Suggestions for a bike for TT & crits

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by Bluman, May 21, 2014.

  1. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    So I'm looking to get a second bike. More than a week with my current bike (2014 Giant Defy 2) in the shop after a crash convinced me that I want a second bike. So I just sold my Miata to fund a new bike. I kept writing this post then deleting it when I'd tell myself that I'd just test ride a whole bunch of bikes and then simply pick the one I like best... but at this point I'm not sure anymore which bikes I should focus on. I've gained an interest in criterium racing and the local club does weekly 20km TTs as well. So the bike would be for both of those plus attacking the local bike trails. (The Defy's getting wider tires, racks and bags and is becoming more of a commuter/tourer and grocery-getter that can be converted back to a racier setup if need be.)

    I'm trying to keep myself to spending less than 3500 USD for bike, pedals, computer, and a fitting session. (So ideally < 3k for the bike itself.) Local dealers sell mostly Giant, Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, and Felt bikes. I don't really know what makes a good crit bike but the partial use as a TT bike had me thinking aerobike plus aerobars. I've been looking at Giant's Propel Advanced 3 & Felt's AR5 in this category. However, outside of reviews and sales pitches, I haven't heard much said about these bikes... so I've also been looking at TCR, Tarmac, SuperSix, Madones, and what feels like half a dozen other models. That's the reason I've decided to finally make a post... not only am I not sure what characteristics to look for in these bikes but my current list of bikes is too long to reasonable do back-to-back test rides.

    Or should I just go out and test ride everything in my price range and then get thoroughly confused when I find myself riding a MTB home instead of the intended road race bike...... (i.e. wing it and impulse buy) j/k ;)
     
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  2. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    I haven't done any crits, but it think crits and TTs are far different ends of the spectrum when it comes to biking equipment. You may be able to use the same bike, but I am pretty sure that aerobars will not be allowed in a crit.
     
  3. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    That's why I was thinking of looking at aero road bikes and getting a set of clip on aero bars for TT and solo rides. That way I can remove them for crits and group rides. Sure the aero's not that useful in a crit but if there's stiffness & handling....... though to be completely honest, I'm just running training crits and the local club's weekly TT's... I could probably get any bike and do just as well. It's just that the budget's there and a small advantage is still an advantage.

    My one LBS backs to a quiet neighborhood and has a ~2 mile test route. They sell Giant, Specialized, and Cannondale... so I might just try a whole bunch of bikes back-to-back with my phone GPS collecting data and just pick the one I like the best. I was just hoping for some suggestions to help reduce the number of bikes to test.
     
  4. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    If it were me (and not because it is my user name) I would lean toward a Felt AR or a Cervelo S5 built like a road bike and use clip on aero bars. Both of those bikes are getting some really good comments from owners on a tri forum where the bike is used for both road racing and triathlons by athletes that do both.

    However, I hear that Felt AR's can be hard to get and there have been some waiting months to get their size.

    I have a coworker that races triathlons, but also enjoys local fast group rides that recently bought a new Velo Vie road bike for a good price. She has road bars with aero clip ons and she sold her Giant dedicated tri bike to have more flexibility with one bike. One can still do quite well with a road bike in a triathlon especially if the course is hilly anyway.
     
  5. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    Felt_Rider, I have looked at the AR5 (the AR4 is out of my budget) because it sounds like is would fit the bill rather well... the only downside is now that I've seen it in person, despite the pictures on the internet looking rather cool the CF layup makes it look like a plastic toy. Now that I've finally sold my car and have the money in-hand, I'll have to test it out and see if I can get over its looks. (I suppose I could always add a little weight and paint it...) The good news (especially if there are delays on special orders) is that a bike shop on the other side of town has one in my size.

