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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been battling with sizes on bikes for some time now. Here is my issue, My 14 year old and I have set a goal to ride the Divide. We have our sights on 2016, right before she leaves for college and my 40th birthday. Our current training routine is about 15 miles of fire road, 20 miles of paved road and a few miles of singletrack, we try to do it at least once a week. Our milestones for this year are to ride the dirt roads from our house to Greanleaf State park (28miles) do the 10 mile singletrack loop, and ride home. And to do a local century ride (all pavement) in September. Next year we are setting our sites on the Dirty Kanza 200 and the Katy trail. Then it’s the Divide in 2016.

I am 6.2 and 200lbs with a 36 in. inseam and long arms, my daughter is 5’5”skinny and growing. She is not freaky long limbed like me, fortunately she is normal but I suspect that she will gain another inch or two this summer.
Issue is that I bought a 20” Karate Monkey off of Ebay and transferred all my parts from two other bikes I had to get it going.I put the frame from one of my stripped bikes on ebay and a guy ended up buying the whole bike. Now my KM is without a crankset, and rear derailleur. So I started looking around for new cranks and stuff, when I stumbled upon a Salsa El Mariachi pretty cheap. It is a 21” XL bike. My plan was to build a bike similar to my KM for my daughter in an 18” maybe an ogre, KM or Mariachi. She is on a 26" 90's GT MTB right now, medium frame.

So my question is, would the 20” KM be way too big for my daughter and her expected future growth, and the 21” way too big for me? Now I know you will say, well the best thing to do is test ride the bikes.
I have test rode a lot of bikes and one thing I have noticed is that most bikes ride the same the first 10 minutes in a LBS parking lot.
It’s when you take it for that 40 mile all day ride that you really get to know the bike.


Case in point the KM felt really good the first time I rode it in the driveway, a few days later my daughter did about 25 miles and my neck became really sore from being leaned too far forward. I changed the stem out and took it for a 30 mile ride and it felt better.I have been tinkering with forks, stacks and stems and I think I can really get the bike dialed in.
Would having an XL with a longer effective top tube and 21” seat tube make the El Mariachi a more comfortable bike? Or would that exacerbate the problem with my neck and back by leaning me too far forward?


Would I be better in the long run to keep the 20” KM for me and build a smaller bike for my daughter? Better or one us to have the wrong size bike for a while than both of us.
 

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2019 Salsa Horsethief; Mone La Roca (V1)
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I would think that for you, the measurement you would want to focus on is the effective top tube length, or ETT. I think Salsa and Surly have pretty similar geometry, so if you've already had to go with a shorter stem on the 20" KM, a 21" El Mar may end up being to long for comfort.

As for your daughter, at 5'5", an 18" KM or Ogre is going to be too big. She may grow into it, but it will be too big until that time. I think you have two options: 1. Let her continue to ride the GT until you're 6 months out from the Divide ride (when you have a better handle on her growth over the next 1.5 years) or 2. Buy her a 16" KM now and transfer parts to a bigger frame when/if she needs one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks,
That's what I was suspecting. I have an adjustable stem that came off an old bike. I have it adjusted all the way up (50deg. angle) and it puts me in a comfortable riding position. It looks goofy, but the fork head tube is short and I cannot add anymore spacers. I also put a cheap 80mm suspension fork on it and that seemed to raise the front end a little. My thought is a 100mm suspension fork with a few spacers, a short stem, add a set of bar ends and I would have a pretty comfortable trail/gravel grinder.
I will stay away from the El Mar then, and keep shopping for a smaller frame for my girl. I want my daughter and I to have very similar bikes so neither one of us is struggling to keep up because of equipment. She struggles to keep up with the 26's with the heavy knobbies on the GT. I want to get her on a 29'r asap, before she gets frustrated and looses interest. The other day she was complaining that she couldn't find the right gear to maintain the same (cadence?) rhythm as me.
Another thing, everywhere I read talks about the positives of a rigid fork for gravel rides, and distance rides. I find that with the rigid fork I bounce all over the road specifically on descents. I didn't have that problem on my front suspended bike. I know on a car the purpose of suspension is to keep the wheels on the ground. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
would it be worth it on a bike that cost less than a pair of those tires? We paid $50 for the bike last year at a garage sale.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Last year we bought 4 bikes just to give it a try(family bonding thing). A new 29" hardrock for me,(I've always ridden bikes but never nice ones so I splurged) A 26" Women's GT All Terra from a garage sale for my 13 year old, now 14. A 24" Giant off Craigslist for my 8 year old now 9, and a new Wal Mart special for my wife (I tried to get her to spend the money for a good bike but she wasn't interested)
My wife could care less, she never rides unless I complain enough, so the Wally world special is a porch ornament. My youngest is growing and she likes riding the 26" Gt better than her Giant, she's already out grown it. But she poops out too easy on long rides, she's still too young.
My oldest and I have kinda made biking our thing, on long rides it gives us a chance to talk about school, and life and all those father/daughter things. She deserves a bike every bit as good as what ever I am riding I think.
 

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would it be worth it on a bike that cost less than a pair of those tires? We paid $50 for the bike last year at a garage sale.
At this point it isn't the cost of the bike as much as the value of her riding enjoyment and progress toward a goal.

There will always be better bikes, but tires make the most cost effective upgrade in most cases.
But no reason not to keep an eye out for another good deal.
 

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I agree, the 20" KM will be way too big for her, even if she grows 2"-3". I would suggest building it up for you carefully with good reliable components that can survive a ride like the Divide.

One other note, when building up your daughters bike, be a little more careful about frame and component weight. I'm not saying go all weight weenie, but put weight a little higher on the list for her stuff. She is likely much lighter that you and will be much less abusive to the bike and parts. A lighter bike will make it easier for her to keep up with you and increase her enjoyment and odds of sticking with it. If you are both riding bikes that weigh 30 lbs, she will be at a big disadvantage!

Lastly, your training will have to really get stepped up before attempting a ride like that. That includes some multi day bike tours which include camping and roughing it and covering decent miles day after day. The more of those the better!

Good luck,
Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the advice, I will put weight on the priority list for her ,and strength for me. I contacted the guy with the El Mar and told him I had decided against it that I was going to stick with my KM. Now I am scouring ebay and online closeouts for deals on bike parts. Last night I pulled the crank and derailleur off the KM to put back on the complete I just sold. So now a new crank and Derailleur is on the priority list. I am thinking about sticking with the 1x9. Any crank and gearing recommendations for this type of riding?
Also speaking of the weight issue, would it be better to go aluminum for my daughter? I got the KM because it was steel and supposedly more comfortable, these bikes were designed for this type of riding. But what about my Daughter. Would weight trump ride quality for her given she is younger.
 
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