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Old 07-15-09, 02:06 PM   #1
suzieque
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Searching for new road bike

Hi! I am a 54 yr. old gal who is getting back into biking after many years. I miss riding and want to get back into it. I used to ride a Puch Pathfinder, so that will tell you how long it's been. I am trying to find out if anyone has had any experience with the following bikes. I have looked at the following WSD bikes: Specialized Dolce, Gary Fisher ARC Super GS, ARC Pro GS, Trek 1.5 WSD, Cannondale Synapse 5 WSD, Giant FCR 1 W and Trek 7.5 fx WSD. Perhaps you have a suggestion, also. The bikes I have test driven with drop handlebars I have found to be uncomfortable braking because it is such a reach. The dealer suggested shims. Should I look into that or figure that it doesn't fit and go try another bike? Or perhaps it is just me and I should get used to it, but it really is uncomfortable to reach for the brake. I am totally confused and would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.
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Old 07-15-09, 02:19 PM   #2
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If you are interested in road riding- then a road bike would be better. There are shims available for short hands for the brakes and I believe some WSD bikes do have these fitted.

The bikes you have listed are all good so no problem there. I won't comment on any one as you are looking at WSD bikes and no experience of them.

Perhaps some of the grls here can adcise you better.
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Old 07-15-09, 05:04 PM   #3
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My wife got a Fuji Finest 1.0 last year and loves it. It is a WSD and the brifters came with 2 thicknesses of shims. As Stapfam said, if you plan to ride on the road, a road bike is your best bet. Just keep test riding till you fins one that feels right.

When I took my wife shopping for her Fuji, the scene in the bike store was similar to the cartoons you see of a woman in a shoe store surrounded by the boxes of shoes she's tried on except she was surrounded by the bikes she'd test-ridden. The staff at the bike store was very patient and didn't bat an eye when we left without buying. It took her a few days to accept that the Fuji was the one for her (it was the most expensive one she test rode) but it was all worth it to get the right fit.
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Old 07-15-09, 05:23 PM   #4
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Brake levers and brifters are all manufactured by component makers, then used on bikes made by frame makers, just like Detroit used to sub-contract engine parts. You won't find much variation in the components speced at a given price point, so don't keep trying different bikes if it is just one component that doesn't work for you. The big difference will be if it is Campy or Shimano equipped. Usually the brifter has to match the manufacturer of the derailleurs. Some folks say Campy works better for small hands, but my hands are pretty small and I use Shimano 105 with a shim quite nicely. Shims are used on a lot of WSD bikes to make the reach easier. They work well, and more than one can be put in. The shop will just have to readjust the brake after they are put in.

Spend your time on the bike evaluating the fit of the frame, are you too stretched out? Feel hunched up? etc. You can only make minor adjustments to the frame fit. You can make a lot of adjustments with the components, and if you talk to the shop they may even let you change some components on a new bike for cheaper than buying them after the initial sale. Be sure to get fitted on the frame.
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Old 07-15-09, 07:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by suzieque View Post
Hi! I am a 54 yr. old gal who is getting back into biking after many years. I miss riding and want to get back into it. I used to ride a Puch Pathfinder, so that will tell you how long it's been. I am trying to find out if anyone has had any experience with the following bikes. I have looked at the following WSD bikes: Specialized Dolce, Gary Fisher ARC Super GS, ARC Pro GS, Trek 1.5 WSD, Cannondale Synapse 5 WSD, Giant FCR 1 W and Trek 7.5 fx WSD. Perhaps you have a suggestion, also. The bikes I have test driven with drop handlebars I have found to be uncomfortable braking because it is such a reach. The dealer suggested shims. Should I look into that or figure that it doesn't fit and go try another bike? Or perhaps it is just me and I should get used to it, but it really is uncomfortable to reach for the brake. I am totally confused and would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.
When you say "hard to reach" and the dealer mentions shims, then I make the assumption that you are having trouble reaching the brakes when your hands are down on the drop bar. If this is true, then you really should try the shims before buying.....it's only a matter of a couple of minutes for the shims to be installed by a good mechanic. (they may have to adjust the brakes a bit)

