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  1. #1
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    Am I overlooking any frames?

    Hello all. Please forgive yet another iteration of the 'which bike' thread, but I wanted to double check something before I pull the trigger on a pretty major cash outlay. After months of research and self-education (many thanks to everyone here, I have learned a lot even though I have posted very little), I have decided to build a bike before spring. My needs are pretty difficult to fill, as I am 5'9," 275 lbs (for now), but I have very short legs (I need a 29 inch or less standover, 28 is definitely more ideal) and I have found myself in a spot where it seems like I have much of a choice other than a Surly Long Haul Trucker. There are a number of frames I would rather get, such as the Handsome Devil, the Kogswell P/R, or the VO polyvalent, but none of them come in a small enough size. It isn't that I dislike the LHT, but it would not be my first choice if I had legs long enough for other frames. The Surly is also pretty close to as pricey as I can go (oh to be able to afford a Riv at the moment...), considering the total cost is already going to be between 1000 and 1500 bucks to build what I need and want correctly the first time. I just wanted to make sure that I am not overlooking any frames out there that would be strong enough and small enough for me. I am wary of going used, because again, I want to be sure I get this bike right the first time, and after trolling the three or four nearest craigslist locales for months, nothing suitable has come up. My poor sears free spirit greenbriar that I bought just to have something to ride short term can't handle another season.

    Do I have any options other than the Surly?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    All of the big name companies sell Crossbikes which would be more than able to meet your requirements. I also wouldn't hesitate to buy a roadbike either. I'm not saying Surly is not a good choice, I have road with guys and gals on them very nice bikes. One other to consider is a Kona Jake.
    Best thing about cycling is when I'm at work I'm thinking of cycling, when I'm cycling I'm thinking about cycling.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the swift reply, youcoming. I guess I should say a bit more about the build I am putting together and its purpose. My first priority is day to day transportation. I live in a small enough town that it is shameful to ever use a car. I don't quite need a cargo bike (and if I ever decide I do, I will just add an xtracycle attatchment to whatever I build) but I do need something that has at least one rack if not two for carrying stuff with me. Comfort and distance are greater priorities for me than speed- I look forward to being able to use this bike not just in my small town, but for rides in to the next town over, which is a bit larger, with more things to do, about 15 miles each way, which I couldn't do yet but hope to be able to by the end of the upcoming summer. The aesthetics of the bike are also important to me. I am basically looking to build a "poor man's Rivendell," although even that is by no means cheap. I have also decided to, for the most part, build (well, assemble and finish, really) the bike myself from parts I choose. I only plan on outsourcing the wheelbuilding and the headset installation, as I don't have the tools for those jobs. By choosing my own parts, I make sure that the bike looks the way I want, has the features I want, and I know that all of the parts are strong and long lasting enough. The Surly lets the side down in a couple of ways, none of which are dealbreakers, and I am not trying to make the perfect the enemy of the good, but I am not thrilled with the threadless headset design, the extremely limited color selection, and the nagging feeling that the frames are a bit overpriced.

  4. #4
    Senior Member rockdog's Avatar
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    Have you considered something like a Bob Jackson frame, maybe one of their Word Tours? I haven't done the math lately but the last time I checked their pricing was pretty competitive, even including shipping to the US (you have to deduct the UK VAT from the prices on their site). From what I've read in a few posts in the Touring forum they should be very good about talking to you over the phone to figure out if one of their frames would work for you. Traditional threaded headset and since you mentioned Riv a few times I assume you would prefer a nice looking lugged steel frame, just thought I'd mention them. I don't have any personal experience with the bikes but they have a good reputation I think.

