'Off Label' Use

In pharmacological jargon, there is a term, "off label use," that refers to a treatment being used successfully for something other than it was originally formulated for. That's kind of how I am starting to feel about my Royal H. mixte. When I asked Bryan to build me this bike in the Fall of 2009, I envisioned it as predominantly for light touring. But in practice I mostly use it as a long-distance transportation bike. I think I've only done recreational rides on it a total of maybe three times, whereas I ride it for transportation whenever I need to travel over 7 miles or so one way - which is several times a week.

Using a bike for purposes other than intended can happen for any number of reasons. For instance, our cycling preferences can change, as mine did. For recreational riding, I now prefer to ride a diamond frame bike with drop bars. Also, life circumstances can change. Just a couple of months after I got the mixte, we ended up without a car, and I actually needed a light, easy long-distance transportation bike. When I was ordering the bike, I did not foresee either of these changes.

The good thing about using the mixte "off label," is that most of the things that made it good for light touring also make it work as a long distance transportation bike. The frame allows me to wear a skirt. It can handle hills and distances without me breaking a sweat. Its compact size and maneuverable handling make it good in the sort of suburban stripmall-roadish traffic that I usually encounter out of town. The springy ride quality means that long trips don't tire me out.  The 35mm tires are sufficiently wide for bad roads and even off-road. The dynamo lighting system is fantastic and I never have to worry about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere in the dark. The front and rear racks enable me to carry several small loads at a time. Everything that I need for my trips is there. The few times I've tried to use a roadbike for long distance transportation, I arrive to my destination out of breath and with sweaty hair. On the upright mixte I am a bit slower, but am always presentable and fresh.

There are however a few things that are less than ideal about the mixte given how I use it. The short chainstays made it difficult to find panniers that did not give me heelstrike, though I did find several after having made a mission of it (see Philosophy, Cristobal, and the Po-Campo pictured here). But the more irksome issue is that I get a wee bit of toe overlap on this bike, which freaks me out when cycling in traffic. It is a small amount of toe overlap that might even disappear if I wore PowerGrips or removed the fenders - but neither of those is practical on an upright transportation bicycle. Converting the bike to 650B would solve the problem, but would be expensive, considering that I'd have to get new wheels built, and buy a new set of brakes, as well as new tires and fenders. So I am kind of stuck between thinking that the toe overlap is not a big deal and the bike is fine as is, and being irritated with it, since it is the one thing that undermines my enjoyment of an otherwise fantastically versatile bicycle.

Lots of bikes are used off-label round these parts, and the prevalence of this practice made me smile last night when a carbon fiber racing bike flew by with a sizable steel front basket attached to the fork, sort of like this. My re-purposing of the mixte is not nearly as dramatic, but the question of a possible 650B conversion keeps swirling around my mind every time I ride the bike. Would you do it, or leave it be? Any interesting off-label use stories of your own to share?


  1. I'd worry that changing the wheel size might change the way the bike handles and feels (it might be better, but it might affect the ride characteristics that you like). Unfortunately, it's hard to tell unless you try it.

    I've long been a proponent of riding whatever bike I'm on wherever I happen to be going, which has led to, among other things, me taking a fixed-gear road bike off-roading (25c tires on singletrack is interesting as it is, but the first time you strike a pedal on a root or rock is quite an education in bike handling), so road bikes as mountain bikes, single-speed mountain bikes on group road rides, cyclocross bikes everywhere... it's all fun.

    At the moment, I've only got one bike in good working order, and I've gone car-free, so I've been using it for everything. No serious trail riding, but everything from schlepping bags of laundry to 80-mile day trips (although I draw the line at carrying full bags of laundry ON 80-mile trips ;-) ).

  2. Your link to the racing bike with basket is broken.

    Good post. I'm currently using both bikes as child transport, which I am pretty sure they were not designed for, but.... it works fine.

  3. I know people who have ridden the PBP on 650B wheels (and enjoyed the experience). So there's nothing at all limiting about 650B, in terms of "long distance" transportation. The benefits of high-volume 650B tires for urban use are obvious. It would fix the toe overlap, which i wouldn't tolerate on one of my bikes.

    Besides, it's gorgeous mixtie. How much more appropriately French could a 650B conversion be? It will be an even more Lovely Bicycle.

    If you can afford the downtime, send your existing hubs away to be relaced. That will keep the price tag within mortal bounds. So you'll be in for the cost of building, spokes, two rims and rim strips, and a couple of those supple, comfy 650B tires. I'm still collecting parts for my 650B project, but I'm told we all want Grand Bois Hetres. ;-)

  4. Have you experienced toe strike due to the overlap on this bike? I have it on one of my mixtes, and when I have had contact with the tire it is startling for a second, but has never led to any ill effects. With it not being fixed, you end up backing the crank up for a moment and then carrying on.

    I also haven't had any striking while actually riding around for transportation; all of the times it's happened was when I was working on the bike and riding it around in tight circles on my street to try out new adjustments.

