just to compare notes and talk about what sort of problems I might encounter as I stay on two wheels for longer amounts of time.
What are your goals? Does "longer amounts of time" to you mean stepping up to 40 miles in a day, or touring (which is more or less the thrust of this forum)?
1.) Although hybrids have their place, a true hybrid (as oposed to just a flat-bar road bike) is kind of a compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike, and as such doesn't shine in any
area. The road bike will be at least a couple of mph faster on flat ground because of reduced wind resistance, but wind resistance does not play as big a roll in climbing; so I'm not sure you'll gain that much there. Flat bars don't give all the hand positions of drop bars, so you're more likely to get tired, sore arms on a long ride than you are with drop bars. You probably need to turn up your cadence (from your #9) and ride at a much higher heart rate too sometimes if you want to get faster. If you never ride hard, you won't get fast, no matter how many miles a week you ride. Training volume
is no substitute for intensity. There should be periods of both.
2.) Cycling shoes are very stiff in the sole. When I got into cycling in the 1970's, I remember clearly the ride where I was 35 miles from home and my feet were in a lot of pain, as if I were barefoot on the pedals. That was the day I decided cycling shoes were not optional. I got my first pair, and eliminated a lot of pain.
3.) The advantage to having your feet attached to the pedals is that you can make more muscles share the load, and, when necessary, get a lot more power. The main addition is not pulling up the back of the turn so much as pulling back through the bottom of the turn. After people go to clipless pedals and cleated shoes and learn to use them, they never go back.
4.) LED headlights have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and a $50 one will get you one that gives decent light to see where you're going (not just to be
seen) and still give at least a couple dozen hours of use from four AA batteries, or several times that much in flashing mode. Then if you don't mind spending hundreds
of dollars (I do mind), the top-end ones rival the HID lights, without making you forfeit a water-bottle cage for a big battery.
6.) Having the luggage on the rack is far nicer and more practical than having it on your back. Panniers go on and off the rack in a second, so there's no advantage there to using the backpack and carrying it into the office after locking up your bike. You can do that with panniers too. If you get into touring though, don't even consider a backpack.
7.) I expect most helmet replacements are unnecessary from a safety standpoint. Note what the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says at their web page at http://www.bhsi.org/replace.htm
Occasionally somebody spreads rumors that sweat and ultraviolet (UV) exposure will cause your helmet to degrade. Sweat will not do that. The standards do not permit manufacturers to make a helmet that degrades from sweat, and the EPS, EPP or EPU foam is remarkably unaffected by salt water. Your helmet will get a terminal case of grunge before it dies of sweat. UV can affect the strength of the shell material, though. Since helmets spend a lot of time in the sun, manufacturers usually put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation. If your helmet is fading, maybe the UV inhibitors are failing, so you probably should replace it. Chances are it has seen an awful lot of sun to have that happen. Otherwise, try another brand next time and let us know what brand faded on you.
At least one shop told a customer that the EPS in his three year old helmet was now "dried out." Other sales people refer to "outgassing" and say that the foam loses gas and impact performance is affected. That is nothing but marketing hype to sell a replacement helmet before you need it. There is some loss of aromatics in the first hours and days after molding, and helmet designers take account of that for standards testing. But after that the foam stabilizes and does not change for many years, unless the EPS is placed in an oven for some period of time and baked. The interior of your car, for example, will not do that, based on helmets we have seen and at least one lab crash test of a helmet always kept in a car in Virginia over many summers. Helmet shells can be affected by car heat, but not the foam. EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors. Unless you mistreat it we would not expect it to "dry out" enough to alter its performance for many years.
8.) You should check the tire pressure every couple of days.
9.) Do train yourself to use lower gears and a higher cadence. You will be faster and have less soreness after long rides and have less likelihood of knee damage. Having your feet attached to the pedals makes a high cadence much more practical. If your feet are not attached, they will just fly off at high cadences.
10.) Gloves serve a few purposes. If you go through a patch of glass, wiping your tires off immediately will save a few flats by knocking bits of glass out before they get worked far enough in to puncture the tube. Don't do that with bare hands though! If you have even a nearly zero-mph fall and put your hand out, even a very minor injury to the palm of your hand can be very
painful. Gloves avoid that. They give a better grip of the bars when your hands are sweaty, and prevent sun damage to your hands too.
11.) Non-cyclists may think cycling clothes are just for style and being in the "in" crowd, but in reality they are extremely functional. The shorts are tight and stretchy to keep you from sitting on a wrinkle and moving back and forth on it thousands of times and getting a saddle burn, and the pad in them keeps you from sitting on seams and doing the same. They're designed to be worn without underwear. The shorts are much more comfortable for the activity because they don't bind like street clothes do. The jersey's main attractions are the pockets being in the back so you don't bump the contensts with your thighs, and the zipper (preferably long) for variable cooling.