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I ride a 2011 Trek Navigator 1 with 7-speed derailleur. Purchased in August of 2011, I've tried to ride as often as possible. My longest rides have been approximately 12 miles in length. I've equipped the bike with SKS fenders and a rear rack. I'm getting to the point where I'd like to start taking longer rides, maybe 10 or miles each way. Is this sort of riding unfeasible on a "comfort" bike?

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With this bike you can ride 14 hours in a single day, or go perhaps ride 200km in a single day (seriously!), without the risk of anyone reasonably question if the bike is appropriate or not. For the distance you pointed, no problem AT ALL, even ten times that. It depends only on fitness, nice road, and nice mood. But you have to grow this distance small steps each time, depending mostly on your age. Go for it!! –  heltonbiker Jan 16 '12 at 17:48
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No reason (other than the lack of low gears in the mountains) that you couldn't ride that bike across the US. You may discover, eg, that you'd do better on a "road" saddle, or that the heavy tires are slowing you down a hair, but all those things come in due time. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 16 '12 at 22:08
    
I voted to close. There are way too many variables as to "longest reasonable distance". Looks like a chat/opinion question to me. –  user313 Jan 18 '12 at 1:15
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The question was not intended as a chat/opinion question. I am new enough to bicycling this was a real question. By all means close the discussion if you wish. The answers have been extremely informative to me. –  C-Tenn Jan 18 '12 at 1:37
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5 Answers

I would argue that there is no limitation on distance the biggest limitation you will have will be on: Speed and Comfort over time.

Speed

Comfort bikes arn't made to go fast. They are designed to be ridden around in a leisurely way. Variables limiting speed include:

  • Aerodynamics - you are sitting as upright as possible
  • % of your speed/strength you can use while pedaling - Mountain bikes are designed so that the rider has good control and can soak up bumps. Road bikes are designed to be maximally aerodynamic and to allow the rider to use their leg muscles effectively. Comfort bikes are designed so that you will be comfortable sitting on the seat. I have always found that when riding a comfort bike I cannot use my muscles nearly as effectively. On a road or mountain bike it is much easier to use your upper body to provide leverage to your legs out of the saddle.
  • Weight - shouldn't have an effect on a constant speed but when speeding up you will notice the weight of your bike. You will also notice the extra weight when climbing. In all other situation weight shouldn't make any difference.

Comfort over time

Road bikes and to a lesser extent mountain bikes are made to be comfortable for long period of time for more dedicated riders. Just looking at the seat as a case study we find: wide seats are comfortable immediately but after sitting on it for an extended period of time:

  • You will experience chaffing
  • You will possibly need to rock your hips to reach around the seat to push the pedals
  • You cannot use your entire body properly which may lead to injured muscles
  • You cannot soak up bumps at all which may lead to a sore/stiff back

Conclusion

  • If you goal is to cover distance get a new bike. You will go double your distance.
  • If your goal is to get a good workout and you are not experiencing discomfort keep your current bike and go further.
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I agree you should get the most of your bike before considering to change it for another. You can reposition yourself, use narrower tires, swap some minor components... I like to ride comfort bikes and they can be efficient if you set up a more "sporty" cockpit. +1 –  heltonbiker Jan 16 '12 at 17:50
    
@heltonbiker Good points. The tires he has on there (assuming he hasn't changed from the stock) look slick -> pretty fast. He could swap in a narrower seat and maybe lower his handlebars but it maybe better to start looking for the next craigslist special. –  sixtyfootersdude Jan 16 '12 at 19:32
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+1 The limitation isn't so much distance as it is speed and time. Your speed will not be as fast as on a more traditional non-racing road bike. Your comfort will be limited for longer efforts due to the unsuitability of the bike for those sorts of tasks. Ride longer distances until you get to the point where you're uncomfortable; then you'll know. –  Stephen Touset Jan 16 '12 at 19:53
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I have a similar bike and have had no problems riding it on 70 KM tours. Spend a minimal amount of money for a narrower saddle, and possibly a stem and handlebars to lower handlebars and you should be fine. These can be picked up used for next to nothing. –  Kibbee Jan 18 '12 at 1:18
    
Great answer. Thank you. A friend is giving me the Razesa touring roadbike he bought at Madrid in the mid-Eighties. It'll be awhile before we can meet up, though. Hoping for greater distance in less time, which really does seem to be the point of my question. These answers have gone a long way to clarify that for me. Again, thanks. C. –  C-Tenn Jan 18 '12 at 1:43
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My longest rides have been approximately 12 miles in length. I've equipped the bike with SKS fenders and a rear rack. I'm getting to the point where I'd like to start taking longer rides, maybe 10 or miles each way. Is this sort of riding unfeasible on a "comfort" bike?