  5. #5
    Senior Member iforgotmename's Avatar
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    I recently built up a LHT and it is a great bike. I wouldn't hesitate buying another Surly. They have great customer service (I had a prob with a nice rack), my email was responded to within just a few minutes the first time and in a timely manner thereafter. The bike itself is very comfortable and stable, I was riding no handed at over 20 mph the other day. It also makes a great grocery getter, commuter and of course tourer. The LHT isn't about the bling factor it's just a great all around bike. If you do tire of it they seem to hold their value pretty well. It seems as if the LHT will fit your needs and I doubt you willl regret buying one. As far as color goes you could have it blasted and powdercoated. If you drink the Surly kool aid you will grow to love the colors

  6. #6
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    I currently commute on a surly Cross-check which fits me like a glove, but as you said its not a terribly universal fit. Before buying my Surly, my favorite frame maker was Kona. I think that Kona has a nice lineup of some pretty versatile frames. I have also been checking out a couple of Salsa frames that I have spotted at work and they are pretty nice, I would recommend checking out the LaCruz

  7. #7
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    My body is almost exactly like yours. I'm 5'9", 265lbs (down from 309 when I bought my first bike) with a very long torso and short legs. What guys like us need is a frame with a long effective top tube and a small standover. This generally means a sloping top tube. I suggest looking at bikes normally stocked as flat bar road or hybrid bikes. In particular, I suggest a Jamis Coda. I have the Allegro with the same geometry as the Coda, and it fits me perfectly, and I know you can get just a frame or frameset from a Jamis dealer. However, there are sloping top tube frames from most brands, so there should be quite a bit to look at in this class.

    If you want a direct alternative to the Surly, consider the new touring frame from Soma, the Saga. All the mounting points you might want, Tange Prestige tubing, a gentle, stable geometry, and that all important low standover height.

    If the lugs are important to you, I'll second the suggestion of looking at Bob Jackson, though it would mean a budget adjustment.

    By the way, depending on the frame you choose, you might be able to same some money by buying a complete bike and making the changes you want rather than building from scratch. Maybe a lot of money.

    Good luck, and let us know what you pick.
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  8. #8
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    I don't believe it's available as a frame only, but the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 is touted as a great bike. There are many in the Touring forum who sing its praises; check out this tread for some great info on this bike. The bike is not just for touring as it makes a great commuter due to its user-friendliness and its ability to take racks, fenders, and tires as fat as 47mm! It comes in a 47cm frame with an advertised standover height of 745mm which translates to ~29.33", but it's a sloping top tube so it may be lower where you actually straddle the bike. Just my 2 cents, FWIW!
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  9. #9
    Papaya King waynesworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irclean View Post
    I don't believe it's available as a frame only, but the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 is touted as a great bike. There are many in the Touring forum who sing its praises; check out this tread for some great info on this bike. The bike is not just for touring as it makes a great commuter due to its user-friendliness and its ability to take racks, fenders, and tires as fat as 47mm! It comes in a 47cm frame with an advertised standover height of 745mm which translates to ~29.33", but it's a sloping top tube so it may be lower where you actually straddle the bike. Just my 2 cents, FWIW!
    Those are some nice looking bikes. The Metropolis looks nice too, and might fit your needs.

    As an aside, thanks to this thread, I now want a Handsome Devil in Martini Olive.
    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
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  10. #10
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    Have you ridden the LHT or any other type touring or cyclocross bike in your frame size? I know you plan on building it up with your components, but you need an idea of how the bike would feel.

    I've test ridden the 520, T2, Aurora, and LHT (all multiple times). All touring type bikes but they all felt differently. I know part of it has to do with components, but also with the frame itself. Are you choosing a bike only if the frame is available seperately? Do you have the components (or some) or will you buy them once you have the frame?

    From everything i've read the Rivendell is an excellent bike. Have you ridden one, or are you going only off looks? If you are going only off looks I really can't help much. If you want to know about the bikes I tested i'm willing to share.

    I can't pinpoint exactly why a bike had quicker handling, felt stable, was comfortable, or whatever simply because if its geometry however. But I'll help if I can.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member redvespablur's Avatar
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    I love my Cross Check - but love my vintage Allez evenmore. Craigslist is a great source for great steel frames. I f could do it all again it would be a Lemond Zurich - used

  12. #12
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    Wow, lots of great responses, thanks everyone. I will try to address everything one at a time, but if I overlook something, I apologize.

