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mjenkins65 06-21-10 01:15 PM

Need help understanding the different bicycle types
I am obviously new here and have a question for those more knowledgeable. I am thinking about buying a new bike for myself but I am having trouble narrowing down all the different types, styles, and classifications. I am hoping someone can help me figure out what type of bike to look at.

I bought a Specialized Expedition back in 2001. I was told that this was a "Comfort Bike" and I liked it very much. At that time I would ride to the train station (about 2 miles) a couple of times a week and take 5-10 mile rides on the weekends. That bike was stolen only 2 years later and I replaced it with the same model in 2003. I have been very happy with it until recently.

I now ride between 25-35 miles at a time about 3 or 4 times a week. I ride mostly on the street and on paved bike trails with an occasional sprint on dirt or grass (because the roads and bike trails don't always meet). I am in my 40's and I ride for fitness and because I really enjoy it.

I am having trouble with my current bike now that I have upped my distance (and pace) and so I think it is time to switch. The problems I am having are:
1) When I need to start pedaling harder (up a hill for instance) the bike creaks a lot and I assume is the frame flexing
2) While I like sitting up (I have back problems sometimes) there are times when I am riding into a headwind that I really wish I could get into a more aerodynamic position. Headwinds suck.
3) My bike is really heavy. It is probably about 35 lbs.
4) Even after getting a tune up, the bike seems to be a bit sluggish
5) It is really difficult to maintain a pace of over 15 mph - guys who don't look to be an any better shape than me blow by me on the road all the time. (I would rather blame the bike than myself)

The things I like about my bike are:
1) It is very comfortable to ride
2) It doesn't hurt my back
3) It goes anywhere I need it to.
4) It is really stable going up or downhill at any speed.

Now I don't know what to look at. Should I be looking at a hybrid or a road bike or cyclocross or what? There are so many classifications that I find the whole thing quite confusing.

I would appreciate any help I can get in narrowing down the field.

Bikewer 06-21-10 07:07 PM

Sounds like you should be looking for a roadster, but if you're having back problems then getting a proper fit is going to be paramount. You might want to look at a tourer... These are set up to be pretty sturdy, with a "slack" steering geometry that's stable and predictable rather than the "sports car" handling of many modern roadsters. They also tend to come with a nice, wide gearing that will get you up most anything. Cyclocross bikes are really meant for that sort of competition; they are very rugged and can be used for all sorts of riding, but also might be rather pricey.
Check out Surly.

mjenkins65 06-21-10 07:48 PM

I assume you mean the Surly Pacer? What about the Cannondale CAAD8 or the Jamis Ventura Comp? Would you recommend either of those? I would like to stay < $1000 if possible.

CbadRider 06-21-10 07:59 PM

My vote is for a CX bike. I have a hybrid and it's a bit heavy, and more difficult to maintain higher speeds. However, the wide tires and upright geometry are a bit more comfortable for commuting than my road bike (not to mention that I can put a rack & panniers on it and go grocery shopping).

A CX bike will be more like a road bike: lighter and a bit faster. You can get a stem that will allow you to sit up straighter if it's more comfortable.

twinquad 06-22-10 08:41 AM

A road bike sounds most appropriate for the kind of riding you do. A tourer or cyclocross might have more relaxed geometry, but you can get that with a road bike with some adjustments and part swaps.

The best thing to do is to find a shop with a good selection, good mechanics, and a competent fitter. Talk to them about what kind of riding you do, what your comfort issues are, and what your budget is. Get a thorough fitting. After you've made your choice and you've had a chance to ride it a few times, go back and let them know if you're having any discomfort and they might be able to adjust things to improve the fit.

If you end up with a cyclocross bike, be sure to have them swap out the tires for some slicks.

Garfield Cat 06-22-10 08:57 AM

Its been a few years now and you're getting to know how you actually ride and what you like.

The one thing I noticed is your comment on "hurt my back". This could mean you already have back issues or it could also mean you heard about road bikes with a position that seems to hurt. The reasoning results in "upright is good" and "leaning over is bad" for the back, that is.

A good bike fitter for a road bike is what will help you sort things out. Some good bike fitters do not work in bike shops. They're independent of shops and often are coaches as well. The road racing types know who they are in your area. Some argue that professional fitting costs too much. In the long run, it is well worth it.

Another thing about conditioning is the core muscles. When a road rider leans over, the rider is using the core muscles to help support the weight of the torso as well as the arms on the bars. Its both. Just by riding, I find the core muscles getting stronger, only if I have good form and not depend on the arms as some kind of weight bearing reliever for the back.

Pat 06-22-10 10:33 AM

Well, if you want a lighter, faster bike, you are probably talking about one a road bike. Road bikes generally have narrow tires and are light. They have responsive steering. They come in several forms such as "sport" bikes or "performance" bikes or "racing" bikes.

