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Short legs, long torso, first road bike

Old 04-22-20, 07:39 AM
  #1  
grumpyracoon
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Short legs, long torso, first road bike

Hi folks,

I currently ride an Hybrid and a XC MTB. I am planning to start some road cycling in the summer. Nothing too racy: more endurance/sportif stuff. Idea is long distance.

At the moment I am looking at some possible buys, but it is kinda challenging. I have a 0.435 inseam/height ratio, so looking at the bike geometries it seems I will have some trouble with the fit. Canyon bikes for example recommend me a XS frame due to my inseam and a M frame for my height.

I understand I should visit stores and perhaps a local fitter to have a proper feeling of what would be a good buy, but with this COVID situation, things are complicated. I am trying to use this time to narrow down my options.

So, two questions:
1.
​​​Do you have any recommendations for folks with short legs / long torso? Looking at geometries online and comparing with my hybrid, it seems that Cube Attain , Giant Contend, Canyon Synapse would fit me. Racy frames wouldn't fit me well. (stack would be way too low). Some endurance frames also would be challenging (Canyon for example. Standover height and seat tube length). Would compact frames / sloping tubes be a good bet?

2. It seems a lot of the gravel bikes would have a reasonable fit from a geometry point of view. Specialized Diverge, Cannondale checkpoint, Giant Revolt, to name a few. I like the idea of riding gravel, but I really will be using this on tarmac most of the time. Anyone riding a gravel bike with road tyres and wheels? Any particular problems or downsides? Recommendations of gravel bikes that also deliver a good experience on tarmac?

My budget would be something from 1500 to 2500 USD.

Many thanks!
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Old 04-22-20, 08:01 AM
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This can be a tough one! Both my adult stepsons have shorter legs with longer torsos, and when I was looking for bikes for them, we found that getting on the various bikes was our best solution. I worked in a bike shop for a number of years, so I have a few fitting skills. Both the guys are 5’9” and have similar fit needs. What ended up working best for them was a pair of early-2000s Trek 1200 models in the 52-53cm range - that allowed for good leg fit and enough length fit to adjust reach with different stems. So as a start, I’d start with an in-between frame (say 52-54cm) with the assumption that you can fine-tune the fit with stems and seat adjustments. Good luck!
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Old 04-22-20, 08:09 AM
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Just the opposite fitting for me. 5'8" with short legs and longer torso. If I have a choice between different sizes, I go with the larger size for more reach.
I'm riding 54-56 road bike, 50 XC MTB.
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Old 04-22-20, 08:22 AM
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I have the same issue as @grumpyracoon. My torso is proportionally longer than my legs for my height. I've typically found that a longer stem and a top tube of a certain length work for me. Now, I can take a few measurements and know whether a bike can be made to fit me comfortably, but it's taken decades to really understand this.

My recommendation would be to have a bike shop put the most likely size onto a stationary trainer, and be prepared to swap in a few different stem lengths. You have to give yourself enough time on the bike to settle into what's comfortable for you now. And this may change as you get more accustomed to the road position. I know that it's hard with COVID shutdowns right now, but that'd be what I recommend. Hopefully, things open up sooner rather than later.

Also, certain brands are/were known for having longer top tubes, like the Lemond brand. There are likely others.

PG
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Old 04-22-20, 08:34 AM
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The short answer is that your going to have to buy the bike that suits your legs and then modify with long stems and/or different handlebars after the sale to suit your torso length/arms.
It may actually be a bit more complicated than this and personally I would put you on a custom frame but that costs money.
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Old 04-22-20, 08:55 AM
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Buy for your reach and don't worry about stand over. I am 5'8" but have long legs and arms, but a short torso for my hight. I have come to find out I am more comfortable on a road bike a size up from what is recomended. Most recomend 52-54cm frames for me but my most comfortable bikes are now 55 and 56cm. If the theoretical reach is a little bit long, and you plan to raise the handlebars, that also brings them back.
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Old 04-22-20, 09:00 AM
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What is your actual inseam? Mine is 32.5" and that allows me to ride 54-56 optimally. Over thee years I have lost height from a max of 5'11" to about 5'* 1/2a" now. Still riding 54-56 since my inseam is the same. If anything, different stems will help.
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Old 04-22-20, 09:10 AM
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Buy size with the best reach for you.

Whether that means a larger or smaller frame relative to most people your height.... I would ignore most rules. There is a lot more to it than simply the distance from your crotch to the top of your head.

I am short-legged for my height, yet ride road bikes with shorter reach than most people my height, which is the exact opposite of what the conventional wisdom would predict.
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Old 04-22-20, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
What is your actual inseam? Mine is 32.5" and that allows me to ride 54-56 optimally. Over thee years I have lost height from a max of 5'11" to about 5'* 1/2a" now. Still riding 54-56 since my inseam is the same. If anything, different stems will help.
My inseam is 30.5" and height is 5'10".
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Old 04-22-20, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by c_m_shooter View Post
Buy for your reach and don't worry about stand over. I am 5'8" but have long legs and arms, but a short torso for my hight. I have come to find out I am more comfortable on a road bike a size up from what is recomended. Most recomend 52-54cm frames for me but my most comfortable bikes are now 55 and 56cm. If the theoretical reach is a little bit long, and you plan to raise the handlebars, that also brings them back.
That is quite interesting! I am not that worried about standover. My current hybrid is already too tall and I cannot stand over it. I am bit more worried about saddle height. Depending on the manufacturer, the minimum saddle height would be an issue, even running shorter cranks.

