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Bike considerations for a 50+ Clydesdale

Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

Bike considerations for a 50+ Clydesdale

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Old 08-01-12, 07:36 PM
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cbwerner
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Bike considerations for a 50+ Clydesdale

Greetings all - first post here after lurking extensively for a week or so. I'm trying to make a purchase decision on a bike to get back into cycling and would appreciate any observations or thoughts folks have on how to go at this, including which style would be best for me, road or fitness hybrid, and any particular component issues I should focus on. To the extent it matters, I'd like to keep the budget under $1,000 US.

Background - just turned 50, in terrible shape, tipping the scales at over 300 lbs. Aside from knocking around as a kid, I've had 2 meaningful stints cycling - first in my 20's on a classic 10 speed road bike, and a second shorter time about 5 years ago on a LWB recumbent. Typical rides were 15-25 miles. Over a year ago I moved from in town to out in the country (about 30 miles west of Richmond, VA), and having had a number of folks mention how they like riding out where I am rekindled my interest, cycling being really the only form of exercise I can honestly say I've ever liked.

Here's the list of questions I have on my mind. Please feel free to add any I may have missed!
  1. Which style? The comfort of ride position(s) is the main thing I'm wondering about, but you may know of other factors I should be thinking of. At first the more upright ride of a hybrid sounded attractive, but now I'm not so sure largely because of questions I have about the distribution of weight between hands and butt, and how a more forward position might help with back support.
  2. Maybe this gets to style again - maneuverability - surviving occasional obnoxious fast moving cars on narrow country roads with no shoulders. What are the factors here?
  3. Minimizing tire flats - I dislike mechanical failures, and my weight and the inevitability of gravel and other dodgy surfaces seems to increase the odds of this being an issue. I know it's going to happen - I just don't want to be dealing with it regularly. What do I look for here?
  4. Wheels - is there a minimum spoke # I should be shooting for, or some or design point, again to allow for my weight?

One concern I have is my ability to get what I want in a pre-assembled package. Several times I have found myself looking at a bike and thinking "I could swap that part out", and then thinking "if I'm going to do that I should buy a more expensive bike or even better pick all the components individually". Frankly, my preferred way of doing this probably would be to pick out a high end "keeper" frame and build around that. But I'm guessing that would end up costing several thousands of dollars, which I'm not willing to do until I have a proven track record of actually riding the thing.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions you have.


Chris.
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Old 08-01-12, 07:40 PM
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Well, if you need to get all 50 of them from point A to point B I suggest a bus. lol.


Seriously though, you may want a comfort bike as they have a more upright position. I would suggest looking around at a few local bike shops and have them fit you and let you test ride some bikes.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:25 PM
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I had a Mtn bike and Road bike. Sitting upright on the Mtn. bike was more of a pain on my back than being in the drops on the road bike. I finally sold the Mtn. bike and got a 2nd Road bike.

Right now, when my back is bothering me, I go ride and somehow it really helps.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by gforeman View Post
I had a Mtn bike and Road bike. Sitting upright on the Mtn. bike was more of a pain on my back than being in the drops on the road bike. I finally sold the Mtn. bike and got a 2nd Road bike.

Right now, when my back is bothering me, I go ride and somehow it really helps.
This is an individual thing, from what I hear most people find MTB or Comfort bike more comfortable but that doesn't mean that some won't find road bikes more comfortable.

I currently ride mostly a MTB because it is more comfortable, but then I feel like I'm moving at a snails pace. lol.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:35 PM
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I'm 55 and in my second season of riding. Even though I was in fairly good shape from 14 months of regular training at the Y, I didn't have anywhere near the core strength to handle a roadbike. So I started out with an upright style hybrid bike. It had 700c-35mm tires to handle my then 280 lbs weight, 32 spoke wheels, and a 8 speed rear and a triple front. It was a little less than $600. After realizing that wide seats really don't make for a comfortable ride I put a Brooks B17 seat on it that I still ride on today.

