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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK I'm sure this thread has been posted a zillion times on this forum, but this is my FIRST post damit so cut me some slack! I have been riding the stationary bike, spin classes, etc. for the past year b/c after years of jogging (I'm only 31), I feel like if I keep this up I'll be using a walker when I'm 50. So I'm ready to take the plunge. Initially I wanted to purchase a bike in the 500 - 1000 price range just to "make sure" that it was something that I would enjoy. Well, the more I do it, I love it, and I really see myself getting into this sport...

So, I've been to a few shops. And I guess basically I either buy an aluminum or carbon fiber bike. It appears the difference ranges from about 1000 to about 2000 for what I am looking for. I didn't intend on spending this much. However, I dont' want to buy an aluminum bike and then a year later say, "dam, i wish i would've bought the carbon fiber bike and now i'm stuck". Is there a significant difference in terms of HOW YOU FEEL AFTER THE RIDE? I am a dentist and have some lower back pain so that is definitely a concern for me.

Also, sorry for the thesis here guys/gals, how do you sift through the maze of manufacturers? Trek, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi, etc. etc. I was trying out a specialized Roubaix which felt really good, I'm not gonna lie. I should prob. buy a cycling magazine, huh? Please help me!

TIA,

Rick
 

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slickrick said:
OK I'm sure this thread has been posted a zillion times on this forum, but this is my FIRST post damit so cut me some slack! I have been riding the stationary bike, spin classes, etc. for the past year b/c after years of jogging (I'm only 31), I feel like if I keep this up I'll be using a walker when I'm 50. So I'm ready to take the plunge. Initially I wanted to purchase a bike in the 500 - 1000 price range just to "make sure" that it was something that I would enjoy. Well, the more I do it, I love it, and I really see myself getting into this sport...

So, I've been to a few shops. And I guess basically I either buy an aluminum or carbon fiber bike. It appears the difference ranges from about 1000 to about 2000 for what I am looking for. I didn't intend on spending this much. However, I dont' want to buy an aluminum bike and then a year later say, "dam, i wish i would've bought the carbon fiber bike and now i'm stuck". Is there a significant difference in terms of HOW YOU FEEL AFTER THE RIDE? I am a dentist and have some lower back pain so that is definitely a concern for me.

Also, sorry for the thesis here guys/gals, how do you sift through the maze of manufacturers? Trek, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi, etc. etc. I was trying out a specialized Roubaix which felt really good, I'm not gonna lie. I should prob. buy a cycling magazine, huh? Please help me!

TIA,

Rick
Yes, there is a big difference, at least to me, how you feel after riding carbon fiber vs. aluminum. Carbon fiber is just so much more comfortable. It absorbs road shock better, handles better and leaves my body feeling better. Plus, it's lighter.
I just switched from aluminum to carbon fiber, so I can compare.
This not to say that aluminum is bad, it is just not as good.
As for bike brands, do some research, some of which includes you riding the various models. Let your body decide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
yea but there's only so much information you can gain from a 15 min. ride around the cycling shop... is there a way to test ride the bike for a few days and take it out and go on some rides?
 

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Frame material choice generates alot of discussion. You'll see posts from bikers who like one material over others. Alot of people still like steel. Aluminum can be engineered in various alloys, which some believe makes a difference. Most bikes in your price range will be aluminum- possibly with a carbon fork. Titanium is light & stiff, & expensive. Carbon can be made with widely varying properties, and can be used in various parts of the frame- or essentially the whole frame. I've ridden some very stiff carbon frames & others which are (IMHO) too soft. A poor frame can be built from any material. Frame geometry affects ride quality as well. Good personal fit is most important of all.

You might check out Sheldon Browns web site for excellent articles on frame materials and bike fit.
 

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Fit is really important.

I'll second Oldteen's dictum about the importance of fit: a bike that fits well is one that you can be comfortable on. After that, any bike will get you home without "beating you up." Full carbon frames absorb shock better than aluminum, but a the low end of the 1000.-2000. range, you can get a nice aluminum mainframe with carbon fork and carbon seat stays, with decent components and wheels, that could weigh below 20 pounds, which would feel pretty good at the end of a long ride--if it fit right. Any decent road bike now has a carbon fork, even entry level ones priced below 1K, so the main source of road shocks, the front wheel, is dampened very well, even with aluminum frames.

