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Bike frames can be too big, but can they be too small?

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Bike frames can be too big, but can they be too small?

Old 06-25-18, 07:55 PM
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torero310
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Bike frames can be too big, but can they be too small?

Just curious about your opinion. Bike frames can be too big for several reasons but mostly being that you don't want to injure yourself in the groin if you crash or stop abruptly... But can bike frames be too small? And if you say yes, what's the cutoff point? (in this case, we assume the seat can go as high as you want it... and I guess we might as well say we can adjust the handlebars to a more upright position for easier reach).
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Old 06-25-18, 08:21 PM
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If it's too small it's hard to get your knee over the pedal spindle with the foot at 3 O'clock (the power stroke). With a setback seatpost and the seat pushed back you might make do but riding on top of the rear wheel is not ideal. The bigger the rider the longer the desired wheelbase... just feels more natural; otherwise, you feel like you're on a clown bike. As far as being too big standover really isn't the big deal some seem to think it is (except, perhaps, on an offroad bike where you likely will come off it trying to avoid disaster)...

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Old 06-25-18, 08:25 PM
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Yes. Some online calculators put me at 52, and my midget legs send bike shop employees finding me a short bike I can stand over with a few inches between the top tube and the family jewels. When I was younger and dumber, I tried out some 50 and 52s, my torso is long enough I was kneeing my elbows.

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Old 06-26-18, 03:23 AM
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I'd say yes as well. The frame size may be a measure of the height from the spindle centre to the top of the down tube, but it affects the whole geometry including the length of the top tube. A smaller frame will tend to have a shorter top tube which means a shorter distance to the handlebars. You can compensate to some extent by putting a longer stem on but it's better to have a correctly sized frame. Then, of course, there's awkward beggars like me who have relatively short legs for my height. I used to go for a very long stem but now I'm the wrong side of 60 I find I prefer a more upright position so I go for a slightly shorter stem with a bit of rise on it. I only mention this to demonstrate that there is no single answer with bike sizes. It's important to go with what you find is right for you unless you're a top athlete looking to get the last fractional bit of performance.
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Old 06-26-18, 04:52 AM
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Yes.
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Old 06-26-18, 05:14 AM
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Bike frames can be too big, but can they be too small?

Yep!
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Old 06-26-18, 06:34 AM
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YES. I can ride a 56, a 54 would be like watching a bear on a mini bike if I could ride it at all. I ride a 58
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Old 06-26-18, 07:06 AM
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One thing to consider with a smaller frame is that you'll need to adjust the seat height to accommodate the larger body on it. Seatposts have a maximum (i.e. safe) extension point (or at least they should have...most do). So you might need to get a longer seatpost. But...I have read that in racing situations, some cyclists purposely get smaller frames specifically for weight savings. I suppose if you then have to get a longer (i.e. heavier) seatpost that the weight saving is negated. If you can use a smaller frame, and not have to use a longer seatpost I guess you're OK. I would think that with CF frames that the weight saved from a frame that is just a few cm smaller (1 inch or so) would be so negligible that it'd just be better to go with the proper size frame.

Dan
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Old 06-26-18, 07:13 AM
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Yes, they definitely can be too small. I started out riding a mtb that turned out to be too small. 17" frame is way too small for me, and it showed when I tried to ride the darn thing. Got a new 21" bike and I was amazed at how well it rode compared to the other one.
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Old 06-26-18, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by torero310 View Post
(in this case, we assume the seat can go as high as you want it... and I guess we might as well say we can adjust the handlebars to a more upright position for easier reach).
As a practical matter, that's almost never going to be the case. Imagine how much seat post there would have to be for my 6'2" body to be able to ride my ex's 42 cm Surly LHT. (She's 5') Same with the steering tube. And the stem would be measured in feet, not mm. All this is why they make, you know, different size frames.
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Old 06-26-18, 08:50 AM
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I've test-ridden my wife's 51cm when doing maintenance. I can't turn while pedaling, because the toe-overlap is half of my foot, and the drops on the handlebars hit my knees. So even with a 200mm stem and a seatpost as long as a broom handle, I still wouldn't fit.

So yes, they can absolutely be too small. But by the same token, many folks can ride one (or two) sizes above and below their "optimal" frame size.
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Old 06-26-18, 09:10 AM
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I would venture to say not only can frames in general be too small but with so many sub-groups of frames now that while one 56CM frame could work fine another from a different manufacturer of a different sub-group could be too small. With so many sub-groups using seat tube length to define a frame's size is a long outdated metric, stack, reach and effective top tube would be what I consider to be the minimum for getting an idea about a frameset's size, head tube angle and wheelbase impact a bike's handling enough that even a slow inexperienced rider will notice.