    I'd look into Cervelo, but the only LBS that sells them basically does them as special order only and I'm not interested in buying a bike that I haven't ridden first. (And they're kinda expensive too, iirc.) I'm funding cycling by selling off all the toys from my other hobbies, so my budget is basically set by what I'm willing to sell. So I'm not willing to take the depreciation hit of buying a new bike, putting a couple hundred miles on it and trying to sell it as 'like-new' should I not like it.

    Finally, tomorrow I start test riding bikes and we'll see what sort of bikes feel good and go from there.
     
  6. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    Once you start riding it I bet the bike itself will overshadow the plastic look. From the picture I like it. But you are correct that the road test will be the only way to know if it is the right bike for you.

    You are taking the right direction on testing bikes. If the bike feels good in the test it will probably feel even better if and when you upgrade tires and the saddle. Just about every bike manuf. puts crappy wheels and tires on the lower end bikes. I have also needed to toss the saddle on just about every bike I have purchased as well right off the bat. So keep those things in mind when testing.

    The coworker that I mentioned recently had her sights set on the Giant Propel, but she hated the women's frame colors. She was happy trying out the men's version, but after testing other aero road bikes the Giant Propel ended up at the bottom of the list. It did not surprise me that over a period of several weeks arranging for various bike tests (Most of the Atlanta shops allowed her to take the bike out on a group ride to test. She was able to get in a good test rather than a spin around the parking lot) that the bike she hoped to get ended up being at the bottom of the list. Hopefully the shop will allow you to take it on an extended ride.

    Best wishes
     
  7. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    I tried the Felt AR5 but they wouldn't let me go very far with it (and they don't even have the $50/day or $100/day extended test rides that most of the other dealers in town offer). So from parking lot observations: I didn't really like the handling in tight turns, it wasn't as comfortable out of the saddle as my Defy, but it was much more comfortable in the drops with my head down. Since I didn't have enough room to get it up to speed, all I can really say is that it's not the most comfortable 5-10mph parking lot bike and without a proper test ride I'm going to have to rule it out. However, I did get to check out a Felt F5 while I was there and from what I could tell from a parking lot ride, it seemed pretty good. Again, without a proper test ride, I'm not convinced enough to throw money at it.

    So I left the Felt dealer and headed over to the one that sold me my Defy. There I tested the Propel Advanced 3, a Spec Tarmac, a C'dale SuperSix 5, and a C'dale CAAD10. I ran all the bikes back to back first through a neighboring parking lot using the lines to make a figure-eight course and then I rode each on the same ~2 mile course through a nearby subdivision. For the subdivision part I ran the GPS on my phone to get some degree of data to compare to my riding experience and then I tried to ride the course as close to my usual 1 hour power output as I could. In all fairness, the only fitting for each bike was selecting the right size and then adjusting the saddle and I'm judging each bike as a complete package. I'm not comparing frame sets here.

    The Propel was one of the most mixed experiences I've had on a bike. I was at the same time both in love and underwhelmed. Its handling felt quick and confidence inspiring. The ride was firm but still softer than my Defy. The riding position is exactly what I've been looking for... I don't really know if it's the position that I really want, but the long'ish top tube combined with a long stem had me very comfortably flat-backed in the drops and everything fit really nice "right out of the box" so to say. So it's no surprise that I was the fastest on the Propel. My position on the bike simply felt 'right'. What was really interesting about the Propel was that when starting from a stop in a longer gear, I would often pull the front wheel clear off the ground for the first stroke. What was underwhelming about the bike was my childish subconscious finally realizing that the aero side of the Propel is not as awesome as it looks.... but hey, looks are still important. Otherwise the only other letdown was the realization that it's more difficult to breathe so low on the bike and that as it was set up on the test ride, my thighs are smacking my fat gut. :-/

    Then I tried a Tarmac and didn't get very far before I turned back to get the next bike. There was something about the crank position relative to me that made it really awkward to pedal and I couldn't get my cadence up. I don't know if it was actually the crank position or if that was an illusion, but I didn't even want to go just 2 miles to figure it out..... it was just weird. The Ultegra shifters were nice but I didn't care for w/e brakes were on it.

