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Longer stem or increase in frame size?

Old 10-22-19, 11:32 AM
  #1  
rmgelston
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Longer stem or increase in frame size?

I am a 16-year-old (so I'm pretty flexible in terms of height difference between the saddle and my handlebars. I am currently riding a 50 cm road bike frame and pretty much breaking every rule set on frame sizing as I am 5' 8". It's now becoming pretty uncomfortable, and I am trying to evaluate whether I should jump up in the frame size or simply purchase a longer stem. Other than cost, what are the pros and cons of each choice? I am focused on climbing with this bike as I have bought a TT bike for when I do long and flat rides. If I do go with a longer stem, will my steering be greatly affected on the descents? Thank you for the help!
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Old 10-22-19, 11:59 AM
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50cm is too small for a 5'8" rider. So there's already reason to get a bigger frame. Plus at 16, you're not going to get any shorter. I'd get a bigger frame.
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Old 10-22-19, 12:03 PM
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Get a bigger frame. 50cm is almost definitely too small and you will never be truly satisfied with the fit.
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Old 10-22-19, 03:54 PM
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A lot depends on the geometry of the bike, I'm 5"7 and my 47cm gravel bike the reach is almost too much.

For what would be a relatively small cost I'd at least try a longer stem and see how it feels, if you want to keep cost down ask around at bike shops as they normally have a "bin" of parts they've switched out and would be cheap to try and if you don't like it then look for a new bike but make sure you get someone measure / fit you for it.

Re the effect on your steering it shouldn't be greatly affected just a tad less responsive ... I'd prefer that way to going to a shorter stem which makes it more "twitchy".
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Old 10-22-19, 04:37 PM
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If you are still growing, you may not hit the "ideal" fit with your next bike. I'd go that longer stem, see how that feels and have that position as a reference point. Also this delays your time frame for the next bike so you will have done a little more growing and better chances of gettng a bike that will fit you for more than a short while. (Now if you are racing, and someone else is (happily) paying the bill, get a new bike now. But if you have to burn bridges or your savings to get the new bike, go for the stem.)

Ben
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Old 10-22-19, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Plus at 16, you're not going to get any shorter. I'd get a bigger frame.
He may or may not be getting taller though.

If it is just casual riding, commuting, the occasional group rides, I might try to keep the old bike, at least through the winter.

On the other hand, really competitive racing, then it might be worth the upgrade.

A lot depends on the current bike, and the OP's desires. There are good used frames in say a 56cm size that might be worth simply swapping parts.

Or, buying a good used bike.

And, with the end of the season upon us, there are good sales both new, and used.
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Old 10-22-19, 05:12 PM
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Post a side pic of you on the bike.
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Old 10-22-19, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by rmgelston View Post
I am a 16-year-old (so I'm pretty flexible in terms of height difference between the saddle and my handlebars. I am currently riding a 50 cm road bike frame and pretty much breaking every rule set on frame sizing as I am 5' 8". It's now becoming pretty uncomfortable, and I am trying to evaluate whether I should jump up in the frame size or simply purchase a longer stem. Other than cost, what are the pros and cons of each choice? I am focused on climbing with this bike as I have bought a TT bike for when I do long and flat rides. If I do go with a longer stem, will my steering be greatly affected on the descents? Thank you for the help!
Which road bike are you riding?
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Old 10-22-19, 07:27 PM
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A good place to start is the Competitive Cycling site's bike size calculator. It will put you in the ballpark of frame size, seat height, stem length etc.

https://www.competitivecyclist.com/S...ulatorBike.jsp
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Old 10-23-19, 06:31 AM
  #10  
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Kind of hard to know if you should go with a longer/higher stem or bigger frame without know what stem is on there now.

As someone suggested earlier, at 16 you may still be growing, so there is something to be said for keeping the current bike working longer if you can.

Whatever you decide though, go with what makes you comfortable, not with what people on the internet say you should be riding.

I am 510 and ride nothing larger than 50cm road bikes. I learned this theough years of trial and error and confirmed it through a professional 3 hour bike fitting. This flies in the face of everything internet forums say is possible.

Last edited by Kapusta; 10-23-19 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 10-23-19, 06:58 AM
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Regarding what are the pros and cons of each choice?

For the smaller bike the cons are:
  • you might not be able to make it fit overall
  • a really long stem makes the steering feel different
  • your weight is more forward compared to the front wheel affecting handling
  • shorter line between wheels is slightly less stable in a straight line
pros are:
  • You already have the bike
  • Facilitates low aerodynamic position
  • it might feel more nimble in handling
  • if you get it OK, it's a working spare bike when you get a new one.
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Old 10-23-19, 07:11 AM
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Simply not enough info to comment intelligently. Frame sizing numbers are all over the place. My 51cm LOOK has a shorter reach and head tube than my 48cm Colnago. If the frame is really too small, you'll need a 120mm or longer stem and probably a +6 angle to get the bars up to a decent height.