I'm sure the OP was about a frame's comfort but small differences, such as 1 degree of head tube angle or 15 mm or wheelbase can change the way a bike feels far more than 2 CM of seat tube. This is what I learned going up 1CM in seat tube from a 60 to 61 cm. The bigger frame had a higher stack, shorter reach, steeper head tube angle and shorter wheelbase.
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Old 06-26-18, 09:19 AM
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Nah.

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Old 06-26-18, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
If it's too small it's hard to get your knee over the pedal spindle with the foot at 3 O'clock (the power stroke). With a setback seatpost and the seat pushed back you might make do but riding on top of the rear wheel is not ideal. The bigger the rider the longer the desired wheelbase... just feels more natural; otherwise, you feel like you're on a clown bike.
Not to mention the stress that large setback seat posts put on the top tube/seat tube/seat stay junction. One of the 4 frames I've broken was broken because I had a Titec Hellbent seatpost on it in an attempt to make a too small frame fit.

Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
As far as being too big standover really isn't the big deal some seem to think it is (except, perhaps, on an offroad bike where you likely will come off it trying to avoid disaster)...
I strongly disagree. A bike that is too small has fit problems but most of those are minimal. A frame that is too large and has too tall a standover is a hazard to the rider. I have fought the fight of finding the proper size bike for my petite wife (5') for 40 years. She started out on a 27" Sears bike which means that she started out on a bike that was probably a 23" frame. That's my size (just short of 6'). To get off she had to hang from her right knee so that her foot could just hit the ground. She had to plan each stop so as not to fall off the bike when simply coming to a stop.

For me to experience the same thing, I'd need to ride a 30" bike. I've ridden some 62cm frames at my local co-op and wouldn't want to ride them around the block much less for the distances she used to ride that tall bike.

Additionally, because she started with a bike that was far too large, she has always resisted smaller frames because they don't "feel" right. It took a long time and a lot of bikes to convince her that a bike with the proper standover was what she really needed. She now rides a 44cm (17") with 650C wheels and has finally come to the conclusion that the proper bike size is important. That's the issue with riding something that is too large or too small. People get used to them and start to feel that it is "normal".
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Old 06-26-18, 09:40 AM
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That picture is great. What comes to mind for me is when I am on a smaller sized frame and 26" wheel mtn bike. In that instance more of a circus bear on a bike as I am 6' 4" tall. Most bikes are too small for me. Been forced to ride smaller sizes in a pinch for a number of reasons. Not real good compared to proper frame size.
Geometry of a smaller frame for me is disaster and ill handling.
Kind of like trying to jam my size 14 feet in size 8 shoes.
So, yes. A bike can be too small.
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Old 06-26-18, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Not to mention the stress that large setback seat posts put on the top tube/seat tube/seat stay junction. One of the 4 frames I've broken was broken because I had a Titec Hellbent seatpost on it in an attempt to make a too small frame fit.



I strongly disagree. A bike that is too small has fit problems but most of those are minimal. A frame that is too large and has too tall a standover is a hazard to the rider. I have fought the fight of finding the proper size bike for my petite wife (5') for 40 years. She started out on a 27" Sears bike which means that she started out on a bike that was probably a 23" frame. That's my size (just short of 6'). To get off she had to hang from her right knee so that her foot could just hit the ground. She had to plan each stop so as not to fall off the bike when simply coming to a stop.

For me to experience the same thing, I'd need to ride a 30" bike. I've ridden some 62cm frames at my local co-op and wouldn't want to ride them around the block much less for the distances she used to ride that tall bike.

Additionally, because she started with a bike that was far too large, she has always resisted smaller frames because they don't "feel" right. It took a long time and a lot of bikes to convince her that a bike with the proper standover was what she really needed. She now rides a 44cm (17") with 650C wheels and has finally come to the conclusion that the proper bike size is important. That's the issue with riding something that is too large or too small. People get used to them and start to feel that it is "normal".
My only point of disagreement there is that the reason the industry went to downward sloping top tubes was because in many instances, a bigger bike fits better but might not be ideal for an inexperienced rider who might find themselves dangling from a horizontal top tube at the first stop sign.
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Old 06-26-18, 01:18 PM
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Check the Pro Peloton

One look at a World Tour race will put an end to talk about frames being too small. Many pros ride frames that would be considered way too small for a "proper" fit. A very large drop from saddle to handlebar and the need for a super long stem are ingredients that put a rider in a very low, aero position. Admittedly you have to be young, strong and flexible to ride such a tiny frame and few non-pros are capable of riding such small frames. The point here is that you (not me) may be able to ride a much smaller frame than might be considered a proper.
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Old 06-26-18, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I strongly disagree. A bike that is too small has fit problems but most of those are minimal. A frame that is too large and has too tall a standover is a hazard to the rider. I have fought the fight of finding the proper size bike for my petite wife (5') for 40 years. She started out on a 27" Sears bike which means that she started out on a bike that was probably a 23" frame. That's my size (just short of 6'). To get off she had to hang from her right knee so that her foot could just hit the ground. She had to plan each stop so as not to fall off the bike when simply coming to a stop..
I disagree with that. I'm 5-10, with a 29" inseam. Riding a bike I can comfortably standover would require a substantial stem to fit my torso. Even my medium Novara scrapes the crotch, and I added a good 30mm to that stem to get it comfortable.

