ

  18. #18
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Map tester
    I have the m324s and really like them. This winter I am wearing a pair of Rockport boots when it is too cold or wet for my Shimano sandals. It's great have the option of wearing very different shoes with no pedal prolbems. +1

    I also have the touring bars on one of my bikes and like the different hand positions it allows. +1
    I recently switched from M324s to M424s. The M424 is double-sided with pop-up cleats and a resin cage. No problem riding in street shoes and they are both lighter and cheaper than the 324s.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  19. #19
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    My suggestion.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  20. #20
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    I would change pedals before anything else. I just bought a cheap set of Shimano SPD pedals & cheap recreational, lace up, Shimano SPD compatible shoes. They are not as stiff as racing cycle shoes, but much stiffer than regular shoes. They are very comfortable to walk in while still being very efficient to cycle. These are my every day training shoes as well as touring shoes. Good fitting cycle shoes & clipless pedals will greatly increase your efficiency. I won't argue percentages, but I know I pull up on the pedal stroke almost as much as I push down. I know this from recently riding my Cyclocross bike with resin pedals. My feet kept coming off. I wouldn't worry too much about tire width, but I would be concerned with how well they roll (rolling resistance). I have 32mm Cyclocross tires on my San Jose & I can't tell the difference between those & my skinny tires on my fixed gear. I can ride in packs doing 30mph with no problems on the wide tires. You may find yourself less fatigued riding on wider tires with slightly lower pressure due to less road shock.

    I would be most concerned with training, however. You may want to build up gradually & then try doing at least two long training days in a row to get used to recovering quickly.

  21. #21
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuter
    My saddle is OK, and if I had a really nice bike, I'd probably outfit it with a Brooks. On my current bike, that would feel a little like putting gourmet steak sauce on a veggie burger.

    I appreciate everyone's input and will explore the suggestions to find out what works best for me.
    While I am glad that you are satisfied with your current saddle, I must take exception to your logic. You should match the saddle to your butt, not your bike.

    BTW, if I had to eat a veggie burger, I'd want that gourmet steak sauce!

  22. #22
    Conquer Cancer rider Boudicca's Avatar
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    When I was thinking of going clipless I also thought the two-way pedals would be the way to go, so I had the choice of clipless or not. But I bit the bullet and went clipless all the way and have never regretted it. I commute in my biking shoes and change when I get there, I have mtb shoes that are good to walk around town in (I've even taken them on gentle hikes, although I'm sure it's not good for the cleats), and I find things work really well. Also look into skinnier tires and use a floor pump to pump them up really hard. Yes, and as everyone else says, practice, practice, practice. It does help.
    Zero gallons to the mile

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