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Road Bike Purchase

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
I'm contemplating purchasing a road bike. I haven't really ridden since my college days (18-20 years ago), so I'm basically a beginner.

As a beginner (and as someone who wants to have some money leftover for skiing next winter), I don't want to break the bank with this thing. It seems like I can spend maybe $800-$900 if I'm willing to live with less in the way of components, or if I want to live large I can pay, say, $1,500 (and go with a Trek 2200 or LeMond Buenos Aires---which is what I really want).

I probably wouldn't ride more than 50 miles per week.

My question (which is fairly specific): Assuming I can live with the less expensive frame (which maybe I shouldn't do, since that's the one thing that can't be upgraded, without buying a whole new bike!), how bad are those Sora components?

post #2 of 36
I say live large. Road bikes last a long time. I've been through countless mountain bikes in the past 10 years, but my road bike, a Bianchi TSX/UL w Dura Ace is still going strong.

That said, as much as I am an advocate of Shimano, I think Campy does a much nicer job on their low-end components than Shimano does. For that reason, if you decide not to go whole hog, you might want to take a look at Bianchi's Campione D'Italia which uses a mix of Campy's Mirage and Veloce components or the Veloce which has a full Veloce gruppo (if you can imagine that).

At the same time though, I must say that while the Sora and Tiagra stuff may be clunky and unattractive, I am sure it will work great. When I worked in a shop, I was always astonished by how good the Acera-X stuff was and almost felt like a jackass for using XTR (almost...).
post #3 of 36
Hi Angus--welcome to EpicSki!

Those Sora components will surely be more than fine for 50 miles a week, and then some.

But you might want to check out www.coloradocyclist.com, and in particular, their "Douglas" brand bikes. I have not personally ridden one, but they get consistently great reviews, and the Motive 105, at $1000, is probably good enough to inspire you to ride more than 50 miles a week! It is an aluminum frame bicycle with carbon-fiber front fork and Shimano's 105-series components--a substantial upgrade from Sora.

Also, you might want to ask a question in the Buying Section of the Bicycling Forums. You'll get lots of informed opinions there.

Good luck!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ August 12, 2002, 06:19 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #4 of 36
Bob Barnes is right on the money with suggesting the Douglas frames. I second his vote.

Of course, if you want quality custom steel, there's always my man Doug Curtiss:

Curtlo Cycles

I have a Curtlo singlespeed frame and am about to order a Curtlo hardtail frame. I think that I'll be buying a Curtlo road frame next summer.
post #5 of 36
Greetings, Angus!

For the money you're willing to spend, you can get a great used bike with Shimano Ultegra components-in fact, excellent quality steel and aluminum frames so equipped sell for well less than that (e.g., I sold my Medici [steel with Ultegra] a few years ago for $600). As others have mentioned, the Shimano 105 group is also quite good. If you are interested in going this route I would be happy to answer any additional questions.

The most important thing is the ride, THE RIDE!!! You say that you have cycling experience so perhaps you know what I'm refering to. If it dosen't feel right initially, it likely never will.

Make absolutely sure that you get the proper sized frame, too. If the sizing is off, you'll never get the full potential out of this bicycle and you may even hate it on your longer rides. Once you find the correct sized frame you may still have to change items like the seat, bars, stem, etc. in order to dial it in to your physical specs.

Good Luck!
post #6 of 36
Hi Angus,

I agree with what the other folks so far have been saying. Fit and ride are crucial! Although you now believe you'll only be riding 50 miles a week (as I first did). You might find that number growing significantly as you become a stronger rider (as I did).

