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  1. #1
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    French constructeur v "road sport" geometry rando bikes

    I built up my first steel frame recently - an LHT with a Brooks B17, fenders, Schwalbe Kojaks and a Shimano SLX groupset - and it has been a complete revelation. So much so, that I am now looking to replace my far more expensive and fancy racing bike with something I might actually be inclined to ride.

    What I want is a randonneuring bike.

    As I understand that idea, it refers to a bike capable of carrying a modest front load, but with springy lightweight tubing and responsive geometry, and clearance for big tyres and fenders. Basically, something very different to the luxurious cruise-ship that is the LHT; but also very different to the twitchy, aggressive, rock-hard carbon fibre monstrosity.

    I’m tossing up between the Soma Grand Randonneur (a French constructeur 650B style frame); or a more familiar “road sport” geometry such as the Soma Smoothie ES or the Velo Orange Passhunter.

    Does anybody have any insights on which they might prefer, and why?

    1. How do road sport frames handle with a front bag (with rack and decaleur)? Is it better to stick with a (cheaper) Carradice style saddle bag?
    2. Is the Tange Prestige nicer steel than the unbranded 4130 used in the Passhunter? I'm aware that Prestige IS merely one subspecies of 4130 CroMo - heat-treated I think, but is has a reputation for being nice stuff whereas the generic stuff used by Velo Orange might be basically anything.
    3. What are the advantages of 650B for larger riders, if any? Is this just a fad?

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Bicycle Quarterly did a survey of equipment used in the 2007 BPB, which may be worth reading. Their interpretation was that equipment choices don't matter very much, and that time spent at controls had a bigger impact on finishing times than any equipment choices.

    http://www.bikequarterly.com/BQPBPEquipsurvey.pdf

    There are lots of bikes nowadays that offer a more relaxed and cushy ride than your typical road bike. Endurance bikes, some cross bikes, now "gravel bikes." Some bikes are billed as "randonneur bikes," afaik they're very similar to endurance bikes nowadays.

    I'd use the LHT to figure out your preferred baggage setup and tire preferences. I'd also get a professional fit, and use that as the basis for what frames will work best for you.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    A new old school sports touring bike is a wonderful thing. The advantage of a 650b wheel is that the bike is typically set up to run a fatter tire than a sports touring style bike. Lower pressure tires are comfy. There are a lot of arguments back and forth about what impact a wider tire may have on speed.

  4. #4
    Senior Member johnread's Avatar
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    This will be a fascinating discussion that will influence selection of my next bike. I'm a commuter/long distance/sport/touring rider and have owned the gamut of different bikes - steel racers from the '80's, carbon racers from this decade, mountain bikes, etc. and enjoyed them both. But now that I am 60+ in age, a little rounder than I once was, and leaning more toward comfortable 50 mile rides, I'm not convinced that one bike is going to be satisfying. So my stable of five bikes gives me some flexibility to match the bike to my mood and the type of ride I want. Earlier this year I built up a LHT as a sort of rando bike that could be used for commuting and touring. It has mid- to high- level components for the breed and is very comfortable. I think the component selection outclasses the Surly frame, so sometime next year I'll probably go frame shopping (Rivendell?) and continue the progressive search for nirvana. I have a feeling that I won't ever be totally satisfied with one bike that can do everything, but it sure is fun trying!

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  5. #5
    Ding! Bandera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    What I want is a randonneuring bike.

    Does anybody have any insights on which they might prefer, and why?
    I have several 700C bikes and saw no need to change wheel spec when I built my Rando-ish bike, a lugged Prestige frame Soma Stanyan.
    It's like a modern version of the classic British Audax/Clubriders machine, a design I've ridden for a very long time, with 130 spacing & threadless fork.
    With 28mm tires, full mudguards and Carradice bag/rack it works very well for solo long distances w/ a compliant ride and lively feel. Just the thing for an elderly gentleman who ventures into the Hill Country.

    It's planned get the MarkII modifications of a triple crank, SPD, triple brifters and possibly a dyno-hub this winter.
    It's my choice for lousy weather and bad roads over my CF Merckx.

