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Old 06-08-05, 04:14 PM   #1
bboseley
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What's Up with "comfort" Road Bikes?

I am no doubt confused by many things – however the new wave of road bikes known under several names really confuses me. I’m referring to the so-called “relaxed geometry” or “plush” road bikes. They are characterized by a sloping top tube, and are said to promote a more upright position, etc., etc.

When I decided to get a bike – my first in many years – I was first put on a “comfort bike”. Right! Took me all of two weeks to know there was no comfort in comfort.

Long story short – I eventually wound up with a Trek carbon road bike. I can ride it for many, many miles with no aches or pains.

Because I ride every day and live in central Florida, I didn’t want to subject the “expensive” bike to all that abuse – so I picked up a Specialized Allez as a backup. Same size bike as the Trek but with sloping bar and all the rest. So where’s the comfort? The bike will serve it’s purpose, however 1 hour on it is like 5 hours on the Trek. What’s up with relaxed geometry?

As for riding position – when is the last time you saw someone sit on backless bleachers in a straight up position hour after hour. They eventually wind up bent forward with elbows resting on legs – the truly comfortable position.
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Old 06-08-05, 05:14 PM   #2
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well, enjoy the comfort of your carbon trek and quit trying to figure out why the rest of the world thinks comfort bikes are really comfort bikes. the basic concept is that the more upright your riding position the more comfortable the ride, it makes sense but doesnt mean it works for everyone.
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Old 06-08-05, 05:43 PM   #3
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have a comfort bike and an Allez... since i'm working on losing weight and am early in the process of road bike fitness, the comfort bike provides a welcome 'easy day' ride for recovery (AFAIK the Allez's geometry is not for road comfort based the wheelbase)

so for me, a comfort bike has its place in my regimen....
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Old 06-08-05, 06:25 PM   #4
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I believe you have confused "compact frame geometry" which is identified by the sloping top tube with "comfort geometry" which is associated with a more upright riding position. They are not the same!

The purpose of comfort geometry is to provide a more upright position for the rider. This is typically done with a higher handlebar position and a somewhat shorter seat to handlebar distance. If these changes are made without the appropriate seat tube angle (typically 72 degrees), and without a very wide saddle, the results (as you have reported) can be excruciating. Comfort geometry can be not only comfortable but also very useful, if properly implemented. The Rivendell bicycles incorporate comfort geometry and are considered some of the most comfortable around.

Compact frame geometry is characterized by the sloping top tube. The purpose of compact geometry is to allow the rider to be able to safely stand over a variety of frame sizes. With standover height removed from the equation, the buyer can then select the top tube length that best suits the buyers anatomy. Compact frames can be designed in either road or comfort styles. A sloping top tube, in and of itself, does NOT affect how upright the rider is to be positioned on the bike.

How much forward tilt of the torso it takes to be comfortable varies widely from person to person. Age, limberness, weight, arthritis, personal preference, and other factors all influence this choice. The position that may be sublime to one rider can be hell to another.

Finally, if you want to be more comfortable on your Allez, modify the seat position and stem length to provide the same torso tilt as on your other bike. You may not get as perfect a fit, but it should be order of magnitude better than what you've got now!

Good luck!
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Old 06-08-05, 06:29 PM   #5
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I don't believe the Allez is supposed to be comfort or upright or whatever you want to call it. The Trek probably fits you better and is CF the Allez is Al (correct me if I'm worng there). The fit and material make a difference.
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Old 06-08-05, 06:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oaxacarider
well, enjoy the comfort of your carbon trek and quit trying to figure out why the rest of the world thinks comfort bikes are really comfort bikes. the basic concept is that the more upright your riding position the more comfortable the ride, it makes sense but doesnt mean it works for everyone.

