Road Bikes for Tall People: Casey’s Take 40


Below is a guest post about bikes for tall people by a long time reader, 6’7 Casey. Please note that opinions on frame material do vary and a frame builder can help in deciding on what’s right for your intended use and budget.

 

In my humble opinion, there are only two bike material choices for those of us on the right side of the bell shaped curve. Those materials are steel and titanium. I am sure there are those out there over 6’4” that are under 220 lbs or 100 Kg, but for the most part we were all at that weight in high school. Steel is a great metal for the bigger guy, but titanium is the king. All the benefits of Steel are found in titanium, with substantially less weight, and no rust. If you crash (like we all do at some point) on a steel or titanium bike you can get back on the bike with confidence, with carbon and aluminum I do not believe that to be the case. Personally, I would never get on a carbon bike, but maybe I am a bit old school. Titanium has the final benefit of always looking brand new. No matter how many scratches, drops, and general poor care given to a titanium bike, five minutes with some scotchbrite, and the bike looks brand new again.

6'9 Titanium Bike for Tall People

Titanium Bike for 6’9 Person

As with everything else it seems, the over 6’4 person simply cannot go down to the local bike shop and get a bike off the rack. Bike sales persons will be more than happy to sell us a bike made for a person a foot shorter, and tell us what a good fit it is, but that is another story. The bad news is we really have to get a custom bike, the good news is we get to get a custom or specialized bike.

6'9 Guy Riding Titanium Custom Bike

6’9 Guy Riding Titanium Custom Bike

How can this be good news? Well, there are a few options for getting a good steel or titanium bike frame. On the steel side, companies like Gunnar Cycles, USA go up to a 68cm frame in most of the frame styles they sell and Surley makes some really good bikes in a 64cm. KHS makes the Flite 747, designed by Mr. Zinn, which is the best off-the-shelf steel bike out there for anyone over 6’3. (Disclosure, I own one.)

6'11 Guy Riding Titanium Custom Bike

6’11 Guy Riding Titanium Custom Bike

Then there is titanium. In my experience just about every manufacture of titanium bikes will, for a bit more money, build a frame for the tall person. Zinn also sells the 747 in titanium under the name Dolomite, which will set you back about $4,200 for the frame alone. I had the 747 frame done in titanium by Titanproduct.com for a bit over $1,000 but you want to make sure you have a pretty good understanding of what you are ordering before you send $1,000 to a paypal account in China.

64 vs 56 Bike Comparison for Tall People

64 vs 56 Bike Comparison

In my experience Habenero Cycles is the best value when it comes to titanium bikes (I currently have six of them in the house.) What drew me to Habenero in the first place was they had “stock” frames in a 64cm, and the 64cm frames were no more money than all the other sizes. What I have found is Habenero actually sells a few custom frame bigger than the 64cm, and at a price point that is competitive with an off the shelf bikes with similar components. A “stock” frame (in any standard size up to 64cm) sells for $995 plus shipping. Mark at Habanero Cycles advertises “custom” frames for $1,595.

Casey Bike Group

Casey Bike Group





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40 thoughts on “Road Bikes for Tall People: Casey’s Take

  • Linda Williams

    For those who like a cruiser type bike, I am 6’2 and love my Electra Townie 3i. It rides like a dream and is so comfortable. I don’t even have the seat up all the way.

    • davidfrench

      Aldo, if you ever come by Santa Cruz, California or Brooklyn, New York ask us for a test ride. You won’t believe how a DirtySixer is such a better solution than any 26″ (or even 29″ wheel bike) until you ride it.

  • Morgan Feldon

    For a couple of years I rode a Cannondale 63cm. Then I had an Independent Fabrication bike made at 66cm. Alas IF broke up and the principals formed a new company. Haven’t followed the company since then.

  • Brett

    luckly Soma now builds stock bikes for tall people at a great pricepoint I dont own one but I would have if I had known they make stock bikes to 66cm in models ES & Soma Double Cross Disc Cyclo-cross Frame: http://www.somafab.com/ less than $500 for frame. I own a custom Serotta sadly out of business and a Carver custom ti mtn bike my frame was $1800 full custom for someone 6’7″. great company out of maine.
    I love riding I have a hard time keeping up on the up hills but everyone is chasing me on the down.

