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Old 06-13-11, 02:57 AM   #1
GoGranny
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Wrong Bike?

I had an old, entry-level mens Trek mountain bike that I used mostly for riding a rather rough, lightly graveled and often muddy bike path (C&O Canal in Western Maryland). I would come home from rides with a sore backside, aching wrists, and a cramp in my neck. A padded seat didn't help much. I got smoother tires, which reduced the effort needed for pedaling, but even without tired achy calf muscles I wasn't enjoying the rides much.

I tried several bikes at a local bike shop and I ended up with a Giant Cypress comfort/hybrid bike. Now I'm not sure this was a good choice. The bike is comfortable with a rather upright posture, but I feel like I'm precariously balanced, sitting up high on its larger wheels with narrower tires. I've actually fallen while riding this bike, when I slowed down to ride through a tunnel on a paved bike path (Allegheny Passage).

Until I started getting the aches and pains, I used to enjoy weekend camping trips on the Trek and before that, on a Murray 3-speed. I feel so unbalanced on the Cypress that I haven't even tried a 20-mile day, let alone put on the panniers.

I've made several adjustments to the seat and handlebar positions, suspension, etc. The folks where I bought it say it fits fine and I just need to get used to riding it. I can't get used to the feeling that I'm about to go flying into the canal!

At another bike shop, a salesperson told me the bike is too large for me. This one has a 19" frame. I'm 5'5" tall and I have a 31-1/2 inseam.

Is this the wrong bike for me? Or am I just getting wimpy in my old age? How could I modify this bike so it would suit me better? Or should I just start over? If so, with what?
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Old 06-13-11, 04:10 AM   #2
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Your inseam is just a bit long for someone 5'5". So the first bike shop may have picked a frame that is just a wee bit too large. I'd go back to the second shop and ask them to set up a bike for you to test ride that they think fits properly. Then compare your Cypress ride with it. While it is not true of all bike shops there are some that will sell without really doing a good fitting session for you. A good shop will take the time to make sure the bike is the correct fit. Riding should be fun, and if you are feeling like your going to fall over all of the time, it sure won't be. So, you are correct to be concerned with proper fit. I think there are many here who would say that proper fit is the most important thing, and others who would add that a good bike shop is worth it's weight in gold. Good luck with your efforts, and don't give up.
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Old 06-13-11, 05:29 AM   #3
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I would add, and maybe it is for somebody else rather than the OP as he may have figured the following into his purchasing process.

What do you want a bike to do for you? Why are you purchasing it? Where will you ride? What kind of surfaces? How long?

Too often these and other questions are not asked by a LBS and we forget to in our passion to purchase. But by asking some basic questions and reflecting upon the answers a purchaser will be led to the proper class of bike to begin a brand and model selection.
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Old 06-13-11, 06:20 AM   #4
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Your inseam is just a bit long for someone 5'5".
I guess! I'm 6' and have a 32" inseam. But I've noticed fairly large differences in various people in their relative torso to leg ratios.
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Old 06-13-11, 07:09 AM   #5
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I have a Giant Cypress and the bike does feel and fit larger than the sizing would indicate. I'm 6'0" with a 33" inseam and I ride the large model. I agree these bikes do feel big, however I have not had issues using the bike.

Part of the fit issue for you might be the 700c wheels. I would ride a selection of other bikes, including the Giant Sedona in a medium size. The Sedona has 26" wheels and this might be part of the solution.
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Old 06-13-11, 07:16 AM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions! I did consider the various questions about where I would be riding, duration of ride, etc. But I didn't have much to compare with besides the discomfort of the Trek and the effort required to pedal the Murray. I even wondered if I've been developing balance issues, but I've done fine with two rentals on vacations in the past few years. Both were hybrids, one resembling a mountain bike and the other more like an 18-speed cruiser. I think I'll go with the idea that the bike is a little large and not the best suited for my intended use, and start test riding other bikes.

My budget is extremely limited right now, so I'm checking out some used bikes. I'll be looking at a 16" Giant Boulder womens mountain bike before work today. I don't expect it to be the right bike for me, but it'll give me the chance to see how it compares with the misery of the Trek vs the fear factor of the Cypress.
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Old 06-13-11, 11:22 AM   #7
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I think you are on the right track in thinking about your rental bike experiences.

