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Can I make my bike "faster"?

Old 01-04-21, 01:26 AM
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ilchymis
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Can I make my bike "faster"?

I have a Specialized AWOL I've been commuting on for a few years, and I'd like to start doing some light bike touring with it, too. Relative to other bikes, however, my AWOL takes a good amount of effort to push along—much more than my road bike, which is to be expected, but also more than other, lighter touring bikes I've tried. This never bothered me on my daily commute (yay, better workout!), but I suspect it would annoy me on longer, multi-day rides.

So I'm wondering what, if anything, I can do to make this bike roll easier. I've checked the obvious stuff: the brake pads aren't rubbing against the discs, the tires aren't rubbing against the fenders, and the drivetrain and bearings all seem to be in good shape.

Some possible factors do come to mind, but I don't have a good intuition about their probable impact:
  1. The tires are stiff, heavy, Kevlar-lined 700x45c Specialized Boroughs. They're also more knobby than I need, but only along the sides and not where the tires actually contact the road.
  2. The wide front rack, which I don't use all that often, probably adds some wind resistance. (Though I don't know how much, relative to the human aerodynamic disaster on the saddle.)
  3. It has a Shimano DH-3N72 dynamo hub, and Shimano dynamos may not have the lowest rolling resistance: https://www.cyclingabout.com/dynamo-...g-lab-testing/
  4. The fenders and mud flaps presumably add some weight and a minor amount of wind resistance (but I really want to keep those...).
  5. The bike is heavy, overall, as equipped: it has a steel frame and weighs something like 37 lbs / 17 kg with my usual gear attached.
Which of these factors is likely to have the biggest impact on this bike's "speed"? I'm especially eager to try any tire upgrades that are likely to help, since I'm just about due for a new pair of tires anyway. Or am I just out of luck, short of getting a bike with a lighter frame?

Thanks for any recommendations. Photo of the bike in question:


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Old 01-04-21, 01:42 AM
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The AWOL is a nice bike. It would make a capable tourer as is. Touring bikes are not noted to be speedy by nature.
That said, the biggest single change you could make would be different tires. Those things you have look sturdy but are slowing you down. Unless you are gravel or off road touring, you don't need that aggressive tread pattern.

The newest "hot" tire maker is Compass, noted for their light weight, supple casings. Google them and see what that looks like and what the buzz is all about in regards to suppleness and speed.

On my tour bike, if I want flat protection, I go with Continental Gatorskins. Not the fastest but dependable. If I want to go faster I am now using Continental GP 5000's, they have about the lowest rolling resistance but are more prone to punctures.

There is always a balancing act between rolling resistance and flat protection, with people choosing to be somewhere along the spectrum depending.

Fenders won't slow you down. Paradoxically, studies show they create less air drag not more. The dyno hub, while creating some resistance, is a feature a lot of tourers would want for power generation while riding and independence from grid based recharging. The front rack is a little chunky but you could spend a lot retrofitting it for a little less weight that probably wouldn't help that much. Your Abus lock is heavy but... depends on how much you value its security.

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Old 01-04-21, 01:53 AM
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Id certainly try taking the front rack off and putting faster tires on. Gatorskins or Hardshells 32mm for example.

Are you happy with your riding position? Your handlebars look to be a few inches above the saddle. Lowering them would give you a more aerodynamic position, but this is a matter of fit, comfort, and choice.

Lighter wheels without a dynamo would make a difference, but be a more expensive change, so maybe wait with that?

What kind of bags are you using to tour with, panniers or bikepacking bags? The latter are more aerodynamic thus faster but may or may not be suitable for your tours.

Keeping the weight of all your gear as low as possible makes a difference as well, of course.
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Old 01-04-21, 02:08 AM
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Change the tyres if you really feel the need. Otherwise comfort makes much more sense than speed when touring. Your bike looks perfect for multi day tours.
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Old 01-04-21, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
The AWOL is a nice bike. It would make a capable tourer as is. Touring bikes are not noted to be speedy by nature.
That said, the biggest single change you could make would be different tires. Those things you have look sturdy but are slowing you down. Unless you are gravel or off road touring, you don't need that aggressive tread pattern.

The newest "hot" tire maker is Compass, noted for their light weight, supple casings. Google them and see what that looks like and what the buzz is all about in regards to suppleness and speed.

