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  1. #1
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    Large wheels and Unsprung (non leather) saddles are a lie?!

    -------
    Disclaimer!: This post is meant to get some animated debate going if possible. It is not meant to devolve in a flamewar or
    namecalling or to offend anyone. If you can't hack that, please don't read on or post... Thanks!
    ------

    I have at times mentioned some of my ideas on bikes, but never in a thread of their own, in this long post i go into them in detail. Two of these ideas are:

    1. Large Wheels (anything over 20 inch or possibly 24 inch) are a silly idea with little merit for 95 % of cyclist.

    2. Unsprung (non leather?) saddles are a very bad idea for about 85 % of cyclists despite quite few cyclists using them.

    --
    Let me elaborate and please reply if you have read my elaboratoin and feel like replying.


    1. I believe larger wheels have a lot more drawbacks than advantages over small ones.

    Of my and Bike Friday's site:

    Small wheels:
    -climb better due to a smaller diameter that needs to be rotated.
    -accelerate faster for the same reason.
    -are more responsive - they turn and steer more easily - the feel is rather like
    having 'power steering' in your car.
    -have a lower surface area, have lower wind resistance in headwinds.

    When riding in a group, small wheels enable you to get closer together and draft
    (much) better.

    The design of many folders or other small wheeled bikes (Dahon Minibike for example) allows a smaller
    and and lighter overall package than a regular bike, and smallness and lightness are factors in going
    fast.

    For those not into folders, there are more and more non folding small wheel frames available.
    Also there are many smal wheeled bikes that despite the wheels will give the exact same dimensions and riding positions as a large wheeled bikes. To wit, Bike Fridays, Xootr Swifts etc.

    About the small wheels are slow myth:

    In fact tests have shown that up to 16 mp/h, the small wheel is more efficient
    than a big wheel. Between 16 and 33 mp/h there is little difference. Over 33 mp/h
    the gyroscopic effect of the big wheel makes it more effective. Most folks do not
    go over 33 mp/h. Source: 1984 Olympic Men's Road Race Gold Medal winner,
    Alexi Grewal during a conversation with Jeff Linder. Alexi owns a Pocket Rocket
    (a higher end folder).
    Note: 33 mp/h is more than 53 Kilometers per Hour! Even 7 time Tour De France winner Lance
    Armstrong (arguably the world's fastest and best cyclist at the time of his last Tour Victory) averaged
    just shy of 42 Kilometers per Hour in his last tour despite (because?) of large wheels and skinny tires
    The world cycling hour record is about 56 Kilometers per Hour and there are probably about a dozen
    guys in the world that can even get close to this. I for one know that i will never even be anywhere
    near to going 33 mp/h under my own power (just like 99,9% of humanity).

    Remember that large wheels originated from a time where there were no such
    thing as gears - witness the direct drive Penny Farthing bike. Now, the size of the
    wheel can be optimized - and that optimal size is a lot smaller than 26" or more.

    Another reason for the prevalence of larger wheels is tradition and regulations. Most bike sanctioned bike races are subject to stringent regulations which prescribe almost everything including wheel size. Many of these regulations were drawn up at the dawn of cycling 80 to a 100 years ago and have changed relatively little. Wheel size is one thing that has had very little leeway despite mamy new (better?) designs, sizes and insight having come about. How many percent of cyclists actually compete in sanctioned and regulated races....? Not many, then why does the vast majority of cyclists run large wheels?

    Think about HPV records or the fastest bikes out there, they tend to be achieved/build with 20 inch or smaller. This is due to the high efficiency and low winddrag of running small wheels and the design they allow. Even a fairly simple recumbent will allow the average rider to increase his average speed significantly, but that might be somewhat of another debate.

    20 Inch and smaller also allows for smaller lighter frames that are just as stiff yet lighter and can also fold! Think of high end and low end folding bikes such as Moultons, Bike Fridays, Downtubes, Dahons, Bromptons etc.

    Lastly smaller wheels can be (way) lighter yet stronger with the same amount of spokes. I have also learned that it is nearly impossible to warp a 20 inch wheel. According to a knowledgeable guy on bike forums "a 32-spoke, cross laced, 20 inch wheel is about equivalent in strength to a 44-spoke 700c.
    (eg: bomb-proof)". My experience so far seems to confirm this. I jump off curbs and sometimes even in to them (not too much) no problems at all. I think this is another great benefit of a folder with smaller wheels. No way in hell i would dream of doing this with large wheels, they would almost certainly buckle and warp. And what cyclist likes that? It is one of the things that can really put a damper on cycling.