    Then came the big surprise. I'd heard good things about the SuperSix EVOs but this bike just felt great in the saddle and was a complete dream out of the saddle. It handled (for me) slightly better than the Propel in the parking lot figure-eight and I was only 1 mph slower over the 2 mile test... and I'd bet I could get that back by lowering the handlebars and getting a slightly longer stem. The bike felt quite solid under me and I'm really going to have to give it a longer test.

    The CAAD10 was similar to the SuperSix but somehow I came up 1.5 mph slower than the SuperSix and that may just be that as the bike was set up my position felt more upright than on the SuperSix and maybe there's a difference in wheels. I wasn't putting much serious consideration into the C'dales and so I haven't done much homework on them yet.

    So I'm going to take a few days to mull things over but atm it's between the Propel Advanced 3 and the SuperSix EVO 5. Both are on Shimano 105 but the SuperSix is some $700 cheaper. It might come down to price... we'll see.
     
  8. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    I would give a big +1 on the Supersix because... I own one and it's my favorite bike so far of all time! I stood on my first podium in 1984 and have ridden/raced bikes made of steel, titanium, alu, and CF, and a number of different models made of each material since but my opinion should not matter one bit as you will be the one riding your bike.

    I would ignore "aero" frames however and just go for the bike that feels best on the test ride and fits your riding characteristics because, well, any aero advantage from a road frame will be insignificant and any benefit realized during a TT on a road frame will be from aero bars, rider position, a little bit from wheels, and the tightness (or lack thereof) of the riders jersey. The position on any bike can be tweaked with spacers under the stem, stem length, and saddle fore/aft. Disclaimer: I have never test ridden a single bicycle I have purchased or owned in the last 30 years. They were either sponsor "recommended" (go figure, I'm only a Cat4), or based purely on emotion, aesthetic value, or some other nonsensical criteria. Somehow though they always worked out because my position was pretty much identical on each, and all (for the most part) were top shelf for their time. Sure, they had different riding characteristics, but so has every girl I ever dated, and I've loved each and every one of them too. Kids, do not try this at home.

    I'm wondering if the bikes you found "awkward to pedal" featured longer crankarms? That's the longest 2.5mm that will ever make a difference in one's life. I can guarantee though if you brag about that in the bedroom your GF will probably dump you on the spot ;)
     
  9. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    I mentioned that my coworker ( top notch female triathlete ) just sold a dedicated road bike and a dedicated Tri bike to get one bike. We did a lot of talking as she tried out each bike and I did a lot of reading from blogs, forums and web reviews while helping her look for bikes to test ride. It is interesting that we started with the same list of bikes that you are looking at in the AR category. She tried all of those and ended up with a pure road bike, velo vie vitesse 400. Just like Dan mentioned in his post that AR frames may not be the best pick. Since Velo Vie is a direct mail order company she ended up loving the one bike that she did not get to test ride out of all the bikes. Over all the big name brands she will now be racing triathlons on a road bike where last year she had a brand new Giant TT bike. She never really got a good fit on that particular bike.

    My Felt B10, I bought the frame from consignment for about the same reason. The previous owner had it one year and never fit it good and had to sell it. Her loss and my gain because it does seem to work well for me. But like Dan mentioned I guess I am very fortunate because my favorite bike (LOOK 585) I bought from Excel Sports as a closeout so I did not get a road test. I just read reviews and had a game plan for how I wanted to build it up. The geometry was very close to my other bikes so I thought it would work out. Cool thing is the bike is several years old and I still love it as much as the day I bought it. However, while looking at all these bike reviews for my coworker it did make me think what I would get if I had to get one right now.

    At the top of my list if I had to get a bike now I think it would be the C-dale Supersix EVO. I love my LOOK 585, but I train daily during the week on a C-dale Six13. That bike, though a bit heavy compared to the LOOK, still works well for me for the fit geometry. If the EVO has a similar fit that would probably be my top pick for a dedicated road bike. The EVO sure seems to get really great reviews and comments from owners. I'm not crazy about the color and graphics on the 2014 EVO's, but if it were as good as most say I could probably get over that.

