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Need help choosing a bike.. Long Legs Short Torso.... Sorry Long Post

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Need help choosing a bike.. Long Legs Short Torso.... Sorry Long Post

Old 06-28-08, 11:01 PM
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Need help choosing a bike.. Long Legs Short Torso.... Sorry Long Post

Hi All:
I have been looking a buying a touring bike for some time now. I want a bike that I mainly use for commuting (I bike 33 mi to work, round trip), but I definitely want to do a few week long trips before I do the US coast to coast.
I went to a bicycle fitting place to get suggestions on my size (the road bike that I use right now is horribly undersized and I have knee pains).

My bike fitter told me that I have long legs and a short torso, so he suggested that I look for the Effective Top Tube length (TT) as my most important criteria (as I will have plenty of clearance for standover ht.) and that I should be looking for somewhere between 54cm and 56cm. Also as a secondary measure, he suggested that I look for a Headtube length (HT) of between 16 & 18cm. I am 180cm (sorry, I forgot my pbh)

Anyway, trying to find a bike is turning out to be a real problem. I really like the surly LHT and would like to get the 56cm model, but the TT is 57cm on that and according to the bike fitter, would result in me being stretched out on the bike. The 54cm LHT has a TT of 55.5, but he recommeded against buying the model as it takes 26" wheels. Although, personally, I don't have any problem with 26", I am worried that the 54cm model would be too small for me. (none of the LBS in town (Richmond, VA) have a Surly for me to test ride)

Although the Surly appeals to me, I have a few other bikes in consideration:

-- The 54cm model of Fuji Touring has TT of 55.4cm, but I have heard mixed reviews of the bike on this forum
-- Raleigh Sojourn has a 57cm model that has TT of 56, so it could be a good candidate, but should i be concerned about disc brakes?
-- Urbane Cyclist has a bike called Urbanist that has a 55cm model with a 55cm TT and 15cm HT, so it looks like an attractive candidate, but they are all the way in Ontario and I couldn't find many reviews of the bike.
-- Novara Randonee has a 55cm model with 55.4 cm TT, but it has the shortest wheelbase of all the bikes I have considered (at 103cm, only Jamis Aurora has shorter, 102.7). Also, it has STI shifters. I am leaning more towards bar ends.

I apologize for this long post, but these past few weeks have been harrowing as I can't seem to come to any conclusion about which bike to buy. Any help that you can is appreciated.

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Old 06-28-08, 11:15 PM
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Don't rat on touring bikes with 26 inch wheels, I love my LHT. I'm 5'11" with short legs, and a long torso. My brother is 6'2". I take a 54cm frame, he rides a 60/62.

If you have the means, you might want to visit a town that does have a LHT, or get your lbs to order you in one.
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Old 06-29-08, 01:35 AM
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Likewise, the wheel size is not so important as the frame size... unless the frame is so small that 26" wheels are far more preferable than 700C.

You have what might be termed "women's proportions". It is widely accepted that men are shorter in legs and longer in torso (on average) while women are longer in leg and shorter in torso. That's why bikes designed for men often are not suitable fits for women (on average).

Some manufacturers offer WSD bikes (Women Specific Dimension/Design). But in touring bikes, I am not so sure I can recall any to WSD.

Remember that unless you have a bike frame custom made to your specific dimensions (which might be an attractive option), the off-the-shelf frames are always compromises that will take some time to dial in. That dialling-in process includes possible changes in seatpost for setback (and even saddle for forward and aft adjustment), stem length and crank length.

The other thing might also to be investigated are options outside the US, and specifcally in the United Kingdom. St John St Cyclery in England (www.sjscycles.com) offers a range of different frames by makers such as Thorn. You may be able to import an off the shelf frame that suits you (of course, at a premium).
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Old 06-29-08, 03:13 AM
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About the whole 700c versus 26 inch wheel issue....

I have done both.

I like 700c a little better because the larger wheels can roll over bumps a little better. But... you should realise that on a touring bike, the big tires are going to
increase the total wheel size anyway. It's not really a big issue.

OTOH, there are a couple issues that are crucial, and fit is one of them. Assuming the LHT would fit you, to ignore it simply because of the wheel size is a mistake. They aren't
the only people to do that, Rivendell does and they are probably imitating them (they've done it before).

I have the opposite problem. I have short legs and a medium torso. Looked at
a 52cm Burley Vagabond yesterday. In today's dollars dollars this would be a $2K bike... but they have had it in the shop for 2 or 3 years and the price is $1K now. But it's a size small for me.

If you can consider going custom, you should. But I haven't for prob the same reason you haven't. If you hit a wall, call Gunnar and ask them if they can help.

My concern about fit is the fork. You might want to start asking how long the steerer tube is; and try to figure out how much you'll need. You see, you will need to use a bunch of spacers to get the bars close to the height of the saddle.
With dimensions like yours, it could be a problem. I don't know that it will be, but look into it. The situation is that a fork is angled, so raising the bars also brings them closer to you. If your bike shop didn't allow for that, you could have problems.

For example, I like 27 inches between the seatpost and the handlebar with them close to the same level. I am 5'8" but I ride a 56cm because adding all those spacers brought the bars closer to me. You'd expect a guy like me to be on a 54cm....

