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Old 07-20-08, 04:12 PM   #1
Brian Sorrell
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My wife is looking for a comfortable bike

My wife is pretty much fed up with her road bike as it's built for speed and she's more interested in a bike built for comfort. She currently has a 2006 Scott Contessa Speedster (52cm). Her complaints are mostly that she feels too far stretched out and that the bars are too far below the saddle -- she's sick of being "hunched over" so much.

I was thinking that a touring frame might be more comfortable for her, so I did some searching and reading here and it appears that the LHT is the frame of choice for many women. Since she already has the Scott and it has good components with which she is satisfied, I figure I can swap most of them over to a more appropriate frame. My question is whether the LHT is really going to feel all that different to her or whether I should pursue some other solution.

The only components she needs to make her happy are drop bars and her Brooks saddle. So any opinions on how much more upright we could get her on an LHT or whatever else would be appreciated. Does it appear to a more experienced person than me that the LHT is more relaxed than the Scott that she currently has? It looks like it *should* be, but I'm not 100% sure how drastic of a difference it will be for her. Any advise will be appreciated.
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Old 07-20-08, 05:19 PM   #2
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Has she tried a recumbent. Not for everyone or even most looking at how few I see but I am sold. It took me about 300 miles to get comfortble riding it on roads with traffic but now I can hold a line, start and stop etc. Still slow up hills but I actually climb easier on it. Not faster mind you, but I can go further up a hill before. stopping.
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Old 07-20-08, 10:12 PM   #3
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Has she tried a recumbent. Not for everyone or even most looking at how few I see but I am sold. It took me about 300 miles to get comfortble riding it on roads with traffic but now I can hold a line, start and stop etc. Still slow up hills but I actually climb easier on it. Not faster mind you, but I can go further up a hill before. stopping.
No offense but I think recumbents suck. It's like giving up on real biking. Regular bikes give your back, shoulders, arms, more your entire body, a better workout. Recumbents isolate a few leg muscles and I don't think that's any good - for me anyway.
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Old 07-20-08, 10:27 PM   #4
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If I were you I would install a shorter reach/taller height stem on her road bike and raise the top of the bars to be level with the part of the seat where her pelvis bone meets the saddle.

Also: If she were to put her elbow against the nose of the saddle and stretch her fingers toward the handlebars, her finger tips should just touch the top of the dropped bars. In other words, the distance from the top of the drops to the nose of the saddle should be forearm + hand.

The idea is for her to be very comfy on the drops and use the tops of the bars or brake hoods for sitting up straighter and being able to look around better (sightsee). Hence the word "touring" bike.

Unless the geometry of her present bike forbids this more relaxed setup, I thing you should try making the bike she has work. I own a LHT. So do many of my friends. Do I enjoy riding it around town? Not much. Too stretched out (limousine geometry) and unresponsive for my taste. BUT - whenever I push a bike out my door with cash enough to stay out for six months on the road - my LHT will be with me. Awesome loaded with camping/touring gear!

If you must buy a new bike, try Surly's Cross Check.
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Old 07-21-08, 01:47 AM   #5
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"Also: If she were to put her elbow against the nose of the saddle and stretch her fingers toward the handlebars, her finger tips should just touch the top of the dropped bars. In other words, the distance from the top of the drops to the nose of the saddle should be forearm + hand."

I strongly disagree with this method of measurement and so do many reputable bike fitters/manufacturers (Lennard Zinn for one).

People's forearms and hands aren't necessarily proportionate to their body. Many people have long lengs and short arms. the point is, it's not uncommon for people to use this method of bike fitting and be too far stretched out. I was told to do the forearm and hand measurement thing on my first road bike and it fit extremely poorly!

Anyone wanting a good bike fit should realize that it is a potentially complicated aspect of cycling and nobody can explain how to fit you to a bike well in a few short sentences. Go look online or in books by reputable authors and don't take anyone's word as gospel. Buying bikes is expensive and you should ensure that you only have to do it once.

