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Fun bikes I tested (Synapse, Tarmac, R2)

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Fun bikes I tested (Synapse, Tarmac, R2)

Old 07-26-15, 10:36 AM
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bigcicero
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Fun bikes I tested (Synapse, Tarmac, R2)

I had another thread going in which I was saying that I wanted to trade my first bike, a 2013 Caad 10 54, b/c it's too small and I couldn't get the fit quite right. I wanted something slightly less aggressive than the Caad, but maybe not like Domane or a Roubaix (even though they're great bikes), and mostly I just wanted to try out some different fits. So I went to an LBS yesterday and tested out a few bikes: Synapse in a couple sizes (56, 58), Tarmac, and an unexpected contender: Cervelo R2. I wasn't looking for Cervelos, but the winner for me was the R2 based on fit.

The Synapse felt a surprisingly snappy, nimble ride, but for some reason I couldn't get the fit quite right and I kept dropping the stem to flatten my back. Thus, it wasn't quite for me, and 'endurance' bikes in general probably aren't right for me, but I can see that it would be an awesome bike for someone who can make the fit work or who wants a slightly more upright ride. It was very nimble, light, and compliant.

The Tarmac was a cool bike but a through and through race bike... it too would be awesome for someone who wants to ride their entire ride in a race position. Also more compliant than my Caad. But I'm not sure it was quite what I was looking for.

The Cervelo was truly an excellent middle ground between endurance and race, with slightly more reach / less stack than the Syanpse, but fit me better than the Tarmac. Still very much a race-bred bike. But clearly compliant in the right places. This is the first bike I've tried in a while that really fit me well, with room to move the stem down to get a little more aero. I don't know why such small differences in geometry can make such a large difference in feel, but this one just felt better. Like the difference between a nice shoe with an annoying rub in it, and a similar nice shoe that fits great without that annoying rub.

I've learned that, at least to me, fit is more important than components, colors, etc. All those things are good to examine after the fit is secured.

I wanted to ride the Treks (I might like the Emonda h2 fit) but didn't have time and this place didn't have the Bianchi that I wanted to test.

Part of me wants to ride way more bikes to get a feel for all of them, but part of me wants to take advantage of the available R2 that I know fits well. Think I'm going to see if I can ride an Emonda somewhere, will ponder for a while...

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Old 07-26-15, 12:36 PM
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Btw, the differences between the Synapse and R2 were really noticeable. Frankly I was astonished by how different the bikes felt for similar geometry. (The R2 is positioned slightly more aggressively.)

The Synapse felt nimble (what some people call a little 'twitchy'), and it shot out of turns with rocket-like propulsion, very much like my Caad. However, were I to ride hands-free for a bit and hit a pothole or get a stiff cross-wind, I could see wiping out easily. Thus, fun and race-like, but not exactly sure-footed. Which was pleasantly surprising for an 'endurance' bike - not your mama's cushioned bike.

In contrast, the R2 felt like a slightly bigger, heavier bike (even though it has what I believe to be an exceptionally light frame), and it was extremely sure-footed. It didn't whip me out of turns, but it was exceedingly stable and went exactly where I wanted it to go with speed. I've read a couple reviews that have affirmed my observation about the R2. It's a pretty nice contrast to the Caad, and I can imagine someone having both bikes for different rides & reasons.

Anyway, it's amazing that similar geometries lead to such different characteristics; it's much more than geometry and frame material that leads to the bike's personality.

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Old 07-26-15, 12:51 PM
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Testing out different bikes is fun!

It's good that you can tell the differences between different geometries and ride characteristics so easily.....you sound like a natural for cycling!

All the small differences in geometry; fit; etc. can quickly add-up to make BIG differences between bikes- as you've observed.

Sounds like you are definitely on the right track!

Have fun test-riding....and get the one that really speaks to you! (Sounds like it's the R2 so far....)
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Old 07-26-15, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
Testing out different bikes is fun!