A twenty mile ride is definitely not unfeasible based on what you describe. You're already doing 12 miles, so adding 8 more shouldn't be a problem, depending on your fitness level and the terrain. (Terrain will be a big factor. A "reasonable distance" on flat terrain may very well be "unreasonable" on very hilly terrain.)

Anecdotally speaking... I know several people who regularly ride 20 to 50 miles on comfort bikes. I also know a few who would find 10 miles challenging. The "longest reasonable" distance is a bit subjective, but based on the description of your goal, you should be fine.

And like heltonbiker mentioned, you may want to use narrower tires and possibly swap out your seat.

I would suggest experimentation. Gradually add distance and time on the bike, and your body will let you know.

Good luck.

A quick note... I was just in the local bike shop at lunch picking up a tube and took a look at "comfort" bikes. My impression is that if I wanted to ride a "comfort" bike for relatively long distances... I would change the seat to something more like a road bike seat. The stock seats look fine for maybe 2 or 3 hours, but beyond that, I'd really want a skinnier seat. And depending on the stock tires, I might want to change those as well.

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One of the first rides I did with my (now) wife was a 60 mile course, which she rode on a Mountain bike. It was easy to know she was with me, because the wide knobby tires made enough noise to hear from a distance. The rolling resistance had to be sky high. She wasn't happy with the ride, but she finished.

After that ride we immediately shopped for a new bike.

The point is that it's not the bike that is the limitation, it's you in combination with the bike. If it's not working out you'll know pretty quickly, and the attempt won't kill you. Try it and see.

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I will probably get a narrower saddle as others have suggested and continue to try longer rides until I can get a road bike. Thank you. –  C-Tenn Jan 18 '12 at 12:21
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It's totally reasonable to ride such distances (and even much longer) on a Navigator.

I have a 2003 Navigator back in Poland. It was my "return to cycling as an adult" bike. I've done many 30+ mile rides on it in rolling terrain. I don't think it would be much fun on a super hilly ride (due mostly to the bike's heft) but even that is doable. As people have mentioned, you can't be in a hurry -- the bike is not meant to go fast.

Ride regularly, increase your mileage slowly (10% per week is an oft-quoted figure) and enjoy your bike.

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Also my return to bicycling as an adult bike. –  C-Tenn Jan 18 '12 at 1:44
    
I've read the 10% per week increase not only for cyclists, but also for distance runners. It's good advice. Don't forget to listen to your body, though. Something starts to hurt, you may want to dial back the distance increases. As a reference, my mother started cycling on a schwinn cruiser adult tricycle. First time out, (16 months ago) she could barely go around the block. Now she's doing 8 miles everyday, rain, wind, or brutal houston heat, she's out there. –  Zeus A. Mar 6 '13 at 23:52
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My 2010 Trek Navigator 3.0 is a quality bike capable of being ridden as far as your rear will stand. My longest single day ride was 50 miles on this bike. The gearing on the Trek is quite Low having a similar 34 tooth cassette as some mountain bikes and most certainly lower geared than most of the road bikesI've examined.

In 2010, I put 1500 miles on it and upgraded to a Surly LHT after I convinced myself that biking was going to remain a part of my life. I am 6'2 and ~230 so I am a big guy, but the bike did not care. Trek builds three versions of the Navigator old ones are 100 - 300 and the newer ones are 1.0 - 3.0 with the 3 series having better components, ie, shifters, seats, hand grips.

The problem for long rides with this bike is also it's advantage. According to bike shop employees, most Comfort customers ride less than 10 miles at a time and the upright position is very comfortable. Road and touring bikes distribute the weight over the seat and the bars and while it took my arms awhile to stop aching from the change on the LHT, eventually you find yourself quite comfortable in that non-upright position. Must be why they build so many that are NOT upright. The simple point is that after 10 miles my hands and my rear hurt and that means stopping more frequently than you or your friends will like on a long ride. Several 'fittings' impacted my wallet but not hands or my rear.

Personally I see the Hybrids in the comfort class, but with skinny tires and better shifters. You still ride them upright though. To be fair though, my Daughter-in-Law ~45, can ride a century on her Hybrid, and I only wish I could keep up with her for 5 miles, much less a 100.

My Navigator served me very well.

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