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thoughts on the differences, or lack thereof, between bikes(24 posts)

thoughts on the differences, or lack thereof, between bikesET
Aug 8, 2002 12:36 PM
Remember the old days, when we used to debate here with authority which bike really was better, i.e., that it theoretically, at least, would offer better performance and improved times? Stiffer, more compliant, superior welds, cold-worked, blah blah blah. Now we've had to mature in the face of direct evidence. OCLV is just cheap underperforming carbon? Yeah, tell that to Lance & Co. You're a Fred if you have loads of spacers, which also leads to less solid steering control? Check out Lance's setup. Vortex 6/4 is the only worthy Ti? Others were used with success. Those 3-size-allegedly-fit-all ugly TCRs with ugly sloping top tubes can't possibly compete well? Look how well they did in the last TDF (but they're still ugly :-)). Yes, we have matured.

It's not that all bikes are exactly equal, and there are other things in a bike to take pride in. But speed and performance are so high up on the list that the others take a back seat. It sure would be boring if we all rode TCRs (did I mention ugly :-)), so I'm not advocating that by any means, but it sure seems clear that given two high-level bikes appropriate for the given occasion, get set up right on them and there is for the most part a negligible difference between them.

To me, this removing of a bike's aura is both demoralizing and enlightening at the same time: demoralizing because it takes away the owner's joyful fantasizing and pride: "Even though I can't or won't, if I only trained harder, rode more, shed 30 pounds and 10 years, this bike woulda coulda shoulda really blown everyone away!"; enlightening because you don't have to spend an exorbitant amount to get essentially the same performance.

So-called reverse snobbery posts ("On my P.O.S. I passed someone riding a Colnago!!!) come up now and then. I personally feel the reverse snobs should now be given more slack, for, like it or not, their position has gained ground. Be free to call buying a $5000 bike the joy of cycling, but with the aura removed of how superior their bike supposedly is but never was, and given that most of us are not fabulously wealthy, the justification for buying such a bike, whether to oneself or to others, has suffered a major and probably permanent setback.
????? (nm)onespeed
Aug 8, 2002 12:46 PM
ET, you are blowing right by two, I think, massive truths,bill
Aug 8, 2002 1:17 PM
One, some bikes are better than others. They are. It's not just about "speed or performance," which are really too general to be meaningful, because they depend on the combination of rider, bike, and circumstance, but it's about comfort, and weight, and durability, and aesthetics, and handling. Can bikes without these characteristics in measure equal to others be ridden fast? Yeah; the distinctions are often enough subtle, but they're there.
Two, the real issue is that different bikes do different things. "Performance" has no one meaning. Do I want to tour, or track ride, or crit race, or climb? Am I tall, short, fat, thin, powerful, fast? And on and on.
Look, let's take maybe an extreme, maybe even a ridiculous, but still instructive, I think, example. Are some hammers better than others? You know, you can buy a hammer for about $4, and you can buy a hammer for 5 or 6 times that or more. To me, it makes no difference. To a carpenter, who may have a bunch, depending on whether he's building a cabinet or a house, who uses them all day, every day, it may make a huge difference. Not to say that either one of us couldn't use any one of them and still bang a nail. Some are just going to better for certain jobs than others, and some are just going to be better.
not reallyET
Aug 8, 2002 1:32 PM
1. Sure, some bikes feel better than others, but again, given the perceived greatness of whatever quality in one very expensive bike, you can find another bike offering just about the same, with only negligible differences. Of course, you're picking something more subjective by nature, so you can disagree, but does a cheaper but high-quality carbon frame really feel like a rock or a dud compared to the C-40? Go ahead and answer yes if you like. And you certainly can't compare the nostalgia between two bikes; that's easily worth the 2.5 grand diff alone.

2. Concerning different bikes doing different things, I already addressed this by saying "given two high-level bikes appropriate for the occasion, get set up right on them and there is for the most part a negligible difference between them." It still stands.
Let's start with the philosopher's primary directive.bill
Aug 8, 2002 2:10 PM
Define your terms.
Then, when the terms are defined, let's define the question.
Because I don't get it.
You seem to conclude that because different high-end bikes can get to more or less the same, the same, the same, um, what? I'm not sure, using different design characteristics, etc., at maybe different price points, all bikes are the same?
I don't get it.
It's a little bit of an inane debate, because you seem to be the only one who is disappointed to learn that there isn't one best. The rest of us are happy to crow about our choices, because it's fun, knowing that there are, indeed, more pretty girls than one.
significance?DougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 1:28 PM
First, there certainly are differences. Some are faster, some more durable, some more comfortable, some differences are aesthetic, snob appeal, or reverse snob appeal.