  5. Erin - does it work now? It's not the bike I saw, but this is what the basket looked like and how it was attached. The bike itself was carbon fiber, with drop bars...

  6. I so love that bike I think of all your bikes Velouria this one is my favorite :)I for one someday would love custom building a bike of this style myself as an around town or an around the world bike as well.

  7. chris & Matt - Oh I am not worried about it being limiting; I've yet to hear of a poor handling experience after a 650B conversion on a bike like this, plus the framebuilder himself says it should be fine. It's just going to be expensive and a pain to do, for what, several mm of toe clearance? Seems ridiculous when put in that context. Or so I tell myself, until the issue comes up again!

    sausend - Not when riding, but occasionally when starting. My previous mixte (vintage Motobecane) had much more dramatic overlap and I had cuts on my toes from wearing sandals and getting scratched by the fender's edge.

  8. Just as you've adapted to more sporty road bikes as you've done more riding / started to develop a more nuanced understanding of why things work in X fashion, give yourself a little time to get used to the toe overlap / and or wear power grips if that makes the difference.

    A 650b wheel is NOT going to yield that much more room, and besides this is a new bike for you. Push it to it's and your max before giving up on it as is.

    650b will give you very little difference, unless you use smaller 650b tires such as the GB 32mm cypress. Esp as you're not using foot retention and so can lift your foot off when you hit it.

    Over the years, avoiding the TCO has become automatic for me...size 13 feet, 175 - 180mm cranks, steep angles...no avoiding it if one wants to use big tires and fenders. Now I don't even think about it.

    So...some compromises necessary...don't wear sandals as much as you normally do? Powergrips? etc. I sometimes take X bike over Y for that very reason, ie I don't want to change my shoes for powergrip friendly shoes, so I eschew the faster more fun one so I can wear sandals.

  9. rural - I agree in principal, but I've ridden bikes with toe overlap for over 2 years, and with time if anything I like it less and less. This is especially true of transportation bikes, on which I like to feel relaxed and comfortable. Even installing powergrips would change that dynamic.

    Also, I find that when I convince myself that I need to compromise when it comes to a particular bike, the decision never sticks. In the back of my mind I am always on the lookout for an alternative solution that does not require compromise.

  10. I don't understand why the power grips wouldn't work for a transportation bike (I've never seen a power grip). Way back when, I had a mixte I used to commute to work. I used toe clips with no problem

  11. Anne - It depends what you mean by "work." Of course they would function. But it changes the dynamic from casual riding, to something you have to get in and out of at intersections. In stop and go traffic, I don't enjoy using a foot retention system.

  12. Toe overlap is intolerable to me; nothing like pulling off a perfect trackstand when your sole catches and sends a flailing foot desperately stabbing for the ground before non-foot parts hit it. The Birth of The Uncool.

    Expensive solution: maybe Brian can build you a dif fork and have handling still be acceptable.

    Cheaper solution: shorter cranks.

  13. MelissaTheRagamuffinJune 6, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    What's a 650B?

  14. Melissa - 650B is a slightly smaller wheel and tire size than the standard 700C, but larger than the next typical size down (which is 26"). It was the traditional wheel size used in early French mixte bicycles, but went out of favour in the 70s... then became popular again a few years back.

  15. "Cheaper solution: shorter cranks."

    The frame has a high bottom bracket and as is would feel weird with shorter cranks... unless of course converted to 650B, in which case 165mm cranks would be perfect. And yet another expense.

  16. I haven't tried Powergrips but I always use toe clips on my city bikes. I got into the habit when my main bike was a fixie. With the smooth MKS platform pedals it is really the most comfortable way to go for me.

  17. http://ronajustine.blogspot.com/2011/06/bridgestone-is-almost-finished.html My old Pre-Grant Bridgestone mixte started out as a long distance touring bike from my mother in law. She took it on multiple cyclotours in the Ardennes and all over NL. It was set up for small panniers and had Ayara rims and this horribly heavy early Dinex disk brake.

    I've got it now set up for daily city use- changed it from 27 wheels to 700c Mavic Open Pros and changed the handle bars to something that doesn't cause hand numbness. While there is still toe overlap it only bothers me when I smack the fender out of place and it rubs the tire. I wind up stopping and pushing it back to where it needs to be. (I'm not very impressed with the set up on the Honjo fenders from VO and I may pull the old hardware off my old fenders to replace it... luckily I've not thrown them away yet)

    So far this bike has carried a lot of groceries- way more than I thought it capable of when I first got it. She's comfortable on my 33 km trips back and forth to Groningen and we are getting ready for a trip to Ardennes this summer. To deal with the heel strike from the panniers I have them set farther back on the rack. For touring I've gotten a set of Knog panniers, rack trunk and front bag. Couldn't resist- their offices use wind power and they have a very good company environmental policy. I also purchased a second Suntour crankset with a granny gear I can switch out.. it's just not as pretty as the Superbe Pro. For everyday use though, she's wonderful. She's usually the only mixte in the racks where ever we go and I get a lot of strange looks when I have a huge sack of dog food across the front rack :D

  18. "The frame has a high bottom bracket and as is would feel weird with shorter cranks."

