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Relaxed frame geometry (like Specialized Roubaix) - plusses & minuses

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Relaxed frame geometry (like Specialized Roubaix) - plusses & minuses

Old 07-09-10, 08:30 AM
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hobkirk
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Relaxed frame geometry (like Specialized Roubaix) - plusses & minuses

I'm contemplating a new bike and have questions about relaxed geometry bikes, starting with the definition - does "relaxed geometry" mean the top tube slopes up to the head and the headset is higher, allowing a more upright riding position, and a slightly less steep steering angle giving slightly slower steering response?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of bikes like these (I'm hopefully using main stream bikes [$2000-$2600 models] that are good examples):
  • Specialized Roubaix (the #1 example of "relaxed geometry"?)
    • According to the Specialized ad copy, the Roubaix has vertical flex from the way the CF is laid and using Zertz inserts which makes the bike comfortable and great for endurance rides (my type rides?). According to a test by Cycling News, "The geometry of the Roubaix with its massive head tube made it tough for us to get an aggressive position. If we were going to race on this bike we'd opt for a smaller frame size and a longer stem. However, if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of aeroness for comfort, this bike will suit you."
  • Specialized Tarmac ("race specific")
    • Much stiffer with very little vertical flex and Specialized emphasizes its success in racing (which seems impressive).
  • Specialized Allez & Secteur (I think these are essentially aluminum versions of the above two CF bikes?)
  • Some other Specialized model that should be listed?
I think my riding & goals are pretty typical:
  • 50-mile group rides
  • 30-60 mile solo rides
  • occasional century
  • no racing
  • faster is better
Why do you want "race geometry"?

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SIDE NOTE:
I assume lower pressure would smooth out the ride. I haven't really experimented since I am a 235# novice and worry about flats (and crushing wheels / frames / seat posts / etc. ). I run about 110 psi in Vittoria 23C tires on ALX 320 rims. No problems so far but they seem to transmit bad pavement pretty directly. Should I experiment with tire pressure? If so, what psi should I try front and rear?

Thanks
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Old 07-09-10, 08:37 AM
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I'm not convinced the difference in geometry is a factor worth considering for the amateur.

Lance? sure, could factor seconds or a couple minutes into a stage.

But for the rest of us? nah. Get what's comfortable. If your not comfortable you'll be less inclined to ride.

For you're weight, I'd ride the highest pressure allowed by tubes/tires or you risk pinch flats, or so I'd think. I'm only 150ish lb, and ride comfortably on 110-115psi
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Old 07-09-10, 08:55 AM
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This year, I went from an aggressive short-wheelbase racing frame to an S-Works Roubaix. I don't race criteriums, but I haven't yet found any situation where the Roubaix fails to offer the sharpness of cornering that I need. OTOH, the Roubaix feels much more stable on screaming descents and bumpy roads. Position? Not an issue. If the bike fits you can get "down" on a Roubaix as well as on any racing-geometry bike.
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Old 07-09-10, 09:40 AM
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When I rode my Ridley aluminum, it had those inserts, what's called Zertz inserts. What's better than those inserts is the frame design.

Take a look at the Cervelo RS with its thin seat stays. The thin seat stays do give comfort. Also compare the geometry between Roubaix and the RS. Both head tubes are longer than their related product lineups. But the RS has a shorter head tube. Both Roubaix and RS disclose the head tube angle but Roubaix does not disclose the rake. That's where you're going to get that "handling" response. I think the RS is slightly better than the Roubaix. But that's my opinion.
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Old 07-09-10, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Menel View Post
Lance? sure, could factor seconds or a couple minutes into a stage.

But for the rest of us? nah. Get what's comfortable. If your not comfortable you'll be less inclined to ride.
Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
This year, I went from an aggressive short-wheelbase racing frame to an S-Works Roubaix. I don't race criteriums, but I haven't yet found any situation where the Roubaix fails to offer the sharpness of cornering that I need. OTOH, the Roubaix feels much more stable on screaming descents and bumpy roads. Position? Not an issue. If the bike fits you can get "down" on a Roubaix as well as on any racing-geometry bike.
These.

I think people perceive "twitchy" as "fast". Most of the time, most people are going fairly straight. As far as I can tell, the only real point of "quick" steering on racing bikes is for finish-line sprints. Otherwise, any bike has quick enough steering. (I ride a very "slack" bike and I have never encountered a situation where it doesn't turn quick enough.)

=============

Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
[*]faster is better
The two most significant things for "faster" is the engine (you) and your position on the bike. If you rarely use the drops, you are not that concerned about "fast".