    20 inch is also perfectly suited for (extended) loaded Touring as many tourers have demonstrated. I don't think Heinz Stucke would be using a 20 inch Bike Friday it if it wasn't for his trips.

    Standardization. Quite some small wheel sizes are standardized, particularly 20 inch. You can get a plethora of rims, spokes and tires for these sizes, from the fastest skinniest slicks coupled with Carbon wheels to the Chunkiest toughest BMX tires and high spoke rims.

    Comfort. Some people voice concerns that smaller wheels will be less comfortable. In my experience this is a non issue. Comfort is more dependent on frame design and material, saddle, tire selection and fitness. I could see how hardcore trail mountainbikers might need 24 inch to easily roll over large obstacles such as logs but for the rest... Freestyle BMX is 20 inch and they seem to do pretty well hitting large obstacles and jumps. This concern also ties in with my second point. Lastly, many of todays small wheeled bikes have an axle to axle distance which is the same as large wheeled bikes. In other words they handle and ride just like a larger bike except in the already mentioned respects/advantages.

    -------------

    2. We have been cheated out of comfort and durability (and possibly seduced into risking more injuries) by lemming like behaviour and ignorance when it comes to saddles... Sheldon Brown writes:

    "Until the 1970s bike boom, virtually all bicycle saddles had springs. The only cyclists who rode un-sprung saddles were hard-core, high-intensity riders. These cyclists carried such a large proportion of their body weight on their legs that they didn't need springs in their saddles, and they were weight-concious enough to begrudge the weight of the springs. Sporty cylcists also preferred unsprung saddles because they made it easier to pedal rapid cadences without bouncing.

    When the bike boom struck, and everybody in America bought a racing-style drop-bar ten speed, the unsprung saddle was part of the deal. Unfortunately, neither the un-sprung saddle, the drop handlebars, nor the narrow tires suited the needs of the more casual, "recreational" cyclist.

    The mountain bike revolution was a movement away from the drop bar and the narrow tire, but the unsprung saddle remained. Since the mountain bike came with big fat squishy tires, the tire was able to provide enough shock-absorbency to make the bikes reasonably comfortable to ride. Unfortunately, those same tires also made the bikes slow and hard to pedal.

    Despite fashion, I believe that saddles with built-in springs make a great deal of sense for most cyclists, who favor a fairly upright riding position which puts more of the rider's weight on the saddle."

    Sure you can 'solve' some of the problem of discomfort on non sprung saddles by complex and expensive suspension systems subject to lots of slop and wear and tear. But again this makes little sense to me except possibly for downhill mountainbikers.

    Sheldon Brown also writes:

    "Tensioned Leather Saddles
    Until the mid 1970s, most good quality bicycles came with tensioned leather saddles. These have a frame basically similar to that of the padded plastic saddle, but with a curved metal bridge connecting the two rear points of the "V". A thick piece of leather is rivetted to this bridge, and to an adjustable fitting at the nose of the saddle. The leather is suspended sort of like a hammock. A properly shaped leather saddle is an excellent choice for the high-mileage rider who doesn't mind the fact that it is a bit heavier than a plastic saddle. Leather saddles provide "give" by stretching and flexing, without the need for foam padding. The lack of foam greatly improves comfort in hot weather, as heat and perspiration can "breathe" through the porous leather." Leather saddles also "break in" to fit the particular shape of the rider, in much the same way as a baseball glove does."

    "Every spring, bike shops sell scads of saddles to cyclists who come in because their old saddle has become uncomfortable since they stopped cycling in the fall. They went out for a ride or two, and found it much less comfortable than they remembered from the previous year. They've heard about the latest buzzword in saddle gimmicks, and they want one of those!

    They buy the new saddle, put it on the bike, go for a few more rides, and find they're much more comfortable. They tell all their friends about their wonderful new saddle, and how they need one too...

    But was it really the new, high-tech saddle...or was it just that the rider had become unaccustomed to cycling over the winter layoff? In many cases, working your way up over the course of a few short rides of gradually increasing length is all that is necessary, if you have a decent-quality saddle, properly adjusted. If you have previously been comfortable on your present saddle, don't be in a hurry to change.

    Yes leather saddles do need more care and maintenance. On the other hand they last up to 3 or 4 decades. See the many Brooks threads for more info on this.
    --

    I realize i may be wrong or missing something (so i would really like some positive input) and that taste is something personal. However i just boggles my mind that what i write above may well be (partially) correct or factual... This would have pretty far reaching implications in some ways.

