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Dumb question on classic bikes?

Old 02-02-10, 11:04 AM
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oilman_15106
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Dumb question on classic bikes?

I have looked on CL and scambay for a long time to find a "classic" bike. Here is the question:

There seem to be a boatload of 58 - 60 cm frames for sale at any given time. Were there no buyers of smaller bikes back in the 70's or 80's? I could guess that maybe the buyers of smaller frames just hang on to them forever? So is it just my skewed view that there are few smaller frames/bikes for sale in the "classic" area or were few smaller frames produced?

I generally ride a 51- 52 cm in a modern bike.

I would not want a bike for the collectors value only, you need to ride them. Thanks.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:14 AM
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Since the average male height is probably around 5'9"-5'10", it would make sense for more 58-60cm frames to to have been sold in the US. Perhaps countries with shorter average height would have more small classic bikes.

I tend to have a hard time finding nice bikes in my size too(58cm). While many are posted, they are very quickly bought up or auctioned for higher prices. It would be nice if I could ride a 52-54cm frame. I guess there are advantages for each size.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:23 AM
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I read somewhere that back in the day there was a perception that bigger bike were faster, so people bought tall bikes even if they were wrong size for them. That's the reason that there are so many tall vintage bikes available for sale at any time.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:25 AM
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I fully understand the bell curve on heights. Are you saying a 5'9" person fits on a 60cm frame? I am 5'7" and even 54cm frames are too large. I would think that buying the wrong size bike is the same as piling up your money and setting it on fire.
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Old 02-02-10, 11:55 AM
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Thats odd. I have a hard time finding bikes in the 58cm range, yet have two 54's in the garage waiting to be flipped. I got them both for cheap or straight up free too.
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Old 02-02-10, 12:12 PM
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I ride a 56cm frame, and hardly a day goes by where I don't trip over a deal on a bike in my size.

I think it has to do with averages - whatever the average height is for the target market would dictate the preponderance of a certain size frame. 56cm-58cm is a particularly common size vintage frame to be found "in the wild", so my guess is that the majority of the riders/buyers were 5'10" - 6'. 52cm and smaller are relatively rare, because there was less of a market for them. It makes no sense for a bicycle company to make a ton of small bikes when those small bikes would only account for a small fraction of sales.

Every time I find a good, buildable vintage small frame - regardless of whether it is high or low end - I do a little dance of joy. They are so easy to sell it is almost like having a printing press in the garage.
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Old 02-02-10, 12:13 PM
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I am five foot nine and a half and find a 52-56 cm to be ideal (on a classic frame)and what my fitting indicates I should be riding... this is more about the ideal tt length as I can and have ridden a taller frame (up to 58) but have had to make adjustments to the stem to adjust for the reach and have been pretty happy with that.

My fixed road bike is a 52 but has a slightly longer tt in relation to the seat tube and a little more seat post showing... I find it to be a really nice fit albeit a fairly aggressive one.

My modern hybrid has a 20 inch / 50 cm frame but the real / corrected tt length would be the equivalent of a 55 cm frame.

With age and a nagging back issue I have been adjusting my bikes to shorten my stem and raise my bars just a little as I can't spend as much time in the drops as I used to. I am as flexible as Gumby but too aggressive a position puts pressure on my lower back so a touring set up is working better.
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Old 02-02-10, 12:36 PM
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I've always prefered a 62, though there are some variations in bike geometry that make me comfy on (slightly) smaller bikes. I've got a 58 Bridgestone I ride some, but the bike has a longish top tube and thus is comfortable.

I think part of your problem is that some of the sizing methods/"rules" have changed over the years. Generally, back in the day, you wanted a bike you could comfortable straddle the seat tube on with about an inch of clearance, and you wanted about a fistful of post showing at a proper fit level (I generally have a bit more). The seat would be close to the height of the bars, with the seat being just a bit higher.

Now there is often a lot more post showing on bikes. Some of this is due to sloping top tubes, which are more prevalant in design, and some due to racer fashion, which now has the bars well lower than the seat. In addition, the sloping top tube allows the manufacturer to make a smaller number of bike sizes, thus making per-part cost cheaper. The end result is folks are usually fit onto a smaller bike today than they were twenty years ago. In other words, twenty years back, you would have been fit to a larger bike, today to a smaller, even though you are the same height.