I would not accept the fact that shims "will solve your problem" without trying them first.
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Old 07-15-09, 07:46 PM   #6
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Also, do you mean it's a reach for your hands or for your arms? I'm a 53-year-old woman with bad elbows who just got a new road bike. My brake levers are at a good distance for my small hands, but I wasn't feeling confident. I fiddled with my fit and found that rotating the bars back just a couple of degrees made a big difference in my comfort on the bars and brakes.
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Old 07-15-09, 08:30 PM   #7
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My wife just placed an order today for a Cannondale Synapse Fem 6 (tripple rings). The Fem has a smaller distance from the handle bar and the shift/brake lever.
She was riding a Giant FCR 1W, but wanted the road bike because of better position on the bike. This gives her more power for climbing hills also.
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Old 07-15-09, 08:39 PM   #8
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Perhaps someone on the Women's forum would have some good advice. Who would be able to invite Suzieque to that forum?
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Old 07-15-09, 08:58 PM   #9
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Before you fall in love with any type of bike, you should go to a good shop and be measured. Some women fit WSD bikes wonderfully, and some actually fit better on a non-WSD bike. If the person doing the initial measuring and final fitting really knows what they are doing, you should end up with a very comfortable bike which will allow you to ride faster and for longer periods of time.
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Old 07-15-09, 09:27 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the help. To be honest, I really don't know what I am exactly doing. I shall try shims before purchasing. I didn't know I could ask them to put them on before I bought a bike. When I first started looking at bikes, I thought all I could handle was a step-through. There are a lot of hills near where I live and I thought I'd be lumbering up the hills in a heavy Trek Navigator type bike. So then I started looking at the trek 7.5 fx and liked it but thought my hands and arms would get tired and then I'd regret buying that bike. So next I gravitated to the Trek 1.5, then the Gary Fisher ARC Super GS (all the while the price increasing) and then Specialized Dolce and Cannondale Synapse 5 or whatever. It is getting daunting.

So tomorrow I am going to look at the Specialized and Cannondale. I talked to a guy at a LBS and he really sounded like he knew how to fit a bike, saying it is more important to get the correct fit before focusing on all the componentry. I am hoping the Spec. or Cannon. will not leave me uncomfortable with the brakes. I have read some great things about the Synapse. The Trek at this point just didn't quite do it for me to make me commit to buying it. I feel that finding the right bike can be kind of a chore. I so much want to get out and ride and here the summer is more than half over and I am still trying to find that bike. I have my helmet, gloves and bike rack ready to go and still no bike. I guess the '10 model year is coming out soon, too. I really want to feel happy and comfortable riding the bike and not have to give things like brakes a second thought, like when I was younger.

Also, I don't want to get the base model so I don't regret not getting a little better bike down the road.

Any input is greatly appreciated!
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Old 07-15-09, 11:04 PM   #11
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Some of the other guys on here or your LBS guy might remember which model they are, but Shimano at least made a set of brifters that were shorter reach for smaller hands. This meant that the brake levers were not quite as far from the bars. Might have been the R600 models.
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Old 07-16-09, 04:55 AM   #12
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Suzieque,
I can only say that the advice so far is good so other than that I am happy that you are so excited about getting back on a bike and wanting to ride. I hope you can find that bike you are so looking to get and get back out there! Good luck and happy riding!
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Old 07-16-09, 09:14 AM   #13
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Good luck with your choice. You've assembled a great short-list.

You asked for accounts of experience with any on the list. My wife (same age as you) loves her Trek 7.5 fx wsd. 2 years old now, with tours Helsinki to Stockholm, Amman to Aqaba, Esberg to Copenhagen, round the Brittany coast and a couple of pretty long rides every weekend morning here in Bahrain. Fast enough for her (and I find her a bit of a challenge to hang on to though I'd never admit it!), well up with the averages in the group we ride with, and it suits her fine. No mechanical problems at all in getting on for 3500 miles in that time.

When we were shopping for it I was a bit inclined to push/suggest/influence towards a wsd drop bar machine - but in truth I only use the drops on mine for less than 5% of my riding, and she's more sensible and found the flat bars suit her fine.

