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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!

Before I begin, I'm very, very sorry for being so long-winded. I pretty much don't know anything about bikes or geometry, so I need help. My LBS has been pretty unhelpful.

I'm 5'2.5" and 120lbs. Every ride I do has to be a work-out, even when I commute to and from work, otherwise I'm not happy with myself and I don't enjoy it.

SO: I'm looking for a slightly more relaxed geometry to ease my lower back for longer rides (30k-40k, with the occasional 80k rides), but still have a bike that feels responsive and fast.

Currently, I do ALL of my riding on a 2009 Kestral Evoke SL, size 47. It's got 380mm wide drop bars and 165mm cranks (if this information is helpful in anyway). I've got Boyd Altamont Lite rims with Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick tires, size 23. Previously I was running some Neuvation rims that were deeper and narrower, but I cracked the rear rim around a bunch of the nipples due to years of rough terrain (gravel, bumpy wooden bridges, etc) and a lot of weight over the back wheel from panniers (oops).

I love how the Kestral handles, and even though it's more of a compact frame (toe overlap with the front wheel) with narrow bars and short stem (dunno length, sorry...), it doesn't really feel that twitchy to me, and I don't feel fearful or uncertain on uneven and rough ground (probably just because I'm so used to it). I have no problem with riding on gravel, although when it's deep enough to make my front wheel try to slide sideways out from underneath me, I get very hesitant.

So that's what I'm used to and like. A light and fast bike. And I have no problem riding more of a racing bike with narrower tires on gravel or even over small roots on light trails.

BUT the problem begins when I want to do longer rides, and then eventually my lower back cramps up and *absolutely kills* me. And even though I'm used to going over really bumpy stuff and almost not noticing it, I know the vibration is taking a big toll on me when my lower back cramps and when I stop to check out my hands--everything I touch feels like it's vibrating, or like it's very springy when I tap it with my fingers.

I'm also hesitant now about having a rack on my bike and loading it up with heavy panniers after damaging my previous rims. This is a carbon bike, and it has no eyelets or mounts for anything (even though I've been able to attach special fenders and special rack), so I don't know if it's designed to be able to take that kind of weight and torque.

So I'm looking for something that's still a decent road bike and doesn't feel sluggish, but that is a bit more relaxed for more endurance riding on really, really crappy roads and bike trails, and that is designed to be able to carry heavy loads.

What I don't like:
- Hybrids. I have an old steel Specialized hybrid from over 10 years ago, and I hate commuting on it. Being so upright may make my back feel less strain, but I can't put out any power. I try to push, but I always find myself hunching over to get lower over the bars, trying to get more into a road position, but the bike really fights against me. It's a leisure bike, meant for sauntering, which isn't something I'm good at. Even when I commute, it's always a race against myself for me. I want to be able to push and go fast and not feel like my bike is a giant hulk of a slug, fighting against me all the time.
- Flat bars. Nope, no thank you. Wrists hate it and they feel less conducive to power output to me.
- Heavy frames. Above 22lbs is getting up there. I don't want to feel like I have to lug the bike around, especially when accelerating.

There aren't really any options for me to try at my LBS, and they could only come up with two options for me-- Norco Search (alloy with tiagra), or the Specialized Dolce Evo, neither of which they have in stock in anywhere near my size. They were really pushing women's specific bikes for me, which I think is somewhat bullshit. They didn't really have much advice for fit other than looking at their chart and matching my height with the suggested frame size.

I've looked into the Dolce Evo, but it just doesn't really speak to me. The Search seems somewhat decent, but I really have no idea because I have no idea how those slight changes in geometry affect things, or to what extent. But the Search also seems on the heavier side, meant for more serious off-roading, and I'm worried that it would feel too similar to my steel hybrid--but again, I have no idea.

From my searching, the Specialized Diverge Elite DSW has stood out the most to me, but I've read some confusing things about the type of wheels that can be used with it. And again, I still don't know if that's too much of an off-road bike for what I want, and therefore not as good on-road performance.

This bike would be my long distance companion, commuter, and winter riding bike.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Questions? Have you even made it this far?

Any input would be very much appreciated.

Thank you!