For a wide selection of used road bikes, check out the classifieds on http://www.roadbikereview.com/

For a through online fitting, check out http://www.wrenchscience.com/WS1/default.asp

Good luck with your purchase!
post #7 of 36
It's my opinion that you should probably spend the extra money and get what you really want now. If you go buying something that's less than what you want, you'll only end up selling it two years down the road for a fraction of what you paid for it, and then you'll have to shell out more money to get what you really wanted in the first place. Road bikes tend to last a long time if they are properly cared for, and used bikes usually don't draw a lot of money. $1500 is not a bad price to pay for the bikes that you mentioned, and it's a good time of year to be shopping around. Just make sure that you go to a reputable dealer who will take the time to fit you properly. A good fit is crucial.
Good luck
post #8 of 36
If you are really interested in an Aluminum or other high tech alloy, make sure you get a chance to ride one first. preferably a few times. One dis-advantage is the frames are very stiff and this creates a harsh or stiff ride. I'm on a Specialized M2 S-works Road bike and compared to a steel or carbon frame it's a pretty rough ride. The advantage is a stiff bike is generally more efficient(less wasted movement more energy transfer) Frames have gotten better over time with the improvement of materials and technology but I recommend riding around some before you make your final decision on what type of bike.
Get fit correctly and good luck.

I'm finally putting some miles on my bike.. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #9 of 36
Oh Yeah, One other thing,

Used bikes can be a great deal if you know the history of the bike. Watch out for aluminum or TI frames if you look for a used bike. Being less elastic than steel or carbon, the Al and TI bikes can fatigue and fail if abused. Make sure you know the history of the bike and have them checked out. Specialized actually shortened their warr on the M2 and M4 frames because of this.

Just FYI
post #10 of 36
excellent thoughts from all who posted after me. to add to DChan's great observations,

if you ride a stiff-framed Alu bike, you can soften the ride several ways -- (1) Ti seatpost and Ti-railed saddle; (2) fatter tires like 23mm or 25mm tires; and (3) carbon fiber fork. I ride a Cannondale CAAD3 frame -- legendary for its stiffness in every direction -- and I find the ride a lot softer with a Ti post, Ti-railed saddle, and Continental Grand Prix 3000 tires in 23mm size.

On the other hand, quality steel rides beautifully and lets you run any type of fork, post, saddle and tires. If you can spend $1500, I STRONGLY suggest you contact Doug Curtiss at Curtlo.
post #11 of 36
Good comments everyone! As Gonzostrike says, pretty much any aluminum part that you replace with titanium or carbon fiber will smooth the sometimes jarring ride of an all-aluminum frame. But you may like the stiff ride of that frame too. My road bike (K2 Mod 5.0) has an aluminum main triangle, with carbon fiber fork in front carbon seat stays in the back, and a carbon fiber seat post. This setup is becoming pretty common on higher-end bikes, and I've got to say, I LOVE the way it rides! Stiff and responsive, like an aluminum frame, but smooth and predictable like carbon fiber without the "dead" feel that a full-carbon frame can have.

Angus--I especially agree with those who have suggested that you bite the bullet and buy a bike that you will really love, right from the start. A good bike is like a dog that grabs his leash and his frisbee and begs you to take him out to play--nothing will get you to ride more!

Dchan--your advice to learn the history of a used frame is good too, especially for aluminum. Aluminum frame tubing tends to be large diameter and very thin-walled. A bad crash can cause considerable damage. Aluminum also fatigues after extended use, and can fail catastrophically. All metals are subject to fatigue-failure, of course, although my understanding is that titanium is about as fatigue-resistant as you can get--which sounds contrary to your information, Dchan. Any materials-engineers out there who can shed light on this?

Choose a bike quickly, though, Angus--winter's coming! This is a good time of year to find good deals on bikes. Get one you love, and start riding!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #12 of 36


You may be correct. My understanding is Ti is very hard to work with. My main understanding comes from learning how Ti scuba regulators were made. According to the person I asked, (grain of salt, sales rep) Ti is brittle and very hard to "form or draw shapes". Welding must be done in an inert enviroment, etc.. Brittle materials tend to be more fatigue prone but since I have not researched Ti frames (way out of my price range maybe someday) I never really looked into the mfg of the frames. If my comment was in error, sorry and I stand corrected..
post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 
You all are great---lots of helpful information! I really appreciate it.

Much obliged (and be careful out there)!
post #14 of 36
Like I said, Angus--welcome to EpicSki! Good luck with your bike purchase, and have a great time riding it! If you find yourself in Colorado, and need a riding partner sometime, drop me a line!

See you on the snow?

