Fast and long

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  • First attempt at a project post, but here goes...

    The background
    I got into riding long a few years ago, after chatting to someone about Paris-Brest-Paris at an otherwise forgettable city finance thing. Odd how you meet people.
    In 2018, I did my first 200k, which nearly killed me. I'm a slow learner, so I did another, just to be sure. The second wasn't so bad. Up to about 160k...
    In 2019, I did an audax super-randonneur series to qualify for PBP. Each ride was a voyage of discovery, mostly into "how not to ride...". I'm still not quite sure how I qualified, nor why I thought my "experience" qualified me to ride 1,200k around France.
    In short, I pi55ed around with different bikes and setups from lightweight race to touring. Mostly I chose different setups each time, or the wrong kit. I got bailed out a few times by kindly folks. Hopefully, I'm putting all this learning into this new project.

    PBP 2019 was just brilliant. I could write a bit more about it if folks are interested. I came back full of motivation to ride more, and ride a bit faster. I also couldn't walk, sit properly or use cutlery for a few weeks due to contact-point ailments.

    Since PBP I have mostly been racing long time trials and just riding long for fun. I've beaten 4h for 100 miles, which was a lifelong ambition, and I got around the Mersey Roads last year, which I was delighted with.

    The project goal
    I want a road bike upon which to ride long distances quickly. Mostly, these will be audaxes (and PBP 2023), but this bike might also have to double up as a spare for the national 24h TT.
    It will need to cover some easy bridleways/canals and some crappy roads, so I'm really wanting to run 28 or 32mm tyres.
    For both aero and comfort, I'll need aero bars. That's one thing I learned.

    I'll write a bit more about previous bikes (and things I learned) in a bit.

  • Good thread, will be following with interest.

    I’ve recently built up a bike for PBP 2023 and have now got it dialled in perfectly. I also briefly considered clip on aero bars, but have since decided that I (probably) don’t need them.

  • Interesting stuff!

  • Following. I need to upgrade myself rather than my bikes but I'm still interested in what others opt for.

  • considered clip on aero bars, but have since decided that I (probably) don’t need them

    If not, better be sure your bars/wrists/hands are comfy! Its one thing I toyed with before PBP 2019, didn't take and sooo wished I had. If you have them and don't use them as anything more than a hanger for a front bag/appendage for attaching lights, garmin and batteries, that's a win!

  • Have a follow, I'm always intrigued and intimidated by audax.

  • Aren’t there rules for aero bars in PBP? Something about the extensions not protruding further than the shifters or something?

    I’ll be riding fixed so comfort is the least of my concerns ;)

    Anyway, your project: are you going for a custom frame or OTP? Do you know what material you want?

  • Very interesting, I’ll be following

  • Condor Fratello is the thing

  • Aren’t there rules for aero bars in PBP? Something about the extensions not protruding further than the shifters or something?

    Yep, that's right. There are ways around it though; I'll try and post a pic of whatever solution I come up with.

  • Some previous rides

    I've been very lucky to have owned or ridden some nice bikes over the years, but these are the ones I have been riding most during my "long" years - and hence the ones that inform the project the most.

    Merlin CR works
    This has been my dry-weather, best summer bike for a few years. I've done a few 200kms on it, and I have really liked riding it; it feels light and efficient, handles well, climbs well, stable downhill. It built into a ~7.5kg bike. The geo is really nice, its a large, top tube 575, head angle 74, seat 73. I'd probably choose a head angle of 72-73 for longer distances; after 12 hours, I value slow, steady handling to match my progress!

    However, it has some limitations: I can't quite squeeze in 28mm tyres, and 25mm tyres aren't enough. There's no option for 'guards, although with these carbon rims, the brakes in the wet aren't inspiring. This is probably as much to do with the rims, but its enough to persuade me that the new bike has to have discs and clearance for much wider rubber; 30mm minimum.

    Aesthetically, this bike does not wear carradice well; Its a lightweight summer ride for upto 200k on dry days. As a result, this frame is up for sale, sadly (I'm up against a 1-in, 1-out policy).

