New bike/650 wheels

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Anonymous's picture

"Message board regulars will remember my query from last year about titanium frames. Your advice has been helpful in thinking about what I want, though I haven't been ready to make a move.

I think I'm getting closer to a decision. At least I'm going to get a professional fitting next week (Craig Upton).

One big dilemma is whether to go for 650 wheels. I may need a top tube no longer than 50cm. A bike shop I visited over the weekend suggested that was the best way for me to go.

I've re-read the 650 wheel posts (including this one) which have been helpful. But here are my concerns:

--Napoleon complex. On the road, will I be so short next to my cycling pals (most of whom are at least 6'8"") that I disappear in a paceline and they run over me? And I'll overcompensate by invading New Jersey?

--Will I have to spin like a maniac to go the same distance as someone with a 700 wheel in the same gear? (Steve Weiss calls this ""roll-out."") Is the difference noticeable?

I've looked at the Terry bikes, and don't think I'd want the 650 wheel in front and 700 in back. But that doesn't rule out all of their models. (Except that I don't want a fancy paint job!)

I looked at a Litespeed Solana that could be made up custom for about $3,100. Good deal?

Any other short cyclists out there who are happy with small off-the-rack frames?

Thanks, everyone."

Anonymous's picture
mp (not verified)

You might want to check out this post on RoadBikeReview.

Small, custom ti frame with 650 wheels for $2,000. They seem to have solid experience making smaller bikes.

Here's another good post on small bikes:

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"Short answer: If you truly need a 50cm top tube, you won't get a single well-designed bike with 700c wheels. Anyone who tells you differently is lying.

(Very) Long answer:

> I may need a top tube no longer than 50cm.

To start with, you should ignore the top tube length.

Bike fit is dictated by three points -- the bottom bracket, the seat, and the bars. The length of the top tube is completely immaterial until you determine the relationship that you need between bottom bracket and seat.

""Whaaaa?"" you say.

Here's why:

The first thing you need to determine is your seat height and setback from the bottom bracket, because these determine your weight distribution and position on the bike. For a person who's 5'2"", these might be 66cm (SH) and 5cm (setback) respectively. Seat height is measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat height. This setback is measured by dropping a plumb line from the tip of the saddle and measuring from that line to the center of the bottom bracket.

This setback will vary based on what type of bike and riding you plan to do, but your basic goal here is to place your saddle in such a position that your body will be resting comfortably with an appropriate amount of weight on the pedals, saddle, and bars. This will vary on if it's a touring bike, road bike, etc., but for someone who is 5'2"", 5cm might be a good starting point. Another rough measurement is to set the bike up such that your knee is over the pedal spindle when the pedal is at the 3 o'clock position. (Dear fitters, yes I know KOPS is bogus, but it get's us close, and at least demonstrates why a 76 degree seat angle is so dumb!!!)

When you have the relationship between bottom bracket and seat correct, you should be able to hold your body in a reasonably facsimile of a riding position without feeling that too much pressure on your hands or neck, and with the majority of your weight on your saddle.

Now, we need to recognize that most bikes in proper size for 700c wheels (54cm or larger) all have seat tube angles that are quite standard (72-73.5 degrees). However, smaller bikes often have very steep seattube angles (74-75-76! degrees). This is an attempt to make the top tube shorter. However, let's demonstrate why that doesn't work.

Let's assume that you need 5cm of setback from the bottom bracket, with a 66cm seatheight. There are any number of combinations of seattube angle and seatpost that will accomplish that. But they're all going to have the same reach to the bars, too.

For instance, you could use a 71 degree seattube and a zero-offset seatpost. That would work.

Or you could use a 76 degree seattube and a 6cm setback seatpost. (That seatpost will be tough to find.)

Or you could use a 73 degree seattube and a 25cm setback seatpost. That would work too.

The key to notice here is that all three of these combinations result in the same seat to bottom bracket relationship. But in order to have the same reach to the bars, the first example would have a toptube approximately 5-6cm _longer_ than the second example. That's because you're sitting further offset from the seattube/toptube junction in the second example.

