Buy what's comfy now, or hope I'll adjust?

edited July 2014 in Road buying advice
Hi all,

I've been commuting on a hybrid for a while now and building up longer weekend rides so have decided to take the plunge and get a road bike. I'm fairly set on steel so have narrowed my choice down to the Jamis Quest Elite and Genesis Equilibrium 20, which are fairly similar spec, although I think the Genesis edges it (and definitely looks nicer...)

I've test ridden both, and although they're both sportive bikes cos I'm used to the upright riding position of a hybrid I found the slightly more aggressive Equilibrium put a bit of strain on my lower back, while the Jamis was fine. I'm thinking that if I buy the Jamis there's a chance once I'm more used to a road bike I'll wish it was a bit racier, but then with the Equilibrium although I'd hope I would adjust to it and once I have it would be a great choice I'm a bit worried I won't get used to it!

Presumably it's normal to find the road position uncomfortable at first? Or is buying a bike that does't feel comfortable madness?



  • JayKosta
    JayKosta Posts: 635
    With the bike properly sized and adjusted for you, riding with hands on the top of the bars or on the hoods should not be actually uncomfortable. Hands on the lower 'drop' section of the bars should be possible, but usually somewhat uncomfortable - but worthwhile if riding into a stiff headwind.

    If the bike is uncomfortable from the get-go, I doubt the comfort will increase ...

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  • opus25
    opus25 Posts: 36
    Lots of things to consider where comfort is concerned. Obviously the fit is a key part of that but don't forget a decent pair of bib shorts with a pad can make a world of difference comfort-wise, as can mits, saddle, tyres and other contact points. There is also a 'wearing in' period you'll need to go through anyway as you increase the time on the bike.

    How racey or not the bike is depends on your longer term wants and how much you're prepared to accept it'll likely be less comfortable than a more sportive geo.

    My experience is that after having a sportive geo for almost a year, I now much prefer being lower and my back more angled to the point of being almost flat in the drops on a more racey F3. It took time to adjust and I don't always ride at full tilt or always in the drops (obviously). Being tallish at 187cm means less wind from a lower position and I can do 5-6 hours without problems now. The only time I get lower back ache on long rides is if I try to carry too much in my pockets so now just dump it in the saddle bag or buy en route.

    I found doing stretches on rest days helps with flexibility, as did losing weight. Added to that a good pad in the bibs is worth all the money you'll pay and more, regularly changing position slightly as I ride by shifting forwards and backwards on the saddle, adjusting hand/grip positions often, and getting out of the saddle every now and then despite not needing too makes a difference on long rides.

    Aside from all of that, everyone has different tolerance levels but it's fairly safe to say you'll adjust to some degree over time.
    Felt F3 Di2 (2013) : Moser Speed Sora (2012) : Cruising the roads of China
  • passout
    passout Posts: 4,425
    There is a period of adjustment for sure when coming from flat bars & a more upright position - my background is MTBing & this was true in my case. Just get the sizing right is the main thing. Also saddle, saddle height & padded shorts as stated. Don't forget you can also flip the stem to give a more upright position if need be - but I wouldn't do this to start with - try to get used to it first.

    I like the Genesis. I ride an old Genesis Aether (54cm - I'm 5'9'') & its very comfortable.
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • ai_1
    ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    When I started riding I had very little if any drop from the saddle to the bars. Maybe 10mm or so. I tried dropping the bars a little lower to see how I got on but even on short rides my lower back and neck complained so I left the bars high. However after just a couple of months riding I found myself bending my arms more to drop lower where I now seemed more comfortable. I removed a spacer and had none of the problems I'd had originally. I removed another and those problems re-surfaced. So over the next 6 months or so I gradually removed spacers at a rate that meant I was always comfortable. This resulted in the position I've been using for the last 3 years which isn't particularly aggressive, having a saddle to bar drop of about 65mm but it's a drop of about 50mm from where I started and is as low as possible with that bike (CX bike with a longish head tube). I'm happy in this position for 6 hours+ with no problems and can also comfortably use the drops for extended periods. Having just got a new bike with more aggressive geometry, I'm using a similar position but once again have the option to remove some spacers if I want to go still lower. I may do a little experimenting but I know I can stay where I am now if I'm not comfortable with the bar dropped further.

    So to answer your original question, you may well find you adapt to a lower position over time and so the Genesis may be fine but have a look at the spacer/stem setup to see if you can set it up with a more relaxed position should this not turn out to be the case.
  • jonny_trousers
    jonny_trousers Posts: 3,588
    Agree with the above. The Equilibrium is a pretty relaxed geometry really and providing you pick the right size frame, you'll be able to make all the adjustments you need to make it as comfortable as you need.
  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    As you ride more, your muscles will become accustomed to changes in riding position over time, particularly your arms, shoulders and neck. Your flexibility should improve too, possible aided by a reduction in midriff if that it one of your objectives. As well as saddle and shorts, the biggest improvement in comfort will be fitting 25 or 28mm tyres and not pumping them to maximum pressure. You'll tire quicker running skinny tyres pumped to their maximum pressure.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • mitchgixer6
    mitchgixer6 Posts: 729
    You're body will adjust quite quickly to a new position. You may have pain in your neck/back for a few weeks on moving to the new position but this will slowly go away as you get used to it.

    I found this when I first went to a proper race frame with pretty low bars. I felt uncomfortable when first riding it but I persevered and it's very comfortable now.
  • ai_1
    ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    You're body will adjust quite quickly to a new position. You may have pain in your neck/back for a few weeks on moving to the new position but this will slowly go away as you get used to it.

    I found this when I first went to a proper race frame with pretty low bars. I felt uncomfortable when first riding it but I persevered and it's very comfortable now.
    In many or most cases you may be correct, however everyone will have a limit beyond which they will not be able to adapt successfully. The problem is knowing where that limit lies, so it's probably best not to assume you can adjust whatever you might buy.
    When possible I think it's worth dropping the bars gradually rather than all in one go, there's nothing gained by inflicting extra discomfort on yourself and you're less likely to do yourself an injury (especially if you're no longer in your twenties).