General Discussion Triathlon Talk » First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple? Rss Feed  
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2009-08-19 12:55 PM

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Central NY
Subject: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?

Hi everyone, and thank you for all the great information I am finding on this site, and in these forums!

I just did my first sprint tri, and loved it.  I currently ride a Kona Dr. Dew (kind of a hybrid commuter w/ disc brakes and flat bars) which is fine for the few races a year that I do, however, current bike is a bit oversized, and handling is impacted, therefore, I think I would like to upgrade to a quality road bike for regular riding and triathlons, and outfit my Kona for just the offroad trails I do on occaision, and maybe fall/ winter rides on occaision.

As far as racing level, I am athletic, but I am just returning to fitness and am working on establishing my base.  I am working to get fitter after many years without a regular workout routine, shedding post-pregnancy weight, etc.  For the forseeable future I think I will be a 'just for fun' triathlete, and work on improving my health, strength, and personal performance.  I don't think I will be racing competitively anytime soon.  Anticipate I will do several sprint-length tris a year, and hopefully upgrade to Olympic within a year or two, currently no aspirations beyond that.  In 5-10 years maybe, but by then I'll be looking for the next bike anyway.  I need a bike that will fit my needs for fitness, fun, and occaisional tris as well.

Where I ride:  I live in the foothills of the Adirondacks, so some seriously long hills and climbs on mostly medium, with a few high grades (as the Northeast goes, realize I'm not in the Rockies!)

I live on a big hill, so any ride starting from home (which will be 80% of my training rides) requires a hefty climb out, or back, depending on whether I head off up the hill or down on departure.

I know I want a women specific road bike with Shimano 105 components or better, I want top-notch steering and breaking, as I will be making lots of descents and aggresive turns on our windy foot-hill roads.  I want to be as comfortable as possible for 10-50 miles rides, and maybe an annual 100-miler.  I initially did not start out considering carbon, but rather a well-outfitted aluminum frame.  While shopping, I discovered some of the LBS in my area have closeout deals on carbon, I can get into a new Giant TCR WC1 or a Specialized Ruby Elite in the $1600-1800 range, so when compared to $1400 for what I've been looking at in aluminum, price-wise carbon may be within my reach, so I feel I have to consider it before making such an investment.

My concerns about the carbon:  Given I ride a lot of hills, (and will be doing tris with hills in all likelyhood) will I be at a tremendous disadvantage for climbing?  I hear one of the down-sides of carbon is that the flexible frame great for dampening road vibration also makes you less efficient when climbing as the bike absorbs a lot of your energy rather than transmitting it to your drivetrain through your pedals.  Also, crashing my bike...I know this is always a possibility, how rugged are these frames?  Does it take some serious effort to shatter it, or will it fall to pieces in a low speed tumble if my kid stops short in front of me and we have a minor collision?

As for the crank - I am currently on a triple, but I never use the biggest chain ring.  Most of the bikes I am looking at don't come in a triple...a paltry few do.  Will I be at a tremendous disadvantage going to a compact double considering the hilly terrain I will often be on?  Or will the difference (a few teeth I think?) be only a minor drawback until I build my personal streghth up?

Also, any thoughts given my needs, on low-end race bike or high-end performance bike?  It seems most of the brands I am looking at have at least 2 lines, one being their premier race line, and the other being their "performance" line...I believe (other than frame composition and range of componentry) the key difference is in the geometry, and sacrificing an element of aerodynamics and speed (with the race line) for comfort, and possibly endurance as a result (with the performance line.)  Any thoughts on which direction I should go with here?  My sprint-length tris aren't long enough to demand an ultra comfortable bike ride, but I want to also use the bike for long rides with my husband, or kicking around on lengthy (but low mile) family rides with the kids, so comfort is a consideration...how much difference in general between these two similar classes of road bikes?

I have been looking at the following bikes (I know there's lots more I could consider, these are the models my local bike stores have had available in my size):  Giant TCR C1 W;  Giant Avail Advanced 2; Giant Avail 1; Specialized Ruby Elite

I also want to consider (but need to find a dealer who has some in stock) Cannondale Synapse & 6 lines (appreciate any elaboration anyone can provide on the difference between these two lines), as well as Trek 2.1 or Madone 4.5.

Am I on the right track?  I want to be happy with my purchase for the next 4-5 years...but fully realize I likely will never be an elite triathlete.  I want to find the balance between buying more bike than I need and not scrimping now, just to find I need an upgrade in a year or two.

I appeciate any thoughts you can provide on my options.

Thanks!

-Heather
    



 





 



2009-08-19 1:42 PM
in reply to: #2358287


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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Have you been fitted to a WSD bike?  They assume women have certain proportions that not all do.  A regular bike may or may not be better.

Go for carbon if you can.  It will be an advantage in hills, as it is lighter and often stiffer than frames made of other materials.  I think you would have put down a lot of power to flex a carbon frame past it's limitations.  If you crash, there is the possibility of breakage with any material.  Carbon has a bad rap just because carbon can shatter but that doesn't mean a small dent in an aluminum frame can't be just as big of a problem.  I got hit by a truck on a Trek OCLV carbon bike 15+ years ago and the frame did just fine.  The shop actually took it on trade in a few years later.

