What's the difference between brands?

Questions about purchasing bicycles and parts

What's the difference between brands?

Postby tuco » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:06 am

I'm not in the market for a bike but I've been wondering what the real difference, if any, there is between road bike brands.

As an example, lets assume we have some big name brands and all have the same brakes, gears, wheels and seats only leaving the frame to be different. Are frames really that different that we should go looking around to see which is better than the others? After all shouldn't all 7005 frames weigh about the same and all CF frames about the same?

Obviously some frames look different like Avanti, Cytek and Azzurri with the diamond shaded tubes. So what are we looking for in a frame? Is it looks, colour or is it customer loyalty which sways us? Customer loyalty being the "I've always had a Trek" syndrome.

For me I was tossing up between the Avanti and the Azzurri. I liked the solid look of the diamond shaped tubes. Those other skinny little tubes didn't look like they'd hold my then 90+kg frame plus it was a step away from the skinny little tubes I had on my old steel frames piece of crap. It was a new start. In the end I went for the Avanti only because the salesman at that store was friendlier and gave me all the facts and left the decision up to me and the Azzurri salesmen was a typical fast talking salesman type which put me off. Lucky I went Avanti because the Azzurri store closed not long ago!

Remembering that the only difference is the frame (brand), is there a factor I'm not seeing here?

I haven't asked at the lbs because I'm not in the market for a bike so I felt I'd only be wasting their time.

What made you choose the brand you purchased?
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by BNA » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:19 am

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Postby Bnej » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:19 am

I got the Giant road bike I got because I liked the look of it, I got a decent discount on it, and after a long discussion about the merits of spending on better running gear vs an all CF frame. I've previously had an Apollo and a Trek, so I've never bought the same brand twice in a row so far.

There are big differences in CF frames, e.g, on the OCR Composite range, the frame is heavier and more durable than a race frame, they flatten out some parts of the rear triangle to make it more flexible vertically than horizontally. I've seen a LeMond bike with part of the rear triangle about 5cm wide and 0.5cm thick. CF frames certainly don't weigh the same, the lightest can be < 1kg, the heaviest are much more than that.

I don't think it's a huge difference, but there are differences in design and geometry.
Last edited by Bnej on Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tuco » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:28 am

Bnej wrote:There are big differences in CF frames, e.g, on the OCR Composite range, the frame is heavier and more durable than a race frame, they flatten out some parts of the rear triangle to make it more flexible vertically than horizontally. I've seen a LeMond bike with part of the rear triangle about 5cm wide and 0.5cm thick. CF frames certainly don't weigh the same, the lightest can be < 1kg, the heaviest are much more than that.

I don't think it's a huge difference, but there are differences in design and geometry.


Okay, I see that point but I should have stated in the OP is there a difference between frames in the same price group and/or category made by different companies?
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Postby Bnej » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:33 am

Frame geometry and sizing? Those would be the big ones.
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Postby stryker84 » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:56 am

yeah, the geometry... sizing you can fiddle your way around , just that you may be a M in brand A, and a L in brand B, but geometry i found - just from my sitting on bikes before buying, no technical reasoning behind this - to just make each bike feel a tad different to each other. some you like, some you don't.
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Postby Mulger bill » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:01 am

Geometry methinks, every maker has their own ideas of what works, pity they won't standardise sizes :roll:

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Postby europa » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:15 am

Rather than allow some other forumite to sully their reputation, and on the grounds that mine can't get any worse, I guess it's up to me to point out that only Avanti would sell a pink bike to a bloke :shock:

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Postby europa » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:19 am

I think there are some differences in the direction each company wants to go. For example, Trek aim at the racing market with their drop bar bikes. Giant's OCR range are rated as comfort bikes yet they are quite racey and comfort bikes in other ranges are more your sit up and beg arrangement. I think you'll find there are differences in frame specs and quality but once you get into the 'name' brands, this is probably only relevant to people looking at keeping their bike for a millenium or two.

Dunno. I'm not sure it's something I want to think about too deeply, especially as my next road bike will be a either a custom or a second hand frame :D

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Postby alchemist » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:24 am

europa wrote:I guess it's up to me to point out that only Avanti would sell a pink bike to a bloke :shock:


Nah, they've just copied Surly who have been doing pink 1x1 frames for years
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Postby Mulger bill » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:30 am

Some company put out a pink freeride MTB, not my style. Red frames don't show the blood when you headslap on a flat landing.
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Postby alchemist » Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:01 pm

That would be the Cove Playmate
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Re: What's the difference between brands?

