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  1. #1
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    Touring Bike Sizing..need some help.

    I normally ride a 50-52CM (I have both) as a racing/commuter bike. I have been looking at touring bikes for a trip next summer, and was wondering if sizing was different. Someone told me I should take into account that I would be lowering the seat post height on a touring bike, so I should look at a larger frame size. As far as I understand, standover height is the key. Does what he says make sense? Are they usually different?

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    Opinions differ (naturally).

    At least you have a logical starting point (the dimensions of your bikes). Many people set up their touring bikes the same as their other bikes, and it's not a problem.

    Then there are those who want to move their handlebars up (in relation to the saddle) to gain a more upright riding position. One way to get that is to get a bigger frame. A bigger frame also gets you a longer wheelbase, which is desirable when you're carrying a load. But when you get a big frame, the frame gets bigger horizontally as well as vertically, which means that you will probably want a shorter stem, move the seat forward, get a seatpost with less offset, etc. Alternately, if the bike has a steel fork, you can use an arbitrarily large number of spacers to get the handlebars up where you want them, and just leave everything else the same.
    Last edited by ploeg; 11-04-10 at 04:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Touring bikes generally have longer head tubes and lower bottom brackets than road bikes, in order to raise the handlebars without stretching you out too much. In terms of the frame size, stand-over height should be about the same as you use in a road bike, and top tube length should be the same or slightly shorter.

    Be careful about going with a larger frame in order to raise the handlebars. If it stretches you out too much, you will put too much weight on your wrists and cause shoulder problems. That is what happened to me on my first touring bike. Better to use a riser stem, or just use the same geometry that you have on your road bike.

    Not sure why you would lower the seat on a touring bike - you still want full leg extension.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorshkov View Post
    In terms of the frame size, stand-over height should be about the same as you use in a road bike, and top tube length should be the same or slightly shorter.
    I bought a touring frame that had a top tube length that was virtually identical to my endurance-geometry road bike. To make the position a little more comfortable for all-day riding, I installed a stem that was 10 or 20mm shorter than the one I use on my road bike. For me this leads to a riding position that's a good compromise between all-day comfort and aerodynamic efficiency. I spend a lot of time riding in the wind, so I didn't want to be sitting bolt upright...

    Not sure why you would lower the seat on a touring bike - you still want full leg extension.
    Agree.

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Standover and top tube length are equally important measurements. Get it as close to perfect as you can, and then compensate with bar height/type, stem length, and horizontal seat position. Multiple hand and body positions are very important when pedaling for 5-7 hours/day. You ideally will have the option of riding stetched out, bolt upright, and everything in between.
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    This is all great advice. Thank you all. It makes sense to keep the same standover height, and if need be to adjust for longer distance comfort, toy with the seat and stem.

    Thanks again!

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    My personal approach is to try to duplicate the riding position of my road bike as closely as possible, since I find it supremely comfortable. That said, while I don't care for it myself, I know some folks want a more upright posture for touring. If you find it more comfortable you might want the bars a bit higher, but... Beware of going too far with higher bars as they can put more weight on your butt and allow road shocks to go straight up your spine.

    I don't see why you would want the seat position to be different on your touring bike than your road bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    Standover and top tube length are equally important measurements.
    Not really. During a typical day of touring I might spend 5-7 hours pedaling the bike and only 5 minutes standing over it. Top tube length is the most important measurement, followed closely by the distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle. Standover height is something that I glance at once before buying the bike and then never think about again...

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    top tube length is spoken of a virtual length if the tube actually slopes.
    so size of frame, length of seat tube, is no indication of length of top tube.

    the data for both is needed.

    saddle to handlebars includes stem horizontal extension length , which you can change.

    with threadless steerer tubes , the height is a result of the length of the steerer tube,
    but you can lower the bars without sawing down the fork,

    because they work fine with spacers above the stem,
    I'd ride it a long time before cutting down the tube on the fork.

    It won't grow back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorshkov View Post
    Not sure why you would lower the seat on a touring bike - you still want full leg extension.
    From reading the context in the original post (get a larger frame size to lower the seat), I think that the OP's friend was telling the OP to lower the seat relative to the handlebars, which is just another way of saying that you should raise the handlebars relative to the seat. And as said before, it's pretty common to get higher handlebars on a touring bike, but it's by no means universal.

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    A good touring bike size is the largest frame that you can comfortably stand over. This might be a size or two larger than the racing frame, but it might not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScituateJohn View Post
    A good touring bike size is the largest frame that you can comfortably stand over.
    This sounds like dubious advice at best. I can comfortably stand over many 58cm frames, but the reach to the bars would leave me feeling like I was stretched on a torture rack... or a TT bike!

  13. #13
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    When I bought my first 10-speed in 1973 it seemed as if the geometries of bikes were about the same. The top tube was alway horizontal. Standover height was a valid statistic. Nowadays there are so many variations of geometries that you have a lot of factors to consider. That's why getting a professional fitting makes sense. In my opinion, frame size is the most important thing to get right. If you get the wrong stem, crank length, etc. you can replace something. Replacing a frame is not a convenient or cheap option. Also, "making do" with an improperly sized frame is not a good choice either.

    For touring, comfort is probably the most important factor. When you're going to be spending many hours in the saddle, day after day, you want to be comfortable.

