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Is my road bike steering characteristics common with all road bikes?

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Is my road bike steering characteristics common with all road bikes?

Old 01-02-16, 03:56 PM
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sumbikerguy123
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Is my road bike steering characteristics common with all road bikes?

I have owned and rode a hybrid bike for the past 11 years. The hybrid bike is relatively comfortable and the steering is smoother than a road bike which I would expect.

Recently in August 2015, I purchased a Jamis Endura Elite CF road bike. I forgot how my first road bike handled it was so long ago?

My question is related to handling of the road bike, mostly in the steering area. My road bike's steering is skittish or a herky-jerky kind of steering, mostly when taking off from a stop or standing position. Once I get going its okay, but still somewhat skittish.

The wheelbase (WB) on the hybrid is 41.25". Whereas the road bikes WB is 39". A 2.25" difference. I'm not sure if this 2.25" WB difference has any bearing on the steering, but maybe moreso on the stability of the ride.

Having only my one road bike, I don't have anything to compare it with as far as the steering characteristics goes.

So my question is for those that have owned multiple road bikes or have experienced riding various road bikes.

Is the skittish-herky-jerky steering characteristics of my road bike similar to or a common handling/steering characteristic of road bikes?

Thanks.
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Old 01-02-16, 04:18 PM
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Bikes can be built to provide different steering characteristics. Road bikes intended for criterium racing may handle quite differently from bikes designed for stage racing, which may handle differently from bikes designed for cyclocross, and differently than your hybrid. It all depends on what you expect out of the bike.

Wheelbase does not make as much difference as front-end geometry (think: "trail"), or even tires.
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Old 01-02-16, 04:30 PM
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^^+1.
It is trail (look it up - but I'll try) which comes from the distance from where the axis of the head tube would hit the pavement and where the tire does.
Two different bike with the same trail and different head tube angles will behave differently as when the fork turns the bike actually drops - differently based on head tube angle.
Also the wheel base has a wee bit to do with it, as do the length of the chain stays. These affect how the rear tires follow the front.
What you want depends a whole lot on how you ride.

Think about riding your bike through a puddle as a kid (or now). Both the front and rear tires make a wave. The difference between the front and rear patterns are all affected by the above.

To some degree tire width as this affect the patch on the road.

To add a bit more...these days with carbon bike tooling you get what you get per brand model etc. I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but that is something lost from the days of custom lugged frames.
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Old 01-02-16, 04:33 PM
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Going from flatbars to road bars, its going to feel a little skittish for a while, stick with it after about 1500 miles on road bars, flat bars felt strange to me.
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Old 01-02-16, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by kpotier16 View Post
Going from flatbars to road bars, its going to feel a little skittish for a while, stick with it after about 1500 miles on road bars, flat bars felt strange to me.
Each bike is a bit different. My old Colnago road bike that I've ridden for over 30 years feels smooth and straight, but I don't remember anything before it. Apparently I looked a bit awkward on my first test ride.

I built up a Litespeed Frankenbike last year. It felt squirely at first and took some time to get used to, but is nice.

I've occasionally ridden flat bar bikes, including one with a very short top tube, and they are awkward.

Anyway, give it some time and a few miles on the road. Or, perhaps try a "classic" with a bit more fork rake.
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Old 01-02-16, 05:01 PM
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I went from a Trek Domane to a Moots and, on the first day, I fell when unlocking with my left foot at a near stop. The Moots was twitchy as hell in comparison to the Domane. I fell to my right and skinned my knee. Now I'm totally used to the steering and it's great. Give yourself a little time to adjust.
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Old 01-02-16, 05:20 PM
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I have a Stevenson criterium bike that I rarely ride. It's tight! When I pull it out, it always feels twitchy and nervous for a few miles until I get used to it again. At the other end of my personal scale is my Old Peugeot # 1, which has the old-style long trail forks. That one feels ponderous when I've been riding more modern bikes for a while, but again I get used to it.
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Old 01-02-16, 05:29 PM
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My 2013 Madone fought me in every turn. Hated it. Sold it.

My 2014 Litespeed corners as if it pre-rode the course. Silk.

So yes, bikes can be very different.

