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This is likely a rabbit hole too deep but...

I've been riding bikes my whole life, but I started road cycling semi-seriously about 3 years ago in Washington DC. I had a stock steel Bianchi Brava but wanted something lighter/faster so I could keep up on fast group rides. I bought a used Seven titanium rim brake frame with carbon fork on Craigslist and built it up with Hunt AL wheels and Campagnolo Potenza groupset. In total with pedals, bottle cages, and Wahoo mount it weighs approx 19.5 lbs.

I have since moved to Oakland, CA which is much hillier than DC. With gyms and bars mostly closed for the last 2 years, I've gotten more into cycling so naturally I'm trying to figure out if and how to upgrade my road setup so I can go faster / do less work. However, I've been struggling to parse out which upgrades are marketing BS and which are legit.

Here is my current understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong): pound-for-pound a carbon frame will be stiffer and therefore more efficient than AL or Ti. Put another way, a carbon frame will be similarly stiff to a modern AL frame but lighter (which is why pros ride them). And, carbon frame "layups" can be engineering so that the frame is stiffer in some parts and less stiff in others which can make them more comfortable. It seems like the same thing basically applies to carbon wheels - they weight about the same amount as good AL wheels but are much stiffer and therefore more efficient.

My key questions:
1. Rim vs. disk brakes aside, if I had to choose between upgrading to carbon frame (from a reputable Ti frame) or upgrading to carbon wheels (from decent Al wheels) which would give me more gains and why? Or, if you were in my shoes what would you do?
2. Does the type of carbon frame layup (i.e., fancy expensive layup vs. cheaper "entry level" layup) actually matter for normal people?
3. I'm generally assuming a pound of weight difference here/there is less important for a normal person like me (with wheel weight a possible exception). Is that right?
4. I'm generally assuming aero stuff (aero frame, aero cabling/handlebars, etc.) is way less important for a normal person like me who is not going to ride away from a group anyway and would be better served simply learning to draft well. Is that right?

A little about me, in case it's relevant:
1. I'm 6'3", in my 20s, weigh ~77 Kg, and my FTP on trainer is ~340 W
2. An average ride for me is ~100 Ft gain / mile
3. At minimum I'd like to ride said upgraded bike in fast local group rides. Covid-willing I'd also like to start road racing and maybe crit racing if I can summon the courage.
4. I'm pretty handy so I'm generally disinclined towards bike stuff I can't fix or adjust myself (i.e., weird seatposts, weird integrated handlebars, etc.)

I'm totally open to product suggestions, but not trying to break bank here. Thanks in advance!

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Edit by OP - added photo of bike
Bicycle Wheel Tire Bicycle wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies
 

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1. You do about twice the elev I ride, you would be faster on a lighter bike. It must be very HILLY there.
2. The difference in disk brakes with thru axles (stiffer & tighter control) and braking when I got disks was on another level.
 

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This is likely a rabbit hole too deep but...
Precisely. If you are a pro racer, a pound or two will make a difference. If you think new equipment will allow you to toast your buddies on that killer hill they left you in the dust on before, you will be disappointed.

And then there is the "stiffer is better" rabbit hole as you put it. A stiffer frame may make you FEEL faster, but energy is energy and is not lost in frame flex. That said, a flexy frame is not confidence inspiring and may make you feel less in control. So there is some merit in frame stiffness.

And then there is the "rotating weight" rabbit hole when it comes to wheels. Less rotating weight result in faster acceleration, but once up to speed, weight is weight.

Wheel stiffness has its merits too, but speed is not one of them. Be careful though! Paradoxically, rim stiffness does NOT make for a stiffer wheel - just the opposite! This is an excellent read on the subject. SPOILER ALERT: More spokes are the best way to achieve a stiffer wheel:


So............before you start emptying your wallet, you should look at the lowest hanging fruit - your tires:

 
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Frame material will not help you stay in the group. Only training will do that. The materials swap won’t save you enough weight to make much, if any, difference. Now, it is possible for fit and geo to make an impact on comfort and rider position and those things can have some impact.

But hey, new bikes are cool. So get the bike!


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A well-designed carbon frame can address most weight/ride/response compromises, though the advantages will not be huge over a good titanium frame. Intricate CF layups are cycling's latest angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin marketing hoo-hah -- fun to read about and even more fun to cook up in the marketing department. As to wheels, I personally look at them as important but subject to destruction -- have never spent big $$ on them and always try to get the most for the least.

