Selecting your first road bike

I get lots of questions about buying a bike.  Recently I was discussing bicycling and selecting the right bicycle and I thought I would write about my experiences with purchasing bicycles.  with the help of the internet I will reference some web pages that are a good read that will help you wade through the maze of bicycling information that a salesperson may throw at you.  It is always helpful to be as informed about bicycles before you start shopping.

Measuring your body for a bicycle

One if the key factors in getting the most benefit from riding a bicycle is getting a bike that fits your body.  Purchasing a bike that does not fit can make your cycling experience painful and limiting your endurance to ride long distances.  There several ways to adjust a bike to come close to fitting your body, but it is best to measure your body first and then see how close the bike you are purchasing has to be adjusted to be the perfect fit for you.

I had a bike fit before purchasing my Serotta Rapid Tour back in 1999.  There are several reference articles on the Inter-web that describe bike fitting.  I will reference these articles for a quick reference point for anyone looking for a one stop place for bike fitting articles.

BikeFit (http://www.bikefit.com)

How to Fit a Road Bicycle Overview

This article is focused on road bike fitting and not bike sizing. Often these two descriptions become intertwined but they are completely different.   With that said, fitting a road bicycle works best when you start with the right size bike; or at a minimum a bicycle that is close enough to your right size. 

Sizing a road bicycle is not as complicated as you may have been led to believe, in part due to the reality that a good bike fit actually has little to do with the bicycle per se. Fitting a road bicycle comes down to the contact points (connection points) between the cyclist and their bicycle. These five connection points are: right and left foot, the pelvis and right and left hands. So even if your bike is not the correct “size,” as long as you get the connection points in the ideal place you can still achieve a good and comfortable bike fit. 

A proper bike fit has more to do with the saddle, handlebars, brake levers and hoods, stem and, most importantly, shoes, cleats and pedals.

Component Groups

Much can be said about the quality of a bike based on price.  When you are in a bike shop have you ever wondered what the difference between a $600 bike and a $1,000 bike from the same company?  check out the components on the bike.  Component groups include all of the equipment attached to the bike frame.

Here is a list of articles about component groups.
  • Cycle and Style - This article will give you more confidence walking into your local bike shop to look at and compare road bikes and you’ll be more confident that you are getting the right components for your style of riding.
  • Bicycle Components - Bicycle specifications can be a little confusing. The objective of this page is to is to explain the basics of Road Bike Components and Mountain Bike Components, Brakes & Shocks, so you can more easily compare models when shopping for a new bicycle. Basically, as you move up to higher-level components, you get products which are lighter, more durable, and have more functionality (10 speeds versus 9, etc.). Naturally, the price increases as well.

Frame Styles

There are many different frame styles for bicycles.  I want to focus on road cycles so I will not dive into the mountain or BMX style of frames. I am going to take the easy route and reference Wikipedia for a general reference to bicycle frames.
  • Bicycle Frame - A bicycle frame is the main component of a bicycle, on to which wheels and other components are fitted. The modern and most common frame design for an upright bicycle is based on the safety bicycle, and consists of two triangles, a main triangle and a paired rear triangle. This is known as the diamond frame.[1] Frames are required to be strong, stiff and light, which they do by combining different materials and shapes.
  • List of bicycle types - This list gives an overview of different types of bicycles, categorized by function (racing, recreation, etc.); number of riders (one, two, or more); by construction or frame type (upright, folding, etc.). The categories are not mutually exclusive; as such, a bike type may appear in more than one category.
Fully Loaded Touring Bicycle
For the purpose of this discussion I recommend limiting your bicycling purchase to a bike that you will be riding for the next three to five years.  If you are just riding around town with distances under 10 miles then you can stay with a comfort type frame.   I want to focus on selecting a bicycle that will allow you to ride 30 to 100 miles.  These types of bicycles will give you the opportunity to ride in cycling club events and tour the countryside in your area with ease and comfort.

Bicycle frames made from metallic materials are made with eyelets so that racks and fenders can be added.  My Serottta is a cross between a touring bicycle and a racing bicycle.
Typical racing bicycle
A racing bicycle can be made from metallic materials, but lately carbon fiber has been very popular for building strong lightweight bicycles.
Selecting the material for your frame is a matter of getting a frame that fits your body and your pocketbook.  Generally the lighter the bike the more it will costs. If you are interested in riding in long distance cycling events then this type of bicycle fits the bill.  In the next section I will present information from Wikipedia on Randonneuring.

Randonneuring

Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport with its origins in audax cycling. In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined "controls" (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. Riders may travel in groups or alone as they wish, and are expected to be self-sufficient between controls. A randonneuring event is called a randonée, brevet or sometimes by the more general term cyclosportive, and a rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur.  Read More ...

Which Bike to Buy

In researching for this Blog posting I came upon another blog posting written by a novice cyclists.  This is a good read as it will help you to understand what happens a lot when you buy a bicycle with only the price in mind. The article, Learning Cycling is here.

There is a lot of discussion about materials in bicycling frames.  I will not write a new article about this but here is a very technical discuss about materials.
  • Frame materials - Strength and stiffness are different properties that are often confused with one another. It is important to understand the difference, if you want to understand differences in frame materials.
My Serotta has Colorado tubing.  When I first discovered this concept it made total sense to me.  In 1999 carbon fiber was too expensive for me to get a bike that fit me.  I purchased a custom chromoly steel frame from Serotta and I have been happily putting thousands of miles on this bike.

Carbon Fiber

I wanted to do a section on Carbon Fiber construction.
  • Carbon Fiber is an increasingly popular frame material, but it is fundamentally different from metal tubing as a way to construct frames. Because of the fibrous nature of this material, it has a much more pronounced "grain" than metal does. A well-designed carbon fiber frame can have the fabric aligned in such a way as to provide maximum strength in the directions of maximum stress. Unfortunately, in bicycle applications, carbon fiber is not a fully mature technology, as tubular-construction metal frames are. Bicycles are subjected to a very wide range of different stresses from many different directions. Even with computer modeling, the loads can't be entirely predicted. Carbon fiber has great potential, but contemporary carbon fiber frames have not demonstrated the level of reliability and durability that are desired for heavy-duty touring use. In particular, a weak point tends to be the areas where metal fitments, such as fork ends, bottom bracket shells, headsets, etc connect to the carbon frame. These areas can be weakened by corrosion over time, and lead to failure. Read More ...

Summary

I hope that if you get here and you have read all of the referenced material that you will be prepared to start going to local bike shops and looking for your next road bike or your first road bike.  Even though i ride my bike almost everyday I learned a lot from writing this article.  I will go into my local bike shop soon and look closely at the new bikes on the market.  In closing here is an article that gets to the meat of the story, How to buy a bike for $1,000 or less.  I posted this on a Google+ Cycling community on March 29, 2013. Hope this helps.

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