Comfort vs Speed: Finding the magic bike

That’s the thing, tire choice, width and pressure make a huge difference to the feel and comfort of any bike, as to a lesser extent do bar tape and saddle. For a decade I had an aluminium road bike with 2 sets of wheels - an indestructible and heavy set of Mavic Open Pros shod with Gatorskins and butyl tubes for training, and a nice lightweight carbon set with fast, supple tires and latex tubes for races. Swapping between the 2 literally made it feel like a completely different bike.

That to me is the real attraction of the newer ranges of bikes - the advent of disc brakes means that 30 or 32mm tire clearance is pretty standard now, which means it’s much more viable to have 1 bike with 2 sets of wheels for training/comfort and racing/performance, instead of having 2 bikes. Especially as aero no longer comes with much if any weight penalty.

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Everyone will have an opinion on this thread and I’d say buy what you think will make you happy and stick with it - it may need some setting up buy it’s your contact points that will be on it.

My new Canyon Endurace with tubeless tyres has made me get loads of new PR’s on long club rides - maybe it’s lower at the front, maybe its a new bike placebo effect or that I’m getting stronger. It’s comfy now but the seat it came with - Nooooooo! but now it’s Yeeeesssss, :grin: It has a racier edge to my mind when you stamp on the pedals - but then i don’t have many bikes to compare it to…

I test rode Tarmac, Defy, Synapse, Roubaix, BMC over a period of months - all bikes have their positives and quirks/issues but i was looking for big stack and reach due to my size…so a different set of requirements to yours but comfort was at the top.

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That’s quite important. I hear people raving about one bike or another that I have tried but had a completely different experience with. I test rode a Trek Domane SL6 Disc a few years ago, and this Isospeed decoupler thingy that people rave about, I just couldn’t get along with it, I really disliked it.

So if you can, test ride as many bikes as you can so that you can see which bike fits you best. You’ll learn what your preferences are and what geometry fits your needs and your body best. :slight_smile:

If you can say this about your relation to your bike, then you chose correctly, no matter what is written on the down tube.

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As others have mentioned comfort will come from tires, contact points/fit and your fitness. Personally I find that no matter how perfect my fit is on the road I’m always uncomfortable on the trainer so I never use that as a basis.

  1. Get the biggest nicest tires your frame/fork will fit and run them at a comfortable pressure.
  2. Get a fitting by a respected fitter. For comfort you need: the right saddle height, angle and setback. The correct length stem. The correct bar width. The best cleat placement. The list goes on.
  3. Your fitness. If you can’t hold a plank with your head up you probably aren’t going to be comfortable no matter what.

Those things will get you more comfort than a new bike that still doesn’t fit right or has crappy tires. The question is do you want more comfort or a new bike? If you just want a new bike that’s totally cool. I would never talk anyone out of a new bike and usually push my friends to get new ones. Bikes are awesome. But don’t be surprised if the new bike is more comfortable when its new (just because its the new bike) but gradually you start to notice all the old discomforts. I know this first hand.

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SL6 might be cheaper now :sweat_smile:

I can be very wrong but in my opinion any bike you are doing long rides in regularly eventually becomes comfortable at least for me.

I am not particularly flexible but when I slammed my stem for instance it just took a few long rides and my muscles got used to it. Its also true I ride like 16 hrs/week which maybe induce fast postural adaptations for me.

I think road bikes in general have reached all very high level of quality and they are an industrially mature product. Any improvement/claim at this stage is really splitting hairs.

Take for instance the new Tarmac. Half of the aero improvements people claim comes from wheels and integrated handlebars. But then you check the Deceunik QS world tour team version and due to sponsorship they do not use the Spesh handlebar. I think improvements in bikes are now marginal and blown out of proportion by marketing.

