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Old 08-13-12, 11:32 PM   #1
jyl
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How Wide A Range Of Frame Sizes Can You Ride?

How large and how small a frame can you ride?

A very short friend has been looking for a bike. I pointed her to a very nice 50 cm Cannondale on Craigslist. 1985 SR1000, almost all '80's Campagnolo, beautiful condition, pretty pearlescent green. So she and her husband go, spend a bunch of time with the seller, who is an ex-racer, they try the bike, love the bike, for $250 it is theirs. I'm happy. But now I wonder.

For her, the bike sounds a touch too big. They have to slam the seatpost, enough that it doesn't clamp securely (an aero Chorus post, I think). Hmm. Well, she can still straddle it, and the pickings are very thin for quality, pretty, cheapish road bikes, so I think it is okay. When your bike inseam is 30", things are tougher.

But the weirder thing is, they are thinking that this might be the husband's bike. He is 6' 0" with normal proportion legs and torso. They put the post all the way up, and supposedly the bike fits him great. The seller tells them that racers ride small bikes, because big bikes are wobbly.

I was befuddled. How, I wondered, can a 6' 0" guy be comfortable for more than a short ride on a 50 cm bike?

So, that got me thinking. Another friend once sent me a photo of his fleet, showing that he was comfortable riding anything from a 52 cm to a 58 cm. Hmm. I usually ride a 58 cm, but my measurements suggest that 56 cm is ideal, I have happily commuted on my daughter's 52 cm, and I've ridden up to a 59 cm. So, maybe we can ride a much wider range of sizes than I might think?

Or, maybe for short distances in peaceful circumstances, we can ride a wide range of sizes . . . on the 52 cm, when honking out of the saddle my knees hit the bar ends, and on the 59 cm, if my foot touches down on a low spot in the road I receive a "private" reminder.

What do you think? What is the range of sizes that you can ride, or that you like to ride? Is the limiting factor vertical (leg extension) or horizontal (torso-arms)? How much can you compensate using stems and set back posts?

And - for those of you with both a vintage roadie and a modern, briftered, carbon race bike - what is the difference in frame size between the two, if any? Are your touch points different? If you ride a 58 cm oldie, would you ride a 50 cm newbie?
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Old 08-14-12, 12:13 AM   #2
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I usually ride 63cm bikes, but I can fit on my wife's 50cm Trek 1100 if I want by adjusting the seat and handebar height. They show too much metal out of the frame to make me comfortable in really powering down on the bike during a ride, but it can be done. I do it now and then to test out her bike when I change out a component or if she says it's riding weird.

Realistically, at 6'4 I think I could rid a 58cm and be comfortable for the long term with some adjustment. Maybe even a 56cm but that would really be stretching it. I am, however, very flexible for my size and used to "cramping" up my body to do jobs and accomplish what I need to do.

When I buy a bike, I don't consider anything smaller than a 60cm even if I can fit on it.
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Old 08-14-12, 12:15 AM   #3
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On my 2007 Trek 1000 I ride 63cm. On my Madone I ride a 61cm. On my '85 Raleigh Team USA I ride a 63cm. All of them have different heights for the seat and handlebars due to their geometry. The Raleigh is a 63, but almost seems smaller in terms of how much I stretch in comparison to my 61cm Madone.
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Old 08-14-12, 12:48 AM   #4
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I tell myself I can fit 54cm-58cm, but if I were honest I'd say I should stick with 55cm-57cm. Not all bikes have the same geometry though. I have long torso/short legs, so if I were to buy a 54cm bike, I'd prefer that it have a TT of at least 55cm, for example.
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Old 08-14-12, 12:54 AM   #5
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I finding that the more years I ride, the narrower that range gets. My legs can handle 58-60cm frames, but my arms are short and like 55-58cm top tubes. I am 6' tall and 58cm frames seem to work best for me. Outside of that size, I need to pick components to help the fit.

Short arms can make it hard to fit frames. For example, if I wanted a Velo Orange Polyvalent, I would have to buy a 54cm seat tube to get a 57cm top tube.... that 54cm seat tube is tiny for my legs and means I would need a super tall stem.
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Old 08-14-12, 05:34 AM   #6
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I have a 58 and a 61.
Im 6'2" and thin, both fit, the 61 hurts a bit on my palms when upright-but then there is no padding on the bars-just leather.
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Old 08-14-12, 05:43 AM   #7
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Don't know my lower limit but 60 is max, it think. I have yet to try a 61. I am 5'11" with a 35" CTF. I have a 58 that works well for me too. It had a 80 stem that I swapped for a 100 making it very comfortable. I tend to look at 58's as I don't like the looks of too tall a head tube that 60 is on the border of.
I would be interested in a 29'er road wheels applied to tall (60+) frames.
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Old 08-14-12, 05:44 AM   #8
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58cm to 62cm
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Old 08-14-12, 06:01 AM   #9
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I have ridden with some moderate degree of comfort bikes ranging from 57 to 62 (probably even a greater range, truth be told, but not as regular riders, which I presume is the intent of this thread.) Rideability depends upon both geometry and the combination of saddle height/set back with stem height/length. Given that degree of flexibility I can make about anything in that range "work."

