Interior Design…

30 08 2012

2012 Surly Pugsley – 18″ frame…

Mountain bike fashion keeps heading towards a smaller and smaller frame triangle. Ostensibly for increased stand over clearance.

2009 Surly Pugsley – 18″ frame…

One downside of this change is reduced room for cargo inside the frame.

Full bike…

Personally I don’t need any standover clearance on my bikes – including my mountain bikes. I’ve been riding and falling off bikes for decades and never had any groin to top tube issues.

My trusty Pugsley…

What I do have a use for is storage space inside the frame and I’d prefer to use a seatpost that wasn’t 2′ long, but that’s just me 😉

On One Fatbike – even less space…

Scott had to get a custom bike [see below] with a top tube that curves up higher than normal get a ride with a large interior space for a frame bag.

Scott’s custom Hunter 29er…

I couldn’t afford custom bling, but when I was shopping for a 29er frame I did my best to get one without a crazy low top tube. I also got the largest size On One Scandal 29er frame I could ride in order to maximize the interior design.

A guy’s gotta haul his snacks somewhere!

Happily there are a few bike designers who are savvy to the benefits of a large main frame triangle. Jeff Jones offers his line of mountain bikes is the sexy curved spaceframe version and a bikepacking friendly diamond frame version shown below.

Jeff Jones diamond frame with truss fork…

Jeff’s bike line up is nice in that folks who want an uber low top tube have a frame design to choose from and those who want to fit a big frame bag also have an option – yet both bikes share the same geometry and fit.

Jeff Jones spaceframe with truss fork…



12 responses

30 08 2012
Anthony DeLorenzo

It’s not just stand over clearance… It’s more about room to move the bike around in steeps, corners, drops and jumps. And the ability to get the saddle lower to do all of those things. With a high top tube it’s a lot harder to get that bike-body separation.

As an extreme case think of a trials bike, they have no saddle and almost no space between the two tubes.

So, as always, it comes down to what you want. If you want a frame bag you want more room in there. If you want to throw some tables and whips at the local dirt park you might be looking for something lower.

30 08 2012

Hey Vik,

This is one area where I completely disagree with you. Especially on the pugs, especially in the snow, but to a lesser extent, all my off road bikes, I appreciate having some room when I come off the bike, and as Anthony states above, there are non standover reasons to have a lower top tube on an off road bike.

If you are on a packed trail in deeper snow, when you come off the bike, your bike tends to stay on the trail and your feet can posthole deeper than the trail. I will take all the room I can get in this case. That plus some of the super slow soft ground wipeouts that happen on sand and snow, tend to put you in weirdy bike/leg/body combinations, where the clearance is greatly appreciated.

That said, I just don’t get frame bags as a storage location. Conceptually I would rather have two bottle cages in my main triangle than a frame bag. I will try one at one point and see though. I pretty much agree with you on lots of stuff, so I am suspicious that you could be as wrong as I think as you are on this one, so maybe I need to just try it. I might just like it.

31 08 2012
Chris Major

I can apreciate your need for cargo space, but for me personally I would sooner have things as compact as possible I like to ride aggressively, even on cycling journeys I’m looking for that line with the drops and jumps. The lower stand over hight and more compact the frame, the more flickable and the more I can throw the bike about. It is a compromise though as there is less room on the ups. It’s all about the cone of movement, and finding a compromise, I choose lively over comfortable and roomy and I would also sooner take less gear and use a small pack if I can get the clearence I desire.

The Jeff jones spaceframe above is my dream bike!

Thank you for your post, great read as ever!

