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  1. #1
    Senior Member Pukeskywalker's Avatar
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    Tips for making a too-small bike more comfortable?

    Hey everybody,

    I've got a 1980's Nishiki Prestige that I love deeply, but is slightly too small for me. I'm looking for ways to make the bike more comfortable

    I'm 6'4 and the bike is ~61cm (st) x 58cm (tt). My main issue is with the top tube making the bike feel a bit cramped.

    My ideas:
    - long bullhorn bars to stretch out on
    - 175mm crank arms for my long legs
    - backwards-bent seat post

    The seat post would be the hardest to make/find... I doubt they make these in J.I.S.

    Any comments/concerns/other ideas?

  2. #2
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    I see a fair number of Nishiki Prestiges out there. I would just find the right size, and sell your current ride. The good news is that larger sized vintage bikes tend to sell for LESS than common sizes, so you should make some $$ on the switch, and end up with a bike that fits.

    And there are a lot of Japanese bikes from the 1908s that are comparable to the Prestige. So if you are open to other brands, your search will go that much faster.

    Why throw money at a frame that is too small?

    If you are really "close" to a fit, what length stem are you using? Lots of vintage bikes came with relatively short stems. A longer stem is a really cheap modification.

  3. #3
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    I'm 6'5" and ride bikes that size. You don't need to switch type of handlebar of anything.
    You're already at the largest or possibly second-largest size that Nishiki made, and finding the largest size might be difficult (if you want to switch to that bike).
    The longest top tubes in most stock road bike sizes are 59cm. 58 cm isn't much shorter.

    Tips:
    1. make sure your seatpost is long enough. There is no such thing as a JIS seatpost. There are just diameters of seatposts. And you can easily, easily find almost any seatpost diameter in long (mtb-ish 350mm) length.
    2. get a quill stem that has longer forward-extension. All of my bikes have 120 or 130mm stems. If you feel like the handlebars are too low. Make sure you're aware whether your current handlebar has 25.4mm or 26.0mm clamp diameter.

    Look at the bikes linked in my signature. All of them have mtb-length seatposts and long stems.

  4. #4
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    I am 6'4" tall and I currently ride a 61cm touring bike with a 60 cm top tube. The main problem I have had is getting the bars high enough - Currently they are about 3" below my saddle, which is not toooo bad for my tastes.

    THe ideal fix in my situation would be to get a larger frame when I find one available.

    For you - barring finding a larger model - is a longer stem, and make sure your seatpost is high enough.

    Keeping a bike for sentimental reasons is fine, but it's kind of like an old lady who keeps her wedding dress from when she was 20 - it's nice to hold on to, but she doesn't expect to wear it again.

  5. #5
    me have long head tube TallRider's Avatar
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    as LarDasse74 says (and hey man, I've always gotten a kick out of your username), getting the bars high enough is also an issue. I have stems with long quills, or an up-angled rise, on most of my bikes.
    Since the OP said he felt "cramped" I didn't firstly think that he had issues with a too-low handlebar, but it still may be something worth addressing.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    You're on the right road to makeing this frame fit for now. As mentioned I'd keep my eyes open for something more suitable but in the meantime there's a couple of things you can do. On the other hand you've been riding it for a while now so it can't be all THAT far out of fit. A couple of small tricks as suggested will do a lot to make this feel better.

    The bullhorns you're suggesting in conjunction with the longer stem mentioned by wrk101 and timcupery will do a lot to improving the reach to open up your chest. Just be sure to get one of the quill stems that's nice and solid even if it means a couple of extra ounces. You're going to have a lot of torque leverage with this setup and you don't want the feel of the bars and stem flexing any more than neccessary.

