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Am I too short to commute on bike? <= O

Old 09-08-07, 10:23 AM
  #1  
MiddleGrounder
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Am I too short to commute on bike? <= O

This year i wanted to start biking to school to start having healthy habits and such. The thing is i play violin and i have a text book for every class and 3 binders so bike panniers are pretty much a must. I went to a local bike store and asked about getting bike panniers and setting them up but the clerk told me, after looking at my bike, that its to small for panniers. Basically what would end up happening is that because the chain is to short or something my feet would end up kicking the panniers while i am peddeling. I then inquired about possibly getting a different bike. Would i still have the same problem? He told me yes which was rather depressing really.

I stand about 5'1" which i know is short but not unheard of. I really don't know much about bikes but i find it hard to believe that there are no bikes that would fit my needs. I can't be the only short person that has a desire to bike am I?
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Old 09-08-07, 10:28 AM
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I don't know the particulars but the rack could be extended away from the bike (with some sort of metal extentions) to give your feet more room.

Ask in the bike mechanics forum.
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Old 09-08-07, 11:05 AM
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It doesnt look as good, but Id suggest some sort of milk crate on TOP of the rack. You could even spring the $7 for a fancy blue one at wally world. I just use an old ugly black on that says Publix on it.
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Old 09-08-07, 11:09 AM
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Hmm, heel strike is commonly experienced by big riders with big feet, not short riders. Someone with smaller feet and using shorter cranks should be less likely to run into this problem.

Basically all racks are standard length and mount in a standard way over the rear wheel. Wheels are basically standard size (unless you're running 24"), and the bottom bracket is right next to the wheel on a bike of any size. So I'm a bit surprised. I'd try a different shop, preferably one that specializes in commuting/utility cycling and not racing (if you're lucky to have such shops in your area).

If it does turn out that your bike is too small to accommodate panniers and you're forced to look into a new bike, consider Electra Townie. Good for trips around town and has pedals moved further forward than on your conventional bike which eliminates heel strike AND makes sure you can easily put your feet on the ground when sitting on the saddle (usually impossible or difficult on most bikes if your saddle is adjusted properly).
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Old 09-08-07, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by MyBikeGotStolen View Post
It doesnt look as good, but Id suggest some sort of milk crate on TOP of the rack. You could even spring the $7 for a fancy blue one at wally world. I just use an old ugly black on that says Publix on it.
Good cheap solution. Milk crates can be awesome. Milk crate + zip ties = kewl. But keep in mind that it'll make the bike less stable by raising its centre of gravity. Takes a little while to get used to the new handling.

P.S. BTW, what does playing a violin have to do with anything? Do you have to carry it to and from school?
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Old 09-08-07, 11:13 AM
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SUrly Long Haul Trucker goes down to 26 inch wheels after a certain point so that shorter riders still have the right geometry bike, but that may be a lot more money than the OP is willing to invest.

Otherwise, I don't understand what your shop's problem is. Unless the bike is too big for you and it has really short chainstays, heel strike is the last thing you should have to worry about.

Just so we know, what type of bike are you riding?
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Old 09-08-07, 11:34 AM
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My wife is 5'1" and is a full time bike commuter.

She has a 14" trek mountain bike with a trek trunk. She can also use grocery bags with no problem.

Sounds like your LBS does not quite know what they are doing and I would try another one.
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Old 09-08-07, 11:39 AM
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Hey! =) Pop on over to the classic and vintage forum, theres a girl there that goes by East Hill, if anyone can help you she can, she is vertically challenged and has many different type bikes, Im sure if you ask her she would be more than happy to help you out as best she can =) Tell her ilikebikes sent you Good luck! =)
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Old 09-08-07, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by MiddleGrounder View Post
This year i wanted to start biking to school to start having healthy habits and such. The thing is i play violin and i have a text book for every class and 3 binders so bike panniers are pretty much a must. I went to a local bike store and asked about getting bike panniers and setting them up but the clerk told me, after looking at my bike, that its to small for panniers. Basically what would end up happening is that because the chain is to short or something my feet would end up kicking the panniers while i am peddeling. I then inquired about possibly getting a different bike. Would i still have the same problem? He told me yes which was rather depressing really.