The best bike for you is a bike you enjoy riding, look forward to riding, want to ride, etc. You, rather than the bike shop people are the true expert.
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Old 06-13-11, 05:08 PM   #8
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I'm 5'9" with a 29.5 inseam, and I ride a 15" frame on my mountain bike and a 51 cm frame on my Jamis road bike. Bottom line, if you don't feel comfortable on the bike, it's not the right one for you! Whether or not it technically fits.
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Old 06-13-11, 06:23 PM   #9
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I have a Cypress in a medium frame. I am 5'8" and have a 30" inseam. When getting fit for a bike, what everybody remembers to do is get the seat height correct so that the legs are straight on the downstrokes. The one thing a lot of people forget is that the handlebars also have to be adjusted to fit the way you ride. If your bike shop did not do this when they did the fit, then you may have to do some trial and error to find the right handlebar setting for you. If you bought the Cypress ST, you may want to consider lowering the stem on the bike to put you in a bit of a forward leaning position. If you have the Cypress or Cypress DX, you can adjust the stem to various angles to find a more comfortable riding position and balance.

Every time you apply the brakes, your body is lunged forward just as if you slammed the brakes on your car. For some people, sitting completely upright throws them off balance when they apply the brakes and move forward, thus, leading to a fall. When you brake, you want to use the forward momentum to help with the dismount and you can't do that unless you are properly positioned and balanced. I think that if you practiced dismounting on a soft, grassy surface (after finding your best riding position), that you will be able to ride the bike without the fear of falling because you will feel more comfortable dismounting the bike.

I also have a road bike which I find I am riding more than the Cypress. There is a big difference in dismounting from my Defy than dismounting from my Cypress. On the road bike, the forward leaning position allows me to step off the pedals much easier than the more upright position on the Cypress. This is partly due to better control of the front wheel when braking and the fact that your arms are in a more natural position and not straight out. My Cypress has the stem in its lower-most angle and I am most likely going to lower it into the head tube another inch. You may want to take your bike to a shop that you feel comfortable with and have them do another fitting for you. I have found that not all bike shops know how to do a proper fitting.

P.S. The size of the wheel shouldn't really matter because if your seat is at its proper height, your feet should never touch the ground regardless of the wheel or frame size. If you straddle the bike and there is around a half inch to an inch between the top tube and your groin, then the bike is not too big for you.
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Old 06-13-11, 11:15 PM   #10
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I think maybe I'm one of the people who are prone to being thrown off balance when braking in a more upright position. Most of the times when I feel like I'm going to fall are when I need to slow down...which leads to slowing down even more...until the bike won't remain upright and I dismount very awkwardly.

I've tinkered endlessly with handlebar and stem positioning, raised and lowered the saddle, and adjusted the suspension back and forth. Nothing seems to help. Maybe I should try putting the seat up as far as possible and the handlebars as low as possible.

Meanwhile, the Boulder turned out to be a very nice little bike, very basic, probably from about the same era as the old Trek. There's no shock absorption on the front fork, let alone the rear. Because of that, I almost didn't get on it. But when I did, it handled the broken pavement in the seller's alley nicely, and I had no trouble riding uphill in the grass from the alley to the lawn of the church next door. (Glad the church secretary wasn't looking out the window.) At the top of the hill I sailed over a ridge of exposed rock and into their parking lot, where I made a bunch of tight turns that just aren't possible on the Cypress. What a joy to ride! (OK, maybe not the seat, which predates the discovery that women's and men's rear ends are built differently. However, this women's model is much better proportioned for my body than the men's Trek I rode for several years.)

It was a pretty good deal at $75, and then I negotiated the price down to $65. Took it out for 4 miles on the C&O and enjoyed every minute of it (well, all of me except for my sit bones). I was barely on time for work and a bit sweaty, but it was worth it!

I'll probably tire of the nonexistent suspension eventually. At least for now I have something fun to ride while I tinker with the Cypress, or figure out how to ride it, or find a buyer for it so I have funds to upgrade. Or maybe I'll steal the comfy seat and hand grips off the Cypress and just upgrade this sweet little toy. Wish I didn't have to work this weekend, it's perfect camping weather
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Old 06-14-11, 02:39 AM   #11
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I advise against buying a used bike unless you know what you are doing in terms of bike fit. You apparently do not. Fit is the most important aspect of buying a bike. A good shops have trained bike fitters. They us special instruments and equipment to measure your limbs above and below your elbow and knee, they look at shoulder width, consider your riding position and style, etc, etc, etc. It's part science and part art. It takes time and it works.

