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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 08-09-14, 06:41 PM   #1
kel2856
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Can you really go faster on Carbon Fiber (expensive) bikes ?

I currently ride a Bianchi Eros. I absolutely love the ride comfort of this bike. I typically ride 20 to 40 miles at a stint, and have completed a century ride a few yesrs ago on this bike. I'm a 58 year old rider, and typically ride at a pace of 15 mph to 18 mph. I'm curious if the expensive bikes (Bianchi Infinito) would actually allow me to ride at a faster pace. I look forward to feedback.
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Keith
Armada, MI
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Old 08-09-14, 10:36 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by kel2856 View Post
I currently ride a Bianchi Eros. I absolutely love the ride comfort of this bike. I typically ride 20 to 40 miles at a stint, and have completed a century ride a few yesrs ago on this bike. I'm a 58 year old rider, and typically ride at a pace of 15 mph to 18 mph. I'm curious if the expensive bikes (Bianchi Infinito) would actually allow me to ride at a faster pace. I look forward to feedback.
Thanks
Keith



Armada, MI
Hi Keith,
The marketing departments for all the major bike companies would love for you to believe that a lighter bike is going to make you faster. They certainly strive to do just that. While it is true that a lighter bike / wheelset may offer a slight edge in ascending and quick accelerations, you would be hard pressed to notice your average speed increase much over a long distance, especially one that is mostly flat. I know that for me, my average speed increased after spending a good deal of time focusing on my cadence, learning how to shift effectively, and knowing how to expend my energy / pace myself. Best of luck!!
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Old 08-10-14, 04:57 AM   #3
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The number one target for any LD bike is comfort. Whether than comes from a frame made of steel or CF or aluminium or titanium is, to a large extent, decided by your preferences, tolerance to discomfort and finally experimentation.

Weight can come into the equation, simply because an extra three or four pounds will require extra energy to push along the flats or up the hills. However, to take full advantage of that lighter weight in the bike, you will have had to have pared down the weight of the stuff you already carry on randonnees, as well as your own bodyweight to a level that enables you to have enough in reserve to cope with deficiencies in energy intake.

In some cases, saving weight on a bike also means trading off reliability. For example, lightweight steel frames might have a weakness in the right-hand chainstay. Or a crank might break. In some cases, lightweight cassettes have been bent. You have to weigh up the risks of these things happening in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, against your desire to qualify for, say, PBP2015.

And finally, the average speed you are going to achieve over a randonnee is dependent almost entirely on your own fitness level. It's cheaper and likely more productive to concentrate on improving your endurance and speed over long distances, than spend more on a new bike.

However, this is all in the context of the Eros already being a reasonably light bike (I don't know anything about the Bianchi range). You don't post what the comparative weights are between the two models. Remember, about 2 lbs of weight saved is the equivalent of a one-litre bottle of water. If you notice a speed increase when you ditch a litre of water off your bike, then you might find some benefit; but I doubt whether that will be the case.
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Old 08-10-14, 09:40 AM   #4
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Well at least I feel faster.
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Retired 76 YO. Got my sub 5 ET century at 50 and sub 7 RT at 75. Just want to finish sub 10 RT at 80. USNR, USAF, USCGA - riding 2014 Zenetto Steath ZR7.1 Carbon
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Old 08-11-14, 07:20 PM   #5
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I have referred to this article quite often when the desire for a lighter bicycle gnawed at me: Ultracycling: Title

I will say that at Brevet distances extra weight does either slow you down or wear you out faster. However, I prefer being slower but well prepared on a brevet. On a supported century or double-century for time, then I'd shed as much weight and get as aero as possible while realizing that a bike less than 12% of my body weight is unnecessary. Thus my "fast" bike is a 23 lb. stiff alloy frame and my "brevet" bike is a 26 lb. compliant steel steed.

Therefore to answer OP's question, if your current bike is <12% of your body weight then you don't need a lighter bike to go faster on a century. HIIT is the answer unfortunately.
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Old 08-11-14, 07:51 PM   #6
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I've ridden a handful of centuries on this Eros, a '91 I believe. As pictured, it weighs about 24 lbs.



