Author Topic: Buying the right size touring bike.  (Read 4519 times)

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Offline gamcgregor

Buying the right size touring bike.
« on: August 25, 2010, 09:55:24 pm »
I have a trek 1000, thinking about buying my first touring bike and I want to buy the right size. I see the Surly for instance has about 6 sizes. When I bought my Trek 1000 I was new to biking and not sure if it is even the right size. Even though I ride between 2500 and 3500 miles a season, my upper body, (shoulders, neck, upper arms) ache quite often. So I am not sure I even have the proper size road bike. I would like to start taking some tours and need to know the right size so that I can cycle for days without the upper body aches.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2010, 10:58:37 pm »
If interested in a Surly LHT, and there are alot of them on the road, (great value) there are more and more local bicycle shops that now have a Surly Long Haul Truckers on their floor. (their touring bike). I would contact Surly (Quality) and find out, which ones, in your area, that may have one.

I would have the LBS, do a professional fit. (if you purchase the bike there, they should provide it for free) Fit is so important. (Keep those measurements for future reference, somewhere safe.) Hopefully, you have an average torso/arm measurment and you can find one that fits you. (Do not go small than a 70mm stem) If you have to switch out the stem, do it when you purchase the bike and they may swap it for free. 

The time to negociate for bike racks (that fit on the bike), and panniers (bike bags) is when you are purchasing your bike. I would also check with an online retailer like, The Bike Bag Shop and review their prices. You will save money, tax, and they usually ship free, with multiple items.

I would purchase a trip computer, bell, mirror, safety triangle, and lighting from an online retailer, you will save money.

I would also check on regular or clipless pedals and shoes again, when you are purchasing the bike. (Also check on line retailer BikeNashbar.com for pricing too)

I use to be a proponent of 700c sized wheels only, but the 26" wheels are very good too. They will give you greater flexibility on different road surfaces and more comfort. I believe Surly now offers, all sizes with 26" wheels. Because of possible toe overlap, only 56c or above frames, have the 700c wheel option.

Finally, you may want to change out the seat for a Brooks B-17 saddle or something else. Do it when you are purchasing the bike and the bike shop may give you an allowance ($30) towards the purchase of another saddle. Good luck to you. Bob

Surly
6400 W. 105th St.
Bloomington, MN 55438
Phone: 877.743.3191
Web: www.surlybikes.com
E-mail: derby@surlybikes.com

Offline ducnut

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2010, 11:18:04 pm »
I like Peter White's idea of fitment.

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

On "professional" fits: Not everyone can ride a bike with their back at "X" angle, arms at "X" angle, knees bent at "X" angle, etc. The body doesn't work that way, but, that's what shops do. And, what feels fine in the shop may not feel that way 50 miles down the road. After going through fits a couple times, I ended up doing my own thing. What I ended up with is totally different from what I've been told by shops. I, now, have a comfortable bike.

So many people ride their bikes in discomfort and never try moving anything around. Take measurements of everything and start experimenting. Adjust one thing at a time. If comfort gets worse going one direction, start moving in the other. Keep moving stuff, until you figure it out.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2010, 08:39:01 am »
I like Peter White's idea of fitment.

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

On "professional" fits: Not everyone can ride a bike with their back at "X" angle, arms at "X" angle, knees bent at "X" angle, etc. The body doesn't work that way, but, that's what shops do. And, what feels fine in the shop may not feel that way 50 miles down the road.

A fitter that knows what they're doing will fit you differently according to use.  For touring you want the bars higher up and closer to the saddle than for racing.  But I don't know how many so-called "professionals" know that.  We had a good experience getting fitted for our tandem.  But we have a friend whose torso is relatively long for her legs - for a woman.  The shop seemed to look at her gender and immediately assume she needed a too-small bike with the saddle and bars way up, since they didn't have a Womens-Specific-Design in the style of bike she wanted.  After a day, and some consultation with a couple of others, she took the bike back, and insisted on the next size up.  Fits much better.  And no toe overlap anymore - a problem with the previous try.

The moral of the story is that a professional fit may be great, or maybe not.  If they are too totally convinced they know what is comfortable and it doesn't feel right, you're probably better off going elsewhere.