It's good that you can tell the differences between different geometries and ride characteristics so easily.....you sound like a natural for cycling!

All the small differences in geometry; fit; etc. can quickly add-up to make BIG differences between bikes- as you've observed.

Sounds like you are definitely on the right track!

Have fun test-riding....and get the one that really speaks to you! (Sounds like it's the R2 so far....)
Thanks! Yeah it's a lot of fun. Now I'm getting itchy to get my new bike and put in some satisfying miles.
Also, thanks for your comments as you've been following me through my threads on this topic.

I'll follow up with my decision and new findings.
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Old 07-26-15, 09:28 PM
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Perhaps a set-up like this; comfort frame, racy position.

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Old 07-27-15, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by dtrain View Post
Perhaps a set-up like this; comfort frame, racy position.

LOL. That is truly an interesting set up. I am not sure that I have ever seen one quite like that before. I am wondering if I would slide right off that seat.
OP--It really is fun to test ride some different bikes and feel the difference. As Stucky said it is amazing how a tweak here or there in geometry makes such a big difference on a personal level. There are so many little things that make a difference for each one of us. This is why it is great for people that live in big towns. They can get out and try other bikes.
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Old 07-27-15, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Shuffleman View Post
LOL. That is truly an interesting set up. I am not sure that I have ever seen one quite like that before. I am wondering if I would slide right off that seat.
I just saw it on C-List and figured it was worth sharing. I'm not surprised by anything posted there anymore.
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Old 07-27-15, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by dtrain View Post
I just saw it on C-List and figured it was worth sharing. I'm not surprised by anything posted there anymore.
Holy moley, I didn't think that this could be real. You know, you could turn this into a meme...
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Old 07-27-15, 08:39 PM
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Okay, so I went to another LBS today and test rode an Emonda SL5. I thought I might enjoy it due to the H2 fit. Wow was it not for me. You might remember that my goal was a better fit than my Caad and something a little smoother, but still racy. I figured the Emonda would be racy, and it was. In fact, the Emonda was light, stiff, very nimble, and fun to ride -- but it was incredibly harsh, definitely too harsh for me. It felt like my Caad, and in fact I would take my Caad over it simply because I somehow feel like the Caad is cooler. I think the Emonda fills an interesting niche: if someone is looking for a very, very stiff, nimble, light race bike BUT in the H2 fit, then this is their bike. But don't be misled by the H2 fit: this is not an endurance bike but a hardcore race bike.

On another note, I'm puzzled by Trek's product positioning. They blew away most of the Madone series - a highly competent, well-liked, multi-versed bike - with the Emonda, which is positioned as a lightweight climbing bike. The Emonda didn't strike me as a particularly aerodynamic bike, having huge tube construction, but of course I'm not a CFD engineer, and the math seems to indicate that an aero-oriented bike has advantages over a lightweight bike until the grade turns into a 5-8% grade. So that leaves Trek with a super-endurance bike (Domane), a climbing race bike, and a well-rounded but high-end expensive race bike (the remaining Madone). Pretty interesting.

Regarding my next steps: I think I'm going to ride a couple more bikes, including a Roubaix just for kicks. And I wish I could find a La Pierre but I can't find any in NYC! I suspect, however, that I'll end up with the Cervelo. More to come!
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Old 07-27-15, 10:24 PM
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If you can.......ride Fuji and Giant! Both great bikes. Giant is the largest frame maker in the world & make a lot of frames for other brands. (They know frames!) And Fuji is just a great alternative altogether just to compare with.
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Old 07-28-15, 04:09 AM
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Originally Posted by bigcicero View Post
Okay, so I went to another LBS today and test rode an Emonda SL5. I thought I might enjoy it due to the H2 fit. Wow was it not for me. You might remember that my goal was a better fit than my Caad and something a little smoother, but still racy. I figured the Emonda would be racy, and it was. In fact, the Emonda was light, stiff, very nimble, and fun to ride -- but it was incredibly harsh, definitely too harsh for me. It felt like my Caad, and in fact I would take my Caad over it simply because I somehow feel like the Caad is cooler. I think the Emonda fills an interesting niche: if someone is looking for a very, very stiff, nimble, light race bike BUT in the H2 fit, then this is their bike. But don't be misled by the H2 fit: this is not an endurance bike but a hardcore race bike.