In addition, I believe twenty years back or so there were far fewer women cycling. Since men are larger, thus they would buy bigger frames. Now that there are far more ladies cycling, the supply of smaller vintage bikes, never large to begin with, has been faced with an increase in demand, while the supply stays the same...
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Old 02-02-10, 12:41 PM
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You probably see more tall bikes because they take more time to move.

If the average person is buying a 54-56cm frame, then those listings are usually up on craigslist for a matter of hours before they sell, while the 60-62-64 cm will be listed repeatedly.
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Old 02-02-10, 12:45 PM
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I have a long waiting list for folks who are looking for really small frames as these are the hardest to find and usually command a bit of a premium... was lucky to find a Centurion for my 5 foot 5 sister and it is a 45 cm frame with 650 wheels and found a 48 cm Norco for my best friend... she is all of 5 foot 6.

I come across far more road frames in a 60-62 size than I do smaller frames and even 50's and 52's are rare.

It is much easier to be average.
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Old 02-02-10, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
I have a long waiting list for folks who are looking for really small frames as these are the hardest to find and usually command a bit of a premium... was lucky to find a Centurion for my 5 foot 5 sister and it is a 45 cm frame with 650 wheels and found a 48 cm Norco for my best friend... she is all of 5 foot 6.

I come across far more road frames in a 60-62 size than I do smaller frames and even 50's and 52's are rare.

It is much easier to be average.

Yep. OP, to give you an idea of the demand, I had a very nice Italian made Bianchi in 48cm. I listed it on CL as an offer to trade for a slightly larger bike (wanted about a 52/4 for my GF). I got almost forty emails asking for a price (I really only wanted to trade). Eventually, I relisted the bike, with the same trade offer, and put a very high price on it to encourage a trade-- and it was still gone in about 24 hours.

Had it been the same bike in a 62, I might have gotten a couple of emails asking for a price-- maybe if I got lucky. And it certainly would not have sold for the asking price.

OTOH, when I'm buying for myself, the price tends to go down-- because I take such a large size, and they're so much harder for sellers to get rid of.
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Old 02-02-10, 01:22 PM
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Keep in mind that vintage frames were fit differently than they are today. Until fairly recently the rule-of-thumb was ~3-4cm clearance between the top tube and your crotch and only a "fistfull" of seatpost extending from the seat tube. Someone my size (165cm tall, 78cm inseam) would ride a 56-58cm frame, whereas today they would probably ride a 52cm frame.
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Old 02-02-10, 02:35 PM
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My experiences "back in the day" was that 21" or 21 1/2" frames (54 cm) were the smallest commonly available frames. Below that size there were issues about wheel sizes interfering with the smaller frame. There were a few builders who touted their frame design features as being especially for women or for smaller men. IIRC, it usually involved a smaller front wheel (24") to allow the top tube/head tube/head set to be lowered.
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Old 02-02-10, 07:30 PM
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At this point, I'm just under 6', and am currently riding anything from 20" (a mountain bike with straight bars) to 62cm (Peugeot). I find myself liking the bigger bikes. The Pug is at the limit - I can barely flat foot it over the top tube, but I really like the way it feels while riding. My three go-to bikes are 22" (Univega hybrid), 58cm (Schwinn World Tourist) - both with drops as high as the seat - and a Raleigh Rapide mixte whose seatpost measures 20", but whose head tube is as tall as the other two - it's got NR bars. Around here, it's really hard to find anything in my size, or actually, anything at all in any size that's (1) worth anything and (B) not astronomically overpriced. For instance, right now on the Bloomington craigslist, the cheapest decent bike is a GT outpost with an 18" frame. The only thing that would come close to fitting me is a 76ish Raleigh Grand Sport for $150, but even that looks to be too small.
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Old 02-02-10, 08:01 PM
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I'm 5'10" and generally, a 54 is ideal for me. I am a bit "long torso-ed", and a 56 just sits to high up in my crotch if I were to straddle the top tube. 54 works better.

But in truth, while the seat tube size is the largest part of the equation, it is only a part of the equation. Top tube length, BB height, crank arm length... they all factor in too.

