Why the best randonneur bikes stay with traditional geometry

by Raymond Parker on September 2, 2010

in Cycling, Randonneuring, Technical

van-nicholas Van Nicholas Yukon in Motion (click to enlarge)

As noted elsewhere on VeloWeb, there is no definitive answer to the question “What’s the perfect bike for randonneuring?” Every kind of pedalled, rowed and even scooted machine has, with determined rider aboard, completed the queen of brevets Paris-Brest-Paris.

Still, we can discuss in general terms the best qualities of a traditional bike for marathon cycling.

I’ve just added a new submission to the Reader’s Rando Bikes page, a well-designed machine that to my mind displays the ideal characteristics of the modern long-distance bike, including a roomy caboose.

In contrast, too many stock (and even custom) frames are built with short chainstays and corresponding lack of clearance for larger tires and fenders—a must, in my opinion, anywhere outside of desert climes. Wider tires, of course, give a plusher, faster ride on less-than-smooth surfaces.

Additionally, longer chainstays give a more comfortable, stable ride. The argument for short chainstays—faster acceleration and quicker handling—are irrelevant to the longer distances of randonnées, where comfort and tracking, rather than speed and swift maneuvering, are of the essence.

A typical “sport touring” bike, like the Van Nicholas Yukon, referred to above, or my own steel Marinoni Ciclo and titanium Sportivo Randonnée, sport chainstays around 42 cm; a touring bike might run 44-46 cm, while contemporary racing bike stays often measure 40 cm and under.

The latter, equipped with typical short-reach brakes, will leave little to no room for comfortable, larger profile tires and it is of little use to build for longer-reach brakes if short chainstays leave the tire up against the seat tube. Short chainstays are also not conducive to smooth shifting on triples and wide-range gearing favoured on rando bikes.

There are many other frame variables that affect ride characteristics—material, tube wall thickness, shape and geometry—but attending to the aforementioned design considerations should be elementary, my dear rando.

Chainstay length by function–Racing, sport touring, touring.

Click image for full bicycle. Photos courtesy Cycles Marinoni

See also Touring Bikes (suitable for randonneuring) | About Randonneuring

Dick September 10, 2010 at 9:20 am

What fun! Learning something I thought I didn’t need to know, but fascinated by the lesson.
“Randonneuring” a sports car rally with a bicycle, instead of the
1952 MG TD Roadster my college room mate drove in the 60’s.
My next stop: the Bicycle Chain in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
where I’ll (ahem) be checking out the frame clearance and chainstays -and in the weak moment I know is coming, walking out with a new bike. Another convert.

Raymond Parker September 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

Randonées have often been compared to car rallies, not to mention orienteering.

Rando bikes are certainly appropriate for someone who is looking for a comfortable, sporty alternative to the racing bike. I’m always happy to help bike sales along. 🙂

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