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Women's Specific Tri Bike Advice

dizzyhytesdizzyhytes Posts: 5
edited March 2011 in Road buying advice
I have a great road bike but am looking to buy a TT bike. Unfortunately I don't really understand much about bikes, and am finding a few challenges and need help in reaching the right compromises to get the fastest bike for my budget.

I live in a fairly hilly area but often my races are a combination of hilly and flat. I have been riding a compact road bike, but am getting frustrated at being so much slower on the flats than if I'd ridden a standard. But if I change to a regular crank or a TT bike, I may not make it up the hills.

I'd wondering if I should change the gear set on my current Road Bike. I have the following questions:

1. Gear set/crank set: What type of gears to use. I was advised to try an 11 speed on my road bike; apparently only Campangolo makes them, but I don't understand why an 11 speed would be better anyway.

2. Cassettes: I read somewhere that I should just change the cassettes, and if so, what would be best/most versatile choice to cover both hills and flat terrain?

I am also wanting to buy a TT bike (I would like to), but need to decide on:

3. Wheel size vs frame size: I am really tiny, 5'1", so it is difficult to find a frame small enough for me. My current XS Giant only just fits me and has standard 700c wheels. But if I go for a smaller frame, I have to get 650c wheels. So do I:

i) Go with a size smaller frame and 650c wheels - will this make me slower overall?
ii) Stay with the slightly larger frame so I can have 700c wheels

4. Brand - I am reading all about WSD bikes of Cervelo, Trek 9 or 7s (I like them), Ceepo Grace, Quintana Roo. Any firsthand pros/cons on these bikes (especially cons)...

Given so many options I think I am better off buying a frameset and customizing the bike to my needs. But because I know so little, it's very hard to choose the right parts. My budget is around $3000-3500 so I know I can get a good bike, but it's deciding on everything that is the problem.

Thank you!

Posts

  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    I would get yourself a proper bike fit and use that to advise on bike model / sized based on the dimensions you need. For your size you're right on the cusp of being able to fit a bike with 700c - the fact that everyone runs 'shorter' on a TT set-up would suggest that a 700c set-up may be sub-optimal - you'll probably need a toptube dimension of around 50cm, which is near impossible with 700c wheel. I wouldn't worry about gears at this point, the important thing is getting something that fits you correctly.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    I live in a fairly hilly area but often my races are a combination of hilly and flat. I have been riding a compact road bike, but am getting frustrated at being so much slower on the flats than if I'd ridden a standard. But if I change to a regular crank or a TT bike, I may not make it up the hills.

    A 50x11 at 90rpm has you going along at 32mph, on a road bike, it's extremely unusual that anyone will be slower on the flat because of it. Few people, particularly sub 60kg women will be able to do that - I can't.

    Of course that's not to say a standard double might not suit you better - it's not just the max gear which is relevant but it's not your compact which is making you slower on flats, so I wouldn't waste money or time until you've identified it is actually a limiter.

    If you have enough watts to ride along solo at over 30mph you should be looking at getting sponsors for your bike which will remove the whole problem of your budget. At a national series race here in the UK with a very short road bike TT on a completely flat perfectly circular course not one of the women managed to come close to 30mph average let alone 32.
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    1. Gear set/crank set: What type of gears to use. I was advised to try an 11 speed on my road bike; apparently only Campangolo makes them, but I don't understand why an 11 speed would be better anyway.

    It wouldn't, there's almost no occasion when the extra gear will make a difference - a gear system that is compatible with your existing bike makes more sense as then you can swap wheels and kit readily.
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    2. Cassettes: I read somewhere that I should just change the cassettes, and if so, what would be best/most versatile choice to cover both hills and flat terrain?

    A 50x34 and 11x26 or 11x28 will give you enough to ride just about anything you'll see in a triathlon or road race.
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    i) Go with a size smaller frame and 650c wheels - will this make me slower overall?

    No of course not, you'll almost certainly be faster with 650 wheels since the bike will fit you properly.
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    4. Brand - I am reading all about WSD bikes of Cervelo, Trek 9 or 7s (I like them), Ceepo Grace, Quintana Roo. Any firsthand pros/cons on these bikes (especially cons)...

