A bike’s wheelbase is the distance between the centre of the front and rear wheel.

Longer is better

Bikes that are good for transport cycling usually have a long wheelbase. This prevents toe overlap and allows space for panniers at the rear.

Modern road bikes tend to have a short wheelbase. Hybrids and rigid framed mountain bikes have one that is slightly longer. Touring bikes and Dutch bikes have a wheelbase that is longer again while cargo bikes are extremely long, togive more space for luggage. To show the difference, here are some wheelbase and chainstay lengths for bikes that are typical of their type.

Typical wheelbases*

Modern road bike: 41cm chainstay
Rigid framed mountain bike: 43cm chainstay
Hybrid: 44cm chainstay
Touring bike: 46cm chainstay
Dutch bike: 46cm chainstay

*Measurements are taken from bikes that fit a 5’10” rider.

Of these bikes, only the hybrid, the tourer, the Dutch bike and the cargo bike are suitable for carrying panniers. Heel strike or toe overlap are very likely on the road bike if fitted with full-size panniers. They are quite likely on the mountain bike.

Modern road bikes and MTBs are shorter

Modern road bikes and mountain bikes generally have short wheelbases. A frame made before the mid-1990s may be more suitable for transport cycling than one made more recently.

More about bike frames