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Switching from a hybrid to a (custom?) road bike

Old 07-03-16, 11:57 AM
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verdricity
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Switching from a hybrid to a (custom?) road bike

I'm relatively new to cycling, and for the past year or so I've been doing 17.5 mi (one way) commute, a couple times a week, on my hybrid (KHS Urban Xcape, women's version). It does not fit well: the flat handlebars mean that my elbows and wrists get very uncomfortable by the end of the ride, and more recently I've been experiencing moderate back pain that lasts for a few days after each ride. I weigh about 100 lbs; with an empty pannier and ulock, the bike is 39 pounds, almost 40% of my body weight. This is especially a problem as there are a number of significant hills here in San Diego. In addition, I would absolutely love to improve my cycling speed. My moving average is 16-17 mph, and getting faster would make me enjoy my commute a lot more, as well as slightly shorten my 1 hr 10 min+ commute.

So it appears that I am long overdue for a new bike, and based on my needs, I think a road bike would be appropriate. (I mentioned panniers, but I'll be using a backpack if I get a road bike. I don't need to carry much most days, and when I do I plan on keeping the hybrid around.)

Here's the main problem: I am short (5'). That may not seem too bad, but my legs are not proportional. My inseam (pubic bone to floor) is just under 25". I cannot find a road bike with adequate standover. I've been to a number of bike shops in my area, and not only do they not have bikes in my size, but it appears that bike manufacturers do not make them in my size, either. If I could simply go to a LBS and get a solid, entry level road bike in my size, believe me, I would have done so a long time ago.

Two options have presented themselves to me:

1. Get a higher end kids road bike, e.g. the Kona Jake 24. This is the more sensible option. But I'm concerned that such a bike will be lower in quality (it almost certainly will be, but some of these bikes are apparently fairly decent to begin with, and I could swap out some components). It'll need to be able to handle my long commute, with significant hills. There is a psychological aspect to this option--I really do not feel good, or excited, about getting a kids road bike. Given my lack of options, however, I need to overcome my gut aversion to this idea.

2. Get a custom road bike. They are expensive--that is the main concern. But I can get a custom steel frame from Gunnar for $1300, which is significantly less expensive than other custom builders. From what I've read, this seems like a very nice bike. There are two issues here:

Cost: I can stretch my budget to about $2000, but not too much more than that. Does anyone have experience with custom bikes and their associated costs? I imagine I'd need to pay for a good fitting, for example, and then I would need to ask a LBS to build the complete bike (especially as I have no experience with this). I'd be willing to skimp on the components for now, since I can always upgrade later.

Risk: This would be my first road bike, and it is a quantum leap to go from a hybrid to a custom road bike. The vast majority of my riding experience has been on a hybrid with flat handlebars and an upright riding position (which I do not enjoy). I've test ridden road bikes (which have all been too big for me), and realize that drops, increased responsiveness, and riding position are big changes I'll need to get used to. My fear is that in the long run I may not like these characteristics--but I'm not sure how much of a possibility this is. Given the discomfort I'm putting up with on my current setup, I find it hard to believe that I wouldn't be able to adapt to riding a road bike. I am already a dedicated bike commuter (50-60 miles a week, and I'd do more if it weren't so uncomfortable)--so I don't think I run the risk of, say, spending a large amount of money on a custom bike and deciding that I don't quite like cycling after all. If the bike fits (and since this is a custom bike, presumably it would?), it will be ridden.

Thoughts on my options?
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Old 07-03-16, 12:45 PM
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Custom built frames will push right up to, and Over $2K, not including wheels and components .

Not exacxtly Custom, But Bike Friday Builds their bikes as the customer 's order comes up in the build queue.
top tube (monotube) in 8 lengths , + the height choices in the handlebar and seat Masts, dial in the fit excellently.

Problem of a rider that is short and trying to stay with a big 27"/700c wheel and facing geometry compromises to do It

is eliminated by accepting a smaller wheel ,

and as someone who rides one, the 20" wheel is perfectly fine , with their frame designs refined over 2 decades .

and using a 451 rim 20" wheel , with drop bars and all the same drive train picks as any big wheel bike .

Though turning a smaller wheel those 53:11 gears finally become useful when they are way overgeared in a Big wheel .

Call them up Toll free, (though not on the 4th) and talk over your needs ..

https://www.bikefriday.com/folding-b...pocket-rocket/
a small pocket rocket, used, https://www.bikefriday.com/folding-b...te-52cm-10275/

https://www.bikefriday.com/folding-bikes/contact/

Last edited by fietsbob; 07-03-16 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 07-03-16, 01:12 PM
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I remember riding all over San Diego years ago. Yup, a road bike with drops will be better if your bike fits you properly. More positions will make longer rides more comfortable, especially with hills. Sounds like you're in good enough shape and motivated enough to make it worthwhile.