That is, assume the handlebar and headtube are fixed in space. All the above examples lead to the same relationship between the seat and bottom bracket, so the only thing that can vary is the top tube length.

Another way to look at this is - a bike with a 74 degree seattube and a 50cm toptube will have a 2cm further reach to the bars than a bike with a 72 degree seattube and a 50cm toptube, assuming same stem and seatpost.

Now that we've covered all that, it's clear that the only measurement that really is going to be of any value is calculating the distance required from the seat to the bars ONCE the setback is calculated. (We could also measure the leng"

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

And FWIW, you'll have to spin 8% faster in the same gear to keep up with a 700c rider at a set cadence in the same gear.

Of course, you'll have an 8% easier effort.

Or just shift up a gear - gear steps are usually 7-10%, so I liken it to one shift. :)

Anonymous's picture
Judith Tripp (not verified)
650 wheels

"Carol, I don't know exactly how tall you are but I am 5 ft. 6 and ride 650 wheels on my triathlon bike. I don't feel minimized by people on 700s. As for the working harder issue, I'm sure Christian is right and my (road) bike shop initially brought up the same issue [""how will you keep up with the group?!""], but others have pooh-poohed it and indeed I've never noticed it. I've tested a course on my road bike (700) and my triathlon bike and gone faster on the latter (doesn't mean anything scientific except the 650s can't make you noticeably slower)."

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
how will you keep up with the group?

"I could see a special Mythbusters episode now on the Discovery Channel to cross promote their Pro bicycling team.

Picture a cyclist riding a 16"" (305) wheeled bike with a Sturmey Archer hub on the say club's ENY century. I bet somebody in the audience already knows the answer to this ""keep up"" myth. ;-)"

Anonymous's picture
Tony Rentschler (not verified)
My two cents

"Personally, I think 650C wheels make sense for smaller frames. With smaller wheels, you can minimize (or eliminate) toe-clip overlap, and you can get a bike with a more reasonable geometry and more pleasing proportions than you can when you try to shoehorn 700C wheels into a small frame.

Then why aren't 650C wheels more common on small frames?

- Well, there's not a huge tire selection (though it seems like there enough to choose from - you only use two at a time):

- Maybe there's a bit of a stigma attached to the smaller wheels - you see them on special-purpose tri bikes, but not on too many ""real"" road bikes.

- See above for manufacturers not tooling up for the marketplace thus limiting the product awareness, options, etc.

>> --Napoleon complex. On the road, will I be so short next to my cycling pals (most of whom are at least 6'8"") that I disappear in a paceline and they run over me?

No, the wheels aren't THAT much smaller! But they ARE lighter, so you will be able to accelerate briskly past the big lugs with minimal effort.

>> --Will I have to spin like a maniac to go the same distance as someone with a 700 wheel in the same gear?

No, you can select a set of chainrings and a cassette that will give you perfect gearing. The triathletes do it all the time.

>>I've looked at the Terry bikes, and don't think I'd want the 650 wheel in front and 700 in back.

It's a good idea, but I agree, there's no need for the different-sized wheels. I think they look kind of funny, plus you need to carry two diffferent tubes - which means FOUR if the ride leader says to bring two!

I see no downside to having a bike that fits you perfectly, if, as you say, you need one with a shortish top tube. A 650C bike won't be as common as one with 700C wheels, so it will be a little bit harder to find a wide variety of tires, and off-the-shelf, pre-built wheels. If you run very narrow tires on the smaller wheels, you might find that the ride will be rough over long distances. Of course, you can get a rough ride with narrow tires on 700C wheels too.

I think a good fit, and the freedom from toe-clip-overlap anxiety, outweigh any of the ""negatives."""

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"Tony & Carol,

Any competent frame builder can build a bike that will accomodate BOTH 650C (571mm) and 26"" (556mm) wheelsets.

That way, you can have a 650C wheelset with 23-571mm tires and a 26"" touring wheelset with 32-559mm tires.

