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  1. #1
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    Do a need a softer bike?

    A year ago I bought a new road bike after not riding one for about 15 years. I ride a mountain bike to work, about 7.5 miles, a few days a week, and have been riding the road bike on weekends with my 20 year old son. As we have been doing longer rides, I find the beating that my body takes to be wearing me down. Last weekend we rode about 55 miles and it was a struggle for me to climb the last hills to get home. It was hot, but the pounding on the pavement had taken a toll as well.

    The bike I am riding is a Specialized Allez Elite triple. It feels great for shorter rides, but once I get much over 30 miles, I start to feel the pounding. I am 55 now, and definitely not getting any younger, so I wonder if I should be looking at a more forgiving frame to make these longer rides less of an ordeal. I'd like to do some rides of 80-100 miles, and I don't want them to be torture.

    My old bike was a Raleigh International frame, built in the early 70's. It felt a lot softer than my current bike, but also a lot heavier and not nearly as responsive.

    I have heard that the Specialized Roubaix is a very forgiving frame. Would this be a big improvement over what I am riding now or am I just getting old an soft?

    Thanks,
    Ted

  2. #2
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    The Allez is not the most comfortable bike out there. Full aluminum frame, but with carbon fork, on their lowest end road bike. I test rode one once and found it a harsh ride.

    One option would be to go for a larger, more comfortable riding tire. I believe the Allez comes with 700x23. You could try a 700x25, or heaven forbid, a 700x28. There is a lot more air volume in a 28 than a 23 and that can make a big difference. Likewise for a tire that is made for riding comfort. That's your cheap option.

    Personally, I've found bikes with carbon forks, seat stays & seat tubes to yield a smoother ride than full aluminum. In some cases, a substantially smoother ride. Although some here have had good results with all aluminum higher-end bikes. Then there is always the steel frame option (with or without a carbon fork). I've heard very good things about the all carbon Roubaix, but have not ridden one.

    So many options out there. IMHO, many will be less harsh than what you have.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 09-06-07 at 04:21 PM.

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    One word: Alex Moulton.

    TCS
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

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  4. #4
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    I have a hard enough time keeping up with my son on my bike now; I can't see any chance of keeping up on one of these Alex Moulton bikes.

    Thanks,
    Ted

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    Try installing the widest tires your frame can accommodate. Be careful about deceptive sizing: my Bianchi is limited to 700Cx25mm with many brands, but it currently sports 700Cx28 Continentals.

    My other, highly-biased, recommendation is to get an older, longer-wheelbased road bike, perhaps one with a steel frame. My Capos are definitely all-day riders.
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  6. #6
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    I had a Cannondale with all aluminum rear triangle and give it a ride with the typical light weight road bike seat. It was terrible. It may not be "kosher" but I'm riding a seat with a spring support at rear. The springs really dampen the rear end pounding. And of course you want palm padded gloves. And also agree wider tyres will help. You should be able to get 25c to fit. May not be enough fork width to fit 28c.
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  7. #7
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    A year ago I bought a new road bike after not riding one for about 15 years. I ride a mountain bike to work, about 7.5 miles, a few days a week, and have been riding the road bike on weekends with my 20 year old son. As we have been doing longer rides, I find the beating that my body takes to be wearing me down. Last weekend we rode about 55 miles and it was a struggle for me to climb the last hills to get home. It was hot, but the pounding on the pavement had taken a toll as well.

    The bike I am riding is a Specialized Allez Elite triple. It feels great for shorter rides, but once I get much over 30 miles, I start to feel the pounding. I am 55 now, and definitely not getting any younger, so I wonder if I should be looking at a more forgiving frame to make these longer rides less of an ordeal. I'd like to do some rides of 80-100 miles, and I don't want them to be torture.

    My old bike was a Raleigh International frame, built in the early 70's. It felt a lot softer than my current bike, but also a lot heavier and not nearly as responsive.

    I have heard that the Specialized Roubaix is a very forgiving frame. Would this be a big improvement over what I am riding now or am I just getting old an soft?

