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  1. #1
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    Is utilitarian riding always slow?

    I'm not just talking about hauling stuff, but also traveling from A to B type stuff.

    There seems to be a concept that bikes which are good for going fast are bad for utility and vice versa. Is this always true? Is going fast as much about having ideal conditions as it is about the bike/rider? Are "slow" utilitarian bikes the fastest bikes for the circumstances/environments for which they're designed?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Allen's Avatar
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    Not always, no.
    Without the trailer my bike is quite quick and nimble.

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    Talking

    After my first big ride with my Dummy this weekend, I can tell you that of course it is marginally slower than my Trek with 700c wheels or the Ross Old Gray B@stard with 27" wheels, but not all that much. Even if I was a racing guy, I would never enter the Dummy in an event...well come to think of it, that sounds like something I would do, but... slower is only relative, and not "slow as Moses" slow.

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    what's your definition of "slow"?

    I can cruise at 18mph pretty much all day long on my unloaded xtracycle. However compared to an unloaded, much lighter road bike that's probably considered slow.

    Hauling around on a much heavier bike takes more energy to get up to and maintain speed. So I get tired faster than I would on a lighter road bike.

    The upside of riding a much heavier bike pretty much all the time? When you do get on a lighter bike, it feels like you are flying.

  5. #5
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    People go ride 80 miles just for fun. But most people don't ride 40 miles to the grocery store and back- they ride 2 miles to the store. So there's a difference in the needs.

    It might be interesting to know how many people own higher-end road bikes that do NOT own a car. You may just have two different groups of people you're dealing with.

    A similar question might be why nobody pulls a U-Haul trailer with a Lamborghini. It could be done, just normally isn't.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    No reason for "utility" to be slow...... I'm of the opinion that the majority of utiliity trips just need a basket or pannier as most trips don't need heavy load carrying capacity. ie returning the dvd, picking up a prescription, grabbing take out, going to work/school. These trips can be as fast as you want (though sometimes smelling the roses is good also) Equating utility with heavy load carrying, longbikes, trailers, etc is much too narrow of a view, not that they can't be fast and they certainly are utility.

  7. #7
    est'd 1966 tfahrner's Avatar
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    to the extent that it's about load bearing, it's generally slower, except downhill. also the plain-clothes aspect suggests you don't want to sweat too much, so take it slower. if you ride all the time, though, whatever your motivation, you're likely to be more capable of going fast than somebody who rides only for speed/sport, as life permits. i confess to enjoy passing people who ride sport bikes uphill, on various unlikely utility bikes, even if i have to fake looking casual.

  8. #8
    tsl
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    The way I see it, "utility" is what you do, not what you ride.

    Neither of my bikes are what you'd call utility bikes, what with the skinny tires, drop bars and STI levers--although they both have racks and fenders. Yet, I'm car-free and do 100% of my commuting and hauling with them.

    Not only can I haul with them, I can haul with them, even when I'm hauling. So to speak.

    My favorite hauling story is from last year about this time. I stopped for the weekly groceries on the way home from work. Trunk bag full of work stuff, grocery panniers full to bulging, I happened into a group ride on the way home. I inserted myself between the front pack and the second pack, then reeled them in.

    The leaders were so upset that they couldn't drop me, that they started running red lights en masse. The ones behind me were grateful for the huge draft I created. I towed them a mile or more.
    Last edited by tsl; 04-29-09 at 01:51 PM.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmyr View Post
    After my first big ride with my Dummy this weekend, I can tell you that of course it is marginally slower than my Trek with 700c wheels or the Ross Old Gray B@stard with 27" wheels, but not all that much. Even if I was a racing guy, I would never enter the Dummy in an event...well come to think of it, that sounds like something I would do, but... slower is only relative, and not "slow as Moses" slow.
    I can't find it now, but I saw a clip on YouTube of someone who had entered Big Dummy in a Cyclocross event, and he seemed to be keeping up with the pack fairly well. Not that it is anything I'd care to try myself, mind you.

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    A light bike and rider can accelerate faster than an heavy bike and rider.

    Pedaling into a 30+ mph headwind dropped bars a a big help.

    Otherwise, it doesn't make as much difference as most folks think; as the 30yo guy in cycling togs and cleats on the Masi found when he could not pull away from the 50yo fat guy in streets clothes riding the Bianchi hybrid with fenders, rack, lights, and loaded saddlebag.
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    I've had 60lbs on my trailer going 18mph slightly uphill.