Over the years, I've improved in condition and tweaked the fit from upright to more aggressive and stretched-out, and it seems to be a pretty fast bike at this point. My hunch is that the right positioning (striking the right compromise between aero and comfort) will get you going faster than losing a couple pounds off the bike.

I think the Eros was always kind of an entry-level road/sport-touring bike, not too heavy or light, with mid-grade componentry. Perfect for my needs, and even though I have several other bikes at this point, I still reach for this one first if I want to zip along.
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Old 08-11-14, 08:30 PM   #7
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I can only speak from personal experience, but I am indeed going faster on my carbon bike than I did on my 19 year old aluminum bike. The numbers don't lie. Not only that, but I go much farther than I did with my old bike before tiring. For me, it's the the difference between night and day; no exaggeration. The carbon bike just chews up the vibrations in the road that used to beat me to death with my old aluminum bike. I'm not saying that you would have the same experience that I've had, but for me, I'm as pleased as I can be with my carbon bike and I will NEVER go back to aluminum.
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Old 08-11-14, 08:53 PM   #8
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In my personal experience, I find that CF launches off the line quickly, but gearing and cadence actually determine how fast you will go. A couple of pound difference will not be noticeable. One of the areas that CF might work is in comfort. It can be stiff laterally while and still soak up most of the roads vibration. Not sure if you personally would notice ride improvement or not.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:14 AM   #9
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The number one target for any LD bike is comfort. Whether than comes from a frame made of steel or CF or aluminium or titanium is, to a large extent, decided by your preferences, tolerance to discomfort and finally experimentation.

Weight can come into the equation, simply because an extra three or four pounds will require extra energy to push along the flats or up the hills.
..3 or 4lbs will add virtually no energy to riding float roads. Even going up a STEEP hill, you're probably looking at 2% more energy expenditure.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:16 AM   #10
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I can only speak from personal experience, but I am indeed going faster on my carbon bike than I did on my 19 year old aluminum bike. The numbers don't lie.
Well, actually - they do. Because you're comparing two different bikes and assuming that the difference is due to CF. More probable causes are placebo effect, improved riding fit, a more aero position, and better tyres.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:22 AM   #11
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I One of the areas that CF might work is in comfort. It can be stiff laterally while and still soak up most of the roads vibration. Not sure if you personally would notice ride improvement or not.
This is technically true, but in practice usually isn't. Because

1. A frame can't absorb nearly as much shock as tyres - and buying better tyres with a higher TPI is cheap compared to buying a CF frame

2. CF frames that flex out road shock but transmit power well are much more expensive to construct - you need to use different types of CF in different parts of the frame with complex weave orientations, some of this CF is a LOT more expensive than the basic stuff, and the price of construction goes sky rocketing. Very few CF frames are built this way. More typically Trek or Spesh use the cheap CF and simple construction, then put a better tyre (and maybe nicer grips or bar tape) costing a few bucks more on the CF bike. The punter rides it and thinks that the ride difference is due to the CF frame and parts with an extra $500.

If you want to improve ride comfort without losing speed, spring for premium tyres, don't over pressure them or go too narrow (both will make you slower as well as less comfortable http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/...rethren_209268) and using two layers of good bar tape. Or one layer and some gel.

Last edited by meanwhile; 08-16-14 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:24 AM   #12
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Over the years, I've improved in condition and tweaked the fit from upright to more aggressive and stretched-out, and it seems to be a pretty fast bike at this point. My hunch is that the right positioning (striking the right compromise between aero and comfort) will get you going faster than losing a couple pounds off the bike.
Your intuition is correct and you can actually work out exact numbers using the calculator here:

Speed
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Old 08-16-14, 07:24 AM   #13
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This is technically true, but in practice usually isn't. Because

1. A frame can't absorb nearly as much shock as tyres - and buying better tyres with a higher TPI is cheap compared to buying a CF frame

2. CF frames that flex out road shock but transmit power well are much more expensive to construct - you need to use different types of CF in different parts of the frame with complex weave orientations, some of this CF is a LOT more expensive than the basic stuff, and the price of construction goes sky rocketing. Very few CF frames are built this way. More typically Trek or Spesh use the cheap CF and simple construction, then put a better tyre (and maybe nicer grips or bar tape) costing a few bucks more on the CF bike. The punter rides it and thinks that the ride difference is due to the CF frame and parts with an extra $500.