*lost*
 

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Hi! Based on what you have said I would recommend you try a Trek Domane. More upright position but still raceable, has the isospeed decoupler in the seat post which is actually excellent at smoothing the Ride and can accommodate wider tyres 32mm or maybe more. Also available in carbon or aluminium.


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Hi! Based on what you have said I would recommend you try a Trek Domane. More upright position but still raceable, has the isospeed decoupler in the seat post which is actually excellent at smoothing the Ride and can accommodate wider tyres 32mm or maybe more. Also available in carbon or aluminium.


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The problem is that the Domane is not designed to carry heavy loads. Otherwise it would work well for him. Trek is coming out with a new Domane Disc WSD model that surely would be available in a 47 if the standard one is not (don't worry, there is no difference in the WSD geometry from the standard Domane geometry - I ride a 2013 Domane 4.5 WSD because I liked the color better than the man's black and white scheme).

BUT that bike, while it can take a rear rack, is not designed to carry heavy loads. I don't think that it would be what he is looking for in that respect. I use an Arkel Randonneur Rack on mine with a small rack top bag for longer rides - or any ride where the weather makes me think that I might want to change in or out of a jacket - and it handles that well but I don't think that it would handle a camping load at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the suggestion, but after looking into it, I agree with what bradkay said--it just doesn't sound like it would be suited to heavy panniers.
 

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I don't know what your exact dimensions are, but I'm 5'3" and 140lbs and I ended up going for a custom steel frame set. The OTS bikes I wanted either did not have the features I wanted, or they did not fit me well. I tried really hard to stay with 700c wheels, but in the end I needed to go to 650c wheels (also takes 26") and a 145mm crank for the best fit. I suggest you look into a custom frame set and build it up as your own. What's your price range?
 

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Before you go spend money on a new bike (unless you really have the new bike bug), there are ways you can make the position on your current bike more upright and your ride less harsh.

1) Try a more upright stem and tilt your handlebars upward a little more in order to make your position a little more upright. A word of caution: Do not move your seat forward in order to get closer to the handlebars.

2) Try tires that are a bit wider like 25 or 28mm if they will fit your frame. They will enable you to run lower pressures which will give you a more comfortable ride that is less jarring. Trust me, they will not slow you down and neither will the lower tire pressures.

If after these changes, you are still convinced you need a new bike, there are many excellent choices in endurance bikes. If the Norco Search feels too heavy for you, you probably don't want a gravel/adventure bike. The Cannondale Synapse, Trek Domane and Giant Defy are all good choices in endurance bikes.

Not sure in reading if you are a man or a woman. Is your shop pushing women's specific bikes because of your body dimensions (good reason) or just because you are a woman and they presume you like "pretty" colors (bad reason)? Women generally have proportionally longer legs and shorter torsos than men do - with an emphasis on "generally". There are plenty of examples to the contrary and there are plenty of women who fit better on men's frames and vice-versa.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I don't know what your exact dimensions are, but I'm 5'3" and 140lbs and I ended up going for a custom steel frame set. The OTS bikes I wanted either did not have the features I wanted, or they did not fit me well. I tried really hard to stay with 700c wheels, but in the end I needed to go to 650c wheels (also takes 26") and a 145mm crank for the best fit. I suggest you look into a custom frame set and build it up as your own. What's your price range?

I really want to stay with 700c wheels. I have an old hybrid/mountain bike with 650c wheels, and I really don't like the smaller size. I find it's noticeably slower. I don't know how a shorter crank would feel, but currently with my 165mm ones, I don't feel like my legs are being stretched or like I'm reaching.

My price is $1000-$2000, but that's in CAD, so....more like max $1500 USD.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Before you go spend money on a new bike (unless you really have the new bike bug), there are ways you can make the position on your current bike more upright and your ride less harsh.

...............

I do really have the new bike bug... But that aside, I don't really want to change the set-up of my road bike. I really like how it handles; it's just on longer rides on these shitty roads where my lower back starts to take a real toll. I'm running wider rims right now, so my 23mm tires are as big as I can go if I want to keep my mudguards on. I could go up to 25, *maybe* 28, but I'd have to take the mudguards off (which is fine for short rides, but not for longer or all-day rides where I might get caught in a shower).

I'm female, and my LBS did mention longer leg to torso ratio for women compared to men of the same height, but it also seemed more about just suggesting women-specific frames merely because I'm female. They didn't actually do any fitting or measuring, just asked my height and looked at their chart and that was that.
 

