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How important is the bike?

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How important is the bike?

Old 01-29-23, 09:29 PM
  #1  
Cramic
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How important is the bike?

Apologies if this is obvious. Just had my interest piqued today and a quick google search didnít throw up anything.

How important is the bike in racing?

Take F1. The guy with the fastest car wins, 9 times in 10. A clever innovation will win, eg. Buttonís Brawn. Similarly with running for a time. I wouldnít say shoes have/are always paramount, but the advantage Vaporflys gave to the guys and girls who had them made a huge difference. I donít follow the running scene as closely as I once did, but believe most running shoes have now caught up.

But I donít often hear about the bike in cycling, which admittedly is limited to watching the odd stage in the Grand Tours and listening to Armstrongís podcast.

Are the bikes, at the top end, all innovated out and everybody is essentially riding the same machine?

Are there many examples, in the history of cycling, were the bike was obviously the deciding factor? Eg. Grand Tour winners, in multiple years, that was all or mostly due to the bike? (Like Hamilton in his Mercedes or Schumacher in the Ferrari.) Iíd be interested to hear any suspected or confirmed illegal innovations tooÖlike the motors.

Thanks and hopefully this hasnít been done too many times before.
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Old 01-30-23, 12:11 PM
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Red is faster. Otherwise, at the top, very few marginal gains to be had, UCI limits control size and weight minimums. Winners win because of racing skill and leveraging a talented team -- hardware is no substitution for that, except, of course, for identifying the most appropriate red paint.
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Old 01-30-23, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
UCI limits control size and weight minimums.
GCN posted a video about the weights of the bikes being used at the Tour Down Under a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly, only 1 was within a pound of the UCI minimum weight. Until things start going uphill a lot, aero efficiency makes a bigger performance difference.
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Old 01-30-23, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Cramic View Post
Are the bikes, at the top end, all innovated out and everybody is essentially riding the same machine?
I wouldn't call them all the same, but it's definitely small variations of a theme - carbon frames with aero design considerations, electronic shifting, hydraulic disc brakes, and medium-depth carbon wheels. More and more teams are moving away from tubular tires and going with tubeless clinchers. There are still a few teams running tubulars, but the number gets smaller every year.
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Old 01-30-23, 05:23 PM
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When it comes to speed and pro cycling, I like Michael Hutchinson's - Faster. The short answer is that if you are not making marginal gains via technology, you are losing distance to the field. Pro teams have staff who evaluate different equipment options and configurations to optimize speed for a given race schedule.

UCI world tour racing is about advertising and advertisers. The peloton is a moving billboard and an opportunity for bike, component and clothing manufacturers to showcase the latest in new offerings to the public.

I doubt that bikes (excluding time trial bikes) are definitive in determining outcomes unless there is a mechanical.
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Old 01-31-23, 12:43 PM
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When it comes to NON-Pro, NON-UCI, it can matter quite a bit more. There are some bikes that fit the course better than others. The hilly bike, gravel, aero bike etc. Differences here matter.
In the USA you can race a rim braked bike 2-3# less weight than a disc braked bike. Or do other things to get that bike 4# below the UCI limit.
I think the UCI pros pretty much have similar stuff and the budget to have the bike fit the event.
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Old 02-02-23, 09:50 AM
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I think in mass-start road racing, it doesn't often make a meaningful difference. It's mostly about your fitness (above a certain basement) and execution
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Old 02-02-23, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Cramic View Post
Apologies if this is obvious. Just had my interest piqued today and a quick google search didnít throw up anything.

How important is the bike in racing?

Take F1. The guy with the fastest car wins, 9 times in 10. A clever innovation will win, eg. Buttonís Brawn. Similarly with running for a time. I wouldnít say shoes have/are always paramount, but the advantage Vaporflys gave to the guys and girls who had them made a huge difference. I donít follow the running scene as closely as I once did, but believe most running shoes have now caught up.

