Race geometry vs. relaxed or endurance geometry?
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  1. #1
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    Race geometry vs. relaxed or endurance geometry?

    Let's have a discussion about bike frame geometry. When I first started looking at new drop bar road bikes, i thought endurance frame would be the way to go. (I'm in my mid 50's with a stiff neck and upper back from a lifetime of adventure and sports abuse). But, the more I ride my old vintage bike - the more I like the geometry.

    What are your experiences and preferences with bike geometry?

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    I started riding 10 months ago, and the last 3 months have been very limited. I went with relaxed geo based on the LBS recommendation. I am looking for exercise and fun, not racing. My back and hamstrings are very flexible. I can touch the floor with a closed fist. However, I should lose 25-30 lbs and I don't have nearly as much flexibility in my hip flexors or my neck. So 2 things happen when I am in the drops. First my neck and traps get fatigued very quickly. More importantly, I lose power. I have a hard time efficiently getting my thigh through the top part of the rotation. The very top and front on my hips get a good burn too.

    A this point, I am not sure getting a more aggressive geo would help me. I've read on this forum that the body takes a good long time to adapt and be more cycling efficient. If I lose the belly and strengthen and stretch my hip flexors I'd be open to a more aggressive geo if that type of bike can take bumpy roads just as comfortably as my relaxed bike.

    For some reason, my gut tells me that the two usually go together. More race oriented bike will be a harsher ride than the relaxed. But I don't see why it would HAVE to be that way.

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    Old bikes didn't really have much of a drop from the seat to the bars. How much is the drop between the two on your bike?

    Race bikes today are long and low. The endurance category is shorter and taller, allowing for more normal folk to not have to use a tower of spacers. There aren't any more goose necks and having the stem close to the head tube is best for safety and handling.

    If your lower back is fine, my intuition tells me you'd be better off with your back low and flat if your neck can handle it. Having it high and arched isn't going to be very nice. Back injuries are pretty hard to deal with in my experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnardone View Post
    For some reason, my gut tells me that the two usually go together. More race oriented bike will be a harsher ride than the relaxed. But I don't see why it would HAVE to be that way.
    Race geometry isn't necessarily harsh. There are many things that make a bike ride harshly and geometry is only part of the equation. Tire size has far more to do with it than you might think. Now I know a lot of professionals are certainly hard men but, they still ride racing bikes and they do it for much longer than the average amateur. You'd think they would have issues with a harsh bike and request something else. I have ridden both and I don't notice any real improvement in ride quality with a compact frame in fact it makes my hands numb faster. I do notice being more upright in the wind makes you slower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cnardone View Post
    For some reason, my gut tells me that the two usually go together. More race oriented bike will be a harsher ride than the relaxed. But I don't see why it would HAVE to be that way.
    Not at all. Try riding a beach cruiser with 23mm tires at 100 PSI then the same tires on a decent aggressive race bike and you'll quickly learn there's move to the ride being harsh, or not, than frame geometry.
    Race bikes tend to be a bit harsh because the current market buzz word is 'stiff' but there's not a reason a race geo bike can't be made smooth but using the proper tubes to get it that way.

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    Traditional geometry, before compact frames with slopping top tubes were a good hybrid between full race geometry and comfort. Then along come compact frames in limited sizes with short head tubes. The frames were no longer comfortable for many riders who were not as flexible. So now we see "endurance" bikes or "comfort" bikes whatever you want to call it with shorter proportions and taller head tubes.

    Bikes to me have become way to specialized, and I find myself hunting for a modern frame that most resembles the traditional frames I have always owned. Next time I buy, It will be along those lines. I don't want to make a bike fit by using really short or super long stems and spacers to get dimensions I already know work form me. Instead I will buy something that has geometry I have always used. I know with my current bike I can make a slight adjustment to the stem or spacers and go from racy to relaxed.

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    Technically, relaxed/endurance are race geometry bikes as they are designed for certain races.

    I don't do crits, so I'm not worried about maximized power transfer to the wheels and quick handling.... and some lower back and neck issues.... I like my endurance geometry bike, for the geometry and extra compliancy designed into the frame, fork, etc.

    If you can demo an endurance bike for a longer test ride, do it. Also consider a cyclocross bike as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent View Post
    Technically, relaxed/endurance are race geometry bikes as they are designed for certain races.

    I don't do crits, so I'm not worried about maximized power transfer to the wheels and quick handling.... and some lower back and neck issues.... I like my endurance geometry bike, for the geometry and extra compliancy designed into the frame, fork, etc.