Postby sogood » Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:46 pm

tuco wrote:I'm not in the market for a bike...

The truth detector say... "Tuco IS in the market for a new bike!" :D

What I can say is that, top tier companies do differentiate themselves on a number of grounds,

1) Quality of engineering: In these days of CF and shaped Alu tubes, frame geometry is only part of the equation for ride quality. The CF layering, Alu tube shaping and geometry all play major parts in determining the mechanical properties of the ride, if not more so than the basic geometry. Whether you as the rider care or can differentiate the difference is a separate matter.

2) Quality of manufacturing: If you pull a Look CF frame and a run of the mill CF frame together and compare, you'll start to notice the fine details of the workmanship on the Look vs generic. The paintwork and details are all nicely addressed on the Look. The generic CF typically have lots of rough edges for you to discover. For Ti frames, you really don't want just anybody to weld your Ti frame. The experience and quality control for a good Ti weld is more critical than other common weld material. So if you look at some of the top end Ti frames, you'll see how consistent and beautiful the welds are. You won't want to pay big bucks for a Ti frame from an unknown brand. Again, whether this matters to you or not is a personal issue.

3) Image: Well, some people wants to pay for a label on their frame while others just hate certain names due to association. Again, very personal.

That's all I can think of for the time being but I am sure there are others.

If you want to reference it at the price point, then you may or may not consider there's a flow on effect from the above. But certainly for some of the larger brands, technology do trickle down the tiers. So a late 90s top end Alu frame may become their lower end entry frame.

At the end of the day, you'll need to test ride them or read extensively of the reviews (decipher and filter out crap and hype) to make your call.
Last edited by sogood on Sat Jun 16, 2007 2:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby tuco » Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:56 pm

Bnej wrote:Frame geometry and sizing? Those would be the big ones.


I'll give you geometry but not size. Surely all brands would have different sizes.

So far it looks like geometry going by most responses.

And I'm definitely not in the market for a new bike.
What got me asking was seeing all the different brands at the N Q championships and wondering how people came to a final decision.

Some appeared loyal to the brand and even had the same brand knicks and jersy.
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Re: What's the difference between brands?

Postby mikesbytes » Sat Jun 16, 2007 2:06 pm

tuco wrote:I'm not in the market for a bike...


"I will not be challenging for leader of the party"

Go on tuco, admit it, the money's burning a hole in your pocket.

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Postby sogood » Sat Jun 16, 2007 2:07 pm

tuco wrote:I'll give you geometry but not size. Surely all brands would have different sizes.

So far it looks like geometry going by most responses.

And I'm definitely not in the market for a new bike.
What got me asking was seeing all the different brands at the N Q championships and wondering how people came to a final decision.

Some appeared loyal to the brand and even had the same brand knicks and jersy.

Read my post earlier. Geometry may have been everything in the days of steel tube where just about every manufacturer all used the same tubes. But that's changing with shaped CF and Alu frames. Geometry may primarily determine the handling of the ride (short rake, short wheel base etc), but in terms of the overall ride (stiffness, vertical compliance etc), there's a lot more than just the geometry.
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Postby Halfanewb » Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:58 pm

Most bikes look alike to me. None really stand out from a construction point of view with the exception of cervelo who are made by a bunch of engineers who build bikes. then the difference is very noticeable.

The R3 is a supremely light bike yet has won paris-roubaix two years running, they also make a cross version for the dirt. The Soloist is probably the most aero bike with features such as a narrow top tube so the cyclist can get his knees closer together. Ofcourse now that cervelo has proven the designs others are imitating , but imitation is the highest form of flattery ":)
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Postby sogood » Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:11 pm

Imanewbie wrote:Most bikes look alike to me. None really stand out from a construction point of view with the exception of cervelo who are made by a bunch of engineers who build bikes. then the difference is very noticeable.

The R3 is a supremely light bike yet has won paris-roubaix two years running, they also make a cross version for the dirt. The Soloist is probably the most aero bike with features such as a narrow top tube so the cyclist can get his knees closer together. Ofcourse now that cervelo has proven the designs others are imitating , but imitation is the highest form of flattery ":)

The other company that stands out is Cannondale with their mixed CF/Alu frame. Their SystemSIX has the stiff rear triangle of their Alu CAAD9 while the front triangle with oversized head tube being CF. It's also extremely light and stiff in all the right places. A most impressive piece of design work.

