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Advice please on hybrid purchase

Old 04-30-19, 04:51 PM
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VTtrailrider
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Advice please on hybrid purchase

I'm new out here and realize that my question may be old hat, but I still would appreciate some advice. My son (16) needs a new bike and I am fairly sure that I'm going to get him a hybrid. I have a question about what "level" to be looking at.

First: we live in the Green Mountains of Vermont and have all kinds of options around us. We're not going either hardcore road or hardcore mountain with this bike; we're recreational bikers. We're looking for a bike that can do a bit of paved road, rail trails, dirt roads, and some relatively light wood trails. Our go-to in the summer for a quick and pleasant hour or two is the local rail trail, and we have a fine hilly logging road behind our house. I'm thinking that a hybrid is the way to go.

After a quick visit to the bike shop, I can get an entry-level hybrid for about $550 but can then move up the ladder to a $1200+ bike. I understand that obviously the more expensive bike will be a ... better bike. Better components, etc. I get that.

Here's my question: Will we be primarily getting better performance with the $1200 bike or will it extend the range of what my son can do? I don't need to spend an extra $700 for better gear ratios or easier climbing for a 20 mile rail trail ride or dirt road. (He's 16; he can deal.) But if the better components mean that we can take it on rougher terrain, or have an easier time on paved road, then I would pay that in a second.

I can name the bikes I'm looking at, but I really don't want to get into a discussion about different bike makers, etc. I'm curious if folks think a hybrid is the wrong way to go, but I'm mostly curious what I would be getting by spending more on a hybrid.

THANK YOU!!
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Old 05-01-19, 06:13 AM
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Since you plan to ride dirt roads and logging roads, I think he would want a bike with a front suspension. There are various opinions about them here, but I find they make a difference on bumpy terrain. So you could either go the dual-sport hybrid route, or a hardtail mountain bike.

I have a fitness hybrid for roads and rail trails and a hardtail mountain bike for bumpy woods trails and dirt roads. I chose the mountain bike over a dual-sport hybrid because the suspension had thicker stanchions and a little more travel. In other words, it seemed sturdier to me. And when I say mountain bike, I'm not talking about a high-end one... just a step or two up from the entry level provided a good jump in front-suspension quality compared to the dual-sport hybrids.

But the geometry is different, so you'd definitely want him to ride both types to see which one feels better to him. I think either would suit the purpose you've described.

As far as what more money gets you besides higher-end components, I know some manufacturers have different grades of aluminum. For instance, I think the frame on the Giant Toughroad series (which might be another option for you - no suspension but room for wider tires) has a higher grade aluminum than the ones on the Roam series. I don't know how much of a difference that actually makes, but I only mention it because he'll be using the bike on logging roads (which in my experience can be very rough). I would think your local bike shops will be able to give you a better idea of how much difference that could make.

Last edited by AU Tiger; 05-01-19 at 06:26 AM.
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Old 05-01-19, 06:58 AM
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The more expensive hybrid isn't going to go faster or farther.

But its components will likely hold up better over time.

The cheaper bike will have a lower end drivetrain that is susceptible to premature wearing. Lower end bearings and bottom bracket, etc. They will all work fine out of the shop. They will all probably last a while. But eventually one of those parts will fail and need to be replaced. This is true of all bikes, but with lower end parts the failure will occur sooner.

The good part is that everything on the bike can be replaced. So if you bust the bottom bracket, get a new better one. It'll cost $50-$75 with labor. Break the chain? $12 no labor cost. Wear out the cassette? $50 with labor.

You see where I'm going....the cheaper bike will have repairs add to it's cost over the first 1500 miles. The more expensive bike won't.

My opinion is that for a hybrid, the extra $700 up front isn't justified as the added repair costs over the first 2 years MIGHT be $200.

Just as an example I have a Specialized Crosstrail...lower end model. In the first 1000 miles I had to replace a wheel bearing, bottom bracket, cassette, chain, and chain rings. My total repair costs were about $350. But....now my Crosstrail has better components than the bike that costs $400 more than the model I bought. So I come out ahead.

If your kid is going to ride 200 miles a year....no contest. Get the cheap one. You'll be replacing small parts in 5 years, not 5 months.