Keep in mind that the difference in "comfort" between frames (ie, relaxed or not) is fairly small and subtle.

You aren't going to find that a "relaxed" frame is going to limit you regarding being "fast".

=============

Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
I assume lower pressure would smooth out the ride. I haven't really experimented since I am a 235# novice and worry about flats (and crushing wheels / frames / seat posts / etc. ). I run about 110 psi in Vittoria 23C tires on ALX 320 rims. No problems so far but they seem to transmit bad pavement pretty directly. [B]Should I experiment with tire pressure? If so, what psi should I try front and rear?
Narrower tires require higher pressures to avoid pinch flats. Lower pressure is more comfortable. Wider tires handle more weight at a given pressure. A heavier load requires more pressure.

Riders who have a "lighter" riding style will have fewer problems (that is, riding technique matters).

You might consider going to 25mm tires, which might allow you to use a slightly lower pressure for the same amount of risk. Or slightly decrease the risk for the same pressure.

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-09-10 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 07-09-10, 11:37 AM
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I have a roubaix. I don't know if these are advantages or disadvantages in your situation, but it has a much lower bottom bracket and overall height than many racing geometries (e.g., the tarmac) and a shorter top tube (via a longer headtube). I got it for the top tube length since I need a shorter reach. Compared to other bikes I've been on, it's very smooth and stable and great for putting in long miles.

I wouldn't discount it for racing either, e.g. see the pro races that it is named after. However, with its lower bottom bracket than most racing geometries pedal strike happens a lot earlier in a lean.. I wouldn't race it in crits and I sometimes clip with it when I'm going back and forth to it between bikes.

Honestly, for your situation based on size, inexperience, and type of riding you will be doing, there is no advantage for you to go with a Tarmac. If you need a more aggressive posture on a Roubaix you can always drop the front end a bit, but you won't be able to do much with a tarmac if the default position is far too aggressive for you. None of the bikes you mentioned are going to feel "slow" or otherwise slow you down.

I would definitely consider the new Secteur as well, as it looks like a great AL alternative to the carbon roubaix. Maybe something to consider if you are trying to save $. I saw a detailed video review of it on some site, forget the name but you could probably find it with google.
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Old 07-09-10, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
it had those inserts, what's called Zertz inserts. What's better than those inserts is the frame design..
Incorrect. Zertz inserts have nothing to do with frame geometry or frame flex or "suspension nor is it a band aid for a poor design. All materials transfer a certain amount of vibrations to the rider no matter what the frame design is. The inserts simply mute a different level of vibrations than the surrounding frame material.
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Old 07-09-10, 12:15 PM
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If you really think faster is better go with the Tarmac, unless it's uncomfortable.

If you're comfortable on the Tarmac get it, if not get the Roubaix. There are some small differences which make the Roubaix more comfortable, but the Tarmac corner faster. Unless your constantly pushing your bike to the limit in cornering, it's not going to make a difference. Sure the Tarmac may put you in a more aerodynamic position, but if you can get comfortable on it and have to run a stack of spacers along with an upturned stem, it's not going to matter.

Bottom line, get whichever you're the most comfortable on. There are lots of people that are fast on "relaxed geometry" bikes.
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Old 07-09-10, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by kenshinvt View Post
I have a roubaix. I don't know if these are advantages or disadvantages in your situation, but it has a much lower bottom bracket and overall height than many racing geometries (e.g., the tarmac) and a shorter top tube (via a longer headtube). I got it for the top tube length since I need a shorter reach. Compared to other bikes I've been on, it's very smooth and stable and great for putting in long miles.


Between the 2010 54cm Tarmac and Roubaix, the virtual TT length is the same, and the Roubaix has a 2.5mm deeper BB drop.
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Old 07-09-10, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by pigmode View Post
Between the 2010 54cm Tarmac and Roubaix, the virtual TT length is the same, and the Roubaix has a 2.5mm deeper BB drop.
The wheelbase of the Roubaix is longer (by about an inch for sizes other than the largest).

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-09-10 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 07-09-10, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
  • 50-mile group rides
  • 30-60 mile solo rides
  • occasional century
  • no racing
  • faster is better
FWIW, I have a Roubaix, and I can attest to the fact that the upright geometry is more comfortable for me. However, I have a wonky back (three bulging discs), which made the choice much more appealing. I tried a number of other frames, and it's the one that fit me the best. In the end, how it fits is what's most important (especially if you're not racing) - don't overthink it too much. I use my bike for pretty much all of the same reasons you list (well... the "faster" part is debatable ), and it's suited my needs perfectly.

Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
SIDE NOTE:
I assume lower pressure would smooth out the ride. I haven't really experimented since I am a 235# novice and worry about flats (and crushing wheels / frames / seat posts / etc. ). I run about 110 psi in Vittoria 23C tires on ALX 320 rims. No problems so far but they seem to transmit bad pavement pretty directly. Should I experiment with tire pressure? If so, what psi should I try front and rear?
When it comes to tire pressure, I pretty much stick to the Psimet tip found here. Hasn't steered me wrong so far.
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Old 07-09-10, 12:55 PM
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I'm a 50+ Clyde on a 2010 Specialized Roubaix Elite. I knew the moment I took it for a test ride that it was the bike for me. I'm not really interested in racing anymore, just riding far and fast.

The closest I've been able to come to properly describing the feel of riding my Roubaix is that, as far as comfort, it's like riding a La-Z-Boy chair...it's THAT comfortable. I've ridden mine on a century (my first in 20+ years), and I've ridden it on hills (not very fast uphill, screaming fast downhill). I really love this bike...

The whole "plush" category is something that has happened since I rode many years ago, and I for one, am happy about it. At this point, plush is what I'm looking for.

I did upgrade the stock wheels with Spinergy Xaero Lites (with the PBO spokes). There was as big a jump in road comfort from that as there was in going from my old steel Specialized Sequoia to the Roubaix. The Spinergys PBO spokes do an amazing job soaking up road chatter. I've also found the wheels very durable.

Good luck with your choice...I don't think you can go "wrong" with either bike...one will likely be more "right" than the other.

Charles
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Old 07-09-10, 01:08 PM
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I was about to ask the same question as the original poster. I'm about to replace my 20 year old Cannondale SR800, which is about the stiffest and quickest turning bike ever built. I can't understand the current trend of frame building with a sloping top tube, and shortened seat tube. At first I thought it was because of the weight, but with a now longer top tube with a shorter seat tube it would appear to be a wash. Maybe a bit heavier since you now have to have a longer seat stem. I guess it's all in what people are looking for in comfort, or even looks, but think my next frame will be a conventional racing type diamond.

As an afterthought, how many of the relaxed frames are being ridden in the TdF right now?
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Old 07-09-10, 01:50 PM
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A compact frame does not have to have relaxed geometry.
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Old 07-09-10, 01:50 PM
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Riders and how they perceive ride qualities vary greatly I guess, but before buying my 2010 Roubaix Comp, a test ride on the Tarmac Expert didn't show me much difference in terms of comfort. Did an 8 mi. test ride on a stock Cannondale CAAD 9-4 yesterday, and compared to the Roubaix again did not feel much difference in comfort. Granted, long term riding impressions may reveal more, but I'd still have to guess that comfort would not be a determining factor between those three frames.
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Old 07-09-10, 01:53 PM
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I go with the majority opinion here. If you're racing in crits, the out-and-out road racing frame with the tightest geometry you can find is probably the way to go. For all other purposes, get the Roubaix.

I have a Giant TCR. Terrific roadbike, I have nothing bad to say about it. But a while after I got it I bought a Giant SCR as a winter bike (the SCR was the predecessor of the Defy Advanced and as such is the equivalent of the Roubaix). I haven't ridden the TCR in a year. The more relaxed bike is more comfortable for long days in the saddle and handles well, and I just don't need the marginally faster handling of the more aggressive set-up.

As for "faster is better", over any significant distance I'll bet you're faster on the Roubaix, simply because if you're comfortable you can maintain your pace better.

Finally, tyre pressure. I'm a big guy, though a bit lighter than you, and I run 115-120 at the back, maybe 110 at the front. I wouldn't experiment too much on 23mm tyres, if I were you, certainly wouldn't go below 100. On the Roubaix you probably have clearance for 25s, maybe 28s. They're a bit heavier but they'll roll better than 23s and give you a slightly smoother experience.
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Old 07-09-10, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
A compact frame does not have to have relaxed geometry.
Correct.
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Old 07-09-10, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by pointyhead View Post
As an afterthought, how many of the relaxed frames are being ridden in the TdF right now?
OP here. The thrust of my question was much more about comfort than racing. I think most road bikes I see have racing geometry and I wanted to provoke responses from riders defending the virtues of racing geometry. So far the main response has been that the racing geometry has lower handlebars that put the body in a more aerodynamic position, although Chasmm and kbtommy emphasized the comfort advantage of the relaxed design (which is what I suspect to be true).