As for parts, I would go with a compact double for cranks.  That should be plenty to climb with and you can always change the cassette out if you need to.  As for brakes, make sure the calipers match the component level of the rest of the bike.  If you have a 105 drivetrain, it should have at least 105 brakes.  Sticking no name brakes on is a way to keep prices low and they may not be the best thing for hills.

As for which bike line, get the one that fits the best that meets your other technical requirements.  In a sprint tri for example, the difference between a Tarmac and a Roubaix will be minimal.
2009-08-19 2:05 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Central NY
Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Good point, no I have not been fitted specifically to a womens design.  I did have one shop take my measurements and run it through their software, and found that I have a narrower shoulder span than most women, therefore should be looking for shorter-span handlebars.  I figure I can swap out if need be, don't want to by the bike just on that.  I am 5'8, 165 lbs, so not small by any means, and a lot of sales clerks push me towards the mens bikes.  I am gun-shy going with a mens's bike as my current bike is a bit too big, and handling has been an issue.  I also have a long inseam compared to men my height and taller, so I guess I have been buying in to some of the women-specific marketing hype as the points made seem logical to me.  Sounds like you think I shouldn't rule out a mens/ unisex bike?

Any points on making sure the bike shop truly fits me properly??  I mostly am getting the "take it out for a ride and see what feels good" from my local shops rather than anyone offering to measure me, and recommend models based on my measurements.  I do plan on taking a couple contenders on some long rides this weekend, (at least they are good about loaning them out for a real test ride.)

 
2009-08-19 2:57 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
If your about to spend a significant amount of money on a bike, I would HIGHLY recommend finding a good fitter in your area BEFORE any purchase... Woman-specific bikes probably have their biggest advantage for the smaller sizes, but diminishes the taller you are. At 5'8", you will probably fit very comfortably on a non-WS bike, which usually means a little less money for the same or better spec bike (I never understood why the bike industry is discriminating this way, but they do... not fair I know).

By getting a fitting, you should end up with a bike that fits YOUR body and needs, which means not only are you going to be more comfortable (and therefore more powerful over a longer distance), but also, you won't risk ending up with a poorly fitting bike that makes you hate riding. I see way too often people with very expensive bikes that frankly looks really out of place on them... good cyclists too.

I have no clue where you have heard that carbon tends to flex when climbing, but that is definately not true! Some of the very stiffest bikes in the world are carbon bikes. The biggest benefit of carbon as opposed of aluminum is that you can make a very stiff bike that is still very forgiving and flexes in the right areas. Aluminum as a material basically means that you can either make a very stiff frame (and you can make them superstiff!), but at the cost of comfort, or you can compromise the stiffness to gain comfort. Tube design does affect these parameters, but not to the same extent as carbon.

Edited by audiojan 2009-08-19 3:01 PM
2009-08-19 8:45 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
I have a Trek 2.3 WSD. Several components are specifically designed for women. I really like my Trek and it is the most comfortable bike I've ever owned and it is very light. I'm 5'6"-5'7" and I have a 50cm frame. Which some say is small for me but with other bikes I tried I was too stretched out and resulted in pain across my upper back but on my WSD Trek I almost never have this pain and I just did my longest ride this year of 30 miles today. I also appreciate that Trek is the Sponsor of a Women's Triathlon Series. A few weeks ago at the Trek Vermont Women's Tri I spoke with the Trek bike rep she said one fits a few sizes of bikes as long as it is fitted for you. My Trek has a double crank but on a steep hill I wish I had a triple it is available in double or triple.

http://www.trekbikes.com/women/wsd_products/wsd_difference/

The 2 series is aluminum frame with some carbon fiber in the forks and stays. The 4.5 is full carbon fiber and I think made in the USA at Trek in Wisconsin as opposed to overseas. Actually I think the 5 or 6 series in made in the States, not the 4. You can even build a custom bike in the 5 or 6 series with the project one program.

https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/projectone/

Good luck with your search and Welcome!

Edited by losta 2009-08-19 8:46 PM
2009-08-20 6:30 AM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Ooooh, I LOVE bike shopping! I echo the comments about carbon - I just got a new bike (built it up from the frame with the help of BF) with a carbon frame and I love it. I also have a compact crank, and I live in the mountains of WV, nothing to sneeze at! The compact is fine. You can always try different cassettes to get the gear ratios you need. I went with a 13-29 on the cassette to give me the nice, easy gears.

I have never been to a fitter. I just kind of thought about what was uncomfortable on my first entry-level road bike and picked components that were better measurements for me on the new bike, especially stem length and bar width. The stem and handlebars are things you can pretty easily get changed if after a few months you think something else might be more comfortable. My handlebars are a pretty standard 42cm, but I got some with shallower drops than normal. The bike shop may be able to switch out cassettes, stems, etc., at no or minimal charge when you buy your bike.

Some people will tell you horror stories and scare you with all the terrible things that can happen if you don't get a professional bike fit (at a cost of $200!), but I don't think I agree that it's an absolute necessity. I'm sure it is great if you can find someone to do it and can afford it, though.