    Thanks,
    Ted
    I am not familiar with SAE bike but the literature says that it is aluminum with carbon seat stays and a carbon fork. You are going to get a lot of opinion on geometry, materials, tires, wheels and etc. I think it is very individual and the only way to know is to test ride bikes in your price range on the road for a couple of hours. Most LBSs let customers take out demos for a ride which is more than a ride around the block.

    My opinion is that you need more fitness. Yes the bike and fit make a difference but the engine is the same on each bike. Difficulty going up hills and having enough juice at the end of a long ride without feeling the "pounding" of the road is usually about the lack of endurance. There is a big difference between 30 and 55 miles and feeling good at the end of 55 miles. Good luck and welcome.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  8. #8
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    I am not familiar with SAE bike but the literature says that it is aluminum with carbon seat stays and a carbon fork.
    Oops! I looked at the Allez Triple ... not the Allez Elite Triple! Darn Specialized naming conventions!!!

    You are correct, it has carbon seat stays. Unless he has a 2006 model, which has aluminum seat stays.
    http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?spid=21893

    I haven't ridden that one. My experience with other bikes with carbon forks & seat stays was generally positive & that they had a smooth ride. Oddly though, the exception was a 2007 Specialized Sirrus Comp that had one of the harshest rides of any bike I've ridden. Could feel the texture of the road in my hands and the slightest bump was quite noticable. This despite it having 700x28 tires & those buzz beater Zertz inserts that Specialized touts. Rode it on the same day as a Fuji Absolute 1.0, which is a very similar bike that also had carbon fork, seat stay and 700x28 tires. The difference was significant, with the Fuji having a much smoother ride.

    Options are to try different tires, seat, and/or grips/tape.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 09-06-07 at 07:11 PM.
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    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    I have a hard enough time keeping up with my son on my bike now; I can't see any chance of keeping up on one of these Alex Moulton bikes.
    Alex Moulton bikes have been used to set an unbeaten world speed record, raced in the RAAM, taken time/distance marks and had riders win criteriums and time trials using them. The superior efficiency of the bikes has been measured empirically.

    Always put in the clutch before shifting the paradigm.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    I have heard that the Specialized Roubaix is a very forgiving frame. Would this be a big improvement over what I am riding now or am I just getting old an soft?

    Thanks,
    Ted
    Ted, is your bike a 2007 with carbon seat stays, seat post and fork? Or is it a 2006 or older? I would think the Roubaix would be a lot softer riding than the 2006 model Allez Elite. It would also be smoother than the 2007 Allez Elite, but maybe not as much of a difference..
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    My bike is a 2006 Allez Elite, so I guess it has the aluminum seat stays. Sounds like this should be harsher than the 2007 model.

    I really appreciate all the advice about getting wider tires and a more compliant seat. I will look into these options. Sorry for the flippant remark about the Alex Moulton bikes, but they looked similar to the folding bikes. I've been working on conditioning, riding to work for 50-60 miles per week and increasing mileage on weekends by 10-20 percent per week. What I really felt on this last long ride was the pounding though.

    Thanks,
    Ted

  12. #12
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    I have heard that the Specialized Roubaix is a very forgiving frame. Would this be a big improvement over what I am riding now or am I just getting old an soft?

