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  1. #1
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    Correcting bicycle fit - help needed

    I have a 1999 GT Outpost and I'm having trouble setting it up so that the bike is comfortable for me. I feel I have to lean to much forward and support my body with my hands. My gut feeling says that the handle bar should be higher but it's already as far out as it could be.

    Bike shops so far haven't been much of a help either with finding a solution. Now I'm wondering if you have some suggestions about what I could try to make my ride more comfortable. The touring bikes that the bike shop suggested to me are all to much like road bikes and I'm not used to these bikes at all and even after test rides I'm not sure if I would be any happier with one of those. Below are some bike facts and background info that hopefully will give you some idea about my case.

    Bike specs:
    1999 GT Outpost
    18" frame
    26" wheels

    Biker specs:
    5' 10" total height
    31.5" inseam
    26" arm length
    165 lbs

    Before that bike I only rode on old 3 speed (in hub) bicycle where I set upright. That was in Germany where I grew up. I still enjoy that position versus the road bikes where one tries to be as flat as possible.

    I customized the bike a little to meet my needs and aside that my hands and arms have to support my upper body to much, which causes the bike to be uncomfortable, I really like it. I added front and rear racks, mud guards, bottle cages and lights.

    My riding style is:
    • not riding at all
    • riding in town
    • riding for a whole day or a weekend
      (i.e. I enjoy self-sufficient weekend camping with bicycle where we take everything along including bike trailer for the kid)
    • Major touring such as our week long ride along the Danube from Passau to Vienna (we took our planes via airplane from the US - nothing is cooler than assembling your bike at the airport and riding off) or RAGBRAI a week long ride across Iowa.


    Right now I only have a couple of picture from our ride along the Danube in 2002 to share:
    http://www.smugmug.com/photos/91267364_QVFFr-O.jpg
    http://www.smugmug.com/photos/91268265_LioLU-O.jpg

    Are there things I could try to make my bike more comfortable or do you think I need a totally different frame and if so what?

  2. #2
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    Many folks forget to mention that there three aspects to "reach";

    1) the bend in the waist (usually 45),
    2) the angle of the upper arms in relation to the torso (usually 90), and
    3) the degree of bend in the elbows (usually 65-70). There are numerous opinions on all aspects, so you might want to do a google search on what angles are most suitable for your style of riding.
    Last edited by theranman; 04-24-08 at 11:31 PM.

  3. #3
    Left OZ now in Malaysia jibi's Avatar
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    have you tried an adjustable stem?

    I have found them to be useful in the past

    http://www.performancebike.com/shop/....cfm?SKU=20044

    george
    ---------------------------------------------------
    https://sites.google.com/site/imjibi/home

    Photos of present tour of South East Asia
    http://picasaweb.google.com/georgeidf50/southeastasia

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jibi View Post
    have you tried an adjustable stem?

    I have found them to be useful in the past

    http://www.performancebike.com/shop/....cfm?SKU=20044

    george

    Are they sturdy enough? I'd be afraid they get loose and the handle bar drops during the ride.

  5. #5
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    The bike is too small for you, judging from the pictures.

    I know there are some who will sneer at this but...

    Get your bike, stand beside it, bend your nearest arm at right angles, then place the elbow against the nose of the seat. Stretch your forearm, hand and fingers to the stem. Where does your middle finger fall in relation to the handlebar clamp? Then tell us how far forward or back the seat is on its rails. Those two things might be a starting point in determining if the bike length is appropriate.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
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    I just tried this (I had to stoop a little to put my elbow against the nose of the seat), and my middle finger reached right to the center of the handlebars (stem clamp). This is on a touring bike I recently got that feels like it is made for me. Where is the middle finger actually suppose to reach to?
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
    T.J.

  7. #7
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    Yep. spot on! Well, if you needed two fingers on the other hand placed sideways against your middle finger to create a T, you would be in range, too. If your middle finger had overlapped so it was pointing out into mid-air, then the bike would have been too long for you, under this method.

    The beauty of it is that it takes into account an individual's reach. It's a bit like boxing and how reach is sort of related to height of fighters. I used it for ages to fit people to bikes when they took cycling classes.

    There are three factors that affect the suitability of length and comfort: (a) top tube length (b) stem length and (c) position of saddle in relation to the seat tube.

    The first, TT length, cannot be changed, obviously. You will be stuck with what you have even though you can compromise. The problem for women in many cases is that the top tube is designed for men's torsos and reach, and I have seen women with bikes with tiny length stems to try to make a bike fit them.

    The second, stem length, can be changed without interfering with knee-over-pedal-spindle positioning.

    The third, saddle position can be altered by moving the saddle on the rails or installing a seatpost with additional setback. This can change the knee-over-pedal-spindle position, although that can also be influenced by crank length.

    The ideal, for me, is to have the stem around 100mm in length, and the seat positioned midway on its rails on a standard seatpost. Just as an aside, I use 170mm cranks after changing quite recently from 175mm... but that's another story.

    I can speak from experience in terms of a "touring" frame that is too small. I had an MTB that I converted, and while at the time it seemed OK, it wasn't really the best fit. I am 5'11" and I think it was an 18" frame like the OP's.

    When looking for a good touring frame, the first thing I learned was to find one as big as would provide me with adequate standover height, and good length. This also influences head tube length, and the longer it is, the higher the handlebars will naturally fall without installing excessively long stems.

    Whenever I returned to riding my old MTB, I found I just could not get comfortable on it anymore, even on very short rides. It's no longer a part of my stable. All the other bikes I have now have been acquired based on the measurements of my touring bike, including my MTB. They measure about 22 inches, and the saddle-nose-to-handlebar length is almost identical on each.