Happy shopping. Fit, first criterion. Emotional appeal second, colour and appearance matter and everyone deserves a bike they like to look at. Componentry third, because it's all very similar these days and it all works!
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Old 07-16-09, 10:06 AM   #14
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Thanks for your experience, Wobbly. I liked the Trek 7.5 fx WSD but then I got distracted looking at the drop handlebars and have been hung up ever since. I may go back to the 7.5 if I don't get more comfortable with the drop handlebars. I am going to check out Specialized and Cannondale today and if I am not happy, I will go back and look at the straight-across handlebars. I will not end up riding a bike that I am not comfortable on, just like the old bike I hadn't ridden for 20 years after I stupidly put toe clips on it - what one LBS referred to as death traps. I just want to get on my ultimate bike.
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Old 07-16-09, 10:25 AM   #15
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You can always put bar ends on a straight handlebar for a second hand position while riding.
The nice thing about hybrids is they usually accomodate a larger tire. You can put a 700 X 25 on for riding only on pavement, or use the 700 X 32, or maybe a 700 X 35 for touring or riding on crushed limestone trails.
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Old 07-16-09, 10:29 AM   #16
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My wife just bought a Specialized Ruby, very similar in geometry to the Dolce. She has a small mens' Giant, but her torso is too short for the top-tube. Even though she is over 5'6" the new ride has a 51cm top tube. I don't know that the drops are a big issue one way or the other since many riders spend a high percentage of their time on the hoods with braking accomplished with the lower part of your hand. My wife also likes interrupter brake levers which are easy to add on and inexpensive. Good luck.
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Old 07-16-09, 12:10 PM   #17
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How tall are you? Do you want to just ride and enjoy the scenery or would you also like to join women's group rides and go fast? IOW, in your mind, what do you see when you think about riding your new bike.

Are your legs long or short?

What's the most you'd spend?
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Old 07-16-09, 04:19 PM   #18
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I am 5'3" and my legs are 30" from the bottom of my foot to the inside of the top of my thigh. I just want to enjoy the scenery and ride briskly. I am not good enough yet to go with a group. I'm sure I'd have trouble keeping up, but that could be an option someday. Sounds like fun. The most I'd really like to spend is around $1200, because by the time you add a few things, like shoes, shorts, upgrade the pedals or seat, get a lock, etc., you've added a several hundred dollars to the bottom line. I hope to find a nice bike for that price.

I did not know you could put bar ends on straight handlebars or interrupter brake levers. Neither of these have been mentioned to me by the salespeople I have spoken with after I asked questions regarding those issues, except for the shims, which I found out could be put on for me to try out. Hmm.

Thanks for helping me become more informed.
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Old 07-16-09, 07:14 PM   #19
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Some of the other guys on here or your LBS guy might remember which model they are, but Shimano at least made a set of brifters that were shorter reach for smaller hands. This meant that the brake levers were not quite as far from the bars. Might have been the R600 models.
I was just going to mention this. Its very possible that either for free or a small exchange charge, the shop will if necessary swap brifters so you can have the smaller ones, again if you need it. What they are willing to do along these lines may well be a key to selecting the best shop.
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Old 07-16-09, 08:29 PM   #20
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Thanks for your experience, Wobbly. I liked the Trek 7.5 fx WSD but then I got distracted looking at the drop handlebars and have been hung up ever since. I may go back to the 7.5 if I don't get more comfortable with the drop handlebars. I am going to check out Specialized and Cannondale today and if I am not happy, I will go back and look at the straight-across handlebars. I will not end up riding a bike that I am not comfortable on, just like the old bike I hadn't ridden for 20 years after I stupidly put toe clips on it - what one LBS referred to as death traps. I just want to get on my ultimate bike.
Until I read this, I was going to suggest trying to find another Puch Pathfinder on Craigslist or eBay, so you'd have something with which you already were familiar. (That's what I did when I started riding again last year after a twenty-year hiatus; I bought a used Univega Gran Turismo from the early '80s that is essentially a higher-end 15-speed version of the 10-speed I bought in 1973.)

