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  1. #1
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    Relaxed Geometry

    I have a good friend who wants to get into cycling more seriously. He regularly rides around Florida on inexpensive cruisers, and wants to upgrade and do more miles. He definately wants a more relaxed bike vs a racer

    My list would include Canondale Synapse, Specialized Roubaix, and Felt Z70.

    Before I pass this on, Any Additions?

    Thanks

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Don't say a race geometry bike is out until you try one.

    I was riding a relaxed geometry bike on a Giant OCR3. To be honest- I could never get fully comfortable on it. Back problems led me to raise the bars- and get a shorter stem. Never really cured the problem though.

    Next bike was a full race geometry bike. When I picked it up the shop had the bars 3" below the saddle and the stem intiially felt long. I had my doubts but the shop told me to ride it. The stem length was perfect and the height of the bars only caused me a problem in the neck- which had to be re-trained to a new position. I kept the OCR as a foul weather bike- but it is now a loaner to new riders.

    And as to any additions- Besides trying the race geometry bikes- just get out and try as many bikes as you can. All of us here have a favourite bike we can recommend- but the 3 you have come up with are popular- along with Giant- Trek- Surley----------
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    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    FWIW, I do most of my training and all my racing on a Roubaix Expert. It is a racing bike that is just slightly more "relaxed" than a Tarmac. I think the three bikes you mention are "tweeners" for those like me who didn't want the full blown racing bike or those who wanted to move to something more agressive than a touring bike, their original vintage bike or hybred. If your buddy is the kind of guy who wants to take his cycling up a couple notches or catch his youth again, then these bikes could be a good choice. They are all basically the same as they were designed for the same market. If he has never ridden a bike with his hands at or below the saddle then it might not be a good choice for a first road style bike.
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    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, good points all.

    Allegheny...I definately think he wants more than a touring bike. But I have a Synapse and the seat and bars are parallel. Not 6 inches below like many racers. Maybe mine isn't fit properly

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    More toward the entry level and really. really relaxed is the Specialized Sequoia.

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    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    Thanks guys, good points all.

    Allegheny...I definately think he wants more than a touring bike. But I have a Synapse and the seat and bars are parallel. Not 6 inches below like many racers. Maybe mine isn't fit properly
    If you are comfortable on the bike it must fit well. I've got the bar on my bike set as low as it can go which is about 4" below the seat. With the stem flipped and the washers moved under the stem the bar might be even wth the seat, I don't think it could go any higher without a different angled stem. My other training bike has the bars about 1" lower than the Roubaix.
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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    Thanks guys, good points all.

    Allegheny...I definately think he wants more than a touring bike. But I have a Synapse and the seat and bars are parallel.
    Not 6 inches below like many racers. Maybe mine isn't fit properly
    First, most riders do not race. In fact hardly any do. We have thousands of riders on the road each weekend and only about 600 show up at USCF races. And we see the same ones at each race. So the premise that racing bikes or seat to bar drop is about racing is folly. Racing bikes are sold to non racers with the idea of them visualizing that they are racing while they are riding. I find the term misleading. Yes, TdF pros and amateurs racers ride racing bikes but the reason is for power, speed and distance efficiency. That same feature is desirable by other riders even though they will never race.

    We have hundreds of very strong accomplished riders of all ages who ride in very good form and posture with bars below the seat and never race or consider racing. And some of these riders are much faster than many racers per se.

    My point is not to be critical but to suggest that proper riding posture and fit is about the individual and his / her goals. Riding posture is about fitness, flexibility and core strength. If you friend wants to ride farther faster and climb hills, a lower riding posture is desirable for a number of reasons. The most important is that it takes pressure off the knees and engages the glutes yielding more power. Yes, one can start with a more relaxed geometry, but if he / she has the motivation and fitness, it may soon be the wrong choice.