The bottomline, we are bike nerds and like discussing about them but in my opinion bike fit, climber vs. aero bike dichotomy, etc. its all a marketing strategy lie so that they get the money out of our pockets. Maybe I am very wrong and I would accept any backslash for this comment :sweat_smile:

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I am in a very similar boat… I am looking to get a new bike this winter and the comfort is primordial for me. And please don´t get me wrong, I ride for many years and play a lot with all the contact points and factors of comfort in play - tubeless tires with right pressure, the best sadlle I could find (Bontrager Aeolus), carbon handlebars from 3T, Speedplay pedals…got it all, except carbon cranks (those makes a difference when you are standing while riding on a rough surface, I got Campy Chorus carbon, but actualy I am on alu + powermeter from Zwatt - so FSA alu body)
And boy there is a huge difference in different frames and mainly forks! I rode on a hars alu frame and gave it back after 30 miles - never more, than classic steel, different carbons and now I am on a titanium frame and I had to replace (technical reasons) fork from full carbon to carb+alu steerer - what a difference! Suddenly the front end is much harsher ride :frowning:
So just like you, I really don´t want to hear advises to get an endurance bike, hack no, I want a racy position, this is not my problem. But I know very well how the frame + fork can play in your performance when you ride for more than 2 hours. And I am quite bitterly surprised by the actual switch in the latest generation road bikes direction. I was happy big players understood the importance of a smooth ride on the race bike - really not important for a crit racer, but when your focus is big and hard hilly rides on a mix of terrain (we don´t live in a perfect world), a firm frame just batters your body and you loose precious energy. A smooth bike preserves it, delivers you more fresh on the last parts and boy that plays a huge role after 5 or 7 hours!

SL7? No thanks, I am disappointed here, I was expecting the same smooth ride as SL6 with an aero touch, but their focus was stiffness - for me I don´t get it. No more super stiff Venge, so to justify it´s annihilation, we are going to give to our sponsored racers a stiffer Tarmac :unamused: And we can´t provide our marketing department with big savings aero numbers, so we prefer to make new wheels tubeless incompatible :man_facepalming:

Sooooo… as TCR looks really nice, but not fully hidden cables (I admit I just love the looks) and seems quite stiff, what else?
There is still Canyon Ultimate - not fully hidden cables, but super aero and really comfortable. But nothing on stock, speculations about a new generation in sight just after the new Ultimate, but who knows? :thinking:
Bianchi Oltre - apparently a very nice bike, some smoothness thanks to Countrevail, but less comfy than Ultimate…
Orbea Orca OMX looks really nice, not so comfy as a Ultimate neither it appears…
Cannondale SuperSix EVO - honestly starts to look realy interesting in my eyes… when you get the integrated cockpit it looks super slick, handling is on par with Tarmac, the question mark remains for me the comfort - reviews are a bit contradictory here… but seems as a very good allrounder… I would definitely like to test ride it…

Not easy to make a right choice, right? :smiley:

I have a similar shortlist as above, although the BMC SLR is in there too. My requirements:

  • under £4k, towards top end of that I’d want ok wheels, at bottom end I can upgrade
  • second tier frame is fine, not expecting top tier for my budget
  • Ultegra, if only so I don’t have metal levers
  • comfort (fit and vibration, current CAAD8 leaves me buzzing even on biggest tyres)
  • reliable, this is a really tough one as it seems pot luck, with opinions on some brands being more risky than others. I expect a frame to be well aligned and built to the spec the manufacturer says though
  • performance comes from my legs, I am not going to pretend 5w of drag at 40km/h means much to me
  • good looks, even if I don’t look good the bike should

The way I am approaching it is to wait until I can get a new bike fit. My CAAD8 is comfortable in terms off fit on a good day, but I’m seeking that bad day comfort too.

Trouble is fit on a chart doesn’t always mention mandatory spacers. Stem lengths are complementary to trail/offset, headtube angle and bar width - as I run a ‘narrow’ bar for my height I have to swap bars, then it’s working out what stem length is needed to retain the handling feel I like, and then if that is compatible with the frame and forks (often overlooked, or maybe doesn’t matter to some?).

My other issue is with the BS marketing from manufacturers and the press. I see contradictory reviews about comfort when although it’s not absolute it should be viewed consistently.

I can tell you my CAAD12 was comfortable but firm, you could feel the type of tarmac you were riding on yet it rarely got tiring. I can even tell you my weight and the tyre pressures. I can tell you my CAAD8 with a similar fit is also comfortable but buzzes like hell and quickly fatigues me. A couple of hours on it and I feel beaten up regardless of running a 28mm on the front and 25mm on rear (biggest I can fit and both at lowest pressures I can ride with).

