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  1. #1
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    New Touring Bike for Todd

    Hi. I am a relatively short (barely 5'6") and lightweight (145lbs) guy, and I'm looking to purchase a new touring bike for a long distance trip this summer (down the West coast) and a very long distance trip next summer (trans-Europe). I tend to travel light and doubt that my gear will weigh more than 20 or 30 pounds. I have read rave reviews on the Cannondale T800, but I have my doubts about whether it is suitable for someone of my size. From what I've read, this bike needs to be considerably weighted down, or else it is too stiff. I just don't know that my body and gear are going to weigh the bike down adequately to overcome the stiffness issue. Also, my arms and legs are pretty short and my shoulders broad for a person of my height. The Cannondale looks to be a longer bike, perhaps unsuitably long for someone of my dimensions. Does anyone have recommendations regarding touring bikes that might better fit me? My budget tops out at ~$1300, though I would not mind spending substantially less. I am going shopping this week, but I want to identify bikes for which I should be looking in the first place.
    Thanks for your help.
    TODD

  2. #2
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    Don't know if this will fit you or not, but this is what you should get:

    Thorn Nomad

    On clearance now at Thorn for $2000, this one is a bargain (at the moment)...

  3. #3
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    I suppose I don't understand your fit concerns. If you clearly defined what the fit issue is then I missed it.

    My wife is 5'6" and has a T800 that she's ridden a fair bit completely unloaded and enjoys it. As the guy running www.fullyloadedtouring.com I see a lot of touring bikes. For every shot shown there are about three more that didn't cut it, mainly for poor photo quality. Anyway, Cannondales are often sited as great choices for big riders because they have the rep for handling the weight. That said, I know of several folks that don't fit into the "big rider" category that love their Tsomethings.

    Are not able to find one to test ride? Where are you?

    Fit is really something that *you* can best figure out by riding, testing and adjusting.

    Cheers,
    Ron - Washington
    The Loaded Touring Bike - Photo Gallery
    Since 2005 - Worldwide - No Ads - Just Inspiration

  4. #4
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    Hi. Thanks for your reply. No, I can easily find and try out a Cannondale T800, but my impression was that it was not an appropriate choice, so I was looking for other options. I have read on several sites that the ride is too "stiff" unless the bike is weighted down with gear. Between my light body frame and my light packing habits, I don't think I'm going to be putting much weight on the bike, and I'm concerned that it would be too stiff. I have a short inseam as well (~29.5"), and I have no idea how I'd stand over one of these things. Still, given that the reviews for this bike are universally extremely positive, I suppose I should give one a try. But I thought someone might be able to recommend other touring bikes with geometries more geared toward short, stubby people like myself.

    Best,
    Todd

  5. #5
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    What size T800 frame does your wife have, out of curiosity?

  6. #6
    eternalvoyage
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    You don't have to spend a lot of money on a frame. The Nashbar frame is covered by a good warranty, I believe. They're not going to sell a bunch of weak touring frames and cover them with a good warranty.... They have to stay in business. Also, they have been selling them for a while. There are reviews on this website and elsewhere.

    The stiffness issue is often overblown. See Sheldon Brown on subject. Tires and tire pressure can more than make up for it. Stiffness is good in a touring bike, I have found. One of the best touring bikes on the market, the Koga-Miyata World Traveller, is aluminum and very stiff.

    You might want to consider 26" wheels, though, especially at your height. There is an interesting article at http://www.thorncycles.co.uk/why26inchwheels.html

    The Surly LHT comes in 26" in sizes 54cm and down, with reason.

    Also, don't let someone talk you into a larger frame. If you are between sizes, go smaller rather than larger. See Bruce Gordon's website for more. I've done both -- gone with slightly larger bikes, and with slightly smaller ones -- and, if you give it a chance with an open mind on the subject, you'll probably find the slightly smaller ones much more suitable.

  7. #7
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    Hey there. I tested a 19" Trek 520 at my LBS today, and I encountered exactly the problem I anticipated. While the vertical fittings were appropriate, I was stretching my short arms to reach the handlebars. I'm either going to need to find a 17" or a bike that is more compact. Does anyone know of a more compact touring bike model?

    Thanks,
    Todd

  8. #8
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    Well, I just keep shoutin' the praises to the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30. A true touring frame made from excellent steel (Reynolds 853.) Seems like the guys that really do their research give this bike alot of consideration before they make a purchase decision. I've had a few Trek 520 owners ride my Sherpa... they're willing to trade straight across. The folks at the LBS love this bike too. They love the geometry and especially the quality steel.

    Give it a look... www.bikes.com. find it at the bottom of the dropdown box in the upper right corner.

  9. #9
    eternalvoyage
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    The length and rise of the stems make a lot of difference.