If he's going to ride 2000 miles a year...then maybe I'd say the bike with higher end components is worth it.

Last edited by Skipjacks; 05-01-19 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 05-01-19, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post

But its components will likely hold up better over time.

The cheaper bike will have a lower end drivetrain that is susceptible to premature wearing. Lower end bearings and bottom bracket, etc. They will all work fine out of the shop. They will all probably last a while. But eventually one of those parts will fail and need to be replaced. This is true of all bikes, but with lower end parts the failure will occur sooner.

If your kid is going to ride 200 miles a year....no contest. Get the cheap one. You'll be replacing small parts in 5 years, not 5 months.
+1

Even my $650 Trek FX needed new pedals in under 1000 miles. The bottom bracket was grinding after 1500 miles. The manufacturer has to cut corners somewhere and it usually translates to lower quality parts here and there.
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Old 05-01-19, 07:24 AM
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Thank you both very much. I started a response to AU Tiger, which I will add here, but Skipjacks I'm hearing your advice.

To AU Tiger (and anyone else): Thank you for replying! Everything you say makes sense. I wouldn't say I'm committed to the one-bike approach, but he's outgrown our other bikes and I need to start by buying one. We have a fitness/training hybrid which is a beautiful bike, but now too small; it's great for roads and for rail trails. He leans the other way now, away from roads: he wants something for rail trails > dirt/logging roads. I guess that's really where I'm stuck. Your solution is a good one; I just can't bring myself to buy two bikes at the moment.

Let me try to make this more specific, and I'll begin by humbly acknowledging that I'm almost certainly going to get a Trek. I like the local store, I know people who work there, and they've been great over the years. (I realize that part of the fun out here is comparing different makes and models! That's not where I am at the moment) I can move my question to one of the Trek specific threads. But for now: I've been looking at the DS4 (dual sport) but for the same price I can get the Roscoe 7 (or 8) or, for more, the Fuel EX5. The latter two are classified as trail/mountain bikes. I bet my boy would love either, and I assume they could do logging roads without any problem. So now a new question: are they too heavy/clunky for a 20-30 mile rail trail ride?
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Old 05-01-19, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by VTtrailrider View Post
I bet my boy would love either, and I assume they could do logging roads without any problem. So now a new question: are they too heavy/clunky for a 20-30 mile rail trail ride?
Weight is a non issue if the road is flat.

If the road has hills that take effort to climb, weight starts being a factor.

You might consider a gravel bike. It will look like a road bike with wider tires (width can range from 32mm to 40mm+...depending on what kind of surface you want to ride on. But you have options to do a more pavement friendly tire or a more aggressive off road tire) It will have drop handle bars. It is designed for distance riding on crappy surfaces. It is NOT designed for stump jumping rock pounding true mountain bike type stuff as it will have a rigid front fork.

I have a hybird. I commute to work with it. It's perfect for suburban streets with pot hols and jumping off the occasional curb or evening joints in concrete, etc. It is not my favorite long distance bike because it's not particularly fast. It's just not built for speed, but I can load 50 lbs of gear onto it if I need to and ride around suburbia like a champion.

The gravel bike is my preference for the 40 mile rail trail rides. It's just more suited to distance riding. It goes faster with the same amount of effort so I can go further in the same time. It's MUCH MUCH lighter so I can hit the occasional hill without waiting to die. It'll do fine on good pavement too. It's NOT my first choice for the suburban landscape with potholes, concrete cracks, etc.

I run thinner 32 mm tires because my rail trails are fairly smooth and hardpacked. Many people run on loose gravel / dirt / other assorted slop and have 40mm knobby tires and do great in those conditions. Tire choices massively transform a gravel bike's options. So you have some versatility.

But....the gravel bike will cost a little more than the hybrid.

It is definitely worth looking into. Worst case is you'll look at them and say "Nope. This is not for me."
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Old 05-01-19, 08:23 AM
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From what you say, I think the mountain bike would be a better buy than the Dual Sport. The 27.5+ tires will be a huge advantage to comfort. The DS comes with 38mm tires stock, though it can fit up to about 29x2. Unless you replace the tires, you'll need to keep them aired up pretty good to keep from pinch-flatting on roots and rocks and such. Yes, the MTB options should be good for longer rides. If you keep more moderate tires on them (with lower rolling resistance), they can make for good sort of off-road touring bikes, especially hard tails.
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Old 05-01-19, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by VTtrailrider View Post

Your solution is a good one; I just can't bring myself to buy two bikes at the moment.

