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Fitting Your Bike Are you confused about how you should fit a bike to your particular body dimensions? Have you been reading, found the terms Merxx or French Fit, and don’t know what you need? Every style of riding is different- in how you fit the bike to you, and the sizing of the bike itself. It’s more than just measuring your height, reach and inseam. With the help of Bike Fitting, you’ll be able to find the right fit for your frame size, style of riding, and your particular dimensions. Here ya’ go…..the location for everything fit related.

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Old 06-12-14, 12:51 AM   #1
Cori77
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expensive mistake in frame size; need advice

I just bought the most expensive bike I've ever owned, probably "more bike than I need" it's a Trek X-Caliber 6. Unfortunately it seems I selected the wrong frame size.

I am 60.5 inches and mostly short in the torso. Inseam seems to be 29-30"; (I just made a crude measurement with a ruler). I previously had a Trek 820 in a 16" frame size; it was fine. The X-Caliber is a 29"-er and when I test rode a 15.5 inch I said "it feels really big." I think it's just that I wasn't used to the feeling of 29" wheels. The sales guy said I probably needed a 14.5 frame and they could order it (they didn't have any in the store). For some reason, this sounded like a good idea at the time, even though in hindsight it seems REALLY stupid to order a bike I hadn't been able to test-ride (I had to pay upfront).

The bike got here today and initially seemed fine. Then after I rode it for about a mile, I noticed I couldn't get enough distance between the handlebars and the seat. I felt cramped up. I rode it for about 8-10 miles and still couldn't get comfortable. I took a hex key and slid the seat is back as far as it will go but that didn't do much. I tried raising the seat but it didn't help. Is there anything I can do? I'm pretty sure the guys at the bike store going to recommend a longer stem, does this really help? Is there any chance I'll "get used to it" (I really don't think so but...)?

Thanks for any suggestions!
Cori
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Old 06-12-14, 01:42 AM   #2
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I like longer stems, grew up on early 90s XC rigs though. What's that Trek got on it? 70 mm?

Your legs are pretty short but I bet 15.5 was a better size for ya top tube wise.

Shop might have stems to try or if a Co - op in town cheep stems there.

They might go for a straight trade in for the 15.5, or at least a nominal restocking fee.
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Old 06-12-14, 03:37 AM   #3
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If you bought relying on advice from the shop, I'd go back and see what they say. i.e. it was their advice to go for the smaller size.

If they can't make it fit and you need a bigger size I think that is up to them to sort out.
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Old 06-12-14, 04:20 AM   #4
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Am looking around for a new bike, myself, these days.

I agree with you, that it can be really risky to pull the trigger on something you haven't yet ridden. Little difference can mean a lot.

Of course, if close, it might well just be "little" differences. Meaning, a seatpost with moderate rearward offset (layback), slightly longer steam, different handlebars, might make all the difference you need.

From the Trek website, the geometry difference for the X-Caliber 29er are:
  • Effective Top Tube: 54.0cm in the 14.5" model, versus 57.0cm in the 15.5" model. That's a 1.2" greater length, in the 15.5" model, from the center of the seat to the head.
  • Reach: 37.2cm (14.5"), versus 38.7cm (15.5"). That's a 0.6" greater length, in the 15.5" model, from the center of the BB to the head.
  • Wheelbase: 107cm (14.5"), versus 109cm (15.5"). That's a 0.8" greater length, in the 15.5" model from hub to hub. I'm assuming this part doesn't feel too quirky, that the bike tracks fine and doesn't feel too point-and-shoot.

I've only required a fitting a handful of times, myself. But, like you, I have most of my height in one part of me. My length is in my torso, versus legs for you. Finding the perfect frame is a real bear, for me. Minor differences matter a lot, in terms of comfort. Generally, I when the frame is the right size for my legs, it generally jams me up with too short of a reach up top. I'm relegated to shoving the seat back and sending the bars forward via either bar and/or stem changes.

You're essentially having the same issue. The seat-to-legs position seems fine, but you've got too little reach up top.

