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  1. #1
    Air
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    Destroyer of Wheels Air's Avatar
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    Road vs Touring vs Cross frames - Materials and Building

    Background: Right now I ride a mtb mostly on the road with 1.95 'dillo semi slicks. I got my first multigeared bike almost 20 years ago. A cheap Murray 10 speed when it seemed that (to my young perspective) any sort of bike that went on a road was called a 10 speed unless you had one of those hip wide-tire bikes you could go on trails with.

    There were three things about that bike I hated. Actually there was nothing I liked (except that it was faster than my BMX and I didn't have to pedal backwards to stop) - but my gripes in order of annoyance were these:

    1) When I pedaled the frame flexed and torqued. A good 3-4 inches in each direction.

    2) If I stood up to go up a hill my knee would hit the downtube shifter causing the bike to pretty much stop. Many an ouch on that.

    3) I hit a pothole and tacoed the wheels. Jumping on them straightened them better than they were

    So, after reading these boards a lot and bookmarking many a thread I know that it was a cheap bike and was probably too small (which is why my knee hit the shifters).

    However there is a lot of discussion on steel being better because a) it flexes and (in my opinion more importantly) b) won't suffer the same type of catastrophic failure Al, Ti, and carbon fiber can.

    There are three types of bikes that seem (to me anyway) very closely related though confuse me. I understand that touring bikes tend to be steel and beefy with the ability to attach fenders, racks, and extra bottles. Cyclocrosses are also beefier road bikes meant to take more of a beating and are faster (and usually made of al, ti, or carbon fiber) than a mtb or touring. Both of these make a good Clydes bike for the road. So far I haven't read of a decent quality road bike frame failure here so that's a viable choice as well.

    With any large purchase I take my time and do as much research as possible. I think I want a bike that's stiffish and made of steel (is that possible?). My current mtb is steel (Hi-Ten (yeah, yeah, I know)) and flexes a little when I push - wouldn't mind something a little stiffer but would settle for no more than that much bend. It seems like my best bet may be a touring bike since I'd like to tour a little next year while racing is not in my future. I'm open to either a road or cross if it means being able to load it up with 50-100 lbs of gear on it and it not caring.

    OK, here are the questions

    How can someone tell these frames apart without a label? For example, here's a warehouse sale. There are a bunch of frames that they are selling beforehand too and a few of the descriptions are kinda vague. They may all be crap too but I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I also have access to a supply of used frames which may hold a good deal or two. Can you tell the geometry apart just by looking at them? Read something about chainstay length being important if you're putting paniers on (an option for the future). Anyone have some good high res pics of different types of frames I could see and compare? Hard to tell from the pics I've dug up online.

    Is it me or is there no 'standard' with these classifications. Online I see advertised hybrids (with drop bars) that look like a cyclocross bike and cyclocross bikes (with flat bars) called hybrids. While hybrids seem to be looked down on 'round these parts because they're not as strong as a mtb but slower than a road bike cross bikes are praised. Is it the frame geometry, components, or both?

    How old are these bikes classifications? Would almost any bike from the 70's be just suitable for a road bike? For example, from CL an older Raleigh. Would you only find older 'road bikes' on CL or could there be an 'old' touring bike?

    Is the rider position the same for all three of these bikes? I know with the drop bars you'd get different hand positions and there are slightly different positions if you're looking to sprint in a race - but generally is the position similar?

    When triple vs double rings are advertised the big ring for the triple is usually smaller than the top ring on the double (I guess to maximize the gearings possible). Is it possible to create a triple with the largest ring being 60t+ on a touring bike so you could get the speed of a faster bike when unloaded and still have that small triple for a long climb? (I know, it's more about the engine - but on my mtb anything over 25mph and I'm just spinning (top ring 48). A mechanic also noted that my top ring was much more worn than the middle since I tend to stay on it).

    If you have some good pictures of the differences between these types of bikes that would also be really useful. I hope none of these questions are too dumb, I've been trying to wrap my head around the differences and they seem fine on paper but can't seem to tell them apart by sight.

    If I see a decent roadbike in my size I'll jump on it - but if I'm looking to buy a bike new or build one up I need more information to see what will work the best.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Solo Rider, always DFL
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    I have a touring bike, and the big ring is a 52... so I'm not flailing away in the 20s, though I often end up staying in the middle ring for most stuff.

    There's an issue of greater frame clearance to allow for wider tires, mine came with 35s, and I haven't run smaller than 28s on it (the rims are a little too wide for 23s definitely).

    The rear hub is a 135 mm spacing, unlike standard road spacing... not sure whether this is just a cannondale thing or whether this is normal for touring bikes. The component group is a mix of road and mountain parts from a grab bag, and the rear cogs are an 11-32 (or is 34??) cassette, which is definitely a mountain gear range.

    The fork is steel instead of alu or carbon, so it allows for mounting racks, and has different brake mounts so that it runs linear pull brakes with a "travel agent" to ramp up the travel off the road brifters.

    There is also seemingly a more stretched out wheelbase, the back wheel is not as close to the seat tube as on more typical road frames. The wheels are 36 spoke count front and rear, if I remember right, the rims have eyelets for better durability, and are Mavic T519s (heavier construction than open pros or similar) at 700c diameter.

    The hubs have sealed bearings as far as I can tell, and the frame (CAAD 3 aluminum, got the bike about six years ago) is pretty stiff for my 210-215 pounds as far as I can tell. I can see a little deflection on the stationary trainer, but it's not bad.

  3. #3
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    Touring: Longer chainstays to accomodate rear panniers and give more stability under a load. Cantilever brakes and clearances for at least 32mm tires and fenders. Lots of eyelets for racks, fenders, extra bottles, even little holders for extra spokes. Gearing is typically lower - 48/38/28 in the front with a wide range cassette (11/32) in the back. Often uses an mtb drivetrain. Serious touring bikes have downtube instead of STI shifters. Almost always has a steel frame.

    Cyclocross: Road bike geometry for the most part. Also takes cantilever brakes and has clearance for big tires, often really big. Might have cross levers for the brakes, and may have downtube shifters. Frame will usually be aluminum but a few models are steel. Gearing more like a road bike with a "compact double" - 50/34 in front. Cross bikes usually have eyelets for racks and fenders since they are often used as commuters.

    Technically touring and cross bikes are road bikes since they both use 700c wheels. If a frame has cantilever brake bosses and takes a 700c wheel, then it's a cross or touring frame. If the fork has little holes halfway down on the outside, then it's a touring bike.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
    Gearing more like a road bike with a "compact double" - 50/34 in front.
    Not so. A small few riders are going with 50/34, but 46/38 (most commmon stock rings on a Cyclo-X bike) or 46/36 are much more common. On another note, the trend is certainly toward aluminum, but at least 50% of the bikes I see at cross races are still steel. The rest is quite correct.

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