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Mountain or hybrid?

Old 10-01-18, 11:42 AM
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Archerobx
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Mountain or hybrid?

Background: last year did the 335 For Veterans ride from Pittsburgh to DC.I ended up borrowing a mountain bike that was too small. I want to do it again but I want my own bike that fits. I most likely will not be doing aggressive mountain biking, honestly probably just rails to trails stuff. Im 5'11" 215lb.

Im not sure if a mountain bike or hybrid would be the way to go. The C&O trail is the part that concerns me. Any thoughts or insight would be great.

thank you
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Old 10-01-18, 11:48 AM
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A hybrid with at least 35 mm wide tires should be fine.
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Old 10-01-18, 11:58 AM
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Between a mountain and a hybrid? Hybrid. No contest.

It'll have better gearing for speed in the flats than a true mountain bike that will be low gears for going up cliffs and over boulders and stuff.

It'll also be half the cost or less than a decent mountain bike and will be completely serviceable for the kind of riding you are talking about doing.

If you ride the C&O a lot when its' mucky out, you can put a more aggressive tread tire on a hybrid. But for 99% of that trail a 35mm - 40mm tire with even a little bit of tread will be fine. People ride that trail on road bikes with 25mm treadless tires. (I mean I wouldn't...but people do. And they get where they are going)

A 3rd option though is a gravel bike. It'll have road bike(ish) geometry and gearing so you'll be much more efficient with each peddle stroke. Over a 300 mile ride you'll notice the difference. But it's designed to be efficient on a gravel surface (or hardpack crushed stone like the C&O) with plenty of tire clearance in the fork to prevent mud from building up. They will have disc brakes, again so mud doesn't pack up the brakes. The downside is that it'll cost more than a hybrid.

Last edited by Skipjacks; 10-01-18 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
Background: last year did the 335 For Veterans ride from Pittsburgh to DC.I ended up borrowing a mountain bike that was too small. I want to do it again but I want my own bike that fits. I most likely will not be doing aggressive mountain biking, honestly probably just rails to trails stuff. Im 5'11" 215lb.

Im not sure if a mountain bike or hybrid would be the way to go. The C&O trail is the part that concerns me. Any thoughts or insight would be great.

thank you
There are cyclocross bikes available that are capable of doing gravel roads very well. 32 mm semi-knobbies are best and you can use the same bike for road riding simply by having a set of replacement wheels with road tires on them. Or changing your tires to 25 mm road tires.

I am not familiar with the sort of roads and paths that are on the route but I have a couple of CX bikes to do the Bay Trails here in San Francisco bay area. A lot of people are buying mountain bikes even though these things are designed for rough off-road riding and are too heavy and awkward for most riding. Cyclocross bikes are little more than road bikes with slightly longer wheelbases and more clearance to accept wider tires. I dislike disk brakes and very much prefer a high end set of V-brakes which are lighter, more aerodynamic and cheaper. They make tire repair a lot easier and use STANDARD parts and not something different for every manufacturer.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:05 PM
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I did the mt bike first, now have a hybrid (sirrus).
that I ride 99% of the time.
....Hybrid ...
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Old 10-01-18, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
Background: last year did the 335 For Veterans ride from Pittsburgh to DC.I ended up borrowing a mountain bike that was too small. I want to do it again but I want my own bike that fits. I most likely will not be doing aggressive mountain biking, honestly probably just rails to trails stuff. Im 5'11" 215lb.

Im not sure if a mountain bike or hybrid would be the way to go. The C&O trail is the part that concerns me. Any thoughts or insight would be great.

thank you
I haven't ridden the C&O, but I have ridden my FX 3 on similar trails with 32 mm Gatorskins. It's fine for that, but you'd probably want nobbier tires in case of mud. For that distance, definitely get bar ends. How were your hands on 335 miles?

The Trek FX series are probably the fastest hybrids, but definitely try one out to see if it suits you--it's more of a road posture than your typical hybrid.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I haven't ridden the C&O, but I have ridden my FX 3 on similar trails with 32 mm Gatorskins. It's fine for that, but you'd probably want nobbier tires in case of mud. For that distance, definitely get bar ends. How were your hands on 335 miles?

The Trek FX series are probably the fastest hybrids, but definitely try one out to see if it suits you--it's more of a road posture than your typical hybrid.

I have spinal stenosis so after second day my right had was like I had a stroke, I couldn't even hold a fork correctly. went away after couple weeks.
it had bar ends which helped a lot
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Old 10-01-18, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
Between a mountain and a hybrid? Hybrid. No contest.