As you might imagine, the balance of the bike can potentially be affected by how forward or rearward your lean is, even by an inch or so. Depends on the bike, depends on how much the movement of your point of balance is. Meaning, you don't want to necessarily add all your reach gain via just a bar change, or just a seatpost change. To maintain reasonable balance, you might well need to do two or more of the changes in combination, else your balance could foul up. Otherwise, you could end up with too much weight on the hands, or too much on the seat. (Some of which is just preference.)


So, presuming no handling quirks would exist, and presuming you'd want to keep a good balance of weight on the hands vs seat ... If I were experiencing that situation you're describing, I'd consider adding back another 0.8" to 1.2" in length top side. I'd want to have the shop consider the following:
  • Rotating the handlebars forward/upward -- could perhaps gain back that 1" without a seatpost and/or stem change. But, that would shift weight forward to the hands by that much. Might or might not be what you want to do, at least not all of at 1".
  • Different set of handlebars -- can shift the weight forward, but it gives you an opportunity to change the shape of the bar at the same time.
  • An offset seatpost that would send the seat rearward by 0.5" or more. Could balance out the weight shift, by sending your butt rearward a bit, leaving the rest to the bar and/or stem change.
  • A longer stem that would increase your forward reach by 0.5" or more. Might want to change the angle a bit, at the same time, if you're making this swap.

A question to ask yourself is, apart from the fit to your legs (position of legs vs seat), whether the forward reach was perfect in that 15.5" model. (That was 1.2" of greater length than the 14.5" model, as viewed from seat to head, or 0.8" greater length as viewed from the center of the BB to head.) By adding 1" to 1.2" length up top, you might end up just right. The seat-to-feet layout will match well enough, and you'll have the reach of the 15.5" sized frame.

Speak with the fitment person at the shop, to explore options. I'd think you'd want to consider the above possible changes: bar movement; possible new bar; possible offset seatpost; possible longer stem. Likely, a combination of two or more of these changes. Since your shop's recommendation got you here, they might be completely willing to make the changes to accommodate.


I'm sure the fitment gurus could chime in with estimates on how much your weight might shift forward or rearward via such changes. In my experience, "feel" is such a subtle thing. The recommendations can be one thing, but only you can tell if the change in feel via that tweak is going to feel right.

Good luck to you.
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Old 06-12-14, 05:27 AM   #5
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A longer stem should sort it out for you. Then move the seat back to a more central position in its carrier. A seat that is too-far-forward creates its own CG / geometry problems and can make you hate the bike for all the wrong reasons. Good luck. DB
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Old 06-12-14, 05:29 AM   #6
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I bet a longer stem will fit you up just fine, without any problems. Stem length is how reach is adjusted.
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Old 06-12-14, 05:48 AM   #7
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Wait a second
You are 5 feet-chances are your inseam is more like 26-27 than 29-30.

I suspect the 14.5" is correct.
How much stand over room do you have?
When you standover the top tube-how much room between it and your groin? Should be 2" or so on a bike like that-but 1" is OK maybe.

Hunt around for a seat post with a bit more setback- or a seat with more rail room
and a longer stem easy enough to find also.

15.5" with 29" wheels-standover is about 30"-guessing you would be very close to top tube when you stand over it.

A 16" 26" wheeled bike has a tope tube height about like a 29" 14.5"
Just dial it in with a different stem or seat post setback?

PS Your legs are pretty long for 5' tall-female??I'm 5'4" and a 820 trek 16" would be a little tall for me.

PPS I always felt more comfortable riding "too tall bikes" because the seat would have to be set lower relative to the bars-so it gave me a more upright posture-better view-easier on neck
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Old 06-14-14, 08:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
I like longer stems, grew up on early 90s XC rigs though. What's that Trek got on it? 70 mm?

Your legs are pretty short but I bet 15.5 was a better size for ya top tube wise.

Shop might have stems to try or if a Co - op in town cheep stems there.