But I donít often hear about the bike in cycling, which admittedly is limited to watching the odd stage in the Grand Tours and listening to Armstrongís podcast.

Are the bikes, at the top end, all innovated out and everybody is essentially riding the same machine?

Are there many examples, in the history of cycling, were the bike was obviously the deciding factor? Eg. Grand Tour winners, in multiple years, that was all or mostly due to the bike? (Like Hamilton in his Mercedes or Schumacher in the Ferrari.) Iíd be interested to hear any suspected or confirmed illegal innovations tooÖlike the motors.

Thanks and hopefully this hasnít been done too many times before.
You mention F1, and I love many aspects of F1, so you got my attention. I think there are a few times where the bike has made a difference, but those opportunities are now very hard to find, due to rules etc, and the fact that the largest limiting factor, the rider, is not a technical thing controlled by rules.

So in F1 probably the biggest limitations seem to be engine, turning tires on/off, aero efficiency, and aero downforce. There are instances where a lower tier team has insane straight line speed because they sacrificed everything, used their better engine, to make up for the lack of development in downforce/handling (I'm thinking Jos/Arrows for example, or Massa/Williams. You get the best drivers in those cars and it doesn't matter because at some point, if you can't go through a turn fast enough, you can't (legally) stay ahead.

However, in cycling, the biggest factor is the rider. This is why doping is so huge, because nowadays doping changes the characteristics of a rider. It's akin to increasing fuel flow in F1, or maybe the ingenious Toyota rally turbo cheat. Just like how engines are limited to how much energy they can extra from a certain amount of fuel, cyclists are limited to how much oxygen they can consume. If you can consume more, you can make more power.

Since the top tier riders are highly optimized, if not beyond their normal limits, they will have to run optimized equipment. Since bikes are basically like spec racing, there is very little opportunity for significant change. The cycling groups are drawn from the same limited companies, so like having the same transmissions, same engines. The frames are very, very similar, with minute differences between them. Wheels are also a commodity.

Many times a rider has used a controversial bike to win, but it was more a psychological advantage - the bike wasn't faster, and in fact may have been slower. But the rider believed, and so they rode harder.

Therefore really it comes down to the rider and their position.

There *have* been instances of equipment making a difference. One might argue that Lemond's 1989 Tour victory was due to the use of his aero helmet and aero bars (or, conversely, Fignon's non-use of aero bars that he had available, nor the aero helmet that he'd worn previously).

In 1990, in the TT that decided the Tour, Lemond used aero stuff - aero bars, rear disk. His opponent went with super thin 17 or 18mm tires but didn't use a full aero bar, and he raced on spoked wheels. Those wheels probably felt great rolling around a parking lot but at speed.... they're not super fast. Ditto the non-aero bars he used - I tried them in a TT and I realized it was a huge mistake just a few minutes into it. This might be comparable to making a bad tire call in F1, running intermediates 5 laps too early etc.

Another instance of equipment is when disk wheels were first introduced. Moser was a long way back going into the final TT of the Giro, Fignon was in the lead, and Moser absolutely demolished Fignon. Now, it could be that the TV helicopter hovering just behind Moser for duration of the TT might have helped, or the fact that he had an "elevator" of hands helping him all the climbs in the prior weeks might have made a difference. Or perhaps that Moser was one of the cycling pioneers of blood doping. But cynicism aside, if you consider a flat TT, no one would use a spoked rear wheel now.

There are so many other factors in play in bike racing, and with bike development somewhat plateaued, the bike is more a non-negative thing, meaning you don't want it to hurt you but it really doesn't "help" per se.
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Old 02-02-23, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post

There *have* been instances of equipment making a difference. One might argue that Lemond's 1989 Tour victory was due to the use of his aero helmet and aero bars (or, conversely, Fignon's non-use of aero bars that he had available, nor the aero helmet that he'd worn previously).