FYI, I believe several top riders did ride Specialized Roubaix bikes on the cobblestone stage.
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Old 07-09-10, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by pointyhead View Post
As an afterthought, how many of the relaxed frames are being ridden in the TdF right now?
Why is this question useful? The OP isn't riding in the TdF (I believe). That is, what is valuable/important to a TdF rider might not be so for other people.

This question might be relevant if the OP was racing and in the same kind of shape as the TdF riders.

Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
OP here. The thrust of my question was much more about comfort than racing. I think most road bikes I see have racing geometry and I wanted to provoke responses from riders defending the virtues of racing geometry.
Generally speaking, the performance advantage of any particular property of equipment is very small. This very small enhancement is very valuable to racers (in the TdF). That obvious fact doesn't mean it is valuable to everybody.

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-09-10 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 07-09-10, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by pointyhead View Post
I'm about to replace my 20 year old Cannondale SR800, which is about the stiffest and quickest turning bike ever built.
I did that, and am amazed. My Cannondale have an Al fork as well as frame. I got a Roubaix Expert and the difference is astounding. On a rough road it's like going from tire made of metal to a mountain bike. The Roubaix is also really comfortable in other ways.
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Old 07-09-10, 04:30 PM
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I went from a Cannondale CAAD9 to a Giant Defy for the comfort of relaxed geometry. I liked it, but somehow didn't love it... then I rode a Wilier and LOVED it immediately. I realised relaxed geometry just didn't feel like it wanted to be thrashed and really enjoyed... to me, it's more for cruising.

Your last bullet point says 'faster is better'... well that just about sums up my decision to go back to something a little more aggressive. Have to say, the Wilier is a smoother ride than the Defy, even with 23c v. 25c tyres (although I just bought some Campy Neutrons - they might help).
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Old 07-09-10, 04:55 PM
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At the risk of outright heresy....

IMO the differences between most bikes, and these two bikes in particular, are almost entirely marketing. Unless you are at an extremely high level of fitness, your performance on both bikes will be the same, especially in a paceline.

As some have noted, the Roubaix has a slightly more upright position and a slightly longer wheelbase. The Roubaix can also take slightly wider tires. Otherwise afaik, if you're looking at the same price range, both bikes will use the same type of carbon, same components, same dampening inserts, and so forth.

My guess is that a fair amount of the perceived difference is not real, it's imagined. When it's hard to determine the differences between a bewildering array of choices, the human mind will exaggerate the most minute details in order to help justify and rationalize the choice -- even if there is literally no difference whatsoever. (In one experiment, researchers packaged 4 identical pairs of pantyhose differently, asked subjects to choose one of the four, and to justify their reasoning. When told the items were identical, the subjects flatly refused to accept this fact, and "doubled down" on their reasoning.)

In addition, expectations about an experience will strongly affect your subjective evaluation of the event or object. Stick Tarmac stickers on a Roubaix and most riders will believe "it's a Tarmac, it'll have twitchy handling," regardless of the reality.

One positive aspect of this, though, is that both bikes are quite good and there is little reason to truly agonize over the decision. So, I say do test rides on both, and do your best to ignore the stickers. If one fits you better than the other, then go for it and don't look back.

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Old 07-09-10, 04:59 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by pointyhead View Post
As an afterthought, how many of the relaxed frames are being ridden in the TdF right now?
On stage 3 over the cobbles there were quite a few including the one ridden by Cancellara.
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Old 07-09-10, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by garysol1 View Post
Incorrect. Zertz inserts have nothing to do with frame geometry or frame flex or "suspension nor is it a band aid for a poor design. All materials transfer a certain amount of vibrations to the rider no matter what the frame design is. The inserts simply mute a different level of vibrations than the surrounding frame material.
For the rider, comfort level is an important bottom line, especially for a recreational rider. The use of the inserts is about comfort, no? Then what would be better for comfort? Inserts, or frame design.
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Old 07-09-10, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
no?
Yes

Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
The use of the inserts is about comfort, no? Then what would be better for comfort? Inserts, or frame design.
Frame design will not have much effect on the inherent properties of a material. Sure you can design in more or less "compliance" but aluminum and carbon will still transmit certain vibrations to the rider. Zertz will help dampen certain frequencies no matter what the frame design is. Your comment implied that the inserts are used to make a poorly designed frame to work better when in fact they are used to make a very nicely designed frame better.
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