Keep a soft grip on the bars. That will also affect how it handles.
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Old 01-02-16, 05:38 PM
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I've ridden lots of old school steel bikes , and my main ride is a newer aluminum road bike . Never ridden any that I would characterize as skittish or herky jerky . Have you taken it in to the shop to have them look at it ? Maybe there is something wrong .
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Old 01-02-16, 05:47 PM
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I would say perhaps a fit issue cause no bicycle out there is skittish.
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Old 01-02-16, 06:04 PM
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I went from a flat bar hybrid to a aggressive carbon road bike with drops. The handling at first felt skittish and much quicker than the flat bar hybrid. I have had the chance to ride and familiarize myself with a couple other drop bar road bikes before getting my own, and that quick steering, skittish feeling compared to the hybrid was there on all of them. IMO, most of it is due to the much narrower hand position on drop bars. The closer your grip is on the handle bars, the more skittish it will feel. If you were to chop your hybrid's flat bars so that the grips would be as far apart as those of your Jamis' I'd bet it would feel a lot more skittish.
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Old 01-02-16, 06:10 PM
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I'm in more control on my Synapse road bike than my 2 flat bars by a good margin. I don't think its the character of the bar at all as much as overall perfect fit and feel.
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Old 01-02-16, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by 2702 View Post
I would say perhaps a fit issue cause no bicycle out there is skittish.
I'm going to agree with this. No "endurance" style production bike is going to have squirrely handling.

The OP or shop perhaps could muck it up with bad fit or non-standard stem, but OP doesn't mention this.

I think maybe he just needs to work on form and smoothness.
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Old 01-02-16, 07:30 PM
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This will complicate the debate: $3k Endurance Bike Shootout: Jamis Xenith Endura Elite Review | Road Bike News, Reviews, and Photos
“Frame geometry was another point of debate with the Xenith Endura Elite. Our size 58cm test bike’s headtube measured a 19cm, putting it on the tall end of the spectrum within this group. While that stature means less chance of lower back pain, especially for less flexible riders, some testers felt that extra front-end height led to odd handling characteristics.

“’On the flats I had difficulties getting into a position where I felt like I was getting out everything I put in,’ said one tester. ‘To me the front end felt a little too high, and that hampered power transfer a little.’

“On the plus side, that taller position made it easier to get the bike to behave when cornering. ‘It wasn’t twitchy at all, but I did feel like I had to muscle it a little during really hard cornering. I think both of those characteristics are symptomatic of the taller headtube.’

“Of course this is once again an issue of preference. Many consumers looking to buy an endurance bike want that upright feeling, and will be willing to sacrifice elsewhere. But if you’re looking to split the difference between comfort and aggressiveness, this might not be the bike for you. Here’s a bike-by-bike breakdown of some key geometry measurements.”

Changing from flat to drop, you are certainly losing some width, and the weight distribution is way different. I sincerely doubt your bike would rate as "twitchy" to most road biking vets but to you, it is probably a lot more responsive, and when you feel it turning more than you expect for bar input, you probably stiffen up and pull back a little ... setting up a little oscillation which lowers your confidence.

Looking at the pics, it is a short- but not super-short-wheelbase bike, but compared to a hybrid which probably had long chainstays and had you sitting upright over the saddle, the new bike changes directions much more quickly and has a lot more front-end grip.

You will get used to it.

I have an old Raleigh I ma rebuilding. When I rode it a lot, it always felt unstable switching directions--it felt like it was going to toss me off if I went form a hard left to right or vice versa. It too had a long head tube and longish chainstays. I have never figured out what that was; if I ever finish it, I will see if it is still the case with 700c instead of 27" wheels. But that bike felt racy once it was in a corner--I liked it enough to hang on to it for 30-odd years.

You will get used to it.
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Old 01-02-16, 08:34 PM
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One man's skittish is another man's responsive.
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Old 01-02-16, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by 2702 View Post
I'm in more control on my Synapse road bike than my 2 flat bars by a good margin. I don't think its the character of the bar at all as much as overall perfect fit and feel.

Well, the wider the hand position, the more input is requirement for the wheels to turn a given amount. Those hipster fixies with handlebars just wide enough to grip will be very twitchy, whereas mountain bikes have very long handle bars for the opposite effect. Its probably just a matter of getting used to. I'd bet after a hundred miles, OP would be more likely to describe it his road bike's handling as responsive.
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Old 01-02-16, 09:48 PM
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Two different bike with the same trail and different head tube angles will behave differently as when the fork turns the bike actually drops - differently based on head tube angle.

R. Thanks for replying.
My head tube angle is: 71.5 degrees.
Head tube length is: 4.92".

To some degree tire width as this affect the patch on the road.