    It will be interesting to see what you end up with. Doing your homework researching and testing when you can will hopefully get you a bike that will keep you happy for years.
     
  10. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    Your triathlete friend is going about that the wrong way - mo' bikes is mo' betta.

    I have a bike for every day of the week.
     
  11. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    I agree [​IMG] Mo bikes, mo wheel sets, mo bike everything. I have cabinets in my garage with inventory like tubes, tires (new Conti GP 4000's) just waiting their turn.

    I have a tricked out TT bike even though I don't even do TT's or Tri's. [​IMG] I put all of them to use except for one. I haven't been on my Mt bike for a couple of years, but I will hang on to it just in case I get an urge.

    How could I have a blog called Cycling Addiction if I just had one bike?
     
  12. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    Test riding bikes is rough, because if you're comparing riding positions and comfort, are you really comparing the merits of the bikes themselves? Riding position is easily changed. Maybe one was simply adjusted better as-is. Maybe the seat position fore/aft on that Tarmac just put you at an odd angle to the crank. I think it's important to at least do a very rough fitting before taking a test ride - especially at your price level. If you can narrow down to 2-3 bikes (seems like you have), see if they'll let you go on a shop group ride with them.
     
  13. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget that bib collection any doomsday prepper would be proud to call their own ;)
     
  14. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    And therein lies the rub. Test rides can be slanted just because one stock top tube + stem length combo was more ideal than another when it really comes down to an easily swappable part. Tire pressure can also easily bias a bikes responsiveness and/or comfort one way or the other depending on how well the floor models are maintained.
     
  15. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    You mean this one? [​IMG] My wife was griping about me taking all of our dresser space and other storage for bike clothes. I have become a cycling hoarder. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    Quote: Originally Posted by danfoz .
    And therein lies the rub. Test rides can be slanted just because one stock top tube + stem length combo was more ideal than another when it really comes down to an easily swappable part. Tire pressure can also easily bias a bikes responsiveness and/or comfort one way or the other depending on how well the floor models are maintained.


    These are all really good points. Each bike was set with the seat in the middle of its adjustment range, tires were put at 110 PSI, all the spacers were left under the stem, and the only thing adjusted to me, personally, was the seat height. Since I was trying to shrink a list of some 11 bikes down to just one or two, I was thinking that this would be a good neutral position.... and I didn't want to take the time for each bike to try and get the fit I'm looking for. I was basically judging the complete package rather than trying to feel out the best frame or going in with the "this could be a great bike if I just swapped out x, y, and z" mindset. So maybe I was too quick to throw out the Tarmac but in a list of all supposedly good bikes... something's got to go.

    When I'm talking comfort, I'm talking about how road vibrations come through the seat & handlebars more than position... because, as you said, position can be changed. I didn't even consider saddle comfort because none of the saddles were bad enough to hint at discomfort with less than 10 minutes on each bike. :)

    Now that I'm down to two bikes (or maybe three if I decide to try a TCR Composite), I'll spend more time getting a closer fit for the position I want and I'll see about longer rides. I plan to bring my own pedals and shoes so I don't have to ride w/ the platform pedals again. If only the Propel didn't look so good, it would have been very easy to pick the SuperSix. The Six'll likely win out because of how good the bike feels mashing on the pedals out of the saddle, how smooth the ride is, ... and because it's much cheaper than the Propel. I'll just need to try a 58 or maybe just a longer stem to get the position right. Though... even if I get the SuperSix, the Propel will still be my desktop background for quite some time. ;)

    Oh, I forgot to mention... once I actually started testing I put no serious consideration into the aero properties of the Propel or any bike for that matter... I bike in MTB 'baggy' shorts and I'm sure they cause more drag than any of the bike frames I've been looking at, let alone the difference between aero and non-aero. When I'm running a TT or a crit and actually dressed the part, it might make a slight difference but I'm only out to compete against myself in TTs and the only time aero would mean anything to me in a crit is when I'm dropped. (Seems that 2.5 months from a sedentary lifestyle and zero biking experience with only casual cycling as 'training', and almost no experience with hills is not enough to keep up with even Cat5 around here... but I found a 1.5 mile 4-6.5% grade incline to practice on.)
     