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    ong
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    It might be interesting to know how many people own higher-end road bikes that do NOT own a car. You may just have two different groups of people you're dealing with.
    I have a high-end road bike, as well as a cargo bike, and I haven't had a car for about 4 1/2 years. But I have to admit, I am slow as hell on my Xtracycle -- I probably average 10 mph on that bike. It took a little getting used to -- at first I was frustrated about "wasting" time. But now I just get into a different mindset while I'm riding the big beast... I sit more upright and look around more, and I don't feel like I have to chase anyone down! It's the perfect excuse!

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    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    What you would call "slow" is normal speed for someone else.

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    No, utilitarian riding does NOT have to be slow.... although my idea of 'slow' may be somewhat different to yours.

    I often commute on my roadie which is a racing machine. Commuting is by definition utilitarian but on a good day on my roadie I can average 24mph on an undulating 20mile commute. Not earth shattering but not bad for these old legs.
    There are 10 types of people in the world - the ones that can count in base 2, the ones that can't count in base 2, and the ones that didn't expect this to be in base 3.

  15. #15
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    today i rode my dummy
    Ventura along the beach, up Rincon parkway, then up Casitas Pass Rd
    up to Lake Casitas, and back down to Ventura
    then back to Saticoy.

    60 miles, 4hrs.

    thats a dummy with DH wheelset, Serfas Drifters 2.0, a front rack, and some odds and ends.

    plus 6 avocados we picked along the way... and 4 water bottles, lights, etc...

    fast?
    sometimes i ride it fast.

    just depends.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    Commuting is by definition utilitarian but on a good day on my roadie I can average 24mph on an undulating 20mile commute. Not earth shattering but not bad for these old legs.
    Yeah, but that's exactly it: "on a good day". Unlike nonutilitarian riders your true average speed includes the bad days, not just the good ones...and you probably use a circuitous route (ie how far is your commute as the crow flies and what is your average speed to traverse that distance?) compared to a nonutilitarian rider whose average speed can be taken at face value because he's not going from point A to point B.

    Also, like you said your commute is undulating. Roadies go on and on about how this or that bike performs "on the flats", but are flats even worth considering for utility riding? Commuters in hilly areas talk about using a wiggle route to avoid the hills and then there's the potholes and the traffic, etc, etc. At what point does all this warrant a different kind of bike (ie a faster bike for slower routes)? Or is a fast road bike always the fastest on the road no matter how poor the road surface, no matter how much traffic, etc, etc?

    A lot of people say that having a bike 5 pounds lighter doesn't make a big difference and that may be true on the open road to nowhere, but in my experience a 5 pound lighter bike is at least twice as fast in stop and go urban riding. That's one example, but what other "horses for courses" scenarios are there for utility riding? For example, does anyone think a better climber is more important for utility riding since it can enable you to shorten some of those wiggles?
    Last edited by mrteeth; 04-30-09 at 07:03 AM.

  17. #17
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  18. #18
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrteeth View Post
    Yeah, but that's exactly it: "on a good day". Unlike nonutilitarian riders your true average speed includes the bad days, not just the good ones...and you probably use a circuitous route (ie how far is your commute as the crow flies and what is your average speed to traverse that distance?) compared to a nonutilitarian rider whose average speed can be taken at face value because he's not going from point A to point B.

    Also, like you said your commute is undulating. Roadies go on and on about how this or that bike performs "on the flats", but are flats even worth considering for utility riding? Commuters in hilly areas talk about using a wiggle route to avoid the hills and then there's the potholes and the traffic, etc, etc. At what point does all this warrant a different kind of bike (ie a faster bike for slower routes)? Or is a fast road bike always the fastest on the road no matter how poor the road surface, no matter how much traffic, etc, etc?

    A lot of people say that having a bike 5 pounds lighter doesn't make a big difference and that may be true on the open road to nowhere, but in my experience a 5 pound lighter bike is at least twice as fast in stop and go urban riding. That's one example, but what other "horses for courses" scenarios are there for utility riding? For example, does anyone think a better climber is more important for utility riding since it can enable you to shorten some of those wiggles?
    well, I also ride a rigid 29er that can take panniers etc.
    if its set up with a rear rack, and panniers, its pretty darn fast, especially being that it rolls over rough surfaces really well, and it has a ton of gear.

    actually, a 29er with 2.0 tyres 44x11t is about the same as a road bike 700c 53x12t
    (in nominal measure)

    there are so many variables to this thread
    city commuting/utility, or urban, etc...

    as an extreme example
    if you take for instance the old Concorde Jet, traveling at supersonic speeds
    compared to the now typical air busses

    or perhaps our military
    for instance I was part of the 7th I.D. and we were a deployable light force, anywhere in the world wheels down in 24hrs
    as compared to the scenario of Desert Storm, where i think it took about 6 months to get a heavy mechanized fighting force in position.

    what am i saying?
    Light & Fast
    vs
    Long low and slow?

    if i remember correctly
    the Concorde eventually went broke for various reasons ($)

    often times i equate $ to = time and resource allocation

    utility, depends on "the job" a person needs to get done.

    from personal experience, if i can make 1 big trip, that is usually better
    as compared to making 2 or 3.