    The length of the seat tube is important, but you can raise or lower the seatpost quite a bit. Some bikes are intended to have large amounts of seatpost showing - some not so much. Talk to some people who know touring bikes, and the specific models you're looking at, for input on this.

    The reach to the handlebars is probably more important. You can swap stems to get different fits (I got it right on my third try) but the difference between them is less - perhaps not enough to overcome a wrong-size frame. Pay attention to top-tube length.

    Another important factor is how much higher your saddle is than the tops of your handlebars. Aerodynamics aren't as much of a factor as comfort, so higher bars make sense. I like my bars a little below the saddle, but lots of people like them level with each other, and others like their bars a little higher than their saddles. Like I said, you can adjust the saddle height a lot with the seatpost, but it's harder to raise the bars. I think that's one reason tourers tend to have longer head tubes than road bikes. I used to have major problems with pain in my wrists and forearms - much worse than butt pain. I also came back from a two-week tour with numbness in my left hand that lingered for a month. Raising the bars did the most to fix this.

    To sum up, my advice would be to spend a lot of time and effort getting the frame size exactly right (don't settle for a frame that is one size too big or small, just because it's in stock, or a super deal.) Then set up the bike the best you can and go riding, bringing a multitool. As you ride, consider the fit, and how it would feel if you raised something, lowered something, moved something forward, moved something back, rotated something, etc. When you think of something you'd like to try, pull over, make the adjustment, then ride some more. It's a pain to interrupt a ride over and over to make adjustments, but it's totally worth it if you arrive at something that feels wonderful.

    I often try something, decide I like it, ride for a few weeks or months, then decide it was better before I "fixed" it, and change it back. It's an ongoing process, but even though my current setup may not be 100% perfect, it's still far better than the first time I got on the bike.

    One tweak that has made the most difference is the whole handlebar, brake hood setup. I've tried several bars. They were all okay, but some better than others. I've also slid my brakes up and down, and rotated my bars in the stem various amounts. Getting a good setup does as much for hand, forearm comfort as anything. The problem is that every time I move my brakes I have to rewrap the bars. Swapping handlebars is also a pain. But I have to say, it's worth it.

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    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnygmoreno View Post
    I normally ride a 50-52CM (I have both) as a racing/commuter bike. I have been looking at touring bikes for a trip next summer, and was wondering if sizing was different. Someone told me I should take into account that I would be lowering the seat post height on a touring bike, so I should look at a larger frame size. As far as I understand, standover height is the key. Does what he says make sense? Are they usually different?
    Everyone's different, but: I've learned my touring bikes need to be smaller, more compact. Assuming the chainstays are long enough, making the cockpit smaller with a smaller frame means less stretch which means less neck / spine pain after 4-6 hours, especially while in the drops. What's comfortable for high cadence on my road bike for 2 hours is not so comfortable at a slower pace for 6+ hours. And, my KOPS position is better further back with a heavy load, so I need to make sure the seat position can get sufficiently back, and then that may mean a shorter stem, etc. Not so simple, but the benefits of figuring it out are huge. You;ll have to figure it out for yourself ... but a larger frame for touring? - That idea gives me the chills.
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    Ploeg,

    I am pretty sure that's exactly what he meant. Thanks for clearing that up, it brought things into perspective for me.

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    Standover is not all that critical. I have to pay attention to it because I have short legs compared to my torso, so a proper fitting frame overall could be too high for me. But even where that is the case it's nothing like the problem of a frame that doesn't fit for comfort.

    For the most part you want a frame similar to what you already are riding. Unless the racer commuter you have is uncomfortable, it should be a good basis for your touring bike. Racers can be more upright (tubing angles not the position), The seat bottom bracket positioning can be very similar which will have the effect that once the seat position is recreated on a slacker angled touring frame, you will have a shorter length effective top tube, though only by a sight degree, but it could be 1cm.

    I don't think a touring bike needs to be all that more upright in position, than a racer. It depends on the racer though. But a fairly classical road racing bike, the difference in position will come down to the ability of the rider (beyond the 1-2 degree difference in angles which has no more than 1cm effect on position). If you put Lance on a touring bike in a headwind, should he have higher handle bars with all the spacers? But if you are pressing down on a big gut you may want a more upright position just to meet the prime directive of comfort. Of course there are bikes these days that really belong on closed courses only, the positions are pretty extreme, but the classical touring and racing bikes have different frames but the positions are not extremely different. You want a similar seat to bb relationship, which may be the same, and then you have to accommodate personal comfort in the reach.

    At my age of 50 my body still adapts to exercise. So if the bike was designed for long trips where I might settle in, I would possibly have more challenging geometry than if it was riding it for overnighters only, with little chance of settling in over time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnygmoreno View Post
    I normally ride a 50-52CM (I have both) as a racing/commuter bike. I have been looking at touring bikes for a trip next summer, and was wondering if sizing was different. Someone told me I should take into account that I would be lowering the seat post height on a touring bike, so I should look at a larger frame size. As far as I understand, standover height is the key. Does what he says make sense? Are they usually different?
    sizing isn't different. If you want wider bars, add wider bars. If you want a slightly higher bar, put on a slightly different stem. If you're used to a particular aerobic output your posture isn't going to be appreciably different, that's what drop bars are on there for. On the tops for taking it easy, extended on the hoods for cranking it out and on the drops for cranking it out aerodynamically. Frame builders will play around with seat post length with sloped top tubes but the size of the bike is what it should be for you.

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