Road Bike Buying Decision

This page documents in detail my decision to buy a road bike and the reason why I chose the full carbon road bike and all the gear I needed for under $2,000 after tax and shipping!!

In the end I was able to get a Carbon Road Bike and be fully equipped with all my gear for under $2,000!

I have been a mountain biker for over 15years and love it, however, where I live now means there are very few options for me to be able to mountain bike.

So… I have decided to make the switch and start road biking but being a frugal person that doesn’t want to spend more than I have I will share my research on finding the best entry level full carbon road bike.

Why Full Carbon?

I have not ridden a steel or aluminum framed road bike however after doing some basic research it is clear that full carbon has some significant benefits and is the right bike for me.

Carbon vs Aluminum vs Steel Road Bike Comparison

 WeightCostDurabilityBottom Line
CarbonLightestMostLowestLightweight but prone to breaking
AluminumLightLow-MiddleMediumNot as light or comfortable a ride but easiest on the pocket book
SteelHeaviestMiddle-HighMost DurableFor an international touring bike this would be the one to go with but for local road rides it is not ideal.
Aluminum Frame with Carbon Forks/Seat PostMediumMiddleMediumMost economical choice

Based on the above comparison and reading some threads at the forum:

http://forums.roadbikereview.com

I am believe Carbon will give me a smoother more enjoyable riding experience and be the lightest option. If I am able to find a bike for under $2k that has decent components and a full carbon frame I will be happy.

Shimano Road Hierarchy Component Comparison

Now that I know what frame I am looking for I need to pick a component range to target. Based on the weight and performance characteristics after talking with other riders I am targeting Shimanon 105 (TIAGRA would be ok if I had to).

No.ComponentDescriptionLevel
1

Shimano 2300

Basic Road Bicycle component
Low cost
Also used on Road focussed Hybrids

Entry
2

Shimano Sora

Reliable Gear and Breaking system
Light Weight
Also ideal for Road focussed Hybrids

Entry
3

Shimano Tiagra

Light weight
Compact
Cost Effective

Mid Range
4

Shimano 105

Very Light
Exceptionally Smooth
Increased Durability

Mid Range
5

Shimano Ultegra

Hollow Crank arms
Improved pivots and springs

Intermediate
6

Shimano Dura-Ace

Equal shifting through range
Perfect accuracy while shifting

Pro

Full Carbon Road Bike with 105 Components for Under $2k Options

Now that I know what bike I am looking to buy I worked to find all the possible options that were available to me.

Option 1 – Local Bike Shop:

  • $1.9k pre tax for full carbon and mostly TIAGRA component group bike

Option 2 – Traditional Online Options

At this point I was getting concerned that my dream of a quality full carbon road bike with Shimano 105 or equivalent components for under $2,000 (all in) was not going to happen!

So I started doing some more research online about my options. It turns out that most carbon frames whether they are Specialized, Cervelo or other companies all come from a small group of Carbon Bike Frame manufacturers. So naturally being a frugal cheap individual I wanted to see my options of getting these direct from the factory. Or if I couldn’t get them direct at least from a middle man taking a smaller cut than a bike company with a marketing budget.

It turns out there are some options for carbon bike frames from the same factory as substantially more expensive bikes selling for a fraction of the cost.

Option 3 – Build it Myself (buy frame + components on ebay)

  • Cost = $1,100 = $500 frame + $600 105 components + $500 Wheelset + Other
  • Reviews – Mixed reviews about people’s success with these frames, there is a healthy discussion on doing this option which you can learn more about here.

However, not having built a bike before and wanting to get riding ASAP this idea seemed like it might be lot of work and there must be a business set up that does the arbitrage I am thinking of for a small fee….buying frames directly from the factory, assembling them as required and then selling them. A local bike shop could do this with its shop manpower whenever it is not working on customers bikes.

Option 4 – Online Retailer Assembling Non Branded Frames

This was the next option I considered, looking for online retailers that put together the complete package.

Quickly into my search I came across the bike offerings from BikeNashbar.com

Specifically…
carbon bike

This carbon bike offers full carbon frame with Tiagra and 105 components.