    Not following...

  19. Also--- I don't know if I'd do a conversion ever again. Going from 27 to 700c was kinda easy but I wound up changing out more parts...and more parts... and more parts. It got addictive. I'd have the wheels off, then the crank set, then I'd just go buy a new something or other. Next thing I know the bike has very few original parts to it! It would be much easier to sell the bicycle to someone who adores it and focus on a bike you really love.

  20. GR Jim - Since I can't mount and dismount a bike like a normal person, I need all the leg extension I can get, and shorter cranks would reduce it. I would have to raise the saddle in order for them not to, but if I do that I will no longer be able to get on and off the bike. Does that make sense?

  21. ?? Honestly, I've read your response 3 times and am even more confused.

    I thought you mounted/dismounted a diamond frame off the back, a la normal. Can't picture mixte mounting.

    What is leg extension - to put foot on ground or when pedaling?

    Trying to understand the issue...

  22. Okay, I guess I don't mean so much dismounting altogether as stopping and starting. This applies to all bicycle regardless of frame type.

    The "normal" way to start is to stand over the frame, push on a pedal, and raise your butt onto the saddle once on the pedal. I cannot do this. I stand over the frame, lean the bike over to the left until the saddle is low enough to slide under my butt, then put my right foot on the pedal and hoist myself and the bike upright while pushing forward. It looks about as graceful as a swan taking flight via first climbing a fence, but whatever, it's what I need to do.

    The normal way to stop on the bike is to coast to a stop, brake, and step forward off the pedals and saddle. I cannot do this either. I stop by first touching down with my left tip-toe and leaning the bike a bit in order to accomplish this, then getting off.

    If you have managed to imagine all of this so far, you will understand why crank length matters in terms of leg extension. I cannot raise the saddle any higher whilst still being able to touch the ground with a toe while remaining on the saddle. So a shorter crank will reduce my leg extension by 5mm.

  23. V, can you pedal out of the saddle? If so, what's the difference between that and mounting a bike the standard way?

  24. Well, if you wanted it to be equally as springy you'd have to get fatter tires. Also, a 650b conversion would lower the bottom bracket. Neither of things would be necessarily bad, and I understand the concept of the frame building saying there would be "no problems," but it wouldn't be the same bike and it wouldn't handle in the same way. It would be fine, there wouldn't necessarily be any problems, but 2 or 3 things about the bike that you seem to feel are perfect would no longer be the same. Coupled with the expense, it would all be overkill to reduce the hint of overlap. If there were substantial overlap I could understand.

  25. I remember the description...

    With shorter cranks you don't necessarily have to raise the seat. Five mm can make a comfort and efficiency difference on a road bike meant for very long distances, but on a transpo bike it's mostly irrelevant.

    Since you don't have a physical disability that prevents you from doing a proper mount/dismount it must be a confidence issue.

    re: velo-existentialism, facilitation, what not. Since you're learning how to ride fast that's one end of the spectrum. Low speed technique drills are another, if that's an area you'd like to improve upon or advocate. Both are necessary for skill improvement, IMO.

  26. Here's my "off-label" use story:

    I ride a tandem to work. In the mornings, I drop off my daughter at school. There's nothing keeping me from riding the short ride back home to swap the tandem for my "on-label" commuter bike to ride to work and back, but the tandem is just plain easy enough to continue riding solo to work that it's not worth the trip back to my house.

    I've gotten so used to the tandem that I even grab it for short errands, since it's not one of the "pampered" bikes that get to hang in a comfy basement. It's right there at the ready.

    rural14: not so. Swapping Velouria's 700C rims with 35mm tires for 650B rims with 42mm tires will give her an additional 12mm of clearance, which would probably eliminate the TCO (assuming the fender gap remained the same).

    Personally, I would go ahead with the conversion, provided a few criteria are met:

    1) the cost is not prohibitive, morally or practically

    2) a BB drop of 12mm from its current height will still leave you with at least 265mm of BB height (assuming the current cranks will remain)

    3) the brake reach won't exceed 73mm front or rear (and therefore be beyond the range of off-the-shelf extra-long-reach calipers)

    4) there is adequate clearance for nice, supple 42mm GB Hetres (why else do a conversion?). For this, simply measure the distance between the stays (and the fork blades) at exactly 320mm from the dropouts. If you have 52mm or more, it's doable without any complication. If it's 46mm or more, it's doable, but the fenders may need slight modification to fit.

    If those criteria are met... I say go for it!

