Gravel to Road bike advice

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Latimoos
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Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby Latimoos » 9 Jan 2021, 9:40pm

I'm brand new to the forum and relatively new to cycling. I was looking for some general advice.....

In the summer I bought what I would describe as my first proper bike - a Boardman ADV 8.6 which I have thoroughly enjoyed riding. Found it very comfortable and quickly made good progress in terms of my general pace - mainly riding on roads but on and off some long bridleways.

In November I bought a Specialized Alle Comp road bike off a good friend who had barely used it over the few years he's had it (seemed like a good deal). My initial thoughts were that I would see good to significant benefits to my general pace on the roads (slick, thin wheels, lighter frame etc..) but it just hasnt worked out that way. I actually find the bike harder to ride with no noticeable improvements in my pace. I get WAY more tired, feel a lot more in the way of burning legs and just a general lack of power - its very odd. I have had a good period of experimentation with seat position, height, I've also had the bike serviced and it hasn't made any significant improvements.

Now one thing I need to own up to is that the frame is slightly too small for me. Its a Large frame and I should probably have an XL but I dont feel like I am poorly fitted to it I,e. no back pain, discomfort in arms or anything.....just get really tired!

Does anyone have any general ideas around what is going on because I am perplexed as to how its generally harder to ride vs my gravel bike!

ChrisF
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby ChrisF » 9 Jan 2021, 10:57pm

First of all I would check that there isn't something seriously wrong with the road bike, e.g. brakes binding or underinflated tyres.
Assuming that not to be the case, are you sure that you're comparing these bikes under the same conditions? Weather's colder now (more clothes = more wind resistance) and / or you may not be as fit.
I have a road bike and a gravel bike of similar quality/price, with same frame material. The gravel bike is over 2kg heavier (thicker frame tubes, bigger tyres, heavier wheels). In the summer I did a 'mini time trail' on both under identical conditions (as far as I could arrange), on a fairly flat road. there was only 1-2% diifference in the time (road bike faster of course).
On a hily course the gravel feels slower, especially uphill, although I think I make up some time on descents because it has better brakes and I feel more confident with bigger tyres.
Chris F, Cornwall

gregoryoftours
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby gregoryoftours » 9 Jan 2021, 11:38pm

It might be over geared for you, maybe position and bike fit is an issue - you can try to measure as exactly as possible important dimensions and relative position between bar, bottom bracket and saddle etc, on the bike you get on well with and try to see where the differences are. I don't know much about bike fit really, but the fact that you get burning legs on the road bike makes me think you should pay particular attention to saddle height in relation to bottom bracket, not ground, and how far behind the bottom bracket you are sat on both bikes. Are crank lengths the same? Also wider tyres make a big difference to comfort which in turn makes a big difference to fatigue. Maybe also more compliant frame/fork. If you can't get the road bike to a good place then I'd just say be happy and ride the one you enjoy. Have you actually measured your times on both bikes and tried to put the same amount of effort in while doing it? Could it possibly partly be that you think you should be faster on the road bike but don't feel that you are so push a bit more than on the gravel bike?

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Paul Smith SRCC
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby Paul Smith SRCC » 10 Jan 2021, 9:03am

Latimoos wrote:... I actually find the bike harder to ride with no noticeable improvements in my pace. I get WAY more tired, feel a lot more in the way of burning legs and just a general lack of power - its very odd....


gregoryoftours wrote:...maybe position and bike fit is an issue...

"WAY more tired, feel a lot more in the way of burning legs and just a general lack of power" in comparison to the Boardman would also have me questioning the differences in bike fit. Your Boardman may well not be correct either but the fact that it feels better then if possible I'd at least try and replicate the saddle height and set back.

You'd be amazed how much difference getting those two measurements correct makes.
saddle height.jpg

Bike Fit leg angle.jpg

As a bike fitter in many ways we are not looking at the saddle height, we are looking at a leg angle and position over the Bottom Bracket, it's when both those are correct that we measure the 'saddle height' and 'set back'. The Boardman has a 73 degree seat tube and depending on the year the Allez Comp will be similar, as rule of thumb we struggle to get the rider far enough behind the Bottom Bracket, it's why the seat posts on bikes with these seat angles have a layback pin and invariably saddles are pushed back as far on the rails as possible.

The third picture in the sequence immediately above references Knee over pedal spindle (KOPS), often referred to as 'the myth of KOPS', which I am quickly referencing before anyone else jumps on that; welcome to bike forums :lol: Maybe more than you want to know at this stage but there is much more about Kops elsewhere in the forum should you be hungry for more.

