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1980s & 90s Italian Road Bikes - Appropriate Frame Size To Height

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1980s & 90s Italian Road Bikes - Appropriate Frame Size To Height

Old 12-08-23, 07:34 PM
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1980s & 90s Italian Road Bikes - Appropriate Frame Size To Height

Hello all,

I'm not too familiar with road bicycle culture from the 1980s and '90s but I love the utility of the technology of that period. I'm familiar with "period correct" ratios between rider height and frame size on many older styles of frames, such as the classic English lightweight or French randonneuse bikes but admit ignorance here.

I'm 185cm tall with an 86cm inseam (approximately). If I were professionally fit to a custom steel frame in the 1980s or '90s, would I be riding a 58-59cm frame (c-c) as I suspect might be the case? This is a bit smaller than I generally ride, but my suspicion is that shorter frames were in vogue for a while there at least... Any memories or literature to confirm what I'd be getting into would be appreciated. Cheers!

-Gregory

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Old 12-08-23, 07:44 PM
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Frame size / standover height fashions changed over the years, and, yes, smaller frames were more fashionable in the 1980s and 1990s, versus 1970s. It was also somewhat common for the tourists to ride slightly taller frames than the racers.

For me, the most important frame size parameter is top tube length; seat tube length is important, but second to that.

For calibration, I am very happy with my road bike frames (see signature), all of which except the Peugeot measure 55cm C-T. My shoe sole to crotch inseam is 81cm, and I stand 172cm tall. I think 59 or 60 cm C-T should work well for you.
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Old 12-08-23, 07:46 PM
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Would be good to mention how 'racy' your fit is. Regardless, assuming the usual 73/73 italian square geometry, I think something around 58-59cm would fit you very well. Your inseam to height ration is very 'normal' so I think the square geomtry will work well for you.

I do better with japanese geometry, my height is 180cm but my legs are 84 or 85cm, I can't remember. I think I'd be best off with a 59cm seat tube but a 55cm top tube. Hard to find in a production bike. So, the pennies go in the 'custom frame' piggy bank

I should mention that I'm talking about center to center, not center to top.
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Old 12-08-23, 07:58 PM
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Google Greg Lemond bicycle sizing. It works.
Years ago, soon after Al Gore invented the internet, Leonard Zinn made available the average anatomical measures of a large number of cyclists. Comparing that data to your individual numbers you would know if your femurs were longer than average or your arms were shorter than average or whatever. It helped me understand why for my height, I ride a larger frame.
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Old 12-08-23, 10:43 PM
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When I was racing it was the C.O.N.I. Manual, aka the Cinelli Book. I have one somewhere. They sell for solid money now on eBay.
I am surprised no one has not scanned it.
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Old 12-08-23, 10:47 PM
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https://www.ebay.com/itm/15592918874...Bk9SR6bYps6JYw
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Old 12-08-23, 10:49 PM
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Thanks everyone, much appreciated.

The Lemond sizing chart is really interesting and would definitely have me riding frames I'd generally consider small. I don't quite like maintaining a racer's arc to my back anymore and I don't necessarily want my stems all jacked up, so that has something to do with that...

Originally Posted by repechage
When I was racing it was the C.O.N.I. Manual, aka the Cinelli Book. I have one somewhere. They sell for solid money now on eBay.
Interesting. I hadn't heard of it before! It looks like the book was published at least by the early '70s, though... Did much change between then and the '90s regarding fit for the pro peloton?

-Gregory
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Old 12-08-23, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Hello all,
... Any memories or literature to confirm what I'd be getting into would be appreciated. Cheers!
I highly recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Racing-T...s%2C142&sr=8-1

Note that Hinault & LeMond had longer femurs and thus liked to sit further back. So did Eddy Merckx, for longer distance rides. The further back 'pushing' style of pedaling is supposedly more efficient for longer rides.

Otherwise, I recommend that you find a professional bike fitter, and get evaluated by someone with (as I like to say) "calibrated eyeballs". They can thus determine the best overall set of dimensions for your fit and your frame(s).