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #15 of 36
Angus & dchan,

More information about Ti from Sheldon Brown, one of cyclings's mechanical guru's,

One of the better materials for making bicycle frames. Here are some commercial links with lots of details and opinions about Titanium:"

Sheldon Brown's Glossery

Note: Sheldon's links are old and most don't work. Check out the links below for more info on titanium as a bicycle frame material. You can do a google search on titanium bicycle frames and come up with lots of information.

Merlin Bicycle's Ti Primer

Spectrum Cycles Knowledge Base-Frame Materials

Seven Cycles

Why Ti?

Check out Serotta too, they make frames of steel, aluminum and ti.

Serotta Cycles

As far as I'm concerned I think ti is one of the best frame materials. My Trek 5200 carbon fiber frame is starting to show cracks after 9 years of use averaging over 2500 miles per year. Steel is a classic choice and rides very well. It was a difficult choice for me between steel & ti.

I took delivery of my new new custom DaVinci ti bike a week ago Saturday and have 335 miles on it as of this afternoon. It fits like a dream and I am more comfortable and efficient on it than I thought was possible on a bicycle. Full Campy Record with Rivendell Roly Poly tires, a Brooks Champion Special seat with ti rails plus S&S couplers so I can break it down and put in a suitcase for air travel.

Rivendell Bicycle Works

Not as trick as PinHed's Seven or Bob B's specialized, but a sweet ride nonetheless at 18# complete

I echo Badrat and Gill's comments re fit. It is crucial. I think better a little on the large side if you aren't going to race. A common error today is to buy a racers fit which is on the small side for general riding. Check out the articles on Rivendell and Sheldon Brown's sites regarding fit.

The Douglas ti bikes from Colorado Cyclist are a great buy and they have articles on fit in their catalog. You can't go wrong with a LeMond either if the fit is right. Spend the money on your heart's desire, you won't regret it!!

Enjoy your new bike, whatever you decide to buy. I bet you end up riding more than 50 miles a week if it fits well!!!

post #16 of 36
Wow Bong--some great links there! I was reading some of the information (there's lots of it) in the Merlin pages--good stuff, but I'm curious why they compare only steel, aluminum, and various grades and treatments of titanium, but not carbon fiber. Is that site old enough to predate carbon fiber as a bicycle material? These days, more and more carbon is showing up on bikes all the time and, of course, the last 4 Tours de France were all won on carbon-fiber bikes (mostly). I'm intrigued by the extremely light titanium Litespeed Ghisallo, though, that the Lotto team rode, at least in the mountain stages. That frame's a full pound or more lighter than other titanium frames (which may not seem like much until you realize that 3 pounds is HEAVY for a high-end frame these days!)

(Sorry, Angus--we may have let the thread drift toward bicycles a little out of the price range you have mentioned. But $4,000-$10,000 will get you a pretty nice bike! Your kids don't REALLY need shoes....)

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #17 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hey, I love reading about the high end stuff---if nothing else, it makes me feel better about spending only $1,500! (But seriously, its a great education.)

There's a guy near where I live who is a real fit-technician. I had thought maybe it wasn't worth the 30 minute drive to see him, but you all have persuaded me otherwise. (Then again, I can always use the handy on-line fit site that you linked----oh, the options!)

Anything will be better than the Schwinn Varsity and the Windsor International (I guarantee you've never even heard of that one---I was too cheap to buy the Bianchi----big mistake) I rode back in the early 80's.

Yes, I hope to be on the slopes---my family is discussing that now. This question belongs on another thread, but what are you all expecting snow-wise in Colorado this winter/next spring? We have gone to Colorado the last 4 years, and the results have been kind of mixed. Any predictions?

Thanks again!
post #18 of 36
Bob - My take on the Litespeed Ghisallo is that it's a fantastic bike if you're under say 170 pounds. Titanium is naturally flexy, thus the buttery ride. In larger frames it can become too flexible. A frame THAT light means very thin tubes and a larger frame size with very thin titamium tubes is apt to be either WAY too flexy or not durable, or both. It's a great bike if you're a sponsored racer and your bikes are basically disposable.

