Heavier, Older Riders: The Best Thing to Happen To Road Cycling?



new_rider

New Member
Jan 22, 2010
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I bought my first 'nice' road bike when I was about 19 years of age. This was over 2 decades ago, and I noticed right away that manufacturers and the shop I was working with, had very narrow preconceptions about how a road bike should ride:

1. my bike had a standard 'flat' (-17 degree road stem)

2. therefore, the bars were far below the saddle (half a foot, or more?)

3. the handlebars were ridiculously narrow at first, and even a bit too narrow when the shop reluctantly swapped out for wider

It seemed obvious that the road bike position was supposed to be as low and as narrow as possible and therefore as aerodynamic as possible.

Now, keep in mind, I had a prototypical cyclist's physique: 145 lbs, and very flexible, even within my age group. Having said that, even I felt that I was too low and narrow on the bike.

Fast forward to 2014, and the road bike industry has slowly but surely moved in a direction to accommodate it's consumer base. The cost of 105, ultegra and dura ace bikes has spiraled out of control, with dura ace bikes rarely seen below the $6K price point, and with full 'pro' spec bikes upwards of $11 to $13K. Not many 20 year olds can afford nice road bikes these days.

On top of that, Americans have gotten quite a bit fatter, less healthy and less limber. In order to accommodate it's consumer base, road bike manufactuers have spec'ed the following:

1. longer head tubes

2. stems with some rise above horizontal

3. more comfortable frames, esp. carbon fiber

4. wider tires: 25 mm being the norm now

5. disc brakes: much easier stopping for heavier riders, who coincidentally, probably don't mind a few extra ounces as trade-off

6. new 'endurance' lines with even more comfortable geometry and ride positions.


Ironically, all of these changes designed to accommodate riders with a completely different physique, also benefit me. I never enjoyed the horizontal road stem, I always felt too crouched over, and those narrow handlebars may have been a bit more aerodynamic, but I would've enjoyed a more open chest position on climbs.

All in all, just about every major change in road bike design in the past 2+ decades simply 'makes sense' for 95+% of riders.

While I of course, don't enjoy seeing Americans get less fit and heavier and less healthy, I do think that the road bike segment has made design changes which benefit just about everyone.

Agree, disagree?
 

oldbobcat

Well-Known Member
Aug 31, 2003
3,233
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Stronger wheels, friendlier handlebars, and better saddles. And pedals that work like ski bindings. And shoes that don't hurt my old feet. And compact gearing and 10- and 11-cog cassettes to get us over the hills.

My basic position hasn't changed all that much over 40 years, except for the handlebar shape. Chiropractic treatment was a help there. The drops on the new bar aren't quite as deep, too.

For the performance they offer, I think 105 and Ultegra are quite reasonably priced. 34 years ago, I built a bike that was basically pro team issue for about $1600. Now, for around $2200, you can get a darned good carbon frame, 105 with no substitutes, 20 gear combinations (soon to be 22), decent wheels, all in a package that weighs over 3 lbs. less than that 40-year-old pro bike. I'm not complaining.

Regarding fitness, most of us, regardless of age, have a weight problem. Too much food, too much wrong food, not enough sleep, and too much sitting around when we're not exercising madly to get rid of it.
 

Froze

Well-Known Member
Jul 13, 2004
4,711
756
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NE Indiana
I'm 61 now, I first got into road biking in 76 when I bought a trek TX900 with all Campy Nuovo Record stuff, That Campy stuff did not shift that well and frame was sort of noodly. In 84 I bought a Trek 660 with all Suntour Superbe stuff, that bike was a day and night difference from the TX900, the frame was stiffer, and the components shifted way better than Campy could ever dream of doing, and it lasted all those years till I semi retired it 3 years ago with 160,000 plus miles with no component failure...NO new component group will ever last that long again. The weird thing is, the shifting quality of the old Suntour Superbe friction system is just as fast as the STI stuff I have now! What's even weirder, is my two different SIS systems shift faster then the new STI stuff!!! Last year I bought a Lynskey Peloton with 105 components, (I did swap the rear derailleur for Ultegra and the wires to Dura Ace 9000 which combined made it feel and shift like Ultegra), but I paid the same amount of money for my Lynskey as I did for my Trek 660 with inflation factored in and got mid level components instead of top of the line.

All these component manufactures have changed from making long lasting top end stuff that was easy to fix to lighter weight, fragile, and more fiddling with adjustments with the higher end stuff, it pays to buy mid level like 105 because it will last longer with less expense to fix or replace problems and less fiddling. The new stuff today most problems can't be fixed with buying a small part you have to replace the entire component, that wasn't true in the prior to mid 90's, you could get any small part for next to nothing price wise and fix your components.

Stronger bikes today? no not really. Most CF bikes aren't design for anyone over 220 pounds and neither are a lot of the wheels today but you can find wheels to handle more weight easier than you can find bike frames that can handle more weight. I don't find any advantage to newer clipless pedals vs clip type, most people who tried toe clips hated them because they used improper shoes that didn't have the slotted cleat so they thought they had to cinch down the strap till their feet turned blue so they wouldn't slip out of the pedals! I have both styles of pedals and use them all the time today and can't see any advantage.

There's more here, though they are pro steel so they are bias; see: http://www.smartcycles.com/frame_materials.htm