Are those differences, then, significant or important? Hey, that's up to each of us. That's what makes for good debate.

As to pros winning on "anything," that's possible. Lance may win on a Trek. But, who knows, could he have been a little faster on something else? The issue is not whether a rider could win on any certain bike, the real question is could that rider have been faster or slower on another bike? I'm not going to break an hour any time soon for a 40k on my Cervelo TT bike; however, I will be faster on that bike than on my Bianchi EV2. Isn't that the issue?

Doug
As my wife says...filtersweep
Aug 8, 2002 2:14 PM
I've "warned" her that I'm shopping for a new bike. I already have three, two that I never ride anymore, but aren't worth selling, if you know what I mean. An extra wheelset is in the front coat closet. A spare cassette lies is some drawer in the living room...

Anyway, I've also warned her that I'll be spending quite a chunk of money on this bike. Her question, of course, is when I will "need" yet another new bike. When does it end? When is good enough, good enough?

I probably can't afford full Dura Ace... the frame is the main thing I want to upgrade. Whether I "need" DA or not, how long will I be happy with Ultegra? There are so many pitfalls and compromises based on budget when it comes to a bike.

Regarding "the owner's joyful fantasizing and pride"- how long does this actually last? It seems to lose its luster quite quickly, and I'm not sure why. Part of the issue is that "buyer's remorse" is a more thorny issue than when buying a car. It is much easier to test drive a car, and truly judge its performance than with a bike. I'd need a bike for an entire weekend to even begin to understand if it were worth buying.

Add how EVANGELICAL owners are about their rides (except for aluminum... no offense)- people who swear by steel, Ti, carbon... it is easy to feel that the grass is always greener. Then you toss some of these TDF frames that are actually affordable by many people into the fray.

Would a postal OCLV frame have more snob appeal if it cost twice what it currently does and had a "cooler" paint and logo theme? Or if Trek made them in Italy? Would a compact frame look much more asthetically pleasing if US Postal rode them? If a C40 were manufactured in Taiwan, yet had the same quality and price, how would people respond? If Campy were Japanese?

These things end up being emotional issues- like discussing religion and politics- it seems impossible to have a reality-based discussion. Flame wars erupt. Everyone has a different agenda, different purpose, different budget, different sense of style.

The one set of constants seems to be that many people suffer from "gear envy" in one form or another.
gear envy?DougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 2:33 PM
I like that. I win (or tie) -- 30.

Doug
gear envy is related to gear porn - nmMJ
Aug 9, 2002 8:44 AM
significance?Leisure
Aug 9, 2002 10:06 PM
I think Lance could have won the TDF this year on just about any $500+ road frame assuming it was properly equipped and didn't fail. Cannondale, Colnago, Litespeed, Giant, Seven, GT, Lemond, Airborne...you name it. Just visualize Lance on any of those bikes and it makes the bike sound better. Remove his name from Trek, and all of a sudden...you have a Trek.
re: thoughts on the differences, or lack thereof, between bikesyeah right
Aug 8, 2002 2:01 PM
I guess I'm missing some of the point of this post, but I'll argue that it's fairly widely accepted that no one frame or material is inherently better than others, and most people would agree with that. As with all things we pay for small differences when we move up the quality chain. An $8k Kia, a $12k corolla and a $32k bmw 3 series are fairly similar cars, with only a few seconds separating them in performance 0-60. The bmw isn't 3.5 times as good as the kia, but if i had the money, i'd get the bmw without more than a second thought, call me what you will.

