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Compensating for too-small frame?

Old 06-29-20, 05:05 PM
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rch427
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Compensating for too-small frame?

I have a dilemma. I've found one of my "holy grail" frames (please don't ask what). The price is more-or-less what I was expecting to have to pay, which is to say, expensive, but as it happens, I can come up with it right now. I have never seen an example of this maker's frame available for less than the price of this one, and I only see maybe 1 or 2 examples come up for sale in any given year. And in my lifetime I have only seen maybe 4 examples of this bike that were (1) original condition (NOT repainted), (2) in a color I like, and (3) possibly workable, size-wise. It's a desirable if obscure maker, so if I bought it and it didn't work out, I think I could probably re-sell it and not lose too much money.

Here's the real dilemma: the frame has a seat-tube that's 55cm high and the top-tube length is 55.5cm (both center-to-center). I'm 6'2" tall and my equivalent stand-over height is 36" (not my pants inseam, but the distance between the ground and my "taint".) I recognize that something around 60cm is what someone of my height *should* be riding. I wouldn't be riding it competitively or anything; just for fun. So how much might I be able to get away with, in terms of adjusting the seat tube and stem higher, etc., to try to help compensate for the difference between what would fit me best, and what I'd have to work with, with this frame? Would it be likely to be disastrous, or do-able?
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Old 06-29-20, 05:19 PM
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Heck, that's my size. Buy it, and if it doesn't work out, sell it to me...

I'm only kinda joking. 6'2" is unlikely to work with a 55cm frame, but if this is something you really want to try, then maybe give it a go and sell the frame if it does not work out.

Also, do you have a current bike on which you can measure your saddle to pedal, saddle to bars, etc -- the critical measurements? You can get an idea of the various lengths and heights of the components you would need.

I am, however, reminded of a used car that I wanted, but ultimately passed up when I realized the sunroof was aftermarket and not factory -- some people try to turn a bad deal into a good deal, and it's not always the best course.

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Old 06-29-20, 05:21 PM
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You might me able to get away with a 58cm but a 55cm is pushing it beyond the threshold.

I have to ask. Whats the frame?
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Old 06-29-20, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by noobinsf View Post
Heck, that's my size. Buy it, and if it doesn't work out, sell it to me...

I'm only kinda joking. 6'2" is unlikely to work with a 55cm frame, but if this is something you really want to try, then maybe give it a go and sell the frame if it does not work out.
Yeah, the worst-case scenario would be re-selling it, but the trouble is that in order to find out if it works out, or doesn't, I'd first have to build the frame up with the correct period components, and that would run another $1,000-1,200. While I wouldn't be throwing that away if I re-sold the frame, it would tie that investment up until I somehow found another frame I was interested in putting them on.

Because of the time and place when this framebuilder was working, I don't think I've ever seen any example from them that was taller than 59 or 60cm.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:26 PM
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Nope. Pass on it. You won't ride it.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rch427 View Post
Yeah, the worst-case scenario would be re-selling it, but the trouble is that in order to find out if it works out, or doesn't, I'd first have to build the frame up with the correct period components, and that would run another $1,000-1,200. While I wouldn't be throwing that away if I re-sold the frame, it would tie that investment up until I somehow found another frame I was interested in putting them on.

Because of the time and place when this framebuilder was working, I don't think I've ever seen any example from them that was taller than 59 or 60cm.
Well, not necessarily... You'll need to be able to mount the bike, make it go forward, and make it stop. I would bet that's enough to give you an idea if going full bore on a period-correct build is worth the trouble. Not for every bike, but for something you've been wanting for a long time, it could be a fun experiment.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:30 PM
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I think you know deep down it won't fit. And if the period correct components are that expensive, then I would imagine there isn't a huge amount of variance in seat post length, stem rise, stem length, handlebar type...which also makes it harder to fit.

This is assuming that you can't use random parts to check out the fit because it uses funky standards.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:30 PM
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Also note, in my musings, I am not betting with my time or money, so +grain of salt...
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Old 06-29-20, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by rch427 View Post
seat-tube that's 55cm and top-tube length is 55.5cm (both center-to-center). I'm 6'2" tall and my equivalent stand-over height is 36".


