Originally Posted by mkwdrs
Or, would you seek out a different bike with different geometry altogether. Randonee only touring bike that I can find to test
Seems like bike fit is a constant theme on this and other threads (as it should be). I read an article at Competitive Cyclist, recreated below, which might help. I am a believer in the "French Fit" -- works well with my build. I am 5'11" with an inseam a bit under 30", but I ride a 56cm Surly Cross-Check. In my biking shoes, I can stand over the bar without risking testicular torsion, but I only have around an inch of seat post showing. Bars are level with the seat. Very comfortable, I can see out in front of me without cranking my head back into an uncomfortable position, I'm upright enough that there is limited pressure on the hands, etc. etc.
The Traditions of Road Riding and Our Three Styles of Fit
When we look at the bikes we sell we recognize that most of them descend from the traditions of road racing and long distance riding. There are also bikes for time trialing, cyclocross, and other cycling "disciplines" and each of these has its own traditions and optimal fit options. Very few of us actually race and many of us don't ride as long as we might like, but the bikes we sell can all be fit to suit your preferred riding.
We see three basic styles of road riding fit, each designed to meet clear goals and expectations. We believe that a bicycle that fits your riding style is the one that creates the best experience. We need first to determine what style of fit (or combination of styles) matches you best before we go about achieving a precise, personal fit for you.
The three styles of fit work with the sometimes complementary and sometimes competing objectives of comfort, speed, efficiency, and power. Creating a great fit involves creating priorities among these objectives and knowing yourself. All bikes should fit comfortably, but this priority can be weighed against other objectives. Every choice we make about fit and the bike we choose (frame, fork, model, material, size, parts, etc.) has consequences for our cycling experience. We can explain either by e-mail or telephone how different choices will change your experience and what the advantages and relative compromises will likely be.
For example, the more aerodynamic and "aggressive" Competitive Fit emphasizes speed and efficiency but favors those who can adjust to positions that others will find difficult to maintain over long days in the saddle. In other words, the Competitive Fit may for some become uncomfortable over longer distances or it may not suit those for whom the priority of greater comfort actually increases speed. The slightly more relaxed Eddy Fit adds comfort but compromises some aerodynamic and power efficiency in order to gain endurance and ease. The exceptionally comfortable French Fit understands speed as a feature of comfort and puts power and efficiency in terms of longer endurance goals.
Each of the three styles of fit can be achieved on the same model bicycle, though perhaps not the same size or parts set up. Knowing how you want to ride will help determine what you want to ride.
1. The Competitive Fit.
It's called the Competitive Fit because it's our signature fit. We've found that this is the look and the feel that most of our customers expect out of their new bike. This is the most "aggressive" fit and suits those with an interest in racing, fast club riding, as well as those with a greater measure of body flexibility to work within the racer's comfort zones. Most modern road bikes, like the majority we offer at Competitive Cyclist, are usually pictured in sales catalogues with the Competitive Fit. But this doesn't mean that you should ride a bike that looks or fits like this.
Wanna look like a pro? This is the fit. It features a low, aerodynamic bar position that places slightly more weight on the hands than on the pedals and saddle, a close knee to pedal spindle ratio that emphasizes power and efficiency, and it puts the rider low in the handlebar drops. Typically the frame chosen will be the smallest that is appropriate. In fact, since the heyday of mountain bikes in the 1990s and more recent studies of professionals looking for an aerodynamic advantage, the Competitive Fit has become most bike shop's conventional wisdom.
After all, who doesn't want to look and ride like a pro? This fit is easy to sell but may not work for you since it actually best suits those who are willing to accept its clear emphasis on speed over comfort. For most of us, the pure Competitive Fit is too extreme even if it is still viable for young riders and racers, for those who love shorter, faster rides, and for those who just find this comfortable. Expect to be rather low even on the tops of the bars where you will spend the majority of your cruising time on the brake hoods, expect too to be lifting your neck slightly to see ahead of you with a rather "short and deep" reach into the bars as you push back on the saddle to stretch out.
The Competitive Fit creates a more compact body position with the chest low and the back as flat as is necessary to get down into the drops. The saddle to handlebar drop is sometimes as much 10cm or more.
