Is there an industry definition of “long distance mile muncher” I’m in the market for a new bike and believe that comfort is key but still enjoy going as fast as I can. I typically ride 3 times a week, 60 to 100km per ride. Would I benefit from the additional comfort and compliance or lose pace given the distances I cover?
Depends on what you mean by comfort and how you achieve it. If you mean a much more upright position, then yes, it can cost you significant time. If you mean a more comfortable, all-around frame vs. an aero road bike, you won’t give up much time.
The endurance category (or older person’s bikes) fit exactly that niche–Cannondale Synapse, Scott Addict (not Addict RC), etc. I ride a Scott Solace (I think Scott decided that Solace was too soft a name, so they renamed it the Addict and designated the original Addict as the Addict RC). These bikes are similar to their race frames, but sit up a little higher, are often a bit more compliant, etc. Apologies if you already know all this.
I’ve seen a lot of manufacturers claim that you will be faster if you are more comfortable on rougher roads because a wider tires and a more compliant frame and seat post are less fatiguing, but I haven’t seen any data to back it up.
On the other hand, it’s certainly more enjoyable if you aren’t being beaten up by a stiff frame and skinny tires on bad roads!
I ride a Canyon Endurace, which is a bit more upright than most race bikes (although not by a whole lot) and the ride is a huge improvement over my old bike on the lousy roads in my area.
I’d say that 60-100km rides can be done on any old bike as long as it fits. I’ve happily done 200km audaxs on a slammed CAAD 12.
For me it’s the rides when you’re on the bike the whole day, so in my case 300km+ when I start hankering for some additional comfort that can be provided by wider tyres, a more compliant seat post etc.
So honestly, if you are in the market for a new bike I’d suggest seeing a bike fitter first if you have a good one in your area and see what type of bike they’d suggest. The right fitting bike will make you more comfortable and faster.
Comfort on the bike is mostly about fit and contact point. As long as the fit is ok, you have a good bibs, a saddle that works well you should be comfortable for long hours with any bikes fitted with 28 or 30mm tires.
Letting a few psi out of your tires makes a much bigger difference than a frame, handlebar or seatpost swap and the good thing with modern disc braked bike is they all have clearance for 30 to 32mm tires which allows you to dial pressure more finely without increasing too much rolling resistance.
When I bought my last bike, I’d had my eyes on an endurance-type bike, like a Domane or Roubaix. When I test rode a Roubaix, I thought, this is really comfortable! Then I tried a standard lightweight bike, and the handling felt so much more lively, so much more fun to ride. Just zippier.
The bike shop made the case that a racier bike could be fit to be in a comfortable position (relatively upright), so you could get the weight, aero, and handling benefits of a lightweight bike, with some of the comfort of an endurance bike. Of course, you don’t get the vibration-dampening or capability for big tires that come with an endurance bike (but these days, you can usually fit at least 30mm tires).
I went with that (a Cannondale SuperSix), and have been very happy with it on long rides.
One other point- in my experience, the best solution to riding discomfort (assuming the bike fits well) is exercising off the bike. I do pilates regularly, and when I started that, back and shoulder pain I’d experienced went away. And when I stopped pilates, it came back.
I feel the need to react on this.
Being upright do not universally equal to more comfort. An upright position will lessen the pression exerced to your wrist/hands but increase the pression on your butt and your back. The more upright you are, the more padding you need on your saddle.
I tend to feel better if my weight is correctly balanced between the upper and lower body part and if I can stretch my back and thus I feel way better with my back in a more horizontal position.
YMMV of course.
Not necessarily…but it can heighten the need for a saddle that fits properly.
Most people don’t realize how much more comfortable a proper, more horizontal position can be. As noted, your weight is better balanced and it makes for a more stable and comfortable position.
I recently had to rent a bike in FL when my bike was damaged in transit. Knowing stock stems are WAY too short for me, I sized up to a 56 to get more reach and the stem was still too short (but better). By the end of my rides down there, my arms were killing me trying to hold my position up.
A couple of years ago, I did the TrainerRoad Traditional Base High Volume program in the fall / early winter…and I purposely set my TT bike on the trainer for it because it was the most comfortable bike based on position for me. And I have a very low, aero position…but I can ride in it all day long with no issues.
Don’t discount the value of good bibs, gloves, and shoes in dialing in your comfort.
My suggestion for long distance comfort is getting a TT bike. I find the hip angles super comfortable and instead of supporting yourself on squishy hands, you do it with stable elbows. Plus all the other kids are going to think you’re cool as F***!
You can quantify the upright-ness of a bike’s position as the stack/reach ratio. At 1.4, you’re in a relatively racy position. 1.5 is relatively upright, what you’d see on an endurance bike. I’ve got a bike with a 1.49 ratio, and indeed, it is pretty upright. I’m sure there are ways to calibrate compliance, but I’ve never seen it in the cycling press, and the idea seems fraught with difficulty. In any case, tires do almost all of the work there, and happily, more and more road bikes will fit tires of 30 mm or so. If you’ve been riding on 23-mm tires, 30 mm will seem very plush.
If your typical ride is 100 km, you don’t need a dedicated long-distance bike IMO, although as we get older, we lose flexibility and want a more upright bike. Randonneurs—who ride 60 km before breakfast—do ride in very upright positions, often with their stem above their saddle nose, but they also tend to be older.
Really depends on which randonneur you’re talking about.
As others have said, if you’re talking about 50-100km, you generally don’t need a specific long-distance machine. As you start to tack on the miles from 200km on, you will start to adjust your equipment to meet your needs. Until then, find a bike you specifically find comfortable.
Again, as others have said, what’s probably more important are going to be the contact points once you get the fit dialed in. Can’t imagine doing long distance without a good saddle, good handlebars, and a good set of shoes.
This isn’t a bad metric, but it only really gives you useful info if you’re roughly a 53-56. As the stack of all bikes increases more quickly with size than reach, bigger bikes appear more upright than smaller ones kind of regardless. Of course, if 2 bikes are the same size, it’s useful info, but as there’s no standard sizing (Cannondale 54>Ridley 54> Trek 54) you’d need to look at the geo table quite closely.
Having a good ish idea of your ideal bar x and y, and using something like bikegeo, tends to give a better indication.
But then one person is usually comparing bikes of same-ish sizes, so the stack-reach-ratio a rider looks at is attributed to the person and you look for a bike that gives this ratio.
I’d look at my present stack and reach, look for a bike in the ballpark and go from there. The ratio is then used as a secondary decision metric.
STOP Measuring Your Bike and START Measuring Your Position! - YouTube (Lee knows what he’s doing btw).
This is an excellent way of mapping one bike’s position to another. While the numbers don’t exactly translate, you can use Frame Comparison in conjunction to check in advance.