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Old 01-29-10, 02:59 PM   #1
thdave
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Anyone Notice that Comfy Road Bikes are Now Flat Bar Road Bikes?

Just turned fitty, by the way, and couldn't figure where to post this--General, Road bikes, or Hybrids or here-- but this place seemed as good as any. Relocate as need be.

I'm shopping for a bike to ride on longer distances of 30+ miles. I hope to go on a hundred mile ride this year and would eventually like to take a ride to NYC. Presently, I ride my Breezer to work and around town. Don't really go any further than 12 miles or so.

I've been looking at the road bikes out there and notice that they are all aggressive in nature. If you look at the Giant or Raliegh or Masi websites (I'm sure others are this way, but I didn't look), the road bikes all have handlebars well below and fairly far from the seats.

I've ridden the Giant Defy and it says it's "relaxed" but it isn't. To be certain, I rode it about 5 miles. I require a comfortable bike, as I ride for fun first, sport second.

However, the Giant Rapid, a flat barred bike, is relaxed and I loved its ride--love the responsive frame and the light weight. The Raleigh Cadent also looks nice--it's a flat bar bike. But note that in 2006 it was a drop bar bike and Sheldon Brown wrote a great review on it--it switched to flats sometime in '07 or '08. The Masi has the Caffe Racer that looks like a nice relaxed geometry, but it also has the flat bars. The other Masi's are more aggressive.

(Sheldon Brown review:http://sheldonbrown.org/raleigh-cadent/)

Everything I read points me toward the drop bars for long rides, yet it looks like the only way to get one that I'll be comfortable on off the shelf is touring or cyclecross bikes, which don't appeal to me that much.

So, I'm thinking that my best options are live with the flat bars, which I like a lot, or buy a bike like the Giant Defy and have them extend the stem and angle the bars up. Doing such a mod concerns me in that it will cost a few bucks and I'm not sure that I know how much to adjust it and if it will work for me.

Any thoughts?
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Old 01-29-10, 03:10 PM   #2
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I take it you've ruled out recumbents?

I wouldn't want a flat bar for long distances; it really helps having the extra hand positions of road bars and I was never happy with bar extensions. You might look into something like a Rivendell. Them folks have funny ideas about keeping handlebars at seat height, and using fatter tires, and all sorts of other weird stuff.
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Old 01-29-10, 03:12 PM   #3
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Answer:

The Giant Rapid, a flat barred bike, is relaxed and I loved its ride--love the responsive frame and the light weight.
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Old 01-29-10, 03:21 PM   #4
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I take it you've ruled out recumbents?

I wouldn't want a flat bar for long distances; it really helps having the extra hand positions of road bars and I was never happy with bar extensions. You might look into something like a Rivendell. Them folks have funny ideas about keeping handlebars at seat height, and using fatter tires, and all sorts of other weird stuff.
Yes, I ruled out recumbants. I rode one for about 10 miles, and while it was comfortable I thought it was a bit clumbsy and it didn't feel sporty enough for my tastes.

Rivendell is out. Budget is $1200 out the door.
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Old 01-29-10, 03:46 PM   #5
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Ex mountain biker and they have flat bars. First road bike and for fit- I followed the normal practice for old gits and got the smaller frame that fitted me. Very easy with Giant's Compact frame sizing as in my case- the XS fitted a conventional Frame size of 45 to 51. The next frame size up covered from 49 to 54 so my eventual frame size of 51 was covered by the two frames. The smaller frame did allow the bars to fit closer to the body with the shorter reach of the top tube. Still modified the fit by fitting a higher rise stem to bring the bars up level with the saddle though

B3.jpg

Still took a while to adjust to the new riding position of a road bike but I did notice that initially I was riding on the flat section of the bars. This gradually changed to the position of riding on the hoods which gave me a longer- layed out more stretched position. The drop position was not in any way comfortable and only used it on downhills. 6 Months into riding and I started to train the body into using the drops. Not long at a time but gradually I found the position acceptable. Still only use the drops when going downhill- or into a headwind- or even on the rare occasions if I did ever want the turn of speed to catch another rider in front.

