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Old 08-13-09, 08:09 PM   #1
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Fitting for small people...

Ok, here's a new one for me.

Bought the wife a new road bike today (Trek 2.3 WSD). She's been a MTB/Hybrid rider up until now. Bike was a surprise present, so short of putting her on bikes at the shops when my son and I are constantly shopping, she's always ruled out spending the $$ on herself, so it took some trial and error fitting her and couldn't get her to do real test rides.

Wife is far from a big woman. We're talking 4"11" (She lies and claims 5' LOL)and just cracks 100lbs wringing wet. Got the bike fitted to her just fine barring one thing... her hands are so small that the brifter reach is a tad much. They're 105's if that matters. She can work them, but at the moment between the concept and the reach she didn't do so well on our ride tonight.

Is there anything out there that will let me tilt the brifters in toward the bars or otherwise shorten the reach? I can't imagine I'm the first to encounter this.

Thanks.
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Old 08-13-09, 08:14 PM   #2
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Shimano makes small inserts that adjust the reach on the brake levers. the shop you purchased the bike from should have some left over from builds that did not need them.
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Old 08-13-09, 08:22 PM   #3
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Shimano makes small inserts that adjust the reach on the brake levers. the shop you purchased the bike from should have some left over from builds that did not need them.
Thanks. Brifters on the WSD version of the bike come with "Bontrager FIT reach adjust" which are effectively just wedges. We have them pretty much maxed out. I'm assuming this is what you're talking about? Can they be stacked if I can get another set?

Like I said, we're talking a small woman here. Like size 4 ring size, so small hands!
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Old 08-13-09, 08:38 PM   #4
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Those shims are the same ones that come with any shimano lever. There are two sizes, check to make sure that you have the thicker of the two shims installed. I don't think you can stack them. Looking at a picture of the bike it looks like it already has a short reach bar but have a look and see if you can find some thing shorter, both Easton and FSA make them. (75mm and 80mm reach respectively). I know its a fasion faux pas but you could unwrap the bar and reposition the shifter slightly higher. On my wife's bike I set her brakes a little softer so that she could get a bit more leverage on the levers but that was for cantis, not sure how it would work with a caliper.

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Old 08-13-09, 10:02 PM   #5
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I'm an expert on fit for smaller riders and to start with there is unfortunately NO off the shelf bike that truly fits someone the size of your wife. Sure she can ride it around the block a few times but as you are coming to find out there are issues.

I'm 5' 1" and ride a custom rig,



and here's a close up of the handlebars,



Your wife wont have smaller hands than me. Trust me. I have the short reach levers fitted but if I was using flat ergo bars I wouldn't be able to reach the levers either. Find some shallow, short reach classic curve bars or something as similar as possible. I'm using Ritchey Biomax bars that are 36cm wide and I have them angle such that I can use them like a classic curve bar.

Now its still going to be harder for your wife to use the levers than for me because my custom bike has a relaxed seat tube angle and short cranks so I don't have that much weight on my hands when riding. The Trek WSD with its long cranks and STEEP seat tube angle is placing quite a bit of weight on her hands making it awkward to use the levers. Try moving her saddle back as far as it can go and if the reach is too long fit a shorter stem. Don't get caught in the common trap of moving her saddle forward to reduce the reach, (everyone does it including Trek hence the steep seat tube angle) because it only places more weight on your hands/shoulders.

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Old 08-14-09, 05:43 AM   #6
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I'm an expert on fit for smaller riders and to start with there is unfortunately NO off the shelf bike that truly fits someone the size of your wife. Sure she can ride it around the block a few times but as you are coming to find out there are issues.

I'm 5' 1" and ride a custom rig,

and here's a close up of the handlebars,



Your wife wont have smaller hands than me. Trust me. I have the short reach levers fitted but if I was using flat ergo bars I wouldn't be able to reach the levers either. Find some shallow, short reach classic curve bars or something as similar as possible. I'm using Ritchey Biomax bars that are 36cm wide and I have them angle such that I can use them like a classic curve bar.

Now its still going to be harder for your wife to use the levers than for me because my custom bike has a relaxed seat tube angle and short cranks so I don't have that much weight on my hands when riding. The Trek WSD with its long cranks and STEEP seat tube angle is placing quite a bit of weight on her hands making it awkward to use the levers. Try moving her saddle back as far as it can go and if the reach is too long fit a shorter stem. Don't get caught in the common trap of moving her saddle forward to reduce the reach, (everyone does it including Trek hence the steep seat tube angle) because it only places more weight on your hands/shoulders.

Anthony
Very nice bike!