Or for a $500 upgrade you can go up a level to Ultegra Grouping

Final Carbon Road Bike Comparison Decision:

OptionOption NameCost (w Tax)FrameComponentsNegatives
Option 1Local Bike Shop$2,500Full Carbon105 / TiagraNothing under $2k
Option 2Traditional Online Retailer$2,250Full CarbonAll 105Unable to find anything under $2k
Option 3Build it myself$1,150Full CarbonAll 105Amount of time to build
Option 4Discount online retailer$1,200Full Carbon w 105 / TiagraConcerns about frame quality? Live Long Warranty

So in the end I decided to go with the full carbon Shimano 105/TIAGRA grouping bike from Bike Nashbar.

Determine Road Bike Size

Step 1 – Get My Dimensions

Get my measurements together…

  • Inseam = 30.5”
  • Height = 5’ 11”
  • Weight = 190#

Yup, I have short legs and a long back!

Step 2 – Check Sizing Charts

bikes geometry chart

Determining Your Road Bike Frame Size

Height
Inseam Length
Bike Frame Size
4'10" - 5'1"
25.5” - 27”
46 - 48 cm
5'0" - 5'3"
26.5" - 28"
48 - 50 cm
5'2" - 5'5"
27.5" - 29"
50 - 52 cm
5'4" - 5'7"
28.5" - 30"
52 - 54 cm
5'6" - 5'9"
29.5" - 31"
54 - 56 cm
5'8" - 5'11"
30.5" - 32"
56 - 58 cm
5'10" - 6'1"
31.5" - 33"
58 - 60 cm
6'0" - 6'3"
32.5" - 34"
60 - 62 cm
6'2" - 6'5"
34.5" - 36"
62 - 64 cm

Step 3 – Compare to Bikes I Tried at Bike Store

I was being put on both 54CM and 56 CM bikes depending on the bike.

Step 4 – Modify Sizing Decision Based on Reviews

BikeNashbar has some great reviews. A lot of them talk about the size of the bike and how it worked for them. I picked out as many as I could find that I thought were relevant for me…

Size Comparison #1

Looks like Medium should be close for me!
medium

Clearly Large would be to large
large

Size Small looks like it would be too small
small

More confirmation that Size Large would be too large
too large

This review has me concerned on the sizing – but considering the bike shop was fitting me at 54, 56 while this reviewer with the same inseam was on a 52
52-bike

Step 5 – Decide on Size

Based on everything above I have decided to go with a Medium.
We will see how it works.

Add Pedals and Water Bottle Cage

I needed to add Pedals and Water Bottle cage to complete my bike. To keep the theme consistent I went with Shimano 105 pedals on a 50% off sale and the Nashbar Comp Alloy Water Bottle Cage.

After considering the carbon water bottle cages the $/gram saved was way to much so the discount water bottle cages where definitely in line with my cheap lightweight road bike.
Shimano 105 Road Pedal

Water Bottle Cage

Water Bottle Cage

Bike Nashbar Order Process

I have ordered from Nashbar before and have never had issues. However, this time it turned into a bit of a pain! I was ordering online to Canada and I kept running into a variety of problems. Phone help was great and it took a couple of days for the order to finally go through.

Below is the pretty slick checkout process for nashbar…

checkout process for nashbar

checkout process for nashbar

checkout process for nashbar

checkout process for nashbar

Unboxing of Nashbar Carbon Road Bike

From the time the bike was ordered to the time it arrived at my door including cross border customs was under 5 business days!

I was very impressed with the speed of the delivery and as an added bonus it arrived on my birthday – nice gift to myself.

In the video below I show you the whole unboxing process…

How to Build a Road Bike Out of The Box

I have worked on my mountain bike for quite a few years but had never worked on a road bike so I was not too concerned about building it out of the box but I did wonder if there would be any small differences Mountain > Road that would mess me up.

Definitely the video below shows probably some small inneficiencies but overall the bike went together and works well!

How To Fit a Road Bike

Once I got it out of the box and assembled I followed the following 4 steps to get my fit close to right. Since I was fitting myself which isn’t ideal I figured I would get close and plan on carrying my multi-tool with me and making lots of adjustments to find the sweet spot.