These bikes will work well for your longer rides. They will also allow you to tuck down and be more aerodynamic. They can be very comfortable too if the bike fits you well. Good fit is critical. One of the big complaints with these bikes is saddle. Many people find the saddles to be quite uncomfortable. The trick with saddles is to also get a good fit. Doing so is often a matter of trying various saddles until you find one that works for you.

LarDasse74 06-22-10 11:18 AM

Depending on your flexibility and back issues, you might want to consider a 'hybrid' or 'flat bar road' bike... hybrids tend to be set up for comfort, but better quality ones usually have good components and are quite lightweight. A few years ago companies started offering stripped-down performance hybrids called 'flat bar road bikes.'

In general, a flat bar road bike is a bike with narrow tires, upright handlebars, and a rigid fork, and will be damn fast. Comfort is a personal issue, but these bikes are often set up for speed rather than comfort, but can be modified by a competent shop to be more comfortable.

The term 'road' bikes often refers to road racing style bikes... these are the fastest bikes available, but often not useful except for on paved roads. If you want to ride on pathc or dirt roads comfortably, the wider tires necessary will usually not fit into the frame and fork. Touring bikes, Cyclocross (CX) bikes, and road-sport (a little more rare these days) bikes all allow the use of slightly fatter tires or tires with more aggressive tread for dirt or mixed surface riding. And all can be adjusted for a more upright riding position if that's what you want.

In fact, a flat bar road bike, road-sport, touring, or CX bike will be almost as fast as a purpose built road bike if you have narrow performance tires mounted. They might be a pound or two heavier (very slightly slower for climbing) and not be quite as quick handling (you will not win a criterium style race on one) but are still the bee's knees in terms of performance and versatility.

HiYoSilver 06-22-10 11:21 AM

Headwinds suck and there is only one bike that is designed to deal with it: a tri bike. Might as well check it out as well. Note although fitting is optional with road bike it is required for good experience with tri bike.

Kimmitt 06-22-10 01:01 PM

It sounds to me like you'd be well served by a cyclocross style bicycle.

However, your bike really shouldn't creak that much if it's a good bike in general. It might be worth a visit to your LBS to ask for a tuneup after detailing your concerns. It could be a bit of miscalibration, or it might be just cheap pedals which are easily replaced.

The big advice I have is to ride lots and lots of completely different bikes, including cruisers and MTBs. You never know what will spark some intuition. Now that you know kind of what you need in a bike, you can start narrowing down what kinds of bikes will suit those needs.

mjenkins65 06-22-10 03:33 PM

Wow. Thanks for all of the input. It seems like the only thing to do is to ride a lot of bikes and see. My concern is that you don't really get to know a lot about the bike in a 20-30 minute test drive. What is the best way to "try" a lot of different bikes?

Loose Chain 06-22-10 03:34 PM

No, not Pacer, Cross Check or similar, sturdy, steel, multi surface CX bike.

The roadies will probably still blow by you but, not as quickly. For fast on the road, nothing is going to beat a dedicated road machine meant for speed.

mjenkins65 06-22-10 04:12 PM

I am not worried about being blown by occasionally. But it is disheartening when everyone blows by.

Kimmitt 06-22-10 04:30 PM

mjenkins65 -- you actually do get to know a lot in a 20 minute drive; the trick is to listen to your body during and after.

Pamestique 06-22-10 05:03 PM


Originally Posted by mjenkins65 (Post 11002930)
Wow. Thanks for all of the input. It seems like the only thing to do is to ride a lot of bikes and see. My concern is that you don't really get to know a lot about the bike in a 20-30 minute test drive. What is the best way to "try" a lot of different bikes?

Not certain where you live but I suggest you join a bike club. Get to know folks that ride similar bikes to ones you are looking at and ask them if you can ride theirs around. That's how I found and fell in love with my Lemond Zurich. In my cycling club a woman, about my size, was riding a Buenos Aires and we changed bikes for a ride. I loved the feel and fit of her bike and knew something similar was for me. By the way, at the time I was riding a 1986 Spec. Expedition. A much different bike then your model. Mine was a pure touring frame, yours became more comfort.

Alot of times it is just dumb luck. You have to buy a bike on "faith" . I ordered my mountain bike without ever having ridden one (Santa Cruz Superlight) and it just turned out to be perfect for me. I did alot of research, read alot of forum information and just knew and understood what I was looking for.

Listen to what Garfield Cat says... it's wise advice. A good fitting is key. I just ordered a custom bike (spoke to the builder today - he is painting it this week!) having never ridden the bike before. I just trust in my fitter and his design that the bike will work.

mjenkins65 07-02-10 08:45 AM

Thanks for all the feedback. I ended up getting a Jamis Xenith Endura 1. After chatting with the guys at the LBS and a bunch of test rides, it came down to the Jamis or a Cannondale Synergy. In the end, the Jamis just seemed to feel better. Plus the price was right! The guys at the Dallas Bike Works rock!

aadhils 07-02-10 05:56 PM

What you really need is a recumbent trike:

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