If you're comfortable on the bike, your body can absorb road buzz efficiently. If the bike doesn't fit, if you're hunched over the handlebars like a scarecrow, the nicest bike will beat you up on a long ride. Most, if not all body aches and pains after a few hours in the saddle are a result of some kind of fit problem, whether with shoes, saddle tilt, height or fore-aft placement, reach or height of handlebars, in other words, how you're positioned on the bike and working with it. Frame materials are only felt after 6 or so hours in the saddle.

WrenchScience.com has a quick fit guide on their webpage, computed from inputting your body measurements. Sheldon Brown and Colorado Cyclists, among others, also have formulas to compute fit. I'd recommend that as a starting point. Then go to some bike shops and try out a few models made by Fuji, Specialized, Trek, Bianchi, Giant, Jamis, or whatever other brands look about the same in quality and component mix in your price range. They'll all ride great and you'd be happy with any of them. But after some quick test rides, your body will show prejudices toward some and shy away from others. That's pretty much how to make a choice.

You can make minor adjustments, like saddle height and setback and handlebar reach as your body gets conditioned to riding. Your optimum positioning may change over the next couple of years, even to the point of buying a new frame, but there really aren't any shortcuts. It's an ongoing process. Analyzing and solving fit problems is part of the fun of cycling, getting that man-machine interface working with rhythm and finesse, like playing a fine musical instrument. Good luck, and have fun with it!
 

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slickrick said:
So, I've been to a few shops. And I guess basically I either buy an aluminum or carbon fiber bike. It appears the difference ranges from about 1000 to about 2000 for what I am looking for.
Rick
I somewhat amused that none of the posters, yourself included, have barely even mentioned the word, "steel." Cyclists, particularly roadies, easily succumb to the pressures of style, bling, and newest / latest / lightest. I've ridden since the mid-60's, and have owned many bikes. I never had a Ti or Carbon Fiber bike, but mine have been either steel or aluminum.

I hated my aluminum bikes. It's likely that if I have any say in the matter that I will never own another one. CF I can't talk about, because I've never owned one. Steel can be quite light, looks great, usually costs less, and has wonderful ride qualities. My suggestion is not to automatically exclude it from your list of bikes to look at. Carbon fiber is especially "in vogue" right now. I'd caution against buying anything because it looks "cool", or because Whatzisname rides it, and he's famous.

On a club ride today, one of the guys was talking about buying some carbon fiber cranks, because they just look so "sick." Jeez! Those things are $$$$! I wonder if he thinks they'll help him beat me in a time trial, (something he's never done despite the fact I'm nearly 30 years older than him)? This is a really easy trap to fall in, and many roadies are seriously afflicted with this disease. The pressure is great. Show up with a steel bike & somebody might ask you, "Why are you riding that when there are so many great aluminum or carbon fiber frames out there?"

I just smile. :)
 

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Mr. Versatile said:
I somewhat amused that none of the posters, yourself included, have barely even mentioned the word, "steel."
I just smile. :)
Hey- I at least mentioned steel! There are some great bikes being made in steel.

I agree that too many "serious" club riders are more into BLING than substance. But- it's an affliction not unique to cyclists. Just look at golfers who keep buying new $400 drivers or $1200 irons looking for game improvement when they should be spending more time on the range. As the old saying around here goes-
To get faster- RIDE MORE.

Back to frames- I think some are too hung up on materials- specifically carbon. OOOOOH Carbon this & carbon that. Design, build, and fit are critical whatever material is used. I've ridden some well-fit stiff compact carbon frames which are more harsh than my longer wheelbase AL frame (both with carbon forks). Design geometry contributes to ride quality. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much serious looking to find that some manufacturers are putting out some relatively poor quality stuff in carbon. I've riden more MTB in the past, and I've only been more interested in road riding the past few years. In that short time I've seen "entry-level" frames with no prior history of crashes which have failed at a carbon-aluminum junction (e.g. carbon seatstays). Hopefully, that type of defect is becoming less common these days. Remember that carbon is a very versatile material which can be formed to flex (e.g. fishing rods) or be stiffer than steel (as in some of Tiger Woods' driver shafts). It can also be prone to eventual failure if the fibers are significantly damaged (e.g. in a crash). Notice that all carbon bikes sold in the US are now required to carry a warning label to that effect. Steel may be the most forgiving frame material as it tends to bend rather than fail completely.

