Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Badgerjockey
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Joined: 13 May 2012, 2:31pm

Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Badgerjockey » 14 Jul 2020, 5:41pm

Hi,

I've been occasionally touring on my beloved, undersized and very much cobbled-together cromoly Kona Smoke (2009) hybrid city bike for the last ten years.

I bought it on a whim in a sale years ago and whacked a cheap rack on it so I could head off on weekend cycle camping trips with pals. I soon got the bug, but not the cash for a specific tourer, but made lots of mods to the bike so that it better fit me and suited touring. This included a longer seat post and stem, Deore drivetrain and V brakes, Old Man Mountain rack to attach to V-brake bosses, Brooks saddle, Ergon GP3 grips, Powergrips on the pedals, Almotion tyres, Mavic A319 rims and Ortlieb panniers... It's basically a completely new bike, bar the frame and bars!

I'm 6ft 1in tall and the frame is a medium, so is too small for me technically. Due to how the rack has to mount the rear pannier weight is not totally central over the rear hub, it is pushed back to avoid heel strike. The saddle is also as far back as it can go on the rails and the stem and seat post are ridiculously long.

I have toured on it to many places, Jordan, Spain, Scotland, Wales, Morocco etc etc. I've found it comfortable, strong and amazingly reliable - no mechanicals on any tour apart from two punctures... I love the thing. However, it had always niggled me that this is a bit of a Frankenbike, cobbled together, and might not be as stiff or efficient as a 'proper' tourer, especially as it wasn't designed for the loads. It also might not be as ergonomic as a proper tourer and my efforts to compensate the size etc could (I worry) lead to some physical problems in the long run...

Near the end of a recent Lon Las Cymru Welsh end-to-end, my knees started hurting pretty badly. Not had this before, but then again NCR8 is effing hilly and I was fully loaded doing 50miles per day. Hoping that it wasn't brought about by an ill-fitting bike.

What with lockdown etc I cannot just head out and try on loads of other touring bikes or get a professional bike fit. Nor have I ever really sat on many touring bikes for any length of time. Does anyone else have experience of moving from a bodge/cobbled bike to a purpose-built tourer? Was the difference in efficiency/speed/fit/ergonomics night and day? Or, seeing as I've had this one for so long with no problems, am I unlikely to notice the difference?

Sorry for the sprawling question...! Have attached a couple of pics of the bike in Wales.
H
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Last edited by Badgerjockey on 14 Jul 2020, 5:49pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bonefishblues
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Bonefishblues » 14 Jul 2020, 5:48pm

Comfortable, strong and amazingly reliable you say?

Frankenbike seems to be doing just fine to me :lol:

Badgerjockey
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Joined: 13 May 2012, 2:31pm

Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Badgerjockey » 14 Jul 2020, 6:04pm

Yes it is!
I'm wondering whether it would be a whole load better still if I switched to a proper frame... And also whether I'm causing a ticking timebomb with my knees...

ANTONISH
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Joined: 26 Mar 2009, 9:49am

Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby ANTONISH » 14 Jul 2020, 6:07pm

That bike has done you good service over a number of tours.
It's been adapted for your needs and all I can suggest is some mudguards - it may be that the sort of riding you do makes this impracticable.
A dedicated tourer may not satisfy you as much as you think.

Your knees are another matter - as long as it isn't your seat position you may need to seek medical advice.

Thehairs1970
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Thehairs1970 » 14 Jul 2020, 9:36pm

My first tour was on an Orange P7 mountain bike. I threw on some slicks, a pannier rack and bought some cheap secondhand Karrimor panniers. It was great. I might never have changed if I hadn't broken the frame.

Next up was a Claud Butler Hybrid. Again, chucked racks on, including front and got on with it. I also ended up towing a trailer on our first family tours.

Next up was a Dawes Kalahari of dubious vintage. I found it in a hedge. It was never claimed despite advertising so became my next tourer. It was my least favourite. Despite re-gearing it, I never really enjoyed it.

I eventually bit the bullet and bought a Trek 520 on Cyclescheme. It's great.