Offline ducnut

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 09:48:43 am »
A fitter that knows what they're doing will fit you differently according to use.  For touring you want the bars higher up and closer to the saddle than for racing.  But I don't know how many so-called "professionals" know that.  We had a good experience getting fitted for our tandem.  But we have a friend whose torso is relatively long for her legs - for a woman.  The shop seemed to look at her gender and immediately assume she needed a too-small bike with the saddle and bars way up, since they didn't have a Womens-Specific-Design in the style of bike she wanted.  After a day, and some consultation with a couple of others, she took the bike back, and insisted on the next size up.  Fits much better.  And no toe overlap anymore - a problem with the previous try.

The moral of the story is that a professional fit may be great, or maybe not.  If they are too totally convinced they know what is comfortable and it doesn't feel right, you're probably better off going elsewhere.

When my GF and I were first getting back into cycling, from racing BMX as kids, we were both fitted to too large of bike. We didn't know and just went with it. Well, I'm the sort that always tinkers with stuff and started experimenting, as well as talking to other shops. We took both bikes elsewhere to be fitted. They did the best they could with what we had. We ended up buying two more bikes from the new shop. But, they're a race-oriented shop and setup the bikes as such. We've both since bought two more bikes, based on my ideas, and they've become our favorite bikes, while the others hang on their hooks. As you mentioned, horizontally stretched out doesn't work too well for the person doing mileage.

So long as mfrs continue to stuff 700c wheels under small frame sizes, toe overlap will continue to be an issue.

I think the OP should work with the bike he's got until it he gets the fit right. Then, use those measurements to formulate a sizing plan for the new bike. He'll know exactly where he needs to be with the new purchase. Otherwise, he'll end up, like me, with a bunch of stuff that doesn't fit and money tied up in bikes that could've been better served elsewhere.

Offline cyclocamping

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2010, 10:49:52 am »
The position you have on a touring bike will be different from the one you have on a road bike and the one on a mtb. Basically what you want is a position in between, on a road bike you are laying down too much and on a touring bike you are sitting up too much. Surly customer service would be able to guide you. For any pieces of bicycle touring equipment or camping gear you might need (ie the one mentionned by tourista), you will find the very best prices and the best customer service here: www.cyclocamping.com
www.CycloCamping.com "Gear Up and SAVE on the Best Touring Equipment!
Silver Corporate Partner of Adventure Cycling Association
www.CycloCampingForum.com - www.facebook.com/cyclocamping

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2010, 11:23:29 am »
It is good advise to start by cultivating a relationship with a local bike shop.  They should be able to come up with a fit that is in the ballpark.  And yes, you might experiment with the fit they give you.

Some LBS fits might be skewed in favor of the bulk of their clientel.  My mountain bike came from a bike shop that catered to racers.  So the original LBS fit made sense if I wanted to race.  My touring bike came from a shop that had someone on staff that toured.  The fit he came up with was pretty good for touring.  I have only twiddled with saddle position as I have since swapped in a different saddle.

So find an LBS that matches what you want to do.  Don't expect a free quality fit job.  You will either have to hire them ($150 - $200), or buy a bike from them.  Record your original adjustments (I made a gage for saddle height and saddle for to aft), and don't be afraid to make small adjustments.
Danno

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2010, 11:43:38 am »
This fitting stuff is one of the recurrent gripes I have with bike shops.  IMHO, you need to get on the bike and take a 2-5 mile test ride to see if the bike fits.  None of my local bike shops have touring bikes in stock, so...

First choice would be to go somewhere that has touring bikes in stock, and try it out.  Note this usually needs to be done around March-April, because that's when the year's allotment of touring bikes comes out (and gets sold).  That usually boils down to a web search on bike shops in an XXX mile radius, followed by an afternoon on the phone asking each shop, "Do you have a touring bike about my size in stock?"