    Stop and check your seat to pedal placement with the longer MTB seat post before you go shopping for a setback seatpost. The last thing you want to do is shift your body back past the correct point. Doing so will close your hip angle and angle your legs back which will both reduce your ability to put power to the pedals. I've found that by just using more post extension than normal that I have put myself back in the right spot or perhaps even TOO far back. When I've fixed up a slightly too small frame for myself I've found I needed to go with a zero or inline setback style post to put the saddle clamp knuckle in the middle of the rails for the seat position I found worked best. Meanwhile on normal size frames the saddle ends up being nicely placed on the rails with a regular post that has the saddle clamp located on the typical little dogleg. But you've been riding this bike for a while now so I'm assuming that you've gotten the saddle height where you want it. From there listen to your legs and hips to indicate that you're in a good position to put your power into the pedals. If you try to shift the saddle back from that point you'll find that your pedalling efforts will be trying to push you back off the bike and you'll be constantly pulling forward a little. There's some online stuff about how to measure the seat position by locating your knees over the pedals at some position. Look that up and try that as a starting point. Small shifts from there will optimize the saddle location but remember that you move the saddle to optimise the fit of your legs to the pedals, not to open up the upper body portion of the rider triangle. Once the saddle is properly set only THEN do you mess around with stems and bars to get your upper body feeling right.

    If it's not using 175's now then that would be an excellent upgrade for your legs.

    The only catch to this will be that your saddle may end up a bit high compared to the bars if you're after a casual posture while riding. But if you're happy with a good aggresive crouch I think you can make it fit decently enough. It'll be a helluva reach to the downtube locations for shifting though. You'll likely want to look at some way to relocate the shifters if they are on the downtube.

    Of course the folks here are right about this being the wrong size. If it's for casual riding you can do a lot to make it fit better. But the bike might tend to never feel quite right. If you were competing then this would be a big factor and you'd be crazy to try to make this frame fit. But for casual fun riding there's no reason why you can't tune it to fit you better and do just fine with it.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Pukeskywalker's Avatar
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    I'm going to check my seat alignment and most likely avoid the bent-seat post idea... I think I may already be too far back.

    As for the bars: I'll look for a long, quill stem to use with the bullhorns. I was concerned about how far out I would be placing my weigh (and imaging the stem snapping and doing a face-plant into my moving front tire)... I will be looking for something heavy and trustworthy.

    As for riding position: I like to get very low while riding, near horizontal... so being too low will not be a concern

    There are plenty of 175mm cranks out there for me... I'll see if I can find any JIS cranks that are longer... don't want to do any ISO + JIS mixing


    Thanks for the information everybody. This really is the most helpful internet forum I've ever come across.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pukeskywalker View Post
    I'm going to check my seat alignment and most likely avoid the bent-seat post idea... I think I may already be too far back.

    Good thing - your saddle position should be adjusted to give you comfortable reach from your arse to your feet - not a comfortable reach from your arse to your hands. Adjusting the saddle to compensate for reach is a no-no in bike fitting.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pukeskywalker View Post
    Hey everybody,

    I've got a 1980's Nishiki Prestige that I love deeply, but is slightly too small for me. I'm looking for ways to make the bike more comfortable

    I'm 6'4 and the bike is ~61cm (st) x 58cm (tt). My main issue is with the top tube making the bike feel a bit cramped.

    My ideas:
    - long bullhorn bars to stretch out on
    - 175mm crank arms for my long legs
    - backwards-bent seat post

    The seat post would be the hardest to make/find... I doubt they make these in J.I.S.

    Any comments/concerns/other ideas?
    I wouldn't bother. That bike is much too small for you.

    The real problem with trying to fit a too small bike is not the tube tube, there are tricks to lengthen or shorten the effective cockpit, but rather the handlebar height. Right off the bat your bars are at least 2cm lower than they would be on a 63cm, and depending on your physical proportions, you might be better off on a classic geometry 64-68cm bike.

    The sign of poor bike fit is not being able to ride at least half the time in the drops. All the people you see spending 99% of the time on the hoods haven't a clue how to actually size or fit their bike, and took the hack at their LBS at his word when he said that standover clearance mattered an iota to determine bike fit. He was wrong, by the way. Don't be another ignorant hoodie rider.

    There really is no good reason to ride a bike that is too small.