Before I buy a new bike I always add my weight to the bike's weight to determine what percentage, say, two pounds saves in on-the-road weight. Then I buy the new bike anyway.
 

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that is a nice frame with heavy wheels, parts and group. You can carve a lot of weight off of your bike (and wallet) or replace with a proper carbon super race bike (e.g. Trek Emonda SLR) which will be stiffer, faster and lighter- but speed is money, how fast to you want to go?
 

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@enmyj This is a great question and a lot of the respondents already hit the nail on the head regarding marginal gains for recreational riders and novice racers. If crit racing is your priority, I would run what I have until I'm sure racing is for me. Then, I would consider a lighter yet affordable alloy bike with disc brakes. Modern alloy road bikes are plenty stiff. If it were me, I would consider the Cannondale CAAD 13, Specialized Allez, or something along those lines and save the rest of the money for licenses, entries fees, a power meter (if you won't already have one), and possibly a coach. If you spend enough time racing crits you will crash—especially as you move through the CAT 5-3 ranks. Having a bike that you won't feel bad about crashing and that is likely to emerge unscathed is a godsend.
 

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The material of the frame is only 1 part of the the equation. People lose sight of that fact because carbon is not created equal just like any other material. These days money buys speed. The more you spend, the faster you will go seems to be the mantra now.

How the material is manipulated, manufactured & designed has a greater impact on how it performs. Take a bike like the Cannondale Caad 13 made from aluminum. It has won many awards & itrivals the ride & performance of carbon,,,but to a point. Carbon like aluminum or any other material comes in different grades/qualities. The higher the grade of the material, the stronger it is & the lighter it can be because less material is needed to maintain the same strength.

Where carbon shines is that it can be manipulated to form complex shapes that can be aerodynamic while retaining qualities like stiffness & ride comfort which other materials might not be able to because of manufacturing limitations. The biggest thing for bikes at present is aerodynamics. An aero bike will be faster than a traditional round tube bike. This is fact. So if you want to be faster, you should be looking for an aero bike. That will make you faster. The 2nd major thing to do if you want to go faster is to get aero wheels. These 2 things will get you the biggest bang for the money spent. The next thing is the rider. Get fitter & you will go faster, period.

There are many good bikes out there of various materials that are considered aero bikes. How fast do you want to go & how much you want to spend is up to you because in this sport, the sky is the limit.
 

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All that has been said about YOU being the most important part of the speed equation is spot-on. Get fit, and you'll fly on pretty much any bike, assuming the bike fits you and is set up properly.
For me, a "retired" Cat-1, I have both a modern Specialized S-Works Tarmac, as well as a couple Litespeed titanium bikes - specifically an Archon and a Siena. I would summarize the ride of the Tarmac as clinically perfect and stiff. The ride of both Litespeeds is just different. The Archon, which at the time was arguably the best Ti frame made, is just amazing. Responsive and stiff enough for me - though as a 5'9" 138 pounder with a climber's physique, stiffness is not critical to me. The Ti frames are also more comfortable on rough roads. Though I live in Southern CA where roads are mostly good, I've also done A LOT of riding on backroads of Oregon and Washington, where "chip seal" is common... and a Ti frame is my preferred ride.
Good luck and enjoy the ride!
 

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A couple of years ago I lived in Ohio and I was registered to participate in the Ride The Rockies tour in Colorado, which included lots of big long climbs at elevations I was not acclimated to. I owned a Lynskey R230 titanium bike, and a Cervelo R3 all-carbon bike. The Cervelo was about 2 lbs lighter than the Lynskey. When decision time came, I chose the Lynskey for the ride. Why - because it was just more fun to ride, especially for long days. I don't think the weight made much difference on the climbs and I never regretted using that bike for the RTR.
 

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This is likely a rabbit hole too deep but...

I've been riding bikes my whole life, but I started road cycling semi-seriously about 3 years ago in Washington DC. I had a stock steel Bianchi Brava but wanted something lighter/faster so I could keep up on fast group rides. I bought a used Seven titanium rim brake frame with carbon fork on Craigslist and built it up with Hunt AL wheels and Campagnolo Potenza groupset. In total with pedals, bottle cages, and Wahoo mount it weighs approx 19.5 lbs.

I have since moved to Oakland, CA which is much hillier than DC. With gyms and bars mostly closed for the last 2 years, I've gotten more into cycling so naturally I'm trying to figure out if and how to upgrade my road setup so I can go faster / do less work. However, I've been struggling to parse out which upgrades are marketing BS and which are legit.