On another note, I'm puzzled by Trek's product positioning. They blew away most of the Madone series - a highly competent, well-liked, multi-versed bike - with the Emonda, which is positioned as a lightweight climbing bike. The Emonda didn't strike me as a particularly aerodynamic bike, having huge tube construction, but of course I'm not a CFD engineer, and the math seems to indicate that an aero-oriented bike has advantages over a lightweight bike until the grade turns into a 5-8% grade. So that leaves Trek with a super-endurance bike (Domane), a climbing race bike, and a well-rounded but high-end expensive race bike (the remaining Madone). Pretty interesting.

Regarding my next steps: I think I'm going to ride a couple more bikes, including a Roubaix just for kicks. And I wish I could find a La Pierre but I can't find any in NYC! I suspect, however, that I'll end up with the Cervelo. More to come!
My personal opinion is you are wrong about the Emonda. Virtually every review on the web says the Emonda has superior ride quality and it does. So something was afoul in your test...wheelset?...tires pumped up much higher than the other bikes.

The deal with the bikes you are testing is, they are all fantastic. Not a bad apple in the barrel. But they are slightly different in character. What is clouding your judgement? The fit and set up of each. Your comments about fit of each don't really apply. Any of the bikes you mention can be fit the same as the other with the correct choice of frame size and stem config. You may have to run a say a 140mm stem slammed to the steerer on a Synapse or H2 Emonda to get it to fit like a Tarmac. Even your fit target maybe off for what is your best fit. All of this...incliding wheelset colors your perception of each bike. You mention a Roubaix for example. Most amateurs can get a Roubaix to fit like a Tarmac by sizing down and with a -17 deg stem of longer length. Done all the time and then you still have the frame angles of an endurance versus a full race bike but with the same fit.

So there are many misconceptions and why a choice of bike should largely be based upon what is written about it over time....not a single review but a series of reviews. Each bike has an individual character and therefore a reputation.

The one bike you didn't mention is the Cervelo S series. Perhaps the best aero bike on the market...if you like to ride fast and you mention you like to get your back flat. It is debated which bike is better overall...the Cervelo R series versus the S. Cervelo basically grafted a R series rear triangle on the back of their new S series and the ride quality for an aero bike is unequaled really. The Cervelo S2 or S3 have fantastic ride quality and are very fast bikes above 20mph when aerodynamics kick in if you spend a lot of time at say 22 mph which most don't unless they race.

Good luck
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Old 07-28-15, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by loimpact View Post
If you can.......ride Fuji and Giant! Both great bikes. Giant is the largest frame maker in the world & make a lot of frames for other brands. (They know frames!) And Fuji is just a great alternative altogether just to compare with.
Yes, Giant in particular. They have been making great road bikes for many years and the new TCR and Defy are fantastic.
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Old 07-29-15, 08:12 PM
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So, I tested a few more bikes tonight at a different LBS, each a bit different.

First was the Roubaix (with 105s). Three years ago the Roubaix was the first road bike I rode after owning my hybrid and the first road bike I had ridden since I was 22. I rode it mostly to recall why I loved it so much, and I indeed enjoyed it. Smooth ride, nimble, butt didn't feel a thing. But at this point in my cycling life it's not what I'm looking for. However, if you're looking for a slightly more upright but very nimble ride, this might be the one! (The Synapse is awesome too, and I would probably take the Synapse over it.)