  27. Hmm... I think I have seen other people using that mounting/dismounting techique now you mention it. I don't do this but I use my tip toe to sort of push off intially rather than "setting the pedal" and just pedaling. I'm sure it looks pretty silly too but it's kind of a habit and I'm sure something I've always done, as a child/teenager when cycling and so picked it up again when I started cycling as a adult again. People keep telling me how to do it "properly", and I have tried to change but it's quite difficult keep a conscious effort and my coordination seems to find it a bit of a challenge, then I start doing it "my way" again. Maybe the proper way is safer, it's certainly more efficient I imagine but I'm actually always really quick to accelerate a traffic lights etc so I don't really care if it's the "wrong" way.

  28. (btw we start and stop the same. I did learn to do it the normal way during the triathlon and for a short while I was able to do it when I test rode the pashley's but I have stopped practicing and anytime I raise my seat the correct way I nearly fall over at each stop. Sometimes stopping and hopping off completely to the side. After doing this a few times I lower the saddle. ( foldie has quick release) sometimes I put up with it when I have a hilly route as my knees prefer it...)

    carry on.....

  29. Ground Round Jim said...

    Since you don't have a physical disability that prevents you from doing a proper mount/dismount it must be a confidence issue.

    Or a balance issue.... Even tiny balance issues can make a difference when you start or stop, Once you are going, inertia will get you through.

  30. V, A possible solution, but maybe not cheaper then the 650B conversion would be to have the frame builder build a for with a bit more rake or Re-rake the existing fork!


  31. GR Jim / Erin - Yes, it's a balance issue. Probably more neurological than confidence related, but the two are probably connected.

  32. I would be interested in hearing how 28c tires affect the ride and handling. It would help the overlap a smidge.

  33. Anonymous said...
    "can you pedal out of the saddle? If so, what's the difference between that and mounting a bike the standard way?"

    I can now, but initially wasn't able to. I finally learned on a fixed gear (where it somehow seemed easier) and after a while I could do it on freewheel bikes as well.

    The difference is that I lose my balance when it comes to stopping the bike and getting off. It's as if I travel at a different speed than the bike and keep moving forward once it stops - thereby losing my footing, crashing into the handlebars, and who knows what else.

    FWIW, I see many people get on and off the bike the same way as me, and many people stopped in traffic with a toe on the ground rather than off the saddle, so I don't think my method is all that weird. But it's not "the proper way."

  34. somervillain - You really think it would be an additional 12mm of clearance even with 42mm tires? That would be great; I was worried it would be less. With 650B I would switch to 165mm cranks as well, which would be another 5mm.

    The BB drop and brake reach are non-issues, but I am not 100% positive there is clearance for 650Bx42mm tires, though Bryan thinks yes. Will measure those distances.

    The cost will be pretty bad, since I'll want wheels that are as nice as my current ones, with the same generator hub. The only thing that might make it possible would be if MDI is able to use the current wheels for his own next build.

  35. Velouria...

    Silly me... I assumed that the mixte was 650b... complete mistake in my opinion to build a mixte for you in 700c... but let's get back to the point...

    If you are running 700x35c tires... going from memory now... the diameter is about 715mm... changing to 650x38c... approx. 684mm... will gain you about 15mm more clearance... not significant... but could make the difference...

    As for leg extension, mount and dismount... that is a product of seat tube angle... not bottom bracket height... cannot comprehend why you would specify a high bottom-bracket to help with your starting and stopping... the design does not make sense...

    even in the original intent for the design of the bike... with your sizing... the bike should have been built around 650b wheels... low bottom bracket... slack seat tube angle... steeper head-tube with a longer rake on the fork for less trail... most likely your would not even have to lean the bike to put your foot on the ground... would not have any trouble with heel-clip... no toe overlap... and plenty of leg extension...

    my mixte has the same dimensions as my tourer... the only change is a slacker seat angle... and slightly more upright riding position... and I can stop and put both feet down... flat on the ground while sitting on the saddle... very nice when you have 15kgs in the the basket... it is all in proper design... and I start and stop just like you do when I ride the mixte...

    The Grouch

  36. Re outer circumference - 2 front wheels -
    a. 650b with hetres
    b. 700c with 30mm Challenge Parigi Rouboux -
    fit almost exactly under the same fender...very little difference; does not need more than slight aesthetic adjustment of fenderline
    Hard to believe (I was quite surprised meself).
    Hence my comment.
    What about those 1/2 toeclips? Precludes sandals, but other than that, if they keep your feet from contacting the fender, then you're in good shape otherwise.
    Seems a shame to rerake fork / new fork / spendy on new 650b wheels etc.

  37. rural - I've tried the half toe clips and even have an informal review of them somewhere (from Spring 2010). Didn't like them at all. They did not really provide any benefit, were hard to get into, and my feet got tangled in them when getting out. I sold them. PowerGrips are much easier to use and provide much, much, much better foot retention (same as fully tightened full toe clips).

    I think whether foot retention is appropriate/desirable on a transport bike really depends on your perspective and it is not a point that can be argued. If someone is coming from a background of being a bike messenger, or a Jon Forester type, then yes retention seems normal. If someone is coming from a Euro city bike background, foot retention on a city bike seems absurd.