If the only thing you didn't like about your old bike was the toe clips, couldn't you just take them off? (Although it's hard for me to imagine not liking toe clips. That's one of the things I insisted on having on my "new" bike because I always used them on my old one.)
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Old 07-16-09, 09:20 PM   #21
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Widsith, I looked at my old Puch in the garage and just don't think it's worth fixing up. It's been sitting there for 17 years. Bikes have vastly improved since then and I'd like to move on, especially after test riding the Specialized Dolce Comp. I am certain I am not an expert rider like you because toe clips scare me. I was never comfortable in them and I think that's one reason I subconsciously quit biking for so long was because of those darn toe clips. Plus I got into running.

I tried out the Specialized Dolce Comp tonight and it is one nice bike. Does anyone have one or know someone who does and how you/they like it? It's a little more than I want to pay, but I think I just might be persuaded. (It's eight times more than I paid for my Puch in the '80s.) I felt more comfortable on this bike than the Trek 1.5 or Gary Fisher ARC Super GS. I liked putting my hands on the hoods and could reach the brake nicely there as well as at the bottom. I liked the shifters in back of the brake better than closer to the straight part of the handlebars, eliminating the need to move the hands to a different spot to shift. The bike is very fast going downhill and I found myself riding the brake, although I'm sure I could get used to enjoying the speed. It is such a light bike. You can easily pick it up. If I get this bike, I will get the Dolce Comp Triple, since it's hilly where I live.

This is one nice bike that I am for sure getting excited about. I can't imagine being unhappy with this bike. We'll see if my LBS can get the triple and see what happens.
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Old 07-16-09, 09:50 PM   #22
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If the price of the Dolce Comp is higher than you want, have you looked at the Dolce Elite? Slightly lower level components, but still a very nice bike.
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Old 07-16-09, 09:55 PM   #23
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A couple of the women in my club have the Dolce, and they love them. I don't think they have the new model with the carbon seatstays, though. The carbon stays and fork with the zert inserts should take care of a lot of road buzz. A bike that fits you is the one you'll loved cranking out the miles on. Stick with the LBS that is more concerned about your fit on the bike. If you really like the way it rides, I say go for it. It's designed for women, so being able to reach the levers easily is designed in.
I didn't see where someone suggested the interrupter brake levers, but bar ends on a flat bar bike is common. On the drop bars, I never rode in the drops, but on the tops of the bars, on the hoods, and in between the tops and hoods on the curve of the bars. Three hand positions.

Good catch, BluesDawg. For the hills, she could always ask them to swap out the cassette for the tallest that her rear derailer can handle. The Tiagra components will last her thousands of miles.
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Old 07-16-09, 11:31 PM   #24
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The Dolce Triple has a 50-39-30 crank and a 12-27 cassette (the Dolce Comp). The 30-27 should with some riding handle most any hill. My wife wanted a 51cm Dolce Comp Triple, but Specialized was out of that size and had ended their 2009 production. We went with a Ruby Elite which we picked up today.
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Old 07-17-09, 04:23 AM   #25
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Widsith, I looked at my old Puch in the garage and just don't think it's worth fixing up. It's been sitting there for 17 years. Bikes have vastly improved since then and I'd like to move on, especially after test riding the Specialized Dolce Comp. I am certain I am not an expert rider like you because toe clips scare me. I was never comfortable in them and I think that's one reason I subconsciously quit biking for so long was because of those darn toe clips. Plus I got into running.
I wouldn't consider myself an expert rider. It's just that when I first tried toe clips 36 years ago, at the age of 18, they made a night-and-day difference in the ease of pedaling for me and I've never wanted to go back. I've always kept the straps loose enough that my feet can be slipped easily out of them, though; I'm not one of those guys who tightens them so much that I'd have to reach down and loosen them by hand before getting my feet out. That would scare me for sure!

Anyway, the important thing is to find something that you'll be comfortable riding and that will encourage you to get out and ride more. For me, that's a steel-framed bike with a freewheel and toe clips and friction shifters and all those other "old school" features that I grew up riding and repairing. If a newer-technology bike makes you fall in love with riding again, then that's what you should get.
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