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Background info about me:

Previously, most of my riding was done in the desert on a mountain bike. That was a different time and different era (when the beer belly was not around mostly!). Since then, I am a bit removed from being physically able to do mountain biking. Gaining weight makes it harder to climb rocks (actually almost flipped backwards at one point trying to pop my wheel up) and I have also suffered from injuries while I was running track. I have spent much time trying to rehab my leg but I am not able to run like I used to and my trainer suggested I should get into road biking. I would also like to make a note that this leg injury is not fresh but a 10 year old problem I have been dealing with. I do agree that road biking would be better as I can maintain a constant cadence that you cannot do in the mountains which puts less twitch strain on my leg. Oh I am also 29 for those that want to know my age in relevance to goals/body shape.

Goals:

  • Get in shape
  • Morning / weekend riding
  • Improve endurance
  • Eventually join a cycling club
  • One day possibly enter into a local race
  • Try to hit and maintain a 20+(hitting close to 30 would be nice) mph base speed (currently can do about 15-17 on an exercise bike but not sure how that compares to actual riding).
  • Morning rides of about 20-30 miles with weekend rides hoping to hit 100 miles.

Features:

I understand asking about product recommendation is off topic so I will do my best to also keep it objective.

Gear wise and body type wise, I am pretty limited to a few frames and gear sets based on my budget and I also understand it would be off topic to ask anyways.

I am undecided on the geometry I should do. Some bikes have a flat back, others allow for variety/hybrid of an upright or flat back. I understand asking for opinions is just that, open ended opinions, but if anyone can provide facts to why one would be better than the other for where I am at and where I would like to go, that would be appreciated.

I understand it is hard to tell without testing bikes and the best solution is "go to a bike shop and test ride" but it is hard to test a bike for any length of distances as most of the bike shops in my area just let you ride it around in the back lot for a couple minutes.

  • 15-17 mph (25-27 km/h) on a MTB is probably the same effort as 20-22 mph (32-35 km/h) on a road bike. If its a stationery exercycle, then its a meaningless number and can only be compared with other efforts on the same exercycle and set at the same resistance. – Criggie Jul 4 '17 at 1:39
  • Ok cool on my mtb last i road on it on the road i managed to do about 15 or so mph. I figured a stationary bike was meaningless but didn't want to leave out details – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 1:43
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Let's take a quick look at some of your bigger goals:

  • One day possibly enter into a local race
  • Try to hit and maintain a 20+(hitting close to 30 would be nice) mph base speed (currently can do about 15-17 on an exercise bike but not sure how that compares to actual riding).
  • Morning rides of about 20-30 miles with weekend rides hoping to hit 100 miles.

All of these goals would suggest a bike with a lower riding position (i.e., what you termed "flat back") that is generally indicative of a sport road bike with drop bars, rather than a hybrid with flat bars. The lower riding position (more horizontal back) means you present less frontal area to the wind, the lower drag makes higher speeds easier to maintain. Lowering your drag is necessary for racing or riding at high speeds (hitting and maintaining 30 mph on the flat without assistance is not trivial). I would term this a more aggressive road/sport geometry.

While, a road/sport geometry may be needed for your ultimate goals, it also requires flexibility and core muscle strength to maintain such a position, especially if you wish avoid injury. For many road cyclists this is a position that is honed over time after building up flexibility and strength. The body can accommodate all sorts of bad postures, but they can catch up with you. Given that you are already dealing with injuries, I would be cautious on this front.

As an anecdote, after improving my flexibility in my 40's I ride a position that is 1 inch longer (i.e., handle bars are 1 inch farther away) than when I was in my 20's - the handle bar height has not changed. I had worse mid-back flexibility when I was younger, which lead me to unknowingly adopt a compensatory posture which eventually lead to worse flexibility and back pain. This did however eventually work out in my favour as it lead me to focus on flexibility and core strength and ultimately better posture on the bike (and life in general).

As such, I would suggest that start with a bike that gives you a more upright position, one that you hopefully you find more comfortable. Hybrids definitely feature this upright position, but some drop bar road bikes (e.g., endurance, gravel, adventure - and other market speak) also have a more upright position despite having drop bars. Race road bikes typically have a more aggressive position, and should be generally avoided until more experience has been gained.

The bike geometry that you may need for the long term goals (highlighted above) may not be the right bike geometry for you right now. Be prepared to change over time, this may mean simply changing the bike setup (e.g., lowering the bars), re-configuring or even selling and buying again.

Good luck.