Standover is a good starting point for an average proportioned person, but it isn't an end all measurement for everyone. On a long riding day, I spend seconds a day standing over my bike, compared to hours on it. Learning to lean the bike slightly when stopping is as natural as learning to unclip, and honestly something I even still do even on my smaller framed bikes.
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Old 06-26-18, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by digibud View Post
One look at a World Tour race will put an end to talk about frames being too small. Many pros ride frames that would be considered way too small for a "proper" fit. A very large drop from saddle to handlebar and the need for a super long stem are ingredients that put a rider in a very low, aero position. Admittedly you have to be young, strong and flexible to ride such a tiny frame and few non-pros are capable of riding such small frames. The point here is that you (not me) may be able to ride a much smaller frame than might be considered a proper.
One thing is to be able to ride a frame and another to be able to ride a frame for many hours comfortably. In the second case yes, a frame can be too small.
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Old 06-26-18, 02:11 PM
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A frame can't be too small if you're willing to undergo height-reduction surgery, as so many people these days are. Most people, however, won't reduce their height by more than four inches (two inches cut from the femur, two from the tibia/fibula) for aesthetic reasons -- nobody wants to look like a dwarf!
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Old 06-26-18, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by digibud View Post
One look at a World Tour race will put an end to talk about frames being too small. Many pros ride frames that would be considered way too small for a "proper" fit. A very large drop from saddle to handlebar and the need for a super long stem are ingredients that put a rider in a very low, aero position. Admittedly you have to be young, strong and flexible to ride such a tiny frame and few non-pros are capable of riding such small frames. The point here is that you (not me) may be able to ride a much smaller frame than might be considered a proper.
Pros are riding undersized frames because the head tubes have gotten taller so $10,000 bikes fit the 50+ riders that can afford them. The pros are just trying to make lemonade when even a slammed stem isn't low enough to get their preferred position.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Not to mention the stress that large setback seat posts put on the top tube/seat tube/seat stay junction. One of the 4 frames I've broken was broken because I had a Titec Hellbent seatpost on it in an attempt to make a too small frame fit.

A frame that is too large and has too tall a standover is a hazard to the rider. I have fought the fight of finding the proper size bike for my petite wife (5') for 40 years. She started out on a 27" Sears bike which means that she started out on a bike that was probably a 23" frame. That's my size (just short of 6'). To get off she had to hang from her right knee so that her foot could just hit the ground. She had to plan each stop so as not to fall off the bike when simply coming to a stop.
A frame that breaks with the correct amount of seatpost inserted inside the seat tube is a bad frame, not a sizing issue. Extra leverage from a longer post adds stress, but so do bumps and heavy riders.

Obviously any bike can be way too big, like putting someone on a frame that they aren't even able to stand over on their toes (how did that even happen to your wife? Was someone involved blind?). You don't need a standover gap to have a safe bike. Jumping off the saddle to land flat footed over the top tube is a maneuver that will get anyone hurt, regardless of standover clearance.

Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
If it's too small it's hard to get your knee over the pedal spindle with the foot at 3 O'clock (the power stroke). With a setback seatpost and the seat pushed back you might make do but riding on top of the rear wheel is not ideal. The bigger the rider the longer the desired wheelbase... just feels more natural; otherwise, you feel like you're on a clown bike. As far as being too big standover really isn't the big deal some seem to think it is (except, perhaps, on an offroad bike where you likely will come off it trying to avoid disaster)...
Small frames and large frames don't dictate your knee position, and that's because the seat tube is angled - it adds set back as you raise it.
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Old 06-26-18, 03:02 PM
  #22  
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Frames can absolutely be too small. Fitment issues will be found in the messed up angles between your three contact points...subtle stuff that isn’t always immediately apparent.

Also, my favorite BF pet peeve; a bunch of Freds saying “look at what the pros are doing!”

Yer not a pro, bub. Neither am I.

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Old 06-26-18, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
I disagree with that. I'm 5-10, with a 29" inseam. Riding a bike I can comfortably standover would require a substantial stem to fit my torso. Even my medium Novara scrapes the crotch, and I added a good 30mm to that stem to get it comfortable.