But this bike was never quite as comfortable as I would have liked. OK- did a few Metric and century rides and even climbed a few good hills but the bike was just a bit below the standard that I wanted. Time for N+1.

Next bike was chosen with care and was a custom build on a Race geometry frame. This was after test riding a built up version. Longer top tube- better components and a fitting for position. The shop set the bars up 4" below the saddle. That looked way wrong but the shop sent me out on a ride and I checked it out. The lower- even more stretched out position is comfortable. No more back ache- no reaching for the controls and it was perfect.

B2.jpg
[When I first started road riding- I could almost have agreed with you that at our age- a good flat bar Hybrid is the way to go. I did go the road route and got the OCR- the forerunner of the Defy Series-and found the advantages of going that route. So much so that it was not long before I found out that if I do want comfort and efficiency- I had to set the bike up to be better suited for my body that had adjusted to riding with my head between my knees and a back that is a lot flatter than I ever expected it to like

Edit.
I do like Giants. So much so that 6 months after getting Boreas- I got a TCR-C in the next size up from the OCR. I had realised by then that the choice I took on the two sizes of Giant frames was wrong. I should have gone for the next size up

And that Giant Rapid. I have several friends that have the FCR- the forerunner of the Rapid and they love it. One of them commutes 100 miles a week and joins me for a couple of metric rides each year.
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Old 01-29-10, 04:05 PM   #6
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There are many road bikes available with taller head tubes and a more upright riding position with drop handlebars. Sometimes the pictures on the manufacturer's website can be misleading. You need to work with a bike shop who understands the type of riding position you want and will help you set the bike up that way. You are not limited to flat bar bikes to get a comfortable position.
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Old 01-29-10, 04:30 PM   #7
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There are many road bikes available with taller head tubes and a more upright riding position with drop handlebars. Sometimes the pictures on the manufacturer's website can be misleading. You need to work with a bike shop who understands the type of riding position you want and will help you set the bike up that way. You are not limited to flat bar bikes to get a comfortable position.
+1 Getting a relaxed riding position on some of the 'sport' road bikes isn't hard....usually nothing but a swap of a stem, if they didn't cut the steerer tube too short. Or you could always get a frame you like and build it up (or have it built up) how you want it, which is what I usually do.
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Old 01-29-10, 04:30 PM   #8
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True thdave,

BluesDawg is absolutely correct. The two bikes that come to mind are the Roubaix from Specialized and the Pilot from Trek. Those might be outside your price range though.

Regardless, a well informed bike shop can easily set up normal road bars (with the multi-position advantage) with a taller stem to fit your comfort needs.

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Old 01-29-10, 04:44 PM   #9
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I have also noticed that the photos of the bikes usually have the handle bars down lower than a lot of people like to ride them. I too switched from a straight bar mountain bike to a road bike. I ride mostly on the hoods (like most people) and only get in the drops if I am going into a steep wind or just want a little change of position for a while. I have taken a couple of 1 1/2 hour rides on my mountain bike recently and after about an hour I miss having more places to put my hands.
On your comment about the cyclocross, I also have a cyclocross that has 700 x 28 touring tires on it and it is my most comfortable bike. It is pretty rare that anyone even notices that it is a cyclocross.
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Old 01-29-10, 05:24 PM   #10
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Taller head tube, short drop bars, correct top tube lenght are all possible. "Comfy" is a relative term. When you want something "sporty enough" you are already making a bit of a trade off. It sounds like you just need to look a bit more and pay particular attention to the correct fit.
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Old 01-29-10, 06:09 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
Ex mountain biker and they have flat bars. First road bike and for fit- I followed the normal practice for old gits and got the smaller frame that fitted me. Very easy with Giant's Compact frame sizing as in my case- the XS fitted a conventional Frame size of 45 to 51. The next frame size up covered from 49 to 54 so my eventual frame size of 51 was covered by the two frames. The smaller frame did allow the bars to fit closer to the body with the shorter reach of the top tube. Still modified the fit by fitting a higher rise stem to bring the bars up level with the saddle though

