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  1. #1
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    Women's touring bike - ideas for workaround?

    Hi, I'm trying to find a reasonably priced bike that is able to accommodate the female figure for fully-loaded touring. My problem is that, like many women, I have long legs and a short torso (I'm 5'7" and have an inseam of around 31"). My legs seem to typically fit a 52cm bike frame (at least for the Trek 520), but my arms are way too stretched out. After being measured at several bike shops, I've been told that I need to find a top tube (eff) around 50-51 cm. However, all the touring bikes I've considered thus far (the Trek520, the Surly LHT, the REI Randonee) seem to have a large top tube relative to the (vertical) frame size. I've read other forum posts, and a Terry bicycle has been suggested, but their bikes are on the high end of my budget and still have a (little) too long of a top tube for my needs. I don't like to have my legs cramped, so don't want to go too small of a frame size.

    Is there any way that I can trick out an existing touring or other (road/ hybrid) bike, or am I just asking for too much and just need to pony up the cash for a custom frame? I plan on doing heavy loaded touring (using front/ rear panniers), so I need to find a bike with front/rear brazons. Thanks.

  2. #2
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    Get the Surly 46cm frame. It has an effective top tube of 51.5cm. Get a MTb seatpost that is about 350mm-400mm for your long legs(you might not even have to do this if your getting the LHT complete).

    The 46cm LHT looks like the best fit for you. Trek 520 make too long a top tube for me too.

    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.

  3. #3
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    or you can get the 50cm LHT and just get a shorter stem. Handling won't be optimized though b/c of the super short stem. I'm beginning to think that finding the ideal stem length is the key to a good bicycle fit.

    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.

  4. #4
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    or finding the right sized frame to accomodate the ideal stem size is key to finding the perfect bicycle size.

    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.

  5. #5
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    I went from a 17in Trek 520 to a 42cm LHT. The effTT on the 520 was 52cm, and the effTT on the LHT is 50cm, which I like much better. I'm not sure of the measurements on the larger sizes.
    Gunnar Sport
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  6. #6
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    "I'm beginning to think that finding the ideal stem length is the key to a good bicycle fit."

    Or the next best thing.

  7. #7
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    I'm not an expert on this, but here's my experience as a very particular, very frugal woman. I don't believe in spending gobs of money unnecessarily. If you're resourceful you can save yourself hundreds of dollars, as I did.

    I also do not want to be too stretched out on a bike, and I can't even contemplate spending money on a Terry. So here's my $635 dollar solution:

    I got a really tiny frame. I'm 5'5", something like a 29" inseam, and I went with a 47 cm frame, well below what I used to ride on. I had huge doubts about that, but my LBS proved to me that they could get the exact position I wanted, down to a fraction of an inch, by adjusting the position of the seat, stem, and handlebars. The key was finding ***EXACTLY THE RGIHT ADJUSTABLE STEM*** to get the handlebars 1-2" above the seat and get me in a moderately upright position (or moderately stretched out, if you prefer to express it that way. They mean the same.).

    I was only able to get the position I wanted by going with the smaller frame. Now, there are some problems with this for touring.

    First, we're talking about a road bike, in my case the Trek 1000 WSD. So you're not going to have two sets of eyelets front and back. But you can put fenders and a rack in the same eyelet by using a longer bolt.

    Second, my frame is too small to accommodate all the water bottles I want. Again, there are ways around this, and since you're taller than me you might be able to find a frame with bosses for 2 water bottles (although I feel that 3 are needed for summer touring).

    Third, be very careful about heel clearance for your panniers. This is reduced on a road bike with a small frame. I was amazed to find that I have just enough clearance on my bike, so it's not hopeless.

    Fourth, make sure that you will have enough space to mount fenders. This is a factor of your tire size and brake design.

    Fifth, you willl want to change the gears of any road bike you buy. Changing gears means getting a longer rear derailleur. If you change the chain rings (which you will want to do) you need to carefully check your crank length.

    You will also need to change the tires. I recommend 700 x 28 tires.

    Your situation boils down to finding a bike that
    1) You can afford
    2) Will give you the more upright position you want
    3) Can be converted to a touring bike

    You will clearly have many more choices of frames if you buy a road bike rather than a touring bike, and you will be able to save quite a bit of money.

    There is no reason you can't convert a comfortable hybrid to a touring bike; in fact that will most likely be easier than converting a road bike as you will have more clearance for fenders, maybe more eyelets, etc. That's assuming that a hybrid handlebar will work for you. Putting a road bar on a hybrid will entail work on the brakes and cables.

    I concluded that once I got my road bike set up to fit me perfectly---which took the LBS two weeks to do because they changed practically everything on it---I should stick with that for touring and just deal with the touring conversion problems creatively. I don't want to go through the same hassle and expense all over again to get an already expensive touring bike to be comfortable (like getting rid of the bar-end shifters on the Trek 520). I don't even like the gearing on the 520 as I live in an area of steep hills.

    My 2006 Trek 1000 cost $635 including all upgrades: full mountain gears front and back, deore derailleur, wider handlebar, adjustable stem, wider tires, and extra brake levers mounted on the handlebar, and they installed my existing rear rack and computer. I defy anyone to find a better bike at that price! I don't believe there is a touring bike under $1000 with those features.

    The main thing I want to point out is that frame size is not the most important consideration for you. The most important consideration is BODY POSITION. ***You can achieve what you consider the ideal position in more than one way, by varying the frame, seat, stem, and handlebars and how they all work together.***

    So I suggest that you test a smaller frame as follows. First determine your ideal body position (perhaps on your existing bike) and figure out the exact distance that you want between the top of the seat tube and the handlebars, and your seat height to achieve that position. (Be careful about your knee position when you set this up.) Take a tape measure with you to the store and test various set ups on a couple of different frame sizes with several different stems until you are able to get the exact measurements you want. Choose an LBS that is willing to be really patient with you in this process and is not going to charge you a million bucks to make the swops.

    My LBS didn't charge me a single penny for changing virtually everything on the bike, including several upgraded parts. I love those guys. I realize that not everyone will be this lucky with their LBS.

  8. #8
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    Trekking or butterfly bars! Set 'em about 1-2 inches above the seat using a adjustable stem (at least at first) REI sells a bike called the Safari--- go ride that one. I'm not a big fan of disc brakes for touring bikes, but the Safari has a very good track record (it's even stronger than the Randonee).

    Beware that some sales people hate the Safari becuase it's not your traditional steel touring bike....but really, almost all the *traditional* bicycle tourers were guys, so a new type of bike for the ladies can't be a bad thing, right?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    Trekking or butterfly bars! Set 'em about 1-2 inches above the seat using a adjustable stem (at least at first) REI sells a bike called the Safari--- go ride that one. I'm not a big fan of disc brakes for touring bikes, but the Safari has a very good track record (it's even stronger than the Randonee).

    Beware that some sales people hate the Safari becuase it's not your traditional steel touring bike....but really, almost all the *traditional* bicycle tourers were guys, so a new type of bike for the ladies can't be a bad thing, right?
    I don't think the Safari is the right choice for this individual. According to an employee I spoke with, REI has received complaints about the position being too stretched out. I demoed the Safari and was amazed at how bad the position was---the bars were way too far forward and the seat was above the bars in the highest position of the stem. It is also a heavy, clunky bike. I really can't imagine the Safari being a "ladies bike."

    Search this forum for a review of the trekking bar. I was not impressed. I found it had no more positions than my road bars.

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