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  1. #1
    Sasquatch Crossing mycoatl's Avatar
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    Frame Choices: Surly LHT / Soma Saga / Salsa Vaya / Bruce Gordon BLT?

    I'm looking for a new frame, and am considering either a Surly LHT, Soma Saga, Salsa Vaya, or Bruce Gordon BLT. I mostly tour on my tandem, so I'd be using it for relaxed riding, commuting, and the occasional tour.

    The frames are similar in price (Ok, the Vaya is a little more expensive and the BG is on sale w/ racks for $750 so they're not exactly the same, but close enough to make no difference to me) and offer similar features. The LHT is ubiquitous (and will soon offer disk brakes, too), the Saga is a nicer tubeset and powdercoated (more durable finish0, the Vaya offers disk brakes (good for winter commuting here in Portland), and Bruce Gordon has a lot of experience designing a touring frame so I assume the BLT is an excellent bike and his racks are great, too.

    I can find a built-up Vaya and LHT locally to test-ride, but not the Soma or the BG, so I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how these frames compare? How do they handle loaded and unloaded, and pros/cons I should consider?

  2. #2
    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    Be aware (you might be already) that if you take a 54cm or smaller frame, the Surly only comes with 26" wheels. I like mine. At first I was not sure of them (26" wheels), but over time I have found there are more pros to them than cons. The only "con" being the wheels don't seem to hold downhill momentum as long as 700 wheels.

    Not mentioned is the Kona Sutra.
    Last edited by Gus Riley; 09-15-11 at 10:57 AM.
    2012 TransAm Tour journal link: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Threeisacharm

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  3. #3
    Sasquatch Crossing mycoatl's Avatar
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    Thanks Gus. I can't tell whether the Sutra is available as a frame only or just as a full build. Do you know?

    I should probably mention that I'm looking for a frameset only because I will be swapping parts from my current frame. Also, I'm looking at ~56cm and already have a 700c wheelset I will be using for the build.

  4. #4
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    You said you won't really be using the bike for touring, so why pay for front and rear racks with the BG? I mean, don't get me wrong, it is likely a great bike, but seems silly to pay for something you will rarely use.

    I like the ride of my BG, it rides nicely both unloaded and loaded, however,i have no experience with the BLT...




  5. #5
    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl View Post
    Thanks Gus. I can't tell whether the Sutra is available as a frame only or just as a full build. Do you know?

    I should probably mention that I'm looking for a frameset only because I will be swapping parts from my current frame. Also, I'm looking at ~56cm and already have a 700c wheelset I will be using for the build.
    I have seen Sutra frame sets on ebay, but have never looked further than that. One of my tour partners has one, I'm pretty well impressed by it, especially in light of what it costs fully equipped vs. my LHT which came only as a basic bike.
    Last edited by Gus Riley; 09-15-11 at 11:40 AM.
    2012 TransAm Tour journal link: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Threeisacharm

    Naked Carbon Weave Aegis Aro Svelte, Purpleen Cannondale RT3000 Tandem, Orange Santana Triplet, Surly Long Haul Trucker

    So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides, 4th Century B.C.E.



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  6. #6
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    I've seen the Sutra in the shops and it looks like a damn fine machine...

  7. #7
    DisMember YokeyDokey's Avatar
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    You know, that $750 BG is the imported frame. Not that that's a bad thing - it's just not an American-made BG.
    The Internet: Bringing the world's bathroom wall to your computer since 1995.

  8. #8
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    mycoatl, I'd have to go with the BG.

    Brad

  9. #9
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    I can only speak for the Vaya, but I can't think of a reason to not go with it.

    The geometry is awesome. It is super comfortable. You can run up fo 700X42c (at least) tires which would come in handy in the bad weather. It has rack mounts front and back. It has disk brake tabs. Not to mention the charcoal metalflake color is just amazing.

    Compared to the Trucker, it is a bit more compact with a shorter wheelbase and chainstays. I think the Trucker is a touring bike first, while the Vaya is more of a do everything bike that can handle some touring. If you do decide to tour on it, it does really well loaded down with front/rear panniers.

    I am sure they are all great bikes. Deciding which one is a good problem to have.

    Love mine

  10. #10
    __________ seeker333's Avatar
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    Right now I'd pick the Salsa Vaya; in six months I might pick the Surly dLHT.

  11. #11
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    geometry?

    Seems to me that the geometry varies quite a bit between these models because I considered several of them when shopping for a touring frame. Your number consideration should be to buy the one that fits you best. In my case, the LHT was out of the question because the top tubes are too long and head tubes too short. The Saga would have been my first choice but it was not available when I was in the market, so I ended up buying a Bob Jackson World Tour from England.