    --
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    http://www.bikefriday.com/
    http://www.bikefriday.com/main.cfm?f...&Category=News

    About Heinz Stucke
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  2. #2
    Macaws Rock! michaelnel's Avatar
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    Small wheeled bikes look silly.
    ---

    San Francisco, California

  3. #3
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Sprung saddles make me sea sick.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  4. #4
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    Ahhh, you guys are killing me ha ha. Yes, those posts have effectively refuted all i have said, i must now admit my defeat and hide in shame...

    No seriously:

    I would say small wheels look silly mostly because of what we are used to and the 'eye of the beholder'. I am sure when the safety bikes came about they looked very silly to Cyclists used to the Penny Farthing bikes. By now -knowing what i know- when i look at large wheeled bikes i think they look silly. Because in effect -for my priorities and my practical point of view- they Are! One day large wheeled bikes may look silly to a majority of riders. Not so likely, but i hope so!

    As for the seasickness, well i'd say the B 17 (or similair saddle) is also more than fine. It lacks springs but is also very comfortable due to the Hammock design, flexing and leather.
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 09:17 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  5. #5
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    leather saddles ARE sprung saddles, aren't they?

    Every brooks made is a 'suspension' saddle (the way a railed and nailed saddle is put togther), and have a lot of SPROING! to them, i thought. however, 3 of my 4 Brooks saddles are proper, coil spring sprung saddles, but do have a B-17 on my road bike.

    Also, my 700x37s give me nearly 129 gear inches in at 52x11, and the rolling inertia helps get me moving at close to and over 25 miles per hour on my road bike every time I get it cranking in the top few gears. I pump those fatties up to 95-100psi, stuff the gears up there and crank it out most every level patch of ground if I'm riding fast... I don't ride with a computer, so am just extrapolating from the gear calculator. big tires are fast though. Really, really fast.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-15-06 at 08:49 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  6. #6
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    I'm with you on both counts, v1nce.

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    @ Beks, sure all Brooks have some suspension, but i was distinguishing between the ones with both Spring and flexible leather upper and the ones that only have the leather upper. I'd say the latter are very comfortable for most cyclists as well. Both are vastly preferable IMO to many of the Rock hard A$$hatchets that seem the standard these days.

    As for the speed/gear inches thing. Well, you can get the exact same gear inches, range etc with a small wheel and as you can with a large one, it would usually mean a somewhat larger Chainring up front or slightly different casette and that is it. Bike Friday and other small wheeled bikes are affordable for the quality and versatile: they offer and come with many gear options for any sort of riding, speed, terrain etc. Bike Fridays are truly custom, Swifts offer a lot of leeway too if ordered from the founder.

    As for the speed you mentioned, as i explained in my first post, at those speeds the larger wheel is supossed to be irrelevant/disadvantageous.

    Lastly there are many tires available for 20 inch, including fat ones, high pressure ones, extreme low rolling resistance ones (Tioga Comp pools, Kenda's) and many more and many combinations of those features..

    @ Randya, thanks! Nice to hear i am not alone.
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 11:22 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  8. #8
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Small wheels do have their strong points, namely portability and strength. But they also have a few downsides.

    * harsher ride (the other face of stronger builds)
    * gearing problems Think 62-tooth chainrings
    * smaller radii means a steeper deflection to go over a given obstacle
    * derailleur clearance w/ the ground
    * for a given width, less air volume means less shock absorption.
    * due to the previous reason, small tires tend to be wider, meaning more air resistance
    * steeper angles for spokes coming out of the hub

    Some of those small-tire arguments are misleading. For instance, a small wheel will spin up faster (all other things being equal; ) but then again, it must spin up *further* in order to achieve comparable ground speed. So that's a zero-gain situation. And while a small wheel will be more maneuverable, that can be a bad thing when it makes you more susceptible to bump-steer. Standard sizes? I have two bents and each one uses a different 20" front wheel. I can get a 20x7/8" tire for one bike, while the skinniest tire for the other bike is 20x1.125. And the 24" rear on one of them is one of three incompatible 24" sizes.

    All in all, what size tire is best to use depends on what you're trying to accomplish. All of the above objections can be dealt with, but doing so may be more bother than simply using a larger wheel. Which is better? You choose. IMHO, small wheels are best used where portability is an issue or there are space considerations; otherwise going big is more practical.

  9. #9
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    V1nce's dream bike?