On my tour bike, if I want flat protection, I go with Continental Gatorskins. Not the fastest but dependable. If I want to go faster I am now using Continental GP 5000's, they have about the lowest rolling resistance but are more prone to punctures.

There is always a balancing act between rolling resistance and flat protection, with people choosing to be somewhere along the spectrum depending.

Fenders won't slow you down. Paradoxically, studies show they create less air drag not more. The dyno hub, while creating some resistance, is a feature a lot of tourers would want for power generation while riding and independence from grid based recharging. The front rack is a little chunky but you could spend a lot retrofitting it for a little less weight that probably wouldn't help that much. Your Abus lock is heavy but... depends on how much you value its security.

They're not Compass anymore it Rene Herse now which will help with the google'ing

===

OP I have 700x44 Rene Herse tires and while my touring bike isn't as fast as a traditional road bike it's not sluggish by any means.
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Old 01-04-21, 05:04 AM
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+1 for changing the tires. Other than that I'm not sure you'll get more overall benefit from the other weight-saving ideas you mention in the original post.

I'd keep the front rack if you're going to be touring with this bike. Removing it will reduce weight, but spreading the load between front and rear racks will help even out your touring load and make the bike handle better than if you just put everything on the rear rack.

As for the dynamo... yes, it has more rolling resistance than a regular hub, but since it's alreay in place I'd leave it. However, if you know you're not going to use it (or will just use it very rarely) then I'd take it off. You may gain 3-5 watts without the dynamo.

Weight is just something that comes with a touring setup. I personally don't worry about it too much.
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Old 01-04-21, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Id certainly try taking the front rack off and putting faster tires on. Gatorskins or Hardshells 32mm for example.

Are you happy with your riding position? Your handlebars look to be a few inches above the saddle. Lowering them would give you a more aerodynamic position, but this is a matter of fit, comfort, and choice.

Lighter wheels without a dynamo would make a difference, but be a more expensive change, so maybe wait with that?

What kind of bags are you using to tour with, panniers or bikepacking bags? The latter are more aerodynamic thus faster but may or may not be suitable for your tours.

Keeping the weight of all your gear as low as possible makes a difference as well, of course.
Thanks. Judging by the responses so far, it sounds like trying lighter tires should be my first step. (I seem to be in a minority position on this, but I've had terrible luck with Gatorskins, however.)

I do like my current riding position on my AWOL, even though it's higher than on my road bike. Thanks for pointing that out, though; I'll play with it and see if I'm comfortable going a little lower.

I plan to keep a dynamo of some sort on this bike, in any case. So for me, it's not a choice between a dynamo and no dynamo. Rather, it's a choice between my current Shimano dynamo and a potentially more efficient SON dynamo.

I'll be using panniers, at least to start with, because I already own them for commuting purposes.
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Old 01-04-21, 06:21 AM
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Another vote for tires.

Removing the rack will not add much for speed, but if you do not use it, remove it. There is nothing wrong with changing racks for touring compared to biking near home. Touring, I use a Tubus Logo on my bike, but for use around home I put on a rack that has a wider platform in back and put the Logo back in storage.

From the photo, your drop bars are set well above the saddle. I think most people that use drop bars on their touring bikes have the tops of the bars at the same height as the top of saddle. My bars are about 10 to 20 mm lower than the saddle. Your stem also looks very short. My point is that your riding position is not very aero if you are sitting that high. Even if you are a very small rider and need the stem that short, you might try lowering the stem and putting those spacers above the stem instead of below. And flipping the stem would lower it a bit more.

I have the same dynohub on my Lynskey, that does not slow you down to the point it is worth worrying about. If it concerned you, unplug it at the hub. An unplugged dynohub drag is only slightly more than the drag of a non-dyno hub.

If you really need to go fast on a bike tour, maybe you are not enjoying the tour very much. There are a couple former racers on this forum that will ride bikes for touring that are not much different than a race bike with skinny tires, and they will pack ultra light with bike packing gear. But they are former racers and they probably enjoy touring at high speed. Touring is not about bragging about how fast you got to the destination or how many miles you covered that day, it is about enjoying the journey.
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Old 01-04-21, 07:28 AM
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For a slightly softer ride than Gatorskins (or Hardshells for that matter) the GP 4 Seasons are a great tire, though more expensive.