    You would feel much better on smaller sizes. I'm 5'10" and a 19" bike is a bit too big. I have one that I have ridden a lot, and I prefer 18" or 17" bikes. I've even tried smaller bikes. They are more fun to ride. Next time, I might go smaller -- 16" or equivalent. A lot of pros (including road, cross, and MTB) ride small frames, and compensate with longer stems, more seatpost showing, etc.

    I also like the 17".

    If I were you, I would be trying smaller frames. You'll probably be happier. John Kerry's Serotta is way small, and he's got plenty of money to spend. He's also tried other sizes, and has good fitting advice.... (There are probably some pictures still on the web.) He's far from the only one who has chosen compact frames.

    You might be interested in the REI Safari. There are a lot of good reviews on the web, including on this site. People like them.

    The Sherpa is a good bike, too. May or may not be for you....

    There are many others. If you search around the forums on this site, you'll find a lot of discussions of bikes that might interest you.

    For your height, I really think 26" wheels are a better choice.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 03-13-07 at 07:51 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niles H.
    The length and rise of the stems make a lot of difference.

    You would feel much better on smaller sizes. I'm 5'10" and a 19" bike is a bit too big. I have one that I have ridden a lot, and I prefer 18" or 17" bikes. I've even tried smaller bikes. They are more fun to ride. Next time, I might go smaller -- 16" or equivalent. A lot of pros will ride small frames, and compensate with longer stems, more seatpost showing, etc.

    I also like the 17".

    If I were you, I would be trying smaller frames. You'll be happier. John Kerry's Serotta is way small, and he's got plenty of money to spend. He's also tried other sizes, and has good fitting advice.... (There are probably some pictures still on the web.) He's far from the only one who has chosen compact frames.

    You might be interested in the REI Safari. There are a lot of good reviews on the web, including on this site. People like them.

    The Sherpa is a good bike, too.

    There are many others. If you search around the forums on this site, you'll find a lot of discussions of bikes that might interest you.
    Having ridden little bikes and hated it, I'm strongly in the bigger is better camp. There are some serious fitting comprimises involved in riding unusually small bikes.

    Discussing how bike racers fit their bikes in the context of fitting touring bikes is not helpful as the goals and riders are very different. If you like going small, that's fine but it's far from a universal experience, especially in touring bikes.

  11. #11
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    I agree with the 26" coment. I'm 6'1" and they are my choice also, but hard to get outside custom in my size, in a touring bike. I would look first at the LHT.

    If you want custom on a budget look also at the Bike Friday. They offer a lot for touring and every frame is custom, so you can get a perfect fit, and given the 20" wheel you can really get a proper fit.

    I also agree that if you have a short reach, then the one step down is a no brainer. Due to coments above I looked at the sherpa.

    http://www.bikes.com/bikes/2006/touring/sherpa.aspx

    Look at how the tall frames are too short in the top tube, 58 seat gets you 57 TT, and the short ones are too long, 50 for 54. The larger the wheels the more that tends to happen. I mean they fit somebody, but not so much for me or you.
    Last edited by NoReg; 03-13-07 at 06:57 PM.

  12. #12
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    Thank you for all of your responses. I will definitely check out the LHT when it becomes available.

  13. #13
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    i fear a big backlog for the LHT.

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

  14. #14
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    Hey, I'm also going over to my local REI to look at the Safari today. It's definitely tempting at $850-20%. But I don't plan on doing any off-road riding. Should I still consider this bike, or would it be unsuitable if I was not going to go off-road?

    Thanks,
    Todd

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddyK
    Hey, I'm also going over to my local REI to look at the Safari today. It's definitely tempting at $850-20%. But I don't plan on doing any off-road riding. Should I still consider this bike, or would it be unsuitable if I was not going to go off-road?

    Thanks,
    Todd
    If you aren't planning on off-road riding I wouldn't go with the Safari. Rather, try out the Novara Randonee. It's great value in a touring bike. I think it is also $100-$200 cheaper than the Safari. and you can still use your 20% coupon.

  16. #16
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    OK..I'm so psyched. I went to another LBS today and tried the Cannondale 19". It was still way too big, both in terms of the standover and the reach. I was really stretching to get my hands on the brakes. Then I went to another shop and found a leftover new 2004 17" Trek 520 for $800. After moving the seat substantially forward, it fit me pretty perfectly. The only time I was stretching was when I was grasping the handlebars on their bottoms, but I think one is supposed to feel stretched out in that position. There was about a 2" gap when I was standing over the bike. The guy at the shop was extremely nice and helpful, but he did not seem to be an expert on fitting. I myself don't know much about bikes, but it feels like it fits me pretty well, and like I had good control over it. Can anyone suggest any additional tests to make sure it fits me? I mean, I would still like the handlebars a bit closer to me, though I can't imagine going sub 17". Is the 2004 model of this bike much different from the 2007? I can't imagine paying the extra $350 for the 2007, unless there is a huge difference.