    If you can demo an endurance bike for a longer test ride, do it. Also consider a cyclocross bike as well.
    I'm sure you know what's best for you and am not trying dispute it.....but for the benefit of discussion/info: It's definitely not a 'rule' that endurance/relaxed is better for back and neck issues. It likely is for a lot of people, probably a majority of them, but there are also many who's back or neck reacts better to being quite aggressively laid out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    Not at all. Try riding a beach cruiser with 23mm tires at 100 PSI then the same tires on a decent aggressive race bike and you'll quickly learn there's move to the ride being harsh, or not, than frame geometry.
    I totally understand. that is why I added that I don't see why it has to be that way.

    Of course this is coming from someone with very limited experience so I understand I've got a lot to learn. My first bike had 30's on it and the one I have now has 25's.

    As you note, combining the trend for stiffer, and my perception (probably not correct) is that a fair amount of race bikes can only handle up to 23mm tires, turns into a comparatively harsh ride. I've ridden 23s once and at 200lbs inflatted to 110PSI, it was really uncomfortable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cnardone View Post
    I totally understand. that is why I added that I don't see why it has to be that way. Of course this is coming from someone with very limited experience so I understand I've got a lot to learn. My first bike had 30's on it and the one I have now has 25's.

    As you note, combining the trend for stiffer, and my perception (probably not correct) is that a fair amount of race bikes can only handle up to 23mm tires, turns into a comparatively harsh ride. I've ridden 23s once and at 200lbs inflatted to 110PSI, it was really uncomfortable.
    -Sorry, I kind of missed that part of what you said.

    -not at all, I think you perception is pretty much right on.

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    Many new race bikes can handle wider tires. Many pro racers are using 25mm or wider tires, and the frames are following suit.

    "endurance" frames are usually made to not only put the bars closer and higher, but to have a softer ride than race frames. But they can be more than stiff enough for racing. When the Specialized Roubaix came out some of the pro racers sponsored by Specialized liked it so much they raced on it all year, not just at Roubaix.

    The OP's not said what kind of riding he wants to do. That will have a large effect on what type of bike to get. The comfort required for riding centuries is different from doing 40 mile fast club rides.

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    I went from a Trek 5900sl to Time VXS and now have a Domane. I cannot say one is faster than the other...damn engine is the same. I can say that they are listed in increasing order of comfort.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue CheeseHead View Post
    I went from a Trek 5900sl to Time VXS and now have a Domane. I cannot say one is faster than the other...damn engine is the same. I can say that they are listed in increasing order of comfort.
    And makes the point. The one that you ride the more/most will have you in the greatest fitness/shape. ;)

    Who will be more fit and faster, the rider with 1000 miles on the new $12k bike, or the rider with 3-4k on the $1500.00 bike? $750.00 for that matter...

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    I bought my Domane mainly for the gearing and relaxed fit, and the IsoSpeed Technologyat least to start with. I've found after six weeks of riding it typically 100 miles plus a week that I want to raise the seat and probably get a longer stem. Right now when I'm warmed up after riding a bit I find that my upper body especially my back likes be as far back on the saddle as practical and my hands all the way up to the hoods. I'll first ride the bike with the raised seat for a month or so to see how that feels or affects my comfort and if I still want to stretch out more I probably will increase the stem.

    I also this coming Tuesday am upsizing the saddle from the stock 138mm to a 148mm same saddle. (I'm a big guy.)

    In the long run everyone is different and has individual needs and no one size fits all. Also over time as mentioned your body changes or never gets comfortable with what you originally set up and you have to make appropriate changes.

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    My Domane is set up to the same dimensions as my VXS. Pretty much my stem is slammed down to the headset on the Domane. The VXS is a great frame, but I got a screaming deal on the Domane. The IsoSpeed, longer wheel base and 11 speed are key reasons it is now my main ride.

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    At age 66 and with a ruptured disc in my neck 8 years ago, it's gotta' be relaxed geometry for me. I ride a Mercx and Rivendell, both with 72* seat tube angle. On steeper frames I find that I have to use my arms on the bars to keep my torso up. A more relaxed frame allows me to take that weight off my arms.

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    If you are undecided between the two, for consideration: Its a lot easier to get and endurance geometry frame set up racey than visa-versa without looking goofy. There's been some pictures of racey bikes set up for endurance fits on here that about made me puke.
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    I am on the phone everyday discussing this with my clients. It's all about saddle height over handlebar height x reach and where you fit in. I think it's a frame by frame discussion and not endurance vs race.

    We normally look at saddle height and handlebar drop, then transpose onto the frames we are looking at and calculate exposed seatpost height and how many spacers we are going to need with a particular stem.

    Following 3 ideals we can make a firm decision. 1.Comfort = speed. 2. It the setup looks good it rides good. 3. No cyclist wants to buy less speed.

    I have mostly race bikes but one of my bikes that fits me best and looks best is an endurance bike that's a little big for me. It;s got a sloping geo and a tall headtube but I have it set up like a race bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    There's been some pictures of racey bikes set up for endurance fits on here that about made me puke.
    Are you talking about this?