As my core strength improved I started realizing the benefits of drop handlebars and got a Carbon Fiber Roadbike. It's a fast ride but the courseness of the Oil and Chip roads I ride on left me longing for a return to the 35mm tires of that first bike. So I bought a Surly Cross Check frame set and built a cyclocross/light touring bike for those long rides where I'll encounter mixed surfaces. I don't ride the hybrid anymore but it did get me riding. I'm not sure if I started out with a roadbike I would have stuck with it.

The mileage breakdown is 2500 miles on the hybrid, 2700 miles on the roadbike, and 1500 on the cyclocross bike. I only started riding the cyclocross bike in May and it gets 75% of the miles now. The Roadbike is still a blast to ride but I only ride it on known to be smooth surfaces.


My point in the above is that no single bike style will suit everyone or every riding condition. The cyclocross comes close but IMO it's not for the beginning cyclist. My vote for you is for a bike similar to this.http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...ness/fx/7_2_fx
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Old 08-01-12, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
...
My point in the above is that no single bike style will suit everyone or every riding condition. The cyclocross comes close but IMO it's not for the beginning cyclist. My vote for you is for a bike similar to this.http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...ness/fx/7_2_fx
+1 - The Trek Fx bikes are a nice package
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Old 08-01-12, 09:28 PM
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Oddly enough i lived on 250 in hadensville before moving west about 6 years ago. I know the area you live in very well.

I also have a crosscheck. I like it just fine. I do however put way more miles on my road bike, than i do on the cross check. I just like the speed better.

I thunk there are a lot of options and i only have one suggestion. Its going to be more than your budget, but the difference may be worthnit to you. Take a serious look at the salsa vaya. I think if i could only have one bike, that may very well be the one i would pick. It has a steel frame, it has disk brakes, and is capable of quality road riding, light touring, and
retty decent mild trail / gravel type riding. I believe the stock wheels will be ok for you as well.

I do think whatever bike you get that you should insure you have 32 spoke 3 cross wheels and ride at least a 25 c tire if not a 28

If you go the salsa or crosscheck route you can get even wider tires to smooth out those roads out in goochland.

Knowing the area and seeing what younposted about yourself, i would go with a cross style(like jethro and i listed) or the comfort / hybrid for my first bike....i dont think i would consider an aluminum straight up road bike.

Of course riding a few from the shops in richmond,or maybe even charlottesville amd having a quality dealer to support you will be the most help...but if there is a salsa dealer close, youmowe it tomyourself to go see one
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Old 08-01-12, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
I'm 55 and in my second season of riding. Even though I was in fairly good shape from 14 months of regular training at the Y, I didn't have anywhere near the core strength to handle a roadbike. So I started out with an upright style hybrid bike. It had 700c-35mm tires to handle my then 280 lbs weight, 32 spoke wheels, and a 8 speed rear and a triple front. It was a little less than $600. After realizing that wide seats really don't make for a comfortable ride I put a Brooks B17 seat on it that I still ride on today.

As my core strength improved I started realizing the benefits of drop handlebars and got a Carbon Fiber Roadbike. It's a fast ride but the courseness of the Oil and Chip roads I ride on left me longing for a return to the 35mm tires of that first bike. So I bought a Surly Cross Check frame set and built a cyclocross/light touring bike for those long rides where I'll encounter mixed surfaces. I don't ride the hybrid anymore but it did get me riding. I'm not sure if I started out with a roadbike I would have stuck with it.

The mileage breakdown is 2500 miles on the hybrid, 2700 miles on the roadbike, and 1500 on the cyclocross bike. I only started riding the cyclocross bike in May and it gets 75% of the miles now. The Roadbike is still a blast to ride but I only ride it on known to be smooth surfaces.


My point in the above is that no single bike style will suit everyone or every riding condition. The cyclocross comes close but IMO it's not for the beginning cyclist. My vote for you is for a bike similar to this.http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...ness/fx/7_2_fx
The FX is a good bike. If that interests you should also look at the Raleigh Misceo 1.0 and the Specialized Crosstrail, they are in the same mode/price range as the FX.
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Old 08-01-12, 10:27 PM
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First off, thanks for all the great feedback.