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    How do road sport frames handle with a front bag (with rack and decaleur)? Is it better to stick with a (cheaper) Carradice style saddle bag?
    As a disciple of Jan Heine I used to argue that if you put a handlebar bag on a bike with "standard" geometry it would not work well. Then I rode one. I could scarcely tell a difference between the handling of that bike and the handling of my faithful copy of a 50's French 650b rando. The fellow who loaned me the bike said the same thing about mine.

    I suspect handlebar bags are accused of upsetting handling because people don't mount them correctly. A bag swinging around from the handlebars, mounted high and loose, is going to louse up the handling of any bicycle. Mounted low and securely to both the handlebars and a properly designed and installed rack it will work fine with just about any bike, in my experience.

    Having said that, I like my Carradice saddlebags just fine too. The only downside with them, IMO, is that you have to stop in order to retrieve things from them, and they do not offer a convenient place to keep your map visible.


    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    Is the Tange Prestige nicer steel than the unbranded 4130 used in the Passhunter? I'm aware that Prestige IS merely one subspecies of 4130 CroMo - heat-treated I think, but is has a reputation for being nice stuff whereas the generic stuff used by Velo Orange might be basically anything.
    The Prestige is a higher strength steel, due to heat treatment. This allows the tubing to be drawn into thinner wall diameters than plain 4130 while still having adequate resistance to denting and failure. It makes into a slightly lighter frame (about half a pound, IIRC) and will give a livelier, more flexible ride. Some people like that, some people don't. A lot of it depends on your weight and frame size. I am 6' 1" and ride a 61 c-t. At 170 pounds Prestige and similar tubing works very well for me. At 220 pounds, though, frames built with that tubing become mushy and erratic, as the tubes flex and send the bike darting off in random directions. In your shoes, I would try to ride some flexible frames and some stiff ones and see which you prefer, or if it matters to you either way. If that is not possible, then I personally would err on the side of a little too stiff rather than a little too flexible.


    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    What are the advantages of 650B for larger riders, if any? Is this just a fad?
    I am a huge fan of 650b but there's nothing magic or miraculous about them. The single real advantage of the diameter is that it allows the use of wide, top quality tires (with fenders, if desired) without creating ridiculously large wheels and resulting problems of toe overlap. If you want fat tires that roll wonderfully without adding too much weight or causing toe overlap, then 650b is the answer. If you are going to run heavily constructed tires, or tires narrower than about 38 mm, then there is no reason to switch from 700c.

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    Thankyou for the thoughtful replies.

    I am increasingly heading towards the Pass Hunter. Aside from anything else, it comes with a very nice build kit, most of which I'd be wanting anyway.

    Regarding the choice of tubing, I am 210 lb and very strong. I easily flex the beefy LHT if I lower my cadence, even seated. So the regular 4130 in the Pass Hunter sounds like a better choice, based on what you've told me.

    Also, regarding the 650B thing, my experiments over the years convince me that 35mm is nice for the sort of riding I do. I feel no burning urge to go above that. Also, I already have some rather nice 700C wheels that I haven't worn out yet.

    I am beginning to understand that luggage is a very personal thing. I don't like how my Surly handles with an Ortlieb handlebar bag, but it is mounted very high and forward of the steering axis (owing to butterfly bars and a long stem on the touring rig). I might try a small front rack and rando bag on that to see how I find it.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JAG410's Avatar
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    I love the look and style of the french-inspired 650B rando bikes as seen in BQ magazines. Perhaps my favorite style of bike. However, the novelty of owning one has worn off. I've done the 650B conversion thing, the front bar bag thing, and when it comes to riding distances at higher speeds, I reach for my modern road sport bike every time. 650B tubes and tires still aren't stocked in any LBS within a 100 mile radius of me, but 700c options are plentiful. A large saddlebag and a $7 map holder (like this: Cue Sheet Holder | Banjo Brothers) instantly negate most of the benefits of needing a front bag/rack too.

