Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Road bike musical chairs

**this is a long winded detailed discussion ** read at your peril of falling asleep.

My latest road bike isn't working out as well as I hoped.

I've been on it for several months now and now that the new bike euphoria has worn off I've been looking at the feel of it more closely. Lately, it has felt on the twitchy side, especially in the wind. Out of the saddle climbing has also felt twitchy. Descending has however felt really good with the bike diving into corners and holding it's line well.

The builder has been really nice about sending me the specs on the bike and discussing with me the causes of this feeling. He feels that the short stem on there is placing my weight farther back than was intended for the bike. I bought this used so it wasn't any fault of the builder. Just the user. He suggested that a smaller raked fork might help bring balance to it. This is a classic case of where having the right fit based on points in space doesn't work with a given bike.

But I am thinking that I'll do what I should have done in the first place which was working with a custom builder to iteratively and collaboratively design the best bike for me. I'm such a finicky person I should have known this wouldn't work out. Lately, I've been going through bikes like nobody's business. I don't want to when it comes to a road bike. I want a stalwart workhorse that will keep me happy for at least 7-10 years. Components may come and go but I really do want a frame that is so good that I won't want to look for another one for quite a while.

It's not an issue of losing any $$, as this is such a sweet bike that I'll make a profit on it. It's more of a time thing. But if you haven't realized this is what I do for entertainment. I don't watch TV, play video games, poker, shoot pool, or have any other hobbies etc.. Obsessing over the minutia of bikes is my reality tv.

I'm actually a little glad I made this mistake. Just like life, there are many choices to regret. But we wouldn't be the people we are today if we hadn't made those choices be them good or bad. Every bicycle I ride gives me more of an insight into what is the best bike for me.

With this frame, I had an opportunity to ride titanium. A nice titanium frame

The feel was sublime. Just like you read about. That velvety smooth cush Ti is know for, but yet still responsive and stiff to the point that all the road shock was vibrating the cheesey American Classic water bottle cages. Yet velvety smooth also has a touch of vagueness to it.

There is a springiness to high end steel that I felt with the previous frame.
There is still the soothing buttery feel associated with Steel and Ti yet a liveliness that reacts to each pedal stroke.

I think I like the feel of steel better.

I'm going to try to put in writing what it is I'm looking for in a frame in order to provide potential builders a starting point.

I know there are a lot of ideas bouncing around here, and it's just a start and I need the builder to help distill it down to a final product.

There are 4 things I'm looking for in a frame.

1) Fit
2) Function
3) Weight
4) Aesthetics


I don't care what the geometry comes out to be as long as it fits and it handles well and doesn't look wierd.

I had a Serotta Fit done at East Coasters several months ago.

The original set up looked like this:
(hard to see but -17degree quill as high up as it would go: 5.75cm drop from saddle to bar)

The 'fitted' setup looked like this

here are the size cycle pics:

Inseam 77.5

In a nutshell we found that my hamstring flexibility is very poor. Because of it my best power position is found with a much smaller drop to the top of the bar. However, counter to everything I though (with my long legs/short torso body) my arms were able to accommodate a significantly longer reach to the bar top and the hoods. So we brought the bar up and out.

This fit provided me the 'points in space' dimensions to setup a road bike.

Saddle height:69.5cm from BB to lowest point of the saddle
Saddle setback:2.5cm *dependent on this saddle
(*Selle San Marco ancient saddle. It has a weird look but it's been comfy. I want to try something new but have been scared)
Tip of saddle to Bar center : 47cm to 48.5
Tip of saddle to hood tip (diagonal): 65.25cm
Drop from straight edge on saddle to bar top:3.5cm

Toe overlap is something I've always lived with on a road bike, and it isn't that big a deal. I don't want to make the design of the bike super funky just in order to get ride of toe overlap.

For reference here are the dimensions of the last road bike and the current road bike

Richard Moon Custom lugged:
74 degree Seat Tube Angle
72.5 Head Tube Angle

Top tube (level) 50.5 c-c
Seat tube 52 c-c

Chainstay 40.7
Stand over 78cm from ground to top of bar. This is traditional geometry with a level top tube

Fork rake 1.7"
BB drop 6.5cm approx
Front Center: 54

* what I liked about this frame**
-Stable handling yet still responsive
-smooth feel on the road
-good looks
*what I didn't like
-internal brake cable routing
-the aesthetics were destroyed by the stem require to get the proper fit.

Current Road Frame
Custom Primus Mootry
* it looks like the saddle is pushed forward on the rails, but when you look from the underside, the saddle is actually pushed back on the rails. I think to get it centered on the rails, the seat tube should be slacker.
Head angle 73
Seat angle 74
Top tube angle 4.3
Wheelbase 973
Seat tube length (c-t) 517.9
Seat tube length (c-c) 480
Setback 143.6
Top tube length (effective) 536.6
Top tube length (c-c) 526.8
Head tube length 120
BB height 267
BB drop 65
Chain stay length 405
Front center distance 577
Rear dropout spacing 130
Fork length 370
Fork offset (rake) 45

* what I like about this
-light weight
-responsive to pedaling forces
-smooth buttery road feel
- upsloping top tube brings bars up

*don't like
-water bottle location too low on seat tube
-twitchy handling on flats and out of saddle climbing
-vague feel of ti
-Smooth feeling, yet road shock seemed to really rattle the water cages. Maybe it was too stiff.
*I had even put a 42.5rake fork on it, and it had the twitchy feeling. Builder suggested going to a 40mm rake. I couldn't imagine how it would feel with a 45rake as designed.