          • Brett

            Casey, they could get a 66cm for under $500. I know its not Ti but to figure out if you like something enought to spend more its a good starting point. Also for $200 more youo could get a full custom Ti bicycle from carver. (not making road frames currently though)

        • casey1167

          Brett, I understand the thought of getting a 66cm for under $500, but unless you really know bikes, and what is a good deal, for the most part the under $500 bikes will just not hold up. My first road bike was a Trek 1.5 64cm, and it was almost big enough, but it simply did not hold up. The wheels where a mess over time, and the aluminum frame is just wearing to ride. I looked into Carver bikes pretty hard, but the fact Habenero was selling stock 64cm bikes, in all styles, sort of lead me in that direction. When I ordered my bike direct from China, the frame was $850 plus shipping, which was a great deal.

  • Jim J

    AT 6’8″ & 275 lbs, I have tried many options, including a vintage 69cm Panasonic DX2000 road bike (too noodly and uncomfortable), a vintage 25.5″ Giant Rincon mountain bike (too upright & sluggish), a 66cm Soma ES road bike (still building it), a KHS Flite 747 and a 63cm Mercier Kilo TT track bike.

    Most of these bikes have been sold or are collecting dust, accept for the Kilo TT. I liked it immediately, and was committed after a week of commuting. The fit is spot on. I did replace the 165mm cranks with 175mm SRAM S300 cranks, bought a new saddle, replaced the wheelset, and got a nicer 16T freewheel. I am thinking of buying another one out of fear they will stop making them. It is the only bike where I feel like I’m riding “in” instead of “on” it. I do miss gears now and then, but have adapted. If I could get a bike with this identical geometry, gears. and room for fenders I would be even happier.

    I have more of a love/hate relationship with the Flite 747. It is the best bike I have ever owned for hill climbing, especially out of the saddle, but the geometry places way too much weight on the back wheel.

    Now if you excuse me, I have to try my new proportional length jump rope…

    • Tall Sam Post author

      I didn’t notice any weight imbalances with the Flite 747 myself, but then I was using a fairly far forward saddle. New jump rope eh? Did the recent post here inspire you or was it just a coincidence?

    • casey1167

      Your take on the 747 is interesting. I am a hair above 6’7″, and I am liking the 747 more with each ride. I had not noticed the weight distribution, but then again, I had not even thought of it.

        • Tall Sam Post author

          For myself I found a straight seat post to be fine for getting my patella over the crank spindle at 3 o’clock on the 747. It uses a steeper seat tube angle than other bikes its size but merely because of the longer crank arms…

        • casey1167

          Jim, I got a (straight) Thompson seat post pretty quick, and replaced the chain rings. At 6’7″, the 747 XXXL is right at the “almost too big” mark, so I sit farther forward then how it set up stock.

  • John H.

    I have a KHS Flite 747 also, and love it. (6’5″, 260lbs.) I would love to try a Dirtysixer, too. It looks like a big kids’ bike with those 36″ wheels. I thought the guy’s name is David French?(at Dirtysixer). (note) No “e” in Surly.

    • Anonymous

      John, I am still “refining” my 747, currently I am looking into getting the Tour fork so I can put the Canti brakes on it, and run bigger tires. I have to say, the 747 really grows on you over time. I would be interested in knowing any modification you have made to yours, and if you have the XXL or the XXXL. ~ Casey

      • John H.

        Anonymous; I have the XXL 747, so far the only changes are tires (Schwalbe Marathon 700x28C), a wider, touring-type saddle (Selle Royal, Ariel)and campus-style pedals (Shimano M324). I am looking into changing the seatpost out for a straight, not set-back post.

        • casey1167

          John, the most frustrating thing I have found is the limitation of tire size. There is a huge difference in 28s to 32s, and I really wish they would have put on brakes originally so these would work easier. If you read online, people have trouble with the stock seatpost bending over time.

          • John H.

            Casey, Yeah, I’ve seen some of those complaints too. I haven’t had that problem myself, I’m just looking for a better fit. The inside diameter of the seat tube (O.D. of the seat-post) seems to be problematic, it’s an odd size, and not widely available.

  • Jim

    Sorry to get off point, but has anyone found a good mix of value and strength in road bike wheels? I avoid curb hopping just to keep my wheels true.

    BTW – My KHS 747 is the XXL and I’d love to try the XXXL someday.

    • casey1167

      Jim,

      You are actually right on point.

      I struggled with the wheel issue for a couple of years and after seemingly monthly trips to the bike shop to get my wheels trued, or new wheels because the hubs where shot, I bit the bullet and got some good wheels. This is what I suggest, because this is what I use (after a lot of asking around), and I have had no issue at all:

      White Industries hubs (4 cartridge bearings, 3 pawl ratchet engagement) and easy to service if needed. Basically identical to Kris King, for a bit less money.

