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  1. #1
    presto, pronto, prego! s70rguy's Avatar
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    Rant ..... about classic bikes, and the way they sometimes look

    Well, thats probably not the most informative title ever, but anyway, here goes.

    For years now, I've been looking with great interest at all the classic bikes shown here, and have enjoyed the different ways people enjoy building them up and riding them. its been an education too, and will be.

    But one thing irritates me no end. And thats the way many use stem length and saddle position to make a bike fit thats obviously not the right size. And, go on to enjoy AND describe the ride! How is that possible???

    What am I referring to? Extra short or extra long stems for a too long or too short toptube. Saddle pushed forward on post for a toptube thats too long. Seatpost out too much, or shoved in too far. Etc., etc.

    Now for one thing, the attraction of a classic steel bike for me is not only the fact that it is lugged steel, but foremost that hard to grasp combination of craftsmanship (even in mass produced frames like f.i. Miyata; read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance and you know what I mean) and elegance that combines into something that just wants to be ridden, and ridden the right way. I can look at classic bikes for hours at end (figuratively speaking) and admire all angles, details, colours and imagine it being raced, thrown into corners, sprinted, going down a mountain at speed ..
    For me its all about harmony .. if the man on the bike is in sync with the bike, even visually, everything will work together perfectly. I think. Of course this rules out your belly rubbing the toptube ...

    So here are my rules ...

    Centerline of seatpost should go through center of saddle (if not, the seattube angle is not right for you, or rather your femur length).
    Saddle should be higher than stem, for a 58 c-t frame about 10 cms. Rule of thumb: headtube length should be about the same as seatpost extension.
    Stem length should be proportionate to all this, for esthetics sake.

    And not just esthetics; for me its essential that my hands rest more or less straight above the front hub. Its all about the feel of the bike. Not the same for everyone I grant you that. But a racing lightweight should have that racing feel right? If only to appreciate what the bike was build for.

    Pay respect to the bike is what I say, and if inevitable, suffer for it ...

    Flame away ...
    Last edited by s70rguy; 10-05-09 at 06:39 PM.

  2. #2
    guy on a bike
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    *sigh*


    quit being a control freak, Uncle Adolf, just let the kids do their thing

  3. #3
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    www.rivbike.com Maybe you collaborated with him. In case you've never read it.
    He's not the only one that agrees with you either.

  4. #4
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by s70rguy View Post
    Rule of thumb: headtube length should be about the same as seatpost extension.
    Maybe on a compact frame. That's not even possible (nor desirable) on most classic bikes as the post is <20cm long and require at least 1/3 of that to be inserted into the seat tube. Ever hear of "fist full of seatpost?"

  5. #5
    presto, pronto, prego! s70rguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MIN View Post
    Maybe on a compact frame. That's not even possible (nor desirable) on most classic bikes as the post is <20cm long and require at least 1/3 of that to be inserted into the seat tube. Ever hear of "fist full of seatpost?"
    You're right; what I meant to say was the length up to the saddle top. Its the visual thing I'm talking about.

  6. #6
    Senior Member divineAndbright's Avatar
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    Quite a few members in this forum are up there in age and find being flexible ain't quite as easy anymore so they may ride with their stem way up there to be more upright. while I agree it isnt very pleasing to look at but at least they are still actually riding.

    Then there are the people who are riding bikes that don't quite fit em right, either they don't know or their bike is all they could find atm so they do what they can to make it work, for now (hopefully!).

    Im pretty big on the looks and set up too, but not downright snobby, the current road racing trend has racers riding bikes that look too small for them comparing to the "vintage era" and they kinda look like a sail on a sailboat because of it, yeck. A lot of them are racing with like 10 inch saddle to bar drop, I find it looks hideous, I like my bars just a few inches below my saddle.

