In our ongoing mission to get more customers trying and rating product, this year we are providing a selection of bikes to be reviewed over time. Here Andy Connolly tells us his first impressions of the Trek FX 7.1 hybird bike:
When I was asked to ride and rate a hybrid commuter bike I was quite excited as I have been using an old MTB to commute for the last 2 years. I had been overtaken by people cycling on road bikes and hybrids over the last few years and whilst I was trying as hard as possible to push my heavy bike up the hills they always seemed to glide past me with ease.
Upon collecting the bike from Evans Cycles I could see the areas that it was going to excel in. Firstly the bike is not very heavy, considering that this is a hybrid and a sub £400 model I was expecting it to be heavier. The wheels are also very thin with almost slick tires on them. With the bike up on my bike stand I was able to test out the bearings and see how easily the wheels span. I was happy to see the wheels spin without any signs of resistance and was extremely quiet! After adjusting the saddle height and ensuring everything was tight and ready to use I set off on my first ride.
The first thing I noticed when I got on the bike is the riding position, it is very similar to the riding position on a MTB. This made the transition very easy as I find this position more natural and comfortable. I see people on racing bikes stretched out and really tucked in but when I am cycling to work in trousers that really wouldn’t work for me! The gears and brakes are all in identical positions to my old bike which also made riding this bike easy. My route to work is not too hilly or strenuous so I have only ready had to use 3 or 4 gears so far. The gear levers are similar to the rapid fire changers I have on my MTB. I have been able to access all the requested gears quickly so far. The gear change is a little noisy but once you are in the right gear the bike returns to being amazingly silent!
I quickly came across my first hill and found myself going about 2-3MPH faster than usual. I was definitely using less energy and was able to climb without breaking a sweat. When I began to descend I discovered one of the best benefits of a hybrid bike, lower rolling resistance!! As I mentioned earlier the wheels on the Trek are very thin and are using almost slick tires. I stopped pedalling and found myself accelerating downhill at a rate I have never achieved before without pedalling! The bike rolled across the tarmac with a smooth flow that I have never experienced with my MTB, in fairness I do have off road tires. I was keen to see how far I could actually roll without pedalling and was laughing to myself as I managed to roll all the way down the hill, around the corner and gracefully coming to a stop at the traffic lights some 100 meters down the road!
There is a section of my route to work that uses fairly rough roads, areas where the councils have not yet managed to resurface after all the frost and snow last year. This is where I discovered one of the more “challenging differences” between riding a hybrid bike and a MTB. I have been spoilt over the years using a full suspension bike. I was able to roll over pot holes and drain covers with ease and not feel a thing. The first section of bumpy road was something that I literally felt with my entire body! The vibrations rattled up my arms and through my legs and I struggled to find a smooth piece of road to ride on for a further 5 minutes. I found my speed drop down from a modest 15MPH to a 7MPH snail’s pace. This was the only way I could avoid my arms from dropping off!
The only other “challenge” I have discovered so far with the Trek is braking in the wet. I use large disc brakes when riding off road and am familiar with decelerating from high speeds quickly. The V-style brakes on the Trek are nowhere near as sharp. I understand the difficulties faced with V brakes, my MTB used them on the rear for a number of years until I upgraded to disc brakes because when water and mud got on the rims it made it harder for the pads to achieve enough friction to force you to stop. I just feel that the pads used on the Trek could do with being a better quality.
Overall my experience with the Trek 7.1 FX has been fantastic! I have so far managed to cut 10 minutes from my daily commute and don’t use as much energy to get to work. I think in the coming days I will end up pushing the bike harder and harder to see how much time I can cut from my commute as a way of exercise as it feels far too easy at the moment!
The only issues I currently have with the bike I would not describe as negatives, they are merely differences I immediately noticed having moved from a MTB to a Hybrid. At the end of the day the Trek 7.1 FX is a great cycle path bike that rolls like a dream when the road ahead is smooth. If anything this bike has taught me to re-think the routes that I take and the way that I position myself on the road in an attempt to avoid the poorly maintained sections.