    Not all of those make WSD bikes - indeed womens specific makes no sense - what matters is that the bike fits you, you'll need one that fits and the brand is otherwise pretty irrelevant they're all good.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • markos1963markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    I think Emma Pooley rides with 650 wheels and she's not exactly slow, get a bike to fit first and then worry about gearing.
  • tx14tx14 Posts: 244
    agree with all the above, fit is the most important thing.
    i think 650c wheels is a must in your case. if you can find a really good builder and have money to spare. this might interest you http://www.englishcycles.com/bikepics/rob/robtt.htm
  • protoproto Posts: 1,483
    Have a look here (Ii think the builder is in Seatle)

    http://www.englishcycles.com/bikepics/chris/chris.htm

    Woman (5' 2") in our club races on a Planet X Pro Carbon Stealth, XS with 650c heels. Looks fantastic, everything in proportion, fits her like a glove and she's fast on it. Well worth talking to Planet X, they will give very sensible advice on sizing.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,164
    I would agree with the above, you are really in 650C territory for a well fitting bike of any kind.
    I would also add that you probably need small cranks to permit your legs to rotate at an efficient cadence (RPM).
    The gearing requirements change as you alter wheel size and crank length but that has nothing to do with power output or max speed.

    Giant bikes using a compact style frame (with sloping top tube) are good for low standover height but for fitting you should concentrate on the length of the (virtual) top tube. The angle of the TT makes little difference when you are pedalling, is basically a style issue. Some say these compact frames are stiffer than a trad style. XXS size bikes are always stiffer than larger bikes and their riders usually have less power output so stiffness is never an issue at this size.
  • I'm a 5'2" woman and have been through some of these dilemmas.

    If you want gearing to give you fast top gear, but also a low hill-climbing gear, you need a wide-spread range on the cassette e.g. 12-27. I have this range of gears on my "winter wheel". When I compete, I use my "competition wheel" with a 11-23 tooth cassette. It is perfectly possible to have one wheel and two cassettes, but you would have to plan ahead and swap the cassette. Much better to have two wheels (also useful if you go out to the shed and find you have a flat, just change the wheel and get on your way).

    All the advice about getting fitted and choosing a bike that fits is spot-on. You might also take a look at the Slowtwitch website and read what they have to say about "stack and reach". In a nutshell, you might have three riders the same height, but all needing a differently proportioned bike, according to the leg length/torso length ratio. I have longish legs for my height and looked at bikes that have a relatively short reach from saddle to bars. Other bikes with a long reach may be excellent bits of kit, but only to a rider with a relatively longer torso than me.

    If you want to be fast, you have to fit your bike. You have to be as aerodynamic as possible, within the limitations of your own body's flexibility and strength. A good bike fitter will help you find the best fit. Frankly, I think it is rocket science.
  • 1_reaper1_reaper Posts: 322
    I'm only 5'2 (male) and have a 50cm trek with a short stem which is fine for me but back in 97'ish i had a hand built TT bike and that had 650 wheels looked good on a small frame and made no difference to speed. If i went to get a TT bike these days guess i would have to have 650 wheels again as what has been said before you have a smaller frame for TT bikes. I ride with a compact chain set with a 23-12 on the back and can manage to hold around 24 on the flat with more gears to go. It's all about you the engine that counts
  • Sorry for the late post but haven't checked back for a few months. Thank you for your posts as this has given me a lot of food for thought and maybe debunked some of the concerns I had over the smaller wheels.

    I still think there is a lot I need to learn e.g. I didn't really understand what Michael mentioned about how gear requirements changing as the wheel size changes. I understand the theory but in practice there are so many variables. Best bet for someone like me would I guess to buy the complete bike as I wouldn't know how to put an efficient bike together. I heard they also don't make many of the fancy wheels in my size...