    Rockdog- Thanks for the Bob Jackson suggestion. They are great looking frames at what seem to be a pretty reasonable price. I fear that even without the VAT, the exchange rate would be a bit of a killer though. I shall investigate further.

    iforgotmename- I agree, they certainly do have great service. I had a question about the pacer (I was originally considering building a 650b pacer, but it won't quite fit wide enough tires with fenders for me), and they got back to me incredibly fast. That is definitely a plus mark in their column.

    ryanwood- I have checked out the konas and salsas, and nothing really jumped off the pages as interesting to me, unfortunately. I guess the styling is a little too modern for my tastes. I know I am a difficult fit, and I know that beggars can't always be choosers, but if I am going to spend this much money, I want something that looks good as well as rides well.

    Boyd- I agree, a bike with a sloped top tube would definitely solve all of my problems. Unfortunately, a seriously sloped top tube just really turns me off aesthetically. A slight slope is fine, as I don't really have much choice in the matter with my size, but I greatly prefer classic geometry, and I can somewhat make up for a shorter than ideal top tube with good handlebar and stem choices. I had somehow overlooked the Soma Saga, I didn't think any of Soma's bikes had a low enough standover. It is on my short short list of bikes to investigate further. I would love a lugged bike, but I just can't afford one right now. Tig welded steel is fine, although I am definitely staying away from unicrown forks, they look a bit too mountain bikey for my tastes. I considered buying a complete bike, but I will be changing a LOT of parts- handlebar, stem, brake levers, shifters, probably cables, potentially the gearing, saddle, potentially the seatpost. With that much swapping, I doubt I could save any money with a complete bike, considering I will be doing most of the work myself. If I was having the entire thing put together for me, I probably could save a little bit of loot on a complete bike. Another big factor is the reliability aspect. I will know who built my wheels. I will know who installed my headset. I will know that all of the components are installed and adjusted correctly because I will have made sure that they are.

    irclean- Thanks for the suggestion. I am looking for one to build though.

    waynesworld- Handsome Devils certainly do live up to their name. If that frame was available in my size, it would be the one I would get, especially considering the price.

    exile- I have not had a chance to ride a LHT. None of the shops in my area carry Surlys, although they can all get the frames for me. I would greatly appreciate your input as to the ride. I have also never ridden a rivendell. Most of the people who ride bikes in my area tend to be the road racing or fixed gear or mountain biking set, and everyone else just ends up with 'hybrids.' I guess that I am technically looking to build a 'hybrid,' but I am hybridizing different aspects of bike design than the mass market 'hybrids.' I am not merely going off of looks, although looks are certainly important to me. Materials and design are equally or more important for me. If you were to show me the most gorgeous bike in the world and tell me that it would ride poorly and break quickly, I would pass it up without a second thought. I am not going to deny that aesthetics are important to me, though. Again, your input would certainly be appreciated.

    redvespablur- I have been trolling craigslist for months now, and I have had no luck. I am sure that if i checked craigslist every single day for ANOTHER six to nine months, something would eventually come up, but I am tired of waiting.

  13. #13
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Has anyone mentioned the Salsa Casseroll or Fargo?
    http://www.bikeman.com/BK8600.html

    http://www.bikeman.com/BK0072.html

    Btw, if you wind up going Surly, my vote would be for the cross bike.
    Old Man Maine

  14. #14
    Senior Member exile's Avatar
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    The most comfortable touring bike I tested was the T2. It was also the most expensive bike as well (1600). I was worried about the material, but in hindsight that probably should not have been a factor. I also disliked the lack of braze-ons and the color (like a dark jungle green). It came with a rack although I would have probably have replaced it in time. Although it was a comfortable ride it was quick handling. All in all probably my second favorite. This bike was available at a LBS basically down the street.