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    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    V1nce's dream bike?
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  11. #11
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce
    Ahhh, you guys are killing me ha ha. Yes, those posts have effectively refuted all i have said, i must now admit my defeat and hide in shame...

    No seriously:

    I would say small wheels look silly mostly because of what we are used to and the 'eye of the beholder'. I am sure when the safety bikes came about they looked very silly to Cyclists used to the Penny Farthing bikes. By now -knowing what i know- when i look at large wheeled bikes i think they look silly. Because in effect -for my priorities and my practical point of view- they Are! One day large wheeled bikes may look silly to a majority of riders. Not so likely, but i hope so!

    As for the seasickness, well i'd say the B 17 (or similair saddle) is also more than fine. It lacks springs but is also very comfortable due to the Hammock design, flexing and leather.
    Bottom line? Everything you say may be true, but I like larger diameter tires better, which is all that counts, for me, in the end.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  12. #12
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    @ Blaze, yes interesting perspective, some pretty good points, so let me just reply:

    Harsher Ride, i think i gave my take/refutation in my first piece. But i'll just add that very often the bigger the wheel, the skinnier the tire people opt for which is what makes the ride REALLY harsh. I really have not found the ride to be harsh at all despite cycling on 24 inch and bigger for 2 decades before i came to 20 inch. I really feel it is a non issue for almost anyone that would switch to 20 inch providing they have a good frame that fits well, suitable tires and saddle.

    Gearing problems? I have had none whatsoever and really did not need such a huge chainring at all. Many small wheeled worldtourers and racers go very fast or climb extremely steep mountains without needing for huge chainrings. There is such a huge variety of gearsystems and chainring/cog combinations out there that -unless you are Jan Ulrich- a big chainring is very very rarely an issue.

    Obstacle/smaller radii, i think i adressed that sufficiently in my first post. Generally i -and most cyclists i think- don't hit obstacles so large on a regular basis, that these differences we are talking about make a appreciable or important difference at all.

    Derallieur Clearance is not a problem at all, it can be solved in many ways: A bigger tire will give more clearance (enough except for the most intense offroading) or the special derailluers that are more horizontal than vertical that are cheaply offered on bikes by Dahon and others give plenty clearance.
    Then there is also always the option of Hub gears or Speeddrive for those inclined.

    Shock absorption. Sure, for a given width. But what is the problem with having a slightly wider tire so you can have more air? I have not found this a problem at all. And i have to repeat: 'I really feel it is a non issue for almost anyone that would switch to 20 inch providing they have a good frame that fit well, suitable tires and saddle.'

    The air resistance that a wider tire might give is most likely (over)compensated by the fact that the air resistance is lowered a lot by the wheel being quite a lot lower in general. I think there is a formula that says that air resistance increases more rapidly when you raise and object than when you widen it.

    Additionally the frames of small wheeled bikes tend to have tubes and mass way lower to the ground, this means another significant decrease in air resistance. So if anything i believe in this instance smaller wheeled bikes are at an advantage rather than the reverse.

    It is true the angles are larger on the spokes of a smaller wheel. But i fail to see how that gives any appreciable problems? The strength of the wheel make actually benefit from this and the axle widths are still standard.

    The Zero gain thing. If this is true (i am not certain) then ok, no difference there really except you still end up with a stronger and way more portable wheel, so which one does on opt for,.. a no brainer i'd say.

    More manouverable and bump steer: from a safety perspective one could argue that a small wheeled bike is just as safe if not safer. Even if it does bump steer quicker, the way more responsive handling and way smaller turning circle meant that one can avoid objects and collisions a lot better. I find that as far as safety is concerned turning circle and handling is way way more important than bump steer any day.

    Sizing? Almost any (standard) size has various incompatible variations and widths. In this way 20 inch is no different than bigger sizes. My point still remains that 20 inch is a very accepted standard and that getting components for them is no problem pretty much anywhere in the world.

    Finally, it totally agree that the best wheel and tire size depends on each persons goals. But i must respectfully disagree that dealing with the objections (as i try to show in my reply above) is more bother than simply choosing a larger wheel. I feel the still advantages by far supersede any possible disadvantages.

    As i have said in another thread for me -and most 'serious' cyclists- being able to bike as much as possible/to hearts' content is one of the most important things. Another thing that 20 inch has going for it that i find key is that it means portability. A twenty inch bike (especially a folder) can be taken in a standard suitcase, fit in the back of the truck, used for multi mode commuting etc etc. This means MORE and more diverse RIDING! And that is what really drives and inspires me,...
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 09:54 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

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    1. Small wheels:
    -climb better due to a smaller diameter that needs to be rotated.