If I were short, that's what I'd request. An additional benefit to this is you'll have plenty of room to run fenders with the 559mm wheelset.

- Christian"

Anonymous's picture
Neile Weissman (not verified)

"I second the idea of having a frame built that can take 26"" and 650C.

FWIW, Specialized makes its 05 All Condition Pro ATB Tire in 26x1"""

Anonymous's picture
Tony Rentschler (not verified)
What have you started??!!

Initially, I was skeptical that a bike should (should, not could) be built for fast paceline riding with 571/650C wheels, and touring with 26-inch/559 MTB wheels.

It seemed to me that these might different beasts, and trying to accommodate both would blur the focus of the bike's original intended purpose.

Plus, it seemed to me that swapping wheels could be kind of a hassle, what with having to move the brakes pads, possibly changing the cassette, etc.

Furthermore, 559 MTB rear wheels usually have 135 mm hubs, whereas 571 wheels use 130 mm spacing, so this would probably necessitate building a custom rear wheel.

But after I mulled it over a bit, I decided I'd better go measure my 559/26-inch wheeled road bike, and I found - to my delight - that 571 wheels and 23-26 mm tires should fit just fine. Now I HAVE to do this!

I thoughtfully built the bike with light pipes and a comfortable road geometry, and carefully positioned the long-reach brakes so the pads are at the bottom of the slots with the 559 wheels in place. Lots of clearance between the calipers and 32 mm tires. An easy fit for 650Cs.

Now why would I want to put 571 wheels on this machine, especialy when that means I'll need a custom rear wheel with a 135 mm hub? Because the wheels will be a little lighter, and, with 26 mm tires, they'll have a bit larger diameter - to smooth out the ride some and improve the handling (on this particular bike).

Just what I need, of course: another set of wheels, tubes, and tires! And somewhat esoteric at that.

Please do not suggest that I convert any of my bikes to 650B wheels tires - thank you!

Anonymous's picture
Peter Storey (not verified)
Hmmmm. In this case?

"I really like the idea of 571/559 compatibility on a (typically steel) light tourer/randonneuse/all-rounder.

But if we're starting from the premise of a Ti (or Ti/CF) weightless wonder for a female rider short enough to NEED sub-700c wheels, does it really get you anywhere? Yes, the 6mm reduction in radius will let you fit 32mm tires. But would you want them on such a bike?

OK, you and I just might (at least for long cruising distances), but I'm guessing that most riders of this size frame weigh 50 pounds less than I do. At that weight, 25s are practically ""fat"" tires: they can be run at low pressures that I would pinch-flat immediately.

Also: any decent steel builder can and should leave tire clearances to suit. Is this true in the Ti world, where every bike I see seems to have an aftermarket carbon fork? And/or a pre-fabbed carbon rear triangle?

Neat idea; but perhaps not here?

Peter Storey"

Anonymous's picture
April (not verified)
Off-the-peg small frame

"Take a look at the Trek 5200 WSD line. I believe the smaller frames of that line uses 650 wheels. I test rode both the WSD (650 wheel) and the regular, I felt they ride very similarly. A friend of mine who's 5'6 bought the WSD version and was VERY happy with it.

In the end, I took the ""regular"" version since I'm tall enough to fit either. And the ease of using ""regular"" tubes and the better choice of tires triumps the decision. But I ALMOST went 650.

Granted, those of us who are not too short to begin with do not have Napoleon complex. So we do not hesitate to choose to ride small frames! Speaking of which, my 5'6 friend said there's advantage to smaller frames in a pace line: you can see the road ahead by looking BELOW the seat of the big guy in front of you!

BTW, the Trek 5200 line is carbon."

Anonymous's picture
Christian (not verified)

Be aware, the small sizes (47, 51cm) of the Trek WSD bikes have 74.5 degree seattubes.

Be absolutely certain you can get enough setback and still sufficient reach if you look at these bikes.

- Christian

Anonymous's picture
April (not verified)

"""Be absolutely certain you can get enough setback and still sufficient reach if you look at these bikes.""

