It isn’t about the sleekest bike on the Tour… It’s about finding the right bike to fit your body. For some, that means a custom bike. Many others, however, will find that a standard frame meets their needs – with a few tweaks after a proper bike fit.
A new rider shouldn’t be focused on getting into an aggressive bike just because it was on prominent display at the Tour de France. Rather a rider should get a bike to fit his body, his riding style and his goals.
In the article, Empfield argues that the beauty of these bikes built for the Spring Classics isn’t in their ability to gobble up the cobbles but rather in their “endurance” geometry – which is better suited for most people.
Fredo always advises people in our shops: it’s easier to transform a more relaxed geometry into a more aggressive one than the other way around. It’s why the Specialized Roubaix works for more people than the Specialized Tarmac – not because most people will be riding on the cobble-stoned streets of Europe.
Some cyclists who initially fall into the relaxed geometry may find that, over time, their flexibility increases and their riding style changes. A few quick changes to that “relaxed” frame – swap out the stem and the seat post and a few minor adjustments – can bring them into a more aggressive position.
But to turn a more aggressive bike into a a more relaxed bike turns the bike into something it’s not supposed to be and, as Dan Empfield points out, can get a little out of hand – with spacers, creating a less stable and less aerodynamic bike. (In effect, losing any advantages of that “racing” geometry.)
Empfield discusses what is truly important in a bike fit, based on our “bicycle DNA,” and why “endurance road bikes” are better suited to most people:
I think you and I agree that we all have a set of fit coordinates that match our morphologies, pedaling dynamics, riding styles. Our saddles are positioned at a certain height, and they are set back some distance behind the bottom bracket. We each have a “cockpit” distance that would describe the length of our bike position, and that length might be defined as the distance from the saddle to the handlebar’s “tops”, or maybe as the distance from the saddle to the hoods. That handlebar sits some distance below the saddle. These metrics, along with handlebar width and the preferred drop of our road bar hooks pretty well describe our bike positions, and your position is not fungible. It’s part of our bicycle DNA. It follows you around from bike to bike.
Now, it’s true that if you earned your living riding flat criteriums only – or if you earned your living as a leadout man for your team’s sprinter – yes, your saddle (in fact, your whole cockpit) would be a slight bit further forward and your handlebar a slight bit lower. In other words, you’d be riding criterium geometry instead of road geometry. However, most of us don’t fit that description. …Most top bike racers don’t fit that description either.
…Which brings me circling back to “my” bike choices, which do not depend on whether I’m riding cobbles, chip-and-seal macadam, or smooth-as-glass pavement. Do I really raise my handlebars 20mm or 30mm when I race on a rough road, and drop them 30mm back down when I race a smooth one? Do you? Or is your bike fit determined by your morphology, and is it pretty similar regardless of the road surface, or whether you’re riding 30 hard miles or 70 hard miles? I think I know your answer.
…I don’t know why bike companies are so reticent to acknowledge that strong, flexible riders who race at high levels – along with enthusiasts who wish to emulate them – need bikes of various geometries strictly for morphological reasons. Morphology is not one reason the Roubaix and Domane make sense. It’s the only reason!
Thankfully, with each passing season bike companies are less and less likely to insult their customers by maintaining that their lowest geometries are for racers; taller geometries are for weekenders and duffers; and taller yet geometries are for women and men who need compliance (code for men who are wimps or weaklings).
…In my opinion all relevant companies making performance road bikes are now in one of two categories: those that offer this newer geometry [featuring taller head tubes and narrower cockpits (models built with, per size, more Stack and less Reach)], and those that will offer it.