Didn't mean to step on the toes. Actually most of "my" views came from a 2 day conference on bicycling, whcih included riding position, etc. The "experts" pointed out the bleachers analogy and that spreading the weight over the seat and bars was medically desirable. As someone else later pointed out, I did in fact mean to say compact as opposed to comfort. Whatever, but next time you sit on the bleachers, see how long you sit upright.
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Old 06-08-05, 07:02 PM   #7
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As many have said, it depends on personal preferences. There are so many different types of bikes available that it becomes confusing for everyone. I have been riding bicycles for a long time and have purchased quite a few of them through the years. In my younger years, I bought a racing bike to participate in triatlons, a mountain bike for off road cycling, a Trek 520 for touring. I found, like many have reported already in relation to the 520 that the seat being higher than the handlebars makes for a very uncomfortable bike. Modifications were in order but, in my view, it is difficult to find the right fit when buying off the rack. As a retirement present to myself, I purchased a custom made touring bike. It has drop bars and I can ride upright if I want because I had the head tube extended by a few inches. This is not a bike to go fast. It has XT components with 44,32,22 chainrings. For me it is the ideal bike for the type of riding I do. To others, it would be much too slow and not worth considering. To each his own, but once you find a bike that fits you, a saddle that does'nt hurt, a smile on your face when you go over your day's ride at night, it will undoubtedly be the best riding bike for you, and to me, that's what counts.
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Old 06-09-05, 02:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bboseley
Didn't mean to step on the toes. Actually most of "my" views came from a 2 day conference on bicycling, whcih included riding position, etc. The "experts" pointed out the bleachers analogy and that spreading the weight over the seat and bars was medically desirable. As someone else later pointed out, I did in fact mean to say compact as opposed to comfort. Whatever, but next time you sit on the bleachers, see how long you sit upright.
where do these experts get that seating on bleachers is anywhere similar to riding a bike? unlike a bike saddle, bleachers are flat and your whole weight is put on in one place (seating bones) therefore you lean over put your arms on your legs spreading some of the pressure, even on a comfort bike you distribute the pressure between the saddle, pedals and handle bar.
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Old 06-09-05, 03:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FarHorizon
Finally, if you want to be more comfortable on your Allez, modify the seat position and stem length to provide the same torso tilt as on your other bike. You may not get as perfect a fit, but it should be order of magnitude better than what you've got now!

Good luck!
- dunno if you were addressing my observations or not... i'm quite comfortable on the allez... tks for info on 'geometry' vs 'compact geometry' ... my comparison was intended to be that the comfort bike has a place in a workout/training regimen (at least for this OF), as it has a vastly different ride than the allez; different body positioning, different muscle use (especially arms, upper body), and provides a chance to use different riding skills, muscles on a workout/ride - adds variety to a routine!
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Old 06-09-05, 12:30 PM   #10
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I think "comfort" can mean a number of different things. Bikes used to be sold that had a longer wheelbase and this was called a "relaxed" geometry. But you rode them in the same kind of position as a normal road bike. They did not corner or accelerate as well but the longer wheel base does give a less "twitchy" ride and a smoother ride.

Another thing that one can do to have a more comfortable ride is ride on larger tires. The bigger air envelope will lick up quite a bit of the road shock.

But comfort is pretty much an individual thing. I had a bike that had a very harsh ride but was very responsive and I liked that feel so I liked the ride.
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Old 06-09-05, 01:12 PM   #11
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a shock absorber in the seat and shock front end and a real soft seat is what's called a confort bike around these parts.

A quick ride down a bad street and you will know why.

Joe
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Old 06-09-05, 02:05 PM   #12
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Plush also has a lot to do with the way dampening materials are being integrated into frames now. Look at what Specialized, Trek, Ridley and others are doing. Also, Trek is rumoured to be bringing the rear suspension piece from their Kleins over to the Pilot line. Bringing the bar up closer to the saddle height also is going a long way to improve comfort for a lot of non competitive cyclist. Most custom builders offer extended head tube lengths that are VERY popular options. Also, people shouldn't confuse "comfort bikes" with the new plush road bikes. A Specialized Roubaix is a very different animal from a Raleigh C-30.
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Old 06-09-05, 09:30 PM   #13
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There is a lot of marketing involved, and whatever works with whomever is buying will be picked up by others. Probably one of the biggest differences between the new "comfort" bikes and the rather spare "racing" machines (that barely fit tires larger than 23c) are "comfort" bikes' 72 to 72.5 degree frame angles (and a centimeter shorter top tube) versus "racing" bikes' 73 degrees or more. Even so, visually, the differences in frame angles are hardly noticable, compared to the usual down-sloping top tube, a feature that has very little to do with comfort. And, the Trek Pilot comfort bikes, for instance, still are performance road bikes--you won't see a Pilot owner with straight bars and a spring seat.