But like other top end bikes, it's another case of diminishing returns for the average riders. Time to dial up to 400W... :wink:
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Postby bigbuzz73 » Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:40 pm

Hi guys,
This is a good point you have brought up Tuco. It is something that we all have asked when purchasing a new bike.
Having recently gone through the 'new bike syndrome' and having some experience with metal and carbon fibre in my previous life on the tools, here's my opinion...
I found that there was very little difference in build quality between bikes of similar price. Modern bikes (like most modern consumer goods) are 'different' to each other rather than 'better', if you get my drift.
In todays mass-produced, global economies competition is fierce, leading to manufacturers building their products more alike than ever before. A good example of this is the motor industry. If you go back 20 years, an XF Falcon was VERY different to a VL Commodore. In 2007, get in a new Falcon or Commodore and I defy the average person to pick any significant differences in build quality, NVH levels, power, economy and appearance. If you see most new cars coming at you down the highway, until you are a few metres away it is almost impossible to pick one from the next.
When most of us here got into road cycling and sought advice, the advice we received was, "Ride a lot of different bikes first". I don't think this is all that helpful for most of us for this reason: without a bit of experience to use as a yardstick of what constitutes a good bike, most of us have NO idea when we get on a bike and ride it a few hundred metres. I know that after riding my Bianchi for a few months and done some 100+ klm rides, I am now only just starting to get an idea of whether it is right or wrong for me. I've recently replaced the headstem with one 20mm shorter and tried 3 different saddles.
The bottom line is that $2000 bikes are VERY similar to each other, and $5000 bikes are VERY similar to each other. I didn't ride any bikes before I bought mine as I knew I had no idea what was good and what was bad, so it would be a awaste of time. I'm certain Lance Armstrong could tell the difference between bikes, but most of us, if we are honest, don't have the foggiest! I bought my bike for 2 reasons: I love the Celeste colour, and I thought that seeing how Bianchi have been building bikes for longer than ANY other manufacturer, it was fairly u8nlikely their product wouldn't be an excellent bike. As it turns out, I made a bloody good choice, but I'm sure if I had purchased a Giant, Avanti, Trek, Specialized, etc for the same money, I would have ended up with a bike no better or no worse than what I own. That's my opinion, so lets hear some other! :D
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Postby Mulger bill » Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:45 pm

alchemist wrote:That would be the Cove Playmate


Thanks Alchemist :)

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Postby moosterbounce » Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:50 pm

When I was looking for my bike I knew I wanted full carbon in around the $3-4K range - not a cheap bike by anyone's standards. There were quite a few to choose from as you can imagine. I wanted something that would last me and be perfect.

I looked at a few, then went to the web. One thing I found, and still don't understand, was the differences in carbon out there. Some manufacturers use "cheap" carbon in their low end models, and a stronger more $$ in the higher models.

There were so manu different types that I couldn't figure out what was what after a while. Very confusing.

Anyway, when I saw Scotty I fell in love with the look. I rode one (my first test ride of a full carbon bike) and liked it...it felt comfy. It was a bigger size than I needed so my LBS guessed the size I needed and the order was in.

What made it stand out? I checked out the company blurbs and also the Saunier-Duval Prodir team stuff as they ride Scott bikes. At the time, the SDP guys rode the top of the range CR1 with Dura-Ace etc. I was looking at the bottom of the range with 105. I was impressed that, apart from the gearing and rims, the frame was exactly the same between models. There was no carbon quality compromise.

I figured that if I ever got good enough to demand an upgrade, I could change componentry and rims and have a Tour quality bike. There would be no logical need to change frames (only my own shopping needs :oops: ).

Would I recognise the difference in the carbon quality? Probably not...but one day I hope to. And I wanted to be sure I bought the best I could afford.

So...I reckon the material quality is something to be aware of too.

Moo...
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Postby Bnej » Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:50 pm

One thing I found, and still don't understand, was the differences in carbon out there. Some manufacturers use "cheap" carbon in their low end models, and a stronger more $$ in the higher models.


Carbon Fibre is not what the bike tubes are made of, rather it's part of a composite material, which can have a bunch of ingredients. I know old Carbon Fibre tubes make a completely different sound when tapped.

Then you have differences in construction - monocoque frames are formed as a single piece, then you have frames constructed as parts and joined.

Essentially it's plastic with knitting in it these days. ;)
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