If you want to improve ride comfort without losing speed, spring for premium tyres, don't over pressure them or go too narrow (both will make you slower as well as less comfortable Tech FAQ: Seriously, wider tires have lower rolling resistance than their narrower brethren - VeloNews.com) and using two layers of good bar tape. Or one layer and some gel.
I am familiar with Trek and many other makers. i am not familiar with Spesh however. Please enlighten me. Did you fail to type the rest of the letters for the maker I am thinking of ?
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Old 08-16-14, 07:42 AM   #14
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The one thing that hasn't been mentioned in the trade-offs issue is aerodynamics. At the speed the OP is talking about, air resistance is going to be more substantial if he wants an increase in speed. That means either getting more aero on the bike, or improving strength and endurance to overcome it.
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Old 08-16-14, 08:58 AM   #15
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Well, actually - they do. Because you're comparing two different bikes and assuming that the difference is due to CF. More probable causes are placebo effect, improved riding fit, a more aero position, and better tyres.
You bring up some excellent points that I hadn't considered until now. Whatever the reason(s), I am indeed going faster on my new carbon bike, than I was on my old aluminum bike.
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Old 08-16-14, 09:22 AM   #16
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You bring up some excellent points that I hadn't considered until now. Whatever the reason(s), I am indeed going faster on my new carbon bike, than I was on my old aluminum bike.
You should - you're more experienced, so you'll have bought a bike that fits better and that's the biggest factor in comfort and hence performance over distance.

CF bikes can be excellent, but when they are that's mostly because they're well-designed bikes and the owner has made sure they've bought the right fit with the right components. Tyres, which people usually ignore, are critical. Inner tubes can have an effect too. A lot of the old marketing claims - eg that CF frames go faster because of losses in pedaling energy in metal ones - have been proven to be untrue. (That one quickly vanished under powertap testing!)
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Old 08-16-14, 05:37 PM   #17
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Old 08-16-14, 05:56 PM   #18
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You should - you're more experienced, so you'll have bought a bike that fits better and that's the biggest factor in comfort and hence performance over distance.

CF bikes can be excellent, but when they are that's mostly because they're well-designed bikes and the owner has made sure they've bought the right fit with the right components. Tyres, which people usually ignore, are critical. Inner tubes can have an effect too. A lot of the old marketing claims - eg that CF frames go faster because of losses in pedaling energy in metal ones - have been proven to be untrue. (That one quickly vanished under powertap testing!)
I can't disagree with all that you have said (I suppose that makes a pleasant change). Although 2% can be quite significant over 1200km. On the flats, yes, once rolling, the energy required to move along is not great, but if there are stops and starts (traffic lights, checking route directions, making turns, pee stops) the acceleration factor comes into play. And I don't recall ever riding a 1200 on totally flat roads, even the Last Chance through Colorado and into Kansas.

Comfort is critical. There is no point riding at 20mph for two hours, then spend the next two at 12 because your butt hurts like hell, your shoulders and legs are in pain, and your lower back is knackered.

I found out a long time ago that wider profile tyres at lower pressures than maximum provide more returns on comfort. And it is likely that Route66 is riding the CF frame more often and further than the aluminium one simply because it is more comfortable through improved frame design (19 years has been a long time in product development for bikes).

By the way, the lawyers at Specialized have been notified and they are preparing a brief to sue you for using a diminutive term in referencing their brand name.
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Old 08-16-14, 06:21 PM   #19
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I can't disagree with all that you have said (I suppose that makes a pleasant change). Although 2% can be quite significant over 1200km.
But can you 2% extra out of a CF frame? That 2% I gave was for a steep climb. Are there any steep climbs that last 1200km?

Optimizing tyres otoh can quite credibly give you a +10% performance boost:

Bicycle Quarterly: Performance of Tires | Off The Beaten Path

Quote:
On the flats, yes, once rolling, the energy required to move along is not great, but if there are stops and starts (traffic lights, checking route directions, making turns, pee stops) the acceleration factor comes into play.
This is true, but it's a small part of long distance cycling - you're looking at reducing, say, 1% of energy use by 2%. You'd be better off shaving your eyebrows before the race to be more aero.