Last edited by wagathon; 06-11-05 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 06-09-05, 10:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bboseley
Didn't mean to step on the toes. Actually most of "my" views came from a 2 day conference on bicycling, whcih included riding position, etc. The "experts" pointed out the bleachers analogy and that spreading the weight over the seat and bars was medically desirable. As someone else later pointed out, I did in fact mean to say compact as opposed to comfort. Whatever, but next time you sit on the bleachers, see how long you sit upright.
The problem with the bleachers analogy is that the "comfort" road bikes put people in a "more upright" position than the "traditional" position. You're not sitting straight upright like on a bleacher seat.
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Old 06-09-05, 10:32 PM   #15
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"comfort bike"="recumbent bike"
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Old 06-10-05, 06:32 AM   #16
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Amen to that one Chilli!
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Old 06-10-05, 11:11 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagathon
There is a lot of marketing involved, and whatever works with whomever is buying will be picked up by others. Probably one of the biggest differences between the new "comfort" bikes and the rather spare "racing" machines (that barely fit tires larger than 23c) are "comfort" bikes' 72 to 72.5 degree frame angles (and a centimeter shorter top tube) versus "racing" bikes' 73 degrees or more. Even so, visually, the differences in frame angles are hardly noticable, compared to the usual down-sloping top tube, a feature that has very little to do with comfort. And, the Trek Pilot comfort bikes, for instance, still are performance road bikes--you won't a Pilot owner with straight bars and a spring seat.
The average bike in the cheaper range of bikes has the relaxed geometry. They are easier to ride, have no vices and are not a bike that you have to think about when riding. As you move up the performance scale, you finish up with a frame that does have different geometry that makes it handle better- for those riders with experience. Shorter, stiffer rear triangle that transmits more power to the rear wheel from the pedals, a stiffer main triangle that makes the bike more responsive to body movement and that head angle that makes the steering more responsive. Sounds great but the steering can be too sharp for newer riders, and the shocks transmitted through the frame can hurt the body. Problem is that as you gain more biking experience, you do want a more responsive frame for your increased ability.

You then get onto the frame materials, and some of these can be very harsh, thinking of aluminium in particular. Chromoly steel, Titanium and carbon fibre are other choices, and then there is the quality within each of the materials. Luckily, most of us do not need the ultimate in bikes.

The comfort side of bikes comes in the set up of the bikes. More upright stance, shorter handlebar stem, seat posts that have a bit of flex in them and even down to saddles that are not about the width of a razor blade.

As far as I am concerned, the bike has to be comfortable to ride and have performance too. That means buying the best bike for me that I know has the performance I want, and then changing a few items in the shop before I take it away. All my Bianchi needed to make it more comfortable, was to go down a frame size to that recommended, fit a longer seat post to accomodate that, and a saddle that I knew I liked. The Tandem took a bit more and a bit longer, but for a Tandem, this one is comfortable and works. The ultimate though is to build a bike from new. Get measured for a custom frame, and then build up into the bike you want, with the bits you want. Takes money and time, but that to me is the ultimate performance bike that is comfortable. Only done it once and can't afford it again.
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Old 06-10-05, 06:05 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by stapfam
. . . The comfort side of bikes comes in the set up of the bikes. More upright stance, shorter handlebar stem, seat posts that have a bit of flex in them . . .
Short stem? My experience is that prior to the latest "comfort" bikes, about all you could do to fine tune the ride to your own personal geometry was to look for short stems, seats with long rails and/or seat posts with a greater setback.

The Trek Pilot fit me right out of the the box. The Pilot comes standard with about a 13 cm stem, i.e., about a long as you will find. For a bike that you want to design to accommodate a range of handlebar heights, a long stem is good because you can always get more height, if you need it, for every degree of stem elevation compared to a short stem. In fact, most of the "comfort" bikes that I have seen already come with stems that have some rise and that is a departure from the more race-oriented bikes.

Personally, I do not ride in a more "upright position" now than I did when I rode a Lemond Zurich or a Bianchi Vig. In all instances, I had the bars at more or less the same height as the seat. But, with the Pilot, I did not have to work so hard to get the fit I wanted and the ulitmate positioning that I was able to achieve was more optimal, e.g., I have no problem getting my knees behind the pedal spindle and I still can comfortably ride on top of the bars or on the hoods without feeling too stretched, and in the drops without having to assume too aggressive a posture.

The Pilot does come with a CF seat post that accommodates a good amount of elevation. However, there definitely is nothing flexible about it.

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Old 06-11-05, 02:45 AM   #19
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At age 67, my Trek dealer is trying to get me to buy a Fuji touring bike with a longer wheelbase and fatter tires. I haven't ridden one yet, but the ride should be milder than my Trek aluminum 1400. I can get one for under $900.
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