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  1. #1
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Things to consider when choosing frames for a tall bike?

    Hey Guys,

    So One of my friends and I were planning on scaring up some old steel frames to turn into a tall bike,i'm thinking of running it coaster brake. Anything in particular that u guys look for when selecting frames? or any old thing will do yeah?
    Franklin

  2. #2
    How DO I get down? Dan Korn's Avatar
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    You definitely don't want to use a coaster brake. You'll end up braking while you're trying to pull yourself up on the pedals during mounting; nothing good will come of that.

    The most important thing is to have two frames that are about the same size, so that you can set the top frame's bottom bracket squarely on the lower frame's seat post while still being able to line up the head tubes.

    You'll also want to consider whether you want a men's (straight tube) or women's (step-through) frame on the top. Personally, I prefer the women's frame because it's easier to mount with the step-through, but the men's frame can be more rigid, especially if you're going to remove the rear triangle (but you can leave it on).

    Be prepared to fail on your first attempt and scrap both frames. And possibly on your second, third, etc....

  3. #3
    Bent builder purplepeople's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Korn View Post
    You definitely don't want to use a coaster brake. You'll end up braking while you're trying to pull yourself up on the pedals during mounting; nothing good will come of that.

    The most important thing is to have two frames that are about the same size, so that you can set the top frame's bottom bracket squarely on the lower frame's seat post while still being able to line up the head tubes.

    You'll also want to consider whether you want a men's (straight tube) or women's (step-through) frame on the top. Personally, I prefer the women's frame because it's easier to mount with the step-through, but the men's frame can be more rigid, especially if you're going to remove the rear triangle (but you can leave it on).

    Be prepared to fail on your first attempt and scrap both frames. And possibly on your second, third, etc....
    A coaster brake will be fine if there are mounting pegs that allow the rider to straddle the seat before engaging the pedals. Since most tall bikes are actually mounted from behind the seat, it usually makes no difference what type of frame is used on top. The most difficult part of the build is the steering, specifically the alignment of the top and bottom headsets.

    :)ensen.
    Those who claim to be making history are usually just repeating it.

    My tilting trike: Video and Images

  4. #4
    coasterbrakelockup lz4005's Avatar
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    I respectfully disagree with almost everything Dan Korn said.

    Coaster brakes work great for tall bikes, are dirt cheap and readily available.

    You should also consider having the wheel base of the bottom frame longer than that of the upper frame or frames. Otherwise, if you go high enough your butt will end up directly above the rear axle...at which point the bike will want to flip over backwards when you sit on it.

    My tiny tall bike, for reference.

    EDIT: if you're going to use a coaster brake, remember that you'll need horizontal or semi-horizontal dropouts on the bottom frame to be able to get decent chain tension.
    Last edited by lz4005; 05-11-10 at 01:57 PM.
    Ride lots, have fun, skid often!

  5. #5
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    Most important thing to consider--how different can you go!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
    How DO I get down? Dan Korn's Avatar
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    Okay, let me add the disclaimer that these are homemade, DIY "freak" bikes we're talking about, and other than the laws of physics, the only real limit is your imagination. Anyone who speaks in absolutes about what you can or can't do is wrong by definition.

    That said, my response to my fellow Chicagoan was tailored to his status as being new to the tall-biking game. While anything is possible, I'm trying to give advice about what I think will be easiest to learn from, both for building and riding. This is just what I know, and I'm just one guy. Your mileage may vary.

    I have seen, and ridden, tall bikes with coaster brakes, and even fixed-gear tall bikes, but I don't recommend them for a newbie.

    It's true that coaster brakes are dirt cheap and readily available. But you know what's even more cheap and available? Your momma! HA! No, seriously, I'm talking about regular old rear wheels with regular old hubs, and regular old frames with caliper-type brakes which work with just about any front wheel. If you have the wherewithal to cut pipes and weld frames and run chain and do everything else you need to do to build a tall bike, then running some simple cable and housing from the front wheel to your handlebars is not a big deal.

    It's also possible to extend frames and weld on extra mounting pegs and all that, but again, if it's your first try, keep it simple. You can build a tall bike with a men's frame on top and mount from the rear, swinging your leg all the way around, but I find it easier to mount, and dismount, and to teach others, with a women's step-through frame and side mounting. And without a coaster brake. But maybe I'm just a klutz and you'll find it easier to mount from the rear without triggering the coaster brake; again, YMMV.

