Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Yeah, That's What I'm Talkin' About!

Wrong for most people.
The road racing bike. Let me first say that there is not anything inherently wrong with that. It is a bicycle, after all, and these types of bikes are really good at the task they are focused on- road racing. Most cyclists are road racers, right? 

Well, we all know the answer to that is "no", they are not. So, why are road racing style bikes selling so much, and as a mechanic, I would add, why are we having to modify them to peoples real intentions. (Which, by the way, is not for road racing. )

Here is a great article that says a lot better than I ever could why most cyclists shouldn't have to buy a road racing bike, and why most cyclists shouldn't consider one. See James Huang's article here.

Basically Huang states that mountain bikes have diversified from XC racing hard tails and have catered to "real rider's needs" for years now. Why don't you see this with road bikes? He says most folks would benefit from more comfort oriented and practical features that road racing bikes simply do not deliver on. Furthermore, he states even Pro level racers are starting to back off from the "mean, nasty" racing geometry and lack of creature comforts.

More Practical- More Versatile-More Comfortable!
My Take:

Mr. Huang pretty much nails it: The bicycle industry, for the most part, has left roadies with road racing bikes, then "fitness hybrids", and....pretty much nothing else. Sure- some companies are "getting it", but most of the big companies have left road racing bikes as the one and only road bike offering from entry level to high end and these bikes all are based on racing. It is odd when you stop to consider this.

What is more, as a mechanic, I see customers buying into "this bike will make me faster" snake oil and then they laden the bike with all sorts of gee-gaws, (not that there are anything wrong with accessories, but bear with me), and fit fixes that are all in direct opposition to the intentions of the bike. It would be similar to having a Porsche 911 Carrera and putting a Class 3 hitch on it, pulling an Airstream, and putting a snow plow on the front of it. You and I know what a Porsche 911 is for. It isn't for practical driving, and it isn't a versatile auto in the sense that it can do many tasks. That's why there are lots of different kinds of automobiles and trucks. But yet folks are stuck with road racing style bikes and want a rack, a trunk bag, extra brake levers, (cause they'll never use those "too low" drops), and grouse because you can not put a kickstand on the thing. (I probably sound like Grant from Rivendell about right now, but he's got a good point as well.)

Anyway, so they go out and find less than stellar comfort, wheels that are troublesome, pinch flats cause their tires are too narrow, and they have a heavy bike in the end anyway. Bah! I see this all the time. The worst part is many folks will argue till they are blue in the face that this is "right" and road racing style bikes are "the perfect bike" for the job cause they have those "faster tires" and whatnot. (I suggest that these people take a good hard look at the link in Mr. Huang's article.)

So, there ya go. a bit bigger tires, nicer geometry, and built in versatility which would give you options, or go with a bike meant to do one thing with (mostly) a disregard for comfort, no versatility, and all for a purpose most cyclists will never pursue. You choose. I know which I will take every time.....


BluesDawg said...

This ship has already sailed, but it could use more wind to speed it up. The Roubaix-Domane-etc. segment of road bikes is very popular and a step in the right direction. Specialized's Tricross bikes have for years been a good option for riding on a variety of road surfaces. The new Sectuer Disc models look to be cut from the same cloth as the Giant Anyroad, but they are in US showrooms now.

I look forward to seeing more and better choices coming, but the big question is will customers buy them in big enough numbers to keep them coming?

F. Brian Hidy said...

I'm seeing the shift from manufacturers but not the public in the shop I work in. I keep showing the Domane and the Synapse telling customer that the Pro's are racing on them, but for what ever reason they keep coming back to the Madone/SuperSix. It's gonna take time to turn the Titanic of a marketing ship that is the bicycle industry... People sure look at me funny when they ask what I ride and I tell them I ride a 15 yr old steel Voodoo (Joe Murray) CX bike everywhere, road, gravel, CX race, single track. While I would love to own a new Domane, I can't justify the price when what I ride works fine. I'm too fat to be fast anywhere but down hill, and too cheap to pay $4000 to lose 5-7lbs on a bicycle. Plus I keep bicycles for way to long and I still believe 'steel is real!'

RANTWICK said...

Absolutley right. I ended up building my perfect bike for that reason, because the practical "road bike" I wanted was not available. Of course, normal people who like drops AND practicality might look at touring or cross bikes, no?

I guess your point is that those better suited styles are not what is agressively sold and therefore not what ends up being desired...

Exhausted_Auk said...

Well said, Mark. But Grant at Rivendell is never going to persuade me that I should have my bars higher than my saddle!

Steve Fuller said...

I think mfgs are their own worst enemy in some ways. They have these (somewhat) better models in the Domane, Synapse, and Secteur, but their marketing departments aren't really creating the demand for them. It's going to take some effort to overcome a number of years of very hard marketing push of the Madone style bikes.

The super fast race geek in me would like to see a Roubaix that took a 40c tire. Though, at that point, I'd like just buy a Ti Warbird from Salsa and get something that could potentially take more abuse