Anyways, to the original poster, please let me know in PM if you found the LHT to be a good bike for your wife. I am also hoping to find a bike for a friend of mine who is a rather average sized woman.
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Old 07-21-08, 05:25 AM   #6
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My wife is also looking for a new bike offering more comfort and she's considering a recumbent. austropithicus, is your criticism of recumbents based on personal experience? Have you ridden one for any distance or is your view based more on what you've heard? Our research, including some time on a recumbent, indicates that they're actually pretty comfortable and may be an option the OP should consider for his wife.
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Old 07-21-08, 07:45 AM   #7
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No offense but I think recumbents suck. It's like giving up on real biking. Regular bikes give your back, shoulders, arms, more your entire body, a better workout. Recumbents isolate a few leg muscles and I don't think that's any good - for me anyway.
none taken...and to a point you are right. It does not exersize the upper body very well. On the other hand, I ride mostly for a cardio workout since my knees can't take running and I can ride the bent a lot further in comfort than I can my DF. I tride 4 different saddles on my DF but never was comfortable after 20 miles. Now that I'm on the bent, I've ridden 53 miles once and over 40 several times. I get plenty of upper body work gardening, haulin hay and just general work around the back 40.
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Old 07-21-08, 08:48 AM   #8
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one other note: the OP said his wife is perfectly happy with her brooks saddle but was sick of being hunched over. I flipped my bars on my trek 520 for the same reason but that puts more weight on the saddle. Anyways, a bent works great for me. It never will be as nimble as my DF bikes but I can ride for hours in complete comfort. Folks who are comfortable on a DF really have no reason to try a bent unless they are just courious. Some might find they like riding in the reclined position despite the drawbacks. I'm not sure I would go back to DF even if it was comfortable because I like the view better from the bent. My Cafe is not an extreme bent that puts you laid down. In fact I could recline it more for more speed but there are other bents better suited for that.

Last edited by coyboy; 07-21-08 at 08:53 AM. Reason: spelling and wording
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Old 07-21-08, 09:54 AM   #9
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If getting the bars up and closer to her don't work or if you're already maxed out in that direction, then she might consider a hybrid, my wife loves her Trek 7.5 Womens Specific Design (shorter top tube for women) as she quit riding her road bike for the same reasons. Just a thought anyway
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Old 07-21-08, 04:20 PM   #10
Brian Sorrell
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Thanks for all the thoughts. This morning I put a level across the saddle and the bars to see how things looked: the level was slightly higher at the bars --- this because I had put on a pretty high rise stem for her a few months ago. Given what has been said here, I'm thinking that a different touring frame actually might not do the trick. I mentioned a recumbent and she said no. The hybrid option is a good one and she could keep her Brooks saddle She'd just have to give up drop bars, which in the end might be where she has to compromise.

Thanks for all your input.
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Old 07-25-08, 09:00 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=No offense but I think recumbents suck. It's like giving up on real biking. Regular bikes give your back, shoulders, arms, more your entire body, a better workout. Recumbents isolate a few leg muscles and I don't think that's any good - for me anyway.[/QUOTE]

Us bent riders don't give up real biking, just real pain.
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Old 07-25-08, 11:24 PM   #12
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Check out rivbike.com. You may not agree with Rivendells bicycle philosophy but they are seriously into comfort.
ps. Try the pine tar soap.
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Old 07-26-08, 01:18 PM   #13
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I ride a 42cm (the smallest size) Surly Pacer as my road bike. It's more of a sport touring type bike. It's not a light racer-type bike, but it's got a smooth comfortable ride. I have a rack on it and it can carry panniers with no problems. I had the steer tube left long on mine so the bars are level with the seat. After 4+years riding this bike I'm still thrilled with it every ride.

I also have a 42cm LHT. Heavier than the Pacer, but a great ride too. I didn't cut the steer tube at all on my LHT fork, there is a big stack of spacers, but I like the handlebar height!
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Old 07-26-08, 01:44 PM   #14
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Check out rivbike.com. You may not agree with Rivendells bicycle philosophy but they are seriously into comfort.
ps. Try the pine tar soap.

I second to going to www.rivbike.com to read about how normal people who don't race and want to look like a normal person, but still ride a bike. If you fit her to a bike based on their fitting she will be much more comfortable.

The main thing is that you need to get those bars WAY up there. At least 4-5cm above the saddle to be really comfortable. There is not a race bike made to accomadate such a fit.

If you were to get a touring bike, either get one with a quill stem so you can raise the bars, or one with an uncut steerer, so you can put a ton of spacers under the stem. That is what I did with my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

PC220365.jpg

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Old 07-26-08, 04:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by austropithicus View Post
No offense but I think recumbents suck. It's like giving up on real biking. Regular bikes give your back, shoulders, arms, more your entire body, a better workout. Recumbents isolate a few leg muscles and I don't think that's any good - for me anyway.
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Old 07-27-08, 11:26 PM   #16
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Is she touring? If comfort is the only issue, you may end up adding 5kg unnecessarily if you go with a touring bike.

Have you tried a different stem, or a steerer extension? You can get the handlebars up a good 15cm (1/2 foot) or so. Reach is a little harder to fix, but if you have a 90-110mm stem you can probably drop this back to 50mm or so.

If she wants drop bars and a new bike, do a search on relaxed geometry road bike. Be aware that a shorter-reach bike will have more toe overlap.

Not that I have tried these bikes, but Surly pacer and crosscheck and Soma smoothie and Thorn Audax are some names that have come up when I was looking. They're all lighter than tourers while having the capacity for high handlebars.

--- edit ---
Oops, looks like you've tried swapping stems.

Last edited by Cave; 07-27-08 at 11:30 PM.
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