2. The Eddy Fit.
Lots of folks find the Competitive Fit to be ideal. But for those who find its aerodynamic emphasis to be overly aggressive and uncomfortable, the Eddy Fit is almost certain to be ideal for you. It's a position that reminds us of the way Eddy Merckx looked on his bike in the early 1970s, and it dates from well before Eddy's time and continued in the pro peloton well into the 1980s.
There is nothing "dated" about this style of riding. We all know that Eddy, Bernard, and Guiseppe were all very, very fast riders! Bike design has not, in fact, changed that radically since their time---only the look, the fashion, and the style of riding. The Eddy Fit is simply no longer the "fashion" among pros who keep pressing the envelope of comfort to create more efficiency and power.
The Eddy Fit emphasizes less saddle to bar drop. You will notice less exposed seat post on traditional frames and a lower saddle to bar ratio on all fits, including compact designs. Typically it requires a size up of about 2-3cm in frame size from what is today usually offered by in current aero professional look of today. But make no mistake about it, this fit will get you down the road with speed, efficiency, and power.
A few differences from the Competitive Fit in addition to a taller front end and less saddle/bar drop is a less craned neck and easier forward-looking position, slightly less weight on the hands and more on the saddle and pedals, and a knee position that usually moves a bit behind the spindle (rather than a knee-over-the-spindle position, thus adding a bit of power). Bikes set up for the Eddy Fit change their look only subtly in comparison to the Competitive Fit though the results are dramatic in terms of greater comfort. This fit is easier on the neck and shoulders but no less suited for racing or fast solo or club riding.
We adjust this fit by "sizing up" the frame and adjusting the stem lengths to create proper balance, proportion, and to maximize the frame's potential. This position lets you into the drops with less stress on the neck and back and so encourages you to go low into the bars for longer periods. The Eddy Fit typically features a saddle/bar drop of only a few centimeters.
3. The French Fit.
This fit is so named because of its legacy in the traditions of endurance road riding such as brevet rides and randonneuring. However, the French Fit isn't merely about touring, riding long, or even sitting more upright. It is about getting the most out of a bike that fits larger and provides much more comfort to the neck, back, and saddle position.
While the Competitive Fit generally puts you on the smallest appropriate frame and the Eddy Fit sizes up a bit or raises the bars, the French Fit puts you on the largest appropriate frame. While this bucks some current conventional wisdom - and is, in fact, the least commonly used position of the three we espouse - it is still the position advocated by some of cycling's wisest and most experienced designers, who also happened to be riders who like to go fast and far with an ideal amount of comfort.
This fit features a taller front end (with a larger frame and/or head tube extension and stem), handlebar to saddle drops that are much closer to level, and favors riders who are looking to ease stress on the neck and back, ride as long and as far as they like, and are not concerned with the looking like an aggressive professional. In comparison to the Eddy Fit, the rider has even more weight rearward and a slightly more upright position such that "hands in the drops position" is close to the Competitive Fit's "hands on the hoods position." Some may say that this was not how modern race bikes were "meant" to fit but we have learned that the French Fit's size up tradition works great on the most modern bikes.
By increasing the frame size we raise the bars without radical riser stems and still create balance and proportion with respect to the important knee-to-pedal dynamic. It is important to remember that as frames get larger the top tube effectively shortens. This means that the longer top tube on a larger frame is appropriate because as the bars come "up" and the ratio of saddle to bar drop lessens, the rider achieves a "reach" from the saddle to the handlebars that is just right!
We recommend this fit for riders who really want to be comfortable and fast over longer distances. Please note that the French Fit disregards all emphasis on stand over height (standing with the bike between your legs and your shoes flat on the ground) because the French Fit school believes that this measurement has little actual value regarding fit. An ideal compromise for those who can't shed their concern regarding stand over height is the choice of a "sized up" compact design to achieve a higher relative handlebar position.
Nevertheless, a French Fit can work with traditional, non-sloping frames as well. As an example, a person who might ride a 55cm or 56cm frame to achieve the Competitive Fit, might ride as much as a 59cm or 60cm in the French Fit. While bikes in the French Fit are not the racer's fashion they tend to look elegant, well proportioned, and ride like a dream.