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MTB-er about to buy first road bike - tips please

pete99pete99 Posts: 43
edited January 2008 in Workshop
I've ridden mountain bikes for years but have never done any proper road riding. But I've been persuaded by a mate to enter a long-distance one day event later this year and I need to get training. But more than that, I need a bike.

If I'm buying second hand, how much do I need to spend to get a reasonably good bike? By 'reasonably good' I mean a decent, light frame with good groupset and wheels. I don't really know much about road set-ups: if it was an MTB I'd be looking for something kitted out with LX or above.

Also, any tips for tracking down a second hand bike, eg web forums with classified ads (I'm London-based)?

Any other tips as I make the great crossover?


  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    You will want a bike then with at least Shimano 105 or Campag Veloce groupsets with carbon forks and light alu frame. You can get the above spec bikes new from around £500 but the wheels at this price will be pretty dire.

    You will need a half decent set of wheels shimano ultegras, mavic askiums, campag ventos or fulcrum 5s. This would a great bike for the event you have in mind and also a great starting bike. Dont forget to get a nice pair of tyres - michelin and continental do good tryes.

    With MTBs you always have a triple chainset - road bikes can come with a standard double 53/39 front chainring, compact chainring 50/36 or 50/34 and again a triple with 50/39/30. Most peolpe nowadays if they are doing a lot of hills are choosing the compact option as it easier to get up the hills and better for knees as there is a bit of bike snobbery about running a triple chainring on a roadbike. For the back sprocket a 12-25 would be a good spread of gears.

    I would try ebay for 2nd hand options or I would recommend going to your local road bike shop and ask for some advice but take care that they will always try to talk up their preferred products over other makes. I would visit a few shops and google as many road bikes shops in Britian as possible and do a bit of research as the market is currently bloated with different options and products and is easy to get bogged down with details.

    One thing to bear in mind that roads bikes are so responsive in regards to MTBs and it takes a few rides to get over that wobbly feeling.
    Brian B.
  • dcjdcj Posts: 395
    Welcome Pete99

    I presume from what you say, quality wise your expectations would be looking at Shimano Sora components and above, perhaps stretching to Shimano 105 level. Certainly anything with Ultegra spec would be as good as you would need, if not better.

    You don't mention to much about the terrain of the event, but if its hilly then maybe a compact chainset 34-50 teeth and 12-27 tooth rear cassette is recommended.

    Most important question before buying any bike is - is it the correct size?
    I assume you have access to good advice about this or already know the answer but it is worth mentioning.

    I would think a £500 budget should get you into something decent and recent, with 10 speeds and compact chainset.
  • jpembrokejpembroke Posts: 2,569
    I agree with DCJ: definitely worth getting a bike with a compact chainset, especially as you are coming from MTBing where you'll be used to low gears. A 34-50 chainset combined with a 12-25 cassette should give you everything you need for long rides and climbs. As for a model of bike it really depends on your budget of course. For a £500 budget take a look at the usual suspects: Trek 1000, Specialized Allez, Giant OCR. Personally I'd go for the Specialized but they're all good bikes. If you have a grand to spend then try Focus (see Wiggle) or Planet X.

    Welcome to the world of road cycling by the way. Despite what many snobs on both sides will try to tell you, it's OK to ride both codes :wink:
    I'm only concerned with looking concerned
  • simbil1simbil1 Posts: 620
    There are some cheap ways to make your MTB (if it's a hard tail?) road ready from just getting some good high pressure slicks to getting 700c disc wheels with good road tyres (you need to check your frame will clear them, mine do). Putting on a rigid fork saves weight and improves efficiency a little too.
    I've done several centuries on a rigid MTB with slicks and its fine if you are used to long rides with MTB geometry / bars and are riding with mates who will maintain a sensible pace.
    If you want to be more competitive, a second hand alu road bike with 105 components would be a good start and will be a little faster than a slicked rigid MTB. You may need some time to get used to the road geometry and should probably allow a month or so for conversion. Second hand buying can be tricky if you are not familiar with the bikes though so you might be better off looking at last year's new bikes if you can stretch to £500 or so.
    As you mentioned, training will make the biggest difference by far to your ride :)
  • clantonclanton Posts: 1,287
    All good advice above. What event is it you're doing?
    I got my roadbike for the Etape and went for a Spesh Roubaix - ideal for the ride, better really than I needed but I've not regretted it. Compact 50/34 with a 12-27 rear cassette and I needed ALl of those for the big climbs. Three of us rode together and one chap had a triple and survived better on the biggest climb of the day.
    For most purposes a compact will do you well.
  • You may be able to get a good deal second-hand, but one of the biggest potential pitfalls of going second-hand is ending up with the wrong size. Roadbike sizing is far more critical than mountain bike sizing
    I want to climb hills so badly;
    and I climb hills so badly
  • pete99pete99 Posts: 43
    Thanks to everyone for all the advice - a lot for me to think about.