    One can take a more performance oriented geometry and flip the stem with larger angle and get the bars up higher. If the person wants to lower the bars in the future, one changes the stem. This opens up a lot of great choices other than the ones you mention. However, a racing geometry with a rising stem looks a little weird but who cares.

    Most of the time, it comes down to hard cash. Racing bikes are generally more expensive and have better frames, components and wheels. The relaxed geometry price point will be lower than racing bikes and the bike will be heavier and less schwaggy.

    My vote is that if your friend has the cash, is motivated for performance and is willing to work at it, check out some performance bikes as well as the "relaxed" geometry bikes.

    BTW, I have an 11 cm bar to seat drop but I also have long arms / legs versus torso. 6 inches is a lot of drop i.e. 15 cm.

  8. #8
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    Maybe I'm overthinking it. Although he did specifically say he wanted to be more upright and was leang to a cross style/touring bike. I think he'll be happier with a road bike.

    It there really much difference between 'relaxed' and racing. I'm coming from an older Trek Aluminum, now to a Carbon DA Synapse. I mostly ride the hoods as it is more comfortable, 10% in the drops.

    But it is light and feels like a rocket ship to me. As you say, definately not racing, I, and I suspect my friend, normally do 20-50 mile rides at a moderate pace 13-14.5 avg. I guess many bike will do that, I just leading him to a road style vs a upright style that he seems interested in

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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    Maybe I'm overthinking it. Although he did specifically say he wanted to be more upright and was leang to a cross style/touring bike. I think he'll be happier with a road bike.

    It there really much difference between 'relaxed' and racing. I'm coming from an older Trek Aluminum, now to a Carbon DA Synapse. I mostly ride the hoods as it is more comfortable, 10% in the drops.

    But it is light and feels like a rocket ship to me. As you say, definately not racing, I, and I suspect my friend, normally do 20-50 mile rides at a moderate pace 13-14.5 avg. I guess many bike will do that, I just leading him to a road style vs a upright style that he seems interested in
    Look, 13 to 14.5 mph is great recreational riding pace. The power is generated by the rider. One could ride in a more upright position and do 14 to 16 mph. However, as the speed goes up, aerodynamics comes into play and upright riding postures capture too much wind. The increased power to overcome wind drag is generated by the quads which start to pull on the knee cap blah blah blah.

    Generally, it is the head tube length that changes the bar position. Racing geometry has shorter head tubes which allow the bar to be lower relative to the seat. The fork may have less rake which makes the steering faster and the frame and components better. The frames are stiffer and shorter.

    In my work, I do a lot of sales. Sell the customer what he wants to buy. If your friend wants an upright position, fine. Go for it. If he finds it does not work, he will sell it and get another one.

  10. #10
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    You guys have forgotten more about bikes than I'll ever know

  11. #11
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Sounds like your friend wants to get a bit more serious about biking. He may go through a few bikes before he finds what he really wants.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  12. #12
    Lance Legweak HIPCHIP's Avatar
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    I started out looking at a Specialized Sequoia as my low back is shot. I ended up with the Felt Z-70 as it felt much more comfortable for me, it's lighter, and a little more aggressive. Lots of good choices, just depends on how much he has to spend and what other activity he wants to do. Sequoia is least expensive, Felt is a little more, and the Roubaix is a lot more.

  13. #13
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    Thanks, adding to the list

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    When friends are just getting into biking, upgrading from a very casual bike, they usually have pretty non-specific goals, like, "I just want to start riding more on a better bike."

    I think it's important to know what "else" they want to do. If they are pretty active and pretty sporty types, would their ultimate goal be riding centuries? Fast group rides? Or maybe commuting to work, or taking a credit card tour? Do they want to be able to fit fenders so they can ride in bad weather, or perhaps mount a rack so they can carry stuff?

    Personally I think too many people end up with "fast road bikes" that are suited to group rides, athletic training and fast centuries....when not that many people really aspire to do that.