    The LHT was a smoothe ride. I eventually bought one because of the price (980), material and how it felt. The bike felt like it was driving itself sometimes. I think it was a bit on the heavy side, but with a few changes here and there i'm sure i could of lightened it. Just a solid feeling bike. Talking to the owner and the sales guy I got a good feeling from them. Of all the bikes they sold they felt that one was ready to be taken out and toured with as is, plus the price was good. It came with all the braze-ons needed. Except for the tires (which I replace a year later) it was really a smoothe ride although not as comfortable as the T2 (I eventually changed saddle and stem length to help). This bike shop was 3 hours away.

    The Aurora was my third favorite. It felt like it had quicker handling and was pretty nice. However I think the rootbeer and cream color didn't strike a chord with me. I don't think it had all the Braze-ons either. If memory serves me correctly it also felt the lightest. The price was nice (890) but something just didn't do it for me. This shop was an hour away.

    My least favorite was the 520. Still a nice bike but it felt awkward for me. The handling was slow and it felt sluggish. Not saying the other ones were going to win any races, but something just wasn't right. Part of it I think is because i'm in between sizes. They had a size 23 if memory serves me correctly and with a shorter stem I would have probably of felt better. I tried a 21 that someone was selling on Craigslist and I felt scrunched up and it needed to much work. Part of me i think was expecting more because its considered such a classic. it was also about 1200 (if i remember correctly). This shop is also an hour away.

    I don't know, but sometimes you get feelings about bikes once you ride them. Like one person would absolutely love a bike, but you ride it and it feels kind of generic. I found it is defenitely a good idea to ride as many bikes as you can. While budget was a concern, it wasn't my deciding factor. I was also willing to take my time and travel until I found something right for me.
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  15. #15
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    The most important aspect of your bike is the fit - if it is not comfortable then aesthetics are completely unimportant.

    Secondly, your budget will make it difficult to build a good quality bike with individually picked components... an 'off the rack' bike is generally much cheaper than building abike peice by peice, unless you already own a lot of compatible parts you will be using. In fact, you will probably wind up ahead by buying an off the rack bike then swapping out the parts you don't like and selling whatever came on the bike.

    THirdly, if you think Surly frames are overpriced... what frames are reasonably priced? Last I checked, Surly has prices about as low as you can find in North AMerica (except maybe Nashbar brand frames or Bikesdirect)... I don't own a surly and I probably won't be buying one any time soon, but not because they are overpriced.

    Fourthly, consider a rigid mountain bike - generally they have low standover height, room for wide tires, and favour robustness over light weight.

    Good luck with your decision and the build!

  16. #16
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    exile- thanks for your review!

    lardasse74- I agree that fit is more important than aesthetics. If I was choosing aesthetics over fit, I wouldn't have posted this thread, I would have just gotten either a Handsome Devil or a Kogswell or a VO polyvalent. I am looking for a bike that fits me that is also aesthetically pleasing to me. A Surly will fit me, I just wanted to see if there were any I overlooked, like the Soma Saga, which I had overlooked and I am currently researching.

    Second- I don't have a budget per se, but I certainly don't have an unlimited budget. My goal is to build the best bike I can for the least amount of money, as well as the bike I will be most happy with, without cheaping out on my parts. That doesn't mean I will be buying the most expensive parts on the market, but I will certainly be buying good quality parts. Here are the problems with buying a complete LHT: First, I don't have the choice of how long to leave the steerer. Surly cuts it to the length they choose, and if I want to go longer, I have to spend more money on an extension. Also, I don't want drop bars, so that means swapping the bars, the brakes, the stem, and the shifters, and most likely the cables as well. I would also be swapping the saddle and the tires. I would also prefer a chrome headset, seat post clamp, and rims. The complete bike does come with the crankset and cartridge I will be using, but I would want pretty much everything else to be different. Like I have said before, If I am going to be shelling out somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 bucks, I should be completely happy with the result.