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Given your budget parameters, and your want for panniers....you don't have a ton of options in floor bikes. For example:

https://www.specialized.com/ca/en/bikes/road/adventure/sequoia/116171

VAYA DEORE | Bikes | Salsa Cycles

Surly has a model or two, but I'm not sure what their pricing is up in Canada. Even Salsa I'm not, and both Surly and Salsa are owned by QBP....which may or may not exist up in Canada (I don't know). You're going to compromise on handling. Bikes that handle like fighter-planes don't handle racks well if at all. Better hauling bikes will have longer stays and more slack geometry-resulting in a more stable ride.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I've loaded my Kestral up with heavy panniers on my rear rack to the point where it gets really hard to lift the bike up off the ground. I've never noticed a negative impact on handling when I have one really heavy pannier--I've only noticed wobble when I have heavy panniers on both sides of the rack, but I adjust really quickly and it stops affecting handling. I accelerate slower, but I can still get up to speed almost as easily, climb about the same, and don't feel any difference in turns or on bumpy roads and gravel bike paths.
 

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I do really have the new bike bug...
Ahhhh yes. Soon you will learn that many of us here on RBR subscribe to the n+1 theory of bike ownership. :D

But that aside, I don't really want to change the set-up of my road bike. I really like how it handles; it's just on longer rides on these shitty roads where my lower back starts to take a real toll.
Fully understand.

I'm female, and my LBS did mention longer leg to torso ratio for women compared to men of the same height, but it also seemed more about just suggesting women-specific frames merely because I'm female. They didn't actually do any fitting or measuring, just asked my height and looked at their chart and that was that.
It could be that women's specific bikes are all they had in stock in your size. There aren't a whole lot of men who are 5' 2" and take a size 47 frame, so not that many are made and bike shops don't carry that many.

I really want to stay with 700c wheels. I have an old hybrid/mountain bike with 650c wheels, and I really don't like the smaller size. I find it's noticeably slower.
Your old hybrid/mountain bike doesn't feel slower because of smaller wheels, it feels slower mostly because it's considerably heavier. Most older hybrids weigh around 30lbs. If it has a suspension and treaded tires, that would slow you down too.

I don't know how a shorter crank would feel, but currently with my 165mm ones, I don't feel like my legs are being stretched or like I'm reaching. Your knee should have a 20 degree angle at the most extended point without you having to rock your hips.
I believe a 165 crank arm length is pretty standard for a size 47 frame. You don't want to feel like you're being stretched or you're reaching. Your knee should have a 20 degree angle at the most extended point without you having to rock your hips.

My price is $1000-$2000, but that's in CAD, so....more like max $1500 USD.
You will be hard pressed to find a carbon bike under $1,500 unless you go with an off-brand on the internet. I don't recommend that. If you can up your budget to around $2,000-$2,200 USD, you can get a good quality carbon bike with Shimano 105. Otherwise, stick with aluminum or steel. Sadly for you, the exchange rate right now between the USD and the CAD is in our favor, not yours.

I've loaded my Kestral up with heavy panniers on my rear rack to the point where it gets really hard to lift the bike up off the ground.
If you use loaded panniers a lot, a road bike of any type would not be a great choice, be it race or endurance. You said the Norco Search felt "heavy". Did you mean when you rode it, or just lifting it? If you didn't ride it, give it a spin! As you well know since you carry loaded panniers, weight will cause the bike to accelerate slower, but once up to speed, weight will have much less of an effect. Keep in mind that your race bike is probably around 16-17lbs., a gravel bike around 19-21lbs., your old hybrid around 30lbs. - just to keep everything in perspective.

I say this because a gravel bike seems like it would be much more appropriate to carry extra weight than a road bike. If you test ride the Norco Search and still don't like it, there are other gravel bikes you may like better. Two other very good gravel bikes are the GT Grade and the Jamis Renegade.

Another thought that comes to mind is if you test rode the Norco Search and found it slow, it may have been the more aggressive treaded tires. Changing to a pair of road slicks will increase your speed on pavement. Tire width will not make a comparatively noticeable difference. Aggressive treads will slow you down for sure. Many bike shops will swap out tires for you when you buy.
 