I tried the Biomax on my Mondonico 10-speed build, and didn't like them because of brake reach. I used Ergos, and wanted to keep the hood and ramp continuous. Due to the steep sweep of the anatomic grip are of the drops, to put my hands there resulted in a huge finger reach to the brakes and the shifters. I ended up giving them up in favor of a Nitto Noodle. There is a little more drop, but the wider radius bar curve, like an old-fashioned Maes bend, matched the curve of the Ergo brake lever. The result is good ramp, decent (140 mm versus 125 mm for the Biomax) drop, and easy finger reach to the brake lever and (Ergo only) thumb reach to the thumb shift key.

For the op's wife with tiny hands, I think this sort of bar can work a lot better than the Biomax, because of the steep sweep of the anatomic section. There might still be a need to block the levers or seek more special levers, but my experience is that the Biomax exacerbated my problem, despite the advanced design.

I also tried a sharper traditional bend, a Cinelli 64 Giro d'Italia, and was still uncomfortable due to the sharp bend in the hooks.
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Old 08-14-09, 08:06 AM   #7
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Thanks everyone for all the responses. That said, one addiitional question. The way I understand from her in talking this morning the biggest issue is when she's riding on the hoods. Her hands simply aren't big enough to wrap and operate the brifters. Is there a smaller more ergo brifter on the market for the smaller sized?
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Old 08-14-09, 09:15 AM   #8
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To Road Fan those biomax bars only work for me because I have positioned them in a rather radical way to open up the curve.

To CCrew operating the levers from the hoods is impossible for someone with small, not so strong hands. Its the way it is. I cant brake from the hoods and I use the drops for braking ONLY.

Unfortunately in my opinion you wont be able to fit your wife to that bike. Its just TOO big. I know there's nothing much else around which is why I went custom. The bike manufacturers simply don't want to cater properly for that market because its not big enough so they simply do a half arsed job on a larger bike and figure that will do.

OK, I'm RANTING again which I have a want to do on this subject. I'm not feeling the best at the moment so I'm not going into all the details but I have before so do a search if you want.

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Old 08-14-09, 09:20 AM   #9
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Have you considered flat bars with trigger shifters?
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Old 08-14-09, 09:44 AM   #10
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Have you considered flat bars with trigger shifters?
That's a last resort, but I'd rather not traipse down that path because of the other limitations it creates.

She's actually hinted that having interrupter levers on the bars the same as my son's and my Cross bikes have might be workable.

AnthonyG, thanks for your responses. We actually have her pretty darned close if we can manage to get past this. I'm pretty familiar with trying to keep the women happy around me in sizing, with a wife @ 4'11, a daughter just short of that, and son's girlfriend at 4' 10". Fortunately we had a 48cm (crappy BD) Motobecane here that we also used to mock up fitting. Biggest issue that escaped us was that that one was Sora and pretty much couldn't be dialed in and thought was that 105 would be a bit more adjustable.
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Old 08-15-09, 10:17 AM   #11
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Guess I have some time to deal with it now....

God love her she decided to go for a ride yesterday to familiarize herself with the bike. 8 miles into the ride she wiped out in loose gravel on the road and road rashed both knees, sprained her right thumb and broke her left collarbone.

And her biggest worry was whether she damaged her new bike . (One scratch on the top tube)
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Old 08-15-09, 10:38 AM   #12
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Campagnolo Ergo levers are smaller and easier to use for smaller people. Unfortunately converting from Shimano to Campy can get expensive. It is possible to replace only the shifters and then use a J-Tech Shiftmate to compensate for the difference in cog spacing.

My wife's Trek WSD came equipped with Shimano R-600 shifter/brake levers that are slightly smaller than the normal full size units. But there's not enough difference to justify the expense.
Personally I don't see how the wedges could help with braking or shifting when riding on the hoods, and could make things worse. They will help for riding in the drops. We elected to not use wedges. My wife does most of her riding on the hoods.

Replacing the brake pads with KoolStop salmon colored pads will help with braking. Shimano pads are too hard.

What size is your wife's WSD? The smaller models are on 650 wheels and do fit smaller people much better than bike built on 700 wheels.

Al

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Old 08-15-09, 10:56 AM   #13
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Goodness, that's awful. I hope she heals fast, though it sounds like a lot to recover from. I hope it doesn't discourage her from riding, too.
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Old 08-15-09, 01:24 PM   #14
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Goodness, that's awful. I hope she heals fast, though it sounds like a lot to recover from. I hope it doesn't discourage her from riding, too.
Well, she's pretty much not made it off the sofa, but she's swearing she wants back on the bike ASAP. She may be little, but it's one of the things I love about her, she's one tough cookie!

She's seen me be in two different crashes, and my son in a couple also, so fortunately seeing it isn't new to her, although being on the receiving end is sure different. Hurts me to look at her, her left knee looks like she has two kneecaps, there's such a goose egg on it today..