The consensus seems to be hybrid first, road bike later. Could someone detail why? What I mean is specifically what makes the hybrid better for me earlier on or the road bike worse. When I compare the two mentally, the issues I focus on are back support and where my overall weight gets supported (hands vs butt). Am I on track there?
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Old 08-01-12, 11:28 PM
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Here is my take on your questions.

1) Think about the type of pavement and path you are going to ride. At 300 lbs you are probably on the margin for a road bike. A hybrid with 32 mm tires and sturdy wheels, or a mountain bike with pavement tires is probably a good place to start.

2) Road bikes are generally set up for 28 mm maximum tires, you may get lucky and find something where a 32 mm wheel and tire will fit, but normally road bikes are running 23 mm tires, which can be a bit of a problem, unless you get very good (expensive) parts. Road bikes are generally set up for minimum weight and maximum speed, and are comparatively not as strong as a hybrid or mountain bike. If you are interested in a road bike, you should look for something in the touring line with relaxed geometry. 32 to 36 spoke wheels at least. Surly Pacer (similar to the cross check, but with Brifters) may be something to look at, and there are aluminum models that will work.

3) Hybrids and MTB's have index shifting on the bars, which are less expensive than the expensive brifters used on road bikes. So you get a little better set up (brakes, derailleurs, crank etc.) with the Hybrids.

4) If you have hills, you will need to be sensitive to gearing. A compact double or a triple is much more forgiving when hills are encountered. 28 or 32 teeth on the rear is the minimum, and you should look for a long cage derailleur to accommodate the chain length.

5) When you get to longer distances (greater than 20 miles for most), road bars offer a greater variety of hand positions and are more comfortable as your hands are not outside of your body.

6) Most road bike saddles are inappropriate for clydes, and you can probably figure on changing it. Not that you need a cruiser, spring loaded contraption, but something with a bit of support width and padding is more comfortable for me.

I started out with a road bike, tried the flat bars, eventually bought a relaxed geometry specialized sequoia, but now have a real road bike, with a modified headset (25 degree stem), to keep the geometry similar to the sequoia, I actually taped it and to my surprise, it is within 1/2".

There is a difference between a touring road bike, and a "race" road bike, as you get better and lighter, the touring style becomes less attractive.

You should be able to find something in your price range.
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Old 08-02-12, 12:45 AM
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Since you stated that you're in terrible shape, 300 lbs and 50 years old I'm going to assume a few things. The first is low aerobic capacity. Being bent over with a roadbike may limit your ability to get as much air into your lungs. Next, if you're like me when I started riding a roadbike, you'll tend to lock your elbows to hold your upper body up. At 300 lbs those 25 or 23 mm tires are going to be running 110 psi in the front and 140 psi in the back to avoid pinch flats. They won't have any give to them. Every bump will travel straight up your arms and into your shoulders causing possible injury. This is where core strength comes in. If your upper body weight is being supported by your core muscles, your arms will be bent and there's just enough weight on your hands to steer the bike. Any shock from bumps will be absorbed by your bent elbows. Also on a roadbike your neck is bent back so you can see where you're going. This is a lot of things on your plate when you're beginning. If you where 20 years younger you could maybe take this all on at once. Several here have and have done well.


With an upright bike like I linked to, You can focus on getting some aerobic capacity first. The wide tires will supply some shock absorption as they'll be running at much lower pressures..The wider handlebars supply more leverage in steering. But this comes at a cost. Your butt will suffer as much more weight will be on it. Riding into the wind takes much more power, in fact just riding faster takes more power. You have less options for your hand positions. A bright spot is that they're less expensive.

So what I'm saying is that there's a progression to getting in shape via cycling. IMO first is aerobic/cardio, efficient pedaling techniques and bike handling skills. Next is core work so you can ride faster, farther and be more comfortable while doing it. A wise man told me this over in the 50+ forum "It takes 5 years to reach your potential in cycling." So you have some time to work through all these issues.
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Old 08-02-12, 06:43 AM
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I have to agree with jethro...getting something you are going to ride, and ride a lot, is much more important than getting something you will be riding 2 years from now. If the road bike causes you so much pain, you dont ride, then hat good is it.