    Anyway, I am still at the early stages of my riding and if I were totally honest, I don't really need the fancy bike, I just want it... :)

    Thanks again for the advice!
  • hopper1hopper1 Posts: 4,389
    dizzyhytes wrote:
    Sorry for the late post but haven't checked back for a few months. Thank you for your posts as this has given me a lot of food for thought and maybe debunked some of the concerns I had over the smaller wheels.

    I still think there is a lot I need to learn e.g. I didn't really understand what Michael mentioned about how gear requirements changing as the wheel size changes. I understand the theory but in practice there are so many variables. Best bet for someone like me would I guess to buy the complete bike as I wouldn't know how to put an efficient bike together. I heard they also don't make many of the fancy wheels in my size...

    Anyway, I am still at the early stages of my riding and if I were totally honest, I don't really need the fancy bike, I just want it... :)

    Thanks again for the advice!

    Nothing wrong with that philosophy :wink:
    Start with a budget, finish with a mortgage!
  • mrushtonmrushton Posts: 5,182
    Of course you want it and quite right too. But if you spend big you want it spot on. I'm presuming you are in the US so a Serotta fit dealer may be a good start as Serotta started the bike fit thing. It doesn't mean you have to buy one. You should run short cranks (155mm) as this will open your hip angle and prob. quite effective with 650 wheels. Gearwise,53/39 might sound good but you might be better with a custom compact eg 48/36 or for hillier terrain 48/34 or run diff.cassettes (see second wheel advice above) with 11-23/11-25/12-27 being good. A 48x11 will still be a sizeable gear. There was a piece in Tri Plus recently by Garth Fox on hip angles if that's of any interest also read Julians blog at cyclefit as he runs shorter cranks. A lot of women in Tri now so advice may be easier to find. I think Louise Clowes does a fair bit - she is on Twitter under the moniker QueenoftheCols She may be able to offer some pointers

    www.serotta.com

    www.cyclefit.co.uk
    M.Rushton
  • Thanks! Actually I am in Hong Kong but we have several very good bike fitters here although I need to import the bike first as it's cheaper that way. I think I have found the perfect bike for me, and size, etc and I can probably go to a bike fitter here to perfect the fit. Will be poring over all the specs and advice and make my decision soon.

    Thanks for all your advice!
  • Thanks! Coincindentally, the bike fitting service I was referring to is at the shop Bull Bike too! They are apparently very good.
  • mrushtonmrushton Posts: 5,182
    If they are a serotta dealer, they will have been chosen to fit you to a standard that Serotta have. Their dealers are specially chosen. You might want to email Serottta to ask further questions or look at the website, ask about the fitting on the Serotta forum. Of course it might not be just right for you but it should get you pretty close. there is another BR forummer who resides in HK
    M.Rushton
  • bikergirl17bikergirl17 Posts: 344
    i'm 5'2" on a teeny small frame with 650 wheels. 12-27 cassette, 53/39 and 165 cranks -- which if you look at a gearing chart is basically a compact. it is more than sufficient for hills (and i am talking alps here). if your focus does end up being flats, i initially had a 64/42 crank set -- which is like having 53/39 on 700 cc wheels -- but found steep hills sheer misery; it was awesome on flats though. if you im me, i can send you a gearing chart so you can see how the same size set up on 650 wheels compares to 700.

    i agree with all the advice that what fits matters most. i never did a professional bike fit; i test rode tons of bikes -- and for a weekend to a week to get a true sense of the ride, not just around the block.

    650 wheels aren't 'slower'; that is a huge misconception. i used to be a huge advocate, until today in fact, as am having a horrible time getting replacement wheels in the uk; plus you have to be truly self-sufficient as most stores don't even stock the inner tubes! that said, if you have the budget, zipp 404s do come in 650s :) .

    wsd in the higher end ranges (orbea, litespeed before they phased out wsd) are regular bikes spec-ed down; it is more in the lower end price point (trek, specialized, giant) where they tend to have cheaper components and come covered in pink flower decals.

    if you have the budget for a beautiful, custom ti seven -- that's so how i would go! just be wary if they do push you to 700 wheels on a very small frame as def will create toe overlap.
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