    You can get a Nitto Technomic high rise stem, but at 6'4" you're much more powerful than a five foot nothin' cyclists and the stem would flex considerably and noticeably. Salsa made some old rock solid quill high rise stems, but they didn't really have length to them, which would only compound your too small top tube. Kelly would make you a custom stem for sure. Going to a quality shop with a fit specialist that has a sizercycle would give you the dimensions you need in terms of angle, length, and rise, which begs the question why spend good money to get a custom stem for a bike that isn't a good fit anyway.

    We are not even getting into the fact that the steel frame is going to be much too inefficient and flexy for the wattage you can put out as a taller cyclist. With tight little triangles on a 56cm steel is a compromise enough, but on a 61cm bike you're literally spinning your wheels.

    Look for a proportional length crank to your height (that ain't 175mm, by the way). If you don't want to spend the coin a TA Specialites Alize 185mm crank would be a good also ran, but at 6'4" you're actually probably correct on something 190~200mm. Take a measure of your exact pubic bone height, and look at some online crank length estimators. Zinn makes custom length cranks, as do www.Customcranks.de

    You can't use most of the upright bar tricks because the frame is already marginal in terms of being too small, the last thing you want to do is bring your center of gravity up on a tower of doom stem/riser combo.

    Check out the Clydesdale size finds in the Clydesdale forum. You'l be right at home on the classic steel lugged 68cm bikes that are listed there, including some Nishikis that would probably put yours to shame...

    Too small is the answer here, I think.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    One option to help stiffen up the bars and stem would be to switch from a 7 shape quill to a 1.125 inch adapter so you can use threadless stems. The whole arrangement will come out stiffer, stronger and most likely just as light or perhaps a hair less. Also since now you can tune in the amount of stem rise you wany by altering the stem angle while the adapter sits down low, strong and stiff. It won't look as light and delicate as the classic 7 stems allow but what you give up in appearance will be far more than made up with increased rigidity in a critical area.

    As for liking riding crouched low I doff my bike helmet in recognition of someone better than I. However let's compare notes again when you're in your mid 50's....

    Actually you're likely not doing anything that isn't seen these days on a lot of the Tri bikes. They all seem to have smaller frames with lots of exposed seat post and hellaciously long stems with the usual bullhorn and aero bar getups on them. These setups seem to be laughing at the classic standards for setting frame sizes so there's obvoiusly lots of room.

    As you're learning now it's all about the rider triangle and less about the frame that fits in between. As long as you don't need to resort to extreme length stems or seatposts and are perhaps willing to accept a bit of flex in the stem and post due to so much exposure you can fit a much wider range of frames than classical fitting would suggest. Is this "compact frame" movement better or worse than classic frame sizing? That's a whole other can of worms to open up at some other time.
    Last edited by BCRider; 11-17-09 at 05:53 PM.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    As for liking riding crouched low I doff my bike helmet in recognition of someone better than I. However let's compare notes again when you're in your mid 50's....
    I just think the low racing position is inappropriate to anyone not riding in a European peloton...

    The nightmare is that most people buy bikes that are sized with such geometry and will spend their entire time on that bike on the hoods.

    I'm saying that a properly fitting bike allows you to spend at least half of your time in the drops WITHOUT being crouched down low. That's actually the whole point.

    That a properly fitting bike, something much much larger than most folks think is there size will actually allow the cyclist to ride in a more upright position in the drops, than they currently ride on the hoods of their currently too small bike.

    The reason that they have to crouch over to get in the drops is because their bike is too small by multiple sizes.

  12. #12
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Well a big part of me agrees with you on all counts. But he's got this bike that may fit well in this new format with bullhorns in a way that suits him.

    As a bike with drop bars I totally agree that it would be much too small for him. Hell, it would be too small for me at 6' 1" let alone his extra 3 inches over me. But bullhorns brings in a whole new aspect. For example I'm riding a Redline 925 that by classical fit standards is too small for me. It's roughly like a 57 or 58 cm frame size where I should be on a 61 or 62 size frame. but the bullhorns combined with a moderate length stem opens and flattens the cockpit in a way that really makes me comfy riding this bike and allows me to sit up or crouch low all while ensuring that my chest remains nicely "open" for good breathing. All the bikes I've ridden with drop bars, even my touring bike with the tops up just a hair over the saddle height, make my chest seem bound up when I try to reach down into the drops. I know it's just my conditioning but the point is that I found something that works for me that is not cast in the classical mold. It's quite possible that with a bit of work and the right selections Pukeskywalker can find a good non classical combo for himself as well. At worse this will cost him a few bucks to buy parts that can be used at some other point to try it out. At best he could find that the bike suddenly really tunes in with him.