Next was the SuperSix Evo (with 105s). It was much like my Caad10... a little more compliant but admittedly not by much. It handled very much like my Caad. But I'm looking for something just slightly smoother. Great ride though and lots of fun! Btw, the size was a 56, whereas my Caad in the same geometry was a 54. The fact that the overall bike felt much better in 56 confirmed that I really feel like I bought my bike too small.

Next was the Tarmac Expert size 56 (with Ultegra). The last Tarmac I rode was a size 54, same as my Caad, and I'm not sure why I did because it was too small. I tried the 56, and I LOVED it. It was smooth, fast, nimble, really just great. One minor nit was that I felt maybe the head tube was a tiny bit too short because, while I like my handlebars low, the stem was all the way up and I felt like it didn't give me room to bump it up if I wanted to. Perhaps I could flip the stem up if I wanted the extra few mm's of stack...

... which brings me to my next ride, which was a Tarmac size 58. I felt like I wanted a slightly larger Tarmac to see if it would bring the headtube up. The shop didn't have a 58 I could test ride, only a high end S-Works that they put on the trainer for me. But they fit me to it, and it felt incredible. I felt great reach, felt like I would be in a good aero position, and was sufficiently over the pedals to be efficient, with room to put the stem down. And the stack was just slightly higher, which presented a more comfortable but yet still aero fit given the reach.

I'm going to follow up with the store about getting a 58 Tarmac in so I can actually ride it.

Given the test rides so far, I think it's down to the R3 vs Tarmac (Ultegra) presumably in 58 (but need to try it first). I'm going to try to take each out for substantially longer rides so I can really put them through their paces.
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Old 07-29-15, 09:22 PM
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Thanks for posting your experiences with all these different bikes! Lucky you!
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Old 07-30-15, 04:10 AM
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OP...how tall are you? Do you have long arms and legs?...or shortish?

Also, if you get a chance, test the Cervelo S3 if you like to ride fast. Many prefer the S3 over the Cervelo R series bikes because there is little detriment in ride quality relative to the aero advantage of the S...many times not the case with aero bikes. Cervelo did a very good job on the S series.

The Tarmac is a fantastic bike and many consider it the gold standard among race bikes.
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Old 07-30-15, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
OP...how tall are you? Do you have long arms and legs?...or shortish?

Also, if you get a chance, test the Cervelo S3 if you like to ride fast. Many prefer the S3 over the Cervelo R series bikes because there is little detriment in ride quality relative to the aero advantage of the S...many times not the case with aero bikes. Cervelo did a very good job on the S series.

The Tarmac is a fantastic bike and many consider it the gold standard among race bikes.
I would also consider how long you've been riding. What "fits" now may be too tame in 6 months. I gave myself 3 months of riding a Roubaix and got the tarmac when I wanted to upgrade, not because it fit better than the Roubaix I was currently riding, but because it was the type of bike for the type of riding I really wanted to do. It took probably 3 months of more riding before I got used to the aggressive posture and really started to ride the bike correctly. Then I went in and got a bike fit knowing I would be able to ride the comfortably in any posture.
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Old 07-30-15, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by sw686blue View Post
Thanks for posting your experiences with all these different bikes! Lucky you!
Thanks, and you're welcome!
It's fun, but it's also hard work. I'm hoping to really sort out the major difference between these bikes so I have a catalog of "ride fits" for future reference. Hope this is of some help to others.
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Old 07-30-15, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
OP...how tall are you? Do you have long arms and legs?...or shortish?

Also, if you get a chance, test the Cervelo S3 if you like to ride fast. Many prefer the S3 over the Cervelo R series bikes because there is little detriment in ride quality relative to the aero advantage of the S...many times not the case with aero bikes. Cervelo did a very good job on the S series.

