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Want a new bike, but doubting my own judgement. Need input.

Old 08-16-15, 03:59 PM
  #1  
thiocyclist
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Want a new bike, but doubting my own judgement. Need input.

I am on the verge of buying a new bike, hoping for an “upgrade” to my existing commuter. I am unsure of what really constitutes an upgrade though, and that’s where I need help from more experienced people. Last time I asked this question people mistook me for a troll so I will try to ask it more clearly this time. Please bear with me as I explain where I’m at and where I want to go...:

My commute is 15 miles a day with a total elevation gain just shy of 1000 feet (according to Strava).

Right now I am riding this bike:
Save Up to 60% Off Town Bikes | Classic, Stylish Eight Speed City Bikes | Urban Bikes | Commuter Road Bikes | Windsor Kensington 8 from bikesdirect.com

It weighs about 32 lbs and is a pretty nice ride all in all (great brakes, great shifting, I feel comfortable on it except for a little wrist pain occasionally), but conventional wisdom and some folks at a respectable LBS tell me I would do better on a different bike. Something “sportier” always comes up. On many levels, I do not doubt this could be better.

But what exactly is better?

For me, “better” is a bike that does at least one of the following better than my current ride, without doing worse anywhere else: 1) provides more comfort, 2) is “faster”, if that’s really even possible in terms of commuting and 3) takes less exertion to get from A to B (especially in terms of hills).

I am pretty comfy on the upright Windsor but not so comfy on traditional road bikes so this rules true racing bikes out for me. I hate how my back feels with that bent over posture people adopt when racing. Furthermore, riders on very nice road bikes aren’t outpacing me any more often than I outpace them on my commute. The reason I mention this is that it makes me doubt whether I’d be any faster riding on their kind of bike anyway, because I don't think I’m in better shape than any of them. But what does seem plausible about a nicer bike is the idea that less sweat/exertion will be necessary to ride the bike up a hill due to the doubling to tripling of the number of gears. (That said, I would miss the easy maintenance of the IGH.)

Ultimately, I am nearly settled on getting this bike or something much like it:
Vaya 3 | Bikes | Salsa Cycles

I rode a Vaya 3 for 3 miles on a test ride recently. My riding position was upright enough that I was quite comfy, but I do believe those gears made the hills feel better (I have no idea whether I actually get up the hill faster). But as far as average speed and commute time are concerned I cannot say whether there would be any improvement. Ironically, I actually passed not one but two different commuters who were riding Vaya 3s in the last month. Nevertheless, I am still having what bass players call “Gear Acquisition Sydrome” (GAS) for one of these bikes...

This leads me to my questions for all of you:
1. Based on what I want and what I don’t want in a bike, is a Vaya 3 the right thing to choose? Is there something else I should look at (either a model or a style of bike)? Is there any reason to think I might be slower on the Vaya 3 than my Kensington?
2. In terms of commute speed/time, am I just setting myself up for disappointment by hoping that a different bike can help me go faster? (Especially having ruled out all of the true road bikes because I find them uncomfortable.)
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Old 08-16-15, 04:06 PM
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Vaya 3..Nice bike..Change the Shimano Sora 30/39/50t to a 24/42/52 and have more fun.
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Old 08-16-15, 04:28 PM
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Getting a different bike would only make you faster if you decided you wanted to ride harder. A 15 lb bike will make a slight difference on the hills but overall energy saved on your ride will be minimal. Specifically, if you are putting out 500kj for your commute a lighter bike might shave that down to 480 and would probably not be noticeable.

It doesn't sound like you have a compelling reason to get a new bike although you may just want one as you keep asking about new bikes
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Old 08-16-15, 04:39 PM
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In order to go faster with the same or less effort you need to improve 1 or more of:

1. rolling resistance (tires, bearings, etc but mostly tires)
2. drivetrain efficiency (not going to make a lot of difference)
3. weight if there are lot of hills, lighter wheels (probably not a lot of difference here either)
4. aerodynamics (mostly body position), slight difference between bikes
5. bike geometry. Some geometries aren't conducive to speed
6. fitness

The biggest non-fitness gain if you are already moving fairly quickly is through improving aerodynamics. This is what road bikes do, - or recumbents.