I did. The ""cockpit"" fit was near perfect right out of the box, for I have a more or less ""women's"" proportion, which is mostly legs and short torso that translate into a couple cm shorter than ""normal"" reach!

More over, being a tourist not a racer, the riser stem that came with the factory setup was just right. Unlike the TREK 2300 WSD, the 5200 WSD was mostly aimed at long time cyclist/enthusiast. So the geometry was not at all the ""lazy chair"" geometry employed by many other ""women specific"" frames. Last summer, I even saw a (small size) GUY riding the WSD 5200! He was doing a very hilly 200k (""metric double"") and he said prefers the slightly lighter small wheel bike for those hideous climbs (this was California).

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"Yeah, I was more directing that at Carol. Some people, especially ones with long legs, have trouble getting a KOPS or ""1 cm behind KOPS"" position on these bikes.


Anonymous's picture
April (not verified)

"I got a sneaky feeling that there's more to leg vs torso in the fitting. Because on my ""regular"" frame, my saddle is slam all the was FORWARD! So, I think that explains why I felt the WSD was just right out of hte box (with the saddle right in the middle of the rail), precisely due to its steeper seattube angle.

It heard quite a few female friends mention they're in similar situations. I wonder if it might be because many woman has shorter thigh than calf than men on average? It took a long time for the manufacturer to acknowledge women (on average) has shorter torso than men of similar height. It'll probably take them just as long to realize there might be other differences between the two.

Not that it requires any radical change in frame design. Just need to slide the saddle back or forth a bit more perhaps."

Anonymous's picture
Cindy Brome (not verified)
Production bikes for women

"My mind has boggled at the excellent, detailed discussion of bikes for women. I am buying my first road bike, and now I have no idea what to do!

I can only afford $1,200-1,700, so it has to be a production bike. I am 5' 6 3/4"", and I was figuring about a 51 cm frame. I am old (49) and weigh plenty.

I was thinking of a Specialized Dolce Elite (steel frame, $1,300) or a Trek 2100WSD (aluminum & carbon seat stays, $1,680), but perhaps neither of them has a good geometry. Both have 700C wheels. I made a geometry chart including the Trek Pilot 2.1 WSD, two bottom of the line Kleins, for comparison, and a Terry, for comparison. I can't reproduce it here, but the seat angles ranged from 73 to 75.3, chainstay lengths from 40.5 to 42.4, and top tubes from 50.6 to 54.7.

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!


Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
one bit of advice

Generally you get better replies if you start a new discussion thread than if you piggyback onto someone else's. Just a fact of (internet) life.

Anonymous's picture
Cindy Brome (not verified)

Thanks. I'll do that.

Anonymous's picture
Joao (not verified)

"Some simple math:

A 700x25 tire has an 82.88"" circumference. That means, for every full spin of the tire, you travel 82.88 inches.

A 650x25 tire has a 76.84"" circumference. That's only 7.82% smaller.

So, in order to keep the same gear ratio, what you need to do is add 7.82% to the size of your chainrings.

38 replace with a 41
39 replace with a 42
40 replace with a 43
41 replace with a 44
42 replace with a 45
43 replace with a 46
44 replace with a 47
45 replace with a 48
46 replace with a 49
47 replace with a 50
48 replace with a 51
49 replace with a 53
50 replace with a 54
51 replace with a 55
52 replace with a 56
53 replace with a 57
54 replace with a 58
55 replace with a 59
56 replace with a 60

Another thing that can be helpful is to use shorter crank arms. This reduces the amount of torque, but by keeping in a lower gear, you can spin a higher cadence a lot easier, especially for us with shorter legs. I'm 5'7"", and after reading an article by Mike Burrows I recently changed my cranks from 172.5 to 155. It didn't make any difference in my speed, but it's a lot easier on my leg muscles and joints, and I can keep a much higher cadence without bobbing on the seat.