Don't buy it to ride it. Fit is too critical. Nice vintage bikes don't look quite right with a 2' seatpost.

I could make that frame work, but I'm not quite 5' 11".
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Old 06-29-20, 05:33 PM
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Hard pass. You wonít ride it. You wonít enjoy it. Never fully at least. Iím assuming this frame builder doesnít build frames anymore or is no longer around to do so, which is why you havenít sprung for your own. But another will come along. Have you put feelers out here to get help looking for one? Youíd be surprised what people can help you track down. But youíre looking for people to talk you into something that you clearly know is a waste of time and money, if we are being blunt and honest. 55cm for someone your size is silly.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post


Don't buy it to ride it. Fit is too critical. Nice vintage bikes don't look quite right with a 2' seatpost.

I could make that frame work, but I'm not quite 5' 11".
Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
Hard pass. You wonít ride it. You wonít enjoy it. Never fully at least. Iím assuming this frame builder doesnít build frames anymore or is no longer around to do so, which is why you havenít sprung for your own. But another will come along. Have you put feelers out here to get help looking for one? Youíd be surprised what people can help you track down. But youíre looking for people to talk you into something that you clearly know is a waste of time and money, if we are being blunt and honest. 55cm for someone your size is silly.
I agree with this. I'm just doing my best to be the enabler we all want this forum to be.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:39 PM
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There are a few issues here that shouldn't be conflated: (1) Can you make it work? (2) Will it look good? (3) Will you be happy with it?

We can only advise you on the first one in any objective way and provide opinions about the second one. The third question is really the important one. Only you can answer that, but the input you get on the first two might help you figure out your answer.

(1) You can probably make it work. Everybody has different fit preferences. I'm 5'9" and that frame would be "a little bit" too small for me. For you, I would guess that it would be a lot too small, but you know your preferences. With a long enough seat post and the right stem, you can probably achieve a comfortable riding position. Depending on the stem, this could also have some adverse effects on the handling, but those would likely be relatively minor.

(2) I don't think so. I say this as someone who really doesn't mind tall stems. In many cases, looks just really aren't all that important. If you enjoy riding a bike, does it really matter how it looks? But with a "grail" bike it really does. You probably don't want to spend a lot of money for any "almost grail" bike, and if the bike requires an absurd stem or seat post, you probably won't be satisfied with it. How do I know?



This wasn't even a grail bike, but I liked it a lot. I liked the way it looked, and I liked the way it rode. Eventually, I decided to sell it to someone that it fit and put a replacement in my size on my wish list. FWIW, this is a 53-54 and most of my bikes are 57-58. Most people don't like their bars as high as I do. You'd probably end up with more seat post showing and lower bars.

(3) I'm guessing no. Look at the picture above. Ask yourself if you'd be satisfied that you'd found your grail bike if it had a stem and seatpost like that. Be honest with yourself, because you know the answer.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:45 PM
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rch427 I have a Colnago in 58. My equivalent measurement to yours is 35. The Colnago is just on the edge. I have to use a Brooks Pro to be able to get the saddle high enough and it still needs to go more. Are there longer posts? yes. It is hanging on the wall because other bikes are the right size and probably as good to ride. It has over 3000 miles with me on the saddle and yet it has been 3-4 years since I have taken it on a ride of any consequence.
I wish it were a 59 or 60, but I am mostly glad I have it. Every time I look at it, I wish it were just a wee bit bigger.
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There are other bikes I would love to have. Luck is sometimes on your side. One that I did want was a red De Rosa. Got it now, in 60 . It currently is a work in process.
Another bike I wanted and found as a surprise is this one that is my go to bike. It looks ratty, but it is orginal once. I am living with that! I love the ride. Converted to Campagnolo Chorus, just as good as the original DA 7400, except I now have Ergos instead of index DT.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by malcala622 View Post
You might me able to get away with a 58cm but a 55cm is pushing it beyond the threshold.

I have to ask. Whats the frame?
Dammit! I told you not to ask!