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By the way, the lawyers at Specialized have been notified and they are preparing a brief to sue you for using a diminutive term in referencing their brand name.
Let them: by the time they get here aerobrow will be the hottest thing in cycling and they'll beg be for a piece of the action...
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Old 08-16-14, 06:24 PM   #20
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Yes, you would be about 0.50 mph faster per my estimations with all else equal (same tires and same fit). Bad tyres or a poorly maintained chain could more than erase these very significant gains. (I guesstimate the new bike to offer around 8-10 watts total advantage)

Bianchi Infinito = full Campy Super Record, aero carbon frame, bladed spokes on deep carbon rims plus ceramic bearing and pulleys.

Bianchi Eros......20+ year old components, probably 36H x3 wheels, traditional steel frame, and certainly more drivetrain losses.

At 58 years old, if you have the coin....pluck down the $12k on the rig. Why not.
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Old 08-16-14, 10:16 PM   #21
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Bike weight and the myth of 'fast' bikes - VeloNews.com
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Old 08-16-14, 10:29 PM   #22
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So if weight does not matter why aren't you riding a WallyMart bike?
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Old 08-17-14, 05:13 AM   #23
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But can you 2% extra out of a CF frame? That 2% I gave was for a steep climb. Are there any steep climbs that last 1200km?

Optimizing tyres otoh can quite credibly give you a +10% performance boost:

Bicycle Quarterly: Performance of Tires | Off The Beaten Path



This is true, but it's a small part of long distance cycling - you're looking at reducing, say, 1% of energy use by 2%. You'd be better off shaving your eyebrows before the race to be more aero.



Let them: by the time they get here aerobrow will be the hottest thing in cycling and they'll beg be for a piece of the action...
If you trademark aerobrow before they do, you could go them a fortune if they use it.

Of course, we are back where I started with the difference in speed on a bike with a full one-litre water bottle, and without it on board. It's not really going to make any difference, especially if there are other factors at play, such as emotional outlook, rehydration and refuelling, and weather.
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Old 08-17-14, 05:38 AM   #24
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So if weight does not matter why aren't you riding a WallyMart bike?
Because they have poor aero, poor components and poor comfort.

But I have seen a rider on an 89 mountain bike smoke club riders on carbon frames. The MTB had fast slicks and drop bars fitted, so it was aero and the RR was low. It was heavier, but on the flat that didn't really make a difference. Regretably, it didn't have "Dark Angel" wheels like this one:



Why did it hand out said smoking? The rider was faster, and the road the race was on rewarded fast braking, high speed turning, and the ability to roll over a second rate road surface with low RR. Low weight is just one factor in bicycle performance - which is why pros often ride cross bikes on harsher Roubaix stages despite the weight gain over a pure road bike. Weight is what marketeers get people to look at, because its the most profitable factor - for the marketeers - to reduce. Getting RR lower will normally benefit you more and cost a lot less, but it doesn't get pushed by the industry because it is so cheap to do.

Last edited by meanwhile; 08-17-14 at 05:45 AM.
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Old 08-18-14, 05:52 AM   #25
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Because they have poor aero, poor components and poor comfort.

But I have seen a rider on an 89 mountain bike smoke club riders on carbon frames. The MTB had fast slicks and drop bars fitted, so it was aero and the RR was low. It was heavier, but on the flat that didn't really make a difference. Regretably, it didn't have "Dark Angel" wheels like this one:



Why did it hand out said smoking? The rider was faster, and the road the race was on rewarded fast braking, high speed turning, and the ability to roll over a second rate road surface with low RR. Low weight is just one factor in bicycle performance - which is why pros often ride cross bikes on harsher Roubaix stages despite the weight gain over a pure road bike. Weight is what marketeers get people to look at, because its the most profitable factor - for the marketeers - to reduce. Getting RR lower will normally benefit you more and cost a lot less, but it doesn't get pushed by the industry because it is so cheap to do.
One of Australia's best and most experienced randonneurs broke his faithful steel frame and had to ride a 400km qualifier for PBP2007 (if I remember rightly). He rode his MTB with fat Geax slicks on board. He smoked almost everyone else on standard road-going rando bikes.

After Machka's Marinoni was stolen, I assembled a conversiont from a GT MTB for her to an randonnee shortly afterwards. It was clunky, and she wasn't fast, but it did the job.
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