    Third- Surlys aren't massively overpriced, but I feel like they are in the neighborhood of fifty bucks overpriced. Surly's paint hasn't recieved the best of long term reviews, and they only offer one or two colors at a time. There are a number of smaller companies that offer comparable frames that are well reviewed that come in at a lower price or similar price. The VO Polyvalent, for instance, is 400 bucks, and the Handsome Devil is 379. The Surly tends to run between 430 and 475 depending on the dealer, and I think 400 would be a more accurate price.

    Fourth- I have absolutely zero interest in another mountain bike. I am sick of walking in to a bike shop and having the salesperson immediately trying to shove me on to a bloody mountain bike. I don't live in the mountains, I do very little off road riding, and all of that is on reasonably maintained paths. I think mountain bikes are ugly. I think unicrown forks are ugly. I think seriously sloped top tubes are ugly. I think ridiculously high bottom brackets are ugly. Putting slick tires on a mountain bike and calling it a road bike is like putting mud tires on a Porsche and calling it a Land Rover. I would be happier on a tiny girl's bike with pink streamers and a banana seat than I would on a mountain bike.

    Sorry about the rant there. I get the mountain bike thing a lot. Thanks for your input. You asked very valid questions.

  17. #17
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    I see you mentioning the VO Polyvalent quite a bit. Not to knock on VO, because I love their stuff to death, but there are 2 considerations with the Polyvalent which would be deal breakers for me, although being a shorter rider, they might not bother you:

    650b wheels. You're limiting yourself on the available rim and tire selections. Sure, it helps lower the standover height and it's a great wheel size, etc.... But for me the issue would also be pedal strike. You'll probably not be using as long a crankarm as me (I'm 6'6"), but it could be a consideration when selecting a frame.

    Also, don't be so quick to dismiss the threadless headset. I wasn't a fan of them at first, either, but I've grown to love 'em. They're simple to adjust and maintain, and there's such a wide variety to choose from: Colour, stack height, etc. (and the stem-cap doodads you can get are fun!)
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    CliftonGK1- 650b was actually my first choice, but I have had to resign myself to 26 inch. I need short cranks, so pedal strike isn't an issue to me, and the 650b tire selection is actually pretty good. There are more 650b tires I would be really happy with than wide 26 inch tires, but a lot of that is because I am looking for something other than solid black, which is considerably less common.

    I'm sure the threadless headset will be just fine, now that I have found a stem for the handlebar setup I am going to use. I definitely plan on leaving my steerer full length or pretty close to it, though, so I am going to need a lot of spacers. It just seems a lot less convenient than threaded stems.

  19. #19
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    Check out the gunnar site, http://gunnarbikes.com/site/my-gunnar/bike-fit/, this is a neat tool for bike fit if you know your saddle height. You can look for a bike with 650B wheels. You may be able to put them on a bike with canty's or disc brakes. My only recomendation is 36 spoke wheels. That is what I run and that will keep you from going to the shop a lot.

    Good luck

  20. #20
    Senior Member spthealien's Avatar
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    How about a compact frame bike? Something like this: http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/....1/3924/36626/

    A very understated bike, it's also a really good value. Yeah, it's got the sloped tubing, but you are looking for a bike with a low standover height, am I right?

  21. #21
    Papaya King waynesworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spthealien View Post
    How about a compact frame bike? Something like this: http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/....1/3924/36626/

    A very understated bike, it's also a really good value. Yeah, it's got the sloped tubing, but you are looking for a bike with a low standover height, am I right?
    I wondered about that too. Not necessarily that particular bike, but the whole sloping top tube thing. At 5 9, you aren't really that short, it's just your legs that are really short. Seems like a bike with a sloping top tube might work out, if you're into that.
    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
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  22. #22
    Senior Member spthealien's Avatar
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    Yeah...compact geometry also leads to a stiffer, lighter bike. The bike I linked to also has rack mounts and a rack-friendly rear disc brake location. It's also a really understated bike with road-like components and a flat bar, which it looks like Merkin is looking for.