  7. #7
    Freewheel Medic pastorbobnlnh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by s70rguy
    Centerline of seatpost should go through center of saddle (if not, the seattube angle is not right for you, or rather your femur length). Saddle should be higher than stem, for a 58 c-t frame about 10 cms. Rule of thumb: headtube length should be about the same as seatpost extension.
    Stem length should be proportionate to all this, for esthetics sake.
    So you are saying the heck with setting a bike for your particular comfort and body shape, and instead go with this very specific formula you've determined works well for you?

    If this were the case, then stems and seatposts could not be raised or lowered. Saddles could not be slid forward or aft, or tipped up or down. If this were the case then different sized stems would not be available, different width bars would be impossible to find, and crank arm lengths would all be the same.

    I'm sorry, but I respectfully disagree. I like my saddles about the same height as the stem.



    Of course I'll never race. But even Eddie Merkx's saddle doesn't appear to be 4 inches above his stem.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member divineAndbright's Avatar
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    His drop was quite considerable at the time, only he and a few other riders rode with that much drop, I wouldnt be surprised if it was 6-8 inches.

  9. #9
    Riding like its 1990 thenomad's Avatar
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    Thanks for letting us in on your personal pet peeves. Not sure what I can do with your "rules" other than go on to the next thread.

    People's flexibility changes over time so bike fit changes over time.
    These are vintage machines not made any longer, so you often have to make due with the gem you find even if it's 2 cm too large or small.
    If we were all taking glamor shots for an art cover maybe we'd look for the "golden measurments" for aesthetics, but on this forum I know these bikes are ridden, often hard. So it's even better to me to see a bike molded to the rider for best fit and utility. That's even more character and personality as you can sometimes "see the rider". Some have long arms, some long legs, some long torsos.


    If you just want to hang a bike up on the wall then go for looks, if you want to ride the snot out of it then you may find beauty in the imperfections. Like a great vintage racecar.
    My blog about rides, bikes and builds: ridesgoneby.blogspot.com

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    That works if all you're going to do is take pictures of your bikes.
    1988 Miele Azsora

  11. #11
    Cascadian Nationalist
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    There is a reason that so many stem searches end in the Nitto Technomic...

  12. #12
    Since 1938... JunkYardBike's Avatar
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    I think he's got a legitimate point that's a bit obfuscated in his original post: a frame may ride differently with a different setup (his example of bars over the front hub). Therefore, objectivity is lost when reviews are given about a certain frame. Unfortunately, as we know, there isn't a standard setup, so there will never be an objective review about ride quality here.

    I'm still trying to figure out fit issues, but this 62cm frame is my most comfortable ride presently. I do wonder sometimes how a 'properly' sized frame of the same make/model would ride, but then I can't really handle more than 1-2" of drop (and I'm not all that old), so I'd have to go with a higher stem, which would just throw the aesthetics off again!



    At least I have a Rolls on there now

  13. #13
    www.theheadbadge.com cudak888's Avatar
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    Comfort over looks, and if you like both comfort + looks, don't collect anything that isn't your size.

    That's all.

    -Kurt

  14. #14
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    To the OP: Why is it important to you that other people's bikes fit your asthetic?

  15. #15
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    Interesting information about old bikes and their geometry: http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/

  16. #16
    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    So what's the problem?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  17. #17
    www.theheadbadge.com cudak888's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldbobcat View Post
    So what's the problem?
    Yes - what is the problem?





    -Kurt

  18. #18
    Vello Kombi, baby Poguemahone's Avatar
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    Some of us just have odd body shapes. I'm just under six foot two, but I have the wingspan of someone six-foot six, and the way most frame builders measure it,my inseam is thirty seven inches . I take a big frame with a long stem... most of the time. I tend to set up my city riders with shorter stems, for a slightly more upright position.

    I'm a sucker for aesthetics, but fit trumps all, sorry.
    "It's always darkest right before it goes completely black"

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  19. #19
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    Yeah, the OP will also find a wide range of rules for aesthetics too. Some think the drops should run parallel to the fork crown... others say the top tube.