    I was wondering about the idea of a triple chainset - I'm more of a spinner than grinder, especially on hills - but it seems maybe a compact one with the bigger sprocket would do the trick.

    I don't know much about the event I'm supposedly going to be taking part in, but apparently it's in the Lake District, so will be pretty hilly. I'm also more generally interested in doing some road training.

    The sizing issue is a tricky one, and making me think I should perhaps buy new, maybe seeing if a shop's got a good deal on an older model bike lying around.

    simbil1 - I've got an old MTB with high pressure slicks on it, a rigid aluminium Klein, which is very stiff and responsive for an MTB. However, I still don't find it as quick as friends' road bikes I've tried out on rides. Maybe that's just the impression I get, don't know.
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    £500 would get you a new reasonable entry level road bike - the kind of thing you could race on and not be at a significant disadvantage to those on 2k bikes. As someone else said - wheels are often the most significant thing worth upgrading - not sure if you said to a shop you'd pay a bit more for them to sell you the same bike but with better wheels if they'd do that or not - but maybe worth asking if you went down that road.

    On bike fit don't assume a shop will do a good job fitting you to a bike - some will - others are useless.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • simbil1simbil1 Posts: 620
    pete99 wrote:
    simbil1 - I've got an old MTB with high pressure slicks on it, a rigid aluminium Klein, which is very stiff and responsive for an MTB. However, I still don't find it as quick as friends' road bikes I've tried out on rides. Maybe that's just the impression I get, don't know.

    Sure, it depends on what the other bikes are and how good the MTB is. My old two grand MTB weighed in at 11kg and performed as well as a mid-range road bike for me. I just had to mess around with the setup a bit to get a lower position - it was a XC racer so had a nice long top tube which helped a lot.
    My fastest 10 mile TT and someone's national record was done on a slicked rigid MTB, they can work well but I guess it will depend on the rider a lot.
    Might be worth you doing a short time trial on each bike to see how well they work for you. If you've got the money to spare it is nice to have one of each - I have ;)
  • Eh up matey. Measure your inside leg in cm's then subtract by 25 cm's this should give you a good idea of your frame size. I have found that ebay in America is quite cheap for Trek road bikes. I ended up paying £388 for a Trek 2300, 2004 model with full ultegra and it's immaculate. This price included shipping too. Well worth a look mate
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    pete99 wrote:

    I don't know much about the event I'm supposedly going to be taking part in, but apparently it's in the Lake District, so will be pretty hilly. I'm also more generally interested in doing some road training.

    What event is this - Is it the Fred Whitten Challenge.

    If it is I would recommend a triple chainring if your are more of a spinner or at least a compact with 50/34 and a 12/27 set up as this event is a brute. I use a triple myself and most runs I never use the inside ring but when doing hilly sportives and climbs abroad it has saved my bacon in the long run.
    Brian B.
  • pete99pete99 Posts: 43
    It is, indeed, the Fred Whitten Challenge. I've been looking at the website and it does look very tough. A triple chainring seems more tempting all the time.
  • willbevanwillbevan Posts: 1,241
    pete99 wrote:
    It is, indeed, the Fred Whitten Challenge. I've been looking at the website and it does look very tough. A triple chainring seems more tempting all the time.

    Now I bought my first road bike in october, and it came with a double on the front (52/42) and a 12-28 on the back. Now dam that was hard onhilly terrain so I switched very rapidly to a 50/34 on the front.

    Now I regret not getting a tripple, why you ask? Well okay it weights more, but you have more options, If you want to switch to a compact later, new Bottom brack and chainset, but you can still use the old shifters (just adjust the limit screws and ignore the spare click).... but now If i want to do that I have to get new shifters :S sigh
    Road - BTwin Sport 2 16s
    MTB - Trek Fuel 80
    TT - Echelon
  • dombo6dombo6 Posts: 751
    Second that re getting a triple. I am also a mtber, bought my first roadbike 7 months ago and went for a triple 52-39-30 with 12-25. Did the Dragon Ride in Wales and found the granny a life-saver on the later climbs that I had done earlier on the middle ring. I twiddled happily up Bwlch a lot quicker than guys struggling to mash their 39x23 bottom gears.