    1 Attachment

    • Merlin CR 1.JPG
  • Genesis Croix de Fer

    This was the bike I did PBP on in 2019, and all the long rides (400s and 600s) in the build-up, although the spec changed for almost every ride in some way.

    Its more of a touring bike, I guess - even in its lightest form, its only just under 9kg. Its a 56, with 71.7 head angle and 73.5 seat. The handling is on the slow-and-steady side, which isn't exciting on short rides, but inspires confidence on long days and nights. Its at its best on long, flat rides where I can settle into a pace.

    With the slower geo, discs, guards, clearance for 40mm tyres and stainless 931 frame its been a brilliant all-year-round trucker. But on faster days, where I want to pick up the pace, it feels a bit too sedate. I want a half-way house between this and the Merlin, in terms of ride feel!

    For PBP, I had a seat pack, a frame bag, two 750ml bottles and a top tube bag. It wore the kit well.

    1 Attachment

    • Genesis CdF 1.JPG
  • Trek TTX

    Bit of an oddball; I have had this bike for nearly 20 years, bought when I first had a go at triathlon, and I had it set up in TT-mode for years. Is it Trek's first go at a full TT/Tri bike? An upgrade to a full TT rig led to this being chopped around in various states of trim, but this year I stuck some drops and tt bars on, just to see...

    And it was a bit of a revelation, to be honest. The geo is: tt - 550mm, head angle 73, seat angle 76. The tiny stack is a problem. The lack of tyre clearance also. Lack of storage options led me to get a bit creative with carbon both up-front and out-back. But it got me around a couple of dry 400kms this year, surprisingly well.

    It surprised me in how it rides; its quick, like the Merlin, but with slightly slower steering. Its efficient too; It holds its speed, and (maybe obvious for a TT rig) it feels good at higher speeds on the flat or even into headwinds. Its really comfy - probably one of the comfiest bikes I've ever ridden. I feel like I can ride all day on it (and into the night) without it beating me up.

    The brakes aren't bad; these light bicycle rims are miles better than the rims on the Merlin. But still, rim brakes, 25mm tyres, super-low stack... It was an experiment that worked, but not a long-term solution.

    Still, I think I learned some things from these bikes: I want handling that's somewhere in the middle of race and touring. Probably ~72-73 degree head angle (which is somewhere in the 55-65mm range). This seems to give the right kind of stable steering feel that I need when I'm covering a lot of distance, especially when I'm tired.

    I want something I can set up fairly aero, because I can feel the difference at 30kph between the TTX and the CdF, and I can feel the difference between the TTX and the Merlin, just at a higher speed (35kph maybe). The 400kms on the TTX were an hour faster (riding time) than the CdF.

    Comfort, maybe I'll save for tomorrow :-)

    1 Attachment

    • Trek TTX 1.JPG
  • Interesting, I've been tempted to try and turn my Cervelo P3C into a 'road bike'...

  • Interesting, I've been tempted to try and turn my Cervelo P3C into a 'road bike'...

    I'd say give it a try. Like my TTX, I think the P3C has good geo for this, but a short head tube/stack, so if you can make that work for you, great!

  • Seems like you are looking for a modern aero bike with some allowance for comfort, something along the lines of a Canyon Aeroad ?

  • Comfort

    Comfort is king in my long-distance world. Mostly, this seems to come down to tyres plus contact points for me. I was a complete mess after PBP last time. I did a write-up after the event and noted my ailments: my achilles tendons were agony, I couldn't walk for a week. My backside was as sore as you would expect after 72h in one pair of shorts. And I lost feeling in both hands, mostly my little and ring fingers. All these eventually got better after a month.

    I'd had a bike fit in advance of PBP. Although we made some tweaks afterwards, I don't think the position (saddle position, bar position) was to blame for the ailments. I have found some solutions and tested them since: aero bars relieve the hand numbness, even if I'm only on them for 30% of the ride. And midfoot cleats solve the achilles issues completely, however...