37 years old
135 lbs
5'4.5" tall
Inseam is 77.5

Mountain biking since 1988, road riding since 1993. Racing mountain bikes off/on since 1989. Getting back into racing the last 3 years more seriously. 5-10hrs of training a week.

I race vet sport mtn bikes (hopefully vet ex someday). I don't race on the road but I train a lot. the riding out here, southwest-Virginia, is very hilly on rough back roads. Lots of short steep climbs, with some longer 12-20 mins and a rare 40min climb.

I want a very stable predictable feeling ride. But not slow like a touring bike. While I seem to be quite comfortable bombing down single track trails at crazy speeds, I am not comfortable in pacelines. I'm also not too daring when it comes to descending on the road bike. I'd like one that will help me become a better descender. And one that provides me the stability and comfort to train in groups.

But it has also got to be lively. With that get up and go feeling. It needs to lean over into turns when asked, and not fight cornering.

We also get a lot of wind out here.

For the most part I'm a sitter/spinner. And I love to climb. My weaknesses are sprinting and the flats. On a road bike I do like to get out of a the saddle for a few pedal strokes especially when it is steep. This was one area where I did not like the Mootry bike. The weight balance when out of the saddle was too far back, and I could tell than when on the hoods honking on a climb that it just felt terrible.

At 130-135lbs I'm pretty light yet I do seem to ride hard 'in the saddle' Over the years mainly wrt to mountain bikes I've broken anything having to do with the butt area: frames at seat tubes, at stays, seatposts, saddles.

For the most part road rides range from 1hr to 3 hrs. Rarely 4hrs+.

The bike will also do trainer duty on a Tacx Ergo trainer.

I want it all. Balance, stability, get-up and go, smoothness..

Current Build kit is 1999 9 speed chorus
Thomson seatpost
170mm cranks

Fork: Currently have Mizuno MR21 42.5 rake with 22.5cm steerer? Can it be used? I'd rather a fork be designed specifically for the frame than making any compromises in the frame design to accomodate a specific fork. What fork, carbon, steel, which rake, etc. That's the builder's responsibility to get pick what works best for the given design.

Same with stem. I need to know the exact stem length and rise. Or a range of stems that will maintain the proper weight balance.

I'm not racing except maybe a hillclimb timetrial once a year. I'm not a pro or even close. So in the grand scheme of it, weight should not be a major factor. Fit, comfort, and function should. But I'd be lying if I said weight doesn't matter. I weigh 130-135lbs. I'm not a sprinter.

I'd like the lightest weight frame that does not compromise the intended fit and function of the bike, and that is within budget. I don't care about a specific tube set. I'd rather each specific tube be hand picked to tune the ride accordingly while keeping weight in mind. Though I do want to know what the tubes are for reference. S3, 853, Ox Plat, Life, Niobium. It's all good.


Round or slightly ovalized tubes, no diamond shaped down tube
-I had a FOCO frame once where the chain stays were too tall and thin. Small diameter tubes and stays.
-No wishbone stays or anything too funky.
No carbon rear ends.
No internal brake cable routing
No integrated headsets
saddle centered on the rails. The Serotta fit suggested a 73 seat angle. But a lot depends on the saddle. The saddle I have now is weird it looks like it far forward when in actuality it is pushed back on the rails. But I'd probably use a Thomson Seatpost with it's minimal setback 27.2 preferred
-Braze on front der? I want the option to go compact crank at some time if desired.

Upsloping top tube to bring the bars higher, combined with taller head tube
not stupid sloping like true compact geom. Semi compact I guess is the term. Too much slope doesn't look right, but it has the be enough slope to get the bars in the desired position.

I'm not sure if a level top tube will work. My legs are so long that the frame might look too big if it had a level top tube in order to get the bars high enough w/o resorting to too high a rise stem.

Also not Hybrid like looking or with a really high rise or steep sloping stem. I have a reputation to uphold here.

Stem angle matches the slope of the top tube I love this look. The lines just look so much cleaner this way.

Stem needs a few spacers underneath least. The Stem can't go right on top of headset that looks weird

Frames like these represent what I am talking about
I'm not sure what it is that really draws me to this frame, but I love the look. Maybe it is the straight blade forks, or the simple color.


Decals are a little too heavy on this but the look is right on.

I like single color paint, but have also wanted Panels.
Something about the look of this bike is cool. The script logo works well with the panels, I'm not sure how a non-script logo would work

I've got a love affair with orange lately, and already have my in your face orange hardtail:
This is too in-your-face for a road bike though

But what about a more metallic sublte orange like the serotta Arancio

Color is a hard one.

I want something elegant, simple, subtle, but at the same time stands out. I can't tell you how many times I catch myself just staring at my bikes when they are leaned up somewhere. Looking at the lines, the geometry, the package. This bike has to be worthy of being stared at for no reason.

A frame can always be repainted to get that brand new bike feeling, But ideally I can pick the right color (and scheme if any:panels, etc.) That I won't be jonesing for that for a while.


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