I'm in the 50+ age group and am thinking about purchasing a Trek Pilot 5.2 road bike. I took a test ride and found the handlebar position in the drops very uncomfortable. (I'm used to hybrid and mountain bike handelbars. Also, I have a bad back.) My dealer suggested that I consider getting the 5.2 with a flat bar. What are the performance and comfort trade-off's here? Am I defeating the purpose of getting the Pilot by going the flat bar route? Another option I'm considering is the Trek 7.7 FX fitness bike (comes with a flat bar). What would be the significant performance and comfort differences between the 7.7 FX and the Pilot? My average ride is about 2 hours on very hilly country roads (which are not necessarily in the best condition), and the group I ride with consists entirely of guys with road bikes. Any insight would be much appreciated.
Of course you'll find the 5.2 to be a bit more responsive. As to the flat bars, whatever floats your boat. A lot of adjustments for road condtions can be made by tire selection. Trek makes great products, I don't think you'd go wrong either way. By the sounds of it, it looks like your dealer is willing to go the extra mile. Will your dealer allow you to take a long ride on both bikes? That's the best way to be able to tell. Good luck and let us know about your decision and send some pictures along... OHB
Hmmm...comfort questions are difficult to answer. What's comfortable for me may not have anything to do with you and your comfort zone. I commute on a 2005 7700FX, and have a Specialized Roubaix Pro comfort bike, which is very similar to your Pilot 5.2. So I can compare your two choices at least a bit.
Your two bikes have some definite differences in terms of components, with the 5.2 specing out to the higher end than the 7.7FX. The 5.2 has an OCLV 120 carbon frame, with the 7.7 being mostly aluminum with carbon monostays. The 5.2 has a full compliment of carbon components and a full ultegra drivetrain. That puts the 5.2 fork and wheel components one to two quality/performance levels better than what you would get in the 7.7FX. In terms of the overall package, the 5.2 is definitely going to give you better performance over the road in terms of providing a smooth and plush ride. The 5.2 will be quite a bit lighter too, so it will be a bit more nimble, probably twitchy even with flat bars compared to the 7.7FX.
My Roubaix's all carbon ride defines plush, and I put some Bontrager Race X Lite wheels on it to give it an even better ride. It is definitely the faster of my two bikes, as it gives just enough of an aero fit to get you out of the wind fairly well. I'm 47 with some wonky back issues too, but I found that riding on a road bike is actually more comfortable for me than riding upright...go figure. (Most of that is due to finding it easier to make power from a road bike geometry than it is riding upright on a fitness hybrid. But that's just me.)
The 7700FX rides like a fast hybrid for sure. It is a great climber for a hybrid. But, you are definitely still riding at all times upright and in the wind. Your 7.7FX and the 5.2 should be pretty much identical in terms of drivetrain set up, feel and responsiveness. I do notice a trade off in the brakes on my 7700FX compared to what I am used to from a shimano based road bike.. They are a bit less responsive and precise for me, quite a bit more mushy. Some better pads will likely fix most of that though. On the road the 7700FX bike feels to me a lot more like riding a BMX than riding a hybrid. I am out of the saddle hammering all the time to get my power and quickness. You don't really have to do that on a road bike because of the differences in geometry and the ability to dig into your drivetrain power from the saddle...even on a plush bike.
The biggest trade off though on the 7700FX is that there is no way to really get out of the wind. You just have to accept it and deal with it. That coupled with the geometry differences make it really hard to have the same type of ride speeds as I would get on my plush Roubaix bike. I don't go that much slower but for me it's the difference in covering my commute averaging 16 miles an hour, versus the 19+ I would average on my plush bike riding in the drops. I have dropped into a couple of group rides on my 7700FX and could hang with the pack, but it took a lot more work than it would on my plush bike, a whole lot more work than it would on my racer road bike. If your group rides are comfort pace oriented, even with a bunch of people riding on road bikes, you would probably not even notice the trade offs. You would be working harder to make up for the higher wind resistance from sitting upright though.
On the other hand, the upright ride of the 7700FX gives you great visibility and great stability. I have tried...lord knows I have tried...to wreck out on my 7700 and I just have not been able to do it. It is an incredibly forgiving bike. Nothing about it is twitchy or iffy. You plop your butt down on it, hit the pedals and you definitely riding a bombproof bike well under your command. A carbon road bike...perhaps even with a flat bar...wouldn't give you as much of a confident ride. The 7.7FX frame is just that little bit more relaxed...look at a picture of it off the trek site next to one of the 5.2... to put you in a more upright position so that your center of gravity drop just a bit farther back over the saddle. So even over rough roads, it doesn't quite jar you the way that a road bike does. You are taking more of the road feel up through the frame and through the saddle. My plush bike deal pretty well with pot holes and pavement cracks, but a whole lot more of the impact is distributed up through your arms and shoulders.
The best advice that I can give you is to take your dealer up on their offer to put a flat bar on the 5.2 and try it out to see what differences it makes for you. That's the only way that you are going to know what is right for you. One thing that you can be sure of...getting a bike that's not comfortable is a mistake that you never want to make.
I think that drop bars are the only way to go on a performance bike but that is assuming that you do not have any limiting issues. Otherwise, Trek seems to be pretty good about providing what customers want. If you've never ridden with racing-type drop bars before, I can see how it might seem a little strange at first. Even so, there is no reason why the tops of the drop bars cannot be as high as straight bars and I think that drops give you many more hand positions; and, you still would have the drop position if you find yourself going against a headwind.
Rule's response was outstanding, and I can't add to it. I'll just stress one key point... if you're putting down any serious money on a bike, find a way to do a test ride in the actual setup you're thinking of buying. It really is the only way to be sure about anything.
Hey tedw, That Trek 5.2 is a pretty sexy machine. I'm 56 and I ride a lot since I retired. I build all my road bikes up with the drop bars and clip-on aerobars such as the Profile Design Air Stryke 2000. I can get a lot more comfortable with a portion of my weight resting on my forearms and it gives me additional body positions on long rides, not to mention the more aerodynamic position for cutting thru the wind. I have a surprising amount of power in that position as well. They list for about $100 and good ones can be found on Ebay for half that. Good luck
A lot of comfort problems with drop bars are due to improper set-up. When drops were conceived, the idea was that you'd have a comfortable cruising position on the tops, but when you needed to get aero, you'd go down on the drops. Over the years, racers and wannabes lowered the bars farther and farther until, on most bikes these days, the tops are nearly down where the drops should be. You lose the comfort, and you lose the aero advantage, too, because very few of us can ride for long with our hands six or eight inches lower than our saddles.
The fix is easy: Raise the bars so the tops are roughly level with the saddle. Grant Petersen at Rivendell has been pushing this for years (www.rivbike.com), and when I bought my Atlantis four years ago, I followed his advice. It made a significant difference immediately--I could ride more comfortably, and thus stay on the bike longer. I set a PR for a century at age 58 because I was able to keep pedalling longer.
It's an easy adjustment on my bikes, because I have quill stems. If you're stuck with threadless, and can't just flop it over, you'll have to buy a new one, but it's well worth it.
I am 54 years old and I have the Trek Pilot 2.1. I went to this from a comfort bike. I love the Pilot! I am not the most flexible person and also I have a stiff neck. I started out riding on the tops, then the hoods. I now find out that even with my stiff neck, I can get in the drops for a few miles. I am glad I have drop bars. I can now ride in three different positions. Of course, it looks like a real road bike.
I think if you go with the flat bars, you will want the drops later.