31 08 2012
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

Just had a custom steel MTB frame made by Standard Byke in Iowa, along with it being Rohloff specific I had it tweaked to accept 2.6 tires and a 14″ BB. I also had them set it up with a traditional diamond frame. Im 5’10” with a 34″ inseam. I live in the Mid Atlantic where the trails are really rocky , with lots of steep technical climbs. Ive never had issues with moving the bike under me. Granted im not hucking huge drops or anything, but these trails are as technical as they come (before you judge, ive lived in the PNW, Arizona and places in between). My “junk” is pretty much an inch or so above the top tube. Never really had a clearance issue. An added benefit of the full size frame is that the bike is more compliant and doesnt feel like an ass hatchet. I guess its all what you use the bike for. But as someone who has worked in shops for the better part of his life, most of the trends ive seen in frame design have been to save money on frame material and crank out larger numbers faster. Ive owned Morewoods, Treks, Konas , Orbeas and what ever the shops I worked in had for sale. Ive come full circle to a steel frame. Im not doing any touring on it, but after reading your posts I have realized the traditional frame has so many plusses.

31 08 2012

@Tarik – I’ve ridden lots of soft snow and sand on my Pugs I’ve never had issues with the high TT causing me issues. Perhaps its a personal preference thing. I have a friend who can’t ride a bike with toe overlap while several of my bikes have that “feature” and it’s not a big deal to me.

As far as framebags go it just comes down to how you want to carry your gear on a MTB. I’ve tried the rack and pannier setup on rough terrain and not loved it as much as having my weight compact and in the centre of the bike. I carry water in a camelbak bladder or in bottle cages attached to the fork.

For my road touring bikes I prefer panniers and having normal water bottles in the frame. When I’m not hammering along over rough terrain the advantage of a framebag over panniers is lost.

If you look at a pic of my Pugs above there are several inches of seatpost that can be dropped to get the saddle out of the way on steep techy terrain.

Interestingly I was chatting to a friend after I posted this and he noted that he actually switched from a Jones Spaceframe to a Jones diamond frame for his main MTB and he rides all our local tech just fine.

I certainly wouldn’t want to deny folks a choice if they want a low TT. It just seems like the production options are getting meager for folks who want a higher TT.

31 08 2012
peter mac

Hello Vik,

You’ve had this subject in your mind and on forums for a while now, and again we have great comments as usual from all….add/subtract what you actually want the bike to do, then think again… much do I need to carry? But a loaded bike is a whole different animal.
Touring isn’t hucking.
Jumping and Trailing isn’t touring.
If having a space where an extra bag can be set, without causing the usual problems of heavy saddlebags and extra things too high or too far forward is a plus. Obese bits get out of control and want to fly off in all directions, even before one has any type of fall…..!!
Weight centred is weight controlled…..and a high top tube can come in handy when trying to actually stop the bike toppling over.
The reference for Interior design is a relevant (…Relevate..??) subject that shall go on and on.
Take it easy

1 09 2012
cycle tramp

Personally speaking anything that makes it easier for women to take up and enjoy cycling has to be a good thing (most of the equipment being built by men for men), and i think that bike frames with lower tob tubes do make cycling more attractive to women..

Completely understand about off-road and pannier use ~ Although providing the pannier fittings remain secure, it is something that you can get use too (or just forget about it, if you do enough miles)
(My own currently gripe is that the smallest of frames are actually too long for me 😦 )

1 09 2012
cycle tramp

tch.. incorrect use of the word ‘too’ there. Should be ‘to’. Apologies

1 09 2012

Cycle Tramps – the women I know have long legs and short torsos so if I was designing bikes for them I wouldn’t be dropping the TT for more stand over I would be offering shorter frames for a given seat tube size.

1 09 2012

Hey Vik, as others have stated standover is only a part of the lower TT trend. With plenty of exposed seatpost and a flexy post, such as Ti, the ride compliance improves noticeably. Less frame material and a stiffer frame are also benefits. I do a lot of bikepacking too and on my custom frame I chose to have 270mm of exposed seatpost with a 17″ ST. The loss of frame bag space can partially be made up for with toptube bags fore and aft.

1 09 2012

Gary the idea that a stiffer frame performs better – particularly on a hard tail or rigid bike is something I would say is doubtful. Just from a performance perspective I’d rather have a frame with some well designed flex in it.

I’m also not sitting down when riding rough terrain so if my bike isn’t suspended I would get my comfort from large volume tires not a flexy seatpost.

2 09 2012
cycle tramp

‘The women i know have long legs….’
Blimey… really?
Any chance of introductions.. ;~)

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