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What is the best handling bike, and why?(13 posts)

What is the best handling bike, and why?fbg111
Aug 8, 2002 4:47 AM
I understand that the shorter the distance between the wheels, the better the bike handles. What else contributes to handling? And what are some of the best handling bikes out there now? Are they all custom bikes, or Treks, Cannondales, Giants and others equally good?
I'm no expert but would imagine...jtferraro
Aug 8, 2002 4:55 AM
and have heard that compact frames(w/smaller rear triangles) sometimes handle a bit better. Giant's seem to have one of the smaller compact frames out there so I bet they handle quite well. Specialized probably ranks up there, too. However...sometimes bikes w/shorter wheelbases aren't as smooth at high speeds or that, plus the compact frame, can make them feel "twitchy". Again, this is just from what I'm heard/read, etc. I'm no expert...(yet). ;-)

re: What is the best handling bike, and why?jtolleson
Aug 8, 2002 5:57 AM
Depends how you define "good handling." Fast cornering will be a function of head tube angle and fork rake, but when done too aggressively will feel twitchy to the recreational rider. A short wheel base can make for a stiffer ride... is that always better? Hard to say. And a very aggressive design can produce excess toe overlap in certain frame sizes.
re: What is the best handling bike, and why?fbg111
Aug 8, 2002 9:01 AM
I mean cornering. And what's toe overlap?
re: What is the best handling bike, and why?jtolleson
Aug 8, 2002 10:31 AM
Toe overlap can result from shorter tt, steeper headtube, steeper fork rake. Ultimately, it means that your toe can make contact with your wheel when the bars are sharply turned (usually only an issue at slow speeds).

Best cornering. I will say that when I went to a much more aggressive front end I can't believe how much quicker my Seven turns than my old Litespeed did. But there's no one bike (or brand) that offers that; it is a function of geometry. Combine that with a quality fork and tires (you put a stiff/hard tire like a Specialized Armadillo on even a nice bike and it won't feel like it corners well).
re: What is the best handling bike, and why?RayBan
Aug 8, 2002 6:32 AM
The best handling bike will be the one that fits you best, and allows you to distribute your weight best. Someone already mentioned the angle characteritics so please see what they say about steep and shallow angles. As far as custom vs. production frames go, it depends on your body measurements.
Too many unknowns for a single answercory
Aug 8, 2002 7:19 AM
Everything you do to a bike (or a car, which is where most of my handling experience is) is a compromise--weight vs. durability, comfort vs. performance, whatever. You could come closer if you set some criteria: Best handling on smooth pavement, best on cobblestones, best for fast, sweeping turns vs. tight switchbacks; whatever.
In off-the-rack bikes, rider weight would probably be a factor, too--I assume they're designed for an "average" or slightly heavier rider (150-175 lbs??), and handling would suffer if you weighed 110 or 230. A bike custom-built for a single rider could take that into consideration with tubing selection.
This question brings up the old "trail" measurement...Djudd
Aug 8, 2002 8:09 AM
this seems to be currently out of favor. Maybe because fork rake is now obsolete on many bikes.
Clarification: Handling = turn radius and quick "dodge"fbg111
Aug 8, 2002 9:06 AM
Sorry for the vague question. What I meant by handling is, turn radius at higher speeds, and the ability to quickly dodge from side to side (don't know the correct word for that).

The reason I ask is b/c I almost hit an opening car door this morning, but was able to just dodge it. Scared the mess outta me. When I bought my bike, I was only considering fit, comfort, and adaptability, and didn't consider handling much. Now I see it's more important than I realized, and am curious what factors improve it.
Wheelbase, wheels and tiresLC
Aug 8, 2002 12:19 PM
Not much you can do about wheelbase except less rake on the fork. Lighter wheels will turn faster with the less rotating mass to fight to change direction. You still need tires that stick to the road too.
A Schwinn cantilever cruiser ...Humma Hah
Aug 8, 2002 9:23 AM
... is the finest-handling machine I've ever ridden, although I've seen several that were close. Early Fisher and Breezer MTB's were geometric copies of cruisers and were also sweet-handling. A number of older roadbikes also have similar geometry and handling. Many downhill MTB's retain this geometry.

The geometry responsible for the nice handling is fairly well-known: relaxed head angle and a long wheelbase. Short wheelbase does NOT, in my opinion, make for "good handling", although it depends on what you mean by "good". For me, it is a bike that easily tracks a straight line and doesn't get squirrley when it hits a bump.

For reasons beyond me, the modern trend is for steep steering geometry and short wheelbase, making a bike which has nervous handling. I find the newer geometries are not confidence-inspiring, and I can out-turn a new bike with the cruiser because I trust the cruiser more.
confidence = handlingDougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 10:32 AM
"Handling" is whether the bike does what you want it to do. Handling for a crit bike is going to be different than handling for a straight course time trial bike, a loaded touring bike, or track bike.

On a time trial bike, good handling means it's stable and allows you to stay on the aerobars and not weave around. For a crit bike, quick reflex and corning are more important. For a road race, a good over all combination of stability and corning are important.

For me, the best handling comes for a bike that gives me confidence. A solid frame, solid wheels, sticky tires, and good brakes and brake surfaces help a lot. If any of those items are lacking, handling will suffer even if absolute cornering ability might be good.

re: What is the best handling bike, and why?fbg111
Aug 8, 2002 3:27 PM
Thanks everyone. Obviously it's more complicated than I thought. Anyone know of any good sources of info about this - websites, books, etc.?