    Thanks,
    Todd

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    My LBS has someone that is trained in bicycle fitting. He uses a serotta bicycle fitting tool - it basically looks like one of those stationary bikes that is used in spin classes but everything is adjustable to get the right fit. A fitting session usually takes about an hour, costs $25, and you get it free if you end up buying the bike from his shop. He gives you all the measurements and the suggested geometry of the perfect fitting bicycle for you. He'll even give you suggestions on bikes that aren't carried by his shop. It's a well spent $25.

  18. #18
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddyK
    Can anyone suggest any additional tests to make sure it fits me? I mean, I would still like the handlebars a bit closer to me, though I can't imagine going sub 17".
    Somehow you seem to have picked up something that quite a few people seem to pick up -- the idea that you need a larger bike than you really need. If you open your mind to the possibility, and try a smaller size or two, you might be surprised at how good some of them feel. I had a strong prejudice against smaller frames for years. Then I encountered a few thoughtful, very experienced people who were aware of this habit of mind, and its popularity, and had found ways of getting through to people. If you give it a real chance, and clear your mind of assumptions one way or the other, you might find a bike that fits you much better. I certainly did.

    The fact that you needed to move the seat substantially forward is a strong indication that the frame is too large.

    Some people like the Safari for the uses you have indicated. You could probably try out some of REI's other bikes at the same time. The LHT also may be worth a look.

    It might be a good idea to test ride as many bikes and sizes as you can. You can learn a lot this way. It is a great way to find out what fits and what doesn't, and what suits your body the best.

  19. #19
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddyK
    OK..I'm so psyched. I went to another LBS today and tried the Cannondale 19". It was still way too big, both in terms of the standover and the reach. I was really stretching to get my hands on the brakes. Then I went to another shop and found a leftover new 2004 17" Trek 520 for $800. After moving the seat substantially forward, it fit me pretty perfectly. The only time I was stretching was when I was grasping the handlebars on their bottoms, but I think one is supposed to feel stretched out in that position. There was about a 2" gap when I was standing over the bike. The guy at the shop was extremely nice and helpful, but he did not seem to be an expert on fitting. I myself don't know much about bikes, but it feels like it fits me pretty well, and like I had good control over it. Can anyone suggest any additional tests to make sure it fits me? I mean, I would still like the handlebars a bit closer to me, though I can't imagine going sub 17". Is the 2004 model of this bike much different from the 2007? I can't imagine paying the extra $350 for the 2007, unless there is a huge difference.

    Thanks,
    Todd
    Moving the saddle forward is not the way to decrease the reach. See if the shop will swap the stem with a shorter one and let you test ride again.

  20. #20
    eternalvoyage
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    Just for the fun of it, try out a few frames that are even further along the lines of smaller than you can imagine going -- just to see. I tried riding some bikes that seemed 'out of the question' small for me -- they were outside the framework of my assumptions, or outside the boundaries I had artificially set up in my mind. I found it very enlightening to ride these bikes, even if I settled for a bike that was one notch up in size. I never would have given them a second thought if someone hadn't steered me in that direction.

    Sometimes it helps to explore the extremes, to get a better sense of what is just right.

    Also, you might ask a few experieced bike shop employees what sizes they r e c o m m e n d, without influencing them one way or the other -- just ask them for their honest views on it. Then try out those sizes, and also a size up and a size down. It will help give you a better feel for the factors involved.

    It takes a little variety and experience, in actual riding, to develop a feel for what really suits you best.

    And remember that, at the end of the day, it is the way it actually works for you that matters most; you're the one who will be riding it. Listen to others, but in the end make the decision based on how it actually feels and fits in your own experience of it. Some bikes just feel right. You can learn to recognize this quality, but it takes some actual riding of various sizes and bikes to develop this.

  21. #21
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    Everything you said makes sense, about getting a bike that's comfortable regardless of size. But most touring bikes do not come in a size smaller than 17" (43 cm). 17" is the smallest size available for the Trek 520 and Cannondale T800 and Fuji Touring. The Jamis Aurora and REI Randonee don't even come that small. The Surly Long Haul Trucker comes in a 42cm size, but I don't imagine that the 1cm is going to make much of a difference. Anything below 17" would be a woman's bike or a child's bike. As much as I want a bike that fits me well, I think I'd look silly riding a child's bike. I have heard of many people who are 5'1", not 5'5.75" like myself, riding 17" bikes. Most people in bike shops have told me that they think I should be riding something around a 19" bike, but 19" bikes don't feel comfortable to me. I think that a 17" bike is the best fit I'm going to find for myself, short of a custom, which I can't afford. All of the geometry is fine on the 17" Trek 520 except the reach is a tad long. Perhaps I can shorten the stem or change the angles of the bars or something. If anyone knows of a touring bike that comes smaller than 17", please let me know. I just don't think it's available.