    The Pass Hunter is gorgeous. There's a lot I like about it. The Black Mountain Cycles offerings would be another option. I'm finding that my All-City Mr. Pink can handle 99% of the long rides I do, whether it be gravel or pavement. Columbus Zona steel, super stiff but comfortable, and well thought out frame details make it a great all-rounder. Worth adding to the list if it still falls into your budget.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    Thankyou for the thoughtful replies.

    I am increasingly heading towards the Pass Hunter. Aside from anything else, it comes with a very nice build kit, most of which I'd be wanting anyway.

    Regarding the choice of tubing, I am 210 lb and very strong. I easily flex the beefy LHT if I lower my cadence, even seated. So the regular 4130 in the Pass Hunter sounds like a better choice, based on what you've told me.

    Also, regarding the 650B thing, my experiments over the years convince me that 35mm is nice for the sort of riding I do. I feel no burning urge to go above that. Also, I already have some rather nice 700C wheels that I haven't worn out yet.

    I am beginning to understand that luggage is a very personal thing. I don't like how my Surly handles with an Ortlieb handlebar bag, but it is mounted very high and forward of the steering axis (owing to butterfly bars and a long stem on the touring rig). I might try a small front rack and rando bag on that to see how I find it.
    I think you are on the right track. If the LHT is too flexible for you then Prestige is going to be a disaster. And if you never exceed 35mm then 650b would be a foolish choice. There are some really, really nice 700c tires around that width, and any number of frames that will house them just fine (even with fenders) without toe overlap.

    FWIW, I personally have been pretty unimpressed by Ortlieb bar bags and mounts. I think if you find a way to mount a bar bag low and secure, you will be perfectly happy with it, regardless of the frame you choose.
    Last edited by Six jours; 08-11-14 at 09:11 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post

    Does anybody have any insights on which they might prefer, and why?

    1. How do road sport frames handle with a front bag (with rack and decaleur)? Is it better to stick with a (cheaper) Carradice style saddle bag?


    My opinion is a little different from SixJours, so here is another piece of anecdotal evidence for you.

    I have a 1984 Trek 610 which I have used as a mule for quite some time now. I wanted to cheaply test the low-trail idea, so I first tested high trail. The bike came stock with a fork with 52 mm trail. I had never felt it was stable at low speeds, so I had it aligned and the fork de-raked by Ron Boi. Unloaded it now felt like a very sporty road-sport bike, and still quite nimble with a large rear bag.

    To prepare for a group tour I installed a mountain-bike front rack and modified an old large 'bar bag with a bottom strap and a decaleur for a rather secure mounting. I loaded it up with lock, water, jacket, et cetera and went for a ride. Holding the bars straight ahead it rode well. With just a little steering deviation I noticed a LOT of flop. One-handed riding was possible only with high grip pressure, and no-handed was only possible for a second or so. Unloaded the bike is a great no-hander. So with a now road-like geometry (trail was about 58 mm) a massive but well-located front bag was not viable.

    For the group ride I moved the rack/bag to a Woodrup frame, also 700c, that has a trail around 45 mm (going from memory on this one!). Head angle is similar to that of the Trek. That handled the combination much better under touring conditions and allowed two 65-mile days with a bike that handled nearly normally.

    So I found lower trail with a secure front bag over the wheel but close to the head and the tire is better for handling with a load.

    I now have a custom fork on the Trek that has 65 mm offset, for a trail about 38 mm. I like its handling without a load on 40 to 50 mile rides, but I have not fitted a front bag yet.

    Just my experience!

  11. #11
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafuspyramid View Post
    I built up my first steel frame recently - an LHT with a Brooks B17, fenders, Schwalbe Kojaks and a Shimano SLX groupset - and it has been a complete revelation. So much so, that I am now looking to replace my far more expensive and fancy racing bike with something I might actually be inclined to ride.

    What I want is a randonneuring bike.

    As I understand that idea, it refers to a bike capable of carrying a modest front load, but with springy lightweight tubing and responsive geometry, and clearance for big tyres and fenders. Basically, something very different to the luxurious cruise-ship that is the LHT; but also very different to the twitchy, aggressive, rock-hard carbon fibre monstrosity.

    I’m tossing up between the Soma Grand Randonneur (a French constructeur 650B style frame); or a more familiar “road sport” geometry such as the Soma Smoothie ES or the Velo Orange Passhunter.