    Of the OP's pictures, the first one I downloaded was riding through the village, and it just seemed the handlebars were too low even though they seem relatively level with the saddle. While there is foreshortening of the bike in the second bike path picture, it sort of confirmed my thoughts.

    But then... I could be completely wrong. I doubt it. I've had people argue with me that but for this or that, their frame is comfortable when it's patently not. The human body is very adaptive, but you still can't get away from pain resulting from bad fit.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  8. #8
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    This bike I got it has a very long (high) stem with a very short reach (maybe50mm) on it and that is one of the things that caught my eye. I have the handlebars almost at seat level. The bike also has a very short head tube compared to most bikes that fit me as far as standover height goes, but this bike is 2 or 3 cm smaller than I usually ride. I went with one inch lower standover because I will have bigger tires on my touring bike than my regular road bikes. Any way, the bike feels like a custom fit. Thanks for putting this bike fit trick on here. I think it is a great way to test because my seat can move forward about 3/4 of an inch if I go with a longer stem, or I will still be within one or two finger widths T'd on my middle finger. I love learning new things like this!
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
    T.J.

  9. #9
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    You'll find also there is some debate about knee-over-pedal-spindle (KOPS) and its relevance. For mine, it comes into perspective when talking about cadence and doing things like hillclimbing. High cadence generally requires the knee to be over or forward of the pedal spindle. Increased pedalling torque, such as mashing up a hill seated, means a move back so the knee is behind the spindle.

    It's why the middle position of the saddle is a good starting point for newer riders untl they sort out their cadence. If touring, there will cases of mashing to get up hills. You'll notice this when you automatically move back on the seat and start pulling up on the handlebars.

    I use a spirit level, first to check that the floor surface is level, then have the subject sit on the bike with the pedal in the forward horizontal position. A few degrees either way off vertical from the front of the patella or kneecap to a line through the foot to the pedal spindle is OK, but dramatic differences from vertical are a clue of improper bike fit. Seat height can play a role... the higher the seat, the further aft it moves. Crank length also is the other significant factor that can alter KOPS neasurements.

    Generally, it's a matter of getting everything into ballpark measurements, then riding the bike, critically analysing comfort, and making what I call micro-adjustments to seat height, fore-aft movement, stem length and height and so on. The availability of aheadset-style stems with bolt-on faceplates and in degrees of rise or drop has made the task a bit easier. Brooks saddles are somewhat more difficult that most seats because the available adjustment for setback is limited by the rail length and shape.
    Last edited by Rowan; 04-25-08 at 04:01 AM.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  10. #10
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    Rowan,
    I hung a weighted string down from pressed against my knee cap and it falls exactly an inch in front of center of the pedal spindle. Close enough to be correct?
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
    T.J.

  11. #11
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    Yes, in my estimation it would be at the limit and you might consider a slight move back on the seat rails. And really, there is no "correct" in all this because we all have little variations -- even from one side of our body to the other (eg, leg length, hip level, etc).

    However, if you feel comfortable now over relatively long periods in the saddle, and you have a good cadence (let's say at or above 85rpm) that sounds about right. Any adjustments back you make should be in millimetres (or 1/32nds of an inch), and a key to whether it is working or not is whether you move back forward on the saddle with your butt as you pedal (a higher cadence thing).

    Oh, and always mark the original position on any component, so you can return it to that same position if the adjustment doesn't quite work out.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
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    That bike looks too small. Unfortunately without a profile shot of you riding it is hard to be sure by how much. I think the reason a basically athletic looking person with lots of miles wants to go so high in your position, is because that is the only way you can get some space on this bike.

    MTBs can make good touring bikes but it has to be kept in mind that road type touring is not the design brief. Short wheel base and smaller than normal rides can contribute to agility on tight trails.

    Run this program for French Fit, then listen to your body:

    http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za...LCULATOR_INTRO

    These results aren't written in stone, but taking the results you get, and either finding a bile you can ride at the bike shop, or even comparing charts on something like a Surly LHT that is "your size" to what you are currently riding, might prove instructive.

    Knee position is something I want to feel neutral. I want to feel I can spin the pedal, and not that I am needing to pull with the back of the leg to go down (seat to far back), or over the top of the pedals. You dial this kind of thing by riding around on a well fitting bike (when you get ont) and making small adjustments to the seat position and dialing it in.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jibi View Post
    have you tried an adjustable stem?

    I have found them to be useful in the past

    http://www.performancebike.com/shop/....cfm?SKU=20044

    george
    That adjustable Ritchie came with my Jamis, but the dealer swapped it out for a smaller one. It's great to be able to adjust it to your comfort level, but know ahead of timee that it's one HEAVY stem. Ideally, it'd be nice to find the perfect adjustment, then swap it out for a regular stem of that angle, but I'm not particularly motivated at this point. My Aurora's a tank even WITH a ligher stem.

  14. #14
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    looking at the photos its way to small ,im 5ft 5ins all my bikes are 51cm you look much taller than 5/5 and the 600 wheels are going to make things feel even smaller,

  15. #15
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    I'm a little over 5'6" and my bike is 53cm, but it's marginally big. Should be riding a 52cm, but was not available. How's bout every chime in til we reach his height.

    Perhaps the pics were taken at a weird angle, but you do indeed look big for the bike...body size, knees too close to the handlebar, not stretched out enough, etc.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbike View Post
    I have a 1999 GT Outpost and I'm having trouble setting it up so that the bike is comfortable for me. I feel I have to lean to much forward and support my body with my hands. My gut feeling says that the handle bar should be higher but it's already as far out as it could be.
    Just going on this much, I had a similar situation, ended up getting a taller, marginally shorter stem, and moving the saddle rearwards. Slightly counterintuitive, but the more you move it back, the more your legs are pushing you away from the handlebars, taking weight off your wrists.

    Steve

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