I hate to be repetitive, but fit is probably the single most important factor to rider comfort. You will never be truly comfortable on a bike which does not fit. Too many impulse-buy high-bling bikes are sitting around unused because they caused their riders neck, shoulder, or back pains. Do not accept a poor fit just to "boast" you have a carbon frame.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey I appreciate the prompt responses. Just an FYI... I'm not the type of guy to buy something b/c it's the "newest craze". But I also don't want to spend a moderate amount of money on a bike and then look to upgrade within a year or two. I want something that's going to last me for the next 5 - 7 years and if I have to spend a little more now that's okay.

I'm getting the message that fit is important and I will definitely check those web sites out. I guess you also have to put faith in your LBS that they have your best interests in mind instead of merely trying to sell you the most expensive bike.

When I got started scuba diving years ago I used to read reviews which would something like, "Tester's choice" or "Best Buy" based on trials by independent reviewers. That's what I'm looking for... such as, these are the top tested models in carbon, or steel, or aluminum at such and such price range. Anything like that available??? I'll be anxiously awaiting your responses! By the way, if you guys need any free dental advice feel free to fire away...
 

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Bicycling magazine often has tests like that. But the problem with testing bicycles is that they are pretty simple and made to a price. So most bikes at a given price point will have similar if not identical equipment and all of them will be good. That makes it hard to write reviews without sounding like you are a tool of the manufacturers.

Read Sheldon Browns article on frame materials: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials.html

Whatever you buy you'll probably want to change something in the next few years.
 

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Steel is the best!

http://www.jamisbikes.com/reviews/2002_bicycling_buyersguide.html

http://www.gunnarbikes.com/roadie.php

http://www2.trekbikes.com/bikes/bike.php?bikeid=1407000&f=2

The first link above describes a steel-carbon mixed frame that is a really nice ride, but priced a little above 2K. The second link is another steel frame, a production model from Waterford bicycle company, the custom frame maker founded by Richard Schwinn, in his grandfather's old factory outside Chicago. The third is a Trek "Pilot" priced about 1400. Check out their 520 touring bike also. It's made of steel and has 32 (or are they 36?) spoked wheels. You'll always get home on those wheels, no matter how far away you range on a Sunday afternoon.

I got into riding in the late 70s, when steel was the only frame material that was any good. Titanium and aluminum had been experimented with but glue or bonding technology wasn't very good and they were all flippy compared to steel. To this day, nothing rides as good as a silver or brass brazed, lugged steel frame, period. There are stiffer frames and lighter frames, but nothing more responsive and comfortable at the same time, than steel. Bike tube steel is an alloy of chromium (Columbus) or manganese (Reynolds), with molydenum, and is 0.4 to 0.6 mm thick in the middle, only 1mm thick at the ends, but is extremely dense molecularly and therefore very strong and stiff. It's genius is that because it is so thin, it will flex to absorb shocks and torsional loads from the rider's pedaling efforts, but so stiff, as to instantaneously spring back to its original shape on each bump or pedal stroke. No other material, except titanium, does that. Titanium is so hard, its difficult to work with and therefore expensive. (On the other hand, you might find a nice titanium roadbike for around 2K from Litespeed, the premier titanium manufacturer in Chattanooga, TN. Lots of hard core roadies ride them. Like steel, they're "lifetime bikes," keepers.)

Carbon or aluminum are either too stiff and harsh riding, or too flexible and not responsive. Related to this, they also break at points of high stress, like bottom brackets and chainstays, and in crashes, the front forks snap apart. Steel has superior "modulus of elasticity," meaning it will take an infinite number of bendings before it's structure becomes weak (loses this "elasticity") and starts to come apart. I've bent the forks on my commuter bike twice, had them bent back, and am still riding it. I inspect it from time to time and have not noticed any growing stress fractures, which would happen well before it broke apart. My other steel bike, a hand built Italian roadbike, has suffered some hellacious crashes, and come out as straight as it was the day it was built. It feels and rides the same as it did the day I bought it.

Another bit of advice others will agree with I'm sure, is don't worry too much about the wheels. If you get a decent frame with decent compnents, like Campagnolo Centaur or Chorus, or Shimano 105 or Ultegra (forget about Campy Record or Shimano Dura Ace, too expensive!), and a cheap pair of wheels, you can "upgrade" to better wheels in a year or two. For a few hundred bucks, you can get a nice pair of 32 spoked aluminum rims that will go any distance reliably and stand up over the years, far better than the lightweight minimally spoked, aerodynamic hoops that come on most mid-priced roadbikes.