I think the main difference is that the frames were always the right size for me. So the move to a tourer was slightly different. What I noticed was that the tourer doesn't like to be rushed. It's a waste of energy. The bike will get to its top speed eventually but acceleration isn't on the list. Uphill though - you just go low and it creeps up the hill without too much huff and puff (most of the time).

If you are starting to get aches and pains, I'd look at changing but you don't HAVE to go for another tourer. Maybe find a larger frame size to try for a weekend and see how the aches go. You might find its you and not the bike! If you do decide on a new bike, you might find yourself in the position I was in where trying out was not an option. I did everything on reviews and spec lists etc. It worked out.

Good luck.

Badgerjockey
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Joined: 13 May 2012, 2:31pm

Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Badgerjockey » 14 Jul 2020, 11:19pm

Ah the Trek is a classic alright. You're right, it could just be me...

slowster
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby slowster » 14 Jul 2020, 11:27pm

I guess the knee pain could simply just be the body's normal response to being pushed slightly beyond its normal limits (and I take it that you have as low a bottom gear as is possible).

However, if you think it is caused or exacerbated by your position, then the variable I would suggest experimenting with is saddle setback. You state that your saddle is as far back as it can go. In that respect note that leather saddles typically have short rails, which prevent them being pushed as far back as other saddles.

To get the saddle further back you could try either a VK saddle adjuster* or an Ergotec Futura seatpost**.

* Note that this only works with single bolt seatposts and is currently out of stock at SJS.

** This is a 27.2mm seatpost. If your frame takes a wider diameter seatpost, you'll need a suitable shim as well, e.g. from SJS. I think the Ergotec Futura would be the better choice if kept on the bike as a permanent solution.

You could just adopt a trial and error approach to varying the setback, or your could try one of the common suggested rules of thumb, such as Knee Over Pedal Spindle (KOPS). The particular method I would recommend you try is that detailed by forum poster 531Colin in his guide to bicycle position set up: http://wheel-easy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/bike-set-up-2017a.pdf.

If you did find that moving the saddle further back eliminated or reduced your knee pain and was an improvement overall, you might not need or want to change your bike, although you might feel that you need or would prefer a shorter stem if you've moved the saddle further back.

If you still wanted to get a new bike, you would have the advantage of having a clearer idea of what you would need. If you find that you can only get the position you want on your current bike with the VK Adjuster or the Ergotec Futura, that would tell you that you need a bike with a shallower seat tube angle.

The Kona Smoke 2009 geometry is here. According to that the 18" frame has a 74 degree seat angle, and the 20" and 22" have a 73 degree angle. A one degree change will probably move the top of the seatpost back by just over 1cm. So a better solution to fitting a VK Adjuster or Ergotec Futura on a new bike to get the saddle back far enough to where you want it, would be to choose a bike with a shallower seat tube angle, e.g. 72 degrees, which should then allow you to use an ordinary seatpost with less setback.

scottg
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby scottg » 15 Jul 2020, 3:12pm

I started with a Trek 520, the standard tourer of the day,
bike handling loaded was worse than unloaded.
Replaced it after the first tour with an all-rounder,
that bike handled normally loaded, unlike the 520.

So unless you can load up a test bike and descend a couple
lovely Welsh 1 in 5s, dodge the odd sheep at 40mph,
how do you know a new bike will be any good ?

Maybe turn your current bike into an X-frame ?
193020Raleigh20X20Frame2055_zpso5z2epte-1.jpg
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Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG
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simonhill
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby simonhill » 15 Jul 2020, 8:01pm

Budget for new bike? Style, drops, flat bars, etc?

I rode a converted MTB (a GT) for 10 years and didn't regret changing to a brand spanking new Surly LHT after a change in financial circumstances. Without the extra cash, however, I'd have happily carried on with the GT. However it wouldn't have worked the other way round - I planned to use the GT for local stuff, but after riding the Surly, the GT didn't feel so good so I sold it.

Could you buy a new frame and transfer your upgraded stuff onto it??

hamster
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby hamster » 16 Jul 2020, 8:40am

You have built up a lot of experience what works for you, and a fit that is comfortable.