Angus - as for fitting, I'd recommend running through the online fitting system I linked, THEN visiting your friend. The online fitting system will give you a better idea of what the different measurements are, what they mean, and a ballpark figure of what you need. Your friend who does bike fittings can take things from there. An informed consumer is one who is much less likely to make a buying mistake!!!

[ August 14, 2002, 06:02 AM: Message edited by: Gill ]
post #19 of 36
To sum it all up,:

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." —Mark Twain
post #20 of 36
Unfortunately, predictions about the weather around here aren't worth much, Angus. You're right about the last few seasons--we haven't had a GREAT snow season in a while, and we're due. For whatever that's worth....

If you've raised your ceiling to $1500, you've got lots of great choices. That Colorado Cyclist Douglas line again looks attractive--in addition to the aluminum-with-carbon-fork frame I linked you to above, they have a "fusion" frame--aluminum with carbon seat stays and fork (similar to the bike I ride and like very much), and a full titanium frame. For $1500 (or less), components rise another notch to Shimano's EXCELLENT "Ultegra" line. You can get a complete bike based on the Fusion frame with Ultegra components and very good wheels for $1299 right now--an excellent deal, in my opinion.

Don't forget, of course, that the bike is not the only thing you'll need. Most bicycles do NOT come with pedals--too much personal preference involved there. So you'll need pedals, shoes, a helmet, a bottle cage or two with water bottles, and some specialized clothing (at least shorts and gloves), along with a frame pump and probably a floor pump, and a few basic tools, parts (spare tube, at least), lubricants, and such. You should probably keep at least $250 in your budget for these things, if you don't already have them (and you can spend a LOT more, if you want to).

Don't overlook your local bike shops, though. They may well have some great deals this time of year, and developing a good relationship with a quality shop is worth quite a lot.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #21 of 36
Hey Angus, where do you live? Some of us may know where the best bike stores and fitters are in that area.

Hey Bong, what is that thing on the top tube of your da vinci. It looks like a collar.
post #22 of 36
Gill--I'd say your summary of the Ghisallo sounds right on. Like you, I guessed that there would be many performance sacrifices involved in shaving the weight so much. But we're only guessing! They're keeping the specifics of the frame--type of titanium, tube shaping, and so on--top secret (and suggesting that it is quite unique).

That it performed so well under the mighty legs of some of the Tour de France riders removed many of my doubts about the frame. One thing that must help it, both weight-wise and performance-wise, is the compact geometry. For any given size, the tubes are shorter--thus both stiffer and lighter--than they would be on a conventional frame. My K2 uses a compact frame too, and it works for me!

Not that it really matters to me. The day that I can reasonably consider buying a bare bicycle frame for more than $3000 is a long ways away! And there's NOTHING I don't like about my current bike! In fact, I think I can hear it calling to me... I'm off!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #23 of 36
Thread Starter 
I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina. There is a store here named Bicycle Sport, which I think is the premier one in town. There's also one in the nearby town of Kannapolis, called The Right Gear. Those are the only 2 I'm familiar with.

Thanks again for all your help!
post #24 of 36
I don't know why Merlin didn't address carbon fiber. I suspect it's as you suggested, that the article was written before c/f was taken seriously as a frame material. You could check out Kestrel, Aegis, CAS and Calfee.

Aegis Bicycles, Composite Arts & Science, Calfee Design, Kestrel USA

Here's Litespeed's site: Litespeed

The collar on the top tube is an S&S Stainless steel coupler, there's also one visible on the down tube behind the chainrings, you can also see cable splitters below the tubes if you look closely. They allow the bike to be taken down into two pieces with a spanner to fit in a rectangular pullman sized suitcase for air travel without having to pay the $75-$100 oversize fee for a bicycle crate.

Just got back from a 40-miler and think I pushed too hard in the heat since I felt wasted & a little woozy on the hills coming home, the shower calls!!

Bong (edited for spelling [img]redface.gif[/img] )

[ August 15, 2002, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: bong ]
post #25 of 36
My two cents: fit is the first thing to get right.

After that comes wheels. You want them light yet durable. Rotating weight is more important than static weight, ie seat post, etc.

Then your saddle. Need I explain?

Components are last. There are many good groups in a wide range of price points.