I do think a good fitter could do a decent job.  I know (at least some) custom bike makers can do it remotely, although it helps enormously if you have a bike close to your size.  (I can't figure out why no bike maker has a list of who's ordered, say, a Trek 520 or Surly LHT so you can narrow the search down!)  You take your measurements, and measure the bike(s), send them to the maker, and schedule some time to discuss what you want to do, how you ride, what you do and don't like about your current bike, give them a credit card number, and some number of months later it shows up on your doorstep.

Third choice might be to order an LHT, then work with your LBS to get the sizing dialed in.  You may have to be very firm (NO, I DON'T WANT A FLAT BACK!!!) with the mechanic/sales people.  If you'll interview a few LBSs, assuming you have multiple LBSs near you, you can probably weed out the time trial only specialists, and find some you can work with.  If you've got the right size bike, I'd expect the only thing you might need to change out would be the stem; there's still enough adjustability in seatposts to handle that end.

And you'll probably want to budget a couple hundred bucks extra to turn the bike kit you get from the store into your bike.  In my case that entails putting on a B-17, blinkies, fenders, computer...

The good news is, Surly's LHT seems to work well.  I estimate 35-45% of the other bikes we saw on our TransAm last summer were LHTs, and I didn't hear of any major issues.

Offline ducnut

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2010, 02:49:17 pm »
^^^ Great post.

I so want to open a recreational/tour rider shop in my area.

I was in Carbondale, IL, a few weeks ago. The Trans Am runs right through there. The shops said they see several riders through there each week. Yet, they seemed oblivious to the needs of tourists. There was minimal tour-related product of any kind displayed. I couldn't believe it.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2010, 02:59:40 pm »
^^^ Great post.

I so want to open a recreational/tour rider shop in my area.

I was in Carbondale, IL, a few weeks ago. The Trans Am runs right through there. The shops said they see several riders through there each week. Yet, they seemed oblivious to the needs of tourists. There was minimal tour-related product of any kind displayed. I couldn't believe it.
Given that most tourists are going to spend all the big money getting set up before they start on a tour, and only get maintenance items while on-tour, the place for a tour-related shop would seem to be where folks thinking about a tour live while they're planning.   Which is everywhere and nowhere - nowhere because there isn't enough concentration anywhere.  So I'm not at all surprised.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2010, 04:16:48 pm »
For most of us, getting a stock bike really is not that complicated.  The frame size will be chosen based on your standover height.  When the bike comes in, the bike shop will tweak the stem to make the bike work with your torso length.  Some women will have a fit problem because their torsos are so short.  This is probably why the smaller LHT frames are designed for 26 inch wheels and not 700C wheels.

That said, the guy I tour with has a really long torso, and cannot ride an off the rack bike.  I have a custom touring bike because there were other things I wanted, fit has never been a problem for me with stock bikes.

Most of us are not in the weird body geometry category.  I think this issue of the right sized bike for the original poster is being over thought.  In all likely hood, standover height is a valid indicator of what size frame to order.  The LBS staff should be able to get that much right.  They should also be able to punt when the client is between frame sizes, and still choose the right size bike.  The bike makers still seem to be able to offer bikes in enough sizes to fit most users.  There are other things about bike makers that border on unethical, but I just don't see frame sizes as being one of them, at least not this year.

Now when the bike comes in, it will still have adjusted to be fit to the rider, and that still requires some expertise.  And like I said earlier, someone has to ride herd on the LBS to make sure that they fit the bike for touring and not racing.

The earlier comment about taking a long ride on your new bike before accepting delivery, is a very good comment.  Some dealers might not let you leave their parking lot, but they should be able to set up a trainer and let you pedal the bike in the store.  Ride the bike until you are confident that it fits you.
Danno

Offline csykes

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2010, 04:51:44 pm »
A general question regarding sizing:  Typically, should your touring bike be a little smaller or larger than your road bike?  I ride a 61 CM Bianchi road bike and it fits me very nicely.  I'm dreaming about a LHT as I would like to start touring.  Both my local REI and LBS carry the LHTs.  I have not requested a test ride yet as I'm not quite ready to buy, but would the 60cm frame typically be a good choice for me if it feels right?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2010, 05:01:46 pm »
Most people, including most ACA literature, contend that you should have a more upright posture for touring than road riding, but some of us find that isn't right for us. I use the same posture for both.