Unless your commute pretty long you may not notice much difference. Since you do have some hills, a lighter bike may help but I suspect since you like the bike you already have, you may be best off sticking with that.
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Old 08-16-15, 04:58 PM
  #5  
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Hello fellow Coloradoan.

The reason a sportier bike would likely work better for you is because of frame geometry, specifically the steeper frame angles which put more of your body mass above the cranks, which helps generate power more efficiently. You'd also get small benefits from a riding position with more forward lean, which means you're more aerodynamic, and the drop bars that usually come on road bars, since they're ideal for allowing you to leverage core strength into your pedaling effort. You would probably notice an advantage over your current bikes if you got a Vaya or similar, but as other posters have mentioned, if your commute is very short (or has lots of stoplights), you might not actually practically gain anything even if your average speed does increase by several mph.

The Vaya is probably a good choice for you, it's a touring/gravel road bike, so the geometry falls somewhere inbetween your current semi-upright bike and the typical road racing bike. This will give you a slightly more upright posture, and the wheelbase/fork geometry will give handling that's low-effort unlike a twitchy racing bike that demands more upper-body inputs. As far as other similar models go, most of the big brands have similar bikes available these days so it's definitely worth shopping around. I'm currently employed by a Trek dealer so offhand the model I can most readily recommend you consider is the Trek Crossrip, it's marketed as a cyclocross bike but would work quite well as a sportier commuter bike.

As an aside, unless you have definite medical back issues, I would suggest keeping an open mind about road bikes in the future - maybe not for your next commuter, but for your next fun bike. Road bikes can be perfectly comfortable to ride all day, even on rougher roads, but getting the right fit is critical, so if you've never ridden on a road bike that was setup properly for you (and put in a few weeks of riding to develop basic core strength if needed), chances are good that's why you experienced discomfort. And second, don't discount your commuting fitness! Chances are good that if you're commuting regularly, you're spending much more time on your bike than the typical recreational rider who only gets their bike out on sunny weekends.
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Old 08-16-15, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by thiocyclist View Post
I am unsure of what really constitutes an upgrade though, and that’s where I need help from more experienced people.
Acquiring a new bike is a Project.

If you can't clearly and accurately express what the Deliverable of the project will be it is sure to fail.

Sit down and list the Deficits of your current machine.
List possible improvements.

This will drive out precisely what your Requirements are for an improved commuter.

Write a Scope Statement expressing precisely what is to be Delivered that satisfies all Requirements, establishes a Budget and a Timeline.

Or just muddle along with what someone else thinks on the inter-web and randomly spend $$$$ on an undefined "upgrade".

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Old 08-16-15, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
As an aside, unless you have definite medical back issues, I would suggest keeping an open mind about road bikes in the future - maybe not for your next commuter, but for your next fun bike. Road bikes can be perfectly comfortable to ride all day, even on rougher roads, but getting the right fit is critical, so if you've never ridden on a road bike that was setup properly for you (and put in a few weeks of riding to develop basic core strength if needed), chances are good that's why you experienced discomfort. And second, don't discount your commuting fitness! Chances are good that if you're commuting regularly, you're spending much more time on your bike than the typical recreational rider who only gets their bike out on sunny weekends.
As someone who regularly rides both road and upright bikes, I have found ones riding style is the most important factor once fit and fitness issues have been addressed. Unless the OPs goal is to be faster, the gains of a road bike offers won't offset what they give up to achieve it as a commuter.