Height alone means little. I'm only 5'-6" but my leg length is as long as some people 4 inches taller. I used to buy 54 or 55cm traditional frames to fit my leg length, but the reach was always too long.
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Old 10-23-19, 07:38 AM
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Short stems are tough to get used to, they make the steering seem very twitchy. Plus, they put you further back on the bike, with more weight on the back wheel.

I will always go with a frame that allows me to run a longer stem, because that will get more weight distributed toward the front of the bike, and for me, this has always resulted in better breathing, more speed, and better steering control.
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Old 10-23-19, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
Which road bike are you riding?
A Felt F3C
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Old 10-23-19, 10:32 AM
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Without a geometry chart on the F3C, it's still not possible to comment on. I couldn't find one with a google search.

An accurate saddle height would also help.
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Old 10-23-19, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
Without a geometry chart on the F3C, it's still not possible to comment on. I couldn't find one with a google search.
Found this Felt geometry chart for 2011 F series:



FYI, this is a good place to find Felt info on prior year models.
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Old 10-23-19, 10:45 AM
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Stem length should not affect weight distribution, unless you're making the mistake of moving the saddle to fit the stem length. A bike should be fit with the correct saddle position, relative to the bottom bracket first and then the stem length chosen for a comfortable fit. The weight distribution is mainly determined by the saddle position.

If you have two bikes, with the saddle adjusted to place the rider in the same position relative to the BB, then a bike that needs a longer stem to get the same reach, would not change your breathing, power or speed. It would just have a little more weight on the front wheel, due to a slightly shorter front-center dimension. That bike might also have some toe overlap. A bike with a 10mm shorter stem should fit exactly the same, but probably has a little longer F-C, a little less weight on the front wheel and less or no toe overlap. That's the kind of difference I get between my Colnago (longer reach, 10mm shorter stem) and my LOOK. Both handle just fine on twisting mountain descents.
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Old 10-23-19, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
Without a geometry chart on the F3C, it's still not possible to comment on. I couldn't find one with a google search.

An accurate saddle height would also help.
https://www.bicyclebluebook.com/valu...product/12113/

It appears to be a basic horizontal top tube bike, so likely fairly traditional measurements.

However, I'm not seeing any smaller than 54cm online. The OP's bike is likely quite small.

Nonetheless, keep overall goals with cycling, and future growth in mind. But, also don't buy a "forever" bike that is way too tall, and never quite grow into it.
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Old 10-23-19, 10:53 AM
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I was able to find the ETT for a 56cm and it was 57.5cm. Im going to say that your ETT will be 52cm at most (its probably 51.5cm). You are 1 taller than me and probably more flexible. I ride a bike with 54cm ETT and a 120mm stem to give you an idea. Granted your seat will be higher but Im going to say you would probably need 130-140mm stem. Everything I just said is best guess speculation without seeing you on the bike.
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Old 10-23-19, 10:54 AM
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The OP says he has a 50cm, but only a 48 and 51 are listed. Both have short head tube lengths relative to the TT length. Notice that there is little difference in the F-C for the smallest three sizes

The F3C may date back to 2006.
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Old 10-23-19, 11:02 AM
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I'm 5'8" with 30" inseam. Usually I buy 54cm frames. Just purchased a Kona in a 52cm because the shop said they run "large".....I am so cramped that I need to get a longer stem.
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Old 10-23-19, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by I.B.Roots View Post
I'm 5'8" with 30" inseam. Usually I buy 54cm frames. Just purchased a Kona in a 52cm because the shop said they run "large".....I am so cramped that I need to get a longer stem.
Your post shows why height means so little. I'm 2 inches shorter, buy my cycling inseam is 2.6 inches longer, so my torso may be over 4 inches shorter.

My frame has only 3mm less reach, but I use a 100mm stem and short reach bars with Campy shifters that also have a short reach.

Off the shelf bikes often come with a short stem, so needing a longer one is not unusual.

A 52cm Kona has a standover height of 31 inches. Are you quoting a pants inseam, not a cycling inseam?
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Old 10-23-19, 01:57 PM
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^ I must be quoting my "pants inseam" because I do not know the difference (of a "cycling inseam").
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Old 10-23-19, 02:17 PM
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I'd say if your stem is like 90-100mm, then just slap on a 120mm with a -10deg try that first.
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Old 10-23-19, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by I.B.Roots View Post
^ I must be quoting my "pants inseam" because I do not know the difference (of a "cycling inseam").
Cycling inseam is measured from the floor to firm, saddle-like crotch contact in bare feet. My inseam is 83cm and my saddle height is 73cm.
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