    Thanks,
    Ted
    Yes, it's a vast improvement. I tested both bikes, but the Roubaix wins hands down. As to your getting old and soft, that's for you to say!
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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee View Post
    Yes, it's a vast improvement. I tested both bikes, but the Roubaix wins hands down.
    Probably due to it being white.
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  14. #14
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    Probably due to it being white.
    Almost goes without saying.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    My bike is a 2006 Allez Elite, so I guess it has the aluminum seat stays. Sounds like this should be harsher than the 2007 model.
    I really appreciate all the advice about getting wider tires and a more compliant seat. I will look into these options. Sorry for the flippant remark about the Alex Moulton bikes, but they looked similar to the folding bikes. I've been working on conditioning, riding to work for 50-60 miles per week and increasing mileage on weekends by 10-20 percent per week. What I really felt on this last long ride was the pounding though.
    Thanks,
    Ted
    Ted,
    Certainly the bike does contribute to the overall comfort level of longer rides. But at the base of all this is the rider. You don;t mention what level of fitness you currently are at. How's your weight to height (BMI in modern speak, which many consider extreme but is one possible benchmark)? How's your level of musculature fitness? 'strength' aside, the muscles are a major part of your body's ability to deal with stress and shock. AS Hermes mentioned, there are levels of fitness which allow higher mile rides to be less stressful.
    That aside, certainly aluminum frames (as a general but certainly not absolute statement) seem to transmit road shocks more than other materials. Now, I really hate saying that cause so much goes into 'ride quality', but generally for bikes with similar dims and components, an alu construct will seems less compliant than steel, carbon or TI.
    That aside, an alu frame bike can be a pleasant machine. I have one I really enjoy and have done 100+ mile rides without any more discomfort than on other machines of CF or steel.
    You never mention 'where' the pounding is being felt. There really are only a few places, but some indications of where and how much (relative to the other contact points) goes a long way into ferreting out the issues and possible solutions.
    You mention 'compliant' saddles. COmpliance in saddles is often achieved by 'cushion' and that often detracts from comfort and the very purpose of the saddle - to support and not chafe or place undue pressure anywhere except at the sitbones. You'll find out certainly what combinations of 'compliance' and support will work best for you. Might take years, but you'll find out.
    Bars. Certainly many options here to get more comfort.
    Finally, also a cornerstone of riding comfort, along with fitness, is posture. If your posture is poor and creates rigid structures, then 'pounding' will be intensified. Review HOW you ride.
    Best of luck

  16. #16
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    Some bikes are harsh to ride- but one persons harsh ride is anothers performance bike.

    If the bike gives a rough ride- there are a couple of things to improve it. Main thing is wider tyres running at lower pressures. CF. fork and seat stem do a lot to smooth out a ride but be warned- They are not cheap. If they are cheap they are inferior products that may be overbuilt to negate the Purpose for which they are bought.

    You haven't said where the pain comes in. Butt- back or hands and shoulders. Butt is a problem and comes down to saddle and saddle position. Back can be linked to the next one of hands and both of these are down to fit. As we get older- we are not as supple as we used to be so require a different set up. Bars need to be closer- or further away- and normally raised. Easily arranged by a stem change.

    So where is the bike kicking you and have you a pic of you sitting on the bike?

    That would give a better response as to what could be the problem.

    Of course a new bike would give you the chance to try out the different frames and the different styles of bike available and is the one that most of us would suggest. And as to the Moulton bikes- Good bikes but not one I would think of riding.

    All bikes take some setting up and That is why I suggest posting a picture of you on the bike. I know with me it took 6 months to set up my first road bike. The second I knew what was required to get it comfortable and bought the one that fitted the bill. Your first bike is only the Proving ground to find out what the second bike should be- And the 3rd- and the 4th etc.
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  17. #17
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    I consider myself to be at a reasonable level of overall fitness. I'm 5'9" tall and 150 lbs. I lift weights 3 days per week and ride a mtn bike to work an average of 3 days per week, 7.5 miles each way in 30 minutes. I use a mtn bike for these rides since it has a rack to put my clothes, lunch, etc, and I don't want to put a rack on my road bike. The mtn bike is for transport, the road bike is for fun. On recent road bike rides, I have averaged 19 mph for an hour and 17.5 mph for 2 hours. Not race worthy, but I don't loaf along.

    The issue with the pounding is probably partly to do with where I ride. I ride on bike paths in the south Denver suburbs. These are concrete with expansion joints about every 8 feet. Sometimes if feels like I am riding over railroad ties when they buckle up a bit on hot days. There is a noticeable difference in the bumpiness of this surface when the weather is hot. These bike paths are considerably rougher than most roads that I have ridden. I still prefer riding on the paths rather than the road since I don't need to worry about traffic.