      DT Swiss TK 540 rims,

      36 silver butted DT Swiss spokes laced 3 cross with brass nipples.

      These wheels have been bullet proof, and I am very happy with them. I have three bikes now with TK 540 rims

      You can go with a cheaper hub, but I would stay with the 36 DT Swiss Spokes with brass nipples on a TK540 rim.

      If you don’t like the TK540s, my next choices would be the Mavic CXP 33, or Velocity Dyad.

      If you have any more questions about wheel, I know a bit because I have asked a lot of question, and could give you the name of the guy that did my last couple of wheels.

      ~ Casey

    • casey1167

      Jim, I have DT Swiss TK540 rims, and White Industry hubs. I think the TK540s are a good rims based on the last 2,000 miles I have been on them. The wheels that came on my KHS 747 XXXL are shot at this point, both front and back the rim are splitting at the weld point.

  • Magnus

    I just had a good laugh – I am 6’9″ and a long time cycling OBSESSIVE, so I periodically scour the interwebs for new information on big bikes. The first Ti custom bike on this page looked awfully familiar. Then I scrolled down to the photo of the guy in the yellow jersey – HEY, that’s me!!!! Ha ha!

    Like Casey, I am a committed Habanero fan. I got my first Habby after literally a couple of years of intensive research. I liked the looks of the big Zinn bikes but they were too expensive for my budget (like most custom bikes). The 747’s were too heavy for my tastes. I wanted something light, and stiff, and durable, and affordable.

    I eventually landed on Habanero. It ticked all the boxes for me. I was turning 40 and my wife said I was allowed to have a midlife crisis as long as the crisis involved only a bicycle, so I bought a custom 68cm Habby with super record and campy wheels and it is a BEAUT! (It’s the bike in the photos above). For such a big frame with a Woundup fork with a very long steerer tube, it’s amazingly less than 17 pounds all-in, and as durable as anyone could wish for. I have ridden it more than 20,000 miles in the last three years (including one trip from Canada to Mexico) and nothing has worn out except the cassette and a few chains.

    Mark, the owner of Habanero, provides the best customer service I have ever received from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Seriously, this guys loves bikes and you feel like nothing matters more to him in the world than making sure that your bike will be perfect.

    A titanium frame that fits properly has been a total game changer for me. I can ride faster, longer and more comfortably than I ever have before.

    A couple of years ago I was hit by a truck on my winter bike and totalled it, broke a couple of ribs, etc. With the insurance proceeds I bought another custom road Habby with cheaper Ultegra parts and frankly, it’s basically just as good as the campy-outfitted dream machine, at less than half the price.

    I also bought a Habby hardtail 29er – it is outstanding and I use it for all my cross country trail riding and for family bike rides. (And on that note, I also have a 25″ Ventana El Capitan full suspension 29er which is the biggest stock bike I have ever seen and trust me, it rolls over EVERYTHING – highly recommended if you are looking for a bomber all-mountain bike – this bike would comfortably fit someone 6’11” in my opinion. Ventana is also the company that makes the DirtySixer frames, I believe – and I want me a DirtySixer but can’t afford one).

    As soon as my wife will let me, I’m getting a Habby CX / touring bike. THEN my life will be complete (until Habby comes out with a fat bike frame).

    For points of reference, before I got a Habby these were my road bikes:

    – an old steel 80’s Olmo, 63cm – beautiful bike but too small and whippy for me.
    – a custom 64cm Ti Guru that I got second hand on Craiglist – also way too small for me and too flexy in the rear triangle, but I spent many happy years on in and it’s now my winter bike
    – an old 66cm Cannondale – it fit great and was the starting point for the geometry on my Habby road bikes, but the ride was very harsh compared to Ti. I don’t ride it anymore
    – a 68cm Gunnar sport (steel frame) – nice ride and a good looking bike, but a lot heavier and more sluggish than my Habbys – I use it to commute to work. No cheaper than a Habby, so the choice between them is easy.

    I know I sound like a shill for Habanero here, but, well… I am absolutely shilling for them. Not because I have any vested interest, but rather because these really are the best quality, best value bikes that I think any big guy can get, and if Habby offers the frame in the style I need (I mean, want), then I wouldn’t buy anywhere else.

    • Tall Sam Post author

      Wow, that’s a lot of awesome info, Magnus! Thanks for writing in and I’m glad you don’t mind me and Casey using your pic, small world, eh?