They might go for a straight trade in for the 15.5, or at least a nominal restocking fee.
+1 IMHO the shop should make it right.
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Old 06-14-14, 11:29 PM   #9
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hi guys thanks for all your replies.

i went back to the bike shop on thursday and the owner heard the conversation between me and the salesperson and came out. he said authoritatively that "14.5 is absolutely the right size for you, we just have to fit the bike." He also said "everyone goes down a frame size in a 29" wheel." At that time I felt convinced.

I saw the fitter this morning. He said the 29" vs 26" has nothing to do with the frame size, but that I wouldn't have had enough standover room on the 15.5. The 14.5 is a sloped frame; I have about 2" of standover room. Seems like plenty. The seat tube on the frame only comes up to midthigh on me and the seat post has about 5"+ exposed. That seems off.

I know a 29" inseam for someone as short as me sounds strange but I should mention I have a moderate case of scoliosis which has compressed me in the torso. It gives me weird dimensions. I also think I have long arms for someone my height, maybe that's why I feel I need more reach.

Other key points of the fitting:

-- the fitter said "all seats are the same" when I asked about different post that let me put it back farther
-- he wanted to drop the handlbars, not raise them, i let him and it felt different, not really better or worse
-- he said the longer stem is "up to you" but he wouldn't recommend b/c it will give me less control on trail rides
-- he doesn't think i need more reach b/c that will cause my arms to "lock" (I'm positive it won't)
-- he said "you had a bike that was too big for years and now you have one the right size so it feels weird" (really? they sold me the 820)

Not very helpful. I had to prompt him, 'Don't you even want to watch me ride the bike?' and he said 'sure.' Then he said 'looks good to me.'

I am going to look on my own for a different seat post. (Online?) Yes, the stem that's on there is 70mm if you measure from center of hex-nut to end of stem. I'm assuming I can install the seat post myself if I find one?

thanks again! cori
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Old 06-14-14, 11:52 PM   #10
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I have a 135mm-20 deg stem for sale. 1 1/8-25.4mm. That would stretch things out a bit.



P.S. It is 45mm high also.
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Old 06-15-14, 07:05 AM   #11
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If you want more reach, just put a longer stem on there. Messing around with saddle offset is going to change your knee to pedal spindle relationship. You could end up with knee problems.
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Old 06-15-14, 08:13 AM   #12
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Sounds like your "fitter" is a flim-flam man.......... find someone competent!
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Old 06-16-14, 07:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Cori77 View Post
hi guys thanks for all your replies.

i went back to the bike shop on thursday and the owner heard the conversation between me and the salesperson and came out. he said authoritatively that "14.5 is absolutely the right size for you, we just have to fit the bike." He also said "everyone goes down a frame size in a 29" wheel." At that time I felt convinced.

I saw the fitter this morning. He said the 29" vs 26" has nothing to do with the frame size, but that I wouldn't have had enough standover room on the 15.5. The 14.5 is a sloped frame; I have about 2" of standover room. Seems like plenty. The seat tube on the frame only comes up to midthigh on me and the seat post has about 5"+ exposed. That seems off.

I know a 29" inseam for someone as short as me sounds strange but I should mention I have a moderate case of scoliosis which has compressed me in the torso. It gives me weird dimensions. I also think I have long arms for someone my height, maybe that's why I feel I need more reach.

Other key points of the fitting:

-- the fitter said "all seats are the same" when I asked about different post that let me put it back farther
-- he wanted to drop the handlbars, not raise them, i let him and it felt different, not really better or worse
-- he said the longer stem is "up to you" but he wouldn't recommend b/c it will give me less control on trail rides
-- he doesn't think i need more reach b/c that will cause my arms to "lock" (I'm positive it won't)
-- he said "you had a bike that was too big for years and now you have one the right size so it feels weird" (really? they sold me the 820)

Not very helpful. I had to prompt him, 'Don't you even want to watch me ride the bike?' and he said 'sure.' Then he said 'looks good to me.'

I am going to look on my own for a different seat post. (Online?) Yes, the stem that's on there is 70mm if you measure from center of hex-nut to end of stem. I'm assuming I can install the seat post myself if I find one?

thanks again! cori
Rein it in there, cowboy. You don't change your seat position to adjust for reach; you change seat position to adjust your butt over the bottom bracket. If you've no complaint about your seating position relative to the pedals, don't change the seatpost to one that will move your seat position.