    The pounding on my body seems pretty evenly distributed. I feel it in my rear, hands, shoulders, neck. When I was younger, I tried to keep my weight balanced on my feet while riding, unweighting the seat and my hands. I don't have the leg strength to keep this up for longer rides any more, so more weight is on my seat and hands now.

    My bike does have CF forks with those zertz inserts and a CF seat post with those inserts as well. The seat is pretty comfortable. I used to ride on a Brooks Pro saddle, but don't have it any longer. It was a bit springier than the saddle I have now. I recognize the importance of a firm surface on the saddle. By compliant, I meant looking for something with some shock absorbtion capability through springiness, rather than a cushion.

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I've really been enjoying the riding. I'd just like to make it even better.

    Thanks,
    Ted

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Try installing the widest tires your frame can accommodate. Be careful about deceptive sizing: my Bianchi is limited to 700Cx25mm with many brands, but it currently sports 700Cx28 Continentals.

    My other, highly-biased, recommendation is to get an older, longer-wheelbased road bike, perhaps one with a steel frame. My Capos are definitely all-day riders.
    What is it with tire manufacturers that each one seems to have a different idea of just what a mm is?

  19. #19
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tedshuck View Post
    I consider myself to be at a reasonable level of overall fitness. I'm 5'9" tall and 150 lbs. I lift weights 3 days per week and ride a mtn bike to work an average of 3 days per week, 7.5 miles each way in 30 minutes. I use a mtn bike for these rides since it has a rack to put my clothes, lunch, etc, and I don't want to put a rack on my road bike.
    The issue with the pounding is probably partly to do with where I ride. I ride on bike paths in the south Denver suburbs. These are concrete with expansion joints about every 8 feet. Sometimes if feels like I am riding over railroad ties when they buckle up a bit on hot days. There is a noticeable difference in the bumpiness of this surface when the weather is hot. These bike paths are considerably rougher than most roads that I have ridden. I still prefer riding on the paths rather than the road since I don't need to worry about traffic.

    The pounding on my body seems pretty evenly distributed. I feel it in my rear, hands, shoulders, neck. When I was younger, I tried to keep my weight balanced on my feet while riding, unweighting the seat and my hands. I don't have the leg strength to keep this up for longer rides any more, so more weight is on my seat and hands now.

    Ted
    Think have stated the problem. Those concrete blocks hurt anyone on any bike. The mountain bike would absorb a lot of the Bumps with the wider tyres and possibly suspension if you have it. Get off the Concrete and onto a Sensible surface. Going to wider tyres wont help a great deal. Only thing that would is a Full Suspension mountain bike or a Ride on a different surface.
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    There can be a huge difference in the way bikes feel. I have a CAAD5 Cannondale and a steel Gunnar, both set up the same as far as wheels, saddles, and measurements. Taken on a rough road, there is such a difference that I can't believe I rode the Cannondale for 4 years, it just pounds me. On a smooth road, not bad, but a rough road, forget it. I also have a steel Tesch, a crit type bike. This thing is the stiffest bike I have ridden and I wince when I see a bump in the road. I had a Prestige tubed Landshark and it was softer than the Gunnar, too soft for a 210# rider, but very comfortable. It would be great for a 150# guy.

  21. #21
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    Tall order looking for a road bike comfortable riding on concrete expansion joints. Other than the fattest tires that will fit running at the lowest pressure that won't cause flats and possibly a Brooks Flyer, I don't know of much you can do with your bike. It would work well on smooth pavement, but not so well where you ride.

    A Long Haul Trucker with 38mm tires would be a possible solution. The longer wheelbase and relaxed angles combined with the smoothness of a steel frame and higer volume, lower pressure tires would help soften the bumps.