To put it simply, match your bike to your riding style, not your riding style to your bike.
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Old 08-16-15, 06:31 PM
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I really doubt you would find any kind of improvement going to a de-failler bike. Especially when the rain/ mud hits the fan.
IGH bikes are the be-all to end-all for your 36 min ride. I have been riding a Sturmey Archer 5 sp on 20+ centuries. Puts all my 3x8s to shame, except for also not having a low gear.
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Old 08-16-15, 06:45 PM
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You will really enjoy getting a better bike. It will feel like a revelation. In your case, a better bike might be a road hybrid (sometimes called a flatbar road bike). You'll maintain a more upright position that you like. The bike will be lighter by almost 10 pounds (this is a huge difference), you'll have more gears and better shifting (you'll love it), and you'll get a good set of tires (so sweet). There are lots of good choices of road hybrids out there in the $600 to $1,000 price range and if you go above that, you might be considering carbon frame and disc brakes. Get a good performance hybrid and you'll fall in love with biking all over again.
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Old 08-16-15, 09:46 PM
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I recently started riding a single speed fixed gear bike to work. Since my route has many hills, I was surprised to find it didn't take me any longer than my geared bike with near exact geometry and rider position. (and identical tires) So I highly doubt the extra gears of the Salsa will make your commute any quicker. But the better aero position of the drop bars will, and derailleur systems have greater efficiency than IGH's.

Take the Salsa on a long test ride. I bet you'll like it.
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Old 08-17-15, 12:08 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by thiocyclist View Post
I am on the verge of buying a new bike, hoping for an “upgrade” to my existing commuter. I am unsure of what really constitutes an upgrade though, and that’s where I need help from more experienced people. Last time I asked this question people mistook me for a troll so I will try to ask it more clearly this time. Please bear with me as I explain where I’m at and where I want to go...:

My commute is 15 miles a day with a total elevation gain just shy of 1000 feet (according to Strava).

Right now I am riding this bike:
Save Up to 60% Off Town Bikes | Classic, Stylish Eight Speed City Bikes | Urban Bikes | Commuter Road Bikes | Windsor Kensington 8 from bikesdirect.com

It weighs about 32 lbs and is a pretty nice ride all in all (great brakes, great shifting, I feel comfortable on it except for a little wrist pain occasionally), but conventional wisdom and some folks at a respectable LBS tell me I would do better on a different bike. Something “sportier” always comes up. On many levels, I do not doubt this could be better.

But what exactly is better?

For me, “better” is a bike that does at least one of the following better than my current ride, without doing worse anywhere else: 1) provides more comfort, 2) is “faster”, if that’s really even possible in terms of commuting and 3) takes less exertion to get from A to B (especially in terms of hills).

I am pretty comfy on the upright Windsor but not so comfy on traditional road bikes so this rules true racing bikes out for me. I hate how my back feels with that bent over posture people adopt when racing. Furthermore, riders on very nice road bikes aren’t outpacing me any more often than I outpace them on my commute. The reason I mention this is that it makes me doubt whether I’d be any faster riding on their kind of bike anyway, because I don't think I’m in better shape than any of them. But what does seem plausible about a nicer bike is the idea that less sweat/exertion will be necessary to ride the bike up a hill due to the doubling to tripling of the number of gears. (That said, I would miss the easy maintenance of the IGH.)

Ultimately, I am nearly settled on getting this bike or something much like it:
Vaya 3 | Bikes | Salsa Cycles

I rode a Vaya 3 for 3 miles on a test ride recently. My riding position was upright enough that I was quite comfy, but I do believe those gears made the hills feel better (I have no idea whether I actually get up the hill faster). But as far as average speed and commute time are concerned I cannot say whether there would be any improvement. Ironically, I actually passed not one but two different commuters who were riding Vaya 3s in the last month. Nevertheless, I am still having what bass players call “Gear Acquisition Sydrome” (GAS) for one of these bikes...

