Choosing the correct bike and size
Welcome to the new biweekly Chevin Cycles Precision Fit blog. We will be here to give you advice on the things we think are important for you all to know in all aspects of cycling,
from looking at new bikes, to getting the most from your current one. With a new topic discussed by our fitting team every two weeks, we are aiming to impart our knowledge to make your riding more enjoyable!
Today we are beginning with a topic that is particularly useful at this time of year for people looking to treat themselves after Christmas, with offers to be had everywhere. How do you go about choosing the right bike for you? We want to help make sure you don't end up getting a bike that isn't right for you purely because it's a good price. It is something we see time and again, a customer comes into the store with a bike which they have had a great deal on in the sales, but are now having lots of little niggles whilst riding such as aching in the lower back and between the shoulders, knees 'burning' whilst riding or even hands going numb. These alone are not necessarily symptomatic of the bike being the wrong size and can almost always be accounted for through fitting techniques to improve the position of the bike, for example, to reduce excess reach and handlebar drop, alterations in stem length, stem angle and handlebar spacer height may need to be made. Although this is a practical and a functional method of getting the bike to the correct position, the aesthetics of your lovely new bike may be affected. There is also the possibility of a slightly negative effect on the handling through flex at the front of the bike if too much steerer tube sat outside of the head tube.
The short of the above scenario is that the bike chosen is often too race-oriented for the rider.
This is definitely the most common issue we see with riders coming in to us with problems. Raceoriented bikes tend to have shorter head tubes and longer top tubes meaning that the reach from the saddle to the handlebars is a longer and there is also a large amount of height drop between them.
This is ideal when racing as it give a 'long and low' position to reduce drag and get as much weight over the pedals as possible for power generation. However, for a long weekend club run or sportives these bikes can often feel too aggressive. Most manufacturers now offer bikes in what they class as 'endurance' geometry, examples being the Trek Domane, Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, Bianchi C2C and Boardman SLS. These are all bikes that come with a slightly more comfort based geometry as they appreciate this is necessary for longer, all day riding. This geometry usually includes a taller head tube that allows us to get a more upright position without the need for extra spacers or angled stems.
The part that is often confusing about this is that these endurance bikes will be labelled as the same frame sizes as the race-oriented bike, from the same manufacturer. As an example, a Trek Emonda in a 56cm (a race-oriented bike) may not be an ideal fit for someone who would need a Trek Domane in a 56cm (an endurance-oriented bike). This goes with other manufacturers as well and can get even more complicated as these frame sizes are not necessarily transferable between brands. A 54cm in one manufacturer could easily measure up as a similar geometry to a 56cm or 52cm in another, so these frame sizes are not always comparable.
A common misconception is that by opting for this style of bike people will ride slower, therefore choosing to put up with the discomfort of a more race-oriented bike for this reason. It is often the case that the rider will actually ride quicker on the endurance bike as their centre of mass will be in much the same place relative to the pedals for generating extra power but they will also be able to utilise the handlebars to generate more power output. Riders on a bike that is too aggressive for them will often spend substantial time with their hands on the tops of the bars and not onto the hoods or on the drops where more efficiency can be gained. So by being able to maintain a better position on the endurance frame, many riders will actually ride better and for longer, giving them a double advantage.
So in summary, frame geometry is pretty unique for each bike and they all have to be considered on a case by case basis. Bike geometry can only really be compared by examining their geometry charts in greater detail and not through the arbitrary numbers assigned as frame sizes.
However as a good starting point it is certainly a good idea to ensure you are looking at the correct style of bike to match your riding before trying to determine the size that will work for you. After getting this right, a good bike fit would ensure the bike is set up to optimise your riding!