Here is a great article I used to create the steps below from – Very in depth bike sizing article – http://www.bikefit.com/s-13-road-bikes.aspx

  1. Saddle Tilt – Start level and then adjust as needed – If your arms are sore/tired tilt the saddle up more – If your rear is sore tilt the saddle down a little more.
  2. Saddle Height – 27-37 degree angle when your peddle is at its lowest position. It’s important to make sure your hips don’t sway when pedaling.

    Saddle Height 27-37 degree angle

    (NOT ME!)

  3. Saddle Fore-Aft Positioning – When your crank arms are parallel to the ground a line down from your knee cap should be directly over the pedal axle. Adjust the seat accordingly to fix.Saddle Fore-Aft Positioning
  4. Handlebar Positioning – This is the harder to adjust item since there are so many variables at play. For road bikes the recommendation is to have a 90 degree angle at your shoulder and an approximate 15 degree angle at your elbow. See the image below…Handlebar Positioning

 

First Ride Review

My first ride is now in the books, the overall distance was only around

A couple stupid mistakes

  1. Dressed way to cold
    • I severely underestimated the cooling effect of the speed on a road bike and as a result definitely dressed way to cold
  2. Didn’t bring a multi-tool
    • After adjusting my seat while I was sizing it I guess I didn’t tighten it up enough so about 5 minutes into the ride my seat slid on me. So I had to turn around and go back (standing mostly) to pick up my multi-tool which I then used a lot to tweak my fit. I definitely recommend bringing a multi-tool on your first ride.

Some Surprises

  1. My Arms Hurt More Than My Legs
    • Clearly I have some more work to do on my sizing but my arms ended up hurting more than my legs so I adjusted the seat tilt to be more up and that will hopefully solve the problem.
  2. My knee felt great
    • I have had 2ACL reconstructions and I was concerned my knee would be bothering me…however everything seemed to be great!
  3. Fast!
    • of course I assumed it would be much faster than my mountain bike however I definitely did not expect the speed difference
  4. Breaks Aren’t very touchy
    • Because of my mountain bike’s hydraulic disc brakes I was expecting something much touchier…but they really weren’t at all. Which based on the speed and weight of the bike going ass over tea-kettle wouldn’t take much!
  5. Smooth Ride
    • Coming from a cushy dual suspension mountain bike I figured, based on my limited road bike experience, that I was going to get bounced around a lot. However, the carbon clearly absorbed a lot of the little stuff on the road and I am very happy to not get bounced around a lot.
  6. Responsive
    • The responsiveness of the bike was a lot more acute than I thought it would be. Again, I can’t really compare to other bikes but it definitely surprised me.

Overall Impression

Awesome value, fast shipping, great customer service, best in the business frame warranty and full carbon frame provides a smooth ride.

The sizing seems to be great with a Medium frame for a 5’ 11”, 190# and 30.5” inseam guy.

Assembling the bike was fast ~30minutes and packaging was all great. (see unboxing and assembly video)

I am definitely happy with the around $1k I saved compared to buying a similar bike at the local bike shop and looking forward to a summer of riding on this bike.

100 Mile Review – Still Coming

1000 Mile Review – Still Coming

All My Gear + Bike for Under $2k!

Since I had never road biked before I had to get all my gear from the ground up, for under $2,000 I was able to be fully equipped and riding…

NameItemPrice
Nashbar Tiagra/105
Carbon Road Bike

$999.99

Nashbar 105/Ultegra
Carbon Road Bike

$1499.99

Nashbar Carbon Cage

$4.99

VDO Cycle Computer
with Heart Rate and
USB Download

$49.99

Shimano 105 Road Pedals

$54.99

Exustar SR243
Carbon Road Shoes

$99.99

CamelBak Podium Big Chill
25oz Water Bottle

$12.99

Nashbar Essential Socks

$3.99

Canari Elite Pro Gel Shorts

$41.99

Canari Endurance Jersey

$34.99

Pearl Izumi Select Gloves

$13.19

Cavalo Forza
Road Bicycle Helmet

$49.99

Louis Garneau Pro 30
Seat Wedge

$9.99

Genuine Innovations Deluxe
Tire Repair and
Inflation Wallet

$22.59

Topeak The Mini 9-Function
Bicycle Tool

$13.24

Nashbar 55mm
Long Valve
Presta Valve Tube

$4.19

Photos By – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaydoubleyougee/