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I was given a Raleigh Venture comfort bike as a gift a few months ago, and took to riding very well. I am overweight, but dropping quickly. I started at 275 and sit around 250 now after two months of regular riding and a changed diet. I'm quite certain I've outgrown this bike. I struggle to maintain a good speed, usually managing just 11 or 12 mph, and the bike dealer I've been talking to says upgrading will be a tremendous difference, between better tires, lighter frame and a lower riding position.

The speed is frustrating, as this past weekend I took a 30 mile trip, which took over 2 1/2 hours. I stick to the roads, and in S. Florida they are in pretty good shape. So it would appear to me that a road bike is the way to go, but I'm still overweight, and not overly young anymore (37), so I worry maybe my back will hurt?

As a frame of reference, a dealer recommended the Trek FX series as being a little lower than a normal hybrid bike, and I'm looking specifically at the 7.3 FX. With my budget, if I went road bike, it'd half to be the 1.1 from Trek.

My main question is road versus hybrid, but I'm also certainly open to manufacturer suggestions. I am very new, and not about to customize anything, so it has to be a bike that I can buy, not a bike I buy and then change a bunch of stuff. That's not me (yet).

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Cyclocross bikes are a nice combination of bikes. Essentially a rugged road bike. –  Jason Lydon Apr 22 '13 at 14:52
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Thanks to all, great advice. I'm leaving towards the road bike and will try a bunch to make sure I get a good fit. To answer side of the questions - I want more speed for several reasons. One is to be able to start riding with groups. Two is range. I don't mind two or three hour rides - but I want to see more. I see there are bikes with two sets of brakes that let you ride upright or lower as you wish. Ironically the road bikes seem simpler -less gears. Considering I live in a hills free area, that sounds good to me. –  Scott Lewis Apr 29 '13 at 2:25
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5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Firstly, 11 or 12 mph isn't that slow, especially if you're still working on improving your fitness. Try measuring speed in kph instead of mph, as it feels better. You can laugh, but we all do it!

The main thing you should look for in a new bike, IMO is that it fits you. This will improve your comfort. If you're comfortable you'll be able to go faster. Drop handlebars will help with aerodynamics, but probably still less than wearing a less baggy jacket. The weight of the bike is likely to be negligible compared to the weight you've already lost, so don't blow the bank for the sake of a few pounds/grams.

If a road bike fits you properly and doesn't have the handlebars too low compared to the saddle, you ought to be able to get comfortable. That said you can still go pretty fast on a hybrid. I'm no hero, but I have still bagged a few Strava KoM's on my 15kg hybrid, although admittedly I'm talking about little hills in the middle of nowhere!

So get a bike that fits and is comfortable. Obviously that means trying them out and making notes. If you are really serious you can go for an independent bike sizing/fitting or follow an online measurement guide rather than relying on the guy in the shop who will want to sell the bike in front of you.

If you're comfortable on your bike you'll enjoy riding and ride more often. This will make you faster. Have fun!

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Additionally (assuming all else equal) a heavy, slow hybrid will achieve fitness and weightless goals better than a light racer - nothing like a bike that hammers your speed if you ease off to keep you honest..... –  mattnz Apr 23 '13 at 3:19
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@mattnz, I'd be interested to know how you go about achieving the "weightless" goal. I think it could really improve my climbing! ;-) –  James Bradbury Apr 23 '13 at 7:38
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@mattnz I totally disagree with you on the point that a slower bike will help you achieve fitness goals better. I can work just as hard on my light racing bike as I can on a heavy commuter. The only difference is how much fun I'm having on the faster, more comfortable bike. Getting a heavy bike just for the sake of adding weight is just silly. –  jlund3 Apr 23 '13 at 16:15
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@jlund3: Perhaps what I was trying to say (Unsuccesffully it seems) is that there is no need to spend multiple thousands of dollars on a super light weight super fast racer if what you want to do is get fit. –  mattnz Apr 23 '13 at 22:41
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What is your main ambition here?

Is it primarily weight loss? If so, then it sounds like you're doing pretty well on your existing bike. (I'm not necessarily saying "don't get a new bike", I'm more saying "don't get one until you're sure of what you want".)

Or building up the stamina to be able to ride all day? Again, your current bike will do.

Or are you looking at riding faster/further? Well, maybe you've got an argument in that case for getting a new bike. But again, the type of bike to buy should probably be driven by the type of riding you intend doing.

You say you ride on roads, so possibly at face value a road bike would suit. But on the other hand, a hybrid would open up more terrains to you, if that would appeal.

Or the length of your rides? Can you ever see yourself going on multi-day tours? If not, then again a road bike may suit, but if so maybe you should consider a bike that could more easily carry luggage? I don't necessarily mean a hybrid here, check out touring bikes perhaps?

As regards comfort, a lot of bike manufacturers (not sure about Trek) make two flavours of road bike, in terms of the geometry of the frames. The first flavour will be your out-and-out racer. These bikes will be built for performance over comfort. The second flavour places more emphasis on being able to ride all day, the geometry is a little more relaxed and the ride a little more comfortable. It may be worth researching this aspect. But most definitely there are choices even within the "road bike" genre.

Lastly a word of encouragement to keep going. I was in roughly your situation a few years ago, and got back into cycling to lose weight. Totally love it and my biggest regret is that I ever stopped cycling (in my late teens) in the first place. (When I got to the point you're at now, btw, for me it was a no-brainer - I wanted tarmac and speed and went down the road bike route - and in fact just last weekend I did my first century ride.) But there's no better feeling than watching yourself go down the clothes sizes.

And you've got 8 years advantage over me. Well done and good luck!

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I guess cyclocross is the best bet - Actually totally depeds on:

a) What you are trying to do (e.g. ride 2 work, or adventurous riding) 2) Where you are going to do it (e.g. rough terrain, roads with lots of potholes, fine US-rocky road type of thing)

Take a look at Paris Roubaix on Google. You can get away with those bikes anywhere.

I hope this helps :)

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I found a nice used Lemond Poprad on Craigslist. The term 'cyclocross' should get plenty of hits if searched in on line stores. –  Jason Lydon Apr 29 '13 at 15:31
    
hmm...will look into it....I am feel greedy when it comes to Road bikes...they are so light and fast!!! But I am really scared of potholes as I actually hit a pothole on my hybrid a few days ago and got nasty scars and bruses all over!! –  hagubear May 1 '13 at 10:58
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I am 62 and ride a hybrid bike. My back is fine. I have a road bike but since I got the hybrid I don't ride it any more. I put conventional handlebars on the road bike because the drop handlebars made my neck hurt. I've been commuting for about 7 years. When I started I lost 30 lbs. then gained back 10 as I adjusted. I was only moderately overweight however so I'm still OK.

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I recently went through a similar situation -- outgrowing of the hybrid bike. I started riding my bike in the city again in September. Around November, I started going on more, longer rides with friends, and was held back by the gearing, weight, and speed limitations of my very comfortable hybrid. I upgraded to a road bike, and love it. I love being able to take on more challenging climbs and descents, and I ride way more (went from mostly commuting to/from work to 150+ miles a week).

However, I can only attest to the satisfaction I've had in my road bike upgrade experience. I have a very different physical situation from you: mid-twenties, former athlete, was out of shape when I first started riding again, but not overweight.

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