    A steel 'cross bike or light touring bike (Surly Crosscheck, Salsa Casserroll, etc. etc.) is potentially more useful who might want to do all-weather commuting, some spirited weekend riding and maybe do a supported tour or short credit card weekend tour.

    Compare the Specialized Roubaix with the Salsa Casserroll - both a big upgrade; both suitable for "relaxed"/more comfortable riding; but two very different bikes in terms of ultimate capability. I see more 50+'ers in Seattle riding around on Roubaix's than on Casserrolls; personally I believe more people would be happier if the trend were reversed.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 06-12-09 at 03:43 PM.

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    Errr, if I were you, I would not want to be responsible for putting my friend and his money onto a full-blown racing bike or racing bike replica. There's more to it than handlebar height, but if that is important, I can guarantee you that unless your friend intends to eventually use the bike in professional road racing, he will be able to set his handlebars as high or as low as needed by any serious recreational road bike rider. Just make sure he doesn't pick a frame that's too large or too small.

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    My wife rides a Specialized Sequoia and loves it. I ride a Surly Long Haul Trucker and at 6'5", I can ride comfortably for 65 or 70 miles and my back doesn't hurt.

    One of the suggestions posted is that your friend needs to ride more, on a differently-designed bike geometry, to know what his preference will be. My Surly was built up and cost me around $ 1300. Haven't had to replace anything in 3 years except tubes. The Brooks saddle is even with the handlebars but that's my comfort zone. There's a Surly LHT for around $900 complete these days.

    I think the main difference your friend might discover is that a bike that is $800 to $1000 will be so much better than the cruiser he's riding now that he'll find a whole new world of possibilities opened up. Certainly that was my experience after I had several thousand miles on my old Giant mt. bike converted to cruiser. By that time I knew how I wanted another bike to fit.
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  17. #17
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    After all the advice, I might just stay out of it. When you open up, touring bikes, cross bikes, relaxed and racing frames. Best people make their own decision. How wrong can you go

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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    After all the advice, I might just stay out of it. When you open up, touring bikes, cross bikes, relaxed and racing frames. Best people make their own decision. How wrong can you go
    You want to do the same as I did for a mate of mine recently.

    He wanted a bike- No real idea on what he did want as he started at around 300 for a bike- but I did talk to him about the various bikes around. I do have a good LBS and I know they would sort him out and give him a good deal so a couple of weeks ago I took him to the shop and left him in the hands of the owner- but just kept in the background to make certain he wasn't being done. 4 test rides later and he decided on a mountain bike- for road use.

    I was surplus to checking that he was being dealt with properly as the shop did look after him. but that 300 did get raised to an 08 500 bike only costing 400 and with 10% off the 60 of accessories he bought.

    And he will make it as a cyclist. He lives only 5 miles from work and commutes daily. Only problem is that there is a hill on the way to work and home. Yesterday he informed me that he did not have to walk up the hill on the way to work. I'll have to get training with him as it is a mile long hill- 8% one way and 11% the other. And that is only on his 5th day of cycling.
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    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    After all the advice, I might just stay out of it. When you open up, touring bikes, cross bikes, relaxed and racing frames. Best people make their own decision. How wrong can you go
    Really the best you can probably do is tell him what kinds of bikes are available and guide him to try a few. Most people's first bike purchase will be more of an impulse buy - and thats OK. Better his impulse than yours. Just make sure he goes to a good LBS. Oh - and if he is a 50+er have him sign up, we will confuse the livin daylights out of him with all our advice
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    When friends are just getting into biking, upgrading from a very casual bike, they usually have pretty non-specific goals, like, "I just want to start riding more on a better bike."

    I think it's important to know what "else" they want to do. If they are pretty active and pretty sporty types, would their ultimate goal be riding centuries? Fast group rides? Or maybe commuting to work, or taking a credit card tour? Do they want to be able to fit fenders so they can ride in bad weather, or perhaps mount a rack so they can carry stuff?