This leads me to my questions for all of you:
1. Based on what I want and what I don’t want in a bike, is a Vaya 3 the right thing to choose? Is there something else I should look at (either a model or a style of bike)? Is there any reason to think I might be slower on the Vaya 3 than my Kensington?
2. In terms of commute speed/time, am I just setting myself up for disappointment by hoping that a different bike can help me go faster? (Especially having ruled out all of the true road bikes because I find them uncomfortable.)
As someone who commutes on both an Alfine 8 and derailleur bikes, I can tell you that your issue on hills is that the Shimano Nexus and Alfine 8 systems cannot get much below 31 gear inches in lowest gear for 700c wheels, and for a loaded down commuter bike that is maybe 40 pounds, that takes a pretty strong rider to blast up any significant hills.

Derailleur bikes can get into the low 20's easily with hybrid or mountain gearing, so if the question is how to climb hills better, run the numbers using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator and if you can get the gear inches down below 30, you will likely find climbing much easier.

The Vaya 3 is a touring bike (meaning it will have low gearing anticipating carrying heavy luggage loads) with a triple and assuming the 9 speed cassette has a 34 big cog, that gives you 23.6 gear inches in lowest gear, which you will find MUCH easier to climb with than 31.
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Old 08-17-15, 09:23 PM
  #12  
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Thanks for the replies so far... The diversity of opinions is amazing (in both good and bad ways). I wish I could just hire a bike for a day to try it out on my commute. It's not something my LBS would agree to, methinks.
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Old 08-21-15, 04:20 AM
  #13  
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The Vaya is a much nicer bike than the bikes direct. Component spec, quality, and almost certainly assembly and adjustment. If given a choice of which to ride, I'd grab the Vaya in a heartbeat. Be sure to get the right size.
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Old 08-21-15, 04:52 AM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
I really doubt you would find any kind of improvement going to a de-failler bike. Especially when the rain/ mud hits the fan.
IGH bikes are the be-all to end-all for your 36 min ride. I have been riding a Sturmey Archer 5 sp on 20+ centuries. Puts all my 3x8s to shame, except for also not having a low gear.
Oh, is that Windsor an 8 speed IGH?
I'll have to keep the 8 speed Mixte in mind, should the need arise.

Nonetheless, derailleurs work fine both on commuters and otherwise.

No need to limit yourself to steel bikes. There are plenty of aluminum, or even carbon fiber bikes that would work great as commuters (if they are safe to lock).

Don't forget the used bikes.

As far as rider position, that may be a fit issue. The Vaya has a fairly tall head tube, with a sloping top tube, so it should ride somewhat like a taller than normal road bike (for new bikes). Try a large frame "road bike". You may like it.
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Old 08-21-15, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by thiocyclist View Post
Thanks for the replies so far... The diversity of opinions is amazing (in both good and bad ways). I wish I could just hire a bike for a day to try it out on my commute. It's not something my LBS would agree to, methinks.
Can certainly propose the offer. If you like what you've experienced on that one test ride, propose a much longer test ride (couple of hours), perhaps one tied to a non-refundable "rental" feel of $50+, which would (if you buy) would apply to the purchase price. You might be surprised what they'll agree to. If it's a demo unit, I can't see why not. Even if just a floor unit, it's not as though an hour or two on various roads is going to blow the bike up.


I've been eyeing the Vaya 2, myself. Interesting combination. Steel, relatively lighter for a touring bike, with a solid component selection.
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Old 08-21-15, 05:03 AM
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The Vaya looks like a nice bike, but you have to figure out what you need from the bike. Do you need a rack or can you install one? Do you really need curved road bars? As long as you're riding a 2x9/10 or a 3x9/10, I wouldn't worry about the gearing range...plenty to choose from for your level and purpose. In the first place, I would look at the position that YOU (and your back) feel as comfortable.