In 1990, in the TT that decided the Tour, Lemond used aero stuff - aero bars, rear disk. His opponent went with super thin 17 or 18mm tires but didn't use a full aero bar, and he raced on spoked wheels. Those wheels probably felt great rolling around a parking lot but at speed.... they're not super fast. Ditto the non-aero bars he used - I tried them in a TT and I realized it was a huge mistake just a few minutes into it. This might be comparable to making a bad tire call in F1, running intermediates 5 laps too early etc.

Another instance of equipment is when disk wheels were first introduced. Moser was a long way back going into the final TT of the Giro, Fignon was in the lead, and Moser absolutely demolished Fignon. Now, it could be that the TV helicopter hovering just behind Moser for duration of the TT might have helped, or the fact that he had an "elevator" of hands helping him all the climbs in the prior weeks might have made a difference. Or perhaps that Moser was one of the cycling pioneers of blood doping. But cynicism aside, if you consider a flat TT, no one would use a spoked rear wheel now.
More recently, I think of the dropper post in Milan-San Remo last year. Of course, being one of the best descenders in the world and being able to take some risks (that almost went wrong) certainly helped too.
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Old 02-06-23, 11:26 PM
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This question is why I have shied away from racing, though I still have an urge to get into good enough shape to give it a try this year, at least get to where I can do a fast group ride. I know my current bike isnít suitable, (drop bar three speed like the Ď40s and Ď50s British club bikes; I doubt I would be permitted to join a fast group ride let alone enter a race on such a machine), but whatís the minimum that would be, away from World Tour level? Should a novice start off with an aluminum frame with rim brakes and 8 speed Claris (the current base road bikes by Cannondale and Trek being that spec), or skip to carbon frames, hydraulic brakes, etc.?
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Old 02-07-23, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by rudypyatt View Post
This question is why I have shied away from racing, though I still have an urge to get into good enough shape to give it a try this year, at least get to where I can do a fast group ride. I know my current bike isnít suitable, (drop bar three speed like the Ď40s and Ď50s British club bikes; I doubt I would be permitted to join a fast group ride let alone enter a race on such a machine), but whatís the minimum that would be, away from World Tour level? Should a novice start off with an aluminum frame with rim brakes and 8 speed Claris (the current base road bikes by Cannondale and Trek being that spec), or skip to carbon frames, hydraulic brakes, etc.?
i race on an entry level Allez with claris. I am in fact faster than people who spend much more on bikes (I had two top 10 finishes in my field last year, and one of those could have been a podium with a smarter sprint). there is absolutely nothing special to groupsets, so as long as you have a range of gears to adapt to different terrain you're good to go. sure, i've made small changes like narrower handlebar and use one of the best tires available (continental gp5000s) but aside from that I've used the bike in stock condition. there's definitely a bad habit in any niche hobby community like cycling where chasing more and more expensive gear is encouraged, but you def don't have to break the bank to race and if you have the fitness and race tactics you can have a shot
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Old 02-08-23, 05:37 AM
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I think the bike is the least important part of a pro team. The top-tier road bikes are all at the same level. I think the only significant variation is in TTs, where the bike, clothing and rider position as a whole really do make a difference. You can see that some pros and their teams pay more attention than others in this respect. TTs are also won and lost by seconds and there are no tactics other than riding as fast as you can. So a relatively small difference in bike performance could change the result.

Interesting analogy with F1. I was actually an F1 Race Engineer for 10 years (2000-2009) and there is obviously a much larger variation in car performance between teams. One thing that really stands out in F1 is tyre performance. Aero and power gains tend to find you time in tenths of a second per lap, where in a tyre test you could easily see 2 or 3 seconds of a difference between tyre compounds and construction. The Michelin vs Bridgestone tyre war in my F1 era was truly epic. We would literally turn up to a test with 50-60 sets of wheels and have a dozen sets of tyres sat in blankets ready to go. Tyre choice for a race was critical and that's where 95% of the effort went at the trackside. Back at the factory it was all about having the best wind-tunnel program and a reliable engine.