R. My bike came with the Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x25c tires. Thinking of trying 700x28c tires for added stability, maybe a softer ride.
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Old 01-02-16, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by kpotier16 View Post
Going from flatbars to road bars, its going to feel a little skittish for a while, stick with it after about 1500 miles on road bars, flat bars felt strange to me.
R. Have to agree here, being on my hybrid for 11 years then going to drop bars was a learning curve and something you have to adjust to. After I rode the road bike for awhile it seemed I got used to the way it handles.

But I would like to have a bit less responsiveness in the steering. Like when I lean down to get the water bottle with my right hand, its a bit skittish with just my left hand.

Last edited by sumbikerguy123; 01-02-16 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 01-02-16, 10:02 PM
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Anyway, give it some time and a few miles on the road. Or, perhaps try a "classic" with a bit more fork rake.

R. Thanks for replying.

Are you saying the more fork rake, the easier or less skittish the steering is?
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Old 01-02-16, 10:07 PM
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Give yourself a little time to adjust.

R. Thanks. That seems to be the case with a new bike, especially going from a hybrid to a road bike. Like breaking in a new pair of shoes/sneakers.
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Old 01-02-16, 10:16 PM
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I have had the chance to ride and familiarize myself with a couple other drop bar road bikes before getting my own, and that quick steering, skittish feeling compared to the hybrid was there on all of them.

R. Thanks for replying. That was the consensus of one LBS employee when I asked him the same question about the herky-jerky skittish steering characteristics of road bikes. His response was that all road bikes have that steering characteristic, some moreso, some less then others.
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Old 01-02-16, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by 2702 View Post
I'm in more control on my Synapse road bike than my 2 flat bars by a good margin. I don't think its the character of the bar at all as much as overall perfect fit and feel.
R. The Synapse was 2014 road bike of the year in the opinion of one bike sites opinion/review. Is that a aluminum or CF bike?
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Old 01-02-16, 10:27 PM
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The OP or shop perhaps could muck it up with bad fit or non-standard stem, but OP doesn't mention this.

R. I did change the stem to a bit shorter one with a 60 degree angle to bring the bars up & back about an inch. I was a bit stretched out with the 90mm stem it came with. But the stem change didn't seem to change the herky-jerky steering any.
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Old 01-02-16, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by sumbikerguy123 View Post
R. The Synapse was 2014 road bike of the year in the opinion of one bike sites opinion/review. Is that a aluminum or CF bike?
aluminum.
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Old 01-02-16, 11:55 PM
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“Of course this is once again an issue of preference. Many consumers looking to buy an endurance bike want that upright feeling, and will be willing to sacrifice elsewhere.

R. I read this article before purchasing my bike. I was looking for that upright position to alleviate the lower back pain I had with a Jamis Race road bike that I had to return. That bike had a shorter head tube and stretched out handlebars, a bent over racing position.

Changing from flat to drop, you are certainly losing some width, and the weight distribution is way different. I sincerely doubt your bike would rate as "twitchy" to most road biking vets but to you, it is probably a lot more responsive, and when you feel it turning more than you expect for bar input, you probably stiffen up and pull back a little ... setting up a little oscillation which lowers your confidence.

R. This is certainly true to an extent. I can't say what a road bike vet would say if he/she rode my bike? Maybe they would say the steering is normal, nothing out of the ordinary or my road bikes steering is not as erratic, I don't know?

The fact that I was initially stretched out a bit and in a lower stance with the stock stem made the steering handling an issue for me. And why I changed the stem to a more upright and back position. At my age my lower back doesn't want to be in that constant bent over, lets race position and I was always trying to sit up to relieve the back pressure & stiffness.

compared to a hybrid which probably had long chain stays and had you sitting upright over the saddle, the new bike changes directions much more quickly and has a lot more front-end grip. You will get used to it.

R. The road bikes steering is definitely much more responsive than the hybrid for sure. But on an Endurance type bike where you are going long distances in a straight line most of the time and comfort is an important factor in the long haul. I would think a less aggressive steering would be more preferable and comfortable for an endurance bike.

The Road Bike review was done in 2014, that bike looks similar to my bike which is a new 2013 old stock Di2 bike. Frame maybe the same, but the paint, gearing, etc. is different.

It too had a long head tube and longish chain stays. I have never figured out what that was; if I ever finish it, I will see if it is still the case with 700c instead of 27" wheels.

R. I think the larger/taller tires will help with stability. Maybe the angle of the head tube & fork angle sweep has something to do with the overly aggressive/responsive steering?

Good luck with the Raleigh.

Last edited by sumbikerguy123; 01-05-16 at 07:49 PM.
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