It'll have better gearing for speed in the flats than a true mountain bike that will be low gears for going up cliffs and over boulders and stuff.

It'll also be half the cost or less than a decent mountain bike and will be completely serviceable for the kind of riding you are talking about doing.

If you ride the C&O a lot when its' mucky out, you can put a more aggressive tread tire on a hybrid. But for 99% of that trail a 35mm - 40mm tire with even a little bit of tread will be fine. People ride that trail on road bikes with 25mm treadless tires. (I mean I wouldn't...but people do. And they get where they are going)

A 3rd option though is a gravel bike. It'll have road bike(ish) geometry and gearing so you'll be much more efficient with each peddle stroke. Over a 300 mile ride you'll notice the difference. But it's designed to be efficient on a gravel surface (or hardpack crushed stone like the C&O) with plenty of tire clearance in the fork to prevent mud from building up. They will have disc brakes, again so mud doesn't pack up the brakes. The downside is that it'll cost more than a hybrid.

I was planning on using my road bike but after the storms and seeing the trail I scrambled for different bike. I don't think even under perfect conditions I would want to use a road bike.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:32 PM
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Thank y'all for the advice.
I haven't looked at gravel or cycle cross bikes but I will compare them.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
I was planning on using my road bike but after the storms and seeing the trail I scrambled for different bike. I don't think even under perfect conditions I would want to use a road bike.
Like I said. I wouldn't try it. And I'll add that I think people who do are nuts. But people do it and survive it. So the point is that any 2 wheeled bicycle shaped object will work. The question is what makes it easier/more comfortable.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
Thank y'all for the advice.
I haven't looked at gravel or cycle cross bikes but I will compare them.
True cylocross bikes are going to have a more aggressive geometry and made for racing. They will be faster than a gravel bike, but not as comfortable fro a 300+ mile ride. They are made for hour long races. They don't usually have a lot of mounting points for packs and bags. They also cost more.

A gravel bike (which could reasonably be confused for a touring road bike) has all the attributes of a cross bike with a more upright riding position for comfort on longer rides. And they usually have more mounting points for packs and bags and frames and stuff. And they cost half as much as cylocross bikes.

Of course some manufacturers and a lot of stores use 'gravel' and 'cylocross' interchangeably. So....test ride everything before you buy so you know what it really is.
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Old 10-01-18, 12:52 PM
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Between MTB or Hybrid, I would pick MTB and change the tires out to best fit the ride.

If you are now considering a Gravel Bike then I would go with that over the MTB.
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Old 10-01-18, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
I have spinal stenosis so after second day my right had was like I had a stroke, I couldn't even hold a fork correctly. went away after couple weeks.
it had bar ends which helped a lot

You better be careful--I ride centuries on my hybrid and get some numbness, but I've never had it impair the use of my hand. That sounds like you could do some permanent nerve damage.

Gravel bikes tend to be pricey, but that's some extreme demands you're making on your hands when they're not used to the flat bars. You don't have problems with the drop bars on your road bike, do you?

BTW, I think that's really cool you toughed out the too small bike last year doing something you weren't used to, but between your hands and your back, I'm worried you could hurt yourself if you don't pick the right bike this time.
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Old 10-01-18, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
BTW, I think that's really cool you toughed out the too small bike last year doing something you weren't used to, but between your hands and your back, I'm worried you could hurt yourself if you don't pick the right bike this time.
Being on a bike that's too small could have caused his problems. The same bike in the right size might have given him 3 days of painless comfort.

Correct fit is a HUGE factor in any bike.

But like you said....that's downright badassery to tough it out like that.
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Old 10-01-18, 05:41 PM
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I recommend a hybrid or "adventure" bike, whichever one has handlebars you find comfortable and gearing for some hills. I personally find most gearing on road bikes to be particularly useless anywhere but flatland. Hand numbness is generally associated with too much weight on the hands and/or too few hand positions. You can ameliorate the problem with doubling the layers of handlebar tape, but you're putting too much pressure on the nerves in the heel of your hands.

From what I've heard and read about the C&O and Gap rail trails, sometimes it's wet and you need wider tires. For a hybrid, I would recommend the Surly Knards, 700x41, which are moderately knobby yet have a center knob pattern that will help reduce paved rolling resistance when pumped to maximum pressure. They give more traction and stability when conditions warrant.
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Old 10-01-18, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
You better be careful--I ride centuries on my hybrid and get some numbness, but I've never had it impair the use of my hand. That sounds like you could do some permanent nerve damage.