    Have you considered a sport touring or cyclo crossframe. If you don't really plan to tour on it, a touring frame is not ideal for general riding, in my view, because it would be stiffer, heavier and slower than a sport tourer like the Gunnar Sport, Soma ES or Salsa Casseroll.

  12. #12
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry66 View Post
    I can only speak for the Vaya, but I can't think of a reason to not go with it.

    The geometry is awesome. It is super comfortable. You can run up fo 700X42c (at least) tires which would come in handy in the bad weather. It has rack mounts front and back. It has disk brake tabs. Not to mention the charcoal metalflake color is just amazing.
    It'll run 45's on the 700c frame. I have 1.5's on the 26" frame with room to spare. Don't know what size the OP is. I'll second the Vaya. FYI, the Charcoal metallic only comes as a frameset, built bike is orange. They ride like freaking Cadillacs, but are very nimble and will handle gravel as well as pavement.. We have his/hers.



  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    My BG racks are approaching 25 years old, and still fine..
    BLT Kit includes the similar racks, they are made in house by Bruce.

    frame is priced lower by doing like all the others that you listed,
    specs sent to Taiwan based contract factories.

    the Soma Saga anticipated and fit a solid kickstand mount on the frame ..
    a good thing..

    For your use a Redline conquest classic is a good pick, too, a disc-commuter of steel,
    you can tour on, some.....
    Last edited by fietsbob; 09-15-11 at 05:56 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    One of my friends has a Vaya, it is one fine bike. If I was looking for a touring bike, the Vaya would be top of my list to start.

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry66 View Post
    I can only speak for the Vaya, but I can't think of a reason to not go with it.

    The geometry is awesome. It is super comfortable. You can run up fo 700X42c (at least) tires which would come in handy in the bad weather. It has rack mounts front and back. It has disk brake tabs. Not to mention the charcoal metalflake color is just amazing.

    Compared to the Trucker, it is a bit more compact with a shorter wheelbase and chainstays. I think the Trucker is a touring bike first, while the Vaya is more of a do everything bike that can handle some touring. If you do decide to tour on it, it does really well loaded down with front/rear panniers.

    I am sure they are all great bikes. Deciding which one is a good problem to have.

    Love mine

  15. #15
    old and in the way gomadtroll's Avatar
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    Nice line up to choose from, I chose the LHT when I bought, might do different today. I chose the LHT to get the most upright riding position, highest handlebar height. That was my main criteria.

    I have bought a Fargo rev.1, from Salsa, for an even more upright position. Runs larger tires than the LHT. More of a varied terrain touring bike, bigger, softer, tires.

  16. #16
    we be rollin' hybridbkrdr's Avatar
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    There's a thread in the mechanics forum with many people saying the biggest change you can make is to use wider tires if you want a more comfortable ride. So, is there really a reason to go with a steel frame rather than a cheaper aluminium frame like the Nashbar touring frame?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    Seems to me that the geometry varies quite a bit between these models because I considered several of them when shopping for a touring frame. Your number consideration should be to buy the one that fits you best. In my case, the LHT was out of the question because the top tubes are too long and head tubes too short.
    Tarwheel, I agree 100%; the geometry of these frames vary quite a bit and fit is most important. I've poured over geometry charts for the last couple years and still would not trust my judgement regarding how a frame would fit without actually sitting on an assembled bike. And as most touring aficionados know, this severely limits one's choices. I know it comes down to effective top tube length, head tube length, and the angles of the seat and head tubes, but I still think I'm missing something. Does anybody have a proven method?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    Tarwheel, I agree 100%; the geometry of these frames vary quite a bit and fit is most important. I've poured over geometry charts for the last couple years and still would not trust my judgement regarding how a frame would fit without actually sitting on an assembled bike. And as most touring aficionados know, this severely limits one's choices. I know it comes down to effective top tube length, head tube length, and the angles of the seat and head tubes, but I still think I'm missing something. Does anybody have a proven method?
    I suppose to further explain my lack of ability to understand is:

    How do you compare two bikes with the following geometry:

    Bike 1:
    22" effective top tube
    5.5" head tube length
    71.8 head angle
    73.5 seat tube angle

    Bike 2:
    23" effective top tube
    7.9" head tube length
    72 head angle
    72.5 seat tube angle

    Is there a mathematical equation?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    I suppose to further explain my lack of ability to understand is:

    How do you compare two bikes with the following geometry:

    Bike 1:
    22" effective top tube
    5.5" head tube length
    71.8 head angle
    73.5 seat tube angle

    Bike 2:
    23" effective top tube
    7.9" head tube length
    72 head angle
    72.5 seat tube angle

