Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ten Speed vs. Hybrid: What A Difference A Week Makes

For the past few weeks I've been working on, and now riding, a 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II ten speed road bike. Prior to that, I'd put over 2,000 miles on my Trek 7300 hybrid bike, mostly in daily commuting, since July 2008.

At first, I was a little intimidated by the more aggressive leaned over riding style of the Schwinn, plus the lack of suspension and smaller diameter, skinnier tires. In addition, the lack of a rack to carry a pannier was discomforting, as I need to be able to carry a full change of clothes, including dress shoes, my lunch, plus a small tool kit, tube, inflation, etc.

I rode the Schwinn every day for the last two weeks (except for a rainy day where I rode the fendered hybrid), even moving over the clipless pedals from the Trek, and used a backpack to carry my stuff. At the end of the first week, I got a sweet looking Chrome messenger style bag to replace the ugly and uncomfortable backpack.

I've made several trips to the grocery store, and found that as comfortable as the Chrome bag is, it's unforgiving on the clavicle when overstuffed with heavy things like jugs of laundry soap and cans of garbanzo beans. The Trek hybrid, with special grocery panniers mounted on a sturdy rack, is a superior "grocery getter" bike.

Last Sunday I rode the Schwinn in the rain to the grocery store. I've ridden in the rain quite a bit over the past eight months or so, but always on the hybrid with fenders. I was curious what it would be like on the ten speed. While it was a little fun, it wasn't socially acceptable (or comfortable) to walk around the Hy-Vee with a dirty, wet bottom. Unless I multi-purpose the Schwinn, it will likely remain in the garage during the wet days.

As I mentioned, there was rain in the forecast last Monday. In anticipation for this, I moved the headlight back to the Trek 7300 and rode it to work on Monday morning. I was totally amazed at how I had gotten so used to riding the Schwinn ten speed that it felt very strange riding the hybrid. The upright riding posture felt weird, as did the extra weight and different gearing of the Trek. It just wasn't as speedy and nimble. On the positive side, the wider tires and suspension head and seat post, and gel saddle made for a very smooth ride.

In summary, It's fun having a second, differently styled bike to play with. I now have choices about how I want to ride. I still think the hybrid is a great "go anywhere" bike, and would recommend one to someone just starting out with bike commuting, utility and general purpose riding.

Rafal said once that everyone needs at least eight bikes to satisfy all riding requirements and conditions. I think I'm beginning to understand.

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