    However I would also agree that he should keep on the lookout for a frame that is in a more proper classical size as well. I'm a firm subscriber to the N+1 theory of bicycle ownership.

    Puke', it may well be that when you find the "proper" size and build it up that you realize what you've been missing or forcing yourself into. You won't know until you try it. While I'm supporting you to try the mods to this bike and I think it'll work out just fine for regular riding it may well be that there will be some aspect of fit that will hold you back. You'll never know until you go with a frame that is truly YOUR size. By all means fix up this favourite Nishiki you have but keep an eye open for a frame or bike that's in the bigger size to buy and try.
    Last edited by BCRider; 11-17-09 at 06:32 PM.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Pukeskywalker's Avatar
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    Interesting counterpoints mtbke.... some follow-up questions for you:

    1. My frame has a ~59cm top tube, you're suggesting a 64 tt would solve some of my problems, but when it comes down to it, 5cm seems like a small difference. A 130mm stem + bullhorns seems like it would make up for the difference here... wouldn't it? (flexiness issues not withstanding)

    2. these 68 cm bikes you're talking about... Are we measuring center-to-center here? The biggest bike I've ever seen listed was a 66cm, and I believe they may have been measuring center-to-top...

    3. I'll look for a longer crank than 175mm... I'm not sure how easy this will be considering it's a JIS bb. I'm wondering though, if I increase the length of the crank arms, I will be effectively gearing down. I usually ride on the smallest rear gear, so I'd want to get an even smaller gear to compensate for the crank arm extension. Now: would this bring the bb tension/flexing back up to where it started?


    BCRider:

    The threadless stem is an interesting idea.. it would totally ruin the lugged-steal / vintage components thing I'm going for with this bike... but it's something to consider


    One positive thing... if a +64cm JIS frame would show up, I could easily transfer all of my components to that frame... so no money lost there with these upgrades

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pukeskywalker View Post
    3. I'll look for a longer crank than 175mm... I'm not sure how easy this will be considering it's a JIS bb. I'm wondering though, if I increase the length of the crank arms, I will be effectively gearing down. I usually ride on the smallest rear gear, so I'd want to get an even smaller gear to compensate for the crank arm extension. Now: would this bring the bb tension/flexing back up to where it started?


    BCRider:

    The threadless stem is an interesting idea.. it would totally ruin the lugged-steal / vintage components thing I'm going for with this bike... but it's something to consider


    One positive thing... if a +64cm JIS frame would show up, I could easily transfer all of my components to that frame... so no money lost there with these upgrades
    I think you are too concerned about the JIS compatibility - AFAIK, the main problem with JIS is finding headsets to fit. Most everything else is compatible with modern parts... and your BB JIS taper is the same as a Shimano taper. Your Nishiki probably has British BB threading, too - 1.37 X 24 threads, probably 68mm, so any modern Bottom Bracket will fit - so you can get one to match whatever crank you want.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Pukeskywalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    I think you are too concerned about the JIS compatibility - AFAIK, the main problem with JIS is finding headsets to fit. Most everything else is compatible with modern parts... and your BB JIS taper is the same as a Shimano taper. Your Nishiki probably has British BB threading, too - 1.37 X 24 threads, probably 68mm, so any modern Bottom Bracket will fit - so you can get one to match whatever crank you want.
    JIS headsets are pretty cheap/easy to find actually, I already have one picked out:
    http://www.benscycle.net/index.php?m...2&currency=USD

    JIS and ISO BB tapers are similar but not exactly the same. Sheldon says they can be mixed, and the he's never had a problem with it, but that he wouldn't do so with a customer's bike.

