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Comfort Road and Cyclocross frames

Novara Buzz Road and Novara Randonee

I've been trying some road bikes out, looking for my road bike. I want to do it right, so I've been taking it slowly. I took a few more on Saturday out for test rides. I tried them all "the right way" where I wore my usual set of bike clothes and made the salespeople put on the right sort of pedals and adjust the seat height. For the more recent rides, now that I've got my Garmin 305, I started a new lap and put it in my jersey pocket so I could make sure that it really was faster and wasn't just feeling like it was faster for vaguely the same reason why a car with bucket seats feels faster than a car with a bench front and back.

The average road bike store out here carries three kinds of road bikes. There's a "Road" bike that's intended for the needs of a criterion or road racer, a "Tri" bike that's intended for a triathlete, and a "Comfort Road" bike that is a little less bumpy and a little more upright. In theory, these stores might sell a "Touring" bike or a "Cyclocross" bike. The salesfolk will generally gently explain to me that nobody buys touring bikes anymore and that nobody out here rides Cyclocross.

Previously, I had tried the Specialized Allez, which was a worthy bike but one where I felt I'd have to do something about the position of the handlebars. It's a "Road" bike. The Specialized Roubaix was more to my liking being a "Comfort Road", albeit well above what I'd like to spend at $3000. The hoods are exactly where I'd want them to be, such that I could easily cruise in the hoods and sprint in the drops and found it overall more ergonomic than my mountain bike flat bar with bar ends. They didn't have an Secteur bikes (being the bike with the same geometry as the Roubaix, just mostly Aluminum and more reasonably priced) in my size, but the Secteur does have mounts for a rack... it's just that it doesn't have any tire clearance. This is largely a stylistic point and it's entirely on purpose. They swoop the chainstays inwards and then outwards again when they could have just kept them straight (like some of the old road bikes I've seen people riding). This bugs me because even with 700x23 tires, there's no room for a fender. Pretty much all of the "Road" and "Comfort road" bikes are like this.

After doing some calculations based on the published bike geometries, I developed the vague idea that a cyclocross bike, in terms of most of the properties, ought to be a happy medium. The geometry is vaguely halfway between the comfort road bikes and touring bikes and it generally features generous clearance for fatter tires and fenders.

The manufacturers seem to realize this, which is why you notice that many low and mid end cyclocross bikes are built with mounting holes for front and rear racks. The big problem is that, for various reasons, largely having to do with jumping over stumps and being able to mount while using toe clips, the bottom bracket is fairly high.

Thus, after going to several bike shops, I've had one salesperson tell me that a Cyclocross bike was exactly what I wanted... except that they didn't have any in stock for me to try... and another salesperson tell me that I'd hate it because of how high the bottom bracket is. I did look up the geometry and found that it's lower than my mountain bike's bottom bracket drop, so I suspect this would annoy me were I to be used to riding road bikes much more than it would, given that the last time I rode a road bike for any amount of time was when I was in high school. Either way, it really is the case that nobody seems to have a cyclocross bike in stock around here, especially in my size. Thus, if I want to get one, I'd have to order it sight-unseen.

The other vote I've received from salespeople trying to figure out what the right bike is was that I want a touring bike. I'm not sure about this. The appeal of a touring bike is that they are built like a tank. The problem is that, as far as drop-bar bikes go, the Novara Randonee is only marginally lighter than my mountain bike and only a little bit faster. Perfect for a bike tour with a full load of gear, but less useful for a randonee where everything fits in either a trunk bag or a handlebar bag.

I also tried the Novara Buzz Road, which is a funky little beast. See, it's a drop-bar commuter, so it has disc brakes and more touring-styled geometry. It's lighter than the Randonee and a little peppier. It's got drops that curve outwards to give you a little wider positioning. It's also all-aluminum, including the fork. Despite being made entirely out of aluminum, even the fork, it's actually a smoother ride than the carbon-fiber Specialized Roubaix with the Zertz elstomer inserts, which I largely attribute to the longer wheelbase and 700x28 tires. Were I to not have a bike, I'd seriously consider getting the Buzz as my one bike. But there are a few things I'd want to swap out about it (largely, I'd rather it be lighter and not have disc brakes in the back and I'd probably still want a triple chainring)

My problem with both the Buzz Road and the Randonee from Novara is that they feel just a little too similar to my existing bike. My problem with the rest of the road bikes I've tried is that they feel a little too limited. While I may ride all summer with skinny tires and no fenders, I want the option of riding with medium-width tires and fenders.

What I think I want is either a cyclocross bike (which I've already mentioned requires me to order it sight-unseen) or a comfort road with a little bit more clearance (which probably doesn't exist at present) and I'm not particularly that much closer to an answer. In an ideal world, I'd probably have a room full of interesting bikes, but money and space constraints kind of get in the way of that.