With that said, I've grown a whole lot pickier over the years about my own personal dialed in fit. For a typical road bike geometry, I am most comfortable with a 60 cm seat tube (c-c) and a 110-120 length stem slightly lower than or even with the saddle. Saddle to fully extended pedal distance is also key for my riding comfort and I prefer a longer top tube than many race geometries provide.

But I think the point of your original post was this: the body can comfortably ride a pretty wide range of sizing over short distances. I would argue that longer distances separate the wheat from the chaff for "proper" sizing though.
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Old 08-14-12, 06:18 AM   #10
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Mostly when I look at bikes these days, I look at TT size.

Normally I would ride a 60-63. Yet I find I can use a 59 if it has a long TT.
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Old 08-14-12, 06:33 AM   #11
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How Wide A Range Of Frame Sizes Can You Ride?

I have bikes that I ride ranging from 19" (really too small, but ok for short rides) to 23 1/2" (very short stem and minimal seat post extension). My best fitting bike is a 22 1/2" frame.

BTW, this thread is useless without pictures.


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Old 08-14-12, 06:33 AM   #12
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II would argue that longer distances separate the wheat from the chafe for "proper" sizing though.
FIFY.

The nicest and smallest ride in my stable is the 56cm Masi. The others are 58cm or 59cm. (All measured C-T.) I don't know what the tandem measures, and anyway its TT isn't horizontal even though it is vintage.

The thing is though, TT length is more important for me. So many bikes seem to come with loooooong-reach stems. Even on the Masi a 100mm stem is too long for me, so I end up swapping stems to something more like 80mm. As long I can stand over it and I don't have to pull the stem or seatpost out to dangerous heights I can probably make the bike comfortable.
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Old 08-14-12, 06:50 AM   #13
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FIFY.

As long I can stand over it and I don't have to pull the stem or seatpost out to dangerous heights I can probably make the bike comfortable.
I grew up learning to ride and riding a bike that was way too big for me for the first couple of years and it seems to have carried over into my adult years. I could threaten 6' during my younger days and routinely rode 62-64cm frames in spite of all the comments about them being way too big for me. Now that I'm well into Geezerhood 1.0 and thanks to learning from wiser heads here in the forum, I've dropped back to the 57-58cm range with normal top tube length even though I've got a few smaller and larger bikes in the rider stable and ride em all.
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Old 08-14-12, 09:00 AM   #14
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With modifications, most notably (other than stem/post adjustments) switching out for a bullhorn bar, I have in the past more or less comfortably ridden ~56-57cm frames. Specifically, I used to ride an old Raleigh Record in that range, and more recently rode a 1x5 hi-ten Frankenbike setup with a whole lot of seatpost and a big old sprung vinyl Brooks. That's got to be about my lower limit. Could perhaps ride drops on that size frame with a stem providing sufficient extension both up and forwards...

I'm 6'3" and generally ride 60-63cm c-t-c frames. Might try a 58-59cm soon, as I think I could achieve a comfortable fit, and I could certainly make a 64cm work.

So the potential range is significant, but I probably wouldn't choose to work with the extremes, particularly the lower extremes, except under exceptional circumstances.

50cm Cannondale seems small for a 6' guy, but if it works, it works...how short is the original intended rider?
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Old 08-14-12, 09:06 AM   #15
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If the 50cm Cannondale really requires practically bottoming out the post for the shorter, originally intended, rider, perhaps she needs something more like this one I spotted on Montreal CL this morning:

http://montreal.en.craigslist.ca/bik/3204133296.html
very small road bike - très petit vélo de route - $400 (montréal (plateau))

[HR][/HR] Date: 2012-08-13, 11:15PM EDT
[HR][/HR]
46 cm frame, tange 1 cro-mo double butted tubes. built in japan between 1986 and 1988. terry bicycles are designed specifically for women. this one - the despatch - was made for people under 5'2".
original components: suntour cyclone 7000 (japan) derailleurs, shifters, crank, pedals, headset, brakes and hubs. araya rims. front tire is a brand new schawlbe durano, rear tire a panaracer messenger one-season old.
bike is in perfect riding condition. light, fast, nervous bike - and totally unique design.

cadre de 46 cm, en cro-mo tange 1 double butted, fait au japon entre 1986 et 1988. les vélos terry sont conçus spécifiquement pour les femmes ou - dans ce cas-ci - pour quelqu'un de petit, 5,2" ou moins.
pièces originales du groupe suntour cyclone 7000 (japon): dérailleurs, freins et manettes, pédalier et pédales, moyeux, jeu de direction. jantes araya. pneu avant schwalbe durano complètement neuf, pneu arrière panaracer messenger qui a roulé une saison.
le vélo est en parfait état, prêt à partir. vélo léger, rapide, nerveux, et design complètement unique.


