    Personally I think too many people end up with "fast road bikes" that are suited to group rides, athletic training and fast centuries....when not that many people really aspire to do that.

    A steel 'cross bike or light touring bike (Surly Crosscheck, Salsa Casserroll, etc. etc.) is potentially more useful who might want to do all-weather commuting, some spirited weekend riding and maybe do a supported tour or short credit card weekend tour.

    Compare the Specialized Roubaix with the Salsa Casserroll - both a big upgrade; both suitable for "relaxed"/more comfortable riding; but two very different bikes in terms of ultimate capability. I see more 50+'ers in Seattle riding around on Roubaix's than on Casserrolls; personally I believe more people would be happier if the trend were reversed.
    +1

    I would also add that if your friend is asking you then he/she probably doesn't really have the experience to know what he/she wants yet. So, maybe consider this a first bike on which to garner more experience. I think all the bikes that have been mentioned are good candidates and so maybe the question now is more about how much is he/she willing and able to spend for a first bike.

    Also, Craigs List is your friend.

  21. #21
    dolce far niente prxmid's Avatar
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    Here's my inexperience. Is a cyclocross bike suitable for what he's after? moderate distance riding in Florida!

  22. #22
    Senior Member roadiespinner's Avatar
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    I have about 3500 miles on my Specialized Roubaix Comp, and it is the most comfortable bike I have ridden, in 25 years.

  23. #23
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    When I got back into cycling I purchased a hybrid at the suggestion of LBS. He thought a guy my age should be riding the trails upright. Six months later I bought my first road bike and since then another. I ride the country roads down and dirty in the drops!!! Although I really like the hybrid I haven't ridden it in two years!
    I'm not old! I've always been wrinkled, balding with a spare tire.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prxmid View Post
    Here's my inexperience. Is a cyclocross bike suitable for what he's after? moderate distance riding in Florida!
    That could be a good choice. The V brakes allow for a wider tire and riding on varied terrain. I ride my cross bike as a bad weather and back up road bike and it works fine. I just take the wider knobby cross tires off and exchange them with road tires and I'm good to go. The cross bike will have him sitting up a little higher than a traditional road bike which is a little more comfortable.

    I hope your buddy will try out several of the bikes suggested. Most LBS's will allow a test ride.
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    If you check the previous posts, much of the discussion centers around fit/stem angle and length. I wonder if this isn't one of the aspects of modern bikes which is retrogressive, rather than progressive. If you determine the torso/arm length measurements of the proposed rider, and then were to go out and find a '80's era lugged steel used bike that has a total reach (top bar length + stem length), that would work, then he could play with stem height all he wants, and may wish to lower it as he sees fit as his flexibility increases; or conversly leave the stem high if there is a lower back problem, and a lack of said flexibiltiy. My point is the '80's era bikes did not have the restriction of fixed stem heights, did not require stacking plastic bits to achieve a desired height, and if needed-can be replaced with a stem with a longer or shorter reach for around $15 on e-bay. This novice rider does not need to save the weight penalty, and the theoretical stiffness issue is debatable.

    Find a vintage Bianchi, or other with accomodatation and clearance for fenders and possibly a rear rack, and send him off to an intenet site to determine "total reach"-ie Wrenchscience, and then research saddles with the aime being a continuous 2-hour ride with no pain; and he would be alot further ahead. If he wants to try the bar 2" lower than the saddle, an allen key and 10 seconds can give him this correction.

    Tell him that the experience should allow him to mentally drift, and that the ultimate aime is to "wake up" on route and find that you have been in the drops for the last 45 minutes by subconscious choice.

    He may find that he wants to get something new after this experience. The money out may be $250, with a resale around the same price. Then he knows what to look for, and a further outlay of $800 or so, may be justifiable for him for the 5 pound saving, and some other secondary benefits. Leave all that debate about stem height and length vis a vis saddle on the table.

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