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    My take on it is that it depends on if whatever utility you're putting your bike to at the moment slows you down from your normal 'recreational' riding speed. That's usually the case, but it doesn't have to be so. Say you're a messenger who has to hurry on the job but likes to take slower rides for fun and relaxation; in this case, the utilitarian riding you're doing is faster than your recreational riding. I know I ride more slowly on fun rides with my friends than I do on my commute.

    By the way Cyclaholic, 24mph is really fast! I took 9th in a sprint triathlon two weekends ago and averaged only 22.7 on the 18.6 mile bike section. Do you train and race or ride a recumbent?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Novakane's Avatar
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    While on my 'utility' bicycle I average a couple of mph slower than on my 10-speed. I figure that's the price I pay for more gears and much bigger tires. I prefer the gear range on the utility bike because there's a few big hills on the way back from the grocery store, and they can be really tough on a fully loaded bike, or pulling a trailer. I've had knee surgery twice, so I'm not a big fan of massive leg-straining for the pain it causes me after the ride.

    Unloaded, without panniers or other drag-inducing extrusions, I can certainly go as fast as my regular cruising speed - but I'd be surprised if I could achieve the same top speed as my ten-speed. But, when I'm going to the store and getting groceries I'm not in the mindset of trying to go fast, just effectively.
    Naturally trying to go really fast with the trailer attached would be rather foolish as it's going to bounce all over the place.

    I think it depends on the definition of utility cycle. Before I rebuilt my MTB, I did everything on a ten-speed. I guess you're refering to the bikes that are built thick and sturdy, specifically for hauling? Stuff like the big-dummy, or an extracycle'd bike. They're going to be by nature a tad bit more work to get going fast - but certainly aren't preventing you from doing so. They all roll the same.
    Last edited by Novakane; 05-01-09 at 09:28 AM.

  21. #21
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    I suspect I ride everywhere pretty slowly, by some people's standards. On the other hand, if urban cyclocross pulling a trailler was an olympic event, I am pretty sure I would be getting my blood tested every week by now.

    Its not so much that a utility bike needs to be slow, but it needs to be tough, abusable, not theft bait, and stable. None of those things necessarily mean slow. But together, it usually adds up to a bike that is not the fastest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    The way I see it, "utility" is what you do, not what you ride.

    Neither of my bikes are what you'd call utility bikes, what with the skinny tires, drop bars and STI levers--although they both have racks and fenders. Yet, I'm car-free and do 100% of my commuting and hauling with them.

    Not only can I haul with them, I can haul with them, even when I'm hauling. So to speak.

    My favorite hauling story is from last year about this time. I stopped for the weekly groceries on the way home from work. Trunk bag full of work stuff, grocery panniers full to bulging, I happened into a group ride on the way home. I inserted myself between the front pack and the second pack, then reeled them in.

    The leaders were so upset that they couldn't drop me, that they started running red lights en masse. The ones behind me were grateful for the huge draft I created. I towed them a mile or more.
    hey, did that group ride happen to be the Tuesday Night Urban Assault? because if that's you in your avatar pic I swear I have seen you on that ride.
    Last edited by Dustintendo; 05-02-09 at 04:37 PM.

  23. #23
    Biscuit Boy Cosmoline's Avatar
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    Carrying 150 lbs of cargo is going to slow anyone down, but you have to look at the big picture. My motto is "festina lente." Your major time loss is never going to be on the road riding, but rather screwing around trying to find a parking space, getting stuck on side streets or waiting in absurd traffic jams. These are much less of a problem for a bicycle. Esp. since with the bike I have to plan ahead and have clear goals in mind. It takes me about three hours to do a cross town mass quantity shopping run, which is about how long it ended up taking me with a car. Plus with the bike I get home and I've already had my exercise. So while my MPH is slower, I can't say it took me any more time.
    ''On a bicycle you're not insulated. You're in contact with the landscape and all manner of people you'd never meet if you were in a car. A fat man on a bicycle is nobody's enemy.''

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  24. #24
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustintendo View Post
    hey, did that group ride happen to be the Tuesday Night Urban Assault? because if that's you in your avatar pic I swear I have seen you on that ride.
    Until my hours at work were changed, I was a regular on that ride. I missed this entire TNUA season. No, it wasn't the TNUA I encountered.

    Although I have come across the Thursday Night Big Ring Ride a time or two on the way home from the store. Fortunately, they've been going the other way.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

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