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    One thing to consider is that back in the day people rode frames that were larger then those of today. So you could measure the top of the saddle to the floor and the top of the handlebars to the floor and subtract the difference. You may find 50 to 60mm of difference on your old bike. A modern road performance bike can have 100mm difference and the endurance bike about 80mm. These numbers are speculative and you would have to measure some bikes to find out the real deal. My son has a Caad 10 and he has about 110mm of drop. On my Lighthouse custom build bike I have a longer head tube and have 80mm of drop. I could take out a 10mm spacer and make it 90mm of drop but I am good at 80mm. I am older then you but I do not have a stiff neck or back. I am not a performce cylist and just ride for fun and fitness and cannot win a race or be KOM of anything.

    Since you have a stiff neck as you say you should consider that the more handlebar drop you are riding on the more you have to hold your head up. Only you can tell where your limitation is.

    As far as performance between the two styles of road bikes it's hard for me to say. Basically on an ordinary guy out for a bike ride there would be little to notice.

    As always go out and ride some bikes and decide what will work out for you.

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    What year, brand, and model of vintage bike do you have? This will explain why you like it and help us guide you toward something similar in a modern bike.

    I think you either have sport or touring geometry bike because I have some very stiff steel vintage bikes that I think you wouldn't like with your neck the way it is.

    And as BikeLayne said above you should consider getting a bike that has handlebars that are even with the seat in height which is what most touring bikes will do. A touring bike vs a sport bike is just words thrown around, it depends on the manufacture what they want to call the bike frame, but both names describes a relaxed geometry frame; however usually, though not always, an endurance frame is more for long distance racing and thus not as much comfort as a touring or sport bike but more than a road bike. In the vintage days I would liken an endurance bike to a sport frame which had a geometry in between a road and a touring frame. I like the way the vintage days labeled the frames, it was less confusing with a lot less blurring of the lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    I'm sure you know what's best for you and am not trying dispute it.....but for the benefit of discussion/info: It's definitely not a 'rule' that endurance/relaxed is better for back and neck issues. It likely is for a lot of people, probably a majority of them, but there are also many who's back or neck reacts better to being quite aggressively laid out.
    When I started riding road it was because of a torn labrum in my hip sustained from running. It was wreaking havoc on my back. My lbs suggested a relaxed frame geo and I bought a Felt Z series bike. It was fine and I liked it but when I was looking for a new bike, I discovered that a traditional geo was much more comfortable for my hip and back. My hybrid that I tool around on has always been good but after 15 minutes it kills my back. I can ride my road bike for hours and I am fine. Don't just assume relaxed geo is better for your back. Read these boards and you will find that it is logical but not always true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CliveDS View Post
    I am on the phone everyday discussing this with my clients. It's all about saddle height over handlebar height x reach and where you fit in. I think it's a frame by frame discussion and not endurance vs race.

    We normally look at saddle height and handlebar drop, then transpose onto the frames we are looking at and calculate exposed seatpost height and how many spacers we are going to need with a particular stem.

    Following 3 ideals we can make a firm decision. 1.Comfort = speed. 2. It the setup looks good it rides good. 3. No cyclist wants to buy less speed.

    I have mostly race bikes but one of my bikes that fits me best and looks best is an endurance bike that's a little big for me. It;s got a sloping geo and a tall headtube but I have it set up like a race bike.
    That makes sense. Very interesting post. Are you a professional fitter? In regards to what you said here, what about the issue of wheel base differences? Thinking about it for a moment, I assume wheel base is a handling difference, not really fit/comfort issue - True?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shuffleman View Post
    When I started riding road it was because of a torn labrum in my hip sustained from running. It was wreaking havoc on my back. My lbs suggested a relaxed frame geo and I bought a Felt Z series bike. It was fine and I liked it but when I was looking for a new bike, I discovered that a traditional geo was much more comfortable for my hip and back. My hybrid that I tool around on has always been good but after 15 minutes it kills my back. I can ride my road bike for hours and I am fine. Don't just assume relaxed geo is better for your back. Read these boards and you will find that it is logical but not always true.
    I found the same thing to be true after riding my vintage road bike for a few weeks in a row. Went back and rode my hybrid for a couple of rides and my neck and upper back really started hurting. Then, went back to my road bike and it was like therapy.

    Quote Originally Posted by froze View Post
    What year, brand, and model of vintage bike do you have? This will explain why you like it and help us guide you toward something similar in a modern bike.

    I think you either have sport or touring geometry bike because I have some very stiff steel vintage bikes that I think you wouldn't like with your neck the way it is.
    My bike is a 1987 Centurion Dave Scott Ironman, that I rebuilt. It was in boxes in my garage. I've lowered the handlebars a small amount vs. what's shown in the photo.

    Centurion Iron man daytime after first real road ride.jpg
    Last edited by mm9; 03-29-2015 at 08:02 PM.

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