    So, I have always had some issues with calves and achilles since my running days, but I didn't expect them on the bike. The problems at PBP were a surprise. After a lot of reading around, I decided to try a midfoot cleat position (I shifted my Look Keo cleats back 15-20mm). This reduces the load on the calf a lot, at the expense of sprint power. And I had no sprint power anyway.

    I set about my shoes with a drill for the first attempt (and have drilled a lot of shoes since then, although I have discovered since). If anyone is seriously interested in how to do this, I could do a write-up. But midfoot cleats have been a big improvement for me in all my riding/racing. There's a draw-back; with my foot 20mm further forward, and 175mm cranks, toe overlap is a pain, so for this new project, I'm looking for a frame with a long front centre. 610mm or more would be ideal between the BB and front axle.

    2 Attachments

    • Cleat position 1.JPG
    • Cleat position 2a.JPG
  • I've been thinking about the same situation recently , fast and comfortable. Contact points is a big thing as you say as are fit and tyres. I think that a modern aero road bike with 32mm tubeless tyres , a comfy saddle , flared bars and mtb pedals with the cleats all the way back makes a lot of sense.

  • I think that a modern aero road bike with 32mm tubeless tyres , a comfy saddle... cleats all the way back makes a lot of sense

    I'm with you there, @Georghe
    There's a good few to choose from, but the toe overlap thing had me searching for the one with the best front centre. The Canyon Aeroad (L) comes out at about 601mm; I could use a bit more.

  • How much did you have to drop your saddle by after changing to midfoot?

  • How much did you have to drop your saddle by after changing to midfoot?

    Very good question. All else being equal, only a few mm (which is what I started with). But as I changed cleat position, I quickly learned that liked having my feet a bit flatter, so it worked out more like 10-15mm after a few weeks.
    I think I used my ankles quite a lot; now, I don't. For long endurance stuff, I think this is an advantage.

  • Choosing a frame

    So, from the geo of the CdF, TTX and Merlin, I have a shopping list for the new frame:
    Stack up to 605mm, 590mm would be ideal
    Reach up to 405mm. I can cope with a bit more, but that reduces stem length, which then quickens the handling, which isn't what I'm after. I want to run a 100mm -1200mm stem.
    Front centre above 605mm; any less and I kick the front tyre too often, and destroy guards.
    Head angle 72-73 degrees, trail 55-65mm
    Must fit 32mm tyres
    Must be disc-braked
    Ideally, I'm looking for a cheaper, Chinese carbon frame, because a) cost, and b) I'll be more willing to modify it later if it doesn't cost £££.

    So far, I've cruised for the numbers on:
    Giant Propel (fits, but expensive)
    Canyon Aeroad (front centre too short, I'll kick the front wheel)
    Trek Emonda/Madone (too steep)
    Trek Domane (too short/upright)
    Boardman SLR 9.8 (fits, but only in XL, which feels too big)
    Cervelo Soloist (fits well in a 58 - this would probably be my mainstream choice)
    Yeoleo R21 (fits but only takes 28mm tyres)
    Elves Eglath (and Winspace, and Trifox) (front centre too short, I'll kick the front wheel)
    SPCycle SP-053D (fits and the price is good; so that's what I'm getting)­w-t1000-carbon-road-bike-disc-frame-all-­internal-cable-700c-racing-bicycle-carbo­n-frameset-p4139463.html

    It will be my first brand-new bike in many, many years; and I now have my favourite task; writing the spec of everything to hang off this frame.


    This kind of thing crossed my mind (and browser) many years ago

  • Mine was a ~20mm drop and a few mm fore/aft change. Fucked if I can remember which way though. I'm going to go with ~5mm forward to open hip angle more but this was >10 years ago.

  • This kind of thing crossed my mind (and browser) many years ago

    I love it! It'd probably scare the living bejezus out of most of the audax community, which initself is a good reason to give it a go!

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Fast and long

Posted by Avatar for scarlet @scarlet