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A Tall Order - Selecting a Steel Cross Frameset

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A Tall Order - Selecting a Steel Cross Frameset

Old 03-27-15, 06:33 AM
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A Tall Order - Selecting a Steel Cross Frameset

Greetings all,

I'm in the market for a new steel cross frameset and I need some advice to narrow down my selections. I'm not a racer, love gravel, trail-riding and that sort of thing. I'm 6'4" with a 94cm PBH and I like my bars equal with my saddle, so very focused on the frame stack and ETT dimensions. I want to be able to fit big tires (up to 40c?) and maximize my spare parts bin usage. Budget for the frameset is about $600. Doesn't have to be a super stiff frame - comfort and weight are important. Not having a mile of spacers is also important.

Framesets I'm currently looking at:

Soma Double Cross Canti - 62cm
Soma Double Cross Disc - 66cm
Black Mountain Monster Cross - 65cm

These aren't cross bikes but more Sport/Touring:
Soma ES - 64cm
Soma San Marcos - 63cm

If the Double Cross Canti came in 66cm, I'd already have made my decision.

The DCD gives me all the size I want, but I'd have to invest in a whole disc setup (not in the parts bin). Plus, I hear lots of complaints about never getting rotors true and I don't dig the color.

I love the BMC MC, but it requires 130mm hubs (135's wouldn't really fit) so I'd have to potentially build up some new wheels (not in the parts bin)

The ES hits all the size requirements, I've got some long reach Tektro calipers in the bin, I'd just be limited on the tire width (Soma says "fits 32mm with fenders" - not sure how big without)

The San Marcos...just looks cool. With the 2013 frames selling for $650 and free shipping, this is tantalizing. Double Top Tubes FTW!


I have a Surly LHT 62cm that is a little heavier than I like and just a tiny bit small - bought it off CL with the fork steerer cut down a bit...could probably use one more 10mm spacer. I'll likely harvest parts of this for the future frameset.

Anyways, interested to hear some opinions from tall guys who have experience with these frames, or would like to suggest others that hit the main criteria.

Thanks!
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Old 03-27-15, 09:00 AM
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I guess I'd add the New Albion Privateer (60cm) to the list - 643mm Frame Stack.
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Old 03-27-15, 09:20 AM
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The ES will fit 40's. I've had 35's on mine and there was a decent amount of space still left. I've got 32's on it now with fenders but it's tight.
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Old 03-27-15, 09:34 AM
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Looked at the Surly Straggler? Frame set is right in your price range, and they make tons of sizes. Clears huge tires - lots of people running Rock 'n' Roads, some people squeeze in 29'ers.

Straggler | Bikes | Surly Bikes
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Old 03-27-15, 10:45 AM
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I'd actually stay away from a cyclocross-style bike - if you like your bars at saddle height, you'll need a ton of spacers and a high-rise stem. Most cross-style bikes have a high bottom bracket and a short head tube, so you end up kind of scrunched up in the vertical direction. The Double Cross and the Surly Straggler both definitely fall in that category.

With the Soma ES, it looks like you are stuck with caliper breaks - which are not the best for both mud clearance and fitting fat tires.

Take a look at the All-City Space Horse (I have one). Nice tall top tube, low bottom bracket, and a long back end. Kind of a mix of a touring bike (like a Long Haul Trucker) and a cyclocross bike. I have mine set up with a few spacers on the fork steerer and the bars are about 1 cm below saddle height, making the bike really comfortable. It handles better than a touring bike, rides great on gravel (so-so on singletrack), and will take a 42 c tire. Cantilever breaks. The frameset is about $600. I've been extremely happy with mine for mixed-surface riding (rides with pavement, gravel, and singletrack). It is definitely more versatile than a cylcocross or a road bike.
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Old 03-27-15, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by DirtRoadRunner View Post
I'd actually stay away from a cyclocross-style bike - if you like your bars at saddle height, you'll need a ton of spacers and a high-rise stem. Most cross-style bikes have a high bottom bracket and a short head tube, so you end up kind of scrunched up in the vertical direction. The Double Cross and the Surly Straggler both definitely fall in that category.

With the Soma ES, it looks like you are stuck with caliper breaks - which are not the best for both mud clearance and fitting fat tires.

Take a look at the All-City Space Horse (I have one). Nice tall top tube, low bottom bracket, and a long back end. Kind of a mix of a touring bike (like a Long Haul Trucker) and a cyclocross bike. I have mine set up with a few spacers on the fork steerer and the bars are about 1 cm below saddle height, making the bike really comfortable. It handles better than a touring bike, rides great on gravel (so-so on singletrack), and will take a 42 c tire. Cantilever breaks. The frameset is about $600. I've been extremely happy with mine for mixed-surface riding (rides with pavement, gravel, and singletrack). It is definitely more versatile than a cylcocross or a road bike.

Thanks all - appreciate the feedback.

The Stragger is a very cool bike, but to get into the frame stack range I want, I'd have to get the 64cm, which has 640mm effective top tube. That might be too long. Also, was talking to someone at the D2R2 last year about his and he chose not to bring it due to the weight.