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This is not what you asked for, but since you mention various pains on longer rides, then the best few hundred dollars you could spend may be on a real bike fitting. Did wonders for me. OK, with that out of the way....

When you talk of crappy roads beating you up, bigger tires come to my mind. There are some good tires out there new that are big, light, and fast at lower pressures. So I'd want a bike that can handle at least 32s.

So, slightly relaxed but still fun geometry, rack and fender mounts that can handle some load on the back with some extra tire clearance for commuting and longer rides on crappy roads. Sounds like what I spent months looking for recently. My budget was similar to yours, but I already had some of the parts for a build.

In the end the choice for me came down to the Soma Fog Cutter and the Twin Six Standard Rando. I went with the Fog Cutter, but could have been happy either way. Both are steel bikes with disc brakes. And both are gorgeous frames, IMO. The Fog Cutter has a carbon fork, but after spending the past 6 years on a steel fork (2010 Salsa Casseroll), I am not sure if I prefer it. If you are running fenders, the Twin Six offers color-matched metal fenders at a small additional cost.

The Fog Cutter is sold as frame-only and can be found for around $650 for the frame and fork. Twin Six Rando is $600 for for the frame and fork, plus $40 for the fenders, and is also offered as a complete bike. There is something screwy about the complete bike pricing on the Twin Six website, it shown the steel and ti versions for the same price. Both of these may be pushing you budget limits.

Good luck.
 

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This is not what you asked for, but since you mention various pains on longer rides, then the best few hundred dollars you could spend may be on a real bike fitting. Did wonders for me. OK, with that out of the way....

When you talk of crappy roads beating you up, bigger tires come to my mind. There are some good tires out there new that are big, light, and fast at lower pressures. So I'd want a bike that can handle at least 32s.

So, slightly relaxed but still fun geometry, rack and fender mounts that can handle some load on the back with some extra tire clearance for commuting and longer rides on crappy roads. Sounds like what I spent months looking for recently. My budget was similar to yours, but I already had some of the parts for a build.

In the end the choice for me came down to the Soma Fog Cutter and the Twin Six Standard Rando. I went with the Fog Cutter, but could have been happy either way. Both are steel bikes with disc brakes. And both are gorgeous frames, IMO. The Fog Cutter has a carbon fork, but after spending the past 6 years on a steel fork (2010 Salsa Casseroll), I am not sure if I prefer it. If you are running fenders, the Twin Six offers color-matched metal fenders at a small additional cost.

The Fog Cutter is sold as frame-only and can be found for around $650 for the frame and fork. Twin Six Rando is $600 for for the frame and fork, plus $40 for the fenders, and is also offered as a complete bike. There is something screwy about the complete bike pricing on the Twin Six website, it shown the steel and ti versions for the same price. Both of these may be pushing you budget limits.

Good luck.
The Soma Fog Cutter frame looks like it has an integral rear derailleur hanger. That's an instant deal breaker for me. Too bad as it looks quite appealing otherwise.
 

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Why would that be a deal breaker? Pretty standard on steel frames with vertical dropouts.
Derailleur hangers get bent and only have a certain number of "life cycles" as in times you can bend them back before they snap. Probably less of an issue with steel bikes. With aluminum, you often only get one chance.
 

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Derailleur hangers get bent and only have a certain number of "life cycles" as in times you can bend them back before they snap. Probably less of an issue with steel bikes. With aluminum, you often only get one chance.
Totally with you in regards to aluminum.

This is really not an issue with steel frames, though. That's why so few of them have replaceable hangars. Most of the time you see them on steel bikes is as part of replaceable dropouts in order to accommodate different axle and dropout standards. I think replaceable hangers were very rare until aluminum frames came out.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a steel hangar (or a shop mechanic that has seen one) that has snapped off. It would have to be SERIOUSLY twisted many times. And even in the freak chance that happens, you can get another one welded on.

Anyway, not trying to talk you into it. No sense buying something that you are going to be worrying about in the back of your mind, and there are plenty of great options out there with replaceable hangars.

However, this is going to eliminate quite a few steel bikes. Of the six steel frames I was seriously considering, only two had replaceable hangars. One was the Twin Six Rando, so you might want to take a look at that if you have not already. I was a little put off by the press fit bb (yeah, I have some hang-ups, too).
 
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