If I had a chance to buy a 53 seat tube / 55 top tube, that would be the bike for me.
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Old 02-03-10, 10:45 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I take several things from this. 1) If I find a smaller frame, jump on it. 2) There most likely are more larger frames out there.

The statement about fewer female riders, thus fewer smaller frames makes perfect sense. I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around a 56cm frame being the correct size for me.
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Old 02-03-10, 10:54 AM
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As far as I'm concerned, if you can stand over it, and you can reach the handlebars comfortably, it's the right size. I honestly like riding bigger frames, because it allows me to raise the handlebars to a comfortable, all-day position without having 3 feet of stem sticking out.
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Old 02-03-10, 11:23 AM
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Something just isn't holding together here for me.
I can't see how someone shorter than me
could ride a 56cm frame without singing soprano if he stops short unless you have long legs
and short torso. I mean seriously.
I'm 5'8.5" 173.4cm and ride anywhere from a 53ctt pista frame
to a 56CTT road frame. My preferred size is a 55cm ctc seattube with 56 cm top tube.

One thing to think about is many small frames get bought and shipped overseas.

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Old 02-03-10, 11:25 AM
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I'm just short of 6' and ride a 54cm:



The Fuji I just picked up to resurrect is nearly the same frame size but I do plan to set it up less aggressively for a more relaxed position, which will mainly just involve not having as much saddle-bar drop.

I've done 130 miles on the setup above.
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Old 02-03-10, 12:13 PM
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I find it the opposite.. Only 54-56 cm frames. My ideal frame is about 62.
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Old 02-03-10, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by khatfull View Post
I'm just short of 6' and ride a 54cm:



The Fuji I just picked up to resurrect is nearly the same frame size but I do plan to set it up less aggressively for a more relaxed position, which will mainly just involve not having as much saddle-bar drop.

I've done 130 miles on the setup above.
Now see, for me, that bike would be WAAAAAAY too short. How do you ride in the drops without gouging your chest with your knees?
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Old 02-03-10, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mickey85 View Post
Now see, for me, that bike would be WAAAAAAY too short. How do you ride in the drops without gouging your chest with your knees?
The guy who fit me Chris Balser (https://bicyclefitguru.com) calls me "long femured"...meaning I suppose that have shorter tibias. He'd prefer the drop be a little less but I'm comfortable with it. It's close, I almost "bang the drum" in the drops...and having lost a ton of weight (100+ lbs.) over the last two years has helped too but long and short I'm setup more to be as aero as possible in the hoods. I ride the drops mostly into the wind and to switch positions. I rarely ride on the tops excepts for climbing.
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Old 02-03-10, 03:08 PM
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Long femured or not, the angle your spine has to subtend is quite radical with that set up.

My opinion, proper fitting of your back is more important than your legs, or aerodynamic efficiency, or anything else. Take care of your back. Protect your back. Your legs will be fine. They will be strong and healthy with good circulation. On the other hand, your back,...
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Old 02-03-10, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Poguemahone View Post
In addition, I believe twenty years back or so there were far fewer women cycling. Since men are larger, thus they would buy bigger frames. Now that there are far more ladies cycling, the supply of smaller vintage bikes, never large to begin with, has been faced with an increase in demand, while the supply stays the same...
Big +1.

Whenever I post a bike 54CM or smaller, 90% of the emails I get are from women. Also, when I post a bike 56cm or larger, at least half the emails I get are women asking things like "I'm 5'4", will this bike fit me?"

I think more and more women are looking for C&V bikes every day. (maybe this is just in my market though...)
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Old 11-01-10, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Mills View Post
Long femured or not, the angle your spine has to subtend is quite radical with that set up.

My opinion, proper fitting of your back is more important than your legs, or aerodynamic efficiency, or anything else. Take care of your back. Protect your back. Your legs will be fine. They will be strong and healthy with good circulation. On the other hand, your back,...
I always fit with the spine as the most important feature. What happens with longer femurs is that your extended leg-length is shorter, because the femur functions on a more horizontal plane. Also makes reach a bit more difficult due to weight distribution. Where your ass is, relative to the bottom-bracket has everything to do with how much your trunk/core/spine is taxed with the job of holding the extended head. Getting KOPS (knee over pedal spindle) with appropriate reach is difficult, which is why most tend to size-down.
Hard to find a professional fitter who would think otherwise.
Chris Balser
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