Here is my current understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong): pound-for-pound a carbon frame will be stiffer and therefore more efficient than AL or Ti. Put another way, a carbon frame will be similarly stiff to a modern AL frame but lighter (which is why pros ride them). And, carbon frame "layups" can be engineering so that the frame is stiffer in some parts and less stiff in others which can make them more comfortable. It seems like the same thing basically applies to carbon wheels - they weight about the same amount as good AL wheels but are much stiffer and therefore more efficient.

My key questions:
1. Rim vs. disk brakes aside, if I had to choose between upgrading to carbon frame (from a reputable Ti frame) or upgrading to carbon wheels (from decent Al wheels) which would give me more gains and why? Or, if you were in my shoes what would you do?
2. Does the type of carbon frame layup (i.e., fancy expensive layup vs. cheaper "entry level" layup) actually matter for normal people?
3. I'm generally assuming a pound of weight difference here/there is less important for a normal person like me (with wheel weight a possible exception). Is that right?
4. I'm generally assuming aero stuff (aero frame, aero cabling/handlebars, etc.) is way less important for a normal person like me who is not going to ride away from a group anyway and would be better served simply learning to draft well. Is that right?

A little about me, in case it's relevant:
1. I'm 6'3", in my 20s, weigh ~77 Kg, and my FTP on trainer is ~340 W
2. An average ride for me is ~100 Ft gain / mile
3. At minimum I'd like to ride said upgraded bike in fast local group rides. Covid-willing I'd also like to start road racing and maybe crit racing if I can summon the courage.
4. I'm pretty handy so I'm generally disinclined towards bike stuff I can't fix or adjust myself (i.e., weird seatposts, weird integrated handlebars, etc.)

I'm totally open to product suggestions, but not trying to break bank here. Thanks in advance!

Admin edit: Add photo for featured post
View attachment 482557
Here's my 2 cents...
A bit about me 1st. I've been riding for over 40 years, used to Road Race (amateur in the US), ride for fitness & fun now. 64yo, 5'11", 173lbs, 7k miles in 2021.
I've owned & ridden good top end Steel, Alu & Ti frames; I've ridden Carbon, but not owned. I will agree that if you have the funds, carbon is the way to go. Can be made to flex where is needs to, stiff where it's good. Very light, won't corrode. The lightest frame money can buy. But as others have said, the prices goes up very quickly to shed less & less weight with carbon. I live in Vermont, we have lots of mountains; not super high, but many gaps are 16-22% grades. Yes, lighter is better for climbing; but loosing a couple pounds is better on many levels.
Also, as an Engr, I very much like the durability of Titanium. Not the lightest, but strong & corrosion resistant. If made well, flexes where it needs to, stiff where it's good. (A carbon frame tips over in your garage against the lawnmower, it could be done.)
Ciao...
 

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IMO, wheels will be the biggest upgrade for you. I have a Ti Seven w/ Zipp Firecrest wheels and my larg'ish bike weighs just under 17lbs. I weigh 195, so a couple less pounds won't make much difference, BUT I do not race, so I don't need the extra 5 secs a 12-14lb bike may (or may not) get me in a race. My Seven is also rim brake, and I will definitely go disc if I ever replace it. It just hasn't been important enough for me to do so since I have a rain bike (a Lynsky GR250) that has disc brakes. (I live in Seattle so I wanted a separate rain bike w/ good fenders and a rack). Only carbon bikes I have are my tri bike (a QR PRFour) and my MTB.
 

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To my understanding, based on your FTP and body weight, I think you should consider the top-tier frames and wheels, and go for carbon everything, aero everything as you can, of course.
According to data of Cycling Analytics(link: FTP Analytics), having 340W FTP, you outrank 94% of cyclists who contribute their data, which does not only contain amateurs, but Pros also included.
By any standard, 340 W is a good one for non-pros. Why not ride a more powerful bike? One pound less, frame, wheels, wherever the weight is saving, you'll notice the difference, given your current power.
As to product suggestion, I think the Giant TCR ADVANCED SL DISC should be the first to consider and buy their whole bike. No weird cable/hosing routing, no exaggerating chunky one-piece handlebar, only simple stiff frame, super-light carbon wheels, easy-adjusting cockpit.
If you are on a budget, please buy a new set of carbon wheels first. Winspace is a name worth laying your eyes on, carbon rim with carbon spokes, and most importantly, not expensive for upgrading old bikes. A mid-high-rim one should be a go-for choice as your first carbon wheelset.
 

