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I have an Electra Townie 7d, and I'm quite fond of her (sorry, I do anthropomorphize my bike) as a commuter and farmer's-market hauler, but I'd like a more efficient bike for afternoon-trips (say, 50 miles round-trip), mostly on rails-to-trails with gravel or dirt surfaces.

I have done 40 miles on the Townie, but it's harder than I think it needs to be. She's slow (I sometimes have trouble keeping up with my husband on his Trek FX), she absolutely loathes even slight uphill inclines, and because so much of my weight is thrown backward, the longer rides give me a numb butt.

About me:

  • Hefty. Figure me + gear + water = 250 lbs.
  • Casual rider
  • Forty. FORGET about anything but a relatively upright position.
  • Not great at bike maintenance (I can fix a flat, change brake pads, and adjust my saddle... that's about it).

What I think I'm looking for (feel free to disagree):

  • Something in the hybrid/fitness/touring line
  • Aluminum frame (I don't trust myself to maintain steel properly; also, my Townie is heavily scratched, so...)
  • No fancy "suspension" forks, please.
  • Women's geometry (mixte or step-through a plus, but not required)
  • Straight handlebars, possibly with upright bar-ends
  • Quality components and minimal maintenance a HUGE plus. Internal hub, maybe?
  • Braze-ons for two bottle cages and a rear rack (I'm old; on day trips I carry first aid for the bike AND for me...) Rear fender a plus, but I can live with a mudguard.

What bike models might work? How do I best eliminate models that won't? Let's say a maximum of USD$3000 for price, but cheaper would be fabulous. Please also rec good components that I should be looking at, considering my weight.

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What about the hubby - can you distribute gear to him? A lighter wheelset might be worth considering. –  OMG Ponies Mar 12 '12 at 3:42
    
I got him panniers, so yes. ;) I just got a skinnier rear wheel and am amazed at the speed difference in the bike, so doing the same on the front wheel may well be my next trick. Thanks! –  dsalo Mar 12 '12 at 21:19
2  
I had a similar experience ...with the wheels, not the hubby :) –  OMG Ponies Mar 13 '12 at 1:55

3 Answers 3

  • Any standard non-racing bike can handle 250 pounds.
  • If you can handle those maintenance items you're better than the average cyclist.
  • There's no extra maintenance required for a steel vs aluminum frame -- it takes decades for rust to damage a steel frame even if left outside most of the time. An aluminum frame, being a softer metal, is somewhat more easily damaged (though the difference is probably negligible in normal conditions). But aluminum may be 2-3 pounds lighter.
  • If you're having trouble keeping up with your hubby you probably want something with a few more gears. An internal gear hub likely is a step in the wrong direction.

I think basically you just want a good quality "hybrid". The Cannondale Quick 3, for instance, would meet most of your requirements, though there are no doubt a dozen others. The only real problem with the Quick 3 is that it's got 700C wheels and, depending on your height, you might be better off with a 26" wheel. Unfortunately, good women's bikes in smaller sizes are a rarity.

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Thanks! I'm 5'9" (sorry, should have mentioned), so I don't need an especially small frame. –  dsalo Mar 11 '12 at 22:08
    
@dsalo: Given your husband has a Trek FX... If you like the local store that sells Treks, Trek have a whole Trek FX WSD line that's basically the same thing in a women's geometry. –  freiheit Mar 11 '12 at 23:51
    
Definitely on my list, thanks! –  dsalo Mar 12 '12 at 0:09

Look at the new Venture series from Scott. Designed as the ultimate touring hybrid, they are fast, agile, low maintenance, and strong. They are more aggressively positioned than your Electra, but not a forward as a hard tail mountain bike or a road bike would be.

The link is to the new Venture 10, which is pictured below. The bike comes as pictured, with racks, fenders, and lights.

Venture 10

If you don't want racks and fenders, look at their SUB series, pictured below. Same bike, no racks, fenders, or lights included.

Scott SUB 10

There are several levels of components and prices, and they offer WSD versions of the SUB.

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Nice bikes! Thanks for the rec. –  dsalo Mar 12 '12 at 21:18

If you have $3000 to spend, how about a Rivendell Betty Foy. She would be a more comfortable bike than any of those mountain bike wannabes. Plus more practical and can take roads as well as dirt paths. And aesthetically speaking, you won't look like you're heading to a dishwasher's job.

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I'd probably go for the Yves Gomez instead, just because robins-egg blue isn't quite my thing (though my Townie is purple and I love her for it), but I do hear good things about the Rivs. Thanks! If you have one, could you talk about what makes it comfortable for you? –  dsalo Mar 19 '12 at 15:05

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