    The top tube on the Trek 520 17" is 540mm. This is 2cm longer than on the Cannondale 17", but the Cannondale 19", due to its geometry, felt very long, longer than the Trek 19", even though its top tube is shorter than that of the Cannondale 19". Since everything fits on the Trek bike except the reach, I think the solution is to shorten the stem or change its angle. I would try a Cannondale 17" (if I could locate one), which would cost ~$500 more than the Trek, but I don't think it's worth it. The top tube of the smallest Fuji Tourer is 3cm shorter than that of the Trek. Perhaps I should give that one a ride before I settle on the Trek. But then again, I've heard negative things about that Fuji. What do you think?
    Last edited by ToddyK; 03-14-07 at 07:50 PM.

  22. #22
    eternalvoyage
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    The right stem, or an adjustable stem, might make the 520 feel a lot better. Many people discover that they're more comfortable with higher bars. The right stem can get the bars both higher and closer, if needed.

    Test riding a bike with an adjustable stem, and riding it at different settings, might give you some ideas. Sounds like you're on the right track.

    It probably wouldn't hurt to ask, before buying, if the shop would be willing to swap out the stem.

    The challenge is knowing what sort of stem would work best for you -- it's just a matter of zeroing in on the right choice somehow. I think it can be done.

    If the rest of the dimensions feel right, and it is just a matter of the top tube being a bit long -- and you like the bike -- it may be a good choice for you. It looks like you're getting some good tips on the other thread too, and that you're well on the way to putting together a very nice touring bike.

    ***
    The bars are a big question. There are many different views that can be found on this forum, and on others, including the commuting forum.

    It does help to have several different positions, especially on long rides. And many people find that they like having at least one position that is more upright. Heinz Stucke had an interesting solution (by scrolling down you can see the pictures, and there are some more pages that you can access by clicking at the bottom): http://www.bikechina.com/ct-heinzstucke1z.html

    Sheldon Brown has done something similar, using drop bars below, and a flat bar above. He used a long steerer tube and two stems. And he installed interrupter brakes on the upper bar.

    Some people like riser bars. Others like 'natural' hand positions.

    There are many diverse options. Possibly the simplest one is to use comfortable drop bars that are higher than usual, if you can achieve one or more comfortable riding positions that way.

  23. #23
    eternalvoyage
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    I just ran across some good photographs that illustrate possible and interesting stem-bar combinations. The bars on the Puch (pictured on the link below) look comfortable to me. Larger diameter gripping surfaces with shock-absorbing and vibration-absorbing padding is something I've found to be very good. It's much more comfortable and less fatiguing than the hard, small diameter tubing with thin tape over it:

    Commuter Bicycle Pics

    (If those bars on the Puch were even higher, the drops would be more useful -- at least I would use them more often. I would consider having the top (flats) of these bars high and inside, for a more comfortable upright riding position. Those bars would also allow for lower positions, and low-and-outside positions, when desired.)(I have also considered rigging up a stem that is adjustable on the fly. I don't know of anyone who has done this, but I'm sure it could be arranged.) Those sorts of bars, like the ones on the Puch, are sometimes called ergonomic drop bars because of the more comfortable hand positions when you are out and forward on the drops. There are a number of other variations on drop bars as well. Some are significantly more comfortable than others.

    The stem on the next bike down (the Lemond bike) is more standard, as is the bar position (or the bar height: in relation to the saddle, the bar is lower). Most people find that a higher position is far more comfortable, and more useful for much of the riding they do. (I would far prefer to have the setup in the first picture.)

  24. #24
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    And hey... whatever you decide, get yourself a Brooks B17 saddle! someone in the commuting forum just posted a link to the "daily deal" at Alfred E. Bike for Brooks B17 Champion special. MSRP is $100 - on sale today for $50!

  25. #25
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    With these dimensions, I went for a Cannondale T800 Small:-

    I'm 5'5" tall (no shoes; not a cyclist-build but a soccer player!)
    Inseam (center to floor, no shoes): 75cm
    Arm length: (between thumb & finger to shoulder bone that sticks out): 60cm
    Thigh length (crotch center to knee far point): 36.5cm
    Torso length: (crotch center to base of "v-area" below neck): 67cm
    Foot length (no shoes): 24.5cm
    Hand size (width): 8cm (medium)

    I'm very happy with the bike. Just to note: with the front SKS fender and resin toeclips on the pedals, they can catch on turns if you're not careful!

    Have a look at mine....

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