    Depends on many factors like the quality of the hubs, frame weight, wheels etc. There is no way you can make this assumption because all bikes are not created equal. Are you going to say a Brompton or Birdy will climb better than LightSpeed? What bikes (Folder/Road bike) are you going to compare against each other? Is there a scientific study out there that proved a Dahon Speed Pro will climb better than a carbon Trek road bike?

    2. -are more responsive - they turn and steer more easily - the feel is rather like
    having 'power steering' in your car.

    This is very subjective. Many people will say this responsive feeling make the bike feel very uncomfortable on long descents. In fact, a 16’ inch wheel feels very “squarely” by most standards and is only acceptable for utility cycling.

    3. -have a lower surface area, have lower wind resistance in headwinds.

    The majority of folding bicycles in production are in fact hybrids with a very straight up sitting position. Whatever advantage the small wheel has regarding headwinds is negated by the geometry of the bicycle.



    4. Think about HPV records or the fastest bikes out there, they tend to be achieved/build with 20 inch or smaller. This is due to the high efficiency and low winddrag of running small wheels and the design they allow. Even a fairly simple recumbent will allow the average rider to increase his average speed significantly, but that might be somewhat of another debate.

    Fair enough. The fastest bikes are low racer recumbent but have you noticed the tremendous interest in high racers today? It seems people are discovering the advantages of the larger wheels add more comfort without a decrease in overall speed. In fact, many people are saying the high racers are in fact, faster! Have you ever ridden a low racer? It’s a rough ride and fairly difficult to get used to.

    5. 20 inch is also perfectly suited for (extended) loaded Touring as many tourers have demonstrated. I don't think Heinz Stucke would be using a 20 inch Bike Friday it if it wasn't for his trips.

    Come on. Heinz Stucke road around the world on a 27’ inch, 3 speed bicycle. His transition to a Bike Friday only came as a result of the company’s generous donation.

    6. Standardization. Quite some small wheel sizes are standardized, particularly 20 inch. You can get a plethora of rims, spokes and tires for these sizes, from the fastest skinniest slicks coupled with Carbon wheels to the Chunkiest toughest BMX tires and high spoke rims.

    The best tires, wheels and components are made for 27 and 700 cc wheels.

    7 Comfort. Some people voice concerns that smaller wheels will be less comfortable. In my experience this is a non issue. Comfort is more dependent on frame design and material, saddle, tire selection and fitness.

    It’s a non issue if you install a Brooks Champion Flyer or a suspension seat post like the ThudBuster on your folding bike. Otherwise, a folding bike because of it’s smaller wheel base and high pressure tires, will always give you a harder ride than a 27 inch tire. You can feel the difference when moving from a 16’ inch wheel to one that is 20’ inch. It’s this small wheelbase is the reason why tourist are reluctant to use a folder for loading touring because long descents at high speed just about require a long wheel base for stability. In addition, pot holes, ruts, bumps and waves pose an even greater danger for the smaller wheel then its larger cousin.

    8. I will also say that tires on a folding bike tend to run out faster than a 27’ inch wheel because they make more contact with the road.

  14. #14
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    V1nce's dream bike?
    Maybe not. This could be the true V1nce dream bike!
    Support Group for SERIOUS CYLISTS?

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    Dream bike huh, well no this is closer to it:



    ... Nuff Said.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 10:52 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

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    @ Chipcom, hey mate, fair enough, taste is a really important thing as well IMO and there is nothing i can say against it and i wouldn't even want to.

    But are there any other takers with other arguments? (though i do enjoy the silly bike pictures ha ha, some pretty "interesting" ones, even if i had seen them on BF before)
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 11:36 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  17. #17
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    what the heck kind of bikes are those, vince?
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  18. #18
    Back in the Saddle Again
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    As a mountain rider, 26" tires are a necessity in my opinion. Get any smaller and you risk jamming a wheel into much smaller ruts, having more trouble rolling over obstacles (and not just obstacles, I often ride through sections of trail that are comprised totally of rocks that would be nearly impossible with smaller tires), and like someone else said, fast (read: twitchy) steering on an uneven, loose surface is a sure recipe for rock rash.

    Suspension setups aren't just for saving your butt (literally). They absorb impacts to preserve components and maintain traction. Just like on a car, a good suspension setup makes a vehicle MUCH safer, with better traction, less bump steer, and more predictable behavior.