I agree that the fram looks small, so armed with all that knowledge and experience you are in a great place to buy a new frame of bike, you will know exactly how to set it up. The final piece in the jigsaw is to think critcally about what's right and wrong with the current bike and use these to decide when choosing its replacement.

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Vantage
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Vantage » 16 Jul 2020, 9:25am

No two touring bikes handle or feel the same.
I'm on my fourth in the space of 8 years.
My Dawes Vantage was nimble but steady fully loaded. It had a somewhat harsh ride though.
The Raleigh handling was utter pants although no slouch.
The Spa Touring was a nice handling bike and not too slow but I didn't like the 26" wheels which took bumps more harshly than 700c wheels.
The current Spa Wayfarer is very comfy for miles on end but feels dead as a zombie and handles like a limp noodle when fully loaded.

If your current bike ticks all the comfort and handling boxes, keep it as it is and enjoy it. You never know how a new bike will feel until you've ridden it a while by which time it might be tool late to do anything about it.
Bill


“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” ~ Eddy Merckx
It's a rich man whos children run to him when his pockets are empty.

slowster
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby slowster » 16 Jul 2020, 11:19pm

Vantage wrote:The current Spa Wayfarer is very comfy for miles on end but feels dead as a zombie and handles like a limp noodle when fully loaded.

That surprises me. Given that you have the smallest frame size, I would have expected the opposite, i.e. because shorter length tubes will deflect less all other things being equal. That makes me wonder if the main tubes used in your frame size are thinner to offset the stiffness that would otherwise be felt with shorter tubes.

May I ask what rack you are using?

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Vantage
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby Vantage » 17 Jul 2020, 9:29am

The rack is an Ibera Pakrak. Possibly not the stiffest of racks. Same rack was used on the Touring which on my first tour suffered from shimmy.
Exact same rack was used on the Vantage and that was rock solid.
Might be a steel frame thing.
A Tubus would be nice but their prices are shocking.
Tried a Tortec but that was stupidly tall.
Bill


“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” ~ Eddy Merckx
It's a rich man whos children run to him when his pockets are empty.

pwa
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby pwa » 17 Jul 2020, 10:26am

On a heavily loaded tourer the stiffness of the rack makes a big difference to how the bike handles. Rock solid is best, and the Tubus racks tend to do rock solid. My oldest Tubus rack is a Cargo I bought maybe 20 years ago and it has been used for daily commutes as well as touring. They are costly when you buy them but cheap if you work it out on a cost per mile or per year basis. I'm glad I didn't go for anything cheaper. It would have been a false economy.

This costs £100, which is a lot.
https://spacycles.co.uk/m5b0s79p150/TUBUS-Cargo
But mine, at about 20 years of regular use in all weathers, is still going strong and has cost me £5 per year at today's prices. Is that too much?

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foxyrider
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Re: Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

Postby foxyrider » 17 Jul 2020, 10:54am

To address the actual issue, you've done thousands of miles on this bike without issue (regardless of frames size etc) so the knee issue after Lon Las is unlikely to be directly attributed to the frame size/setup of the bike. You may well have hit the nail on the head when you say you don't usually do such hilly routes over succesive days, your body just isn't used to the stress and particularly if you've been straining on some of the climbs, surprise, surprise, its your knees which shout out 'no more!'. I've had similar myself in the past, i can't recall the fancy name but its something like Patella Tendonitis, a few weeks of rest sorted it but it taught me a lesson, ie; its okay to stop on a climb, you don't have to strain your way up.

So if nothing else was changed on your bike, yes, go get it checked out with the Quack, there are other things it could be but try the obvious before over thinking everything.

Of course, if you really want a new bike, you already have the fit sorted so as much as anything its down to studying dimension tables to find the nearest fit but beware that what might give the closest fit may introduce new variables like frame flex. Bodge vs bespoke? when does one become the other? The majority of bikes used for touring have been adapted in some way to improve the ride for the owner and IME, a fully bespoke machine (custom built frame etc) doesn't always come out as well as you would think.
Convention? what's that then?
Airnimal Chameleon touring, Orbit Pro hack, Orbit Photon audax, Focus Mares AX tour, Peugeot Carbon sportive, Owen Blower vintage race - all running Tulio's finest!