    Despite my growing interest in road cycling, I completely dissociate it from transportation. If I could ride an upright 3-speed long distances over hills for transportation, I would - that is my preferred style. Fast mixtes are nice, but they need to keep it casual and upright to fit the role. Foot retention adds (in my view) unnecessary stress to what could be a laid back experience of travel.

  38. This is turning into Double Down. Should have learned my lesson there.

    PS No one attacked you for getting on/off the way you do.

  39. Attacked me? I am not saying anyone did.

    I'm saying that despite seeing others do it in a similar manner, I would nonetheless like to learn the proper way. Unfortunately it will have to be on my own time, which may end up being years. Who knows.

  40. Years? You could do it tomorrow. MDI, what say you?

  41. Pitch this to HBO: Boy meets girl. Boy likes bikes, girl doesn't. Girl argues for years against. Boy patient. Girl tries bikes, likes bikes! Goes nuts! Starts well-followed bike blog! Boy is quietly bemused.

    HBO: nah, it'll never work. Too improbable.

  42. Eh. Kind of. Girl cycled as teenager for years before ever met boy.

    Cycled "incorrectly" and had a crappy bike, but cycled nonetheless.

  43. Girl cycles "correctly" in paceline tomorrow - go or no?

  44. My first thought when reading this was to ask Bryan to build you a new fork with that would reposition the wheel so there was no overlap. I noted someone else was thinking along the same lines. Seems to me that it's a design oversight, as he undoubtedly knew you'd use fenders...

    650b doesn't sound like a bad way to go otherwise.

  45. GR Jim - Nothing can stop me. Hopefully.

    SJP & Others re fork: My worry is that reraking the fork or building a new fork will change the bike's performance significantly. Plus it would probably take a while, since Bryan has a long waiting list at this point. Plus the paint colour was custom mixed. Plus I would still have to pay for it and the results are not as predictable as a 650B conversion.

  46. " Seems to me that it's a design oversight"

    I think it's more like a difference in perspectives. Bryan is a framebuilder with a road and racing background, and 2 years ago he was fairly new at building upright transportation bikes - which I was well aware of. In retrospect, my guess is that he specced the frame to have no TCO based on parameters that assume foot retention would be used, as he had been accustomed to doing at Seven. The overlap is very slight and would indeed be non-existant had this been a roadbike and I used foot retention.

    It is also worth noting that not everyone sees TCO as a problem. Some Rivendell models & sizes have it, lots of custom built bikes have it, and even some loop frame city bikes.

  47. rural14: math is math, there's no arguing about the difference in diameter between 650B and 700C. You may have successfully swapped out 700C wheels for 650B while keeping the fenders the same, but the fact is that a 42mm 650B tire will leave you with 12mm more fender gap compared with a 35mm 700C tire if you leave the fender untouched in the conversion. Most people who do a conversion replace the fenders with ones specific for 650B, and adjust the gap and fender line accordingly.

    Velouria-- one thing I forgot to mention is that lowering the bike by 12mm by conversion will also reduce the trail slightly... not necessarily an appreciable amount, but it will drop by about 3-4 mm.

    A neat experiment would be to test-fit the 650B wheelset from your Sam Hillborne on your mixte, just to see how they fit. If the frame clearances are fine, then the decision becomes that much easier. It will also give you an idea of how much gap you will have between your current fenders and the Hetres... and reducing that gap with new fenders would result in reclakming that space on the other side to eliminate TCO.

    Why are people getting so hung up about mounting/dismounting technique?

  48. I'm a little confused why there would be no overlap if you used foot retention. Do you place your foot differently when you've got retention?

    I'm looking forward to your figuring out how to mount a road bike 'properly' so that we can eventually read your adventures with clipless pedals. ;-)

  49. I've seen a few people stop your way, and may have even done it myself on occasion. My stoplight technique varies by mood and terrain, although my favorite is to stay on the saddle and put one foot on the curb. Nothing "wrong" with any particular technique as long as it lets you get rolling again safely.

    Somervillian's talk about the tandem reminded me of how I used to take my daughter to her day care in a trailer, and then use the trailer again for grocery shopping after I dropped her off (these days she rides her own bike, but I sometimes wish I'd hung on to the trailer).

  50. Since somervillain has done a 650B conversion twice (see here and here), I am inclined to believe his math... Now if only he'd convert my bike!

    sausend - Yes, both clipless and PowerGrips (though not to the same extent as clipless) place the foot further back from the front tire. It's not just me, since I've heard others talk about this.

    I would love to be able to ride clipless. After getting used to PowerGrips I have a hard time riding a roadbike without foot retention and I think I would enjoy proper clipless pedals even more. But yeah, I have a long way to go before that can become a reality.

  51. Matt - In Vienna, Austria, I observed that over 50% of cyclists stop that way at intersections. Judging by the photos on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, the same seems to be true of Copenhagen. That does not mean they can't dismount a bike "properly," it is probably just a matter of not wanting to be bothered.