  23. #23
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merkin View Post
    I'm sure the threadless headset will be just fine, now that I have found a stem for the handlebar setup I am going to use. I definitely plan on leaving my steerer full length or pretty close to it, though, so I am going to need a lot of spacers. It just seems a lot less convenient than threaded stems.
    It sounds like you're setting up the bike to be fairly upright by leaving the steerer uncut, so I agree with the suggestions that you might want to look at some compact frames with a steeper sloping top tube. Since you're longer in the arms/torso than the legs, the longer reach shouldn't be a concern, and would potentially cut down on the amount of spacers you need to use by allowing you a larger frame with a longer or taller headtube while still giving you the lower standover you need. I'm picturing a frame like the Salsa Fargo with a pair of North Road or Albatross bars slightly above the saddle height.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  24. #24
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I was considering getting a LHT frame to build up, and decided to check for used bikes. I ended up getting a nearly NOS 1986 Schwinn Voyageur on Ebay for about $150 with local pick-up. I had custom 27" wheels built with modern hubs (to make sure the canti brakes would line up), and upgraded the entire drivetrain to Shimano 105 10 speed with a compact crank. I am very happy with the bike. It is similar to how I would have built the LHT, and it is lugged Columbus steel.

    So, basically, what I am saying is that you may want to consider buying used/vintage if you can find something in your size. Mine is a more common size that you are looking for.

    Also, at your weight, I wouldn't worry about the frame. The only concern I would see is being able to attach the racks you want without heel strike etc on a small frame. You may want to search the Touring forum for other threads on small framed touring bikes, as any frame that would work for touring should work for your commuting needs.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

    People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
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  25. #25
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    My life would certainly be a lot easier if I liked that style of geometry. It just seems too mountain bikey to me, too modern. I know I would have an easier time finding a good fit with the compact style, I just wouldn't be able to take the same level of pride in it. I have always been one to take the most pride in, the most care of, the most enjoyment from, and the most useage of well designed (in the visual and aesthetic sense) objects. I guess it is my art background. I know this may sound a bit preposterous to some, but I look at visual design in the following manner: suppose you found the most comfortable pair of shoes you could possibly imagine. They are like walking on air. Every step is sheer unadulterated bliss. They are also the most visually abhorrent things you have ever laid eyes on in your life, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Every time you set foot outside your door with them on, you feel as embarrassed as you do comfortable. There are some people who would wear these hypothetical shoes anyway, for purely practical reasons, and there are some who would not dare to, even though they are so comfortable. I am in the latter camp. I realize that to some, my shooting down a large swath of the bicycle frames on the market makes absolutely no sense. "If he would have the best fit with the least effort with frame x, why doesn't he just go with frame x," some of you may think. It is because while it is obviously quite important that I am comfortable on the bike, it is also quite important for me to be happy with it, to take pride in it. The more happy with and proud of the bike I end up with I am, the more I will derive joy from it, which means I will spend more time riding it. For me, that means a more traditional looking bike, with a few touches of my own. That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the input though. Thanks again!

    Little Darwin- I gave long consideration to going with a used frame/fork, but a couple of things are pushing me towards new. First is months of fruitless craigslist and classifieds searching. The second is that I am not confident enough in my ability to carefully examine a used frame to be able to discern between use and abuse. I just don't have enough experience buying used bicycles (i have only bought one used bike before) to feel confident that a used frame I purchase is going to last as long as I would want it to.

    As to the heel strike issue, I am not incredibly worried about it for a couple of reasons. One, I will be using short cranks. Two, my plan is to go with a large saddle bag instead of panniers. I am building a touring frame for the strength, durability, and comfort, not for the ability to carry everything up to and including the kitchen sink. A good sized saddle bag and a handlebar/front rack bag will easily carry all of the stuff I would want to carry, at least for the foreseeable future. I have to get to the point where I can ride long distances without feeling like I am going to die before I will need to worry about a lack of cargo capacity.
    Last edited by Merkin; 01-25-10 at 12:08 PM.

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