Technical terms - please explain

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by caz, 22 Jan 2008.

  1. caz

    caz Well-Known Member

    West Midlands
    Ok guys and gals. As a relative newbie to cycling (I've been cycling on my Trek hybrid for over 2 years) I'm looking to get a road bike but I'm confused by all the jargon. Can you explain

    1. What a compact frame is? Do I need one?
    2. What's the difference between a compact chainring and say a triple?
    3. What's the difference between Shimano Sora, Tiagra, Ultegra and 105? Which is better?

    I'm 5ft 6 with a 31" inside leg, female with a £500-600 budget. What would you recommend? I'd like to be able to fit mudguards (I know you can get raceblades but not so sure about them!)

    Any help would be much appreciated.
  2. gbb

    gbb Legendary Member

    Compact you dont need one.
    Compact chainring will be a double with say a 50t outer and a 34T inner. A good range, but a large gap between them...not always easy to switch between them on the move.
    The range, starting at the bottom goes..
    105 then

    Sora is fine on a starter bike. Very reliable and useable.

    £500 to £600 wil get you a good entry level roadbike from any of the major manufacturers. Theyre all good, its really down to preference.
    Getting mudguard eyes wont be so easy, you may have to pick from a smaller range of bikes. (My Bianchi Via Nirone doesnt have them for instance)

    Have a good look and dont impulse buy. Do the homework and enjoy.
  3. gbb

    gbb Legendary Member

    Going a bit deeper the caz...
    A compact frame generally has a sloping top tube which means you could mount the bike easier. The alternative is a womens specific frame, which tend to be rather expensive.

    Compact chainset...its a compromise between the aesthetics of a double chainset and the flexibility of a triple chainset.
    In simple terms doubles look better, but triples are better if you have hilly terrain or a lack of fitness.
    Personally i wouldnt entertain a triple, but then my terrain is generally flat, and i'm generally fit.
    The downside to a compact is the gap between the 50 and 34 T chainrings is huge, and makes shifting on the front chainset 'awkward'. It can easily be solved by replacing the 34 with a 40T if it suits your fitness or terrain.

    At £500 to £600, you will get Sora, maybe Tiagra...or if its Campagnolo equipped you'll get Xenon or maybe Mirage. Both are fine.
    My Sora equipped 'old' bike's done maybe 3500 to 4000 miles and still works perfectly.
  4. Abitrary

    Abitrary New Member

    Wanting to be able to fit mudguards intimates that you want an all round type of robust road bike that might take panniers as well, and has a more relaxed riding position.

    I'd consider a cheapish cyclo cross bike, which would suit your budget of 600.
  5. Danny

    Danny Legendary Member

    Or perhaps a Dawes Audax Sport which is available from Spa Cycles for £440? This comes with mudguards and you could also fit a rear rack.

    You could then use the rest of your budget for shoes, clothing, decent lock, etc.
  6. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Hi Caz, Welcome.
    Echo much of the above.

    Compact frames have been the rage for a while, but don't get hung-up on that, they have a benefit in that the sloping top tube makes the 'stand-over' height lower.
    Compact Chainsets have recently come into vogue too. They're like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. One of my riding buddies bought a Bianchi with a compact set-up and whilst he was OK with it initially, he now hates it with a passion, the big gap between the front cogs can make for a lot of double shifting. Personally I prefer a triple, I can see no real disadvantage for a rider of my abilities and I get a nice wide range of gears that sit closely together with easy shifting patterns. If from an MTB background you're used to a triple anyway. Considering my other bike is a fixed-wheeler I guess I have the sublime and the ridiculous gear wise.

    £500 to £600 buys a lot of bike these days, usual suspects are from Trek, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi, all offer good vfm.
    That price range there will be doubles (53/39T), Compact Doubles (50/36T) and 'Road' Triple (52/42/30T or 50/40/30T) options. Bikes will be Aluminium with Carbon forks, some may well have Carbon rear triangles as well. Component-wise look-out for Tiagra upwards with Shimano and Mirage and upwards from Campagnolo (goes from Xenon, Mirage, Veloce, Centaur, Chorus, Record). What's to choose? Well arguments will rage, but, themajor difference is the feel of the shifting/brake levers. Campagnolo and Shimano both have slightly different shift mechanisms, Shimano lever hoods are more rounded and comfortable, Campagnolo are neater and all the cabling is hidden so is better looking. Basically, try both and see what suits, they both do a good job.
    Weak points on this price of bike is usually wheels and tyres which tend to be solid and reliable, but heavy. Wheels and tyres are usually the first and most cost-effective upgrade.
    Few road/race bikes will take full guards for all-season usage (race-blades can be a fiddle and only do half the job...I use my TCR all year-round (not commuting) and just get wet!
    The Giant SCR range and The Trek 1000 will both take full guards and a rack for light loads and also come with Triples. Both are good all-rounders. The Specializeds and Bianchis are a bit more racy and neither take guards or a rack AFAIK. The Giant SCR also has a less extreme riding position by virtue of slightly higher bars (though they can be lowered a fair way if racing), useful if slightly less flexible as some young striplings (am 43 btw).