The same applies to bikes. a c-40 isn't twice the bike that a caad5 is, but for most people (c-40 wouldn't work for me) they'd get the c-40 if they had the money. it isn't quite frankly, all about speed and performance, it's about comfort for me, at least partially, although i do enjoy speed.

maybe i'm just the kind of person you're protesting to, but next time i'm on the bike market, i might go custom ti, not because it would make me faster, not because i'd perform better on it than a tcr, but for a host of other reasons. quality doesn't always show up on a 40k time, but it sometimes does last longer, give you peace of mind and also give you comfort or whatever else you desire in a frame. my buddy rides a cinelli supercoursa, and fwiw it rides probably fairly similar to my waterford, however, his finish is chipping, and the construction tolerances aren't as good, and that's not just subjective. my frame isn't twice as good, but i'd take it any day over his. it won't stop a guy on a nishiki from passing either of us, and that's fine too.
Uh - I guess you could argue...Spoke Wrench
Aug 8, 2002 2:30 PM
that all women are functionally the same too.
oh, my; don't go there nmDougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 2:34 PM
I hasten to addSpoke Wrench
Aug 8, 2002 2:38 PM
that I personally DO NOT hold that position. My wife is charming and wonderful in every way. Clearly high end.
What about maintainence cost?shortstroke
Aug 8, 2002 3:11 PM
Those high end models usually have a high maintenance cost associated with them. I know, I have one too. ;)
Au contraire!Humma Hah
Aug 8, 2002 3:14 PM
My high-end model earns more than I do! She's also a better money manager, and since we hooked up, I've always had more money to spend.

We've been married for 21 years, ten years less than I've kept the old bike. I like 'em both, quirks and all. I think I'll hang on to them forever.
What about maintainence cost?shortstroke
Aug 8, 2002 3:32 PM
Those high end models usually have a high maintenance cost associated with them. I know, I have one too. ;)
Love is the delusion that all women are not alikeCrankist
Aug 9, 2002 8:32 AM
-Gloria Steinem 1971, (not)
Armstrong's bikes are only about 30% better than my cruiser ...Humma Hah
Aug 8, 2002 2:42 PM
... in all of the important performance characteristics. Yes, my cruiser weighs about 2.5 times as much as a good roadbike, but combined with the overall weight the climbing performance is not all that much worse. The tires are draggier but the weight/drag ratio of the cruiser is actually slightly better than a roadbike. The aerodynamics are worse while pedaling, but only by a couple mph at typical power levels.

By those same measures, the bikes most of you guys ride are probably at least 98% at good as what Armstrong rides.

I know the rate at which a top TDF rider can climb a hill. I know the rate at which I can climb a typical hill. The TDF riders have about three times my power output, and they do it all day.

Lance is right: "its not about the bike."
That's like sayingDougSloan
Aug 8, 2002 2:57 PM
...oxygen is 30% better than carbon monoxide. :-)

Doug
I was trying to figure how he calculated the 30%Spoke Wrench
Aug 8, 2002 3:01 PM
If he had a "Fun Quotient" in the equation, Humma's cruiser would probably calculate out to be at least 30% better than Lance's Trek.
That's why I ride it, of course ...Humma Hah
Aug 8, 2002 3:09 PM
... the fun, and the fact that its not really 2.5x harder to ride than a roadbike, and pretty close to a typical MTB.

The 30% figure came from a lot of number-crunching I did at the Analytic Cycling website, several measurements of drag using my terminal velocity on known grades run thru those calculations, actual measurements of relative speed (I don't do 5-hour centuries but I don't exactly finish LAST, either if there are more than 5 riders). The 30% number kept popping out of those calculations.
Yes, there are differences!AaronL
Aug 8, 2002 3:46 PM
I have two top-end bikes, a Bianchi EV2 and an SWorks E5 Specialized. The Bianchi has full dura ace, the S5 has Record. Both fit me darn near perfect. One would think that there would no differnce in the manners of the two bikes, but that's not the case.

The Specialized is just scary on downhills, it's really twitchy. I find myself getting dropped on the downhills with the Specialized because it simply does not feel stable. The Bianchi, however, is rock-solid stable on the downhills and I can push my limits on the downhills with the thing.

Both are aluminum bikes with carbon forks, similar geometry and I've even swapped wheelsets to compare. Same thing, the Specialized is just downright unstable on downhills.

So, yeah, it's not just subtle differences between bikes. There can be major differences in bikes, that on the outside, seem quite similar.

That Specialized is a rocket on the flats and climbs, though. :)
The rider makes the bikePODIUMBOUNDdotCA
Aug 8, 2002 3:57 PM
Ultimately no matter what you can't argue that the rider makes the bike. As long as a frame isn't a wet noodle it won't change this. However, this is not to say at the higher levels of racing aero wheels and frames do make a difference, because they do. But it doesn't mean it wouldn't stop them from not whooping us if we ever raced them.

Cheers,
Nick
PodiumBound.ca