Relating tyre performance to bikes I would say tyres play a significant role in pro racing too. Nowhere near as critical as F1, but certainly a factor and almost certainly the most important bike component choice. I've heard Geraint Thomas talk in his Podcast about how he would avoid following the wheel of certain teams on wet alpine descents if he knew their tyres had poor grip.
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Old 03-03-23, 08:21 PM
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In 1997 I did a TT and placed about 39th out of a little over 400 people. I was riding a 16 year-old round-steel tube road bike with a total of 12 speeds. It was early in the riding season and my average speed was about 21.8 mph. Late that season just with more miles I was able to add another mph to that average over the same distance as the TT. I attribute it to being young and riding a lot of miles. I am sure if I had a state of the art bike and "aero" helmet and clothing etc. I could have gone a little faster yet, but I was never convinced going a bit faster was worth the cost to me, especially since every year or two the wealthy guys keep getting lighter more aero bikes and equipment, and to me that is buying speed, not having it innately or working for it. So don't compare yourself to the fast rich racers or pros, just see how you do against other people in your age group riding the same equipment you are riding and forget about the rest.

Now I am in my early 60s with heart problems and in a TT last year I averaged 19.5mph. The fastest kid, less than half my age, went 10mph and ten minutes faster in the same distance, I could care less. My interest was looking at how I did against other old geezers and especially the ones riding old bikes from the 1970s like I was, if I ran better than anyone younger or on newer equipment that was just a bonus. In my age and equipment class, I ran mid-pack or better, and that is just fine.

I just had a talk with a guy who literally grew up in the bicycle business, running a family bicycle shop his entire life he was born into, and he said as far as going fast on a bike goes, it is 90% rider, 10% bike, and I agreed with his assessment 100%. If I can get to the 90th-percentile of my age and equipment group without spending any cash on new equipment, then that is good enough for me, I will let those with less education and/or more money than they know what to do with have that top 10% if they need it that badly, I don't and never did and never will.
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Old 03-06-23, 09:15 PM
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I would like to see pro bicycle racing limit the technology on racing bikes , and how light they could be, so that it would be a sure thing that it is the rider winning the race, and also so that you could go to a local bike shop and buy what a pro is racing because it would not have any computers or electrics or carbon-fiber, those things would be banned. It would be a steel tube framed bike with mechanical shifting and traditional wire-spoke wheels. No titanium or any other unobtanium allowed, just steel and alumunum and brass and other traditional materials. And the tubes and components could only be round in cross section, no airfoil shapes anywhere. Rims have to be square or rectangular cross section and all the wheels need 36 spokes. Also limit the speeds and number of sprockets and cogs, let's get back to ten speeds with five in the back and two in the front, that is more than enough for any young pro, and all us old guys too.
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Old 03-06-23, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
I would like to see pro bicycle racing limit the technology on racing bikes, and how light they could be, Ö.
Who wants to be the first to break the news?
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Old 03-06-23, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
I would like to see pro bicycle racing limit the technology on racing bikes , and how light they could be, so that it would be a sure thing that it is the rider winning the race, and also so that you could go to a local bike shop and buy what a pro is racing because it would not have any computers or electrics or carbon-fiber, those things would be banned. It would be a steel tube framed bike with mechanical shifting and traditional wire-spoke wheels. No titanium or any other unobtanium allowed, just steel and alumunum and brass and other traditional materials. And the tubes and components could only be round in cross section, no airfoil shapes anywhere. Rims have to be square or rectangular cross section and all the wheels need 36 spokes. Also limit the speeds and number of sprockets and cogs, let's get back to ten speeds with five in the back and two in the front, that is more than enough for any young pro, and all us old guys too.