I stand about 5'1" which i know is short but not unheard of. I really don't know much about bikes but i find it hard to believe that there are no bikes that would fit my needs. I can't be the only short person that has a desire to bike am I?
My wife's townie has a really long wheelbase and a forward pedaling position that's kind of halfway between a recumbent and a mountain bike. I could have my panniers on her bike and probably have a foot and a half of room between my heel and the panniers.



Townies come in various configurations. Hers is a 3-speed nexus (internal gear), not too ideal for commuting more than 5 miles or so on relatively flat land. They have others with a singlespeed, 7 speeds (nexus or derailleur), 8 speed (internal), or 21 and 24-speed derailleur setups. The frames are all the same (a normal frame and the low-step female frame which is shown above). Some come with suspension on the fork.

Granted, none of them are built for performance and they're not light bikes, but they will accomodate you at 5'1" or someone much bigger as well. I do most of my riding on a road bike but the townie is an absolute blast to ride. I couldn't say enough good things about it.
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Old 09-08-07, 12:06 PM
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Well, you have a great opportunity to take a full advantage of being short. You could pick up a small bike, like those 16-inch folding bikes (e.g. Dahon Curve, Downtube Mini or Brompton), to enjoy the fun of cycling and extreme mobility.

Originally Posted by MiddleGrounder View Post
This year i wanted to start biking to school to start having healthy habits and such. The thing is i play violin and i have a text book for every class and 3 binders so bike panniers are pretty much a must. I went to a local bike store and asked about getting bike panniers and setting them up but the clerk told me, after looking at my bike, that its to small for panniers. Basically what would end up happening is that because the chain is to short or something my feet would end up kicking the panniers while i am peddeling. I then inquired about possibly getting a different bike. Would i still have the same problem? He told me yes which was rather depressing really.

I stand about 5'1" which i know is short but not unheard of. I really don't know much about bikes but i find it hard to believe that there are no bikes that would fit my needs. I can't be the only short person that has a desire to bike am I?
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Old 09-08-07, 03:35 PM
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You may want to find another shop. Or at least a more experienced person to help you. Even on bikes with short chainstays, racks can be mounted to provide sufficient heel clearance. Another option might be FRONT racks and panniers for part of the load. In addition to the other suggestions, check in the touring forum - all sorts of people there dealing with how to carry lots of stuff on a bike.

How do you carry the violin? I have seen some of the students biking to the local high school with what looks like a guitar backpack (could be another string instrument). Books could easily fit in panniers.
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Old 09-08-07, 05:12 PM
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It would be good to know what kind of bike MiddleGrounder now has. I see M S already asked that question. Also, how tall are you MiddleGrounder?

I wonder if the OP has a bike with small wheels (is that a BMX bike?) and very compact geometry. Those kind of bikes are fairly common for students. If that's the case then he probably just needs a full size bike if he doesn't want to go the milk crate route. Maybe even one with 24" tires would work, but I'd want to check up on it before acquiring it.
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Old 09-08-07, 06:41 PM
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I'm 5'3". Mind you, I don't think that even 5'1" is really that "vertically-challenged". I kind of feel that almost everyone else is challenged by excessive height. I mean you're 6'2" and you want to be a cyclist? Go play basketball instead :-)

Seriously though, I don't see any reason why a short bike wouldn't be able to use panniers. No matter what the height of the frame, you're still going to get chainstays that are the same length as taller bikes of the same model (for the same wheel size). What does hamper pannier use is that many bikes these days have excessively short chainstays, with the rear wheel right up against the seatpost. I think that this is what your LBS meant, not that you are too short for a bike with panniers. Avoid those kinds of bikes. For best results with panniers, you need a touring-type bike (and I would include most hybrids and some mtn bikes in this category). These have longer chainstays and so your feet are not going to intefere with panniers. Look for bikes that have more space between the rear tire and the seatpost. Alternatively, you can use a rear rack and find a way to carry your stuff on it rather than hanging panniers on either side.
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Old 09-08-07, 06:58 PM
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Small frame bikes are awkward. I had a hell of a time mounting a rack on my 15" Giant cypress, but it was done. It has the awkward geometry mentioned above--the rear wheel is almost right against the seatpost. It just took a few minutes in the bike shop and a couple extra brackets to extend the rack far back and level enough. Heel strike is not a problem for me, but I use small bags and have small feet.