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Precisely. If you are a pro racer, a pound or two will make a difference. If you think new equipment will allow you to toast your buddies on that killer hill they left you in the dust on before, you will be disappointed.

And then there is the "stiffer is better" rabbit hole as you put it. A stiffer frame may make you FEEL faster, but energy is energy and is not lost in frame flex. That said, a flexy frame is not confidence inspiring and may make you feel less in control. So there is some merit in frame stiffness.

And then there is the "rotating weight" rabbit hole when it comes to wheels. Less rotating weight result in faster acceleration, but once up to speed, weight is weight.

Wheel stiffness has its merits too, but speed is not one of them. Be careful though! Paradoxically, rim stiffness does NOT make for a stiffer wheel - just the opposite! This is an excellent read on the subject. SPOILER ALERT: More spokes are the best way to achieve a stiffer wheel:


So............before you start emptying your wallet, you should look at the lowest hanging fruit - your tires:

Energy not lost in frame flex? Nope. I got an old school Ti Serotta. And on my first ride up Redwood Road. The poster’s local hill. I indeed simply walked away from the crowd. Admittedly my previous bike a tired Alan. But it was lighter, and not stiffer.

Flex in the bottom bracket is deadly when climbing. Weight, imo, not as important as stiffness at the crank. And while disc brakes are great, they mean nothing for speed.
 

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Energy not lost in frame flex?
No. Because most energy "lost" in flex will be returned when the frame springs back to its original position. Granted less flex in the BB will make the bike feel more responsive and most riders like this feeling.

Frame material will not help you stay in the group. Only training will do that.
^^^This.
 

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No. Because most energy "lost" in flex will be returned when the frame springs back to its original position. Granted less flex in the BB will make the bike feel more responsive and most riders like this feeling.



^^^This.
That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Just wow. The idea is to convert the downward energy of your crank arm into forward motion of the bike. Bending your frame requires work, is energy lost, and directly robs your bb of torque. Lateral “spring back” does not push your bike forward. Lol. Good god, who taught you this?
 

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I was happy to replace my Lemond titanium with a carbon. The bottom bracket on the Lemond was flexy enough to cause bad chain rub on the front derailer. I had to switch to Campy shifting, whose front shifter had multiple trim points. Hated that bike. Flex in the bottom bracket is a problem for me as I'm a heavy rider. The 3 carbon frames I've had have all had minimal flex built into the frame design. I would some day like a Ti road frame, I've heard Habenaro's are reasonably stuff in the b-bracket, might try one of those someday.
 

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That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Just wow. The idea is to convert the downward energy of your crank arm into forward motion of the bike. Bending your frame requires work, is energy lost, and directly robs your bb of torque. Lateral “spring back” does not push your bike forward. Lol. Good god, who taught you this?
Wow, this is heavy handed for someone with only 2 posts. And you are wrong.

As explained here, you will only lose energy if your BB is so flexy that it doesn't have time to return to the neutral position before the next pedal stroke:


For your BB to be that flexy, it would have to have springs in it!
 

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This is likely a rabbit hole too deep but...

I've been riding bikes my whole life, but I started road cycling semi-seriously about 3 years ago in Washington DC. I had a stock steel Bianchi Brava but wanted something lighter/faster so I could keep up on fast group rides. I bought a used Seven titanium rim brake frame with carbon fork on Craigslist and built it up with Hunt AL wheels and Campagnolo Potenza groupset. In total with pedals, bottle cages, and Wahoo mount it weighs approx 19.5 lbs.

I have since moved to Oakland, CA which is much hillier than DC. With gyms and bars mostly closed for the last 2 years, I've gotten more into cycling so naturally I'm trying to figure out if and how to upgrade my road setup so I can go faster / do less work. However, I've been struggling to parse out which upgrades are marketing BS and which are legit.

Here is my current understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong): pound-for-pound a carbon frame will be stiffer and therefore more efficient than AL or Ti. Put another way, a carbon frame will be similarly stiff to a modern AL frame but lighter (which is why pros ride them). And, carbon frame "layups" can be engineering so that the frame is stiffer in some parts and less stiff in others which can make them more comfortable. It seems like the same thing basically applies to carbon wheels - they weight about the same amount as good AL wheels but are much stiffer and therefore more efficient.