Oh, btw OP, thats a lovely looking bike
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Old 01-04-21, 07:38 AM
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It's a touring bike, so for all of the factors, racks, fenders, dyno hub, it's going to be heavier always, and there is complete truth in wondering why your 18 wheeler isn't like your Miata sports car.

BUT I'm another person who realized a long time ago that lighter slick tires will be a change that you'll notice.
I'm a big fan of schwalbe supreme tires, I'm not familiar with 700 sizes, but they will be both lighter, roll faster and give a nicer ride than the stock tires.

I'd remove the giant front rack also, so between that and tires, you'll take probably 3 pounds off bike?

at a certain point, accept what it is.
and yes, if you want to , lowering bars will help a bit above 25kph, but if you like the position like that, great.
Experiment and see. Just learn how to properly loosen and retighten the various bolts so that you don't damage the headset if you've never done it before.
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Old 01-04-21, 07:42 AM
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Actual instrumented rolling resistance and flat protection tests of touring tires:

https://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/tour-reviews

Schwalbe Marathon Almotion. Word.
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Old 01-04-21, 07:55 AM
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As others have said your best bet is to use lighter, more supple tyres.

A Schwalbe Marathon Almotion is a similar heavy-duty tyre with a one of the lowest rolling resistances around for touring tyres.
However, at around 15-17 Watt for Touring tyres, 21-25 Watt for Gravel tyres and 7 Watt for Road tyres there will always be a noticable difference.

Throw on a Schwalbe Marathon Supreme if you are mostly riding paved roads and still want some puncture resistance or any of the smoother Rene Herse tyres if you want it lighter but at the cost of less puncture resistance.

I don't expect the rack to add much drag but the front and rear will make your bike 1-2 Kg lighter. You could try going more aero by adding a seat pack or even full bikepacking but it is simply a heavy duty touring bike. More for all day 20-30kph (12-18 mph)
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Old 01-04-21, 08:32 AM
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Your bike is heavy to begin with, so its not going to feel quick/nimble as it isnt designed to.
Your riding position is super upright. Thats cool and all, everyone should ride in a position thats comfortable, but that current riding position doesnt allow you to cut through wind which is a massive contributor to speed.
As has been mentioned a ton- new tires will help. But what is most important are quality new tires. Look at Panaracer Gravel King SLICK as they are in 38 and roll well. Or the Schwalbe Marathon Almotion or Supreme. Compass/RH tires come in a few casings and consider the regular or endurance.
If you are good with a narrower tire, then a Continental GP5k in 32 could work well. Compass/RH makes 32mm quality options too.

No idea what type of touring you hope to do or will do, but a 38mm tire will comfortably get you to any place that is on pavement and is perfectly capable for maintained gravel roads too.

Your current tires are shockingly light for a 45mm cheap wire bead tire. But speed involves both the tire's weight, tread compound, casing material, etc. Basically, its more than just the tire's weight. So while you may not save weight on buying a higher quality tire, you will still roll easier. Some of the tires mentioned, like the two Marathon tires, are heavier than your current tire, but will have lower rolling resistance. An RH Barlow Pass in 38mm will save you about 12oz in total weight when using the endurance casing. A Panaraver GravelKing TLC slick in 38 will save you 19oz in total weight compared to your current tires.
Oddly enough, the Schwalbe Marathon Almotion weighs more than the RH and Panaracer tires, yet has as good as/slightly better rolling resistance.

I mention all this to just say that it isnt simply a weight issue. Its a mix of weight an materials. But any of the tires mentioned will roll better than your current ones(and most likely be lighter too).
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Old 01-04-21, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by ilchymis View Post

I plan to keep a dynamo of some sort on this bike, in any case. So for me, it's not a choice between a dynamo and no dynamo. Rather, it's a choice between my current Shimano dynamo and a potentially more efficient SON dynamo.
If my memory is correct, the biggest efficiency difference between the SON and Shimano hubs comes when the lights are off. In the on position, I think the gain is quite small at a large $ cost. I leave my lights on all the time as I figure the efficiency savings between on and off wont be noticeable to me, the switch is probably the weak link in the system so dont mess with it; and, while Im not really a believer in safety benefits of lights in daylight, why not? There are probably other reasons one might choose SON over Shimano but, if one leaves the lights on all the time, a gain in speed would be at the bottom of the list of reasons for me, not the top.
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Old 01-04-21, 09:33 AM
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Another vote for tires..they can make a world of difference. A couple bikes I've purchased had "tires" on them that made road riding feel like I was riding in soft sand. New, fast, easy rolling, lightweight, supple (pick a descriptor) tires made them feel like a new-different bike.