    I think you have some good arguments for road riding, but for offroad... I'll stick with my 26ers.

  19. #19
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Any data to compare the following between 20" and 700c wheels?

    - rolling-resistance
    - wind-drag
    - bearing-drag
    - longitudinal traction
    - lateral traction
    - supply & availability from manufacturers

    One of the issues I see with existing 700c wheels is a longer wheelbase than desired. I'd love to have a geometry like the mid-80s Trek 770 with 39.5cm chainstays and 95cm wheelbase. Sure you couldn't use a tyre larger than 21mm and there's a tonne of toe-overlap, but the handling's definitely worth it. With smaller wheels we can pull the wheels closer together.

    Cornering-grip is an unknown I'd like to see more data. With motorcycles, there was a trend from 15-16" wheels to 18" wheels in the 80s to increase cornering grip. Same with the current trend with cars. A larger diameter tyre deforms less at the contact patch and the flattened area has more even pressure rather than being dimpled up at the center.

  20. #20
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    Hey Steve, thanks for you input, here is my take on your take:


    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    1. Small wheels:
    -climb better due to a smaller diameter that needs to be rotated.

    Depends on many factors like the quality of the hubs, frame weight, wheels etc. There is no way you can make this assumption because all bikes are not created equal.

    Yes of course, but that goes for all bikes, regarldless of wheel size! Of course a 700 cc 70's Schwinn is not faster or a better climber than a 700 cc Litespeed.... But I am saying that all things being equal except wheel size a Small wheeled bike will likely pulverize a large wheeled bike, in particular when it comes to sprints and climbs (two important factors in almost any race). So quite likely a Tweaked Air Bike Friday or the Highest end Dahon (see below) will likely pulverize a tweaked Litespeed,.. all other things being equal once again.

    Are you going to say a Brompton or Birdy will climb better than LightSpeed? What bikes (Folder/Road bike) are you going to compare against each other? Is there a scientific study out there that proved a Dahon Speed Pro will climb better than a carbon Trek road bike?

    Unfortunately that study does not exist to my knowledge but i would love to see this experiment performed providing the bikes in question were comparable. The bikes you mention are not i think. Not in price, weight or anything else almost. However once again, if all other things were equal,..

    2. -are more responsive - they turn and steer more easily - the feel is rather like having 'power steering' in your car.

    This is very subjective. Many people will say this responsive feeling make the bike feel very uncomfortable on long descents. In fact, a 16’ inch wheel feels very “squarely” by most standards and is only acceptable for utility cycling.

    Almost everything to do with bikes can be subjective. But having done long descents at high speeds with 20 inch i think it is again a non issue. I agree that 16 inch wheels are not the way to go though! These are two small for most applications. 20 inch on the other hand can pretty much do everything larger ones can (and just as well if not better) IMO as i explain in my posts.

    3. -have a lower surface area, have lower wind resistance in headwinds.

    The majority of folding bicycles in production are in fact hybrids with a very straight up sitting position. Whatever advantage the small wheel has regarding headwinds is negated by the geometry of the bicycle.

    Must disagree with this. There are many small wheeled bikes with many geometries (i was not speaking of only the more common folding bikes in my pieces, just like a Litespeed is not one of the most common bikes you see on the road...). Additionally the sitting position of a even common folders is very adjustable because it has to be. So i mantain you can get a position just as Aero on most folders as you can on most racers. I can site more Aero on My Ancient Raleigh Twenty folder than i can on my Friends pretty new and high end Giant racer. I can put the stem way lower, the saddle just as high and mount any handlebars my friend can. But besides that, i speak of 'most cyclists' not of 'most racers' in my arguments...

    See the bikes i posted pictures of for good examples of reall aero/fast small wheelers. Almost all of these are production folders/small wheeled that can be bought easily.

    4. Think about HPV records or the fastest bikes out there, they tend to be achieved/build with 20 inch or smaller. This is due to the high efficiency and low winddrag of running small wheels and the design they allow. Even a fairly simple recumbent will allow the average rider to increase his average speed significantly, but that might be somewhat of another debate.

    Fair enough. The fastest bikes are low racer recumbent but have you noticed the tremendous interest in high racers today? It seems people are discovering the advantages of the larger wheels add more comfort without a decrease in overall speed. In fact, many people are saying the high racers are in fact, faster! Have you ever ridden a low racer? It’s a rough ride and fairly difficult to get used to.