  52. If i had a custom bike that was designed and built around 700c, i don't think i could convert to 650b, mostly b/c i'd feel weird about it emotionally. If it made sense in all other ways, though, i'd be a fool not to.

    However,i'm not sure that this is the case with the bike in question. Those same 12mm you'd gain in toe clearance (yes, Somervillain's math is more sound than most anyone else's,assuming the claimed 35mm 700cand 42mm 650b sizes were accurate on your rims) will also result in a 12mm drop in BB height. You may be comfortable with that, and the builder may be comfortable with that, but no one can deny that a 12mm drop in BB height as well as the overall height of every component on the bike, relative to the ground, will affect the geo and handling of the bicycle. (Granted, many of the most important components can be adjusted to compensate for this, but still.)

    I think it was GRJ who suggested the 165mm cranks. Your objections to the idea are reasonable, but you seem to be a connected type of cyclist; if memory serves me, you've got some sort of square-taper sugino cranks in place. Surely someone can loan you a set of 165s with a JIS interface. Chainline issues be damned; throw a set of 165mm XDs on that bad boy; run it as a 1x8(?) if you have to, take around the block a few times. Ride it the 7miles plus one day. Try it on for size, risk-free. You've little to lose if you'd plan to put 165s on there for the 650b conversion anyway; why not just start with the 165mm cranks and see if the multi-hundred dollar expense of the new 650b wheelset is even necessary?

    just a thought. I love wasting money on deviant bike projects as much as the next guy, but i think you might be able to get out of this thing cheap. If not, the 165s are in the cards anyway, right?


  53. Math is math but gonna have to go with Rural's real-world experience. Tires vary substantially in size, despite what's on the label. Going to also agree w/test-fitting the Riv's wheels.

    SV - mounting/dismounting came up to address my suggestion to get shorter cranks. Read above if you dare.

  54. GR Jim - See my earlier note about Somervillain's two 650B conversions.

    rob - The drop in BB height should be fine on this bike; framebuilder confirmed that. The frame could basically have been built up either way.

  55. Yeah, I'd read those originally and just re-read them but they don't address my comment. What I'm saying is there is a large enough discrepancy in tires out of the same mold to throw theoretical math numbers out the window.

    SV's conversions weren't stated to be done to eliminate TCO. I don't doubt the quality of his conversions, but circumstances here are different.

    " I am not 100% positive there is clearance for 650Bx42mm tires, though Bryan thinks yes. Will measure those distances."

    All conclusions based upon math and guesses are purely theoretical. You could spend all the $ and still get overlap. As stated, Bryan was a new framebuilder of this kind of frame, still has only a few years' experience. Real-world solutions like fitting the Riv's wheel and shorter cranks cost zero money and give you a good idea what's going on. Many builders will mock up a frame the same way w/dummy wheels to check clearances.

    Your choice: due diligence now or possibly pay (again) later.

  56. Ugh, toe overlap is awful. I've fallen in love with the Cross Check (46cm model) but it's the one thing that's preventing me from seriously considering purchasing the bike. According to the bike shop, toe overlap is totally normal for cyclocross style frames, which seems weird to me, but whatever.

    Anyways, I'll keep an eye on this thread to see if anyone has any creative solutions. I'm not sure how minimal your toe overlap is, but it's pretty bad on the Surly. Like, difficult-to-turn bad. :(

  57. I could be wrong, but I believe Somervillain's conversions were done at least in part to eliminate TCO, particularly on his wife's Soma.

    I agree with you of course about due diligence and will certainly try the bike with the Riv's wheel and a 650B fender before converting.

  58. re:toe overlap: Toe overlap is common on many bikes,and i've never found it to be a big deal. of course,i'm an Irishman. I can live with just about anything.

    re: measurements, test-fits/etc. Test fitting is a grand idea. I suggested doing it with the cranks; doing it with 650b wheels would be at least as informative.

    re: velouria's comment: "rob - The drop in BB height should be fine on this bike; framebuilder confirmed that. The frame could basically have been built up either way. "

    "Fine" is one concept; "different" is entirely another. As i posted above, this sort of change will make the bike feel, handle, and behave differently. "Fine" is all well and good, but if you're in love with how your 700c mixte rides now, "different" may not be "fine" at all. Hence, the brilliance of the test-fittings,with the Riv's wheels and whatever shorter cranks you can muster.


  59. Matt and others make a really good point about converting to 650B: Doing so might disappoint you because it may not lead to a ride quality you want and may detract from those qualities you like so much about the bike.

    Plus, tire profiles vary so widely that, after converting, you may end up with more or less the same tire diameter as you had before the conversion. That, of course, won't get rid of the toe-clip overlap (which I've never found to be a problem).

    I'm seeing more and more road bikes and fixies with big baskets or racks on the front. That was all but unheard-of a few years ago. I wouldn't put anything with much load-bearing capacity on the front of any bike with a short wheelbase or fork rake, as they make such bikes less stable.