    And yes, "standard" tall bikes without extended bottom frames do tend to be rear-heavy. All the more reason to not have to mount from the rear! I personally put a front basket on my tall bike and put my stuff in there first, and that works great to offset the rear-weight problem. Also, leaving on the rear rack gives you a lot more carrying capacity, but that nixes rear-mounting.

    Here's my bike:
    H2_small..jpg

    Full size: http://dankorn.com/images/H2.jpg

    Note the cable for the front brake. I also have some "extras" such as an internal three-speed hub and fenders. Not pictured is the removable front basket. It's a breeze to ride!

    The best advice I can give you is to hang out with some other people who build and ride tall bikes, IRL (in real life), not just in cyberspace. Go to Critical Mass, get to know the Rat Patrol or the Scallywags, and look at as many other bikes as you can. Just because these people have been doing it for a while doesn't make them more "right," but experience still counts for something. The real fun is in showing them up and building something better!
    Last edited by Dan Korn; 05-13-10 at 06:35 PM. Reason: Embedded picture

  7. #7
    Custom Vintage Rider
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    Everyone has a little to say about building tall bikes. use a woman's frame. use a men's. use a 3 speed hub with hand brakes, use a coaster brake, blah blah blah. i say: use whatever you want, and have available. I have one with a 3 speed and coaster brakes. it also has a women's frame on top. I also have one with a 15 speed drive train and a men's frame on top. I mount both of these from the side. you just a have to learn how to do it whichever way you feel comfortable.


    anyway, the moral of the story is: use what you have. because, in the end: once your up on that bike, riding high.... nothing else matters!

  8. #8
    coasterbrakelockup lz4005's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by studyourheart View Post
    use whatever you want, and have available.

    What he said.
    Ride lots, have fun, skid often!

  9. #9
    Bus Driver Keithmj's Avatar
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    Atomic Zombie's Bicycle site

    Before you start to just throw something together go to http://www.atomiczombie.com/ and take a look at what they have on their site..I like the SkyWalker Tallbike. They have a book called Bicycle Builder's Bonanza that I purchased, has alot of information on how to build one..You can just use conduit if you want for the frame..Cheers.
    Last edited by Keithmj; 05-18-10 at 10:25 PM. Reason: Added more

  10. #10
    Senior Member gavtatu's Avatar
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    if you can, find a compatible 24" fork, lowers the front end a little, run a 26" on the rear !
    or my simplest build was a dual sus mtb, removed sus spring, dropped swing arm, then a tube to replace spring.
    then just weld forks to existing bike forks.....easy !

  11. #11
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    coaster brakes and fixed gears not recommended for tall bikes. If you drop your chain, not an uncommon occurrence with a tall bike, you're brakeless and pretty far from the ground...use at least one good handbrake!

  12. #12
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    use at least one good handbrake!
    If you have only one brake, put it on the back so you avoid a flight over the handlebars.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  13. #13
    coasterbrakelockup lz4005's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    If you have only one brake, put it on the back so you avoid a flight over the handlebars.
    That's BS when it comes to regular bikes, and double BS when it comes to most tall bikes.

    Discussing safety on tall bikes is sort of an oxymoron. Their inherent lack of safety and common sense is part of why they're so cool.
    Ride lots, have fun, skid often!

  14. #14
    How DO I get down? Dan Korn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lz4005 View Post
    Discussing safety on tall bikes is sort of an oxymoron. Their inherent lack of safety and common sense is part of why they're so cool.
    I have to disagree. I feel safer riding my tall bike than I do riding a "regular" bike. Why? Well, what's the real danger when you're riding? Falling off on your own volition? Of course not. It's cars. And what do their drivers always say when they hit you? "Oh, I didn't see you." On the tall bike, not only am I more visible, but the sight of someone doing something out of the ordinary wakes people up from their stupor and sometimes even makes them forget that they're supposed to try to kill you for a few minutes.

    Sorry if I made it less cool. 8^p

    I do agree that the "over the handlebars" thing is BS, especially for tall bikes.
    Last edited by Dan Korn; 05-27-10 at 12:37 AM. Reason: ponderousness

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