For most of us, well-intentioned and hobby cyclists who secretly believe we might the next Bradley Wiggins if we only had a few more hours a day to spend on our bicycles, buying a new road bike is tantamount to buying a road bike frame. It’s big deal.
The frame is what we're thinking of; something new and shiny and colourful, something we suspect even car drivers envy when they see us flash past them whilst they’re sitting in traffic. Truly, a road bike frame is a beautiful thing and part of the reason we love cycling.
When you have the good fortune to be looking at new bikes, though, you definitely want to look at a few elements besides the colour of a road bike frame. Let’s Face it when you're on your way back home from a long Sunday ride and you're riding your twenty-fifth mile smack into a stiff headwind, the fact that your frame is cobalt blue or even charcoal grey is not going to help you. The length of your seat tube is going to help you and the length of your top tube and even the angle of the three main tubes all put together is going to help (or hinder) you, but colour is not.
If you shop at a supermarket or even a sports store, if you get any help at all in choosing a bike that fits you, it will probably consist of a young assistant instructing you to stand over the top bar of the frame and see if you can comfortably straddle it with your feet on the floor.
This is not particularly helpful, especially if you happen to have anything unique about your physique, like long legs combined with a short torso. If you have long legs, you can straddle almost any bike, but will your body be able to relax comfortable in the stretch between your saddle and the handlebars? The whole geometry of the road bike frame matters a lot to fit. And fit matters excessively to comfort.
If you're a racer, comfort will not be your only consideration. Indeed, it may be down among the last elements you consider. Speed is not usually built from comfort, and the road bike frame that promotes speed is built of different materials than one used primarily for recreational riding. Frames can be made of titanium, chrome-moly, aluminium or steel, and each metal has different advantages of weight and strength. Frame geometry varies, too, with touring bikes featuring a longer vertical base and top tube than the skittish racing models.
When you're looking at road bike frames, think beyond the paint job. Get a frame that fits both you and your purpose. Whether you do your research online or in a good bike store, you'll be glad you took the time.
Andy & Darren
PS Need help with your frame fitting? Come on into the shop. We’ll get the perfect frame for your cycling experience