Regarding the Soma ES, I have some wide mouth tektros that will work for big tires.

I have looked at the Space Horse before (also a very cool bike) but not sure the frame stack is going to be enough. I might be able to find one of these locally to try out however.
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Old 03-29-15, 06:09 PM
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Most frames come with a 350mm steerer, uncut with spacers sets the actual riding stack the same for any frame size.
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Old 04-06-15, 08:32 AM
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I've decided to stick with the LHT for now...playing with stem/spacer options to get the bars a bit higher. The steerer was cut prior to my ownership unfortunately.

Also going to try to get some narrow 29er tires in there...ala monster cross.
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Old 04-06-15, 12:32 PM
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SOMA Is a Merry Sales Imports Brand ... the company is in South SF Cal, and they have a Telephone .

You could ring them up and ask .. The Merry Sales Co. 1-800-245-9959 (NB its toll free)

The Merry Sales Co. 1-800-245-9959
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Old 04-09-15, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by DirtRoadRunner View Post
I'd actually stay away from a cyclocross-style bike - if you like your bars at saddle height, you'll need a ton of spacers and a high-rise stem. Most cross-style bikes have a high bottom bracket and a short head tube, so you end up kind of scrunched up in the vertical direction. The Double Cross and the Surly Straggler both definitely fall in that category.
I think overall this is too much of a generalization, cyclocross bikes are all over the map for stack height, especially when you count ones that aren't really designed for cross racing. But the Surly Cross-Check/Straggler definitely have low stack for their reach. If you want high bars, especially in larger sizes, they aren't the best choice for that. I don't know about the Double Cross off the top of my head.
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Old 04-09-15, 11:44 AM
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Since you are looking at Somas, add the Soma Saga to your list. Although it's a touring frame, it's geometry is not that different from a cross frame -- mostly due to longer chain stays. It has a tall head tube, which might appeal to someone your height, and clearance for tires at least 40 mm. It also comes in disc and canti brake versions.

I've got a Saga canti version and, quite frankly, it rides and fits pretty similar to my Ritchey Breakaway Cross. I have ridden many times on unpaved roads and trails using cross tires and it does great. I plan to ride it later this spring from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the GAP-C&O Canal trails.
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Old 04-09-15, 07:15 PM
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The Saga looks interesting. Definitely putting it on the list.
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Old 04-10-15, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
...the Surly Cross-Check/Straggler definitely have low stack for their reach. If you want high bars, especially in larger sizes, they aren't the best choice for that. I don't know about the Double Cross off the top of my head.
That's true about the frame but all those Surly frames come with a 350mm steerer tube, the actual maximum stack once the bike is set up to ride is the same. I bought a Saga Disc and I bought the size that had acceptable reach so I could run a stem between 65mm and 95mm. Then I max'ed out the spacers on the steerer tube for maximum actual riding stack. Doesn't look as cool but I'm an old fart now and iz like me my stacz!
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Old 04-10-15, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
I think overall this is too much of a generalization, cyclocross bikes are all over the map for stack height, especially when you count ones that aren't really designed for cross racing. But the Surly Cross-Check/Straggler definitely have low stack for their reach. If you want high bars, especially in larger sizes, they aren't the best choice for that. I don't know about the Double Cross off the top of my head.
+ 1. Too many variables to make that generalization.
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Old 04-10-15, 08:25 AM
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Looks like the Black Monster Cross hits all your criteria other than wheels. Plus BMC recommends not cold setting the frame because they use heat treated steel.

I'd buy the frame and get new wheels after a conversation with the boss of course,
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Old 04-15-15, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
That's true about the frame but all those Surly frames come with a 350mm steerer tube, the actual maximum stack once the bike is set up to ride is the same. I bought a Saga Disc and I bought the size that had acceptable reach so I could run a stem between 65mm and 95mm. Then I max'ed out the spacers on the steerer tube for maximum actual riding stack. Doesn't look as cool but I'm an old fart now and iz like me my stacz!
Personally I think it's better to not have a huge stack of spacers, even though you can pile 'em high on a steel steer tube. All that unsupported steer tube will be a lot less stiff and definitely not as strong as it is when most of it is running through a head tube with bearings on each end. And yes, it is ugly . I'm glad it works for you, but there are enough choices out there to avoid it and I don't think Surlys are so great that anyone should put up with a huge spacer stack to ride one.
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Old 04-16-15, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
All that unsupported steer tube will be a lot less stiff and definitely not as strong as it is when most of it is running through a head tube with bearings on each end....
If I want my seat and top of bars level, there's not much choice. I'm 6-3, spacers are going in on any frame/fork or a riser stem. Everytime someone worries about lack of stiffness from spacers I look at the 400mm of fork on the other side and wonder how they can ride any bike
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Old 04-16-15, 08:22 AM
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Well, the fork is better triangulated and designed to be self-supported. The steerer is not. And why give up anything you don't have to? But I get where you're coming from.
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Old 04-16-15, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
Well, the fork is better triangulated and designed to be self-supported. The steerer is not....
I don't see how you can assert this. Both bearings are the same, one has a 400mm lever working on it, the other has a 5" lever. The crown bearing takes all the road beatings levered up by 400mm, the upper bearing takes whatever abuse the rider can manage, on a 5" lever. The steerer is a beefy 1 1/8" tube, the fork blades are skinnier with approximately the same thickness. Ugly or not, I can't see any structural reason it's bad to use spacers.

I'm running a 205mm head tube, longest I see are in the 240mm range. Anyone over 6-2 and 50+ years old is going to use some spacers (or a riser stem) to accommodate creaky backs and aero bellies....

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Old 04-16-15, 11:17 AM
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I'm just telling you that there is a reason that putting a huge stack of spacers on an uncut steerer is neither typical or nor recommended practice, and it's not just aesthetics. Is it dangerous, no, not with steel. But is it optimal, also no. And like I said before, you need to have a fork, you pretty much have to account for that. You do not need to give away more by having a big stack of spacers. It isn't consequence-free. You may never notice and that's fine, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant.

Again, I'm not telling you that you shouldn't have done what you did. I'm just saying that I wouldn't recommend just filling up a steer tube with spacers as a matter of course. It's better to pick a bike that has a more appropriate head tube height if at all possible.
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Old 04-16-15, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
Ugly or not, I can't see any structural reason it's bad to use spacers.
If you look at how the fork applies forces at the bottom end of the steer tube, you'll see that the load is applied as close as possible to the bearing. Keeping the lever arm short means the bending moment is concentrated in the fork legs (which are designed to flex) and not the steer tube (which isn't). At the bar end, you ideally want to have the same thing. Adding spacers increases the length of the lever which increases the bending moment on the steer tube. For aluminum steerers with a limited fatigue life, time to failure will be reduced. For CF steerers, the effect of the increased bending moment is highly dependent on the layup. Steel pretty much doesn't care

Now, how much effect a given amount of spacers will actually have on an alloy steerer is hard to determine. It's not like going from 40mm (the typical recommended limit) to 50mm is going to cut the fork's design life in half (and even if it did maybe you're now down to 10 year MTBF). But 40mm to 125mm is about a 200% increase, so the effect is probably not negligible. I'd guess in that case you probably are taking at least 50% off the design life. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not safe, it just means that you may need to think about replacing the fork sooner than you would otherwise.
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Old 04-16-15, 11:58 AM
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Yea, it's dangerous, that's why Surly says it's OK, that's why forks are coming with 350mm steerers....If it a fork or a bar, it's the same, a lever is a lever. I'll let it go and find a chain lube or cross-chain thread to waste my time on....
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Old 04-17-15, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
If it a fork or a bar, it's the same, a lever is a lever.
That's not true. Fork legs and a steer tube are emphatically not the same and not designed for the same stresses. Yes, Surly designs their forks so they can say it's safe to stack 'em to the sky; it's one of the things I find kind of ridiculous about Surly. "Do whatever you want! Don't worry if the frame doesn't really fit you right, just kludge it until it works! Don't worry, we'll overdesign it to death so it weighs far more than it needs to for its intended use, just so you can do silly things like stack 100mm of spacers on your fork."
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Old 04-17-15, 08:20 AM
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Not all of us are 5.5' tall and able to make our bikes look "cool" by your standards. Surly isn't alone in offering 350mm fork steerers, they're standard in the industry. You should get some engineering education so you're able to understand what a lever is....
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Old 04-20-15, 01:47 PM
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I'm not ignorant of what a lever is. I'm telling you that fork legs and a fork steerer do not in fact have identical properties and that the fork doesn't have the same negative effect as a long unsupported steerer. You accusing me of a lack of engineering knowledge is kind of baffling to me. I'm not an engineer, true, but I do know how bikes work and I don't know why you keep talking about the length of the lever of the fork vs the steerer. The concern is not leverage on the frame, it's the strength and stiffness of the unsupported steerer. The steerer of a fork is simply not intended to have a long, unsupported protrusion above the top race of the headset. Surly over-builds their steerers so it is not unsafe to run more spacers, but there's still a point where it's really not ideal. I wouldn't be concerned about safety in the case of a Surly, but I would think a little bit about the stiffness of that column and possible handling effects.

I think you're taking it personally that I'm saying that the way you fitted your bike is not good practice. I am very sorry if you feel insulted, but that's just a fact - it's not good practice and I don't recommend that most people disregard frame stack because they make all the forks the same length. That's not why they sell forks at only one steerer length. What I think looks cool has nothing to do with it; if you need to run 6 cm of spacers just to get the bars on your Cross-Check high enough, it's really not the right bike for you and you should find an alternative that fits better. There are lots of good frames out there, and most people will be able to find a better fit than that. If not, you do what you have to do, but "the fork goes to 350mm so don't worry about it" isn't a good starting point.
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