Some shops fit you free of charge if you buy a bike from them, others charge for fitting and you can take your results and their recommendations to any shop you want. Buying a used bike, you get none of this. You will likely be wasting more money on a bike that felt fine on a short test ride but will start hurting somewhere after 5 or 10 or 20 miles.

My advice is to spend what money you can on a professional fitting at a shop you or your cycling friends respect. Go there with a clear understanding that you will not be buying a bike from that shop. After the fitting, show them your Cypress. If they think it meets their recommendations, you just have learn to ride it properly. In the much more likely event the Cypress does not meet their recommendations, ask them if it could be modified to fit you adequately or is it a hopeless mismatch? If they think it can be modified, go back to the original shop and give them a hard time until they agree to make the necessary modifications. If the fitter says the Cypress is hopeless for you, go back to the original shop and raise hell till they trade you even money or better for something that fits properly. Scream, cajole, cry, threaten, refuse to leave the shop - do whatever you must to get them to make it right.

Good luck
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Old 06-14-11, 05:33 AM   #12
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I'll probably tire of the nonexistent suspension eventually.
I doubt it. More likely you would tire of the completely unnecessary suspension on a bike that had it. Enjoy!
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Old 06-14-11, 07:49 AM   #13
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The shop where I bought the Cypress spent an hour fitting me on a Sedona. It was pretty good, but a little small. They ordered the next size up, but when the bike came it was the Cypress instead of another Sedona. It felt OK on a brief test ride in the store's parking lot, which is what they would allow. After I tried it on the C&O, I wasn't happy with it. I went through all the ritual described above, trying to get them to do something about the situation. They remained cordial but inflexible--the bike is fine for me, according to them.

So, on to bike shop number two, where I asked for help in modifying it. They flatly stated it was too large for me and there was nothing they could do short of selling me another $500 bike.

I went back to bike shop number 1, where I finally got a reduced price tune up and another free personalized adjustment, but nothing more except the advice to spring for a pair of $40 handgrips to make the lowered handlebars more comfortable, which I did.

I agree, I know nothing about fitting a bike. I suspect that the 2 people who fitted me at shop number one, and the person who waited on me at shop number two, also know nothing about fitting a bike. And yes, these are bona fide bike shops.

Ideally I'd continue visiting an ever-expanding circle of bike shops until I got a better fit on a good bike. I don't feel that's an option for two reasons. One is that I have a demanding job, a family, and other interests and I barely have time to get on my bike for a weekly ride, let alone undertake a major shopping project. Even if I did, I couldn't buy a bike in that price range right now, because I've incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills over the last few months. Even the $65 I spent on the Boulder is a stretch for my current budget. Many hugs to my wonderful husband, who took the news of this purchase without batting an eye.

And the Boulder is fun to ride. Maybe it doesn't fit me well, but it feels like it does. Reminds me of Duke Ellington's comment about music, "If it sounds good, it is good." I'd rather be riding it than window shopping for the perfect bike that I can't afford.

I'm hoping readers here can help me make the ride feel even better. I'm intrigued by the comment that I might tire of the completely unnecessary suspension on a bike that had it. Would like to hear more on that subject!
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Old 06-14-11, 08:04 AM   #14
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I would add, and maybe it is for somebody else rather than the OP as he may have figured the following into his purchasing process.
Some helpful fit suggestions here, but possibly

The OPs forum name includes 'granny', suggesting a person of the female persuasion

And from what I understand from buying a WSD bike for the spouse, Woman Specific Design normally caters for longer leg/shorter torso in any given size than equivalent Male geometry

If a change of bike is on the cards, maybe a WSD bike might be worth looking at?
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Old 06-14-11, 10:29 AM   #15
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so in the interest of newbies like me. What is a correct fir for a bike?

Is it when standing over the bike in front of the saddle with 1-2" of clearance from the bar to your crotch accurate in whatever kind of bike you choose?

Or is it really the feel when riding?
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Old 06-14-11, 10:43 AM   #16
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so in the interest of newbies like me. What is a correct fir for a bike?

Is it when standing over the bike in front of the saddle with 1-2" of clearance from the bar to your crotch accurate in whatever kind of bike you choose?