The reason I have referenced it here is that it is an easy thing to show on those drawings and then relate and cross reference to your bikes. 'Kops' alludes to more than one thing, some of it is about effort range, in layman's terms a runner at high effort, a 100m sprinter for example will generally run on their toes, where as an endurance runner will use the whole foot. A bike rider will also intuitively morph into a different position as their effort increases, the higher the effort the more they will pull themselves forward over the BB, then slide back again as that effort reduces, although they will hold that high effort position for longer than a runner will remain 'on their toes'; a TT bike will have often have a steeper seat tube and non layback seatpin to facilitate this.

Just as significant with saddle seatback/KOPS is how the rider engages their core, often referred to by bike fitters as 'BMR', to far forward and the rider does not engage their core in the same way, they may no longer just reaching for the bars, but propping themselves up by the bars. The result is normally less comfort, often translating to lower back discomfort, shoulders, neck arms, wrists and hands. If correct not only will you find it more comfortable but you are in effect more in harmony with your bike, syncing with it as opposed to fighting with it.

Colin531 has an excellent DIY bike fitting information sheet that elaborates far more on what I have done; well worth a read.
Last edited by Paul Smith SRCC on 10 Jan 2021, 10:22am, edited 23 times in total.

PH
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby PH » 10 Jan 2021, 9:14am

As gregoryoftours and Paul say first look at position, not just in relation to fit but also aerodynamics, if the smaller frame means you're sitting more upright that will slow you down, probably more than any other factor. The next thing to look at would be rolling resistance, if it's an option, swap tyres and see if that makes any difference. Is there a big weight difference? It would need to be considerable and a very hilly ride before it became relevant.
The only thing left to look at are your expectations :wink: Road and Gravel bikes are loose definitions, to give some indication of their best use, bikes of similar weight, tyres and riding position may feel different but the engine determines speed.

peetee
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby peetee » 10 Jan 2021, 10:38am

If the bike is smaller it will probably be shorter too. You may be riding with a rounded back because the bars are nearer the saddle. This may well feel comfortable (just as slouching in a chair does) but it will restrict your lungs too. A small difference in effort can have a noticeable difference over an extended period. Add to that the exaggerated fatigue that can be caused by a miss-match in pace that can come about even when the effort is less. Have you ever climbed steps that are a bit too short or walked with someone just a bit slower than you? It’s hard work.
Burning legs suggest to me that your position is not right or you pedal rate has changed. You may be putting more effort into the ride because of the sense of speed a road bike gives you. Riding off road I have a tendency to pedal at a slower rate. If you have developed your muscles this way then pedalling faster on a road bike will require much less effort per stroke but the increase in rotational speed will take some getting used to.
Winter had arrived in the land of Kernow. Along with it came wet roads and cool winds.
“Oh, my wheels and coupling rods!” Peetee exclaimed.

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kylecycler
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby kylecycler » 10 Jan 2021, 11:19am

Certainly the Specialized's gearing is higher than the Boardman's - it has a 50/34T chainset compared to the Boardman's 48/32T, and its cassette is 11-28 as opposed to 11-34 for the Boardman. So your lowest gear on the Specialized is 34t at the front and 28t at the back compared with 32t at the front and 34t at the back on the Boardman. Others might work that out in 'gear inches' but in reality it's the difference between struggling up steep hills and not. In the 'in between' gears there shouldn't be any difference at all, of course - you would have the same gearing, effectively, on either bike.

As for weight, the Specialized's listed weight is 8.2 Kg compared with the Boardman's 10.5 Kg, but weight should always be considered as bike + rider and as such there's no discernible difference there, i.e. not one that's big enough for you to actually detect in terms of speed (others who've forked out the extra dosh for a 2 kg lighter bike will no doubt argue about that! :wink: ).

The biggest difference in terms of ride comfort - which might explain why you feel beat up after a ride - is in the tyre widths and consequent volume. The Specialized has 25 mm tyres (probably - can't see tyre width in the review I found) whereas the Boardman, being a gravel bike, has 38 mm. That's a far bigger difference in volume than you'd think. Tyre volume doesn't affect ride comfort as such but you should be running the Boardman's tyres at somewhere around 50-60 psi depending on your weight - higher than that if you're heavy, and since you're tall you might well be, but still run them as low as you can - whereas you'll have to run the Specialized's tyres closer to 100 psi or you'll get pinch flats over bumps (assuming they're not tubeless). The Boardman's wheels are 'tubeless ready' so if you fit tubeless tyres you could probably run them at lower pressures still, but you don't have an issue with ride comfort anyway so that's probably moot. AFAIK the Specialized wheels probably won't accept tubeless tyres so you don't have that option anyway, but if it'll take 28 mm tyres - if it doesn't already have them / depends on the clearance - you can run them at lower pressures for the same speed and rolling resistance and they'll be cushier.