Well, it would at least be interesting to see races with teams using those kinds of retro bikes. I guess it would depend on who's sanctioning or promoting the race, though I'm not familiar with the USAC rulebook (note; I STILL read that as United States Auto Club...), and I can't see the UCI going in that direction. So for the pros, that seems unlikely. At the local level, I suspect that certain clubs or promoters (and at least some of the other racers) would take a dim view of mixing retro tech machines with modern ones. For example, I mentioned earlier that my bikes are homages to the old British club bikes with a three speed IGH. Even though such bikes were used in racing and fast group rides from the 30s to the early 50s, I suspect I would be told quite forcefully to stay away or get a different bike if I were to try using mine that way. Hence, fascinating as I find the idea of racing; and as much as I watch videos and read race reports; and as much as I learn about training from the 33 and the 41 and elsewhere, I don't race and ride solo only.

All that said, hubcyclist has demonstrated that if you have the fitness, you don't need the bleeding edge latest and greatest tech to race and race well. Given sufficient fitness, certainly pro level fitness, it stands to reason that racers on bikes like you describe could be competitive.
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Old 03-07-23, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
I would like to see pro bicycle racing limit the technology on racing bikes , and how light they could be, so that it would be a sure thing that it is the rider winning the race, and also so that you could go to a local bike shop and buy what a pro is racing…
The UCI does have a minimum weight limit, among a multitude of other rules about the configuration of a racing bike. Additionally, the bikes of top pro teams are so similar, there really isn't any reason to believe that it isn't the rider winning.

You can buy the same bike the top pros ride.

The rest of your post is just retro-grouch ridiculousness.

…because it would not have any computers or electrics or carbon-fiber, those things would be banned. It would be a steel tube framed bike with mechanical shifting and traditional wire-spoke wheels. No titanium or any other unobtanium allowed, just steel and alumunum and brass and other traditional materials. And the tubes and components could only be round in cross section, no airfoil shapes anywhere. Rims have to be square or rectangular cross section and all the wheels need 36 spokes. Also limit the speeds and number of sprockets and cogs, let's get back to ten speeds with five in the back and two in the front, that is more than enough for any young pro, and all us old guys too.

Last edited by Eric F; 03-07-23 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 03-07-23, 06:32 AM
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Honestly, I kept searching for a /s tag on that.

While I personally like to ride (though not exclusively) lugged steel bikes set up with with modern-ish Campagnolo Ergos, I do it because I think that is the style that's most aesthetically pleasing to me. Not my lightest bikes or most aero bikes, but looking at my 89/90-ish Colnago Super/Superismo Piu for example just makes me smile. Shiny chrome, nice lugs with cool cutouts, beautiful paint job. It's a work of art. Pretty much for that reason, I wouldn't want to race it (even though the replaceable number hanger suggests that's just what it's for). I also accept that not everyone shares my sense of aesthetics and would by no means want to mandate everyone ride/race on that.
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Old 03-07-23, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F View Post
You can buy the same bike the top pros ride..
Neither I, nor the half of the country the US census bureau says is living low-income or below the poverty level can afford to buy any pro road bike. If they said the bikes had to be steel round tubing of straight-gauge, no electronics or computers and no carbon-fiber then maybe more would be able to, more amateur racers too.

And rudypyatt, I doubt any local bicycle races would care how old an entrants bike is, they never cared about my bikes. 25 years ago I ran a 12-speed motobecane, and last year I ran the 10-speed Huffy from the early 70s and nobody said a thing about it. There were a dozen or more other older riders on older bikes too out of the 160 or so entrants in that local time-trial.