    Ask anyone what the proper setup for a QR skewer is and you will even find a wide range there.
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  20. #20
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    For one thing, we are basically buying used bikes, unless you were lucky enough to buy one to be built for you back in the day. So, there are compromises, waiting for the perfect bike will keep your stable small.

    There is a range of bikes that I can fit well, not a big range but enough. Not every one is the same size, nor do they need to be. In addition, I don't set up every bike the same way, especially in regard to seat to bar distance and relative height between the seat and bars. The reason for this is as one ages as I am forced to admit, some days you wake up less flexible, yesterday's position is not good today. The cluster of positions is not that far apart, and having more than one bike to select from makes cycling more enjoyable, better to ride than than not.

    I do see often seat angles where I know- a severe downward angle lets say, is hiding a problem, and causing others, the rider will constantly be pushing himself back up the seat, knowingly or not, using more muscles than needed, where he should find a more comfortable saddle to begin with or look at his saddle height and or set back to see why he needs the tilt to be comfortable, but the other variables are just that, adjustments. Way back there were guys in the bike club that I was a member of who swore that the tilt was just going to have to stay there, with enough tweaking, the got more comfortable and performed better, increased comfort gets one farther.

  21. #21
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkeller234 View Post
    Some think the drops should run parallel to the fork crown... others say the top tube.
    I like curvy drops pointed at the rear axle, but kinky drops with the ends about parallel with the top tube - I guess they're not C&V yet, though.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  22. #22
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by s70rguy View Post
    Well, thats probably not the most informative title ever, but anyway, here goes.

    But one thing irritates me no end. And thats the way many use stem length and saddle position to make a bike fit thats obviously not the right size. And, go on to enjoy AND describe the ride! How is that possible??? Kind of like the Nike ad. We just do it.

    For me its all about harmony .. if the man on the bike is in sync with the bike, even visually, everything will work together perfectly. I think. Of course this rules out your belly rubbing the toptube ... If you really want balance, then you may have to rule out frames smaller than 54cm (look too cramped) and taller than 58cm (look too stretched)

    So here are my rules ...

    Centerline of seatpost should go through center of saddle (if not, the seattube angle is not right for you, or rather your femur length). Zero-setback post, Setback post, or how much setback?

    Stem length should be proportionate to all this, for esthetics sake. See my comment on frame size..

    But a racing lightweight should have that racing feel right? What if it does, but doesn't look right?

    Flame away ...
    Wouldn't think of it. I read your post with interest. You are invited to the Halloween 100-miler in Durham, NC, because with a couple of beers afterward, we could talk a long time. Interesting conversation doesn't always have to make sense to everyone involved....
    Last edited by RobbieTunes; 10-06-09 at 06:30 PM.

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

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  23. #23
    Vello Kombi, baby Poguemahone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkeller234 View Post
    Ask anyone what the proper setup for a QR skewer is and you will even find a wide range there.
    There's one guy on a ride I go on who insists that the QR levers be on the same side of the bike on both front and back wheel. I always have the front one opposite the back, and it drives him absolutely bonkers.
    Now I think I do it just to irritate him.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkeller234 View Post
    Yeah, the OP will also find a wide range of rules for aesthetics too. Some think the drops should run parallel to the fork crown... others say the top tube.

    Ask anyone what the proper setup for a QR skewer is and you will even find a wide range there.
    I think the drops should "come up" to meet your hands in a natural position as you lean forward on the saddle, preferably before your nose hits the stem. I used to run the top of my drop in line with the stem, until I decided I preferred riding without numb hands....

    Ah, the QR skewer argument...the Ben Hur, the Trailing Teardrop, the Aroused, the Droopy....

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

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  25. #25
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poguemahone View Post
    There's one guy on a ride I go on who insists that the QR levers be on the same side of the bike on both front and back wheel. I always have the front one opposite the back, and it drives him absolutely bonkers.
    Now I think I do it just to irritate him.
    You are a cruel, cruel dude. I'll bet you don't center your tire label on the stem, on the drive side, either, do you?

    Anarchist.

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

    I'm not a doctor, but I watch them on TV.

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