    The land speed record on a high racer is still no where near that of low recumbent. I am also pretty certain that faster times could be set for any speed attempts over an hour long. However once again you end running in to problems with the regulations and such. My friend has actually ridden a low racer on a few occasions and did not find it rough or hard getting used to! The reclined seating is super comfortable and he got the handling down within 2 days. But YMMV. Most people that try Low Racers, High racers or just a racing bike for the first time find them hard to get used to at first as well. Everything different or new is hard the first few times or days, but it is the middle to long run i am interested in.

    Lastly a high interest or many people using something does not necessarily make it 'better'. That is the whole reason why i posted all this.

    5. 20 inch is also perfectly suited for (extended) loaded Touring as many tourers have demonstrated. I don't think Heinz Stucke would be using a 20 inch Bike Friday it if it wasn't for his trips.

    Come on. Heinz Stucke rode around the world on a 27’ inch, 3 speed bicycle. His transition to a Bike Friday only came as a result of the company’s generous donation.

    Sure, that is a large part of his motivation, but that is not to say the bike doesn't perform top notch. According to him it does, and he is cycling some crazy terrain and elevations. Besides him there are lots of extreme long distance tourers (most of them not affiliated with the brands in any way) that do it on Moultons, Bike Friday etc etc. Just look on the net and the pages of the manufacturers.

    6. Standardization. Quite some small wheel sizes are standardized, particularly 20 inch. You can get a plethora of rims, spokes and tires for these sizes, from the fastest skinniest slicks coupled with Carbon wheels to the Chunkiest toughest BMX tires and high spoke rims.

    The best tires, wheels and components are made for 27 and 700 cc wheels.

    Well, certainly the most. But the best? There are certainly great (and probably just as good as bigger wheel varaints) ones made for Twenty inch. Puncture Proof? Schwalbe Marathon Plus comes in 20 inch. Speed? Tioga or Kenda come in 20 inch. Comfort? Big Apple, ditto. Cheap? Children's bikes are 20 and very cheap. Off road,.. BMX,.. need i say more.

    7 Comfort. Some people voice concerns that smaller wheels will be less comfortable. In my experience this is a non issue. Comfort is more dependent on frame design and material, saddle, tire selection and fitness.

    It’s a non issue if you install a Brooks Champion Flyer or a suspension seat post like the ThudBuster on your folding bike.

    Agreed, and since i advocate installing a sprung saddle on ANY bike (except the most race specific machines ridden by actual racers)...

    Otherwise, a folding bike because of it’s smaller wheel base and high pressure tires, will always give you a harder ride than a 27 inch tire.

    Of course, i am not disputing that the ride will be a (little) harsher if all other things are equal. However my point was and remains that with 20 inch the difference is minor and easily compensated for -by other tires and such- and very worthwhile -due to the many advantages-.

    You can feel the difference when moving from a 16’ inch wheel to one that is 20’ inch. It’s this small wheelbase is the reason why tourist are reluctant to use a folder for loading touring because long descents at high speed just about require a long wheel base for stability. In addition, pot holes, ruts, bumps and waves pose an even greater danger for the smaller wheel then its larger cousin.

    Wheelbase, once again this is a small if not non existent difference with todays well designed (20 inch!)folders. Just check out the picture below. As for the potholes and such, any pothole that is so large that it will be disastruous for a 20 inch will likely totally warp a large wheel. I stay away from these type of potholes and anyone running a large wheel which is not MTB off road specific (which as you can readback was one of my few exceptions) would too i am guessing. So pretty moot i would say.

    8. I will also say that tires on a folding bike tend to run out faster than a 27’ inch wheel because they make more contact with the road.
    In theory i am sure this is true. Makes sense. But i find the life of quality tires to be so great these days that this is also not a problem for me personally. Especially if ones uses tires with thicker treads which i prefer anyway. Lastly more material in your tire also means more weight if all other things are equal, so in that way bigger is not better.

    Here is some more info on the (dis)advantages of the 20 inch wheel (this is admittedly info from a folder manufacturer but i believe it to be quite factual):

    http://www.xootr.com/xootr/swift/wheels.shtml
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 11:57 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  21. #21
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    @ Bek, the bike pictures, they are these bikes in order of appearance:

    A Dahon Mini, Two pictures of the same fixed gear self build (excellent builder IMO) non folder with Hydraulic disk brakes, profile tubing etc. A Bike Friday Air Friday, A Moulton (latter two have been used for extreme races, speed records and crazy long tours), A GoBike (which i like to call the Praying Mantis) and A Xootr Swift.