I'll say this: it's by one of the 10 greatest Italian framebuilders of the mid-20th century.

(cue 50 posts of speculation)
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Old 06-29-20, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by noobinsf View Post
Also, do you have a current bike on which you can measure your saddle to pedal, saddle to bars, etc -- the critical measurements? You can get an idea of the various lengths and heights of the components you would need.
That runs contrary to all of my inclinations towards sloth, but yes -- I suppose I could make it down to the basement with a measuring tape. Good idea.
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Old 06-29-20, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rch427 View Post
Dammit! I told you not to ask!

I'll say this: it's by one of the 10 greatest Italian framebuilders of the mid-20th century.

(cue 50 posts of speculation)
Confente
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Old 06-29-20, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Piff View Post
I think you know deep down it won't fit. And if the period correct components are that expensive, then I would imagine there isn't a huge amount of variance in seat post length, stem rise, stem length, handlebar type...which also makes it harder to fit.
Deep down, my good and bad selves are battling it out. We'll see who wins.

The only critical component length would be the seatpost, and I would presume that a sufficiently tall one could be found. All of my bikes are set up the same, with period-correct components: 3-speed hub with coaster brake, porteur bars, front drum brake with bar-end lever, etc. Yes, even my Hetchin's.

Originally Posted by Piff View Post
This is assuming that you can't use random parts to check out the fit because it uses funky standards.
TBH, I don't know what the standards are; they might be pretty "normal". But I don't have any of the necessary random parts lying around, and taking them off of my other bikes to test them is more troublesome than one might think, with geared hubs, etc.
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Old 06-29-20, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
Hard pass. You wonít ride it. You wonít enjoy it. Never fully at least. Iím assuming this frame builder doesnít build frames anymore or is no longer around to do so, which is why you havenít sprung for your own. But another will come along. Have you put feelers out here to get help looking for one? Youíd be surprised what people can help you track down.
The builder retired in the '80s, back when I was riding a lime green Schwinn Varsity.

I've had my feelers out for one of these for 8 or 9 years now, and like I said, in that time I've only seen maybe a dozen come up for sale, everywhere (and I check not just eBay but I use one of those meta-search engines that searches all Craigslist locations, etc.) None have been cheap, and many have been 2-3 times what this example would cost me.

Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
But youíre looking for people to talk you into something that you clearly know is a waste of time and money, if we are being blunt and honest. 55cm for someone your size is silly.
I'll have you know that I am quite capable of talking myself into wasting time and money, thank you very much. But yeah...you may be right about the size not being able to be compensated for. *sigh*
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Old 06-29-20, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by noobinsf View Post
I agree with this. I'm just doing my best to be the enabler we all want this forum to be.
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Old 06-29-20, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
There are a few issues here that shouldn't be conflated:
(1) Can you make it work?
I could make it work as much as I can make any of my bikes work, which is to say -- not to anyone else's standards. I'm the guy with a 3-speed hub and porteur bars on a Hetchin's, remember?

Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
(2) Will it look good?
Gah. No idea. I have aphantasia, so I don't have a "mind's eye" (no visual imagination; when I close my eyes, I "see" nothing). Also, see above point about Hetchin's.

Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
(3) Will you be happy with it?
I think I could be happy about owning it, and I could be happy looking at it. Could I be as happy as if it was 60cm? Nope. Could I be happy riding it? Tough to say, but I'm leaning towards "not really". Could I be made sufficiently happy by the aforementioned to justify spending the money? That's the $2,500 question.
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Old 06-29-20, 06:36 PM
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Oh, it’ll look fine:

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Old 06-29-20, 06:41 PM
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It's easier to get away with a frame that's a bit large than one that's a bit small. okay +/- 2cm you can get away with, but over 6? Nope.