Last edited by late; 06-29-08 at 03:39 AM.
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Old 06-29-08, 03:53 AM
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I too have long extremities inc. size 13 feet. to avoid toe overlap I opted for a 60 cm. LHT with 7 cm stem. Some will say this will handle strange, but it is the first touring bike that I can ride whithout fighting it. The toe over lap became more of a problem after 60. I think tire size would not bother me. good luck.
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Old 06-29-08, 05:14 AM
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Although I'm shorter than you are, I have the same "problem" in terms of bike fit: long legs, short torso. In my opinion, this is the hardest case to fit on a road bike, but a little easier on a touring bike (due to the usual ability to get the bars higher on those). I disagree that top tube measurement is everything, because that by itself means absolutely nothing when comparing bikes unless they all have identical seat tube and head tube angles, and the same stem at the same height. Shorter top tubes are almost always achieved by using a steeper seat tube on production bikes, which is the opposite of what you need if you have proportionally longer legs vs short torso. If you think about it, no matter what the angle of the seat tube, if it's steeper, you're just going to end up putting your saddle farther back anyway, thereby negating any short torso advantage of the shorter top tube.

If you get a frame that fits in horizontal length, then it's going to be proportionally too short vertically, and you will need some usually kludgy-looking way to get your handlebars up. Easier on a touring bike than a pure road bike simply because touring bikes are usually designed to have higher handlebars anyway.

If you think about it logically, any frame that fits vertically will be too long the other way, but with the 700c wheels, you can only shorten it so much.

On the other hand, 26 inch wheel are an issue in my book, unless you actually do plan on using big, wide mountain bike sized tires. A 26 in wheel with a mountain bike tire is not too far off a 700c wheel/tire in terms of overall diameter, but if you put a narrow road tire on that 26 inch rim, it's significantly shorter. May be good for sizing the bike to your body, but let me tell you as a short person, I personally think that 26 inch wheeled road bikes look like a child's bicycle. The short person ends up looking like a 9 year old, and the taller person ends up riding what looks kind of like a clown bike. Fit is important for sure, but I do value esthetics too.

No matter what you do, with longer legs, you're going to need to sit further back on the bike, and with the lower handlebars of a road bike, you're going to be bending over more sharply. The only solution to this is a higher handlebar. I eventually ended up getting a bike custom-made. I'm 5'2, but with a 30 inch inside leg measurement (more common for a person 2-3 inches taller than I am). My bike uses 700c wheels, but it has a head tube extension. It's a 49 cm frame centre-to-centre, but with a more laid-back seat tube to accommodate my longer legs, and a slacker head tube with appropriately raked custom-made fork so it ends up with the correct trail.

There are various bodge solutions you can use to get the handlebar closer to you, ie a combination of high stem and short stem. The only problem with this is that when you equip a road bike with a stem that is both unusually high and unusually short, it adversely affects handling - often making the bike very squirrely (because you have too much weight back vs too little weight forward on the front wheel).

I think made-to-measure is the way to go in such cases, assuming you want a traditional bicycle and not a recumbent or a small wheeled bicycle (the only one I wouldn't mind having is an Alex Moulton). But I don't give up on a normal, 700c wheeled bike by very easily. I started out in road bikes in the 27 ich wheel era. My bike had 26 inch wheels (the English roadster size of 26 inch wheel, not the mountain bike size). I really hated having smaller wheels than everyone else. I think that the move to 700c wheels was one of the best things the road bike industry ever did. A bit smaller than 27 inch, a bit taller than 26 inch, and the same wheels fit the bike whether you want to use clinchers or tubulars. With proper care in designing a custom frame, there's no reason at all for a person your height to ride 26 inch mountain bike wheels. Now, someone is bound to mention 650B wheels. That's Ok, but then you're stuck with a fatter-tired bike. Nothing wrong with it if that's what you want, but don't think it will solve your problem, because once you put the fatter tires on a 650B wheel, it's almost as tall as a 700c wheel with road tires on it. So it's a misconception people have that you gain anything with 650B wheels in terms of making a smaller frame.

Last edited by Longfemur; 06-29-08 at 05:29 AM.
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Old 06-29-08, 08:20 PM
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Thanks Rowan for the link!
I checked the Thorn Sherpa and I like that bike a lot. It's a little outside my budget, but hey, this wouldn't be the first time I made a purchase outside my budget.

Looking at their specifications, I see that the 560s should fit me very well. However their chart doesn't list the HeadTube length. Does anyone know what the HT length on a 560s Sherpa would be?

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Old 06-30-08, 09:52 AM
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I was in the same situation as you -- I have very long legs and a short torso (183cm tall with a 89cm inseam). The main problem I had in fitting a bike wasn't top-tube length, but handlebar height. Any road bike I could fit on gave me about a 12" drop from the saddle to the handlebars.

I ended up going with a 58cm LHT. I left the fork uncut and used the maximum amount of spacers under the stem (around 8cm), which brings the bars up and back due to the headtube angle.The top tube on the bike is a about 1.5cm longer than what my "ideal" length should be, but with the long effective headtube length from the spacers, the bike fits very well.

I would think you would be fine with the 56cm LHT. Just use a short stem and tons of spacers. And don't let your bike shop cut the steerer tube on the fork before you're properly set up!
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Old 06-30-08, 10:39 AM
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Same problem here (178cm height and 81cm inseam). So far I've been able to fix the problem by simply getting a short and tall stem. My touring is a 56x56 with a 8cm stem. My commuter is a 55x56 with a 6.5cm (and taller) stem but with longer reach bars. Both very confy. My road bike is a 53x54 with a 8.5cm stem but the bars sit much lower (my lower back feels the difference).

So I think it's easier to fit a "taller" frame. The seat and handlebars heigh will be set correctly, and then you get a short stem and/or short reach bars to cancel the longer TT.

Edit: the difference in TT length between the two LHT is approx |-----------| not so much! And 26" wheels are fine.

Last edited by tuz; 06-30-08 at 10:48 AM.
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