I don't have any specific opinions on low-end race v. high-end sport. I guess race bikes have "more aggressive geometry" but what the heck does that mean, anyway? I'd say look at anything in your budget - race, sport, men's, women's, etc. - and ride some around to see what feels good and don't worry about marketing terms.

Edited by cpfint 2009-08-20 6:31 AM


2009-08-20 7:14 AM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Most shops will swap out parts for even money if you do it at time of purchase like if you need narrower bars.

Some bikes can be swapped to triple from compact crank again do it at time of purchase and cost will be minimal do it later it will be few hundred dollars.

If you don't use the large chain ring in front I'd worry about going compact as you will lose easier gears. Do you use the easiest gearing on your bike often...small chain ring up front and biggest cog in the back on your cassette? If so stay with triple.

I agree with others, best is to get a fit then pick a bike. Many shops credit the cost of the fit or part of it to the bike depending on the cost of the bike. Ask the shops so you know what their policy is.

My bike fit process works like this....they do the fit, come up with dimensions of what a custom bike would be, then compare that to standard bikes and make recommendations which will fit me best out of the box with minimal changes.

Enjoy, visit many shops before you commit to a shop.

2009-08-20 8:07 AM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
I have a Trek 5000 WSD bike.  The womens specific design works great for me as I'm only 5'4.   It has a triple on it. It is carbon.  I'm a pretty good hill climber, and don't feel that the carbon puts me at any kind of disadvantage.  My previous road bike was aluminum.  When UPS lost my bike for 2 1/2 weeks and I thought it was gone for good, I did a little looking around.  I rode a Trek Madone WSD, and really really liked it.  The ones I looked at had the compact double.  I found shifting easier.  Fortunately my bike was found, and I still have her.  My next bike purchase will be a tri bike (somewhere down the road).  

Edited by M-shell 2009-08-20 8:07 AM
2009-08-20 1:12 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Central NY
Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Thanks everyone, lots of good comments to take in to consideration!  I will be doing some 'real' test rides this weekend, and see if that narrows the pack.  Sounds like overwhelming consenus for the carbon, so making that helps narrow the field a bit right there.
2009-08-21 10:15 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
I live in the foothills of the rockies @ 7200'.  We don't have a flat road here, but down the hill in Denver where I race it's very flat.  I ride a steel road bike w/ clipon aerobars and a triple chainring.  I'm in my granny gear a lot up here but am very often in my biggest gear in races.  Wish I could tell you what the gearing is but I have no idea.   I can find out from hubby if you pm me.  Love my bike!  I fly down hills and over flats and do fine on the climbs.  My weight limiter is my extra 10#, not my steel bike.  I doubt I'll ever get a carbon bike -- too easy to hurt them.  Aluminum possibly, Titanium .... I wish.
2009-08-22 8:32 PM
in reply to: #2358287

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Central NY
Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
After lots of research and measuring, and trial and error, and countless test rides, I went back to the Giant Avail Advanced 2.  My LBS cut me a deal I couldn't refused, and that is the bike that always felt the best from the start.

I am totally psyched, and can't wait to pick it up Monday evening.  I am confident I made the right purchase, I think this will be a great bike for riding long distances with my husband, yet comfortable enough for 'slow' rides with the kids on the bike path, as well as several sprint tris a year.  I think it will also serve my future tri-aspirations for many years to come.


2009-08-22 9:15 PM
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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Cool Congrats!
2009-08-23 4:00 PM
in reply to: #2358287


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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
I found this post through a google search and am not a triathlete but I still wanted to comment.  I think buying WSD's can be frustrating as they rarely go on sale, they never have them in stock to try, etc, etc.  I'm switching from a men's to a WSD. Like someone else mentioned I think the WSD is more beneficial for shorter people.  I'm buying one because I really can't reach my brakes well and I now have a shoulder injury that makes it harder for me to reach as far as I used to. However I'm 5'3''. 

Another negative of the WSD is they don't really make middle range bikes they have the entry level and then the performance. If you don't need carbon you could get a great middle bike in mens. Just a thought. I like the bigger selection in men's. I haven't been looking at a ton of brands because our team is sponsored by a Trek/ Specialized dealer but I find it interesting that you said none of the women's had a triple crank.  You can't get  a Madone with a double until you get the Trek 4.7  in WSD. 

 
2009-08-23 4:07 PM
in reply to: #2358287


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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Additionally the argument that carbon bikes are fragile may be true, but most companies have carbon fiber bike replacement policies in case of a crash which kind of makes it irrelevant. They know crashes happen. I would have rather crashed a carbon than my aluminum because I could have gotten most of it replaced with minimum cost. Now I just have a crappy aluminum one that is very quirky. the frame is ok though.
2009-08-24 8:44 AM
in reply to: #2364447

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Subject: RE: First Women-Specific Road Bike - Aluminum or Carbon? Double or Triple?
Looks like a great bike! I think you will enjoy it. I have not met many people (maybe only the picky super-racers) who invested in a decent bike and have not loved it. Small adjustments, different saddle, different cassettes, etc., are pretty easy if you have any comfort issues. Have fun!
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