I have a road bike for racing, but I commute on a Trek 7.5FX. I bought it for the sporty, but still upright position. The tires are 32mm, so skinny to go fast, but enough rubber not to crash in the wet/snow. I attached a universal rack with a bag on top for my lunch box...All I need.
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Old 08-21-15, 05:03 AM
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I ride Alfine 8 and regard it as a great solution for urban riding in rolling terrain.
For steep or long rides, derailleurs or Alfine 11 is probably better.

Do you have 2x15 or 2x7miles commute? Alfine 8 is fine for 2x7.
Not all roadbikes are racebikes. I would check out some of the cyclo-cross/tourer style using disk brakes. You don't have to ride drop bars in a low or stretched position. Many tourists use drops higher and closer.
You don't even need to ride drops. Some flat-bar roadbikes do the same with a different bar style, eg Specialized Sirrus Disc.
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Old 08-21-15, 06:09 AM
  #18  
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I don't see how the Vaya would be any better than the Windsor. Wrist pain on the Windsor is a setup issue; try changing the angle of the handlebar. If you want a racier position, see if you can lower the handlebar; also, see how it feels if you move the seat forward (putting your weight more directly over the pedals for more efficientcy; effectively making your seat tube angle steeper). If more extreme measures are called for, you also have the option of changing the stem handlebar (though sadly the Alfine shifter will not fit standard "road bike" handlebars, there are many options that it will fit).

Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist View Post
As someone who commutes on both an Alfine 8 and derailleur bikes, I can tell you that your issue on hills is that the Shimano Nexus and Alfine 8 systems cannot get much below 31 gear inches in lowest gear for 700c wheels...
This is simply not correct. You can get lower gears by changing the chain ring and/or hub cog. If your gears aren't low enough, get a bigger cog or a smaller chain ring.
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Old 08-21-15, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by thiocyclist View Post
2. In terms of commute speed/time, am I just setting myself up for disappointment by hoping that a different bike can help me go faster? (Especially having ruled out all of the true road bikes because I find them uncomfortable.)
Yes! A single-speed replaced my geared commuter and has not significantly lengthened my commute. If you have a case of upgradeitis put a dynohub and light on your bike and find it twice as useful.

PS. That old geared commuter was a rigid mountain bike (as is my current commuter) and I was similarly amazed how little that slowed me down compared to my race bike. I took it on several group road rides and didn't have any trouble hanging with the group one-step slower than who I would normally ride with.

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Old 08-21-15, 09:11 AM
  #20  
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they are well made frames from what I've seen ( mostly transcontinental tourist's bikes, that get packed up to ship back )

the QBP Salsa thru a dealer will have the back up of the service the shop provides, with their representing the distributor,
that shipped it to them

Hope you are not buying a theft magnet , vulnerable while locked up on the street on a predictable schedule.

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Old 08-21-15, 11:19 AM
  #21  
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Similar to @kickstart I have and ride a variety of bikes. Each has it's purpose and sometimes cross purposes. I love my road bikes for fitness rides and mountain bikes for off roading. I quite dislike both for daily transportation though. For transportation I have a Workcycles Opa which I find the perfect bike for a number of reasons. I also have a bakfiets for cargo and kids. To me an upgrade from your current bike would be to a proper Dutch geometry city bike like an Opa or Secret Service from Workcycles, Azor, Batavus, or Gazelle and possibly with a wider gear range.

More City Bikes | LocalMile

BTW, contrary to what someone said above, you are actually not limited to whatever your current lowest/easiest gear is. You can change to a larger cog in back or smaller chainring in front to get a lower gear. This is quite common. Note that this will also lower your fastest gear but that may not be an issue for you. I rarely use the highest gear on mine so I wouldn't miss it. You might also consider getting a different IGH in the rear with a wider range.