Andrew G.
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Old 12-08-23, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew_G
Otherwise, I recommend that you find a professional bike fitter, and get evaluated by someone with (as I like to say) "calibrated eyeballs". They can thus determine the best overall set of dimensions for your fit and your frame(s).
Thanks for the information, Andrew. I'm actually an experienced cyclist and have been fitted in the past. I am aware of which dimensions between saddle, handlebars, and pedals work best for me. I'm interested in learning about "period-correct" fit on bicycles of different vintages because when I purchase old bikes I like to have them sized as they would have ideally been at the time the bikes were new. I can mess with my saddle, stem, and bars from there to get the fit where I need it.

Cheers!

-Gregory
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Old 12-09-23, 12:19 AM
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Gregory:


Thanks for detailing your experience. I think Hinault's book will be a good and useful read for you. I remember reading both Hinault's and Lemond's books at the bookstore when they first came out, and (to me) Hinault's book was well reasoned out and much more detailed.


I was fitted independently of the Hinault book, but my frame size correlates more closely to the upper size limit of the Hinault range:

maximum frame size center to center = 0.66 times inseam; minimum frame size c-c = 0.65 times inseam.


regards,


Andrew G.
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Old 12-09-23, 12:54 AM
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To be a bit contrarian, I would say that, for those of us of a certain age, if in doubt, go bigger, not smaller. Do it for the handlebar height. BITD I rode frames from 59cm to 61cm and enjoyed the heck out of them. Bars low? No problem. Today? Wildly uncomfortable to the point of being not workable. Now my best ride is 64cm with a Nitto Tallux stem (Technomic height with a nicer finish, available at Rivendell) to get the bars level to the saddle.

My opinion, and it's worth exactly what you are paying for it.
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Old 12-09-23, 02:08 AM
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I had a bike built and fit for me in `89. I chose the smallest of the frame sizes the fitter said would work for me. The 200mm seatpost wound up with min insertion mark right at the top of seat tube. The resulting appearance was very typical for road race bikes of the day - smallish frame with plenty of seatpost visible.
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Old 12-09-23, 03:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Hello all,

I'm not too familiar with road bicycle culture from the 1980s and '90s but I love the utility of the technology of that period. I'm familiar with "period correct" ratios between rider height and frame size on many older styles of frames, such as the classic English lightweight or French randonneuse bikes but admit ignorance here.

I'm 185cm tall with an 86cm inseam (approximately). If I were professionally fit to a custom steel frame in the 1980s or '90s, would I be riding a 58-59cm frame (c-c) as I suspect might be the case? This is a bit smaller than I generally ride, but my suspicion is that shorter frames were in vogue for a while there at least... Any memories or literature to confirm what I'd be getting into would be appreciated. Cheers!

-Gregory
Although itís been decades since I looked at this in detail, I started racing in 1984 and paid too much attention to bicycle fit and setup for quite a few years after that.

Opinions vary widely, but from my perspective and recollection a few points in no particular orderÖ

- Iím 188cm tall with a c. 90cm inseam. From multiple sources, including Technique and Training by Hinault and Genzling (still have a copy) I settled on 59-60 c-to-c frames with 58-59 top tube length, c. 83cm seat height and 13-14cm stem length. For a then-standard 180mm Campagnolo seat post this meant close to maximum extension. In my view this was typical of racing bicycle fit for taller riders 180cm-plus at the time.

- Hinault/Genzlingsí and later Lemondís fit philosophy emerged in the early 1980s and represented an evolution from what had been applied through the 1970s and continued into the 1980s. For all the talk of 73/73 ďItalianĒ angles my recollection is that from the mid/late 70s 74/74 was far more common, and 74 degree seat angles were a limiting factor for many seeking to adopt Lemondís philosophy which necessitated much closer to 72.5, and in turn an extra 1-1.5cm top tube length for larger frame sizes.

- Lemondís approach wasnít universally adopted, at least in New Zealand where I was, and which took its lead more from Europe. In that respect I suspect the Coni book (with which Iím not familiar) and others such as below, are at least equally representative of what was most common in the 1980s and into the 90s even.

If I encountered a 185cm-tall racer in 1985 Iíd have expected them to most likely have all but 1-2cm of available seat post exposed and be using at least a 13cm stem no more than 2-3cm higher than maximum insertion. If their frame had anything like a 74 degree seat angle their Turbo/Rolls or occasionally Regal saddle would almost always have been fully set back on its rails.

Anyone that tall with more than 3-4cm of available seat post inside the frame and a stem shorter than 12cm was usually told they were riding a farm gate too big for themÖ

FWIW YMMV atmo etc.