And Christian is once again right when he mentioned that many 650c forks and frames can easily accommodate 26"" wheels and tires. I have one bike that can use both sizes with just one minor adjustment to the brake pads.

Joao ""who hasn't really ridden in 3 months due to combination of crappy weather, broken shoulder, and walkup apartment"" de Souza"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

Thanks to all for your helpful responses on- and off-line.

Christian, a special thanks for the time you've taken to explain the arcane geometric issues. I'm not great with math but it will sink in.

Muchas gracias!

Anonymous's picture
sukeun (not verified)
650c bike

"Hi, you do not seat any lower on a 650c wheeled bike. Seating hight in relation to the ground is determined by bottom bracket hight (the cranck has to clear the ground, most BB's are about the same hight from the ground) and if you use the same cranck lenght as on your 700c wheeled bike you will be seating on the bike at the same hight.
Also 26"" road wheels and 26"" mtb wheels are very different sizes (20mm difference). If you build the bike for 26"" road wheels your brake calipers won't reach the rim braking surface with a 26"" mtb wheel set.
And finally, most people aren't able to spin,
comfortably, gears greater than 53x14 on 700c wheeled bikes and that is 102.21"" gear. If you equiped a 650c wheeled bike with large gear of 53x11 (=125.27"") you will have big enough gear for any situation.

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"> Also 26"" road wheels and 26"" mtb wheels are very
> different sizes (20mm difference). If you build the
> bike for 26"" road wheels your brake calipers won't
> reach the rim braking surface with a 26"" mtb wheel set.

Stop spreading pernicious untruths.

If you read the above posts, I listed the bead seat diameter for both sets of wheels.

650C (26"" road wheels [sic]) are 571mm in diameter. The wheels commonly referred to as 26"" wheels are 559mm in diameter. The difference in diameter is 12mm (571mm-559mm), and the difference in radius is 6mm.

The brake slots on brakes vary from 10mm (Shimano) to 12mm long (Paul) or more (Tektro), which is more than enough to allow you to run both types of wheels, assuming your builder is smart enough to build the fork and brake bridge so that 571mm wheels are near the top of the slots and 559mm wheels are near the bottom.

And if you can't count on your frame builder to do that, you should get a different builder.

Oh, and 53x11 on a 650c wheel results in a 117"" gear, not a 125"" gear. Still sufficient for most riders, though.

Likely to be called a schoolmarm, again.
- Christian

Anonymous's picture
sukeun (not verified)
650c bike

have you actually tried fitting a 559mm wheel on a 571mm bike?
if she is talking about a titanium bike/frame i don't think she would want to use a tektro or a paul or any other low quality brake calipers. she would probably want to use campy, shimano, zero gravity brakes, etc.
talk to a frame builder first, they will advice against it.

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"You think Paul Components are ""low quality???"" Ok. I think they're at least as good as the new Shimano cantis, and certainly loads better than the laughable Zero Gravity junk.

But regardless, Shimano Dura Ace and Campy Record brakes still have more than enough adjustability to effect this swap, and as long as the frame/fork aren't built with the 650C wheels at the bottom of the slot, it's trivial.

What framebuilders have advised you against it? And why? Given the nearly-identical aspect ratio (within 5%)of 32-559 and 23-571 tires, it certainly can't have been that the trail or bottom bracket height was going to change. Perhaps they were unsure of their ability to braze in a seatstay bridge at the right spot?

- Christian

And yes, of course I've tried it. Most recently on a Cannondale Feminine."

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
frame geometry diagrams

Rivendell published an article on women's frame geometry with diagrams that help explain what Schoolmarm is talking about. I can't post the diagrams but could email you the article if you want.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
I may have it

Evan, is that the one headlined RR Dec. 01-Jan. 02, Women's Frames?

I saved a pdf and will print it out. Thanks for the reminder. If it's not the same one, please do send it.

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)


Just an FYI, too - once you've met with Craig and determined your fit points, I'm happy to BikeCAD some designs with you. That will give you a live-action view of the types of decisions and compromises you'll need to make when designing a bike.