    Rarely used, the granny is a great bail out to have and can mean the difference between riding up a brutal climb, however slowly, or walking. I am doing the Etape in July and am under no illusions, I'll be glad of my 30x25 as I crawl up Hautacam at 3mph.
  • Steve ISteve I Posts: 428
    I've never done the Fred Witten but I did the Wild Wales challenge last year. The Fred Witten sounds harder than the WWC. Too be honest, I'd have been a lot happier doing the WWC on a slicked up mountain bike, the lower gearing and powerful brakes are more appropriate. I rode it on my road bike with a triple giving 30 front and 25 rear and it was too highly geared for the Bwlch Y Groes coming in at about 75 miles. I had to stand up for a gruelling 2 thirds of the climb to get up without walking (plenty were walking). Other guys in the club, who ride more sportives than me, were using a compact with a 34 front and an mtb cassette on the back.

    If you're more used to riding an mtb I wouldn't entertain the idea of attempting the Fred Witten on anything less than a triple with some big sprockets at the back.
  • Brian BBrian B Posts: 2,071
    I did the FWC this year and used a 30*27 to get Hardknott pass and it was still very (very) difficult. Infact I only saw one other guy get up without getting off to walk.
    Brian B.
  • pabswpabsw Posts: 19
    hi pete99

    go for it - i made the change over to road about a year ago, went from riding around on a klein attitude to a klein q-pro carbon.

    I bought the klein frame cheap on ebay and used components from a second hand trek 1500 (ultegra) then I bought new wheels (bontrager race lites) which were in the sale. The whole thing took me about three months to do what with sourcing all the parts as cheap as possible. But the LBS built it for £30 which included all the right grease and everything.

    I then sold the trek 1500 frameset. The entire build cost me just over £550.

    It's good caveat about the frame sizing. I got the 56cm because it was available and I really like kleins. I think that it's ok, I've done a couple of thousand miles on it now and can spend all day without getting too uncomfortable, but when I first built it I didn't really have a clue about the length of stem, etc so I wasted a little money on trying different stem sizes. But once I had found all the right bits it was very comfy.

    so, this way of getting a nice road bike meant that I could make the transition to road slowly. I rode about on the trek 1500 whilst I was sourcing the bits for the klein, something I could not have done otherwise because of budget restraints.
    Litespeed CX - for sale
    Klein Attitude XV - sold
    Klein Q-pro Carbon Team - sold
    Klein Attitude comp -sold
    Spech Rockhopper A1 FS from c.1996 (for sale - offers!?)
  • pete99pete99 Posts: 43
    Well, I've taken the plunge, and curiously enough, given PABSW's post directly above, I've bought a second-hand Klein Q-carbon.

    Although my MTB is a Klein Attitude (I've also got an ancient rigid Klein I use for commuting), I never thought about a Klein road bike as my budget was a bit limited. But I got a good price on an 05 (I think) bike kitted out with Ultegra, carbon stem/bars etc. The frame was a bit small for the owner and it had been gathering dust in his garage, so he decided to get rid of it. It could do with a full bike shop service but I can't wait to take it out for a decent run. With the riding I've done on it so far it feels amazingly comfortable for such a light bike.

    As for the compact/triple debate, I'd already decided I'd want to do the Fred Whitton on a triple.... and luckily enough the Klein already has one, saving me the expense of changing the crankset. I'll add a cassette with a 27 on it and spin away as needed.

    Any other FWC tips I should know? Presumably it's worth using a pair of reasonably hardy, slightly wider tyres?

    Thanks again to everyone for the help.
  • MettanMettan Posts: 2,103
    My road bike came with a lowest gear of 39/28 - since replaced the cassette for a 32 tooth one to give 39/32 as the lowest gear - obviously that's a nice gear for 10-20% in the first 30 miles - however, I've now conceded I need a 50/34 compact (for longer rides) to go with the 32 tooth rear sprocket to give 34/32 as a lowest gear - am hoping that'll be sufficient for upcoming Sportives this year.
  • welcome into the fold!!

    10TT 24:36 25TT: 57:59 50TT: 2:08:11, 100TT: 4:30:05 12hr 204.... unfinished business
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