Head and seat tube angles also affect ride quality. Don't know the geo for the Specialized but although both have similar seat tube angles, the head tube angle on the Boardman, again because it's a gravel bike, is shallower, with more offset on the fork - 71.5 degrees, with a 50 mm offset fork - both of which will make the ride effectively cushier. The Specialized's head angle, being a road bike and a large size, will likely be something like 73.5 degrees, with less offset in the fork, which tends to give a harsher ride quality.

If you want to persevere with the Specialized I would fit as low a cassette as the Shimano 105 rear derailleur will accept - it should accept an 11-34 cassette if it's medium cage...

https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/product/ ... 00-GS.html

...which is good news as it gets you down a lot closer to the Boardman for steep hills, the only difference then being the 34t v 32t difference in the chainsets, but the extra six teeth on the cassette will help a lot with climbing.

Bear in mind that if your chain has stretched, as it might well have if you haven't checked it regularly, when you replace it you'd likely have to replace the cassette anyway - both are 'disposables', sooner or later, so if you replace both (you'll almost certainly have to replace the chain if you replace the cassette), you wouldn't be spending any more money than you'd have to spend anyway, somewhere down the road. When you ride high mileages, it's not at all unusual to have had multiple chains and several cassettes replaced through wear, in fact it's normal and inevitable, as your LBS would confirm.

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531colin
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby 531colin » 10 Jan 2021, 3:36pm

Latimoos wrote:........... I get WAY more tired, feel a lot more in the way of burning legs .......

You should be using 3 of the biggest muscle groups in your body to propel the bike....Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads. If you come home with one of those muscle groups screaming and the others unaffected, this is a riding position problem. (Usually this means your quads are screaming and all the others are unaffected; because your saddle is too far forwards. https://neillsbikefit.com.au/?page_id=268)
Do you use cleats? Same on both bikes?

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RickH
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby RickH » 10 Jan 2021, 6:10pm

Early in 2017 I got a Kona Sutra Ltd. It was intended to be a replacement for my old 1986 vintage mountainbike & I planned to carry on using my road bike, a Kinesis Tk. I fitted the Kona with some (now unavailable) 40mm Vittoria Voyager Hypers - light, supple, slick tyres - and found that my average speed didn't decrease.

Since then I haven't ridden the Kinesis (I really ought to do something with it). Despite doing more off road riding my average speed still hasn't decreased &, although I don't try for Strava segments, I'm still regularly finding I set PRs as I ride. The bit of extra weight of the Kona is offset by the increased comfort, & consequent lessening of fatigue from being bounced around, of the wider tyres on today's increasingly rough & potholed roads.

What I have done is get a second pair of wheels for the Kona so I can have 2 sets of different tyres ready to roll (or a working set of wheels if I'm doing a job, such as replacing bearings, on one set).

Latimoos
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby Latimoos » 10 Jan 2021, 8:19pm

Wow thanks for all of the advice! A lot of interesting stuff I need to go away and have a think about. I appreciate the effort :D

PH wrote:As gregoryoftours and Paul say first look at position, not just in relation to fit but also aerodynamics, if the smaller frame means you're sitting more upright that will slow you down, probably more than any other factor. The next thing to look at would be rolling resistance, if it's an option, swap tyres and see if that makes any difference. Is there a big weight difference? It would need to be considerable and a very hilly ride before it became relevant.
The only thing left to look at are your expectations :wink: Road and Gravel bikes are loose definitions, to give some indication of their best use, bikes of similar weight, tyres and riding position may feel different but the engine determines speed.


I think indirectly the 'expectations' point has came up in a few other posts as well as this one. It is definitely a possibility :) ....in a way I was kind of wanting to see if anyone would come back with the answer that 'I shouldn't really expect a big difference'. The motivation for posting originally was just that I seem to have gone backwards with the new bike - as in its harder which was really unexpected

531colin wrote:
Latimoos wrote:........... I get WAY more tired, feel a lot more in the way of burning legs .......

You should be using 3 of the biggest muscle groups in your body to propel the bike....Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads. If you come home with one of those muscle groups screaming and the others unaffected, this is a riding position problem. (Usually this means your quads are screaming and all the others are unaffected; because your saddle is too far forwards. https://neillsbikefit.com.au/?page_id=268)
Do you use cleats? Same on both bikes?