    Finally, bike fit is very important, some bike shops will do a proper measuring service at around £30 and I would say it's well worth it.
    Don't get talked into having to have a WSD or Woman Specific Design unless you are particularly petite. A bike either fits or it doesn't and (whilst many will tell you different) on average women are proportioned the same way as men with the exception that there are more small women than there are small men...if that makes sense. All the women in our club ride regular bikes without issue.

    Finally Finally. Go to alot of shops and ask questions, be happy with the answers, if unsure, ask here. ALWAYS test-ride the bike of choice, set-up in the right size before you buy.

    Then the grin is just a credit-card away...
  7. OP

    caz Well-Known Member

    West Midlands
    Thanks Fab Foodie for your most comprehensive reply.

    I have a triple on my Trek, so I'm quite happy with that. One of my local bike shops stocks Giant, but the twice I've been in there, I haven't really got on well with the owner. I've not been too happy with how he's treated me and his answers to my questions. The LBS where I bought my Trek, which is the other end of the road where I live, doesn't stock Giant. If I got a test ride at the first bike shop, do you think my LBS would be able to supply a Giant bike?

    I think my main concern is whether the racer type position would suit me or if I should go for the more relaxed position (but not as relaxed at the hybrid!) such as suggested the Giant SCR or Trek 1000 and also whether the ladies version or man's. I know you can change the stem to shorten the reach, so perhaps that might be something to think about also.

    Dannyg - thanks for your suggestion. Oh and I've already got some of the gear - clothes, shoes etc.

    Abitrary - cyclo cross? suggest one or two please.
  8. gbb

    gbb Legendary Member


    FF, tell your mate its sooooo easy to solve. £15 or so, get a 40T and replace the 34T.
    Effectively you now have a normal double. The bikes just so much more useable more double shifting.
  9. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...'re welcome.

    Can't answer the Giant/LBS question, the answer is probably 'no' I guess. IF you really liked the SCR you could either buy online or find the next nearest Giant stockist and try there...or buy the required size online. Shame, a good LBS is valuable. The Trek 1000 is a normal 'race' position btw. Trek do (or did) the Pilot range which included a drop-bar, compact frame triple with slightly higher bars for more comfort. You may however find the regular race-bike position to your liking, as I said, I'm 43, with a belly issue going on and I ride the following all-day long without discomfort...though I now find that I can no longer stay on the bottom of the knees hit my belly! A race bike takes a bit of getting used too!

    This is the best bike fitting info I have seen:
  10. Crackle

    Crackle Squatter

    I can't top FF's incredibly comprehensive reply, doffs cap but the Dawes is worth considering. This is where I was at about 12 months ago. Never looked at any Giants but did look, as per other thread, at the Trek and the Specialized but ended up with the 2006 Dawes Audax from Spa cycles which is now a mifflingly low £550. It's a lot of bike for the money, it's also a triple whereas the new Audaxes, as per Dannyg's link, are compacts. Whichever one you go for, you must ride it first.

    I found the Trek to be a nice ride, very stiff but light and responsive and not too stretched for my old bones, the Allez was more stretched. The problem with the Pilot was that I didn't like the drop position and the toe overlap i.e. when you turn the bars if your foot is forward the wheel will touch your toe. I also decided against an ali frame for my own reasons. The Dawes was a smoother but slightly less responsive ride and the position on top and drops felt good. It also had mudguards and took racks. I rode it and was sold. I got Spa to change the rings as well to something that didn't require TDF legs to move them and I've changed them again now (I know) so my triple is a 46/38/26 designed with Scottish terrain in mind.

    Horses for courses, you pays your money and takes your choice. Have fun deciding though.
  11. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Agreed gbb! He'll just have to get better at hills!
  12. Or perhaps a touring bike. The best all-rounders ever. A Dawes Galaxy (or similar) will take you touring, shopping or commuting with ease, and you can Audax or even time trial on it if you remove the racks and maybe the mudguards. And they're reasonably cheap, especially if you're willing to consider secondhand bikes.
  13. cyclebum

    cyclebum Senior Member

    Hi Caz, you seem to be at a similar point of transition to me. I have a Carrera vulcan which I do love riding but I am aware it is at the lower end of the market and often wonder what it would be like to move on. I would love to try a road bike though I am nervous at the same time, but it looks so stream line and gracefull on the road compared to mtb's and hybrids.( I do love the off road as well though) I have had some brief chats with my LBS who have been so helpful but they seem so exphensive and as this post shows the technicalities are so confusing, where do you start?:smile:
  14. OP

    caz Well-Known Member

    West Midlands
    Exactly, cyclebum!! I guess the best starting point is deciding on your budget and then see what falls within that price range, go for some test rides and see which one suits you best! I haven't got as far as the test rides yet, it's been a bit wet round here and they only allow you test rides on dry days, obviously! I know of one bike shop that won't even let you do that, so I don't go there. As for the technicalities, that's why I was asking the guys on here. Still trying to get my head round some of it. It might get easier (I hope!) once I've had a look at and tested a few bikes.
  15. cyclebum

    cyclebum Senior Member

    That is why I read these threads with such interest for the amazing advice given, even if sometimes it is a bit too technical! When I first joined I was given a techy response which was totally designed to catch me out, and it did, and it wasn't the last either. But on the whole I have valued so much from this site, whether genuine advice or just banter ( I suppose by now you have had a wiff of the testosterone roaming about!( but they're all very loveable really;)).
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