My key questions:
1. Rim vs. disk brakes aside, if I had to choose between upgrading to carbon frame (from a reputable Ti frame) or upgrading to carbon wheels (from decent Al wheels) which would give me more gains and why? Or, if you were in my shoes what would you do?
2. Does the type of carbon frame layup (i.e., fancy expensive layup vs. cheaper "entry level" layup) actually matter for normal people?
3. I'm generally assuming a pound of weight difference here/there is less important for a normal person like me (with wheel weight a possible exception). Is that right?
4. I'm generally assuming aero stuff (aero frame, aero cabling/handlebars, etc.) is way less important for a normal person like me who is not going to ride away from a group anyway and would be better served simply learning to draft well. Is that right?

A little about me, in case it's relevant:
1. I'm 6'3", in my 20s, weigh ~77 Kg, and my FTP on trainer is ~340 W
2. An average ride for me is ~100 Ft gain / mile
3. At minimum I'd like to ride said upgraded bike in fast local group rides. Covid-willing I'd also like to start road racing and maybe crit racing if I can summon the courage.
4. I'm pretty handy so I'm generally disinclined towards bike stuff I can't fix or adjust myself (i.e., weird seatposts, weird integrated handlebars, etc.)

I'm totally open to product suggestions, but not trying to break bank here. Thanks in advance!

Admin edit: Add photo for featured post
View attachment 482557
All these issues are subjective (except for disk brakes - gotta have those) so the only way to know is to try one out. Go find a shop with a fine piece of carbon road jewelry and take it for a test ride up some of those knarly Oakland hills. You might say "so what", but you bet be astonished at the joyful feel of a modern featherweight bike - only your credit card will feel the pain.

One key point - fit trumps all. Never settle for a cool bike that "almost" fits, if you are going to drop $4K or more on a new steed a professional bike fit is well worth it.
 

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This is likely a rabbit hole too deep but...

I've been riding bikes my whole life, but I started road cycling semi-seriously about 3 years ago in Washington DC. I had a stock steel Bianchi Brava but wanted something lighter/faster so I could keep up on fast group rides. I bought a used Seven titanium rim brake frame with carbon fork on Craigslist and built it up with Hunt AL wheels and Campagnolo Potenza groupset. In total with pedals, bottle cages, and Wahoo mount it weighs approx 19.5 lbs.

I have since moved to Oakland, CA which is much hillier than DC. With gyms and bars mostly closed for the last 2 years, I've gotten more into cycling so naturally I'm trying to figure out if and how to upgrade my road setup so I can go faster / do less work. However, I've been struggling to parse out which upgrades are marketing BS and which are legit.

Here is my current understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong): pound-for-pound a carbon frame will be stiffer and therefore more efficient than AL or Ti. Put another way, a carbon frame will be similarly stiff to a modern AL frame but lighter (which is why pros ride them). And, carbon frame "layups" can be engineering so that the frame is stiffer in some parts and less stiff in others which can make them more comfortable. It seems like the same thing basically applies to carbon wheels - they weight about the same amount as good AL wheels but are much stiffer and therefore more efficient.

My key questions:
1. Rim vs. disk brakes aside, if I had to choose between upgrading to carbon frame (from a reputable Ti frame) or upgrading to carbon wheels (from decent Al wheels) which would give me more gains and why? Or, if you were in my shoes what would you do?
2. Does the type of carbon frame layup (i.e., fancy expensive layup vs. cheaper "entry level" layup) actually matter for normal people?
3. I'm generally assuming a pound of weight difference here/there is less important for a normal person like me (with wheel weight a possible exception). Is that right?
4. I'm generally assuming aero stuff (aero frame, aero cabling/handlebars, etc.) is way less important for a normal person like me who is not going to ride away from a group anyway and would be better served simply learning to draft well. Is that right?

A little about me, in case it's relevant:
1. I'm 6'3", in my 20s, weigh ~77 Kg, and my FTP on trainer is ~340 W
2. An average ride for me is ~100 Ft gain / mile
3. At minimum I'd like to ride said upgraded bike in fast local group rides. Covid-willing I'd also like to start road racing and maybe crit racing if I can summon the courage.
4. I'm pretty handy so I'm generally disinclined towards bike stuff I can't fix or adjust myself (i.e., weird seatposts, weird integrated handlebars, etc.)

I'm totally open to product suggestions, but not trying to break bank here. Thanks in advance!

Admin edit: Add photo for featured post
View attachment 482557
 
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