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  1. #1
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Looking for first road bike - want to ride a century

    I'd like to build up toward riding a century later this summer. I've been making 30-40 mile rides on my hybrid pretty regularly, but I'd like replace it with a road bike so that I can move a little faster and not fight the bike on the way up hills quite so much. I'm hoping to get a little advice.

    Today I test rode two road bikes: A Giant/Liv Avail 1 ($1425) and a Specialized Dolce Elite ($1150). The Avail comes with a 105, 11 speed compact double, and the Specialized has a Tiagra, 10 speed compact double. I liked them both, but am leaning toward the Avail. This is the first time in my life I've ever been on a drop bar bike, and I have some pretty basic questions.

    First, I couldn't really tell much difference between the 105 and the Tiagra. They both seemed to work in basically the same way and shifted cleanly and quickly. The Avail also comes in a Tiagra model for about $300 less. I'm wondering if it's worth saving the money and getting the lower end components, or if I'll end up regretting that choice later. I'm never going to be a racer. I just want a good solid ride.

    Second, I had a little trouble using the brakes when I was on the hoods. It seemed like it took a lot of hand strength to stop compared to when I was on the drops. Is that normal, or do I just have unusually wimpy hands? (By the way, the Liv also has interruptor brakes -- I think that's what they're called -- that you can use when riding on the tops, which is nice. I didn't have any trouble using those.)

    A third questions is of a different variety: It's about on-bike comfort. Both bikes have "endurance" geometry, which isn't super aggressive, but they are both a lot more aggressive than the upright positioning of the hybrid. I was very much aware of the difference in positioning during the test ride. I'm a 45-year-old woman who has never been on a road bike before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've been on hybrids for so long that the positioning just feels completely natural to me. I guess my question is, has anyone else made this switch and, if so, how long does it take to feel at ease and natural on the road bike? If I took it out for the same 40-mile spin that I've been doing on the hybrid, would you think that I'd feel "normal" on the bike by the end of the ride? I realize no one can really answer this for me, I'm just wondering if others switched from more upright rides and how long the adjustment took.

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    I bought my first road bike last October, a Giant Defy 5 endurance bike equipped with Shimano's lowest end groupset, a 2x8 compact Claris (my Claris is the newer version that has standard brifters, no thumb buttons). My previous bike was a 2x6 hybrid that I put away in 1991. I've put about 2,000 miles on the Defy since then and I don't have any complaints with it. I think to the casual rider, the only major difference between a basic 2x8 like mine and a higher end 2x11 is that the closer gears in the 2x11 would keep it easier to maintain a steady cadence. I don't think the top end gearing is much if any higher, or the low end any lower for that matter either. Plus you don't really get 22 gears anyway...eliminating crosschaining and duplicate ratios, its probably more like 15. Also, if I am readingaccurate material, because the chain is narrower on a 2x11, it isn't as sturdy and will not last as long as a 2-8 --> 2-10.

    I find that the brakes are a little more difficult to operate from the hoods vs from the drops too, but its a leverage thing, not a strength thing. Make sure you get a good grip on the levers as far down as you can before descending.

    As far as which position is easier to ride in, getting comfortable comes fairly quickly once your muscles adapt. Strangely though, I find that when I ride on the hoods for a while, riding in the drops seems awkward, but if I ride a long distance in the drops, coming back up on the hoods seems awkward. A flat bar used to feel very comfortable to me, but it feels just as awkward now if I've been on the hoods or drops for a while.

    Keith

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    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Thanks so much @trainsktg, this is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. You've put a lot of miles on that Defy, which I think is the men's version of the Avail. I'm glad to hear that the transition from a hybrid was not too difficult.

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    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Another question: I like to take long rides along rail-trails whenever we travel somewhere that has one. Those are often crushed limestone. Does anyone know if a bike like the Avail is okay for that kind of riding? The other bike that has caught my eye is the Bianchi Volpe, which I'm pretty sure would be fine for that purpose.

  5. #5
    Senior Member antimonysarah's Avatar
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    FYI, interrupter levers can be added to any* road bike, so don't base your decision on that alone.

    I can't brake hard from the hoods -- the angle is just one I can't seem to build hand strength. Drops or interrupters, A-OK. So I run interrupters. I can slide back from cruising on the hoods and grab the interrupters pretty much immediately; if I'm planning to brake and have time (like with a long descent coming up), I generally move to the drops.

    * I'm sure someone can come up with a bike they can't be added to for some odd reason.

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    I have 700x28mm Marathons Plus tires on my Defy. It's OK on gravel but I don't like it. My steel Big Dummy (look it up ) with 26"x1.5" Marathons at half the pressure is a whole lot friendlier on rough roads. Overall I've been very happy with the Defy. I plan on wearing it out before I upgrade to something better.

    Keith

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    multimodal commuter rhm's Avatar
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    And remember, you don't necessarily have to ride a new bike. The bikes they make today are not significantly better than the ones they made 30, 40, even years ago. In some respects (comfortable geometry, room for fatter tires) older bikes are better.

    For what it's worth, the bikes I rode on my last three centuries were made in 1959, 1974, and ca. 1940. Admittedly, riding an old bike is part of the fun of it for me.

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    Shimano levers are hard to use from the hoods, especially for women, who tend to have smaller overall hands and lower grip strength. combined with the shifting throw its no surprise a lot of women's pro teams go for sram or campy. Both of those companies also ha e the advantage of a static brake lever that pivots much higher, giving significantly more leverage from the hoods. Having used both styles of shimano (tiagra and old shimano sti in general and new (5700) 105) I find the hoods to be greatly improved on 105, which matters on a century, less numbness at the end. Buy the better components, you'd regret it later.

