>I am looking into buying a starter road bike, preferbly used, to race
>1. What dimensions should I check to be sure the bike fits correctly?
Top tube is the most important, but most bikes are measured by seat
tube. (If the seat tube is too short, you can compensate without a
compromise by raising the seat. If the top tube is too short, you
have to either move the seat forward, changing the effective angle, or
change the stem, which will change handling)
Tri-specific bikes typically have different angles than standard road
bikes. Tri-specific bikes aren't cheap, but most of the differences
can be duplicated with componentry, most notably a seatpost that
allows the seat to be forward of it's normal position.
>2. What should I know about components (i.e. crank length, brand
Cheap to mid-price drivetrain will almost always be Shimano. Older
stuff might be Suntour, but with index shifting, that creates
problems--Suntour replacements can be hard to find, and Shimano isn't
interchangeable. Replacing worn rear cogs might mean replacing the
derailleur and shifters as well, if you can't find leftover parts.
Campagnolo or Sachs are good, but rare, and usually expensive.
Crank length is based on size and riding style. No hard fast rules.
Ranges typically 165-175, with 170 "standard". MTB cranks are
generally a bit longer for the same size rider. No idea for tri
>3. Is steel a good economical alternative to more expensive materials?
Yes. Frame weight is a fairly small portion of the bike's overall
weight on a decent bike, and steel doesn't give up as much as you'd
think. Steel is well-understood by builders, and lots of people
prefer it's ride. Plus, if you crash, it's more likely to be
repairable rather than replaced. (If you get a composite or aluminum
bike, make sure you get a breakaway derailleur bolt. Made of
aluminum, and designed to be weaker than the frame, so it breaks
before the frame bends. Plus you save a few grams.) If it's used,
inspect the frame for signs of crash damage, especially with
>4. Any other tips on buying a used bicycle?
Other than overall mechanical condition, make sure you understand what
parts are compatible, and how much upgrades will cost. With Shimano,
there are often strange compatibility issues--For instance, STI
shifter/brake levers use a different design brake than previous
models, (different leverage) so upgrading might mean new brakes. If
it's not steel, you can't safely spread the rear triangle for wider
wheels required by 8 and 9 speed drivetrains.
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