Or is it really the feel when riding?
Crotch clearance is mostly irrelevent anymore (other than making sure you can dismount and straddle the top tube without hurting yourself). Top tube length is more important than seat tube length as it is easier to raise and lower a saddle than stretch or shrink the reach. Also, the type of bike and type of riding will require different geometry. The feel when riding is the only thing that is truly important.
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Old 06-14-11, 10:53 AM   #17
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[QUOTE=johnj2803;12786185] What is a correct fir for a bike?

QUOTE]

Hello John.

That's a very big question, and will have a vast amount of response, a lot of which is already here on the forum.

Old school, when bikes had horizontal top tubes a 'fist of seat tube' between top tube and saddle rails, when you're seated with your legs straight with your heel on the pedal and the crank arm at 6 o'clock was a starting point. That would give a bit of knee bend when the ball of the foot is on the pedal. Now, top tubes are usually downward sloping and a 'double fist' can be the new normal.

Then, slightly bent elbows when you're in your most comfortable bar position. Getting all that organised, many feel that in the most comfortable position, your handlebars should block your view of your front wheel axle - the two horizontals will be in line.

And, these are only starting points, and better riders than any of us have quite different positions.

Last edited by wobblyoldgeezer; 06-14-11 at 10:58 AM. Reason: I did, and shouldn't, interfere
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Old 06-14-11, 11:14 AM   #18
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I'm intrigued by the comment that I might tire of the completely unnecessary suspension on a bike that had it. Would like to hear more on that subject!
Opinions differ. This is mine.
I love the nearly 5" of front and rear suspension on my mountain bike for riding fast over roots, rocks, ruts and dropoffs, but for riding on gravel or dirt roads, I find any suspension beyond the cushioning of slightly larger tires and maybe a sprung saddle to be more of a hindrance than a help. It adds weight to the bike and the bouncing makes pedaling less efficient and steering less precise. The suspension forks I see on comfort bikes seem especially heavy and bouncy. Better to learn to absorb the small bumps by "floating" an unsuspended bike over them with the help of elbows and knees and lifting the butt off the saddle.
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Old 06-14-11, 07:11 PM   #19
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so in the interest of newbies like me. What is a correct fir for a bike?
A correct fit is adjusting the bike so that when you ride, you do not feel sore from the position you are in at any point in the ride, get knee pain from an improperly adjusted saddle and the ability to be able to properly stop and dismount without loosing your balance. As mentioned, there are varying ways of getting fit for a bike. Some bike shops just do seat height and handlebar adjustments after finding out the correct frame size for you. Other bikes have different tools that they use to measure different points of your body and make adjustments accordingly. Some shops do nothing at all.

However, if you are riding an expensive road bike and do a lot of long distance rides or you have a tri or time trial bike, then the best way to get fit on your bike is a computerized fitting (Retul) if it is available in your area. I did a Retul fitting after I purchased my road bike and I am glad that I did. It's a little expensive compared to the other types of fittings, but if you can afford an expensive road bike, you can afford to have it fit you like a glove. I would not recommend a computer fitting on an inexpensive bike because the fitting can cost more then the bike. It took four sittings and three months of riding to get the bike down to as perfect a fit as I would ever get. Everything was adjusted and readjusted including the position and angle of the shifter/brake levers, handlebar height and angle and correct saddle height and position. They even adjusted my cleats and my shoes for correct foot angle inside the shoe. This fitting method is the same thing that the pros get. When I ride the road bike, I can stay on it all day and never get tired or sore.