    Avail is just fine, mount the biggest tires you can clear and you ought to be able to ride the gravel. Of course, it won't be optimal, but it's fine for a portion of the ride. 25mm or larger tires should keep you on track, but I don't think the avail has clearance for more than a 25.

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    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeVelo View Post
    Shimano levers are hard to use from the hoods, especially for women, who tend to have smaller overall hands and lower grip strength. combined with the shifting throw its no surprise a lot of women's pro teams go for sram or campy. Both of those companies also ha e the advantage of a static brake lever that pivots much higher, giving significantly more leverage from the hoods. Having used both styles of shimano (tiagra and old shimano sti in general and new (5700) 105) I find the hoods to be greatly improved on 105, which matters on a century, less numbness at the end. Buy the better components, you'd regret it later.

    Avail is just fine, mount the biggest tires you can clear and you ought to be able to ride the gravel. Of course, it won't be optimal, but it's fine for a portion of the ride. 25mm or larger tires should keep you on track, but I don't think the avail has clearance for more than a 25.
    Thanks! I'm heading out to the bike shop this morning with a series of questions. The bike I test rode included interruptor levers on the tops, and I suspect that was to accommodate for the issue with braking from the hoods. It will make it tough to use a handlebar bag though. With a carbon fork, I don't think there's a way to mount a little front rack to put the bag on, so I'll have to figure out something else. I already asked about the tires. The bike comes with 25mm tires, and the shop said the frame and brakes can take 28mm tires, so I think I'll upgrade the tires before I even bring the bike home.

  10. #10
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    Another question: I like to take long rides along rail-trails whenever we travel somewhere that has one. Those are often crushed limestone. Does anyone know if a bike like the Avail is okay for that kind of riding? The other bike that has caught my eye is the Bianchi Volpe, which I'm pretty sure would be fine for that purpose.
    If you like riding on crushed limestone/gravel and the like, I'd get a bike like the Volpe, a cross bike, or even a gravel bike. You can get a reasonably lightweight 700 x 32c tire which will handle well and ride over rough stuff well.

    My soma double cross has become one of my favorite road bikes. I'm running 700 x 32c tires and I like that I can take it on most road surfaces.
    Last edited by bikemig; 04-18-15 at 08:01 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    If you like riding on crushed limestone/gravel and the like, I'd get a bike like the Volpe, a cross bike, or even a gravel bike. You can get a reasonably lightweight 700 x 32c tire which will handle well and ride over rough stuff well.

    My soma double cross has become one of my favorite road bikes. I'm running 700 x 32c tires and I like that I can take it on most road surfaces.
    This has been my biggest dilemma with this bike: whether to go with something more versatile like the Volpe. It's primary use will be for faster, longer on-road rides, though the city roads that can make up part of my route are often not ideal. For this reason, I think I'm going to go with something like the Avail, which comes in quite a bit lighter than the SoMA DC (which I love!) or the Volpe. I'm going to ask about the Volpe again when I'm out there today just to be sure my thinking is right.

    I do have a 25-year-old, steel framed hybrid that I am currently rebuilding. It will take wide tires (38mm), and I can use it for those crushed limestone rail-trails. It's a good eight pounds heavier than something like the Volpe, but honestly when I'm riding trails, I'm likely to be with my spouse who likes to roll along at a very leisurely pace and has no desire for anything other than the very upright position on his hybrid. In fact, I just installed VO Porteur handlebars on that bike for him so that he can sit even more upright.

  12. #12
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Given the kind of riding you do, I'd get the more versatile bike. The fatter tire (a 32c) can handle a wider range of surfaces and will be a little more comfortable. It will be fine for long distance riding. The soma doublecross weighs around 25-26 pounds built up. The volpe has to be in that neighborhood since it has a steel frame. You can get an aluminum frame/carbon fork cross bike that should drop you under 20 pounds without too much trouble.

    I'd take a long hard look at a range of bikes and not just road bikes. Also if you do opt for a road bike, I'd suggest one that takes long reach brakes so you can fit a 28c tire comfortably.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    Given the kind of riding you do, I'd get the more versatile bike. The fatter tire (a 32c) can handle a wider range of surfaces and will be a little more comfortable. It will be fine for long distance riding. The soma doublecross weighs around 25-26 pounds built up. The volpe has to be in that neighborhood since it has a steel frame. You can get an aluminum frame/carbon fork cross bike that should drop you under 20 pounds without too much trouble.

    I'd take a long hard look at a range of bikes and not just road bikes. Also if you do opt for a road bike, I'd suggest one that takes long reach brakes so you can fit a 28c tire comfortably.
    It's funny you should mention this.... I just got back from the bike shop and, after talking it through with them, decided to go with the Volpe. They've put it on order for me. I hope to have it by next weekend. It turns out the Avail could only take up to a 25 mm tire and has no attachment points for anything (racks, fenders, etc.). It can't even accommodate a handlebar bag because of the interruptor levers, which would present some challenges for day-long rides. I really liked the Avail's geometry, which is almost identical to the Volpe in the size I ordered. The Volpe will add about five pounds in weight over the Avail, but that seems like a good trade-off at this point.

  14. #14
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Great bike; you'll like it a lot. Tire size is really important when it comes to comfort and riding over different road conditions.

    This bike is very sensibly set up for long distance riding:

    http://www.bianchiusa.com/bikes/road/all-road/volpe/

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