    If the BB threading is British that would be fantastic.. I'm having a lot of trouble locating a 180mm crankset that is straight-up JIS... I'm going to look into this today

    FYI, these companies are making JIS BB tapers (from sheldon again)

    J.I.S.

    J.I.S. is the Japanese Industrial Standard, and is generally used on square taper cranks made in Asia.

    J.I.S. spindles are shorter and blunter, they don't taper down to quite as small a square. J.I.S. models include:

    * Ritchey

    * S.R. Sakae Ringyo

    * Shimano

    * Specialized

    * Sugino (except N.J.S. track models and some older units.)

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    too small of bike

    Gosh that happens so much. LBS's steer people to too small of bikes. We all aren't TDF competitors with 10 inches of seat post sticking out of frame. I'm 6'4" with inseam of 36.7" and have never ridden a bike smaller than 63 cm with top tubes of about 60 cm and that with 130mm stems. Until stems with rises of 6 deg and more, I rode even bigger bikes - 66cm (custom frame). I use cranks of 180mm. (They do cost, however) More than that I would question. You've got to get them around.

    Riding 64 cm Madone now. Tremendous bike. Full carbon. fast, fast, fast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pukeskywalker View Post
    JIS headsets are pretty cheap/easy to find actually, I already have one picked out:
    http://www.benscycle.net/index.php?m...2&currency=USD

    JIS and ISO BB tapers are similar but not exactly the same. Sheldon says they can be mixed, and the he's never had a problem with it, but that he wouldn't do so with a customer's bike.

    If the BB threading is British that would be fantastic.. I'm having a lot of trouble locating a 180mm crankset that is straight-up JIS... I'm going to look into this today

    FYI, these companies are making JIS BB tapers (from sheldon again)

    To determine the threading on the BB shell, ok on the cups you have installed to see if there zre any markings on them... Most bikes fromthe '80s will have loose ball bearing cups with the threading stamped on the outside face. British threaded cups will say "1.37 X 24." British threaded BBs are the current standard and you can use just about any modern BB - you have to look pretty hard to find an Italian BB these days, and French an Swiss are nearing extinction. I am not aware of anything called a "JIS BB Threading" but that does nto mean it does not exist.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Pukeskywalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    To determine the threading on the BB shell, ok on the cups you have installed to see if there zre any markings on them... Most bikes fromthe '80s will have loose ball bearing cups with the threading stamped on the outside face. British threaded cups will say "1.37 X 24." British threaded BBs are the current standard and you can use just about any modern BB - you have to look pretty hard to find an Italian BB these days, and French an Swiss are nearing extinction. I am not aware of anything called a "JIS BB Threading" but that does nto mean it does not exist.
    It looks like JIS-taper brackets can have english or italian threading.

    You've just saved me a MAJOR headache. Thanks! I'm going to make sure my BB in english-threaded, then buy a new english-threaded BB with ISO tapers and a 180mm+ ISO crankset. Problem solved!

  19. #19
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Watch your ground clearance with the longer cranks. Pedal to ground strikes in the turns will become a more significant possibility if you forget and try to continue pedalling through a high speed high lean turn.

    I hear ya on trying to keep the bike looking consistent with its age. But at least you've got an option to kick around if you find that the stem and bars combo is too flexy for your tastes.
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    I've just recently bought a new bike that's the proper size after riding a bike one or two sizes too small for years. I tried everything, but could never get it to be comfortable for anything longer than a 20 mile ride. It's currently my 'locker' bike that i ride no longer than 5 miles out and am not afraid to lock to a lamp pole somewhere.

    i tried getting an 'offset' seatpost that put the saddle farther back - pedaling became uncomfortable and hard on my knees
    i got a longer stem - steering was way to touchy, had a hard time keeping a straight line, and it felt generally 'unsafe'
    got longer cranks - that actually worked well once i got used to the pedal striking issue, i naturally adjusted and now know to put the inside pedal up when going into a turn.

    i ended up with a much more upright stem and moustache bars, which feels safe and reasonably comfortable, but not as quick and agressive as i'd like.

    anywhos, my $0.02

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