  17. Bluman

    Bluman New Member

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    Sorry to necro my own thread but I just wanted to update that I finally bought a bike! NBD was yesterday but my first time out riding was today... went a little overboard and can't move anymore but the initial fit seems to be very close after a 98km ride.

    Since I started this thread, I have since been offered and have accepted a job in Japan on the island of Shikoku... and there has to be some of the best cycling roads in the world out here (unless you don't like climbing). Before I get too distracted, the long story short is that my criteria for choosing a bike have changed. Since bringing my Defy to Japan would have cost about 70% of what I paid for it, I opted to leave it home and buy a new bike here. Given the terrain, distance between places, and my growing dislike of driving, I decided to buy another endurance bike (with the side bonus of saving my neck and lower back some on my 4-10 hour weekend rides).

    I imagine my choice of bike will not be very popular on the internet but I don't particularly care. I bought a Specialized Roubaix SL4 Sport 105 (well... mostly) in dark gray. My reasoning was basically this: I wanted a carbon endurance bike with 105 (5800) and rim brakes... and after visiting all 5 bike shops in Tokushima Prefecture that sell roadbikes, Specialized was the only brand I could order before late September or even early October. Also it didn't help that Giant decided to put disks on all their Defys above the base level range. (So no carbon with rim brakes.) The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105 5 & 6 were both tempting, but again... I didn't want to wait. Cycling was my stress reliever back in the states and with the effects of culture shock, I wanted that bike asap. Also, buying a 2014 for cheap and upgrading doesn't really work in Japan when I need a 58 and the biggest you can find locally seems to be closer to 51cm. Well, enough wasting time justifying buying what is already sitting right in front of me in my apartment.

    All I have to compare against are my Defy 2 and my test rides of around a dozen race bikes, but this thing is sweet. I have no idea if it's anything special compared to other carbon endurance bikes in its price range but, after such a long break, a 98km ride with over 1000m in climbing only left me sore where you'd expect. There was none of the wrist pain that plagued me with my Defy (though a good part of that could be that the Defy was a 54 and I measure for 57.5-58cm). The saddle was a little harder than I'm used to but was comfortable for about the first four hours of my ride. Bumpy roads are only marginally better than with my Defy but "gravely-rough and grooved roads are no problem what-so-ever. Despite all the complaints I've read about the Axis 1.0 brakes, I had no problem on several extended descents of up to 300 vertical meters at -7% to -12% grades. From the hoods I can barely lock the rear but from the drops I've got more stopping power than the tires can handle.

    The absolute best part about the bike is the 105 drivetrain. The small 6 (or long 6, depending on your preferred terminology) gears change without even an audible sound. Just a slight increase or decrease in resistance on the pedals. Given that it's a new bike and the cables have a little stretching to do, after about 30km the biggest 4 gears (shortest) got a little fussy about the amount of load on the chain during gear changes but at the start I didn't have to back off at all and still got crisp, clean shifts. However, the best part is the front gears! The chain would hop up or down just as quick as on any Ultegra bike I've ridden. On my Tiagra equipped Defy, switching ranges was so painful that I'd only do it when I started getting chain rub. However with this bike I've been changing ranges almost as often as changing gears. Night and day difference between 105 and Tiagra.

    So for the first metric near-century at least, I absolutely love this bike! I'm almost too embarrassed to admit that I'm also loving the super short 34/32 gearing combo... that was the only thing that got me up hill for the second half of my ride.
     
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