Also as far as positioning, the frame should be big enough to get the handlebars to within an inch of saddle height, to be comfortable over the distance. The "comfort" roadbikes linked above enable that more upright positioning, sensible to all but the most aggressive racer types.

Let us know what you come up with. We can give opinions on geometry and probable ride quality, and get you a bit further down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks so much. I think I got caught up in the whole carbon fiber craze b/c that's what the shops were trying to sell me. I have all of my measurements. I checked out used bikes at some of the local shops today but most were expensive enough that it would make more sense to buy a new one. I'm looking at some of used bike sites online as well. I'm still not leaning in any direction b/c there are so many different brands. I will keep ya posted when I narrow it down and am checking out those web sites you mentioned as I type!
 

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I love the ride that steel gives. I have an early '90's Bridgestone RB-2 steel frame bike. The problem is, the darn thing just flexes too much with the type of riding that I do. I love to climb mountains and also love our Tues/Thurs night crit. While I like the springy feeling of steel frames, I feel that it is not suitable for out of saddle climbing/sprinting. Now, I have a carbon frame that I ride about 95% of the time. It doesn't have the comfortable springy feel to it, but it really does absorb a lot of road chatter while being stiff were it needs to be. I use the carbon bike about 95% of the time now.
And also, steel frames are a bit on the heavy end of the scale. Although I have heard that a new tubeset (953?) from Reynolds is quite light. But I also heard that it'll be pricey. :mad:
I can't afford Indy Fab's just yet..
 

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if you know your measurements and confident on correct frame size

then the winter on ebay is a great time to get a bike
you can always get a seatpost with different setback and a stem of different length to get the best fit

if you are not sure of your frame size then go to a local shop--some shops will let you do longer test rides

i had an aluminum bike not long after getting rear ended--sold that bike, but with the right wheels, fork, and bars you can easily be comfortable on aluminum--but i agree in general if you plan to ride 2+ hours i would go with steel first for the price value and then carbon

jim
 

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Mr. Versatile said:
I somewhat amused that none of the posters, yourself included, have barely even mentioned the word, "steel." Cyclists, particularly roadies, easily succumb to the pressures of style, bling, and newest / latest / lightest. I've ridden since the mid-60's, and have owned many bikes. I never had a Ti or Carbon Fiber bike, but mine have been either steel or aluminum.
...

I just smile. :)
The problem is that it is getting downright hard to find decent steel bikes in the right price range in a shop that can take care of the novice like the OP in getting the right fit. A couple of years ago when I went shopping for my first decent road bike, after doing some reading, I went looking for steel, in part because I thought it might be more suitable for my large size (weight, not height). There were three bike shops in town: one run by a nitwit, who while carrying Giants, was only interested in selling mountain bikes, a shop that primarily sold Treks, and a shop that focused on Lemonds and Bianchis. Both Lemond and Bianchi had steel bikes in my price range at the time and I went there first. The service was appalling: the bikes that I asked to test ride were barely assembled and in such poor state of preparation that the shifters would not work, the cables being absolutely slack. Needless to say there was absolutely no discussion of fitting etc. Then to the Trek dealer where the absolute opposite occurred: hours spent letting me try bikes and getting a perfect fit. Obviously I ended up with a Trek but that left me with a choice of carbon or aluminum. I'm very, very happy with my carbon bike but I still sweat frame damage and suspect that a steel bike might have been a better choice. I only say "suspect" because I still haven't gotten to ride a properly sized and prepared steel bike.

Now obviously, the situation with the shops here is specific to my town but the point is that a lot of the steel bikes still being made are not available in local bike shops prepared to ensure, in particular, fit. And I suspect that most of us would agree that for someone looking to spend up to $2000 for their first road bike, the most important consideration is going to be fit with everything else, including frame material, coming second.

Spence
 

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I agree that good quality steel frames can be hard to find, because some dealers seem to want to "push" carbon fiber. There are several lbs near me, and a couple have told me that they don't have any steel frames in stock because they sell out so fast. All they had left were al & cf frames.
 

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Lemond still makes steel frames at a decent price. And since it's owned by Trek, most Trek dealers can get them.
 
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