Last edited by CrankyOne; 08-21-15 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 08-21-15, 12:23 PM
  #22  
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yeah, but who wants to go slower from a heavier bike? I am not fast, and I know that my road bike doesn't make much difference in speed for my commute, but I do like how it feels...
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Old 08-21-15, 01:18 PM
  #23  
GovernorSilver
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Originally Posted by ShortLegCyclist View Post
As someone who commutes on both an Alfine 8 and derailleur bikes, I can tell you that your issue on hills is that the Shimano Nexus and Alfine 8 systems cannot get much below 31 gear inches in lowest gear for 700c wheels, and for a loaded down commuter bike that is maybe 40 pounds, that takes a pretty strong rider to blast up any significant hills.
I ride a 34 lb. bike with a Shimano Nexus 8, 26 wheels, with a pannier loaded with work clothes and toiletries bringing the weight a bit closer to 40lbs. But I've also climbed the hill to my house with two panniers loaded w/ groceries (family pack of drumsticks, box wine, etc). The Sheldon Brown calculator doesn't show much difference though between 26 and 700 wheels (28.9 gear inches vs. 29.8). This is with an 18t rear cog, which came standard on the bike. Changing to a 20t rear cog drops the gear inches (for 700 wheels) into the 26 range for the lowest setting.

I know you said that something closer to 24 gear inches would be easier for climbing, but I've progressed to climbing in the mid-40s gear inch range for a portion of the hill before downshifting.
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Old 08-21-15, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by thiocyclist View Post
Thanks for the replies so far... The diversity of opinions is amazing (in both good and bad ways). I wish I could just hire a bike for a day to try it out on my commute. It's not something my LBS would agree to, methinks.
I think that's called "renting a bike".

I'm surprised your LBS won't do rentals. Bike rentals are a decent source of income for several LBS's in my area.

Obviously it costs more to rent a bike for a day than just try a bike for free for 10-15 min. but you probably get a more complete picture of what a bike can do, especially if the LBS (or bike rental place) does a competent job of fitting the bike for you before you take it out. BTW, as others have said, there are road bikes now that will allow you to ride with a more upright posture - these tend to be the "endurance" and "adventure" road bikes - bikes designed for all-day riding instead of a quick race.
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Old 08-21-15, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by GovernorSilver View Post
I ride a 34 lb. bike with a Shimano Nexus 8, 26 wheels, with a pannier loaded with work clothes and toiletries bringing the weight a bit closer to 40lbs. But I've also climbed the hill to my house with two panniers loaded w/ groceries (family pack of drumsticks, box wine, etc). The Sheldon Brown calculator doesn't show much difference though between 26 and 700 wheels (28.9 gear inches vs. 29.8). This is with an 18t rear cog, which came standard on the bike. Changing to a 20t rear cog drops the gear inches (for 700 wheels) into the 26 range for the lowest setting.

I know you said that something closer to 24 gear inches would be easier for climbing, but I've progressed to climbing in the mid-40s gear inch range for a portion of the hill before downshifting.

So my understanding was that there was a maximum torque specified by Shimano for the Nexus and Alfine hubs, and that limited the cogs and crank sizes you could use with them. But based on @rhm's comment above I've been seeking details on that and there does not appear to be consensus.

I know Rohloff hubs do have a minimum chainring and maximum cog size you can run without voiding the warranty, and I had found previously a Shimano limit of a 2.1 ratio, but on closer examination it appears that limit applied to the roller brake version of the Nexus 8 hub only.

If there is in fact no limit to how small a chainring and how large a cog you can run on an Alfine, then @rhm is quite right and you can get gear inches into the teens with a 32T chainring and 22T cog.

My Alfine 8 is on a shaft drive bicycle, however, so there is no way to change the chainring as there is no chainring. My Alfine 11 is on a belt drive, which means changing either end of the drivetrain would require a different length belt (basically a new belt). I have another Alfine 11 on a folder, but that has 20 inch wheels and 26 gear inches in 1st so no need to lower that bike's gearing.

If you are climbing significant grades at 40+ gear inches you are a much stronger rider than I am, but I never mash, always spin as I'm nearly 50 and have a history of knee problems. Kudos to you, but you might find that spinning in lower gears is better for your own knees long term.
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