And Himespau, it would not do society any harm to mandate that art be part of events, a world without art, a world just fixated on technology and profiteering and pride is pretty ugly, and that is what we have right now. To me making art is not about getting attention for myself or having pride, it is about giving to the world and humanity, having your actions be a function of love and not yourself. It happens less and less in the West.
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Old 03-07-23, 09:28 PM
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My not wanting to race my pretty bikes has nothing to do with not wanting people to see my art. It has everything to do with the old maxim of only racing what you can afford to replace.
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Old 03-07-23, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
Neither I, nor the half of the country the US census bureau says is living low-income or below the poverty level can afford to buy any pro road bike. If they said the bikes had to be steel round tubing of straight-gauge, no electronics or computers and no carbon-fiber then maybe more would be able to, more amateur racers too.
I have zero interest in seeing the best bike racers in the world race each other in the Tour, Paris-Roubaix, etc. on out-dated, low-quality equipment from decades past any more than I want to see todayís F1 drivers competing against each other in mid-Ď70s economy cars. It might be mildly entertaining as an exhibition side-show, but thatís about it. I highly prefer seeing the best athletes performing at their pinnacle abilities with the best modern equipment for that event. Amateur racers can be competitive on bikes that are more economical than what the top pros ride. Thousands do it every day.
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Old 03-07-23, 10:11 PM
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Eric F
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
My not wanting to race my pretty bikes has nothing to do with not wanting people to see my art. It has everything to do with the old maxim of only racing what you can afford to replace.
Yep. Been there. Back when I was young, lean, and strong (early-2000s), I was fortunate to buy my dream bike at the time - a Time VX Special Pro. I still have it, and it is still the best-handling bike I have ridden. However, I rarely raced it. Most of my racing was crits, and I didnít want to risk the Time getting destroyed. My race bikes were top components and good wheels on good - but not special - frames. Thankfully, they all survived.

Today, I ride bikes that excite me to look at.

Last edited by Eric F; 03-07-23 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 03-07-23, 10:51 PM
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big john
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
Neither I, nor the half of the country the US census bureau says is living low-income or below the poverty level can afford to buy any pro road bike. If they said the bikes had to be steel round tubing of straight-gauge, no electronics or computers and no carbon-fiber then maybe more would be able to, more amateur racers too..
Just ridiculous. There are low end cf race bikes out there, also aluminum. You think mandating steel bikes would make racing cheap? You must know there are expensive steel bikes and inexpensive bikes of other materials.
Unless you are suggesting Wal Mart bikes, or dumpster bikes, or only bikes costing less than a certain amount?

I let a friend borrow an older bike I had and he raced it in cat3 crits, nbd. Anyone who wants to race in amateur racing can do so on any decent bike in good shape.
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Old 03-08-23, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
Just ridiculous. There are low end cf race bikes out there, also aluminum. You think mandating steel bikes would make racing cheap? You must know there are expensive steel bikes and inexpensive bikes of other materials.
Unless you are suggesting Wal Mart bikes, or dumpster bikes, or only bikes costing less than a certain amount?

I let a friend borrow an older bike I had and he raced it in cat3 crits, nbd. Anyone who wants to race in amateur racing can do so on any decent bike in good shape.
beng1 is suggesting that the entire bicycle industry revert to making bicycles using only plain-gauge round steel tubing with 2x5 drivetrains and box-rim wheels. His position is firmly anti-progress and anti-technology beyond about 1975 standards (maybe earlier).
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Old 03-08-23, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F View Post
beng1 is suggesting that the entire bicycle industry revert to making bicycles using only plain-gauge round steel tubing with 2x5 drivetrains and box-rim wheels. His position is firmly anti-progress and anti-technology beyond about 1975 standards (maybe earlier).
And that wonít happen. But it would be interesting to see those pockets of the industry that are retro sponsor teams using their products. For example, the State 4130 Road looks interesting
https://www.statebicycle.com/collect...-green-8-speed

Seems like it could work well in a flat crit, for example, or even a circuit or road race, absent alpine hills. Similarly, Sunrace/Sturmey-Archer could set up a team (as they did prewar) for the proving and promotion of their geared hubs: The XRF8 gives a range comparable to the old 2x5 setups, so it would be interesting to see bikes with that hub put through their racing paces.

But these companies havenít done anything like this, and are unlikely to do so; seemingly, they arenít interested in racing, certainly not at the pro level. I wonder if they could be persuaded to give it a try.
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