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Old 08-20-08, 04:27 PM   #1
Little Darwin
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Geometry, Then versus Now

I know that memory fades with time, and my needs for a bike change too.

But, in looking at bicycle geometry, I sometimes have trouble deciding whether a bike has tight or loose geometry (unless it is extreme).

In general though, I have this gut feel that a bike with tight geometry by the standards of the 70's would be considered pretty relaxed by today's standards.

Then of course, there is the whole compact frame thing... How would a bike like a Giant OCR series bike or another bike from another manufacturer (considered relaxed geometry today) stack up against bikes from the 70's?

I think it would be considered moderately aggressive, since it has a pretty good seat to bar drop, and pretty steep angles...

It seems to me (gut feel only) that there is nothing today equivalent in geometry to bikes like my beloved Le Tour, which was what I would consider a sports tourer. Of course, I would love my LeTour to be about 10 pounds lighter, but could I find a bike today (off the shelf) that would be similar in geometry/handling?
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Old 08-20-08, 07:40 PM   #2
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A book could be written for this, much depends on the country of origin, especially in the 70's and prior.

There were some mighty tight, English frame sets in the 70's and some even more extreme Dutch builders. Schroder comes to mind.

Then when one factors in the conventions of proper fit, which have changed over time, it gets really confusing.

I have an Italian bike from 1953, that aside from longer chainstays than are common now, and really long rear brake reach, could be mistaken for almost any mid 70's Italian roadbike.
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Old 08-20-08, 07:45 PM   #3
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If there is just one "easy" clue to a bike's geometry, it will be the wheelbase. Assuming you are looking at medium sized road bikes for a guy who is about 5'10", a bike with a 41 inch wheelbase is going to have relaxed geometry, and the bike with a 39 inch wheelbase is going to have steep geometry.

In 2008, a medium size bike with a 41 inch wheelbase will be sold as a "loaded touring" model. In 1978, such bikes were just called "Ten Speed" bikes...they were as common as...well, a Schwinn Varsity or a Schwinn Continental.
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Old 08-20-08, 10:58 PM   #4
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my own experiences would lead me to believe that there is actually much less variation of handling traits & geometries amoungst 'modern' bikes than there ever were in the past.
i've encountered far fewer steep and quick handling bikes and at the same time don't see many slack and gentle steering bikes on the market these days either.
my thinking is that with the adoption of carbon forks with their limited rake options that modern bikes, as a whole, have become more homogenous and similar handling,even formulaic, rarely falling outside of a very narrow range of angles,geometries or trail figures and to a degree, lacking in personality(not entirely a bad thing, btw, esp considering a few notable handling abominations of yore).

k
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Old 08-21-08, 08:55 AM   #5
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my own experiences would lead me to believe that there is actually much less variation of handling traits & geometries amoungst 'modern' bikes than there ever were in the past.
i've encountered far fewer steep and quick handling bikes and at the same time don't see many slack and gentle steering bikes on the market these days either.
my thinking is that with the adoption of carbon forks with their limited rake options that modern bikes, as a whole, have become more homogenous and similar handling,even formulaic, rarely falling outside of a very narrow range of angles,geometries or trail figures and to a degree, lacking in personality(not entirely a bad thing, btw, esp considering a few notable handling abominations of yore).

k
I think you may be correct, although at least I see some variety among Bianchi models. This is another motivation to keep my current stable, because I enjoy the contrast between 1960 and 1980 geometries for long distance road racing. A 1960 racing bike with 72-degree angles and skinny stays is very comfortable on a century, but the bottom bracket flex can be a little annoying on a sprint or a steep climb, which is where a 1980 or newer bike generally shines.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:56 PM   #6
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Old 08-21-08, 06:13 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Little Darwin View Post
I know that memory fades with time, and my needs for a bike change too.

It seems to me (gut feel only) that there is nothing today equivalent in geometry to bikes like my beloved Le Tour, which was what I would consider a sports tourer. Of course, I would love my LeTour to be about 10 pounds lighter, but could I find a bike today (off the shelf) that would be similar in geometry/handling?
I know how you feel. I don't know about "off the shelf," though.

My Diamondback Expert feels a lot like a LeTour I once had, and a lot lighter.
How they got to riding a lot alike, I don't know.

There must be something to it, though, because the Trek Pilot is selling to a lot of folks who just have no need to go fast. I wouldn't mind trying one of those out.

I looked at a Specialied Allez today, and just couldn't figure out if it was supposed to be comfortable or not, so I left it, unlocked, on the rack where I found it. The owner came by a few minutes later, looked at the '87 Cilo I was riding, snorted, and rode off. To him, full polished Dura Ace means little compared to the NASCAR look, I guess.
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Old 08-21-08, 06:45 PM   #8
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I think you can still get bikes with that geometry today, but they are mostly classified as hybrids today, and don't sport the drop bars we remember. My Surly is close, with 72 - 73 degrees for head tube/seat tube angles, but I don't think I could point you to any others that have similarly relaxed angles for a road bike.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:04 AM   #9
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Thanks for the input.

I was giving this thought as a side issue from a debate going on in the road cycling forum concerning Grant Peterson and Rivendell... While I know I appreciate Grant's view, and others here in C&V as well, I see the deeper question as one more of the geometry.

I agree that today the relaxed geometry seems to be relegated to comfort bikes or built as loaded tourers. I guess it is a good thing there is enough vintage steel to keep me going for the rest of my life.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:30 AM   #10
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You simply cannot make any generalizations about bikes from any given country or from any decade. Geometries have always been very variable things. Also, you can't compare quality bikes with mass-market bikes like a Le Tour. Many of those kinds of bikes had no special "road bike" geometry at all, they were simply the same frames the companies used for their 3-speed "racers" but dressed up with derailleurs and drop handlebars. The closest approximation in terms of geometries today would probably be a hybrid converted to drop bars. But if you get a modern touring bike, you're going to get something that is roughly like what you're looking for. You could get yourself a Rivendell, but that would provoke extreme outrage among the hoi polloi on here, and it would be fairly expensive unless you're an affluent enthusiast.
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