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How to Know When a Vintage Road Bike Fits?

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How to Know When a Vintage Road Bike Fits?

Old 10-05-13, 07:11 AM
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How to Know When a Vintage Road Bike Fits?

Hi there,

I'm wondering what some general guidelines are for vintage road bike fitting. This is what I have so far:

1. Top tube one or two inches from crotch
2. Seat high enough for almost full leg extension
3. Seat fore-aft position allowing knee to align with pedal when each pedal spindle is at three o'clock.
4. Top tube length & stem length allowing front hub to be shrouded when looking down from the hoods (or drops?).
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Old 10-05-13, 08:58 AM
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It all varies. In my case, I have really short legs for my height, so I usually have zero to negative standover. 1 to 2 inches? Not a chance.

I have the leg length of someone 5-5, and the arm and torso length of someone 6-2 (I am 5-10). I think I got my 6-2 dad's torso and arm length, and my short mother's legs. Who knows? In fact, my 5-4 wife has the same bicycle inseam as I do. Bikes are designed for average proportions. Like any average, half of the world is on either side of that average, and some like me are pretty far away from it.

Standover clearance IMHO is the most used, and the least useful measure of fit.

By right, and if/when you make a mistake, its not that big a deal, as you can turn around, sell it, and buy one bigger or smaller.
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Old 10-05-13, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
It all varies. In my case, I have really short legs for my height, so I usually have zero to negative standover. 1 to 2 inches? Not a chance.

Standover clearance IMHO is the most used, and the least useful measure of fit.

By right, and if/when you make a mistake, its not that big a deal, as you can turn around, sell it, and buy one bigger or smaller.
My experiences pretty much echo his, I was riding much smaller frames with 1-2 inches of stand over but I was extremely crowded while riding the bike, things like knees hitting stomach etc I have short legs, long arms and a long torso, it's all about what fits your build. If you've got the T-rex build you may even find something like 3 inches of standover.
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Old 10-05-13, 09:22 AM
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The guidelines listed should only be considered as rough starting points. Ultimately, it boils down to comfort and handling. For example, KOP results in an extremely forward position for me. Given the age of this guideline, I believe it's based on 1950s sized European cyclists. I have size 12 feet and need to be well behind the pedal spindle at 3pm. This allows me to ride with power and comfort.

After many years and many bikes, I've come to the conclusion that the tt measurement seems to have the most effect on fit for me.

I know a frame fits if the seat position is biased slightly rear of center and the stem length is 120 or 110.

in terms of frame size, a 57x56 is ideal, and a 58x57 is a close second. Anything smaller or bigger results in a compromise that affects the front/rear balance and messes up the handling.

As always, YMMV

Last edited by thinktubes; 10-05-13 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 10-06-13, 05:23 AM
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Assuming a level top tube, 1-2 inches from your crotch is way too much.
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Old 10-06-13, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Distinguished View Post
I'm wondering what some general guidelines are for vintage road bike fitting.
Good question, it can be asked in the context of "which period" as well as how a particular machine fits a certain rider.
A 50's British path racer, a 60's French Randonneur or a 70's Italian road racer have different geometries and fit a bit differently although all are road bikes.

Approaching proper fit as a system Cyrille Guimard's extremely successful classic period fitting is discussed in a step by step process in "Greg LeMond's Complete Book of Bicycling". Understanding how all of the elements of a classic period race fit are arrived at will give you a solid "base" fit and the understanding of how to adapt to it.

Once you have calculated and tested your base fit a range of in 2cm frame size is common depending on period design and use. Adjust as required for Rando, race or grocery-getter.
Take a tape measure when considering a new to you frame to make sure it fits you.

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Last edited by Bandera; 10-06-13 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 10-06-13, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by thinktubes View Post
The guidelines listed should only be considered as rough starting points. Ultimately, it boils down to comfort and handling. For example, KOP results in an extremely forward position for me. Given the age of this guideline, I believe it's based on 1950s sized European cyclists. I have size 12 feet and need to be well behind the pedal spindle at 3pm. This allows me to ride with power and comfort.

After many years and many bikes, I've come to the conclusion that the tt measurement seems to have the most effect on fit for me.

I know a frame fits if the seat position is biased slightly rear of center and the stem length is 120 or 110.

in terms of frame size, a 57x56 is ideal, and a 58x57 is a close second. Anything smaller or bigger results in a compromise that affects the front/rear balance and messes up the handling.

As always, YMMV
This is true for a square frame. Often times, frames built in the late 80s, early 90s had seat tubes with shallower angle. This puts your saddle position quite a bit forward on the post. Effectively this can take a CM or more out of your top tube. My Merckx MX leader has a 58.2 TT which is effectively Shorter than my Pinarello Montello with a 56.5 cm TT. You really need to research geometry before sizing a frame. It no different than a modern bicycle frame, really. BB to seat position & seat position to handle bar position. This triangle should always fit with a 110-120 stem length. There are variances in preferred fit, of course.
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Old 10-06-13, 07:12 AM
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Like they said.
All the same, only different.

Start in the ballpark.
Hit singles to tweak the fit.
Hit doubles to get the components you want.
Get it right and it's a homer.

It must be October.
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Old 10-06-13, 07:26 AM
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I am 5' 11" with a CBH of 35" so the inverse of wrk101. I find a 57 slightly too small with 58 at the bottom of the range and 61 too tall. Timing is aligned with Dave Molton's blog: https://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/. Article is on frame sizing.
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Old 10-06-13, 11:50 AM
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As close as I can tell, I need a frame with a 58cm seat tube, & a 61 or 62cm top tube but possibly a bit more on the TT. I don't think my odds are real good of finding a good used frame in that size, but the Frejus is actually the closest, with those numbers switched. I finally got smart enough to realize it, after a long side trip with a few other frames. With mustache bars and a nice long stem, I can get that scoche extra room I need on the Frejus, so it worked out, eventually. It's a long process though, finding "the" bike, along with "the" right components.
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Old 10-08-13, 05:09 PM
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It fits when you die and and you don't want to get off the bicycle
just tell us your measurements and weight I can do the math
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Old 10-09-13, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by thinktubes View Post

After many years and many bikes, I've come to the conclusion that the tt measurement seems to have the most effect on fit for me.
This has been my experience too. My biggest bike (64cm seat tube) actually snugs up pretty tight against the pants yabbies when I'm straddling it, but I still need an extra long stem to compensate for the relatively short (57.5cm) top tube to go the long miles on that one comfortably.

Those of you who own one of a similar size know, of course, I talking about my Super Course.
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Old 10-09-13, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post
Like they said.
All the same, only different.

Start in the ballpark.
Hit singles to tweak the fit.
Hit doubles to get the components you want.
Get it right and it's a homer.

It must be October.
Maybe add a triple if you can't handle the hills, or else you'll likely walk up a few.

Either way, strike a balance between fit, form and function, and you'll be a hit.
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Old 10-09-13, 05:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Maybe add a triple if you can't handle the hills, or else you'll likely walk up a few.

Either way, strike a balance between fit, form and function, and you'll be a hit.
!! Rim shot.

I can tell you, when the fit is right and the bike is tuned, it disappears beneath you.
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Old 10-09-13, 05:59 AM
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I ran through this exercise just to check where I was as far as recommended fit. Also learned a lot here, from Rivendell. There is no end of sizing info out there.

In the process, I learned that I have very long legs (36") for a 6'" (thin) man. Now I understand why the larger bikes always seemed to disappear beneath me, as RobbieTunes correctly puts it (sly plug here for the all original 23" Raleigh Comp GS I have, and am selling).
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