Alas, I can't ride drops comfortably anymore, unless they're elevated above saddle height -- busted up C2 vertebrae. I know what you mean about that discomfort after long rides on a hybrid. I like my comfort hybrid, but I usually need to stop and stretch every 10 miles, and often shake out my hands to get the blood flowing. It's not the ideal position for long rides, but it's all my neck can handle now.
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Old 07-03-16, 05:04 PM
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Maybe check overseas? When my 5' tall ex wife was in France, she was able to find a lightly used road bike that fit her pretty quickly. I'm sure the shipping will suck, but maybe not as much as custom build costs.
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Old 07-03-16, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by verdricity View Post
I'm relatively new to cycling.....

Two options have presented themselves to me:

1. Get a higher end kids road bike, e.g. the Kona Jake 24. This is the more sensible option. But I'm concerned that such a bike will be lower in quality (it almost certainly will be, but some of these bikes are apparently fairly decent to begin with, and I could swap out some components). It'll need to be able to handle my long commute, with significant hills. There is a psychological aspect to this option--I really do not feel good, or excited, about getting a kids road bike. Given my lack of options, however, I need to overcome my gut aversion to this idea.


When my son was your height, got him a Trek 1.2 with 650 wheels - not really a kids bike. He rode is a few thousand km before outgrowing it. Take a look at Terry bikes, they might have a solution?


2. Get a custom road bike. They are expensive--that is the main concern. But I can get a custom steel frame from Gunnar for $1300, which is significantly less expensive than other custom builders. From what I've read, this seems like a very nice bike. There are two issues here:

Thoughts on my options?
My body shape & size is odd, test road a lot of road bikes - none were just right. Went with a custom fit Gunnar Roadie. Worked with LBS and Gunnar/Warerford tweaking bike fit and a number of items I had not considered - got a perfect fitting, very comfortable and responsive road bike. It is great, wish I had done it years sooner. I didn't scrimp on components, nor did I go crazy absolute top end - my build was approx 3k over cost of frame and fork. Probably could have done the build for a third of that.
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Old 07-03-16, 06:38 PM
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Check out Georgena Terry's bikes.
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Old 07-03-16, 06:45 PM
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fietsbob: I haven't really considered a folding bike, although they look like fun bikes. On their website Bike Friday states that folders can go as fast as road bikes, up to a certain speed. Have you found this to be the case? I'm not willing to compromise on this, since I don't have a particular need for a folding biike in the first place.

canklecat: Thanks for taking me seriously! I'm in a bit of weird spot since someone in my position would have switched bikes a long time ago. Feeling a bit discouraged after visiting a number of bike shops in my area--as soon as they realize they don't have anything in my size, they abruptly lose interest in helping me.

KD5NRH: Definitely never considered this option! I'll look into it. One issue is that I'm a bit nervous about getting a used bike. I don't know enough to pick out decent quality used road bikes, and given I've never been on a properly fitted bike, I'm not sure I can tell whether or not a bike fits me or not.

martianone: Cool to hear that you own a Gunnar Roadie! It's looking more and more like my dream bike. Was your LBS a Gunnar dealer? There aren't any in San Diego, so I'd either have to venture out fairly far or find a LBS willing to work with Gunnar. Was there a lot of going back and forth during the fitting/design process? There's another option for me: my folks are in MA, and I visit a few times a year. There's a Gunnar dealer close to their house in MA (Fit Werx) which looks very reputable, but they would have to get all of the fit information from me within about a week, so this is probably a bad idea. But I think a $1k+ build is not in the cards for me right now, unfortunately. I'll really have to spend some time thinking about my budget.

blackieoneshot: I'd love a bike from Georgena Terry! But they are about $4k--well and truly out of my budget.

Last edited by verdricity; 07-03-16 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 07-03-16, 08:23 PM
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Impressive what you are doing under the circumstances.

If you are going to consider children's bikes, a decent one is Islabikes.
Size guide - Islabikes
These would make fine commuter bikes with no toe overlap on the front wheel.

Big brands like Trek offer small sizes, and can be very good, but shops don't want to get one without a purchase commitment. Just as well; you can't trust your own judgment for what is a good fit is anyway. You have no experience at what a good fit feels like. A few millimeters can make a huge difference, and you are off by inches.

So your best bet is to get a professional fit. You should be able to find fitters with good qualifications specific to fitting women somewhere in Southern California. Yes, it will eat a good part of your budget, but not as much as buying the wrong bike. Then become somewhat of an expert on how how to read specifications to find a bike that will work with some part swaps. The fitter should help with that. Then you can order one with little risk.
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Old 07-03-16, 09:22 PM
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https://www.rei.com/product/888333/n...-650-bike-2016

Order.
Test.
Buy or reject.

Reasons to get it-
- The return policy at rei is incredible. You have to put a hold on a card for an order, but dont have to buy it if it doesnt fot or whatever once you try it. You can ride it for a bit and return it if you dont like it.
- 650b wheels give a proportional fit.
- Claris components are solid at this point. Not incredible, but solid.
- rack mount if you want to keep using panniers.
- dirt cheap price allows you to try a road bike without much commitment. Rei's return policy makes for 0 risk.
- its an adult bike, not a big kid's bike.
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Old 07-04-16, 02:12 AM
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Chiming in on the going custom costs. I got an off the shelf frame, and spec-ed it out with the stuff I wanted. Cost me $2k after parts and labor and the frame was only $400 of that. So $700 for parts and labor sounds way too cheap to me.