    Is there a mathematical equation?
    the only think I'd go by is riding them. I've been through geometry numbers for decades and my expectations for what the ride should be often didn't jive with what it was.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl View Post
    I'd be using it for relaxed riding, commuting, and the occasional tour.
    Not familiar with the other bikes but I wouldn't get an LHT for the occasional tour. The Cross-Check but not the LHT. The LHTs handling just doesn't fit what I'd want in a road bike, a bike for riding on roads not a racing road bike. The LHT is great with rear loads and front and rear loads but unloaded it's not as responsive as other bikes for recreational riding. I've got a 26" wheeled 56cm LHT and had a 700c 56cm LHT. If you said you ride with 25lbs on the bike all the time then the LHT is a good choice but if you rode 80% of the time unloaded I"d pick another bike.
    With no direct knowledge of the Bruce Gordon other than knowing that he's been making bikes for decades my suspicion is that his touring bike has more neutral handling and less wheel flop than the LHT.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    I went with the Vaya. I needed the long top tube and I wanted to play with disk brakes. It has worked very well. I run Conti Avenue Semislicks, 700x40c with fenders.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    the only think I'd go by is riding them. I've been through geometry numbers for decades and my expectations for what the ride should be often didn't jive with what it was.
    The problem is that nobody around here stocks the Salsa's, Soma's, or any other touring bike for that matter. I managed to track down one Trek 520 and there is a Surly dealer 50 miles away, but it is very difficult to test ride the various offerings. I have to agree with you though, my arm-chair-quarterback impression of what a particular geometry should ride/fit like is rarely what I expected.

  23. #23
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post
    I suppose to further explain my lack of ability to understand is:

    How do you compare two bikes with the following geometry:

    Bike 1:
    22" effective top tube
    5.5" head tube length
    71.8 head angle
    73.5 seat tube angle

    Bike 2:
    23" effective top tube
    7.9" head tube length
    72 head angle
    72.5 seat tube angle

    Is there a mathematical equation?
    The most important dimension for most people is the top tube length because that determines your reach. However, seat tube angle has a big effect on the effective top tube length. A steeper STA shortens the effect top tube because you have to move the saddle back to achieve the same knee-over-pedal position. Likewise, a more relaxed STA angle effectively shortens the top tube. So, in your example above, both bikes would fit about the same across the top because Bike 1 has a shorter top tube but steeper STA. The head angles are so close that it wouldn't matter.

    In my case, head tube length is one of the most important variables because I run my handlebars high, about even in height with the saddle. So between these two frames, I would definitely pick Bike 2.

    BTW, there is a mathematical formula for determining effective top tube length, taking into account seat tube angle, but I'm not good enough at math to tell you about it. I know that it involves some trigonometry.

    Finally, Gunnar bikes has a fantastic fit calculator on their website that is very useful if considering one of their frames or a bike with similar measurements. Basically, you just pick the size frame, stem angle and reach, number of spacers, and it tells you what the reach will be and how much saddle to bar drop.

    http://gunnarbikes.com/site/my-gunnar/gunnar-fit-tool/

    I recently bought a used Waterford frame and was able to determine that it would fit me perfectly using the Gunnar fit tool.

  24. #24
    Old. Slow. Happy. MileHighMark's Avatar
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    I own/ride a Salsa Vaya and a SOMA Saga. The quality and fit/finish is nicer on the Vaya. I use the Saga for commuting, and the Vaya is my "fun" ride (dirt/gravel/pavement). The Vaya is an extremely versatile bike. In fact, if I had to relegate myself to a single bike, the Vaya would be the one.

    Take SOMA's geometry chart with a grain of salt. The seat tube angle on my 58cm Saga is almost one degree steeper than claimed. Also, I wish that SOMA would have paid more attention to the brake boss spacing, as there's very little clearance if you run wide rims (ex: 24mm). Lastly, the Saga's seat cluster isn't very beefy. I had a hard time keeping the seatpost from slipping, and had to resort to Tacx carbon assembly paste and Loctite.
    GRAVELBIKE.COM - ride everything

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
    The most important dimension for most people is the top tube length because that determines your reach. However, seat tube angle has a big effect on the effective top tube length. A steeper STA shortens the effect top tube because you have to move the saddle back to achieve the same knee-over-pedal position. Likewise, a more relaxed STA angle effectively shortens the top tube.
    Tarwheel - Although I think you meant to say that a steeper STA "lengthens" the effective top tube I get what you are saying. I'd never thought of that. You pointed out a grey area that I might not have ever realized. Thanks.

    I did a bit of googling and discovered a relatively new method of comparing modern frames from different manufacturers. It's called Stack and Reach. Trek and Salsa actually include them in their geometry charts. Does anybody have any practical experience with this? Opiniions?

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