Too bad it's on the wrong side of the continent. If it (and I) was back in Vancouver, I'd have been happy to facilitate if desired (assuming the asking price could be talked down, it's obviously overpriced as it). Easy (and cheap) enough to bring a bike down on the Amtrak, and any excuse to visit Portland is always welcome . Oh well...
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Old 08-14-12, 09:07 AM   #16
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6'er on a 50cm is pretty wild.

I'm a long-legged and long-armed 5'6", 52-56 can be made to work quite well for me. I rode my friend's giant Giant around one day and it kinda fit. Not nearly enough weight on the front wheel, though, front-center too long for me. A zero-setback post and flipped stem, ixnay spacers might've helped a bit, but...


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Old 08-14-12, 09:14 AM   #17
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I'm with mike WRT the young lady mentioned in the OP. Terry or Terry-style bike might be the way to go if she has to have C&V and has short legs. Possibly even check out juniors bikes. It may take a while to find a bike, though.
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Old 08-14-12, 09:17 AM   #18
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My range falls into the 56-60 cm seat tube length. Measured correctly, I should be riding a 57.5 cm, but find myself able to make the 56 cm frame fit me fine. Handles great, while beings very comfortably. I'm almost 6' tall.
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Old 08-14-12, 09:22 AM   #19
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6'er on a 50cm is pretty wild.
+1 Pretty wild = wrong size. The average rider who sets up his bike to look like a pro bike is asking for discomfort, if not worse. If your friend is at that level, he should just ask his sponsor for a new bike.

I'm 5'7" and have bikes ranging from 54-56. I suppose I could make something slightly outside that range work, by why?
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Old 08-14-12, 09:24 AM   #20
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Here's a nice 44cm Lotus, east coast, though.

http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/3173977289.html

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Old 08-14-12, 11:57 AM   #21
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I started out riding 10 speeds like 23skidoo, with a bike a bit large for me that I'll grow into. A 23" frame. And I ended up replacing it with another 23" frame. So, my upper limit is 57-58cm. Subsequently, my bikes follow the French fit config. I have short legs/longer torso. Based on fit calcs, I should ride a 54/55cm frame.
I own bikes ranging from 53c-t-c, to 58cm. I think a 55/55cm frame is my ideal, but most of my frames fall into 56/56 square.
I set them all up till I'm comfortable, don't really care what the 'roadies' think. As I mature with this hobby, I've found TT length is way more important than ST length.

Must agree, 50cm is too small for a 6' guy.
I picked up a 50cm Schwinn Super Le Tour for the wife. Looking at it, there is no way I can get fitted to it well, and I'm only 5' 10". At 5' 3", the wife straddles the TT with it barely touching body parts.
Sounds like your short friend needs a smaller frame, but if a replacement seat post will fix the problem, then have her try riding to see if she can accept a 50cm as her upper limit.
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Old 08-14-12, 12:11 PM   #22
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Most of the time, when I see a seat post slammed all of the way down, the rider has not properly adjusted the saddle (its too low). A lot of newb riders want to be able to touch the ground, with both feet, while on the saddle. I tried to talk my wife into adjusting her saddle up, without any success. Then we rode with a group, and one of the other women told my wife her saddle was at least two or three inches too low. Then she adjusted it up....

The fact she can straddle the top tube, is almost 100% sure she has the seat too low. I touch the top tube on my Katakura Silk, yet notice the saddle height. Plenty of post showing.

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Old 08-14-12, 12:12 PM   #23
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I'm 5'10.

I rode anywhere between a 52 to a 58. Settled on 56 cm (I still have three 56 cm bikes) for a while , but now stick to 54, which is the most comfy for me: otherwise, with proportional frame sizes, the top tube will be too short for me.
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Old 08-14-12, 12:17 PM   #24
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Pretty much standard speech I give to buyers of bikes on saddle height: "You do not ride a bike like the Flintstones drove their cars. Seat height is all about the distance to the pedals, not to the ground." Sometimes my speech works, sometimes it doesn't.
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Old 08-14-12, 01:00 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
6'er on a 50cm is pretty wild.

I'm a long-legged and long-armed 5'6", 52-56 can be made to work quite well for me. I rode my friend's giant Giant around one day and it kinda fit. Not nearly enough weight on the front wheel, though, front-center too long for me. A zero-setback post and flipped stem, ixnay spacers might've helped a bit, but...


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Woah! At 5'6", you must be long-legged if you rode that XL OCR-3.
I picked up a large version of the same bike off CL for parts, and it was tall for my 5'10" size.
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