Of course, you want decent flat protection too, but you can get both.

Some specific suggestions(tire mfg make many types within a model-line of tires, it's easy to buy the right model tire and still get the wrong variant within that model):

>>Schwalbe Big Ben HS 439: they seem to make a 700x38. Get the Raceguard model (not K-Gaurd, or Big Ben Plus), their model# is 11100564. I run Big Bens on my tour bike in 26x50. Cushy, easy rolling tires..love them. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t..._tires/big_ben

>>Schwalbe Big Apple HS 430: This is a lighter weight version of the Big Ben (or, more accurately maybe, the Big Ben is a more robust version of the original Big Apple). They make 622 x 50 version..though it'll be heavier than the BB above.

>>Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS 469: I've not run these..yet..but folks seem to love them. I'm becoming a fan of Schwalbe tires. I'd like to try these. Looks like they make a 700x40. Schwalbe rates these as not so great off road (the BB above are quite good there). I ran some Vittoria Hypers that had a tread similar to the Supremes..on road..wonderful tires(I wish they still made them)..on damp-wet rail trails..bad. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t...rathon_supreme

>>Schwalbe Marathon Almotion HS 453: Another well-loved tire I'd like to try. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t...athon_Almotion


>>Panaracer Gravel King slicks: I run these on several of my bikes, my GF runs them on her touring bike..fast road tire, good on light trails/gravel, lightweight, no issues with flats. There's lots of new models in the "GK" lineup lately..be sure you get the right ones (not the SK or Plus versions)
https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...31278478032960

>>Panaracer GK SS: Looks like there's a new SS version that is between the slick and SK..might be a good candidate for touring. They also come in a larger 700x43. Appears to be a very nice tire. The SK(small knob) version(surprisingly!) runs pretty fast on the road(in my experience)..I'd guess the SS version should be about the same as the slick version.
https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...35638826827936

The best sources I've found for the Schwalbe tires are Bike24 in Germany & Bikesmiths in Milwaukee for Gravelkings.
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Old 01-04-21, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ilchymis View Post
Thanks. Judging by the responses so far, it sounds like trying lighter tires should be my first step. (I seem to be in a minority position on this, but I've had terrible luck with Gatorskins, however.)
Not sure what tire width you're looking for, but the Panaracer Gravel King tires would work well with that bike in general and would also work well for a touring application. They make a few different versions from semi-slick to moderate sized knobs, depending on your preferred tread.
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Old 01-04-21, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post
Another vote for tires..they can make a world of difference. A couple bikes I've purchased had "tires" on them that made road riding feel like I was riding in soft sand. New, fast, easy rolling, lightweight, supple (pick a descriptor) tires made them feel like a new-different bike.

Of course, you want decent flat protection too, but you can get both.

Some specific suggestions(tire mfg make many types within a model-line of tires, it's easy to buy the right model tire and still get the wrong variant within that model):

>>Schwalbe Big Ben HS 439: they seem to make a 700x38. Get the Raceguard model (not K-Gaurd, or Big Ben Plus), their model# is 11100564. I run Big Bens on my tour bike in 26x50. Cushy, easy rolling tires..love them. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t..._tires/big_ben

>>Schwalbe Big Apple HS 430: This is a lighter weight version of the Big Ben (or, more accurately maybe, the Big Ben is a more robust version of the original Big Apple). They make 622 x 50 version..though it'll be heavier than the BB above.