Frame material...not sure where it goes. Ti is great. Steel is lighter than it used to be and can be repaired easily. It may be more lively than Ti. I do not like Al but have never ridden an aluminum frame with carbon stays.
Carbon is nice to but will be damper.

I have a custom Nobilette, built to fit my body. It is a sweet ride because of its fit. It is steel. I do not yearn for ti when I am riding it. I love the thing.

It has Campy Daytona 10 speed components that are slightly heavier than the Chorus but work great. The comment above about Campy being better than Shimano in the lower end is correct from what I learned researching this thing before I decided. They tend to bring down their upper end technology more than Shimano does. It's better engineered, will work better and last longer. So I believe anyway.

The biggest diff. between the Shimano and the Campy MAY be your preference for how one shifts over the other: they have different lever styles to shift the gears.

post #26 of 36
Astrochimp--as you probably know, the only argument that will polarize opinions more than "wedge vs parallel" is "Campagnolo vs. Shimano"! You may well be right about the lower end stuff--I don't know. At the top, nothing has the "high zoot" appeal of Campy's carbon-fiber-rich stuff, and I know you can't pry the fingers of a Campy-fanatic off his bike, but my Shimano Dura Ace sure does work well!

I've got to think that they both make pretty good components these days. The pro teams do fine on either brand. I don't think you can go wrong with the top three groups from either Campagnolo, from Daytona on up to Record, or Shimano, from 105 through Dura Ace. I think I'd be happy with any of them.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #27 of 36
Bong--that's pretty cool that your bike breaks down like that. Any downsides, besides the obvious slight weight penalty?

Where'd you go for that 50-miler? I did a quick ride this afternoon from Silverthorne to Breckenridge and back, about 35 miles total. It was a little breezy, but it was a beautiful day for a ride. Lots of road bikes out there today!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #28 of 36
chimp, great post!

The traditional wisdom among OBJECTIVE leg-shavers has been that Campy feels clunkier at first because built to tighter tolerances, but lasts extremely well because of those tolerances.

I've never owned or ridden a Campy-equipped bike. I can vouch for the excellent long-term performance of Shimano 105 and Ultegra, though.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised one bit to learn that Campy's lower-end stuff is better in quality than Shimano's. Good grief, it ought to be -- it's more expensive! (isn't it?) At any rate, Campy is ITALIAN and Italy has more world-class cyclists than Japan (except for Keirin racing), right?

chimp, get out there and ride some dirt!

[ August 15, 2002, 09:45 AM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #29 of 36
The weight penalty is only about 4 oz per coupler, the bike is just as stiff and strong as a non-coupled tube. Sands Machine

I rode in Denver around Chatfield Reservoir our place in Centennial, no hill like Ryan Gulch Rd, just some rollers and up the face of the dam.

Campy vs Shimano is personal preference, I chose Campy because of the way you can trim the shifters and the way the hoods fit my arthritic hands. The 10 speed triple with a 30/29 gear is great for these 59 year old legs here in CO too. The shifting is really smoothing out with break in. One weakness is the 10 speed chain, Kay broke one after about 4,000 miles this year. Hopefully the new design from Campy or the Wipperman SS chain will give longer life.

Just get out there to ride & slide!!

post #30 of 36

Have no fear, my mtn bike gets plenty of love. But after a few years of no road riding then buying the Nobilette I've been having a great time training. I ride my mtn bike better with a solid base of road work.

Shimano or Campy. I agree that both are good and one can argue either way. I'd be happy with Shimano but I went with Campy for two reasons: ten cogs and the shift levers can be repaired easily. The Shimano shifters are much more difficult if not imppossible to repair. I may be wrong but that is what I found when shopping.

I want to clarify my take on fit. It has 2 aspects:

1)understand your body so you can buy a frame that will fit your quirks. For example, I have long femurs which need a laid back seat tube of 72 degrees in order for my knee to be properly over the pedal spindle. The so-called Italian geometry you find on many stock bikes = 74 degree seat tube. Too steep for me.

2) Once you have determined what angles etc you need and have found a frame then you need someone to fit you to it properly. The seat height and setback are crucial, as well as stem height and reach.

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