As I said earlier, stems are used to adjust for reach. They're also cheap, so finding what works isn't costly.

It does sound as though the fitter wasn't particularly forthcoming, but on the other hand, you're bringing a lot of suppositions to the table, too. For example, you went in presuming the fitter would tell you to try a longer stem, and you expressed uncertainty that recco would help. Well, he didn't do that, and now you're expressing uncertainty that what he did do will help. Lowering the bars does increase reach, so it sounds like addressed your concern.

My gut feeling is that you're obsessing on ideas and not the ride. Let the adjustments sink in over several rides and see where you are. The fitter may be right. You may be right, too, but I'm not seeing that in what you've said so far; it may just be you haven't expressed your thoughts properly, or it may be a lack of understanding of the basic principles, as suggested by the reach/seat thingie.

Whatever the case, I say don't adjust the saddle, don't change the post, try the lower bar position as set by the fitter, and if after some time you still feel cramped, try a slighter longer stem. Let us know how the new position goes first, though, and based on that feedback, we can suggest length/rise for the stem.
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Old 06-16-14, 08:08 AM   #14
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Stop trying to adjust your reach by moving the saddle. Just stop.
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Old 06-18-14, 03:08 PM   #15
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alright i have not messed with the seat, I've taken the bike on three trail rides and it is still a very uncomfortable ride. i have it in the same position the fitter left it in. i do have knee pain (if you're thinking I'm just out of shape, you're wrong). i am thinking maybe the geometry of this frame is just not good for me, maybe it's not even a too-small too-large issue, but this is definitely not right. i've been riding a bike on a daily basis for years; i know what it's supposed to feel like. i got fed up with the Trek 820 because it was heavy and not very responsive, but it never caused me pain. if i can't find some way to get a more comfortable ride, this bike's going up on Craigslist and I'm getting another 820.

p.s. sorry if i was too hard on the fitter. i know a fitter's not a magician and maybe the fit really did look good to him; he can't feel what i'm feeling. i also know "it happens" that a purchase just doesn't work out. it's really inconvenient for me, but, granted, not necessarily his fault. and of course he had to pick up where the salesguy left off; maybe he would never have recommended this bike for me if he'd been consulted earlier.
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Old 06-18-14, 07:59 PM   #16
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Can you post a side shot of yourself on the bike? It'd probably be helpful if we're going to help you sort this out.
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Old 06-18-14, 09:14 PM   #17
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Do you still have the Trek? Assuming your knees didn't hurt riding the 820 you could measure the seat height and saddle set back and transfer those settings to the new bike then sort out the reach after that.

Barring that I'd suggest taking it back and getting the LBS to make you happy.
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Old 06-19-14, 11:59 AM   #18
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The ETT for a current 16" 820 is 55cm. For the a 14.5" X-Caliber it's 54cm, so there's a 1 cm reach difference. The 820 has a 1cm taller head tube with a little slacker angle, so that reduces the reach by about 3mm, but puts the bars a full cm higher. Add to that the fact that the 820 stem is a 25deg rise with a 30mm rise bar (vs. 7deg and 15mm rise) and you're talking another couple cm in bar height.

Bottom line is that the handlebar setup on the X-Caliber is totally different than the 820. One cm is a huge difference in this area and we're talking multiple cms in multiple directions. If you want the new bike to feel more like the old bike, you need to correct that. The good new is that it's all easily fixable. With a different stem you should be able to get the bars in roughly the same position they were on your 820 and be totally comfortable on the bike.

Go back to the LBS and tell them you want to increase reach by 1cm and bar height by 2 to 3cm (and that you don't care what the fitter thinks is "right"). The stuff about "less control" is splitting hairs. Maybe important for a pro rider, but you won't be any worse off than you were on the 820. Have them fit whatever stem they have that gets closest to that, take it for a test ride and see if it helps.
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