As i said earlier, you want wider tires and higher spoke wheels. There are enough hills out there that you do at least want a compact double...at your fitness level, and weight, your going to want the low gears.

I wouldnt discount craigslist however. May find something really good for less than new.
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Old 08-02-12, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by cbwerner View Post
First off, thanks for all the great feedback.

The consensus seems to be hybrid first, road bike later. Could someone detail why? What I mean is specifically what makes the hybrid better for me earlier on or the road bike worse. When I compare the two mentally, the issues I focus on are back support and where my overall weight gets supported (hands vs butt). Am I on track there?
Well, the way I look at it and I don't know your build, but most people of 300 pounds will have a significant amount of abdominal fat. Bending over to the drop bars on a road bike could cause the gut to compress the rest of the abdomen restricting breathing volume in the lungs and probably won't be very comfortable. So, when you are already struggling with cardio fitness to begin with it could make things worse. I would also question whether or not it would be best to put extra strain on the back when you consider the extra weight and as others have mentioned the fact that there will be little give in the tires at a high PSI.

I would say that either a mountain bike without suspension forks or a hybrid would be the best way to go in the beginning, that's where I started. I figured I should buy a bike that will not discourage me to ride it.
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Old 08-02-12, 05:34 PM
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I agree with the hybrid first option. I would also suggest that you could lower you budget to $500-600, and get a perfectly servicable bike for your needs. Something along the lines of Giant Escape, or a Jamis Coda would allow you to accomplish your fitness goals, and if you decide, as your fitness improves, to move to a road bike, you could sell it, and likely lose less than the cost of a couple of years membership at Planet Fitness.
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Old 08-02-12, 06:10 PM
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I'm a 50plus Clyde with a bad back. There's lots of good advice above except for one quibble and that being the handlebars. Get a set of the road bars as that bent over/in the drops position is often more comfortable than being upright. Pad the top of the handlebars and wear padded gloves like the Bontragger crochet so that you can also ride upright comfortably. The drop bars give you more options for hand positions and when you have back problems options are good!
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Old 08-02-12, 06:33 PM
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Because the bike you find comfortable now will not be the one you will want a year from now if you stick with it. BTW-When I got back into cycling 6 years ago, I rode an old Raleigh beach cruiser for the first 9 months.
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Old 08-02-12, 10:17 PM
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Thanks so much for all the great feedback. I think I'm finally getting my head around the various issues. One final question . . .

I do have an attraction to the road bars, largely because I remember how I used to vary hand positions and I think it will help my back. I certainly have my share of belly flab, but perhaps less than my weight would indicate as I have "female pattern" obesity, meaning I plump up everywhere - not the beer gut style. I'm assuming that I could put road bars on the hybrid? I think that's right but want to be sure I understand. Showing what a noob I am!

Thanks again for all the considered advice.

@ vesteroid - Small world! I was hoping to go a bit further west to Hadensville, but it was a bridge too far for my wife's commute, so we're a little further in than that. I'm an amateur astronomer and was after the darkest skies I could pull off, but they're pretty awesome where I am too.
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Old 08-03-12, 03:52 AM
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Yep, you can put road bars on the bike. Id save the orignal bars as well as on some bikes the geometry may not work as well with road bars. But with the Trek model in this thread they should do fine.
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Old 08-03-12, 06:35 AM
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My advice on this might be coming from a different direction on this. First off you need a sturdy bike, wider tires and high spoke count. Then you will need lower gearing and most likely a wider spaced cassette.

When I got back into riding I didn’t think new in fact I still haven’t bought a new bike from a shop but have some fairly new bikes I bought used. My first real bike returning to riding in my 50’s with extra weight and need to improve fitness was a high end mountain bike built in the 80’s. I totally modified that bike into a hybrid with wide road tires (slicks) saddle change and stem and bars to get more upright and slightly more swept back hand position and added bar ends for a secondary hand position. I have about $300 in that bike and it’s still a bike I ride often.

