Bike Fitting for Touring - Bodge vs Bespoke

badgerjockey

Über Member
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
 

Attachments

Landsurfer

Über Member
I have a very comfortable bike .... size is not an issue .. comfort is ... comfort allows the body to ride longer and longer ...
So the geometry of the comfortable bike ( CB ) is replicated onto all of my other bikes ...
Not talking frame sizes or angles ... distance points ..
So the CB distances from bb centre to seat centre, pedal centre (at tdc ) to saddle centre, le of saddle to centre of bars ... etc etc ...
This allows a comfort fit to be set up within my available frame sizes ... 23 - 25 inch frames ...
 
Here's some advantages of your current situation;
You know it very well.
You know it works.
It's probably not as attractive to thieves as a new one.
You spent your money on actual tours rather than a bike.

You could look for a new bike, and be smart about it looking to reuse as many components as you can. However, will you be more comfortable? Very hard to say as comfort is very personal.

Will you be more "efficient"? Probably. However if I ever find myself measuring my efficiency on tour I'm having a really bad day!

Personally, as a non mechanically minded person I'd be far more reluctant to fiddle around with a spanking new bike than an old one. I'd also think twice or thrice about surrendering a shiny new bike to the baggage handling Gods.
And I'd definitely spend more time worrying about theft, damage and scratches.

I'm thinking Lon Las Cymru did for your knees (I've been there and those hills are ..... interesting!😄). Looking at all the places you've been I find it hard to think that suddenly now fit is an issue.

If there is an urge for a shiny new addition I'd be making a list of exactly what I wanted to improve before I went looking. Or else, look for something different that opens up different opportunities; a folding tourer or a bikepacking setup, perhaps.

I tour on a 20+ year old MTB and wouldn't change it. It's easy to maintain, components are cheap and a stress free machine to actually tour with. Nobody looks twice at it because that type of bike is everywhere.

As I alluded to above, efficiency is not a priority for me on tour. I travel pretty heavy so any design or material gains would be minimised by weight, I'd think.
 
OP
B

badgerjockey

Über Member
Hobbes, I think you might be right. The efficiency gains might be soaked up by the very nature of loaded touring - it's always going to be 'slow and heavy'...

Also right about damage, theft, and baggage handlers too!

I guess the knee situation is just down to Wales and its lumpiness and my overeagerness to get the miles in... Hope they get better!
 
A brief glance at the frame set up shows it to be,*way* too small for you, by any conventional definition.

But if it's comfortable, it matters not a jot.

Unless the seat can't be made high enough, it's unlikely to affect your knees. I've suffered back pain from short reach, which you probably have, but again, it doesn't matter if it's comfy for you.

If I'd ridden it to the places you have, I'd never be able to bring myself to part with it.
 
Location
London
I have a very comfortable bike .... size is not an issue .. comfort is ... comfort allows the body to ride longer and longer ...
So the geometry of the comfortable bike ( CB ) is replicated onto all of my other bikes ...
Not talking frame sizes or angles ... distance points ..
So the CB distances from bb centre to seat centre, pedal centre (at tdc ) to saddle centre, le of saddle to centre of bars ... etc etc ...
This allows a comfort fit to be set up within my available frame sizes ... 23 - 25 inch frames ...
Agree - unless taking to real extremes, it is possible to ride a fair degree of bike sizes as long as the contact points agree. I have rather a lot of bikes, of various sizes - know nothing about bike fitting and things involving plumb lines, O level trigonometry, tide tables or alignement of planets and stars, but I did eventually note, on doing some measuring, that all of my bikes had, with gradual adjustments dictated by feel and comfort, gravitate towards the same measurements.
It is important of course to not exceed the safe insertion points for steerer column/seatpost.
 
Location
London
@badgerjockey
seems to me that that bike is great for you if you have done so many impressive trips.
As you are clearly up to some serious bike fettling, with regards to the frame size (almost certainly you are right in thinking that your current one is technically too small) , have you considered looking on ebay for a second hand more of the same but just bigger? You can set up alerts so that you are made aware of ones coming up.
Then just swap all the bits over?
For several years I rode a 90s hybrid cum tourer that was strictly too small - tho perfectly comfortable.
I loved the bike.
Bided my time - picked up the size bigger for £30 and my same bike is reborn - plus I've acquired a load of spare bits, not all worn out.
Hobbes knows his stuff and makes some good points about it being more relaxing (theft wise) to tour on an older looking bike - which can of course ride wonderfully.
With regards to "cobbled together", sounds to me like you have cobbled your current bike to be supremely fit for purpose and enjoyment.
Far more cobbled in the negative sense I think are some newer premium priced contraptions which insist on sticking more gears on the back than you really need. And other non touring relevant nonsense.

I'd be inclined to spend the money you have saved by not buying a new contraption on some quality hand built wheels (if you need them), bike tools, spare rims, a stock of good spares from ebay so that your bike can just roll on and on.
 

Milkfloat

An Peanut
Location
Midlands
I spent many a tour on my undersized 90s MTB with slicks and a pannier, doing the same as you, silly long seat post and stem. I eventually relegated it to pub bike and again repurposed to my 13 year old daughters bike (I am 6'4" so it shows how small it was for me). I now tour on a Genesis Croix de Fer. I am faster on the Genesis, which does give me more flexibility and I am a bit more comfortable. I am yet to properly sort my gearing out, which can be a struggle when fully loaded. For me touring is less about what bike I am on and more about where I am and what I experience. For some of the places that the OP has toured, I would feel happier on a converted 90s MTB, there are far more spare tyres, tubes and general parts available.
 

Ian H

I am an ancient randonneur, & I stop often for tea
Location
East Devon
I had a series of discussions with Richard Hallett, and rode a couple of his bikes, before we came to agreement on my 'adventure' bike. He measured my old bikes, watched me riding up & down the road, made suggestions, then went away and prepared a spec. It took about 3 months for the bike to be built (and a bit of a rush towards the end, but that's a different story). The result is a bike that's comfortable all day, handles beautifully, and is a pleasure to ride. And it cost rather less than you might imagine.
536089
 
Location
London
I had a series of discussions with Richard Hallett, and rode a couple of his bikes, before we came to agreement on my 'adventure' bike. He measured my old bikes, watched me riding up & down the road, made suggestions, then went away and prepared a spec. It took about 3 months for the bike to be built (and a bit of a rush towards the end, but that's a different story). The result is a bike that's comfortable all day, handles beautifully, and is a pleasure to ride. And it cost rather less than you might imagine.View attachment 536089
I have a limited imagination on contemporary bike prices.
So how much?
 

Ian H

I am an ancient randonneur, & I stop often for tea
Location
East Devon
Cripes.
Nice bike i am sure but am also pretty sure that that would fail hobbes' (and mine) comfortable-leaving-it-somewhere-on-tour test.
Ever lock it in the street then go awandering?
'
It's not yer obvious bling, unless you know something about bikes, wouldn't appeal the the 'cycling is the new golf' types. So yes, I have left it, though it depends on the location.
 
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