Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Bikes: True North tourer (www.truenorthcycles.com), 2004; Miyata 1000, 1985
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The chain stay length is but one variable. I am guessing that you must also take into consideration the length of the crank, your foot size, the design of your bike shoes, the placement of the cleats, the geometry of the rear rack, and the size of the panniers.
As long as your heel misses the panniers by even a millimetre, you are fine! On one of my touring bikes, the clearance is tight. I have to be careful how I pack my panniers so that they don't bulge in front, and push the panniers as far back as possible on the racks. It's a bit annoying, but in reality, the only time my heel touches a pannier is when I haphazardly stuff the panniers when I go shopping. But I am fine when I tour.
At the very least, ask the store to mount a rack and the biggest pannier you can imagine using on the bike in question. Adjust the bike to your body and go for a test ride. If your heel so much as brushes against the pannier, reject the bicycle.