The Tarmac is a fantastic bike and many consider it the gold standard among race bikes.
I'm just shy of 6', but I have a pretty short inseam of 31". That means I have a long torso, and I also have long arms. It makes attaining an ideal fit a little hard for me. My first bike was a 54 Caad10, but I think the LBS put me into a size that is much too small b/c they did it based on standover height. Even with a 130mm stem, I feel uncomfortable, and I fatigue after like 20 miles of riding like that. My subsequent rides on bigger bikes has confirmed this.

This is why I'm trying both sizes of Tarmac and why the 58 seems like it fits. The 56 Tarmac feels a little sportier, naturally b/c it's a smaller frame, but the 58 somehow feels more luxurious. Still, I'm a little nervous and the LBS person who was helping me seemed to be ever-so-slightly uncertain.

I didn't try an S because I didn't see myself in an aero bike and thought it would be overkill for casual rides. But I DO love to push my speed and might actually enjoy it a lot. Thanks for the tip, I may go back and try it.

I have to say though that I really enjoyed the Tarmac and would love to get it, but only if I knew for sure that I could dial in a good fit for long rides. I'm nervous to plunk down $$$ without feeling that self-confidence and assurance!
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Old 07-30-15, 05:22 PM
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This is beautiful! OP is doing a text-book job of finding the right bike; This thread with his insights/impressions of the arious bikes will definitely help other newcomers; ....and we all can live vicariously through him, as if we were testing out all the different bikes! For those of us who don't have one LBS locally- much less a plethora of 'em.....this is almost as much fun as doing it ourselves!

See t5hat, Bigcic? You're "giving back" to the forum, already!
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Old 07-30-15, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
This is beautiful! OP is doing a text-book job of finding the right bike; This thread with his insights/impressions of the arious bikes will definitely help other newcomers; ....and we all can live vicariously through him, as if we were testing out all the different bikes! For those of us who don't have one LBS locally- much less a plethora of 'em.....this is almost as much fun as doing it ourselves!

See t5hat, Bigcic? You're "giving back" to the forum, already!
Thanks! I'm tryin' While it's not entirely scientific, I'm trying to get a feel for what's what and utilizing the best scientific method I can. I think I could definitely make a number of bikes work, but they're all a little different and it's interesting to see how they differ and why.
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Old 07-30-15, 08:05 PM
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You are so lucky. At 5'4" I can never find bikes in my size to test ride. Bike shops carry 54, 56 and 58 but not 49 or 50cm with any regularity. If they do, it's only the aluminum models, never the carbon ones. I've ridden a 49cm Allez for the last 18 months, which feels like it's fit decently to me. However in a year or three when I'll be looking to upgrade to a carbon bike and there won't be any way for me to test ride them. Which will likely end with me riding a Tarmac, as it's essentially the same bike as the one I'm riding now, just in carbon.
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Old 07-31-15, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Xir View Post
You are so lucky. At 5'4" I can never find bikes in my size to test ride. Bike shops carry 54, 56 and 58 but not 49 or 50cm with any regularity. If they do, it's only the aluminum models, never the carbon ones. I've ridden a 49cm Allez for the last 18 months, which feels like it's fit decently to me. However in a year or three when I'll be looking to upgrade to a carbon bike and there won't be any way for me to test ride them. Which will likely end with me riding a Tarmac, as it's essentially the same bike as the one I'm riding now, just in carbon.
I guess your issue is that bike shops don't want to manage inventory one bike at a time; if they order a bike for you, they want to know you will buy it. But will they let you order it if you want to buy it? I think a lot of them do. So the only issue is that you need to know if you'll fit a particular bike. I know it's not ideal, but maybe go get a fitting done with some recommended measurements, and then order a bike based on those measurements? Not sure, create another thread about this and see what the more knowledgeable people here can advise. Good luck!
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Old 07-31-15, 06:10 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by bigcicero View Post
Thanks! I'm tryin' While it's not entirely scientific, I'm trying to get a feel for what's what and utilizing the best scientific method I can. I think I could definitely make a number of bikes work, but they're all a little different and it's interesting to see how they differ and why.
Btw, I should mention that I've been a little more scientific than I let on. What I mean is this: I've received a couple comments that I'm not doing apple to apples comparisons between bikes b/c I'm not setting up the exact same fit. That is, you can overcome some geometry differences between different bikes and frame sizes through stem and saddle adjustments. Clearly this is true. And I've been doing some of that, but not quite methodically. For every bike that I'm riding, I've been having the shop make some differences to stem length and saddle positioning, so that I've ridden each bike in multiple positions. So I'm getting a feel for different bike models and frame sizes in different fits.