Gravel bikes tend to be pricey, but that's some extreme demands you're making on your hands when they're not used to the flat bars. You don't have problems with the drop bars on your road bike, do you?

BTW, I think that's really cool you toughed out the too small bike last year doing something you weren't used to, but between your hands and your back, I'm worried you could hurt yourself if you don't pick the right bike this time.
thank you
I need surgery and am nervous about it. I didn't know the bike was too small util one of the guys said we need to make some adjustments lol
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Old 10-01-18, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
Being on a bike that's too small could have caused his problems. The same bike in the right size might have given him 3 days of painless comfort.

Correct fit is a HUGE factor in any bike.

But like you said....that's downright badassery to tough it out like that.
thank you but honestly I didn't know any better lol
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Old 10-01-18, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by DeadGrandpa View Post
From what I've heard and read about the C&O and Gap rail trails, sometimes it's wet and you need wider tires.
Plan on it being wet if you're doing it this year.

It has been raining in this area since June.
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Old 10-02-18, 09:09 AM
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Mnt or Hybrid

Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
Background: last year did the 335 For Veterans ride from Pittsburgh to DC.I ended up borrowing a mountain bike that was too small. I want to do it again but I want my own bike that fits. I most likely will not be doing aggressive mountain biking, honestly probably just rails to trails stuff. Im 5'11" 215lb.

Im not sure if a mountain bike or hybrid would be the way to go. The C&O trail is the part that concerns me. Any thoughts or insight would be great.

thank you
You could get a rigid 29er or 27+ bike also, though most will come geared as a 1x11 or 1x12 anymore it seems. I've ridden the C&O on a hybrid with 700x35 tires on it. Trail was mostly dry, though I still encountered mud holes to ride around and through. It did just fine. Regarding the numb hands...proper size will help. With a flat bar bike, you could also go with Velo Orange crazy bars to give you more options to move your hands around to hopefully prevent numbness in the future. Good luck.
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Old 10-02-18, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Craptacular8 View Post
You could get a rigid 29er or 27+ bike also, though most will come geared as a 1x11 or 1x12 anymore it seems. I've ridden the C&O on a hybrid with 700x35 tires on it. Trail was mostly dry, though I still encountered mud holes to ride around and through. It did just fine. Regarding the numb hands...proper size will help. With a flat bar bike, you could also go with Velo Orange crazy bars to give you more options to move your hands around to hopefully prevent numbness in the future. Good luck.

The problem with the flat bars and hands, though, is even with a good fit, problems can creep in with very long distances. I ride my FX 3 with bar ends, and I'm just fine for distances up to a century, but if I go beyond that, I get numbness that I can't shake off just by changing positions, and it can last several days.

OP has the extremely complicated situation of trying to balance the postural needs to deal with stenosis vs. good hand placements, and it sounds like there's going to need to be some checking stuff out to customize the fit--the crazy bars might be a great idea! Jones bars as well? I don't have any experience with these kind of bars.
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Old 10-02-18, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
thank you but honestly I didn't know any better lol

It takes no special knowledge to bail, just need to get an Uber.

Like it or not, you were a badass!
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Old 10-02-18, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Archerobx View Post
thank you
I need surgery and am nervous about it. I didn't know the bike was too small util one of the guys said we need to make some adjustments lol

I'm wondering if the proper order of things is get the surgery, then pick the bike once you've recovered. You might get enough improvement in your back to widen your options.

My understanding is they're doing some amazing things for spinal stenosis with microsurgery and new techniques, so here's hoping!
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Old 10-02-18, 12:34 PM
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I've ridden sections of the C&O several times over the past 7 years. I would go in this order:

1. Gravel bike with at least 35c tires
2. Hard Tail mountain bike... preferably 29er or 27.5.
3. Hybrid bike
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Old 10-02-18, 01:47 PM
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Go ride a bunch of bikes in the correct size for a distance of 10 miles or more. This will help determine what category bike suits your needs best.
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Old 10-03-18, 08:34 PM
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Over the years, the mountain bike has gone more extreme, and has grown away from its most common use. Arguably now, the hybrid is closer to the original mountain bike ethos, and is better for it's most common usage/rider.
For me though, hybrids still have tyres that are too skinny, over wheels that are too big.
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