Why can’t someone who rides 100 bikes a year as a journalist give me a similar opinion to another? Sure there will be preference and different reference points but one saying a bike is smooth and another a bit harsh is pure BS unless they have radically different tyres, tyre pressures or one writer has gel filled bones… I suspect it is all dodgy as anything with zero impartiality. Either way new bikes in teh area I am looking at generally are said to be less comfortable than the preceding model.

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Does anybody has any experience with Argon18? Their Krypton GF seems to tick all the boxes for me and the geo of the front is similar to my current Emonda with H2 geometry.

The 2021 Orbea OMR and OMX frames can take 35mm tires. You can practically bounce down the road on 35mm tubless. It’s just a matter of getting your stack and reach comfortable after that.

Maybe on a related note, do folks here think/find carbon wheels make any difference? Right now I ride a BMC Teammachine SLR02 and overall I like the bike for the most part. I do wish it could take > 28mm though. I have the stock DT Swiss wheels on it and wondering if a carbon upgrade would make a more pleasant ride experience, rather than looking at a new bike.

Something like the new SL7 or even an SL6 is what I think I want next. I’d like to run a wide aero clincher with 28mm GP5000s around 60-70psi. It should be plenty comfortable for a race bike.

I absolutely adore the Tarmac and am totally with you here. Just trying to convince myself to drop the $…

I’d be very surprised if Canyon don’t bring out some models with completely hidden cables in the next few months. It’s the way the market is going, nearly all the competition have done this, and we’ve already seen pictures of a hidden cable Aeroad as far back as January.

I have an Aeroad and it’s already quite compliant for a full aero bike, I’ve done multiple >200km rides on it with no issue. Or if they go in the same direction as Specialized then an Ultimate with hidden cables and a few other aero tweaks would be very tempting.

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Same here. Love my 18 month old Endurace. Aero bars (but not hidden cables) and maybe some aero wheels could be in my future, but, honestly, it is just a great bike as-is for me.

Plus when I can feel comfortable drafting again in a paceline post-covid, it will like I am going so much faster!

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I don’t know about your specific issue, but if you want to try not flexing your hips as much then you could try shorter cranks and scooting your saddle forward a bit which will help open up the angle.

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Tires (width, pressure, suppleness) are still underrated for their impact to improve both speed and comfort in my opinion. People have come around to the fact that they should be on at least 25 or 28 mm tires and less than 100 psi, but they aren’t going far enough.

I bought a Cervélo Aspero. I was feeling a bit disappointed in how harsh it felt on gravel. Then I swapped from the stock tires to supple tires and latex tubes. It now rides so much better. I could feel the difference in the first half mile.

And the effects of wider tires is highly underestimated to comfort. I think it’s obvious that comfort is proportional to tire volume, but it’s not obvious how much a small change in width has to volume. A 700x30 Tire has 1.5 L off air volume while a 700x25 has only 1 L. It will be much more comfortable when run at the correct pressure.

And it’s faster too for almost all real world surfaces. Roller drum testing is not real world, both because of the surface used and the way the round drum reflects the tire different than the flat ground.

See this link for details [https://www.google.com/amp/s/blog.silca.cc/part-4b-rolling-resistance-and-impedance%3Fhs_amp=true](http://Silca Blog)

Not sure how you came to that conclusion from the silca data. If you optimize pressure for your weight on the same 25 and 28mm tire, the 25mm tire will be faster on most surfaces

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I’m not sure if rider suspension losses can even be well measured. I lived in NM for the last two years and we had a lot of rough farm roads. I moved there with my 23/25mm tires running at 100psi. It was horrible and I was ready for a new bike. I backed it down to 85psi and things because tolerable but that was the lowest I could go. I got a new wheelset and was able to run 75/80psi tubeless (25mm GP5000TL) and that was a little bit better. I couldn’t go wider because of my frame clearance.

I still suspect that for those rough county roads in NM, an actual 30-32 mm tire at a lower psi would have been even faster.

I’m trying to sneak some deep section wheels past the other half in a month or two…:joy:

It’s a quicker bike than my last one… By quite a chunk.

Out of interest which aero bars were you thinking of?