    You might say that my Le Tour III is being used "off label." Like many bikes of its type and time, it was intended as a "sport" machine: something like Marianne was. However, I turned it into more of a commuter, with slightly wider (though lighter) tires and rims than it originally had, and with full fenders (and a mud flap!) , a rear rack, upright (Velo Orange Milan) bars and a sprung leather saddle (Gyes Parkside) In addition to all of that, the rear wheel has a "flip-flop" hub that I'm currently riding with a fixed gear. So I could even argue that the bike is experiencing a double off-label use.

    The Le Tour III is not the first "sport" ten- or twelve-speed I've used as a commuter or fixie.

    When I've had only one or two bikes, they were used "off label." For example, I did my first multiday tour, with camping equipment, on a racing bike.

  60. I would ask the Royal H guys if a conversion is a good idea. 650B conversions can change the ride for better or worse depending on mysterious elements. Also there could be issues with the brakes. 165 cranks would be too short for you, would change the ride and perhaps cause knee issues. Constance sounds like such a wonderful bike and you ride it because it is such a great ride. Toe overlap can be a pain, surprised it wasn't sorted out in the design phase! What about those VO half moon toe clips-are those the ones you tried?
    I am planning on a 650B converson of an older trek bike and they apparently do very well.

  61. I say: make it comfortable enough so that you want to ride it whenever have occasion to ride it. Otherwise, what's the point? If you don't like the toe overlap, and that prevents you from riding it very much, you've got a very expensive and beautiful door stop. This is reason enough to shell out a bit more for the right wheels. Says the owner of a newly-wheeled Raleigh, of course.

    I'm wondering why you couldn't build up the new wheels around the existing hubs? This would make things much less expensive, but it sounds like you would want new hubs too? Would this be so you could keep the original wheel set?

  62. ^ I still ride it just as much as I would if there was no overlap. So it would make me feel more comfortable, but I wouldn't use it any differently.

  63. Also, Velouria, I don't know if you've told me the exact nature of your nerve damage (I know we've discussed it), but you might have a poor sense of proprioception, which is how you perceive your body in space. Mine is off due to my disease, and it does affect how I ride my bike. I don't sense speed well, but it could also affect balance and other issues. Obviously, if would affect different people in different ways.

    The classic test to see if you have a damaged sense of proprioception is to stand with both feet so they are touching and close your eyes. Can you stand upright without leaning from side to side? Try it somewhere you can fall down without injury. When I do it, I lean like I'm listing to one side, then to the other. I compensate with my ankles, but I lean a lot. When my BF does it, he stands straight up like a soldier. It's dramatic how much I move compared to him. Some folks just plain fall over!

    More on it here:

    You may, of course, already know all about this. While I don't find that knowing this helps me with anything, it is nice to have an explanation for why, when it's dark or foggy or the road curves a lot, I drive like a granny, but when the road is straight, I drive like a teenager. On a bike, it just means I'm slow and hesitant to lean over into curves.

    FWIW, I mount the bike the "normal" way, and always have. And I love to ride standing up. We called it "pumping" when I was a kid, and it was the only way to get up a hill on your banana-seated Stingray-style cruiser with a buddy seated on the handlebars.

  64. snarky - Yes, I got that too : ) Not when it comes to judging speed, but definitely my body in space and also distances. Cycling has actually made me improve in that respect, especially roadcycling.

  65. See, it's just the opposite for me. Road cycling seriously would never have happened for me. I can't improve my sense of where I am, so I just was flapping around at a faster speed. In the end, that and my reduced lung capacity (and the pain in my hands and wrists) made road cycling impractical for me, and everyone around me!

    I find mine has weird effects: I run into stuff and people a lot (my mom nicknamed me "Grace"), I took 20 years to learn to parallel park, I get lost constantly and have zero sense of direction (drop me in a store in a strange mall to really make me nervous. What door did we come in?), and other odd things. For years, I just thought I was clumsy and directionally-challenged, but now at least I know why it happens, which is reassuring. I still mentally refer to myself as Grace when I run into the coffee table :).

  66. with existing fork and 650 wheels, what about fenders? They will be to high!

  67. Reraking a fork 5mm is not a big job. Paint may not be affected. At least you could hope not.

    Scheduling a 5 mm rerake should not take BH any more time than talking about it. Past 5 it's a new ballgame.

    What's head angle, rake, trail? If you're in the middle of the field, which photos make it look you are, handling change should be minimal. The wide tires will mute changes a lot.

    Switch cranks on a loaner basis. Try for one day. Might be less traumatic than you think.

    Sensitivity to TCO varies wildly. My sweetie has a short toptube, racing rake, 30mm TCO and lives with it. Has loved that bike many years. Go figure.

  68. Thanks guys for all the information on proprioception. It explains a lot why I have a harder time turning right with my bike while turning left is so easy. You guys are a fountain of information and I'm very appreciative!