I also have a hybrid which I did not do the computerized fitting on and I can tell the difference after riding the hybrid for 20 miles or so. After 11 months that I have had the hybrid, I am still making minor adjustments to it to get it to where I can ride it further without getting tired or sore.
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Old 06-14-11, 07:18 PM   #20
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The suspension forks I see on comfort bikes seem especially heavy and bouncy. Better to learn to absorb the small bumps by "floating" an unsuspended bike over them with the help of elbows and knees and lifting the butt off the saddle.
Agree 100%. I thought the ride on my road bike was going to be very harsh on brick streets (we have a lot of them in downtown Tampa) compared to my hybrid, but I was wrong. After I learned how to take on bumpy roads on the road bike, it is actually nicer than riding the hybrid on bumpy roads.
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Old 06-14-11, 09:44 PM   #21
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I know this may sound silly but so generally speaking you should be able to stand over the bike in front of the saddle to see if the bike frame (be it mountain, road hybrid etc.) is not too big for you?
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Old 06-15-11, 05:28 AM   #22
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FYI if nobody has mentioned it yet: Pants inseam does not equal bike fit inseam. Inseam measured for bike fit is from the floor hard up against the pubis. This is typically 2-3" greater than that used for pants inseam. I'm an averagely proportioned 5'10" and wear 31-32 length pants but my bike inseam measurement is 34".
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Old 06-15-11, 05:44 AM   #23
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I recommend taking your bike to Confluence Cyclery and see what Brad has to say. He's very savvy and honest. Sorry to hear of your new bike fitting ill.
Not an advertisement, I just like the shop.
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Old 06-15-11, 06:12 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by John_V View Post
... After I learned how to take on bumpy roads on the road bike, it is actually nicer than riding the hybrid on bumpy roads.
GoGranny - I understand from your post that you bought a used non-suspension bike (Boulder)at a church tag sale, and that you had a positive experience on it despite lack of suspension? If so, there's you evidence! I've always been of the opinion that suspensions were for either really technical off-road riding, or else for kids who like to jump curbs. The proper riding technique that BluesDawg suggests should be all you need. Perhaps it is time to see if you can sell your suspension bike - to someone who needs suspension. It sounds as if you do not need it. I'm almost 62, with arthritis, and I still ride with no suspension.

Oh, I forgot to mention - try out some wider woman-specific seats, find one you really like, and keep it, even if you sell the bike that you attach it to! Then you can put it on your next bike.

Last edited by CrankyFranky; 06-15-11 at 06:17 AM.
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Old 06-15-11, 06:25 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by GoGranny View Post
I had an old, entry-level mens Trek mountain bike that I used mostly for riding a rather rough, lightly graveled and often muddy bike path (C&O Canal in Western Maryland). I would come home from rides with a sore backside, aching wrists, and a cramp in my neck. A padded seat didn't help much. I got smoother tires, which reduced the effort needed for pedaling, but even without tired achy calf muscles I wasn't enjoying the rides much.

I tried several bikes at a local bike shop and I ended up with a Giant Cypress comfort/hybrid bike. Now I'm not sure this was a good choice. The bike is comfortable with a rather upright posture, but I feel like I'm precariously balanced, sitting up high on its larger wheels with narrower tires. I've actually fallen while riding this bike, when I slowed down to ride through a tunnel on a paved bike path (Allegheny Passage).

Until I started getting the aches and pains, I used to enjoy weekend camping trips on the Trek and before that, on a Murray 3-speed. I feel so unbalanced on the Cypress that I haven't even tried a 20-mile day, let alone put on the panniers.

I've made several adjustments to the seat and handlebar positions, suspension, etc. The folks where I bought it say it fits fine and I just need to get used to riding it. I can't get used to the feeling that I'm about to go flying into the canal!

At another bike shop, a salesperson told me the bike is too large for me. This one has a 19" frame. I'm 5'5" tall and I have a 31-1/2 inseam.

Is this the wrong bike for me? Or am I just getting wimpy in my old age? How could I modify this bike so it would suit me better? Or should I just start over? If so, with what?
The 3 most important things with a bicycle are fit, fit and fit. A bicycle that does not fit, can't be comfortable, and from what your describing, the Cypress does not fit, see your of different proportions then the bicycle is designed for, in that you have longer legs and shorter torso, where the bicycle is probably designed for shorter legs and longer torso. To make this work, most economically, go to a professional fitter, they might be able to make the Cypress work, they will probably recommend a different bicycle though.

Bike shop sales people, are usually not the best fitters, because many of them don't care if the bicycle fits or not, as long as they can move inventory. This doesn't apply to all of them, good ones do care, often if the sales person OWNS the shop, they will care quite a bit, because they know that the happy customer can spend 5X the cost of the bicycle on accessories, spare parts, clothing and other stuff, which has a much higher markup then the bicycle itself.

Your first question though is internal, what kind of riding do you like to do, where and how far, this should be a dealers first question, but often it isn't, if they see a grey hair or a bit of an expanded girth, they assume the rider will be DRIVING to the park pootling around on the MUP for 5 minutes, then driving home. Never mind the fact that I've seen riders that were 30lbs over weight, with white hair who ride their bikes further in a year then most people drive.

Next you need to talk to a professional fitter, they can tell you the geometry limits your sizing needs to fit into, most likely restriction will be top tube length, rather then seat post length, due to your build. Once you have the right type of bike, properly fitted, you are all set.
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