Attachment 135092



Still took a while to adjust to the new riding position of a road bike but I did notice that initially I was riding on the flat section of the bars. This gradually changed to the position of riding on the hoods which gave me a longer- layed out more stretched position. The drop position was not in any way comfortable and only used it on downhills. 6 Months into riding and I started to train the body into using the drops. Not long at a time but gradually I found the position acceptable. Still only use the drops when going downhill- or into a headwind- or even on the rare occasions if I did ever want the turn of speed to catch another rider in front.

But this bike was never quite as comfortable as I would have liked. OK- did a few Metric and century rides and even climbed a few good hills but the bike was just a bit below the standard that I wanted. Time for N+1.

Next bike was chosen with care and was a custom build on a Race geometry frame. This was after test riding a built up version. Longer top tube- better components and a fitting for position. The shop set the bars up 4" below the saddle. That looked way wrong but the shop sent me out on a ride and I checked it out. The lower- even more stretched out position is comfortable. No more back ache- no reaching for the controls and it was perfect.

Attachment 135093
[When I first started road riding- I could almost have agreed with you that at our age- a good flat bar Hybrid is the way to go. I did go the road route and got the OCR- the forerunner of the Defy Series-and found the advantages of going that route. So much so that it was not long before I found out that if I do want comfort and efficiency- I had to set the bike up to be better suited for my body that had adjusted to riding with my head between my knees and a back that is a lot flatter than I ever expected it to like

Edit.
I do like Giants. So much so that 6 months after getting Boreas- I got a TCR-C in the next size up from the OCR. I had realised by then that the choice I took on the two sizes of Giant frames was wrong. I should have gone for the next size up

And that Giant Rapid. I have several friends that have the FCR- the forerunner of the Rapid and they love it. One of them commutes 100 miles a week and joins me for a couple of metric rides each year.
This is exactly why I want a bike with drops, so that it's comfy as is and if I improve and come to like the drops, then I can adjust the stem and steerer tube so that I get a bike for now and a bike for later.

But there really aren't any Giants that are suitible, as is, the way they are--except the Rapid. No Raleigh's either, or Masi's. I'll talk to the bike shop, but I stand by my comment that the new versions of relaxed geometry road bikes have flat bars. I've been researching this for a month and I believe the only way to get what I want is to modify a bike.
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Old 01-29-10, 07:01 PM   #12
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You could get the bike you enjoyed and have them switch the "straight bars" to "trekking bars" (or butterfly bars) like I did when I turned my Jamis Hardtail MTB into a road and touring hybrid to do more road riding, It gives you "multi-hand positions" without going all the way to drop bars, YMMV.
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Old 01-29-10, 07:36 PM   #13
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This is exactly why I want a bike with drops, so that it's comfy as is and if I improve and come to like the drops, then I can adjust the stem and steerer tube so that I get a bike for now and a bike for later.

But there really aren't any Giants that are suitible, as is, the way they are--except the Rapid. No Raleigh's either, or Masi's. I'll talk to the bike shop, but I stand by my comment that the new versions of relaxed geometry road bikes have flat bars. I've been researching this for a month and I believe the only way to get what I want is to modify a bike.
What dimensions are you trying to accomplish? I find it hard to believe that there is not a road bike with drop bars that can be set up to mimic the hand position of a flat bar fitness type hybrid bike. It is not hard at all to set up a drop bar road bike with the top of the handlebars an inch or so higher than the saddle top by using the right handlebar/stem/steerer combination.
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Old 01-29-10, 09:24 PM   #14
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I got a couple of Giants back in 2006. A comfort/hybrid FCR2 with flat bars, and what they called a road fitness bike, an OCR2, which was almost the same bike with drop bars. Back then they were about $800 each. Both had nice light aluminum frames, carbon forks and 700c wheels/tires. My wife wanted the flat bar bike because of the Sram shifters and I took the drop bar bike because I wanted to ride longer distances. We were/are extremely happy with these bikes. Alas, I think the OCR line is now only available as the more aggressive, and expensive. racing version, for lack of a better term.