It'll also allow you to see why I think some of the current ""women's frames"" are so flawed.

- Christian"

Anonymous's picture
Judith Tripp (not verified)
Craig's fit

Isn't Craig the one who puts people way high up on the saddle? And you're supposed to get used to it? Doesn't that significantly decrease one's power though? I think that would get one off to a real bad start, for a real big load of money.

Anonymous's picture
Heath (not verified)
My fit with Craig

Craig did not put me way high up on the saddle, although he did raise my seat post. At first it felt high, but after a ride I realized how much more power I had with my saddle in a better position. Craig fits you on a bike based on your body, as opposed to how your mind thinks it should feel on a bike. I imagine it takes some people a while to adjust to a fit from Craig. For me the fit felt a lot better right away.

Anonymous's picture
rjb (not verified)

If it decreased power output, Craig wouldn't do it. It's usually the opposite way round. Seat height too low results in loss of power (generalizations, of course).

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Yeah, that's it (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Mordecai Silver (not verified)
Here's the link

"Illuminating diagrams in this article , from Rivendell Reader 25:"

Anonymous's picture
Maggie Schwarz (not verified)
So, Carol, will you be selling your present bike?

If so, what do you have? I'm 5' tall.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

"But since I'm 5'4"", Maggie, I'm afraid it would be too big for you. Has a 51 cm top tube, center to center.

At any rate, probably won't be for a couple of months at least, since I haven't ordered a bike yet."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Tires available?

Can anyone recommend a good puncture-proof 650 tire--preferably with a Kevlar belt?

What about a folding tire for travel--hey Christian? [You're the best!]

The bike I'm considering comes with Panaracer Stradius Pro 650-23s.

In several years of riding on Kevlar belted tires I have had no flats due to punctures. (The last two flats were due to faulty stems on Performance tubes.)

Anonymous's picture
Christian's Wife's Husband (not verified)

Continental Ultra Gatorskin 650c (571-23) has a bead to bead layer of Duraskin and a Kevlar belt.

Terry Tellus ST 650c (571-28) is available in a 28mm width, which will help avoid snakebite flats.

Vredestein Fortezza 650c (571-23) has kevlar beads (folding) and rides oh-so-nice! Lasts maybe 2500 miles on the rear. The Schwalbe Stelvio also folds, as do the Conti GPs, I assume.

All available at (direct link here:)
or by order at your LBS.

- Christian

Anonymous's picture
Joao (not verified)

Just a little word of warning: The Continental Grand Prix is a great, long lasting tire. But the Continental Grand Prix Supersonic is for competition use only! I see a lot of places selling them as fast lightweight tires, but they don't tell you that the reason they are so light is that they're paper thin.

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Fortezza 650x23 - 2 for $63
Anonymous's picture
Carol (not verified)
Conti GP


I use the Continental Grand Prix on my 650c wheels. They fold and they're very easy to change. I've had very few flats with them. Only warning is watch the sidewalls. They tend to wear a little faster than the tread (at least of couple of mine have).


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
My new bike will be...

"...a Terry Isis.

I ended up getting measured by John at Conrad's, who uses a fit bike. Craig Upton doesn't have one, but was gracious about cancelling on short notice. (He fits you to your existing bike, and also devises training programs, which sound good.)

Thanks to Christian's expert consultation, it appears that the Terry production frame will suit me. The bike has 650 wheels front and back, Ultegra components, and a money-back guarantee, and is said to be suitable for light touring. Georgena Terry says that designing it was a labor of love. (I like the company.)

Charlie at Bicycle Habitat invited me in to test-ride the carbon Trek WSD for comparable geometry. (No problem test-driving there.) It seemed almost too fast with those little wheels. But hopefully I'll get used to it and my back will stop aching.

Maybe in a few years I'll spring for the $4K custom Seven.

See you in another week or so on my new bike, after Habitat builds it! Thanks again everyone for your advice.

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)


BTW, who you calling expert? Friendly hack is more like it. I can't wait to see the new rig.

- Christian

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