Al1943, the bikes a 47cm and it's indeed on 700's. Fits her well barring the brifters. Were it not for the WSD geometry we'd have had to go smaller, as all the 46-48cm non-wsd bikes we tried her on had something wrong with the fit.
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Old 08-15-09, 05:38 PM   #15
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I'm sorry to hear about your wife crashing. Its no fun at all.

I'm going to have to disagree with you regarding the bike fitting her except for the brifters. It just doesn't fit. Now when you ride a bike in an UPRIGHT position then you can gloss over many sins fit wise however when you try to adopt an aerodynamic position on a road bike all the faults in the fit come home to roost. The first problem is that the cranks are too long causing her knees to rise very high into her chest and the reach is too long. Now most manufacturers (and even custom builders) do a DODGY fix here and move the saddle forward which shortens the reach and also being more on top of the cranks opens up the leg angles making it less likely that the knees rise into the chest. Its very much a TT/TRI position which is fine for TT/TRI but in combination with standard road bars its horrible. The rider has WAY too much weight on their hands/shoulders and its VERY hard to operate the levers particularly with so called "ergo" bars fitted. OK, I'm ranting again.

I think your best solution for this bike is to fit butterfly bars and flat bar controls which is a setup I used to ride before I got a custom build and I was very much riding a bike sized just like your wifes.

Here' a pic of these bars on my custom,



As you can see these bars shorten the reach even more but give options to stretch out as well. It was an interesting exercise actually. When I first had this bike built there was no way I could use brifters based on my experience with "standard" bikes but after riding my custom around for a while which had short cranks and a very relaxed seat tube angle I discovered that I COULD use brifters on a bike that fitted properly.

This is why I'm fairly militant against the bikes that manufacturers foist on small riders. They don't fit, they KNOW they don't fit but there is nothing the intend to to about it because of issues of manufacturing economics.

Anthony
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Old 08-15-09, 06:20 PM   #16
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Well, she's pretty much not made it off the sofa, but she's swearing she wants back on the bike ASAP. She may be little, but it's one of the things I love about her, she's one tough cookie!

She's seen me be in two different crashes, and my son in a couple also, so fortunately seeing it isn't new to her, although being on the receiving end is sure different. Hurts me to look at her, her left knee looks like she has two kneecaps, there's such a goose egg on it today..

Al1943, the bikes a 47cm and it's indeed on 700's. Fits her well barring the brifters. Were it not for the WSD geometry we'd have had to go smaller, as all the 46-48cm non-wsd bikes we tried her on had something wrong with the fit.
If you wife's bike is set up like the Trek picture



You might try moving the shifters downward on the bars. At too steep a level, she'll end up having to reach further up to use the brakes rather than a more natural bend to her wrist. Take a look at how she sits on the bike and how she reaches for the brakes. When you squeeze the brakes, your wrist should be at a pretty straight angle when on the hoods. Anthony's picture shows a pretty flat shifter position...which is good. I'd move the shifter further down the bar and run the bar flats parallel to the ground, however. I spend most of my riding time on the hoods of the levers and I think most people do the same.

Here's a touring bike set up



with flat tops and lower mounted shifters.
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Old 08-15-09, 06:20 PM   #17
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That's a last resort, but I'd rather not traipse down that path because of the other limitations it creates.

She's actually hinted that having interrupter levers on the bars the same as my son's and my Cross bikes have might be workable.

AnthonyG, thanks for your responses. We actually have her pretty darned close if we can manage to get past this. I'm pretty familiar with trying to keep the women happy around me in sizing, with a wife @ 4'11, a daughter just short of that, and son's girlfriend at 4' 10". Fortunately we had a 48cm (crappy BD) Motobecane here that we also used to mock up fitting. Biggest issue that escaped us was that that one was Sora and pretty much couldn't be dialed in and thought was that 105 would be a bit more adjustable.
How about this for a last resort: Get the smaller Tektro aero brake levers, and DuraAce 10 speed bar end shifters. All the controls are still on the handlebar, but that Tektro lever has a much smaller body than a Shimano brifter.
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Old 08-15-09, 06:24 PM   #18
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Campagnolo Ergo levers are smaller and easier to use for smaller people. Unfortunately converting from Shimano to Campy can get expensive. It is possible to replace only the shifters and then use a J-Tech Shiftmate to compensate for the difference in cog spacing.

My wife's Trek WSD came equipped with Shimano R-600 shifter/brake levers that are slightly smaller than the normal full size units. But there's not enough difference to justify the expense.
Personally I don't see how the wedges could help with braking or shifting when riding on the hoods, and could make things worse. They will help for riding in the drops. We elected to not use wedges. My wife does most of her riding on the hoods.

Replacing the brake pads with KoolStop salmon colored pads will help with braking. Shimano pads are too hard.

What size is your wife's WSD? The smaller models are on 650 wheels and do fit smaller people much better than bike built on 700 wheels.