Bottom line though, I have a problem with arthritis in my wrists and I can't ride in a very aggressive forward leaning posture so my LBS modified the drops so they are not so far below the saddle. This works for me and didn't cost anything. They just swapped out some parts during the normal fitting process.

Upon looking at Trek and Giant sites I see your problem. Those bikes like I have don't exist anymore.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...oss_pro_IX.htm
This link is a Motobecane from Bikes Direct bike that looks almost identical to my Giant OCR2. Maybe you need to look at cross bikes. they seem to have the taller angled headtube which puts the drop bars higher and closer to the seat.

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Old 01-29-10, 09:26 PM   #15
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Just get a used or vintage bike. Lots of options out there.
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Old 01-29-10, 09:46 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
There are many road bikes available with taller head tubes and a more upright riding position with drop handlebars. Sometimes the pictures on the manufacturer's website can be misleading. You need to work with a bike shop who understands the type of riding position you want and will help you set the bike up that way. You are not limited to flat bar bikes to get a comfortable position.
+1... Flat bars= not good.
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Old 01-29-10, 10:07 PM   #17
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Just get a used or vintage bike. Lots of options out there.
+1

My long distance rider is an old touring bike that has a threaded headset, and a Nitto Technomic stem that I swapped with the original.
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Old 01-29-10, 11:20 PM   #18
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I think what you need to do is ride some bikes and see what feels comfortable. Take some measurements and look at geometry charts. As others have said, if you can do it with flat bars you can put drop bars in the same position and have more options.
Some people like a 4 inch drop from the saddle to the bars and I ran them that way for years. Now my back and neck won't allow it so I have the bars just over an inch below the saddle.
I have a Gunnar Sport. Longish wheelbase and tall head tube, it fits pretty well.

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Old 01-30-10, 01:01 AM   #19
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This is exactly why I want a bike with drops, so that it's comfy as is and if I improve and come to like the drops, then I can adjust the stem and steerer tube so that I get a bike for now and a bike for later.

But there really aren't any Giants that are suitible, as is, the way they are--except the Rapid. No Raleigh's either, or Masi's. I'll talk to the bike shop, but I stand by my comment that the new versions of relaxed geometry road bikes have flat bars. I've been researching this for a month and I believe the only way to get what I want is to modify a bike.
There is a form of bar stem that is adjustable and am surprised that some-one has not posted a pic of one fitted to their bike. It will allow you to raise the bars very easily from the standard height.

Just to show how even a stem change can alter the ride position of a bike---The first attachment is of my OCR as I rode it back from the shop. This is an XS frame and those bars in relation to the height of the saddle are low. The second shows how the stem change raised those bars.

But converting the rapid up to Defy bars would not be cheap. It would require new bars- And gear/brake levers and they are not cheap.

But some people do not want drop bars. I didn't for 16 years and was still in doubt for another 6 months after getting the bike. So if you do want a bike that suits the body now- then get it. There is nothing wrong with that set up and in fact does suit a lot of people.
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Old 01-30-10, 08:16 AM   #20
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This confirms my frustration. I can get what I want if I modify existing bikes on the rack or custom order or buy a cross/touring bike.

I know some say certain models are already suited this way, but I've looked, ridden several, and don't agree. I will ride some more, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to modify a bike. Too bad, imo.

Still, it sounds like that will be cheap and easy. I'm not going to fret on it, but it's clear to me that these fun flat bar road bikes are the substitues for relaxed drop bar bikes. That doesn't work for everyone. I think they are missing a market.
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Old 01-30-10, 08:17 AM   #21
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I got a Trek Madone 4.5 after years of riding a hybrid. I find the road bike position to be much more comfortable over the long haul, but I didn't think that way at first.

A friend has a flat-bar road bike. He lasts for about an hour before his wrists can't take any more.