>>Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS 469: I've not run these..yet..but folks seem to love them. I'm becoming a fan of Schwalbe tires. I'd like to try these. Looks like they make a 700x40. Schwalbe rates these as not so great off road (the BB above are quite good there). I ran some Vittoria Hypers that had a tread similar to the Supremes..on road..wonderful tires(I wish they still made them)..on damp-wet rail trails..bad. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t...rathon_supreme

>>Schwalbe Marathon Almotion HS 453: Another well-loved tire I'd like to try. https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_t...athon_Almotion


>>Panaracer Gravel King slicks: I run these on several of my bikes, my GF runs them on her touring bike..fast road tire, good on light trails/gravel, lightweight, no issues with flats. There's lots of new models in the "GK" lineup lately..be sure you get the right ones (not the SK or Plus versions)
https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...31278478032960

>>Panaracer GK SS: Looks like there's a new SS version that is between the slick and SK..might be a good candidate for touring. They also come in a larger 700x43. Appears to be a very nice tire. The SK(small knob) version(surprisingly!) runs pretty fast on the road(in my experience)..I'd guess the SS version should be about the same as the slick version.
https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...35638826827936

The best sources I've found for the Schwalbe tires are Bike24 in Germany & Bikesmiths in Milwaukee for Gravelkings.
Some good suggestions here. The Big Ben used to be known as the "Little Big Ben" in smaller sizes. I recently bought a pair in 40-622 which were 38mm mounted.

The Supremes are nice tyres but as you said, not that great in mud or sand. Supple sidewalls however mean you can let out some air and ride some pretty loose terrain.

If you don't mind spending a bit more or even want some more bling there are several Panaracer-made offerings in fancy colours. But no idea on how they ride as I still want to try some of them myself.
Examples are:And personally I have used the Continental Urban GP (35-622) the past few years on my touring bike with good results. They are only now going slightly slippery in the rear. No idea of how much distance I have ridden on them.
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Old 01-04-21, 12:57 PM
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Many years ago, Bicycling! magazine tested two bikes the same month, one costing nearly 10x the other. Just for grins, they swapped wheels on the bikes. Everyone on staff preferred riding the inexpensive bike with the top-shelf wheels over the superbike with the garden-variety wheels.

So, new wheels? Lighter, higher-quality bearings, fresh, light wt. grease, tubeless. It's only money.
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Old 01-04-21, 01:10 PM
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As far as switching dyno hubs for lower resistance, I think I'd paint the bike red first. Everybody knows red bikes are faster.
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Old 01-04-21, 01:24 PM
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Tires, move the spacers under the stem to top, wheels. Front rack is fine. Heavier bike mostly means smaller gears for climbing, stock gearing should be fine. MTB shoes, SPD pedals, double sided. Carry trail runners..
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Old 01-04-21, 01:42 PM
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I'll bet you could cut almost 20% off the weight of your bike by removing the front rack, fenders, and going with lighter tires. Is it worth it ? that's for you to decide but dropping 7 lbs while climbing is noticeable for some individuals
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Old 01-04-21, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post
>>Panaracer GK SS: Looks like there's a new SS version that is between the slick and SK..might be a good candidate for touring. They also come in a larger 700x43. Appears to be a very nice tire. The SK(small knob) version(surprisingly!) runs pretty fast on the road(in my experience)..I'd guess the SS version should be about the same as the slick version.
https://www.thebikesmiths.com/collec...35638826827936
I am running the regular version GK SS 43 tubeless on my gravel bike and oh man its a great tire. It lacks the traction/connection of my old WTB Resolute tires on loose steep climbs, but it is such a nice rolling tire in all other instances so far that it more than makes up for that one negative.
It met everything I was looking for- between 40 and 45mm, tan wall, tubeless without leaking sidewalls, relatively light, relatively fast.
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Old 01-04-21, 03:18 PM
  #23  
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who knew Jan Heine was following you, ilchymis ?
https://www.renehersecycles.com/what-makes-a-bike-fast/
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Old 01-04-21, 07:21 PM
  #24  
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You can do anything you set your mind to!

I like a lot of folks would swap tires but honestly I wouldn't really do much to make it lighter unless you are looking to swap out a bunch of parts and at that point I don't know it is worth it. I liked that bike minus maybe the front crank (in terms of gearing). I really wanted the dynamo light/charger switch and still do but it was never an aftermarket part and they wouldn't sell me one. The dynamo hub maybe a little heavy but honestly I don't see a reason to swap it unless you have another bike to use it on then I might consider but then again I would build up a custom wheel set at that point. Of course SON would be my first choice for front and maybe a White Industries XMR hub at the back. Lace them to some Velocity Dyads with Sapim Strong spokes and Secure Lock brass nips and you got a good touring wheel set.
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Old 01-04-21, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mrv View Post
thanks for showing this article. Super interesting
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