Cleats on the Road Bike, just normal trainers on the gravel bike. I think you're on to something about position, see below.

peetee wrote:If the bike is smaller it will probably be shorter too. You may be riding with a rounded back because the bars are nearer the saddle. This may well feel comfortable (just as slouching in a chair does) but it will restrict your lungs too. A small difference in effort can have a noticeable difference over an extended period. Add to that the exaggerated fatigue that can be caused by a miss-match in pace that can come about even when the effort is less. Have you ever climbed steps that are a bit too short or walked with someone just a bit slower than you? It’s hard work.
Burning legs suggest to me that your position is not right or you pedal rate has changed. You may be putting more effort into the ride because of the sense of speed a road bike gives you. Riding off road I have a tendency to pedal at a slower rate. If you have developed your muscles this way then pedalling faster on a road bike will require much less effort per stroke but the increase in rotational speed will take some getting used to.


This is a really interesting point. I do feel like I struggle to find the 'right gear' sometimes - cadance is either too high (which feels odd as you say) or it's too low - high pressure on my Quads.

I went out riding today after making some adjustments (increased seat height again and moved seat forwards accordingly) and I have to admit, I think it has improved the situation quite a lot. It's obviously a bit embarrassing if it ends up being that simple. I have played around quite a lot with the positioning but this is the highest I've ever set it. The difference was noticeable - I felt more in the way of 'power' and my legs weren't anywhere near as wobbly when I finished. This is also taking into account the fact I rode yesterday where I really worked my legs (in the worse position). My pace hadnt improved but there were other factors today (wind and traffic) so cant compare.

I'll continue to persevere!

peetee
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby peetee » 10 Jan 2021, 9:05pm

Yes, persevere. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right even after you have ‘measured twice’ so to speak. Years ago I set my mountain bike up so that the distances between saddle, bars and pedals was near on identical to my road bike but there was quite a difference in the way I used my leg muscles. Clearly the riding position was different but I never did work out how.
I learned to adjust to it but one bugbear remained and that was that I always felt my mountain bike position was the better for outright power as I was utilising the muscles in the backs of my legs more. I did a 10 mile time trial on it once (no slick tyres back then) and was less than 2mins down on my best road bike ride. Oh, what could have been. :roll: :wink:
Winter had arrived in the land of Kernow. Along with it came wet roads and cool winds.
“Oh, my wheels and coupling rods!” Peetee exclaimed.

Jamesh
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby Jamesh » 10 Jan 2021, 9:15pm

I would check your position in each bike.

Going to a new bike with a difference position will definitely tell in your power output.

Look a pics of the pros of old riding and you will see a natural style / fit on the bike. Chris froome excepted!

I've gone over to a winter bike for the first time and hardly noticed any speed loss despite having 28mm tyres, mudguards and spa saddle!!


Cheers James

Brucey
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby Brucey » 10 Jan 2021, 9:38pm

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this already but it might be that the cranks are different lengths on the two bikes. This will interfere with

a) your ability to set the riding position 'the same' and/or
b) the way you pedal on each bike; typically you will find it less easy on whichever crank length you are least familiar with.

If you have not checked this yet, it is probably worth doing.

cheers
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andrewwillans49
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby andrewwillans49 » 11 Jan 2021, 6:34am

Similar to a previous post, moving from my 7.5kg roadbike to 12kg gravel bike set up with mudguards, rack and accoutrements carried for winter, my average speed drops by 1 mph at most. What makes a big difference is my mindset. On the roadbike I'm usually focused on getting a move on, whereas on the winter bike its more a case of just getting out on the bike and enjoying a more relaxed ride Without mudguards and rack, the gravel bike usually has 40 mm Clement Explorer , the result is that on the smaller rural roads with potholes and loose material I can ride faster than on the roadbike. Sometimes expectations aren't realised with regard to speed.

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531colin
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Re: Gravel to Road bike advice

Postby 531colin » 12 Jan 2021, 4:50pm

peetee wrote:......... Years ago I set my mountain bike up so that the distances between saddle, bars and pedals was near on identical to my road bike but there was quite a difference in the way I used my leg muscles. Clearly the riding position was different but I never did work out how.
I learned to adjust to it but one bugbear remained and that was that I always felt my mountain bike position was the better for outright power as I was utilising the muscles in the backs of my legs more. I did a 10 mile time trial on it once (no slick tyres back then) and was less than 2mins down on my best road bike ride. Oh, what could have been. :roll: :wink:


My guess would be that road bikes generally have a steep seat tube angle which puts you on top of the pedals, whereas mountain bikes (originally) had fairly slack seat tube angles putting you further behind the pedals. Sitting on top of the pedals loads your quads, whereas sitting behind the pedals shares the load between quads, glutes and hamstrings.