Work with a bike shop to pick out something that's pretty comfortable. Ride it and go back for a refit. You'll need it as your body adapts to the new riding style.
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Old 01-30-10, 08:45 AM   #22
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This whole topic is frustrating for me. I have a Specialized Tricross Comp and I like it but I don't really know whether it is the ideal geometry/setup for me. I just can't get enough time on other bikes to get a real feel for what works. A test ride from a bike shop doesn't give me enough time on bike to know whether I will really like it and rentals seem to be limited to a model or two - no opportunity to get a variety of bike for long rides. I always had the same problem with skis.
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Old 01-30-10, 08:52 AM   #23
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This confirms my frustration. I can get what I want if I modify existing bikes on the rack or custom order or buy a cross/touring bike.

I know some say certain models are already suited this way, but I've looked, ridden several, and don't agree. I will ride some more, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to modify a bike. Too bad, imo.

Still, it sounds like that will be cheap and easy. I'm not going to fret on it, but it's clear to me that these fun flat bar road bikes are the substitues for relaxed drop bar bikes. That doesn't work for everyone. I think they are missing a market.
It sounds like you are expecting the bikes to fit you without adjustments or modifications. It is not possible to provide bicycles that fit everyone perfectly, given the incredible range of variability in the sizes and shapes of human bodies. Short of building custom fit frames, all they can do is shoot for the middle and adjust to variations. Some people will fit them as delivered, others will need to make minor adjustments.

Different makes and models of bikes will fit different people in different ways. There may be another brand of bike that will fit you better than the ones you have tried. It may be a simple matter of making minor adjustments to the bike as delivered. It may take swapping a few parts to fit your specific requirements.

I have needed to make minor changes to every bike I have owned to make them fit better. I have also needed to make changes again after riding them for a while as my fitness and flexibility changed. It is no big deal. In fact, I enjoy the process.
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Old 01-30-10, 09:04 AM   #24
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You have to just get out and ride to see what works for you. When I got back into cycling 12-13 years ago, I got a mountain bike because they were the rage at that time. However, as soon as I dusted off my old Bianchi road bike, I was hooked on road riding again. Now I probably ride my mountain bike only 1-2 times a year. To me, flat bars are just uncomfortable -- not enough positions. Drop bars are best because they give you so many options, but I also have one bike set up with bullhorns. Bullhorns are great until you get caught riding into a stiff headwind.

It might be worthwhile to pay for a bike fitting. Some bike shops will do them for free or deduct the cost if you buy a bike from them. You can accomplish wonders with the right stem and handlebar combination, and a good fitter should be able to get you close to ideal. But only you will be able to determine what fits best, and you have to do that the hard way by putting in some miles. A good bike shop will let you swap stems until you get your fit right.
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Old 01-30-10, 10:41 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
It sounds like you are expecting the bikes to fit you without adjustments or modifications. It is not possible to provide bicycles that fit everyone perfectly, given the incredible range of variability in the sizes and shapes of human bodies. Short of building custom fit frames, all they can do is shoot for the middle and adjust to variations. Some people will fit them as delivered, others will need to make minor adjustments.

Different makes and models of bikes will fit different people in different ways. There may be another brand of bike that will fit you better than the ones you have tried. It may be a simple matter of making minor adjustments to the bike as delivered. It may take swapping a few parts to fit your specific requirements.

I have needed to make minor changes to every bike I have owned to make them fit better. I have also needed to make changes again after riding them for a while as my fitness and flexibility changed. It is no big deal. In fact, I enjoy the process.
Yes, I expect bike manufacturers to make a road bike with drop bars that is set up so it's comfortable to ride without changing out components. We shouldn't have to buy a cyclecross bike. We shouldn't be forced to compromise with a flat bar bike.

Mind you, I'm not talking about bike sizing--I'm talking about what Sheldon Brown mentioned in that review of the '05 Raleigh Cadent. A road bike for the is designed to be ridden by 50 year olds.

Last edited by thdave; 01-30-10 at 12:15 PM.
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