I've been looking at the DS4 (dual sport) but for the same price I can get the Roscoe 7 (or 8)
I wasn't clear before. I wasn't saying you should get two bikes - I just mentioned my fitness hybrid for comparison to the mountain bike. For the purpose you describe, I would lean toward the mountain bike. That Roscoe looks nice, and you could even replace the knobby tires with cyclocross tires, which will perform fine on the trails and will really help on on the roads. I have Schwalbe Hurricanes on mine and I really like them.
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Old 05-01-19, 10:10 AM
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You guys are awesome. Thanks! I'm going to look into gravel bikes and I'm definitely following your (plural) thinking on mountain bikes. You have answered my questions brilliantly. I might follow up in one of the Trek threads since I know nothing about trail/mountain bikes ... and in the meantime many thanks!
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Old 05-01-19, 01:05 PM
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I went into a Trek store last weekend to compare an AL series Domane to a similarly priced FX and they recommended the Checkpoint ahead of either. The Checkpoint looked like a nice bike. It was snowing, so I didn't ride one.
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Old 05-01-19, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by dwgwater View Post
I went into a Trek store last weekend to compare an AL series Domane to a similarly priced FX and they recommended the Checkpoint ahead of either. The Checkpoint looked like a nice bike. It was snowing, so I didn't ride one.
The Checkpoint looks like a nice gravel bike, but is the maximum tire size really 38mm? I guess you could probably get a little more than that if you bumped down to 650b tires, but that's still on the small side compared to some of the gravel bikes I've had my eye on (e.g. Jamis Renegade, Fuji Jari). It may not matter if he's happy with 38mm, but for logging roads I think I would want a little wider than that on a bike with no suspension.
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Old 05-01-19, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by AU Tiger View Post
The Checkpoint looks like a nice gravel bike, but is the maximum tire size really 38mm? I guess you could probably get a little more than that if you bumped down to 650b tires, but that's still on the small side compared to some of the gravel bikes I've had my eye on (e.g. Jamis Renegade, Fuji Jari). It may not matter if he's happy with 38mm, but for logging roads I think I would want a little wider than that on a bike with no suspension.
The max tire size on the Checkpoint is a bit of a 'fluid' number.

It was originally sold showing something like 42 or 45mm clearance. (I can't remember which) but Trek measured that using their Bontrager tires and didn't account for other brands that may be listed as 38mm by bulge out to 42mm in reality. So they updated the bike specs. There's a whole thread about it in the Gravel bike forum if you care to go searching for it. There are a lot more details in that thread.

The short version is people are cheesed off as though the bike they bought with 45mm clearance was suddenly smaller because the website was updated. The frame will fit a larger tire as long as the tire is true to the size it's listed as.

Also that bike is awesome. And it comes in orange which makes me all drooly. I want one but can't convince myself to plop down the $1600
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Old 05-01-19, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Skipjacks View Post
The short version is people are cheesed off as though the bike they bought with 45mm clearance was suddenly smaller because the website was updated. The frame will fit a larger tire as long as the tire is true to the size it's listed as.
That makes sense. Can you imagine how much fun it would be if manufacturers were as loosey-goosey with car tire sizes as they are with bike tires?

Also that bike is awesome. And it comes in orange which makes me all drooly. I want one but can't convince myself to plop down the $1600
Yeah, I've been pondering a gravel bike to replace my Fuji Absolute (fitness hybrid). I've never owned a bike with drop bars, but when I was in the local Fuji shop a couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of test riding a Jari and really liked it. I think it would help ward off some numbness in my hands. But I don't have the money to plop down it right now either. And talking about colors, I really like the sand color of the Jamis Renegade Explore - kinda unique for a bike color.
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Old 05-01-19, 10:44 PM
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Not sure someone mentioned this... involve your son in selection
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Old 05-02-19, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
Not sure someone mentioned this... involve your son in selection
Pfft....kid is getting a free bike. He'll get what he gets and won't get upset.

Kids these days, amirite?
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