I found my perfect bike for me in an unlikely category and that is the (touring bike category) I bought a Windsor Tourist normally sold on line almost brand new locally used. I would have been reluctant to buy it on line and most likely would still be riding the KHS converted mtn bike.
The touring bike is made for hauling some weight, it has some of the road bike feel with a little more relaxed geometry. 36 spoke wheels and 700x32c tires. Touring bikes are set up with more of a road type triple up front and more of a mtn bike cassette and RD in the back. Kind of the best of both worlds. You get the drop bars and the brifters etc of a road bike but the bike has reasonable adjustment to remain in a nice comfortable semi aero position. These touring bikes no matter the brand have lugs and make adding fenders and rack easy.

I do a bit of touring on mine and use it a lot as a commuter and a grocery getter so I have played around with gearing more and I did add an adjustable stem that I would recommend over the number 7 stem that came with the bike. I also as someone mentioned above changed out the road saddle to something wider. I think no matter what bike you get a few changes will be called for.

I have several bikes to ride but I almost always grab the touring bike now. Just wanted to throw that idea out for you to think about as it seems you liked drop bars and the hand positions they give. If you haven’t rode in a number of years you will love STI type shifting and wide range cassettes etc.
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Old 08-03-12, 07:09 AM
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cbwerner: If you want dropbars I'd rather see you get a bike with them stock. I love STI shifting and riding in the hoods and I've already stated my concerns about starting out with them, so now we run into a matter of budget. I'll stick to my guns with the 35mm tires recomendation though. We're now talking about touring or cyclocross bikes. Keeping it under $1000 from an LBS will be very difficult.
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Old 08-03-12, 07:22 AM
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I agree if you want Drops, get them with the bike. I looked at converting my Mtn. bike to drops, and it was WAY to expensive.
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Old 08-03-12, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by cbwerner View Post
Which style? The comfort of ride position(s) is the main thing I'm wondering about, but you may know of other factors I should be thinking of. At first the more upright ride of a hybrid sounded attractive, but now I'm not so sure largely because of questions I have about the distribution of weight between hands and butt, and how a more forward position might help with back support.
  1. Maybe this gets to style again - maneuverability - surviving occasional obnoxious fast moving cars on narrow country roads with no shoulders. What are the factors here?
  2. Minimizing tire flats - I dislike mechanical failures, and my weight and the inevitability of gravel and other dodgy surfaces seems to increase the odds of this being an issue. I know it's going to happen - I just don't want to be dealing with it regularly. What do I look for here?
  3. Wheels - is there a minimum spoke # I should be shooting for, or some or design point, again to allow for my weight?
1) I'd suggest going to a bike shop and trying different bike geometries (Mountain, hybrid, road, etc) see what feels better and use it as a starting point. If you end up liking the road bike geometry i'd suggest looking at cyclo cross bikes, roughly same geometry of road bikes but with clearance for wider tires and usually come factory with low gearing (favoring climbs and off road type of riding). Slick thin tires and works just as a road bike, knobby/wider tires and you can take it off road.

2) Roads with no shoulder best you can do is ride over the right white line (or as close to it as possible). After that it's all up to the guy at the wheel on the vehicle. Check rear view mirrors (helmet mounted, bar mounted,etc), sometimes a mirror may give you an extra couple seconds to move closer to the line as possible before the vehicle catches up with you.

3) Keep tires inflated properly(check air/top up before each ride), avoid road debris as possible, other than that it's road conditions and luck. Check local bike shop, some offer clinics for basic mechanical stuff, you'll pick up a couple tricks that will make the tire change much less a cumbersome annoying experience.

4) I wouldn't go below 32 spoke count.

As for getting pre-assembled versus building it up it's a 50/50 call. Bunch of threads discussing pros/cons. If i were testing the water i'd just go the easy route and get pre-assembled and buy from a bike shop (shop around for new-old stock, by end of season when the bike shops need to make room for new inventory), they'll probably also help with proper fitting and basic maintenance as well.

