“Adventure Road” Bikes

As I deal with less than optimum biking weather this winter (although I shouldn’t complain — I rode today in 62-degree (16C) sunshine), my thoughts turn to other bikes. What’s out there that I need to pay attention to?

I’ve noticed one category that has taken hold quickly, at least based on the offerings of all the major bike companies. That’s the so-called “Adventure Road” bike. Evolved from cyclocross bikes, the adventure road is intended to let the recreational roadie go beyond the tarmac. The wider tires offer good traction on gravel roads, too, and more comfort when the pavement disintegrates. It has the drop handlebars of a road bike, and it’s priced in a wide range — from under $1,000 to well up into the several thousands. What sets it apart is its wider-than-typical road bike tires and its brakes.

I took a look at several makes, and selected models that are priced in about the mid-range: $1,200-$1,500. Here’s what you can get:

The Trek CrossRip

The Trek CrossRip Elite.
The Trek CrossRip Elite.

The Elite model has an aluminum frame and carbon fork, a 9-speed cassette with an 11-32 tooth range, a 50/34 compact crankset, mechanical disc brakes and 32 mm tires. Its MSRP is $1,270.

Giant AnyRoad 1

The Giant AnyRoad 1.
The Giant AnyRoad 1.

Also aluminum frame, carbon fork, mechanical disc brakes. It has a 9-speed cassette with an 11-34 tooth range, and a 48/34 crankset. It also comes with 32 mm tires. Its MSRP is $1,225.

Diamondback Haanjo Comp

Diamondback Haanjo Comp
Diamondback Haanjo Comp

Aluminum frame, carbon fork, and a 10-speed Shimano 105 drive train. It has a 12-30 cassette, and a 46/36 crankset. Mechanical disc brakes, but wide tires — 40 mm. MSRP: $1,500.

Norco Search S2 Steel

Norco Search S2 Steel
Norco Search S2 Steel

The Canadian bike maker Norco has low-to-medium-priced adventure road bikes with steel frames, and more expensive carbon fiber framed models. The S2 has a chromoly frame and fork, and 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain, 11-32 cassette and a 50/34 crankset. Mechanical disc brakes, 28 mm tires. It’s priced at $1,215.

So, what’s the attraction of bikes like these? Well, they offer a more comfortable alternative to traditional road bikes. Their geometry is more relaxed than most road bikes, with shorter top tubes, and taller head tubes. The disc brakes offer better stopping power, and the wider tires cushion the ride somewhat. If you have gravel roads in your area that beckon the cyclist, these bikes are good gravel grinders.

It’s likely that they won’t keep up with the A group in your club, but that probably won’t bother most people in the market for them. For a certain type of rider, the ride is important — not the speed. I’m intrigued by these bikes. I’m not in the market now, but if I do start shopping for a new road bike, I think the adventure road will be the road I take.

Comparing Bikes

A funny thing happened as I was poking around in my blog analytics. I discovered that the readers of this blog really like bikes. Yeah, amazing, isn’t it? Wait a sec — you’ll see just what I’m getting at.

I can take a look at search terms used to find items on this blog, or search terms that will get people to this blog — whether they want to be here or not And over the last year, the item that keeps coming up as the most searched-for term is: bike comparison.

Back in 2011 I did a blog post on a new bike comparison website. There seemed to be enough interest that I put the site’s link on my home page in the “blogroll.” It keeps drawing the traffic.So much so, that when people search for anything remotely resembling “bike comparison,” they get Bike Noob as one of their returns.

Among most popular search terms to get to this blog are: bike comparison, bicycle comparison, compare bikes, compare bicycles, bike comparison site, bike comparison website, compare road bikes, bike comparison tool, mountain bike comparison tool, bike comparisons, bike compare, road bike comparison, bicycle comparison, bicycle comparison site, bike compare site, bicycle comparison sites — well, you get the idea. Over the past year, these terms have been searched from 32 times (bicycle comparison sites) to 667 times (bike comparison). People are interested in bikes.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 9.52.08 PM

Discovering this most searched-for item led me back to the bike comparison tool site, and I’ve been entering various models of bikes, checking out their stats, seeing how they compare to each other. This could be dangerous. I’m pretty happy with the setup I have now, and the last thing I need to be doing is lusting after a new bike. But, like most folks out there, I just can’t resist.

No More Titanium

I took the titanium bike back to my friend Rick today. With the beginning of the new month, the bank account is flush again, and I took my own bike over to the bike mechanic to have it worked on. (I feel a bit sheepish about that now, because it took him only 10 minutes to fix it, and he charged me a whopping $8.)

After a handful of rides on Rick’s bike, I thought I’d give some impressions. The two big differences between his and mine — besides the size — were the titanium frame and the triple crankset.

The titanium frame had much the same effect as the steel frame I tried a few months ago. It smoothed out the roughness we encounter on our roads around here. But compared to the steel, the titanium was even smoother. That loose gravel I mentioned that we hit on Sunday was swallowed up by the titanium and the 25 mm tires. I know if I had run into the same conditions on my aluminum bike with the 23 mm tires, I would have been able to feel every pebble.

I’ve also concluded that if I ever get another bike, it will have a triple. The reason is simple: better gear selection. My Allez has a nine-speed compact. While some of the gears have a single-tooth spacing, others have a two-tooth gap. One has a three-tooth gap. On the Airborne, most of the gears were spaced only one tooth apart. For me, that had the effect of more precise gearing throughout my rides. As I told Rick, “I always feel that I’m in the right gear. With the compact double, I feel like I’m between gears sometimes.”

Of course, the triple made climbing hills easier, although I did not get a chance to try it out on some of the really challenging hills around here — the hills that I have trouble getting all the way up on my own bike. I did take it up some of the steeper hills on my Saturday morning route, and it made a couple of testers seem positively easy.

I used the 12-25 cassette for those hills. Another wheel had an 11-23. So that one would have gotten me a little bit more speed on the flats, when I’m in the 11-tooth gear, but really — my highest speeds come when I’m coasting down hills anyway. One tooth difference between cassettes doesn’t mean much.

So I enjoyed my time on Rick’s bike, but I’m eager to get out on my own on a Fourth of July morning tomorrow. Maybe, as Rick suggested, the perceived differences between his and my bikes were simply due to a “placebo effect,” and my own bike won’t feel much different, after all.