    Does anybody have any insights on which they might prefer, and why?

    1. How do road sport frames handle with a front bag (with rack and decaleur)? Is it better to stick with a (cheaper) Carradice style saddle bag?
    2. Is the Tange Prestige nicer steel than the unbranded 4130 used in the Passhunter? I'm aware that Prestige IS merely one subspecies of 4130 CroMo - heat-treated I think, but is has a reputation for being nice stuff whereas the generic stuff used by Velo Orange might be basically anything.
    3. What are the advantages of 650B for larger riders, if any? Is this just a fad?
    "Springy tubing" is bs. Most of the effect people attribute to it normally comes from slacker geometry and wider, higher TPI tyres. It's main benefit is to marketers who are able to get people to spend lots of money on a frame to get a fraction of the benefit they could get from two layers of bar tape and a tyre change.
    Last edited by meanwhile; 08-16-14 at 10:05 AM.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    The Prestige is a higher strength steel, due to heat treatment. This allows the tubing to be drawn into thinner wall diameters than plain 4130 while still having adequate resistance to denting and failure. It makes into a slightly lighter frame (about half a pound, IIRC) and will give a livelier, more flexible ride.
    Not really, no. Read

    Metallurgy for Cyclists | Technical Articles | Support

    Kirk Frameworks Custom Bicycles - frame flex and bicycle design

    ..Wall diameter has only a small effect on flex; the most important factor is tube diameter.

    And honestly, trying to make a flexy frame to eat road shock is silly. That's what you have tyres for. They do the job very well if choose the right ones - most people simply don't:

    Tech FAQ: Seriously, wider tires have lower rolling resistance than their narrower brethren - VeloNews.com

  13. #13
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    And honestly, trying to make a flexy frame to eat road shock is silly. That's what you have tyres for. They do the job very well if choose the right ones - most people simply don't:

    Tech FAQ: Seriously, wider tires have lower rolling resistance than their narrower brethren - VeloNews.com
    I like how, 6+ years later, the mainstream publications are starting to "get it" and turn around to tell us all what the skinny tire folks have been doing wrong.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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  14. #14
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    I like how, 6+ years later, the mainstream publications are starting to "get it" and turn around to tell us all what the skinny tire folks have been doing wrong.
    Oh, smart randoneurs have been running highly tpi 28s and 32s forever. I'm just glad that the mainstream press caught up before outside pressure destroyed the tradition.

  15. #15
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    Oh, smart randoneurs have been running highly tpi 28s and 32s forever. I'm just glad that the mainstream press caught up before outside pressure destroyed the tradition.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  16. #16
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    And come to think of it, the rando riders I've talked to seemed to be eating more protein and fats and fewer carbs waaaay before it become the Hot New Trend in road racing....

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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    Not really, no. Read

    Metallurgy for Cyclists | Technical Articles | Support

    Kirk Frameworks Custom Bicycles - frame flex and bicycle design

    ..Wall diameter has only a small effect on flex; the most important factor is tube diameter.

    And honestly, trying to make a flexy frame to eat road shock is silly. That's what you have tyres for. They do the job very well if choose the right ones - most people simply don't:

    Tech FAQ: Seriously, wider tires have lower rolling resistance than their narrower brethren - VeloNews.com
    I agree that thickness has a smaller effect on stiffness than does diameter, but wall thickness does have a very significant effect. I have built frames that are nearly useless for my size and weight simply because the wall thickness was inadequate. The exact same size and geometry made with the exact same steel of the exact same diameter, but with a wall thickness .2 mm greater, becomes an absolutely wonderful frame for me.

    And you are correct re. shock absorption and tubing thickness, but that is not what I was alluding to. Many folks, myself included, enjoy the feel of a frame with a certain amount of lateral flex. It has nothing to do with road shock and everything to do with how a bike feels to my legs; how it responds to pedaling input. If the frame is too stiff, it feels heavy and "dead" to me. Other people, of course, aren't bothered by that at all, but to me, it makes the difference between a remarkable frame and one that is just "doing a job".

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