Al
Chances are there's a Shiftmate (JTEK Corporation) that will make the Campy lever work with a Shimano system. I was thinkiing that the Ergos, especially the recent ones, have smaller bodies.
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Old 08-15-09, 09:05 PM   #19
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Al1943, the bikes a 47cm and it's indeed on 700's. Fits her well barring the brifters. Were it not for the WSD geometry we'd have had to go smaller, as all the 46-48cm non-wsd bikes we tried her on had something wrong with the fit.
Hmmm.... my wife's 2002 Trek WSD is a 47 cm 5200 and it is on 650 wheels. She is 5'1" and if her bike was any bigger it would be too big. The 650 wheels allow for a shorter top tube which really helps with fitting a small person.
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Old 08-15-09, 09:31 PM   #20
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Sram works for smaller hands. And they have reach adjustment.
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Old 08-15-09, 09:53 PM   #21
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Hmmm.... my wife's 2002 Trek WSD is a 47 cm 5200 and it is on 650 wheels. She is 5'1" and if her bike was any bigger it would be too big. The 650 wheels allow for a shorter top tube which really helps with fitting a small person.
We were just talking about it a few minutes ago. She likes the way it fits and rides. Is it perfect? Dunno. Honestly I've seen her on it once and at an educated glance it looks good. She says it's comfortable, and semantics aside, if she's happy, I'm happy. Those of you with significant others can appreciate that. She said again that the only issue she has is reach on the hoods. Loved it on the ride she took alone until she took the dive, and that was mostly attributed to n00b handling skills.

Keep in mind here, we're dealing with a 42 year old woman that's at absolute best a purely occasional recreational rider. If this bike sees 500 miles in a year it'll be a miracle. I bike commute, mine sees that mileage in two weeks. I will venture a guess that the longest ride this bike will ever see is 30 miles at a time. Reason for the purchase was more that the son and I primarily ride road or cross bikes (we have 11 bikes in the household) and it was a parity thing rather than her lugging along behind on rides spinning on a MTB which she dearly loves.. Yet she kept saying she wanted a "go fast bike"

That said, if I have to spend $ on it for her to be resolved of this I will. Do I think it's possible? Dunno. But I am appreciative of all the input that's been provided in trying to come up with a resolution.
Thanks!
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Old 08-15-09, 10:19 PM   #22
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You will do what you have to do. The problem with the levers stems from having too much weight on her hands/shoulders and the reason for the excess weight on her hands/shoulders is overall bike fit. As I said if you stay in a more or less upright riding position then the problems with the fit don't become obvious enough.

I don't want to tell you that you need to buy another bike. My interest is in the need to provide accurate independent information and there is a SERIOUS lack of accurate independent information in this regard.

My advise is to fit flat bars/butterfly bars along with flat bar controls. There are NO better levers to use. Its NOT the levers fault. The fault lies in the saddle position AND crank length which may seem like a crazy idea to you but thats road bike fit for you.

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Old 08-15-09, 10:30 PM   #23
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Here, I should have posted a picture of me on my custom bike. NO ONE has smaller or weaker hands than me period yet I can use brifters just fine. Its not the levers fault,



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Old 08-15-09, 11:14 PM   #24
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You will do what you have to do. The problem with the levers stems from having too much weight on her hands/shoulders
Dude, calm. The problem with the levers is that her hands are way too small to go around them. If she rides in the hoods with the thumb wrapped like most of us do her fingers aren't long enough to reach the lever to exert enough leverage.

I don't have big hands, and if you put her hand base of palm to mine the tip of her fingers make it just past the knuckle on mine. We're talking a woman that wears a size 4.5 shoe, and a 4 ring size. That's smaller than a lot of 12 year olds. She wears 0/1 clothing or shops in the kids department.

And sure she puts more weight forward than you do... her boobs are much bigger
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Old 08-16-09, 01:28 AM   #25
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Your wifes hands aren't any smaller at all than mine. I'm wearing unisex extra small gloves in that shot and sometimes I wear woman's small. As I've said I don't brake from the hoods either because I cant reach but its irrelevant. I brake from the drops.

I'm no lightweight at the moment and I could REALLY do with losing some weight but I have less weight on my hands/shoulders because the tip of the saddle on my bike is over 70 mm behind the bottom bracket. I wouldn't be supprised if the tip of your wifes saddle is IN FRONT of the BB and if its behind it might be no more than 20mm behind the BB. This is a critical point and the fact that her saddle is positioned so far forward is WRONG. Its just a dodgy fix to make up for issues elsewhere.

When it comes to fit for small riders I AM THE expert. If you didn't want expert advise don't ask questions here. Ask down at the store you bought the bike from instead.

I don't want to get into a fight over it with you but I reserve the right to give correct advise because this is a PUBLIC forum and others are reading as well.

Anthony
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