    @ Salad, sure i fully agree. As i said in all my posts i feel that the one exception is serious Offroading Mountainbiking, there is a reason why those bikes are the way they are and the wheelsize and suspension as they are works best for them.

    @ Danno, i don't have all that much data handy but you could look in the folder forum maybe. I do have this of the Xootr Swift site:

    Advantages

    Front foot clearance. Unless you wear clown shoes, your toes will never hit the front wheel on a hard turn.

    Overall length of bike. For the same wheelbase (and ride quality), a Swift is about 12 inches (300mm) shorter in overall length than a conventional cycle.
    Elevators and hallways. This bike fits the short way in most elevators.
    Weight. A 406mm wheel weighs 200-400g less than a 700C wheel with the same tire and rim.
    Sizing flexibility. The bike has a very low "stand over" height, and so fits riders from 5'0" to 6'4" (1.5m to 1.95m)
    Tire availability. Compared to other small-wheelers, the 406 wheel has a huge array of affordable, high-performance tires.

    Disadvantages

    1 % higher rolling resistance. There's really just one disadvantage. Rolling resistance of a tire decreases with increasing diameter. However, rolling resistance is a tiny fraction of the energy loss on a bicycle. Unless you race, you won't notice this.

    Red Herrings

    Ride quality. Some people have the perception that wheel diameter has a large effect on ride quality. There is a small effect. However, the much larger effect is tire selection and tire pressure. If you run our Kenda's at 100psi, the ride will be like a stiff road bike. If you run them at 65psi, the ride will be quite plush. It's as easy as adjusting the tire pressure to meet your preferences.
    Last edited by v1nce; 01-15-06 at 11:33 PM.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  22. #22
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    Here's another one for you guys... 7.7 Kilos / 16,0 LBS.

    The Helios XX is the most advanced folding bicycle Dahon has ever produced. It weighs only 7.7 kg (16.0 lbs.) and folds in a mere 15 seconds. The frame incorporates seven patented technologies and is fabricated from a proprietary Puro™ U6 alloy which is 25% stronger than T6-6061 alloy. Components include some of the finest and most exotic components available, including a SRAM X.0/ Shimano Dura Ace drive train, a custom Rolf® Prima wheel set, Nokon cables, and liberal use of titanium, carbon and magnesium components. The blazingly fast Rolf® Prima Accel wheel set is exclusive to Dahon and at only 995 grams, may well be the lightest performance wheel set ever produced. Finally, each bicycle will be individually numbered and hand-painted.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  23. #23
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    V1nce,
    You've countered all of my arguments with the equivalent of, "not a problem, I can deal with it." As well as Dahon.Steve's very good point that a 20" tire will only last about 70% as long as a 700C tire.

    That's cool, it illustrates that there's room in the cycling world for big and small both. I recognize that you might really like small tires, and that you are making perfectly valid choices *for yourself.*

    I tend to be a 'big wheel chauvinist' in spite of, or perhaps because of having two bikes with 20" front wheels. I believe that larger wheels roll better. They produce less 'road buzz' on less-than-perfect roads, they go better through stuff like two inches of mud or six inches of snow, and they ride more smoothly across really rough pavement. I'm glad you like your small tires, but don't expect to convert me.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce
    Here's another one for you guys... 7.7 Kilos / 16,0 LBS.

    The Helios XX is the most advanced folding bicycle Dahon has ever produced. It weighs only 7.7 kg (16.0 lbs.) and folds in a mere 15 seconds. The frame incorporates seven patented technologies and is fabricated from a proprietary Puro™ U6 alloy which is 25% stronger than T6-6061 alloy. Components include some of the finest and most exotic components available, including a SRAM X.0/ Shimano Dura Ace drive train, a custom Rolf® Prima wheel set, Nokon cables, and liberal use of titanium, carbon and magnesium components. The blazingly fast Rolf® Prima Accel wheel set is exclusive to Dahon and at only 995 grams, may well be the lightest performance wheel set ever produced. Finally, each bicycle will be individually numbered and hand-painted.
    So when are we going to see one of these in the TDF? I would think something "exotic" and "blazingly fast" would be in professional racing.

  25. #25
    Tour de World SteveFox's Avatar
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    to each thier own...i like big wheels and hard seats because really...im a man, and i think of my bike as an extension of myself. i like it big and hard.

    steve
    5 Days Till my Bike Trip
    Steve's World Bike Trip

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