Looking for bike advice after a few failed bike shop trips - feeling lost, help!

Sorry about the title - I'll explain. I bought a bike 7 years ago. It was a specialized ariel with a step through that I probably bought in a bit of a hurry. I wanted something that could get me out and about, mostly down cycle paths/canal towpaths with the odd bit of road cycling. I've never felt comfortable on it - the positioning is incredibly upright, I'm too close to the handlebars even with the saddle all the way back on the rail and I get terrible wrist pain through feeling like I'm sat on top of the handlebars which has led to me not really riding it. I've recently got it serviced with the intention of getting a bit of confidence before I splash on a new bike but with it being so uncomfortable I can't face riding it. A few gravel bikes have caught my eye - I'm looking for something that I can steadily increase the mileage on and that has clearance for a slightly bigger tyre for trails (like the transpennine). I might even want to ride roads as I build confidence.

I've seen a cannondale topstone that I like the look of, and I popped into Giant today to have a look at the revolt but the guy was pretty off with me and tried to talk me out of that and tried to put me in the direction of something that looked like a commuter with big tyres and an upright position. He specifically said 'you'd be more upright' even after I told him that's not what I want. He also tried to steer me away from drop bars. So I've come away completely despondent, as tho cycling is some kind of elite sport that only experienced people can do and I'm close to saying bugger it and just not bothering with a bike at all. So I've come here to see if you helpful folk can offer me any advice or guidance on what style might be best for me.
I'm looking for something not super aggressive, but not bolt upright, something that is going to be comfortable for longer rides and probably something that has a bit more clearance for a tyre that's capable of going over crap unpaved surfaces and potholed surfaces. I also came across the liv avail which has clearance for a 38mm tyre with a wider gear range than a gravel bike.

Sorry for the long rambling post. Hopefully people will have a bit of advice. My other half just said 'ffs just buy a bloody bike and hit the road' but my mind doesn't work like that!


Ride It Like You Stole It!
South Manchester
Have a look at Planet X bikes. Their Space Chicken and Free Ranger is ace (yes that's what they are called). What's the budget ?


Legendary Member
Accra, Ghana
Hello and :welcome: to the forum.

The Ariel was a mountain bike. So now you're looking for something you can also use on/off road? A gravel bike should work well for you. The Revolt a good bike from the largest producer of bikes in the world. The Topstone gets good reviews too.
There are loads of options out there as this type is very popular. I suggest you read a few reviews and visit some bike shops to check out what's available. Sounds like you might have got poor advice on fitting last time so take particular care with the new one.

View: https://youtu.be/G7s1WXXg9WY
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If you like the look of Cannondale Topstone, then look for another store that has it. Probability of another condescending idiot of a staff should be low. Just read up on the geometry of the bike and do a bit of a research. There are couple of videos on bike set-up based on physical attributes. My last bike is a sportive as it is less aggressive.

After my first bike, the rest I bought online after doing my research and going thru numerous advices that I came across in this forum.

Good luck.


Legendary Member
Just go elsewhere...unfortunately bike stocks are low especially in popular 'average' frame sizes, so you may need to adjust your plans based on availability

The Merida gravel bikes and the Cube Nu Road do look rather spiffing as alternatives to the really big brands

You can make a too upright bike more aggressive by moving spacers, flipping stems, getting a longer stem, getting stems with less rise etc
But an Ariel is a suspension hybrid and will be more upright than many a roadbike for sure.

Do you need a women's specific bike as you need something smaller than that available in unisex or not? You also mention the Liv Avail...how tall are you?
Even if you are ok on a unisex frame size, budget for changing the saddle and potentially narrower drop bars

Just sell the Ariel if you really can't bear it, it's a good time to sell a bike with the warmer weather and longer days coming :okay: (and shortages in the shops and only high RRPs, no discounts due to shortages)
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The doitall style of multi surface drop bar bike is an excellent choice. With rack eyelets it makes a decent touring bike so insist on this feature.
There is no rule about where the drop bars must go in reach and drop. On any touring club ride you will see a huge variety of bar heights and reach.


Wheely World
Gravel bikes work well on or off road. Not as good as mountain bike on the very rough or technical stuff but much faster on road which is good for getting quickly between off road sections. On smooth or gravel off road trails they are very fast mine beats my XC hard tail easily. Compared to a road bike with 38mm or bigger tyres they are not as fast but a much smoother ride. Worth considering tyre clearance, gearing and if you have the budget hydraulic brakes are great off road as mountain bikers have used them for decades now. Some even have limited front suspension like the diverge which also helps reduce the bumps.


Is this a sizing issue or a bike genre issue? I've never yet ridden a bike I found uncomfortable because the position was too upright, but I have ridden bikes that were uncomfortable because they were the wrong size for me (by a large amount) both too large and too small.
Suspension bikes are best avoided irrespective of type or size, IMHO. The few times I have tried one (always of the cheap and nasty variety in my case), I found them all odd feeling machines with the front end bobbing - and I have no wish to repeat the experience.


Have a look at Planet X bikes. Their Space Chicken and Free Ranger is ace (yes that's what they are called). What's the budget ?
Good advice, Planet X is great value. They also do a very nice titanium gravel bike as well as the SC & FR. height dependent as all unisex, so no really small frames.
I'm 5 foot 8 with about a 30 inch inseam. Don't need women's specific really, it just caught my eye as its more of a road bike but with bigger clearance on the chance I ever want to cycle road, but if gravel can do that job then i guess gravel is a good shout. Went into Evans the other day which is where they had a topstone and the guy suggested I'd probably be a small/medium. Hopped on a medium pinnacle just to check sizing (their own brand I believe) and size wise felt OK.

I'll check out the planet x and cube bikes too, cheers. As for the sizing of my current bike I think it's the right height, it just feels v upright and I feel like a lot of my weight is on the handlebars. Did 26k a few days ago and the way back was awful - v sore wrists. I went in the shop when I got it set on a sirrus, but was talked out of it for something women's specific - I think he sensed a lack of confidence after admitting I was nervous having not been on a bike in years!

Evans said they'd be getting some topstones in the next couple of weeks. Are Evans alright? The ariel came from leisure lakes and I really wasn't impressed with my experience in Giant this afternoon. Any other shops that are decent? Online or otherwise!
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Oh, also - the Giant dude said that drops are hard to get used to and can be hard on the wrists. Whereas when I asked the Evans cycle guy he said that they take a little getting used to but he much prefers them. Are they tricky?


Well-Known Member
You mentioned a Liv Avail. My daughter has one, and it's a nice bike, and well specced. Not sure what max tyre size it will take, and that may have changed since she bought hers, but if it takes one wide enough, then I'd say take a look - assuming you can find one at the mo.


Legendary Member
Have a look at Planet X bikes. Their Space Chicken and Free Ranger is ace (yes that's what they are called). What's the budget ?
London Road a good option too if you’re happy with a single chain ring for a good price, a do it all bike rather than gravel per se. Pretty sure you can spec bar width too, maybe even crank length. They may not offer a petite frame though if under say 5’6

Ian H

I am an ancient randonneur, & I stop often for tea
East Devon
If you're below average height, finding a bike that fits can be more of a challenge. There are some options.
Have a look at Planet X bikes. Their Space Chicken and Free Ranger is ace (yes that's what they are called). What's the budget ?
Probably 1600 ish ceiling. The Topstone I looked at was 1650, but depends what I can get hold of I suppose. Will be on cycle to woke scheme so that should make things a bit more favourable :smile:
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