Good luck
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Old 08-03-12, 07:55 AM
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I wondered at first when I bought the Bikes Direct bike I mentioned above (even though I didn’t buy it from them) if there would be any issues with service at ether of my LBS here. I do most of my own wrenching but do get some work done by them and do purchase a lot of other things in the shops. I asked them if they would have any issues working on the tourist and I was surprised they both didn’t seem to care at all. YMMV.

Being a heavier rider buying a bike on line or from a LBS I would make sure before the purchase that I had local service lined up to do the first adjustments, service and fitting to the bike. And in all cases I would have them include trueing and tension of the wheels. It’s important for all riders but even more important for a heavier rider IMHO. My cutoff for spokes would be nothing less than 32 and 36 being much better. I even looked into 48 at one time but the cost was way out of budget. When you look at what a shop locally might agree to on a new purchase for free and you add to a mail order bikes cost to have done the cost saving margin won’t be as great.

Something like my Tourist at $600 I think you could get it serviced and maybe a different saddle and stem for another $300 if that was what you thought it might take and make your 1K budget.

I also agree adding drop bars to a hybrid isn’t as easy or cheap as one first thinks it may be. It is a fairly easy change on a straight bar bike to add riser bars with a swept back hand position or even trekking bars for added hand positions. Bar ends and ergonomic grips are also fairly easy depending on the type shifter.
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Old 08-03-12, 08:29 AM
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Acquaspin makes some excellent points above beyond just the bike itself and dealing with the riding conditions you mentioned. Like you when I started riding I was remembering riding as a youth and the world has changed a lot over the last 40 or 50 years as have we. It’s not as easy whipping my head around 180 degrees as it was when I was young. Two things I wouldn’t ride without now are a mirror and a rear blinker. All my bikes have both and I personally like a larger bar mounted mirror others can get used to head mounted mirror. I guess there is three necessities actually the other being a helmet that was never heard of as a kid. I have a blinker also mounted on the back of my helmet. If there is any chance you will be riding at dusk or dawn a headlight that lets you at least being seen is a good thing.

We have the 4 foot passing zone here and it’s a joke and not to be trusted IMO. Most people will give you a good margin when overtaking you unless there is an oncoming car. And that brings it back around to tire size, tread and pressure. I try and plan routes with a wide bike friendly paved berm where I can stay outside the white traffic line and give myself 3 feet by moving right when cars pass if they give the white line 2 feet I’m very comfortable. I do have a few short stretches as you described where the white line is 6 inches from the edge and the berm is gravel or dirt. I use the mirror nonstop along with my ears and unless I see the car clearly moving way over I exit the pavement. And anytime I see oncoming at the same time as approaching I just get over in anticipation. With my road bike like jethro56 mentioned I don’t feel good about jumping the edge and or riding the dirt. I pick and choose my rides on that bike much closer than I do on the tour bike with the wider tires. Around here it’s not like a car is passing me every minute but when it happens I feel much more in control when I have to move right on that type tire.
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Old 08-03-12, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by cbwerner View Post
Thanks so much for all the great feedback. I think I'm finally getting my head around the various issues. One final question . . .

I do have an attraction to the road bars, largely because I remember how I used to vary hand positions and I think it will help my back. I certainly have my share of belly flab, but perhaps less than my weight would indicate as I have "female pattern" obesity, meaning I plump up everywhere - not the beer gut style. I'm assuming that I could put road bars on the hybrid? I think that's right but want to be sure I understand. Showing what a noob I am!

Thanks again for all the considered advice.

@ vesteroid - Small world! I was hoping to go a bit further west to Hadensville, but it was a bridge too far for my wife's commute, so we're a little further in than that. I'm an amateur astronomer and was after the darkest skies I could pull off, but they're pretty awesome where I am too.
Never heard of this. I'm a "pear," which means small-boobed and large-butted. Other women are "apples," which means they're large on top in every aspect (boobs and belly) and comparatively slim on the bottom (little or no butt shape, skinny legs). So what is this "female pattern obesity"?

Also, there's the type of riding you'll be doing to consider. Are you interested in simply going fast? Get a road bike. Want to see the sights and scenery at a more leisurely pace, with the occasional burst of speed? Get an upright.

Last edited by Condorita; 08-03-12 at 08:56 AM.
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