Now, on my 13" Trek FX, I honestly don't think it's possible at all. It depends on the bike.
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Old 09-08-07, 07:45 PM
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I'm 5' and have no problem with my 43cm road bike nor my 15" WSD hybrid. Trek makes a rack designed for smaller frames if that seems to be part of the problem. This year it's marketed under the Bontreger name. The mounting pieces fit cleaner and it looks more in proportion on really small frames. It's designed to fit 20" kid bikes to 50 cm road bikes. You can find bags that angle back to give more foot room or are just not as long or wide as others. I've seen pannier bags on smaller kids bikes. You can check out islabike.com and view the gallery. They have rack and bags pictured on a 20" bike for a five year old. It can be done.

smaller bags;

http://rbikes.com/page.cfm?PageID=27...20&affiliate=2

http://store.airbomb.com/ItemDesc.asp?IC=BG6632

top of rack mount bags;

http://www.xxcycle.com/php/boutique/...OM=bestwebbuys

http://www.xxcycle.com/php/boutique/...OM=bestwebbuys
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Old 09-08-07, 07:48 PM
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Look for a Jandd expedition rack, it has a longer load platform than most, so you can move the panniers back. Expect wheelies to be easy!

+1 to trying another shop for a second opinion, too.
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Old 09-08-07, 08:17 PM
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I'm 5'2" and all 4 of my bikes have racks on the back so they can be used for transporting stuff if need be, even my road bike and 13in mtn bike! My two touring frames (LHT and Randonee) have longer chainstays and less chance of heel strike with large panniers. I can put small panniers on my road and mtn bike.
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Old 09-09-07, 01:14 AM
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http://www.xtracycle.com/
It may be overkill, it may be out of price range(it is for me right now), then again it may be the answer. Hmmm...a 24" Xtracycle...
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Old 09-09-07, 07:59 AM
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A good used touring bike will carry panniers on a rack with no problems & give you the most bang for your buck. There should be some available in your size, I have seen a young lady riding around my town on an old 80s Specialized Expedition Touring that looks to be about a 48cm frame size. Don
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Old 09-09-07, 08:04 AM
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If your ax has any value at all, I would be nervous bringing it on a bike. I feel the same with laptops but that's just me.
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Old 09-10-07, 11:35 AM
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At your size, a short frame together with short cranks and short feet will give about the same pannier-heel clearance as a "normal" setup. You dont need extra-long chainstays, these are for extra-long riders. Make sure you select panniers with a heel cutout profile rather than square shape.
If you do mount the rack far behind the rear axle and load it heavily, the handling will get squirelly.
The only real issue with racks on small bikes is that the threaded seatstay eyelets are usually too low to maintain good triangulation, you have to bend the horizontal struts down which reduces the stiffness of the whole assembly.
I would start with figuring how you intend to attatch your violin to the rack. You may have to devise some homebrew system. You can purchase QR mounting systems separately. Rixen and Kaul are very effective. Correx (corrugated plastic) is by far the most effective stiffening board:light, tough, durable and free. Contact your local political campaigner or property sales outfit.
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Old 09-10-07, 05:48 PM
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Wow. thanks for all of the advice you guys!. some people had some questions though so i'll answer them.

-i think i mentioned it earlier but somebody asked about my height. i'm 5 foot 1 inch
-my bike is the specialized hardrock from i think around 1999-2001ish
-as for the violin. As lots of jolts, even minor ones, are not particularily great for my instrument it is going to be slung over my back, like a messenger bag...sorta. that's why i can't just put all my books in my backpack like a normal person.

oh and i forgot to mention. i live on top of a hill. not horrific but enough that a bike with gears is pretty necessary.

Last edited by MiddleGrounder; 09-10-07 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 09-10-07, 09:03 PM
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Huh, the hardrock should work fine. Plus those things are indestructable.
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Old 09-11-07, 08:10 AM
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I wouldn't trust a musical instrument in a rack or trailer. Here's my solution for guitar:



I figure the shock of hitting potholes, etc., is dampened somewhat. If you're careful, you can probably use a standard violin case, just put it in a backpack. Although they make backpack gig bags for violins, the only one I could find is $100. Would a ukelele gig bag fit a violin?
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Old 09-11-07, 08:27 AM
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If you want to do the pannier route, look into Old Man Mountain racks. The Sherpa attaches to the rear wheel axle and brake bosses. MY SO is about 5'2", rides an XS Specialized Sequoia. With the Sherpa rack installed, never a concern about pedal clearance!
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