Even if you can find a seat post and stem that can compensate, you'd be turning a sweet race bike into a clown bike. I hear what you say about re-imagining bicycles and building them up in different ways, and I enjoy that also. This is different though. Even I could see a Hetchin's set up the way you have and think "cool", but you need something at least 58cm to have a hope of pulling this off, and even that's stretching it, imo.
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Old 06-29-20, 07:07 PM
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I once built a Bianchi frame up with Campagnolo components even though the frame was a couple of inches too small. I did it so that I could more easily carry the bike up to my walkup apartment. Getting the bike to fit reasonably well included getting a longer seatpost and a taller riser stem to replace the 7-stem. I really liked that build even tough it was a fairly aggressive riding position. One thing to note is that as you increase the height of a stem the effective distance from the handlebar to the saddle shortens. Thus as you raise a stem you also need to lengthen it. there may come a point where a stem is so long in reach that you don't like the feel of the steering.

If it were me and I had that frame in hand, I'd slap a pair of wheels, seatpost stem and handlebar on it to see if the fit suits me. Then if the fit suited me I'd consider using more expensive components.

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Old 06-29-20, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by rch427 View Post
Yeah, the worst-case scenario would be re-selling it, but the trouble is that in order to find out if it works out, or doesn't, I'd first have to build the frame up with the correct period components, and that would run another $1,000-1,200. While I wouldn't be throwing that away if I re-sold the frame, it would tie that investment up until I somehow found another frame I was interested in putting them on.

Because of the time and place when this framebuilder was working, I don't think I've ever seen any example from them that was taller than 59 or 60cm.
And why do you need period correct components? Ok, I get it that it is from a famous Italian frame builder and therefore has some pedigree to it. That majority of the responses here encouraging you to “don’t do it” might just be blocking you from making some discoveries about pushing the limits of bike fit, handling characteristics, and individualized notions of a compact aesthetic.

I have a few questions for you in no particular order: 1) what is the height of the head tube? 2) is your torso length proportional for the typical 6’2” person? 3) what seatpost size does your frame take? 4) what handlebars were you proposing to use again? 5) what is the spacing of the rear dropouts? 6) why are you smitten with the concept of running a 3-speed hub again? 7) what type of riding do you do? Is there a niche that this undersized bike could be assigned to that fulfills some specialty function for you?

I think classic and vintage folks do far too few “resto-mods”. I say think modern. You’ve got a too small grail frame. I say make lemonade out of lemons. To me this is a perfect excuse to do a a super-climber/super-descender type build. Remember, extra long stems steer slower in tight quarters but the flip side is that they are stable as hell on fast descents. If your seatpost diameter happens to be 27.2 you have a great opportunity to run a shock absorbing modern carbon post in, say - a 350mm length up near the limit line where it will give max flexion for a dampened ride quality. You could get a Ritchey Flexlogic post with maximum setback in a 27.2 that would pair well with slightly upsized crank arm length to make for correct leg extension for your inseam and prompt you to have huge amounts of leg clearance for out of the saddle climbing while also permitting a Greg Lemond-esque scootched far back pedal/femur angle that makes seated climbing feel like you’re cheating thanks to the shifted over the rear wheel dynamics of the thing. Skip the dorky Nitto Technomic stem in favor of a 13 or even 14cm chromoly Salsa or Ritchey 5 degree upward rise stem that accepts either 25.4 or 26.0 shallow drop road or gravel handlebars. In this configuration, you might even find that your undersized frame is now a bit too big! You could also run a nitto quill adapter with a threadless stem that is not ugly. Lots of choices I would think that would look cool as h*ll if you think outside the box a bit.

I know it isn’t squarely in the C&V era but my Veritas titanium build implemented precisely what I proposed above.



I’m 6’ tall with a 33.5” cycling inseam. This compact frame has a 52 cm center to center top tube and a 42 cm seat tube with sloping geometry. The head tube is ~139mm tall. Yes, the bars are shallow drop and the Ritchey 13cm stem has a 5 degree upward rise but even with a bad back I can ride the drops for long distances in comfort. This type of fit is not for everyone I get that. This is my #2 road bike but I love it.

Last edited by masi61; 06-29-20 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 06-29-20, 08:15 PM
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One more view of the same “Veritas” bike. The seatpost was the best $170 I ever spent on a bike part. This bike should be uncomfortable to ride but it isn’t.

Edit: the virtual top tube length is 535 mm.

Last edited by masi61; 06-29-20 at 08:20 PM.
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