And just a point about this: it's true that you can set up the same fit on different sized frames, but the ride will feel different on each. It's not all about fit. Fit is the prerequisite, but then you'll feel differences resulting from frame geometry/size and frame construction. The Tarmac 56 feels differently than the Tarmac 58, despite being set up with about the same fit, due to obvious differences like wheelbase and differences in center of gravity. Most manufacturers also change their bike geometry as the size of the frame changes to keep the same ride feel for different sizes of rider.
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Old 07-31-15, 06:15 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by bigcicero View Post
I guess your issue is that bike shops don't want to manage inventory one bike at a time; if they order a bike for you, they want to know you will buy it. But will they let you order it if you want to buy it? I think a lot of them do. So the only issue is that you need to know if you'll fit a particular bike. I know it's not ideal, but maybe go get a fitting done with some recommended measurements, and then order a bike based on those measurements? Not sure, create another thread about this and see what the more knowledgeable people here can advise. Good luck!
Yeah, sorry. I wasn't intending to hijack your thread.
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Old 07-31-15, 08:35 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by bigcicero View Post
Btw, I should mention that I've been a little more scientific than I let on. What I mean is this: I've received a couple comments that I'm not doing apple to apples comparisons between bikes b/c I'm not setting up the exact same fit. That is, you can overcome some geometry differences between different bikes and frame sizes through stem and saddle adjustments. Clearly this is true. And I've been doing some of that, but not quite methodically. For every bike that I'm riding, I've been having the shop make some differences to stem length and saddle positioning, so that I've ridden each bike in multiple positions. So I'm getting a feel for different bike models and frame sizes in different fits.

And just a point about this: it's true that you can set up the same fit on different sized frames, but the ride will feel different on each. It's not all about fit. Fit is the prerequisite, but then you'll feel differences resulting from frame geometry/size and frame construction. The Tarmac 56 feels differently than the Tarmac 58, despite being set up with about the same fit, due to obvious differences like wheelbase and differences in center of gravity. Most manufacturers also change their bike geometry as the size of the frame changes to keep the same ride feel for different sizes of rider.
When it comes to bikes, the scientific method is not necessarily such a good thing. What with it being a good deal about "feeling"; and maybe that it involves more art than science, I think the best thing is just to ride and experiment until you just happen upon a combination (fit; geometry; material; construction; etc.) that just happens to work. It doesn't matter so much if one bike has 23mm tires and one has 25mm's; if one bike is on the smallish side and tweaked to fit vs. one on the larger side tweaked to fit. The small differences may all add-up....but in isolation, they don't mean all that much- it's more about how everything works as a whole. Don't over-think it. Be an artist, more than a scientist!

It's kinda like buying a couch. You could look at it scientifically and compare various proportions and cushion materials, and make a spreadsheet....or you can just sit on 'em, and let your chooch be the judge.

And after you've been around this forum long enough, you'll start to notice, that the more "scientific" various threads get, the less that is really said; the more the fun is zapped out of a topic and/or riding in general; and in general, when they devolve into quoting various studies and data references, nothing is accomplished and no consensus is arrived at.....it just becomes an intellectual exercise of people trying to justify their position/ideas. That is the opposite of what cycling should be!

We're riding kid's toys....lets think more like kids! It's a lot more fun, if you don't take it so seriously.
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