  69. Another option to consider that would be far cheaper than a 650B conversion is swapping out the fender stays. Have you examined exactly where it is you're experiencing TCO? Is it at the fender itself or the stay as it wraps around the fender? I know that for many people who ride with VO or Honjo fenders (myself included), TCO happens because the stays protrude needlessly behind the fender as they wrap around, because they are attached to the fender with bulky draw bolts. The stays, not the fender itself, are the culprit. The Berthoud stays eliminate this problem by flattening the stay as it wraps around the fender. Therefore it sticks out less. What a lot of experienced randonneurs have discovered is that they can retrofit their VO and Honjo fenders with Berthoud stays and eliminate TCO, assuming the TCO is mild to begin with. The mixed-brand assembly of VO/Honjo fenders with Berthoud stays has even become de rigeur for new builds within the retro-randonneur set. Since you indicated the TCO on your mixte is mild, this may in fact be the most cost-effective and visually benign solution.

    1. That is certainly true on my road bike with VO fenders. I never hit the planet bike fenders but they managed to self destruct on their own.

  70. GRJ-- you are correct to assert that different tires labeled as the same size will have different actual diameters, depending on the tires themselves and the rims on which they are mounted.

    However, before embarking on the conversions that I've done, I've made sure that all due diligence had been done beforehand. This included getting real-world measurements of the tires that I planned to use. It's fairly well known that GB Hetres measure between 40-42mm on a variety of 650B rims (they measure 41.5 on my Velocity Synergy rims). It would be trivial for Velouria to measure the width of her current Schwalbe Delta Cruisers and then predict the BB drop (which also equals the additional TCO clearance) that she would achieve with 650B wheels + GB Hetres. Of course, she can even do the direct measurements on the bike without purchasing anything, since she owns a set of 650B wheels with Hetres mounted, with which she can do a mock-up.

  71. Snarkypup - It took me a a while to be able to ride a bike with drop bars. A year passed from my initial attempts (after which I gave up, like you) to being able to do it successfully. And even then, it was such a roundabout process, where I had to first raise the handlebars to an insane height, then gradually lower them - just to get used to balancing on a bike with such a leaned over position. It was not intuitive to me, and at fist I could not even push off while being in a dropbar position. The comfort of a bike matters as well. The pain you are describing can be eliminated, but it's a LOT of work to get the fit right. It also may simply not have been the right bike for someone like you.

    Anyway, at some point - and it was by no means immediate - as I kept riding the bike something just clicked and I started to "get" a lot of things about handling and balance that simply were not a part of my body's understanding of the physical world before. It's pretty amazing, and that alone makes cycling worth it for me. But it was a lot of work to get to that point. It wasn't simply as if I got a roadbike and boom.

  72. This is not meant in any way as a commentary on your or Snark's condition and it's mildly unrelated. My grandfather had Parkinson's and I find this fascinating: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaY3gz5tJSk

  73. Velouria (do you always have the "u" in your name? Why haven't I noticed it before?), I really envy you. The pain in my hands wouldn't be eliminated with adjustments, unfortunately. Even the Viva bugs my fingers (so does typing, wearing a ring, carrying a grocery bag, driving... existing :P) as the position of the left grip, even after dozens of minute adjustments, makes my left hand go completely numb around the 14 mile mark, every ride. Oddly, this doesn't ever happen to the same extent on the Raleigh. I get bad tingles, but not numbness. The pain on the Panasonic was excruciating when the bars were low. I raised them... and raised them... and finally bought the Technomic stem, and raised it as high as I thought it reasonable to do and they still hurt badly. After that, why own a race bike, you know? Why not just go upright, and have less pain? So I stopped. Could be my nerve issues are more severe than what you have. I don't know. But the pain is constant anyway. No need to make it worse with drop bars :). Biking is meant to be fun, and for me, riding a race bike just hurt too much to be truly fun.

    Right now, as I type this, my finger tips are burning, my fingers are swollen, and my feet are tingling and burning all the way from my toes to my arches. Both big toe joints are bad today, for reasons I don't know. I haven't biked in days, so you can imagine how much worse a bent-over posture could make pain caused by spinal pinching in the neck and upper back (my feet are responding to compression near the base of my spine, to be fair).

    Anyone who is interested can click on my name and it will go to my blog. There is a page there now on my disease. GR Jim, it shares some similarities to Parkinson's, though only superficially. That is a far more serious illness than what I have. I have seen that video. Amazing what the brain can do.

  74. Close to your story, really. I wanted a bike for recreation, I picked the first cheapo bike I fell in love with. It's a mixte, and part of figuring out what meant via google is how I found your bolg.

    Anyway, I decided there is no reason why I couldn't bike to work. And everywhere else. So, a bike I bought for exclusive sea-wall leisure biking has turned into my commuter, transportation, grocery-getter. Oh, and it's about as old as I am.
    It's usually faster than public transit too, as long as there no crazy hills involved.

    I still haven't biked the sea-wall.


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