In my opinion it might be a little too soon to jump straight into custom. I think you shou,d test ride a couple more bikes, even kids ones, and study the geometry for the ones that felt good and the ones that felt bad. This way you will feel more informed during the build process of your custom frame.

That being said, are you sure there isn't a Soma, Surly, All City or Velo Orange or other stock frame that will work for you? These run closer to $500 and can definitely be built up for under $2k. And the frame could later be sold and the parts used on a future bike! Also you should definitely jump in on the 650b tire bandwagon for better proportions! I know some of the, have sub 50cm frame sizes!

FYI: I built up a perfect city bike with Dynamo lights and internal gearing. A way different use case. I also at the last minute, swapped to 650b tires. This helped with toe overlap and fitting. And adds the option of slightly wider tires for the city! I can't believe your bike is so heavy! Mine is decked with heavy extras and is still about 30#.

Last edited by jade408; 07-04-16 at 02:18 AM.
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Old 07-04-16, 05:45 AM
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As long as you use 700c wheels, you will never get a bike that truly fits you at your height. Even if you could get the stand over height, the top tube is going to be too long and the seat tube is going to have that crazy 75 degree angle and toe clip overlap can be a problem. This is why I think mstateglfr's suggestion is the best at the point. The wheel size of 650c still has plenty of choices in tires and will eliminate all of the problems above.

Jade408 suggested 650b so something like the Surly Straggler 650 38 cm might fit. Stand over you might make it but the top tube is still pretty long. It would depend on how long your torso is compared to your leg length.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
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Old 07-04-16, 07:25 AM
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I'm 5' too, but with a longer inseam (29") so I fit 47/48 frames, even so, I know your struggle!

Some options of small road bikes:

- Fuji road bikes. The Sportif comes in a XXS (46cm) size and even an XXXS (35cm) option with 650b wheels.
- Specialized women model's, like the Dolce EVO, come down to a 44 size.
- Giant/Liv also carries women specific models in small sizes, like the Invite and Avail, come down to an XS size.

Since you'll be using the bike as a commuter I listed options with rack mounts, so you could keep using panniers if you'd like. I don't know if you'll need disc brakes too, but some models with them. Here's a post on the subject from a blog I follow, with more options: Road bikes for short women -

I ended up going the custom route myself as none of these models were available in my size locally, but you may have better retailers.

Fortunately, a custom bike is not so expensive here, then again I chose very basic components for my initial build. I plan to keep this bike for many years and can always upgrade later. I also went with rim brakes initially, but with hubs and mounts to add disc brakes, if I feel so inclined. I was mostly interested in getting a quality frame/fork.

I paid the deposit last week and hopefully will be getting my bike in a couple weeks, I'm so excited Good luck on your search!
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Old 07-04-16, 12:45 PM
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[cx mn. Nm][/b]
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Old 07-04-16, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by kuroba View Post
I'm 5' too, but with a longer inseam (29") so I fit 47/48 frames, even so, I know your struggle!
Some of the brands I posted have 46cm frame options which seems promising. I am 5'4" and the magic size for me is about 52cm. Not easily available of course.

I just looked at the invoice for my bike and labor was $180! I also got hand built wheels and Dynamo lighting which likely added some cost. But there is an estimate for you!
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Old 07-05-16, 09:29 AM
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OP, I also live in San Diego, you're right about those hills!

I would recommend you visit Ye Olde Bike Shoppe on University, and talk to Jennifer. She is probably only about 5' herself, and I'm sure she'd be able to advise you well. It's a used/vintage shop, so you never know if they would have something in stock that would fit, but I bet they could do you a custom build, which would almost certainly end up cheaper than a custom frame.
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Old 07-05-16, 10:00 AM
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Surly sells the Straggler in a 650B version down to tiny sizes. It's not exactly a lightweight but it's probably somewhat lighter and definitely higher spec than your hybrid.

Islabikes markets midgrade road bikes for kids and has some smaller-wheel road bikes.

Aside from that, most smaller-wheel bikes are not great quality since they are marketed for tweens whose parents don't want to spend a lot for something that the kid will outgrow. For example Fuji has a 650-wheel bike Fuji Bikes | ROAD | KIDS' SERIES | ACE 650 but it's got cheap components.

Edit - I see all this is redundant. Oh well!
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Old 07-05-16, 10:12 AM
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Ms Terry does go to smaller wheels too , Originally a smaller front, for the fit challenges I Mentioned,

The rear larger, 700c, since at the time the rear gear was no less than 13t x 53t chainrings .

Now her Symmetry uses 2 same size wheels both smaller, now that cassettes go to 11t.

Going to her website seems to feature what you wear to look good on the bike, more than the bikes themselves.
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Old 07-05-16, 10:39 AM
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I regularly ride with a guy that has very short legs (and a normal size torso, if that matters).
A smaller bike with 650 wheels solved his issues.
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