Do 26" wheel randonneur bikes exist?
Unless you go custom or with a Surly LHT, are there any other "off-the-rack" options on good randonneur bikes that use 26" wheels? A friend is looking for something around 54 cm size. He would like to avoid going custom as this will be his first road-style bike. He wants something comfortable - hopefully on the lighter side of the spectrum - for long distance riding, not for racing or loaded touring. Availability of 26" wheel components (rims, spokes, tires, etc.) is much greater here in Mexico compared to 700c, let alone 650b.
Thanks for any suggestions!
26"-wheeled rando bikes? I guess they didn't exist, but they do now!
Time for an update on this...
Our friend (who happens to be our insurance agent) never pursued this anymore. In December, however, my partner got interested in upgrading to a nicer bike after several years of riding a 91 Trek 700 with 700c wheels. In the last three years, the type of riding we do with our friends has gone from casual/easy rides on Sundays to 100+ Km rides that could be at times somewhat competitive. We have also seen an increase in organized long distance events ranging 125 Km to 250 Km that we want to participate in together. We still do our occasional credit card touring, for which this bike still does a good job.
After going back and forth, we settled on having a custom-made 26"-wheeled bike. Although, it is a quite unusual wheel size for a rando bike, we decided that it made sense. Some of the logic behind it:
- We enjoy traveling and would love to take travel bikes with us (I already had one.) We thought on availability of spares (e.g., spokes, tires, rims) on emergency situations while credit card touring which had been an issue with the Trek 700. In Mexico and in many other countries, 26" (ISO 559mm) wheels are ubiquitous.
- As a demountable bike (built w/ S&S couplers), packing 26" wheels without having to remove tires and tubes is a big plus.
Once we made the decision on wheel size for this build, we interviewed a total of four U.S. builders around the areas of experience, budget, features & geometry, aesthetics, lead time and easiness in working long-distance with us being in Mexico. We faced some road blocks with each of those areas. In the end, however, we decided to go with R+E Cycles (AKA Rodriguez Bikes) in Seattle. They were able to meet all of our requirement in a very well-balanced manner. I also had my touring bike built with them last year. My partner, however, wanted to do his own due diligence and absolutely make sure that we were choosing the most suitable builder for this project.
After body measurements took place, questionnaire completed and a long series of emails/phone conversations, we narrowed down every single detail on the frame and fork: geometry, materials, aesthetics, colors, etc. This process alone took about a month. After that we ordered components (which had been pretty much predetermined by me.) The building process began and just a few weeks later pics started pouring in. Here is a pic tour:
430mm chainstays: sporty enough for randonneuring and long enough for credit card touring, drive side chain stay protector a la Miyata 1000, chain hanger. Rear triangle ready for future disc upgrade if ever wanted.
Pacenti "Paris Brest" fork crown proposed by R+E for this project given our classic aesthetics requirements.
Frameset fully built. All components installed to make sure everything worked before painting.
Bicycle was painted and shipped to San Diego where we flew to pick it up. Everything fit in the S&S backpack-style case: wheels (w/ tires & tubes on), front rack and stainless steel fenders.
Rear Dropout area finished. We originally wanted chrome tips at the stays and fork tips. We learned that chroming is not only very expensive now, but it's not an environmentally safe process either.
A lugged frame was out of our budget. Our project manager at R+E Cycles, however, came through again. He suggested TIG welding with hand-painted faux lugs.
Cockpit View from above...
Cockpit View from the front...
Frontal-Side view fully built. Bike was christened in the name of "Blue Boy"