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Old 12-09-23, 03:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Thanks everyone, much appreciated.

The Lemond sizing chart is really interesting and would definitely have me riding frames I'd generally consider small. I don't quite like maintaining a racer's arc to my back anymore and I don't necessarily want my stems all jacked up, so that has something to do with that...

Interesting. I hadn't heard of it before! It looks like the book was published at least by the early '70s, though... Did much change between then and the '90s regarding fit for the pro peloton?

-Gregory
Yes. Most notably the Hinault/Genzling school of thought, as referenced elsewhere, emerged and led to higher saddles, more saddle setback and by extension longer top tubes. Lemond developed this approach further and led to the commercialisation of 72.5/74 frames, especially in English-speaking markets and by US manufacturers.
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Old 12-09-23, 08:06 AM
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Note in the 1988 Giro, Hampsten raised his stem considerably for his decisive win in the mountains, and kept it there.
‘the reason was when climbing, having a more upright position is more effective.

cannot find it at moment, there was a good documentary video of that day. Might have been the last of the Hard Men.
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Old 12-09-23, 08:48 AM
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Stand over the bike. If you can lift the front wheel an inch before hitting your junk, itís the right size. If unsure, go a size smaller (people who tell you to go bigger must prefer more weight and frame flexibility). Top tube length is meaningless. Thatís what different size stems are for. You size an 80s road bike on seat tube length alone.

Iím your height exactly and ride a 58 cm Cinelli. Have no idea what its top tube length is. It wouldnít matter anyway since it canít be changed for my 58 cm frame size.

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Old 12-09-23, 08:56 AM
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58/59 ctc seems about right. I’m about 1/2” taller than the OP.

I tried everything from 56-62cm and found that seat tube angle and top tube length are also important parts of the fit equation. Slack seat post angles (less than 73 degrees) don’t work for me.

Some 1980s Italians I’ve owned:

56 ctc - fun, but required setback seatpost and 130 stem. Ended up selling



57 ctc - good ride overall. Need to get this one back on the road.



58 ctc feels a little less racy than the Ciocc and the tt is 1 cm longer.

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Old 12-09-23, 09:16 AM
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Thanks again for all of the information, folks!

Originally Posted by smd4
Stand over the bike. If you can lift the front wheel an inch before hitting your junk, itís the right size.
I regularly ride 62cm frames that allow me to have an inch between the top of my inseam and the top tube. My experience with 58-59cm frames is that I'd have about 2-2.5", which is apparently what I'd have if I followed the Lemond chart or some of the suggestions posted by others above. Of course, bottom bracket height and frame angles also make a difference for standover height, so maybe some of these Italian frames have higher brackets than I'm used to with my older English bikes and that margin would shrink.

These days if I did get a bike sized like that I'd have to look like a poser because my stem extension would definitely be about 2-3" higher than a typical "racy" slammed look.

-Gregory
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Old 12-09-23, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Of course, bottom bracket height and frame angles also make a difference for standover height
Not really.
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Old 12-09-23, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Not really.
Umm, yeah, if your bottom bracket is 1" higher off the ground then your top tube is 1" closer to your crotch.
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Old 12-09-23, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Umm, yeah, if your bottom bracket is 1" higher off the ground then your top tube is 1" closer to your crotch.
Then the frame size is different. So no.
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Old 12-09-23, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Then the frame size is different.
Wtf. No, it isn't.

A frame is measured from the bottom bracket to the top tube. Not the floor to the top tube. Bottom bracket height can vary wildly on the same size of frame affecting the standover height significantly.

Are you drunk?
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Old 12-09-23, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Wtf. No, it isn't.

A frame is measured from the bottom bracket to the top tube. Not the floor to the top tube. Bottom bracket height can vary wildly on the same size of frame affecting the standover height significantly.

Are you drunk?
Are you? Youíre the one with the question.
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Old 12-09-23, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Are you? Youíre the one with the question.
Okay, I'm done with the trolling. If you actually don't understand how measuring bottom bracket height works and how frame angles affect the overall stack of a frame, then I'll remember not to take any more advice from you.

-Gregory
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Old 12-09-23, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988
Okay, I'm done with the trolling. If you actually don't understand how measuring bottom bracket height works and how frame angles affect the overall stack of a frame, then I'll remember not to take any more advice from you.

-Gregory
Fine by me. You donít understand how to size an 80s frame. Good luck.
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