Standover is a good starting point for an average proportioned person, but it isn't an end all measurement for everyone. On a long riding day, I spend seconds a day standing over my bike, compared to hours on it. Learning to lean the bike slightly when stopping is as natural as learning to unclip, and honestly something I even still do even on my smaller framed bikes.
My point is that standover isn't unimportant as I've been told many, many, many times. While you may have problems because of short legs, other people have problems because they are short in general. Would you ride a bike that is 7" or 8" too tall? That's 3 to 4 sizes bigger than what you should ride.

Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
A frame that breaks with the correct amount of seatpost inserted inside the seat tube is a bad frame, not a sizing issue. Extra leverage from a longer post adds stress, but so do bumps and heavy riders.
The bike in question has a large amount of tube above the seat tube junction. The seatpost was inserted into the frame to the proper depth and even further than the minimum. The extra tubing above the seat tube junction in addition to the extra setback caused the extra tubing above the seat tube to crack. The Hellbent seatpost (350mm long) has a much larger setback than just about any post every available and is far outside the norms of what most people would use. On the other hand, it was an attempt to make a bike fit that was too small.

Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
Obviously any bike can be way too big, like putting someone on a frame that they aren't even able to stand over on their toes (how did that even happen to your wife? Was someone involved blind?). You don't need a standover gap to have a safe bike. Jumping off the saddle to land flat footed over the top tube is a maneuver that will get anyone hurt, regardless of standover clearance.
You've been around long enough that you should have picked up on the "Sears" part of that bicycle description. Bikes from back in the late 60s to early 70s weren't "sized". They were one size fits all and they didn't. Even now if you go to HelMart or some other Big Box Store, you aren't likely to find bikes that are "sized". Helmart doesn't sell any of their bikes with a marked size much less a choice of sizes. And the "fitting" would be pretty much like the way my wife's bike was "fitted" so long ago. "Here's your bike," is all the fitting you are going to get when you buy the sweet GMC Denali.

And I would never put someone on a bike where they couldn't stand over it flat footed unless there was a very good reason not to do so. jefnvk situation maybe but even then I wouldn't put him on a bike where he had to stand on his toes to stand over it.
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Old 06-26-18, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
My point is that standover isn't unimportant as I've been told many, many, many times. While you may have problems because of short legs, other people have problems because they are short in general. Would you ride a bike that is 7" or 8" too tall? That's 3 to 4 sizes bigger than what you should ride.
What you're talking about isn't going up or down a size or two as series cyclist sometimes do, but clown college.

The bike in question has a large amount of tube above the seat tube junction. The seatpost was inserted into the frame to the proper depth and even further than the minimum. The extra tubing above the seat tube junction in addition to the extra setback caused the extra tubing above the seat tube to crack. The Hellbent seatpost (350mm long) has a much larger setback than just about any post every available and is far outside the norms of what most people would use. On the other hand, it was an attempt to make a bike fit that was too small.
That extra centimeter or three of set back didn't change the total leverage any more than raising the post a little bit more. Every centimeter of added set back is only going to extend the lever arm by 3mm or so.

Your bike failed because it was poorly made.

You've been around long enough that you should have picked up on the "Sears" part of that bicycle description. Bikes from back in the late 60s to early 70s weren't "sized". They were one size fits all and they didn't. Even now if you go to HelMart or some other Big Box Store, you aren't likely to find bikes that are "sized". Helmart doesn't sell any of their bikes with a marked size much less a choice of sizes. And the "fitting" would be pretty much like the way my wife's bike was "fitted" so long ago. "Here's your bike," is all the fitting you are going to get when you buy the sweet GMC Denali.

And I would never put someone on a bike where they couldn't stand over it flat footed unless there was a very good reason not to do so. jefnvk situation maybe but even then I wouldn't put him on a bike where he had to stand on his toes to stand over it.
Using absurd examples doesn't further the conversation. Enormous or tiny bicycles are both bad ideas, but not really what the thread is about.
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Old 06-26-18, 04:08 PM
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jefnvk
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
My point is that standover isn't unimportant as I've been told many, many, many times. While you may have problems because of short legs, other people have problems because they are short in general. Would you ride a bike that is 7" or 8" too tall?
...
And I would never put someone on a bike where they couldn't stand over it flat footed unless there was a very good reason not to do so. jefnvk situation maybe but even then I wouldn't put him on a bike where he had to stand on his toes to stand over it.
And to be fair, I can flatfoot. It is simply incredibly intimate to do so on most my bikes. I would agree if one must tiptoe, there is probably massive sizing issues going on, but at the same time I don't buy into the standard guidelines of 1-2" of space between crotch and top tube being that necessary if a larger frame is more comfortable.

My smallest bike is 54cm. Its fine, its got the most standover (still brushing) I just feel better riding on my 56/58ish bikes.
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