Touring bikes typically have somewhat different geometry than ordinary road bikes. I run a size larger in a touring bike, but the top tube on my touring bike is shorter than the top tube on my road bike even though the overall wheelbase is longer.

Offline ducnut

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2010, 10:38:51 pm »
A general question regarding sizing:  Typically, should your touring bike be a little smaller or larger than your road bike?  I ride a 61 CM Bianchi road bike and it fits me very nicely.  I'm dreaming about a LHT as I would like to start touring.  Both my local REI and LBS carry the LHTs.  I have not requested a test ride yet as I'm not quite ready to buy, but would the 60cm frame typically be a good choice for me if it feels right?

Generally, shops would say I need a 56cm. However, my mileage bike is a 54cm. I went smaller, to bring the bars in closer to run an aerobar. This works perfect because the handlebar is right where I need them, without being stretched out and loading my hands with excess weight. Because the distance from the rear of the seat to the handlebar is perfect, I run the stock stem. If you start with a longer frame, install a shorter stem, and add an aerobar, you end up with a bike that feels twitchy because of the short stem.

Every shop I've been fitted at has measured off the nose of the seat to the handlebar. Seats have different lengths, so the nose dimension can be all over the place. We sit on the rear portion of the seat, irregarrdless of where the nose is. Therefore, I measure off the rear.

Once you get a bike dialed in, make sure to record the front-to-rear dimension as well as the bar height relative to the saddle. Then, if you ever want to buy another bike, you can just walk in with a measuring tape and know exactly what you're looking for.

Quote from: paddleboy17
The frame size will be chosen based on your standover height.

I respectfully disagree. I can a straddle any frame, but, there's no way you'll be able to fit me to any frame. The most important dimension is the toptube length. That dimension directly affects your bike comfort and stabillity, while riding. When you take a too large frame and put a shorter stem on it, you directly affect the bike's handling. Take a frame that's too small and add a longer stem, same thing happens. The engineers who design the bike take all the bike's components into account, when deciding geometry. It's best to be close to where you need right off the rack.

Who cares about standover height. If that were so important, dirtbikes wouldn't be so tall or people wouldn't buy them. I used to sell motorcycles. One of things a novice would mention is that they can't flatfoot while straddling the bike, as if that were a requirement to ride. It's not. Likewise, with the standover height of a bicycle. Again, the front-to-rear dimension is the most important.

If straddling is an issue, then they need to look at a sloping toptube frame or have something custom built.


Offline whittierider

Re: Buying the right size touring bike.
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2010, 11:22:20 pm »
ducnut, I agree with you in everything except something you only implied but didn't actually say, which is that the seat can't go forward and back.  (Maybe you don't believe that anyway.)  I've heard some say the that seat position has nothing to do with the bars and everything to do with the BB.  For many years however I was always frustrated that I couldn't get the seat forward enough.  I always wanted the crankset farther back WRT the seat, and I was always riding on the nose of the seat.  In fact, I wore out a lot of seats by putting a notch and a tear where the pressure was, right behind the nose.  (And no, my femurs are not short for my height.)  I finally got satisfaction when I found Bontrager's reversible seat posts which allow putting the clamping mechanism on the front instead of the back of the seat post, meaning you can get the seat a lot farther forward.  Now everyone in my family prefers it this way.  Since then, it has been nice to see that some major people in the industry are finally saying that "knee cap over pedal spindle" was a mistake from the beginning-- not that there's anything wrong with it as a starting point, but there definitely is something wrong with saying that's the only correct place to put it.  See:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/kops.html
http://velonews.competitor.com/2008/01/bikes-tech/tech-report-challenging-assumptions_71634
http://web.archive.org/web/19980201073043/www.kleinbikes.com/Technology/Myth/Knee_Over.html

Most less-experienced riders won't be so picky about where they are over the BB as I am, but they will be very uncomfortable if the reach isn't right.  So I definitely endorse using the fore-and-aft adjustment on the seat to extend the range of reach if necessary, although the major player is top-tube length.  I definitely agree about a short stem making for lousy handling too, from plenty of personal experience.