    Or maybe a Pugsley built up with drop bars
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    so you've ID'd the issue - riding surface.
    So aside from getting off that surface, riding something with suspension will help.
    Certainly larger tires at lower pressures will ease the shocks. A suspension MTB frame with nice fat slicks can be a formidable tool for plying rougher street terrain. You won;t give up as much speed as you will gain comfort.
    If, however, you really want roadbike high performance with a high level of comfort - look into a softride suspension bike. like this one
    I've had a sofride suspension (with a custom Wanta frame) since '91 and still luv and ride the bike. It scarifices nothing in performance other than being steel and 1st and 2nd Gen beam construction, so heavier than most current modern bikes including the new softrides. In fact the design allows me to have 3 bottle cages attached. Which, for longer rides, means I'm always covered for hydration.
    I really luv it on rough country roads. I can just power over most any rough section, maintaining full power and traction, while riders on conventional bikes have to lift off the saddle and stop pedaling because they would bounce so much. Pinch flats are also a very remote happening for softrides.
    Washboard? Bring it On!
    And for some good prices, they do come up on ebay quite regularly, like this one. no reason you can;t take a TT oriented bike and swap on road bars and shifters.
    Actually, I'm in the middle of swapping out the steel fork for a carbon one and putting on some modern, lighter wheels so I can again take it out for the weekly hammerfests. I'm sure I can drop 2+ lbs easy and get it down to the 20+ lb area. Not superlight, but close enough to not feel totally like draggin anchor.
    Try to find and ride one, I think you'll be duly impressed both by the comfort and the very high level of performance.
    Also do a search for 'softride' here in BF, you'll see some pics of some very fine machinas.

    OH! and one other option, which I've applied to ALL of my road machines (about 10 at the moment) is to put on suspension seatposts. I prefer the RockShox seatpost - road length of 290 mm, but they also have the same seatpost in a 350mm length.
    A huge difference in comfort and also performance, since the wheels maintain better road contact even on rough terrain. Only the CF Roubaix and Tarmac have their normal solid seatpost (CF posts in these cases). After tweaking the suspension seatpost shock adjustment, I no longer feel any 'movement' during riding. A suspension seatpost is a relatively inexpensive way to adda a huge amount of comfort with no performance loss or large cash outlay.
    Last edited by cyclezen; 09-07-07 at 11:56 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member BikeArkansas's Avatar
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    I was riding the same model road bike you have with the same results. I complained about the ride to my brother, who rides much more than I. He said I was not in shape. I got him to trade bikes for a 20 mile ride. He changed his mind and advised me to get a different bike because of the geometry. I did buy a new bike with all carbon fiber frame. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. The bike I bought is a Tirreno Razza 2000, which I believe is a Fuji frame, who cares, but I also really liked the Trek 5000 with very similar geometry and full carbon. The Elite Allez pounded my body. Now I am limited by my conditioning.
    I started riding my bike to get healthy. Now I try to stay healthy so I can ride my bike.

  24. #24
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    I you want a very comfortable frame try to find a Jamis Eclipse 2003-04 series which is 853 steel with a carbon rear and fork. Rides like a dream. I have Cf and aluminum bikes and the Jamis is my answer when I don't want to feel beatup after a long ride. The small weight penalty is more than offset by the comfort.

  25. #25
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    This weekend I test rode some bikes at my LBS's. I tried Trek 5000, a low-end Wilier, a Felt F4, and a Specialized Roubaix. All of these bikes felt smoother than my Allez. The Wilier and the Roubaix also felt more stable and seemed to track straighter. The Roubaix was my favorite of the bikes, with the Wilier a close second. I was riding all of these on the same section of bike trail that gives me fits on my Allez.
    I went home and climbed back on my Allez to confirm my findings and found that it did feel considerably harsher than the bikes I had just ridden.
    One curious finding was that I fit best on a 56cm on all the bikes except the Roubaix, where a 54cm frame fit best. The 54cm Trek felt a lot smaller than the 54cm Roubaix.
    I think I know what I want for Christmas this year...

    Thanks for all the advise,
    Ted

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