  • Thank you for your thorough reply! I had a feeling this advice wad coming but it helps to have someone else say what your thoughts are! I do have lower back injuries too which was my main concern. I am glad you hit home about the back injuries! While I am working out, stretching, and doing core 4 days a week, i am not sure if my back could handle that kind of stress on a bike. Though i can maintain it on a spin bike for 20 minutes without discomfort. – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 15:26
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    @ggiaquin -There are now lots of newer generation road bikes that allow a more upright position (this is often referred to as the stack measurement). With all the interest in "endurance" and "adventure" riding there are a lots of options now for a more upright posture. Aerodynamics (and potentially speed) will suffer somewhat, but its better to go a little slower and feel great than be in pain to gain a couple mph. – Rider_X Jul 4 '17 at 18:07
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The first consideration is budget.

Too many people get motivated, spend up on a new bike that looks nice, and ride it once then put it away. So a ROPA bike is almost new with minimal wear.

Ideally you want to try a couple of bikes to know what you want. Borrow/scrounge a couple and see how they suit, and what you like and dislike.

For your first purchase, buy a used bike and run it for a year or three. Figure out what your preferences are:

  • handlebars - drops or flat bars or riser bars.
  • gears - brifters or stem/downtube levers or twist shift or thumb shift
  • Transmission - double or triple chainring - a triple will let you climb steeper things albeit slower. A compact double would be harder, and a road standard double would be hardest to climb
  • brakes - single pivot or dual pivot or disks - it would be unlikely to find a used road bike with disks in 2017.
  • frame - steel, aluminium, or carbon. For a beginner, aluminium is probably best. Steel is fine too but may signify an older bike. Carbon is still a bit spendy.

Once you have 10,000 km on that bike, then realise you will have either lost weight, or lost fat and made muscle. Either way you'll be fitter and have a better idea what you like and don't. At THAT point you should consider buying a new bike with the features you want.

I bought a 1998 57cm aluminium road bike with brifters, a triple crank and single pivot brakes. Uprating to dual pivot brakes and better pads, and more climbing gears was a revelation.


Your comment about belly hits home - I have ridden road for ~3 years and just recently realised I achieved a 10 km stretch fully on the drops. Couldn't do that when I started riding the road bike! My weight has dropped 10 kg from 105 to 95, but I've also developed muscle mass which is denser than fat. My waistline has dropped 50mm.

Its almost time for me to buy a new bike. Based on my personal experiences I would go a long wheelbase (ie longer than UCI legal length) 62cm frame, with compact double and a wide-range rear cassette, brifters, hydraulic disk brakes, capable of wide tyres up to ~42mm. Still unsure of frame material. You have to form your own requirements through experience.

  • Frame size of your used bike should be about what you think you need. No point riding a small frame with a long seatpost (as I have) or riding an overly large frame with almost no seatpost. – Criggie Jul 4 '17 at 2:25
  • In my area, there are no long climbs. Minimal grades or sharp short lengths (less than a mile). So the ability to climb isn't too important though we do have a mountain with a road. Not sure if it's open to cyclists. Budget wise im looking at approximately 1000 us dollars. Enough for an entry level road. I was eyeing a cannondale synapse sora or the bianchi via nirone sora. There was also the cannondale CAAD tigra but wasn't sure if the couple extra bucks was worth it. – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 2:30
  • Good point too about frame size. I'm honestly mostly worried about bike geometry. Flatback or not. I do want drops as well. So going with a hybrid with drops should give me the ability to sit as i need to which makes the via nirone the best choice in terms of geometry. Picking a road bike is a lot more complicated than a mtb heh – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 2:35
  • I also must admit i come from a bianchi family. My dad road bianchi and my aunt is a bianchi sales rep for bike shows. So i could be biased. Ultimately, im looking for something i can go riding daily for 20 miles and have it be a gateway to bigger and better. – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 2:38
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    I dunno what bikes go for in your area, but I'd stick half that money in the bank and spend no more than $500 on a nice used bike. Try something that is NOT bianchi and your aunt may be offended enough to help you out with a brand new one cheap when the time comes :) – Criggie Jul 4 '17 at 3:37
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As an extra point, maintaining 20 mph solo feels about as hard as close to 30 mph when in a group. Get on short group rides early and you'll reach your goals a lot faster than you expect. You'll definitely not be the only newcomer and most group rides follow target speeds you can progress through.

  • I was talking to my dad about local groups here and the one that meets up in my area tends to be very disorganized compared to when we lived in another state, they classified people by pacing groups and the group to your skill is what you stuck with and they didn't leave you behind. Here it seems a FFA according to him so I would like to get my bike legs going. – ggiaquin16 Jul 4 '17 at 15:28

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