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What’s the Best Bike Frame for Ultra-Distance Cycling

By Jiri Kaloc

Are you getting into ultra-distance cycling, long bike adventures, or bikepacking? If yes and you’re looking for the reason to buy a new bike, then having the right bike frame is a good one. You should consider the material, geometry, size, and fit if you are to select a frame that will stand up to the challenges of ultra-endurance riding style the best.

Material – carbon may not be the best

Looking at participants of ultra-distance races like the Transcontinental Race or the Trans Am Bike Race, all popular bike frame materials are amongst the common choices. Steel is the heaviest but usually less stiff and thus more comfortable than the others. Aluminium is a lot lighter than steel, but typically stiffer and not as comfortable, although the difference is not that substantial with newer models. Titanium has a similar weight to aluminium but is just as comfortable as steel. Carbon is the lightest of all and can be made stiff in areas where it needs to be and flexible in others. So, the choice depends on your budget and preferences for comfort vs weight.

Geometry – go for comfort

If you want a comfortable frame, then geometry will be a big factor to consider. There are two types that affect how the bike handles. There are the aggressive race models that have a shorter wheelbase and a lower and longer handlebar position. And then the more comfortable endurance models with a longer wheelbase and a higher head tube.

You can also distinguish between a compact and a traditional geometry where the top tube either slopes down or is horizontal. This is more of an aesthetic choice and an issue of practicality based on your height. The endurance models allow for a more comfort-oriented riding position so that’s what you should look for.

Size and fit

Size is of course a very individual issue, but it’s good to understand the basic measurements to know what to look for. The most important things when considering a bike fit are stack and reach. Check out the video below to understand how to measure those. And when considering various models, don’t forget to think about which bags you want to fit on the frame.

Even the best frame will be a waste unless it’s well fitted.

You can start with the suggestion from our infographic or take your bike to your local bike-fitter. But take that only as a starting point. Optimizing for ultra-distance comfort will require some experimentation. Rely on your feeling to find what’s right for you.