​​​​​​From what you say, maybe I am looking things from the wrong perspective. A racier frame might work (smaller stack/reach ratio) , saddle height allowing it.
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Old 04-22-20, 09:35 AM
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I had the same experience with Canyon's fitting. I have short legs (and arms) for my height. 29" inseam at 5'10. I finally got a custom frame built. It turns out the geometry is very similar to a 54cm Trek Domane.
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Old 04-22-20, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by AnthonyG View Post
The short answer is that your going to have to buy the bike that suits your legs and then modify with long stems and/or different handlebars after the sale to suit your torso length/arms.
It may actually be a bit more complicated than this and personally I would put you on a custom frame but that costs money.
That is what I am trying to do. Trying to find the largest frame that would still give me adequate saddle height (and standover, if possible).

I think that maybe a custom frame would be ideal solution. But a bit too much for.my first road bike.
​​​​​​Idea is to get a first one, acquire some experience and maybe going for a custom frame for the next one.
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Old 04-22-20, 10:38 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
Hi folks,

I currently ride an Hybrid and a XC MTB. I am planning to start some road cycling in the summer. Nothing too racy: more endurance/sportif stuff. Idea is long distance.

At the moment I am looking at some possible buys, but it is kinda challenging. I have a 0.435 inseam/height ratio, so looking at the bike geometries it seems I will have some trouble with the fit. Canyon bikes for example recommend me a XS frame due to my inseam and a M frame for my height.

I understand I should visit stores and perhaps a local fitter to have a proper feeling of what would be a good buy, but with this COVID situation, things are complicated. I am trying to use this time to narrow down my options.

So, two questions:
1.
​​​Do you have any recommendations for folks with short legs / long torso? Looking at geometries online and comparing with my hybrid, it seems that Cube Attain , Giant Contend, Canyon Synapse would fit me. Racy frames wouldn't fit me well. (stack would be way too low). Some endurance frames also would be challenging (Canyon for example. Standover height and seat tube length). Would compact frames / sloping tubes be a good bet?

2. It seems a lot of the gravel bikes would have a reasonable fit from a geometry point of view. Specialized Diverge, Cannondale checkpoint, Giant Revolt, to name a few. I like the idea of riding gravel, but I really will be using this on tarmac most of the time. Anyone riding a gravel bike with road tyres and wheels? Any particular problems or downsides? Recommendations of gravel bikes that also deliver a good experience on tarmac?

My budget would be something from 1500 to 2500 USD.

Many thanks!
I have the same ratio. I am 5' 10.5" and it is difficult. Calculate what reach you want and what stand-over you need. Look at bikes with sufficient stand-over and best reach match. A bike with a sloped top tube will give you more options. You can fiddle with stem length to dial in the reach. I would go with slightly smaller size than too large myself.

I am very comfortable on my 56cm Specialized Roubaix geometry and also an older (2016) Diverge (not quite as comfortable). When I researched the Roubaix geometry it was between a 56cm and 58cm. The geometry was such that they both had the same reach but the 58 had a larger stack, so the main result of going larger would have been reducing my saddle to bar height, which I did not want to do as you can't fix that.

Have 32mm on my Diverge, These can be slightly slower than the narrower tires, depending on the tire, but they also provide a better ride. You can always get a good road oriented tire, so I wouldn't let that factor in

Last edited by GeneO; 04-22-20 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 04-22-20, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
My inseam is 30.5" and height is 5'10".
A little background....when I started cycling I embraced the Greg LeMond/Cyrille Guimard theory of frame sizing. They espouse a formula of .665 of inseam (metric). So, if one does that you get a good approximation of frame size. Having said that, you can ride a range of sizes. Doing the math, that would be about a 52 cm frame for you. A complication....sloping TTs can be confusing so you would have to measure via a "virtual" TT. This whole thing of S-M-L frames is bogus to me. (Just my opinion). It makes manufacturing easier but it doesn't help me with fit. For instance, last June I bought a 52 CAAD12 which when measured by virtual TT is actually a 54. Fits me perfectly. I'm guessing you could ride a 52 with a longer stem or a 54 with (maybe) a shorter stem. I don't know what wold work best for you. One other factor that may or may not matter to you....the smaller the frame size the less weight.
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Old 04-22-20, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
That is quite interesting! I am not that worried about standover. My current hybrid is already too tall and I cannot stand over it. I am bit more worried about saddle height. Depending on the manufacturer, the minimum saddle height would be an issue, even running shorter cranks.

​​​​​​From what you say, maybe I am looking things from the wrong perspective. A racier frame might work (smaller stack/reach ratio) , saddle height allowing it.
I rode a Surly Cross check as my do everything bike for abut ten years. The local shop had trouble knowing what size to order for folks because they ran roughly a size long in the top tube. My 52 had the reach of a 54. The only problem came when I wanted to raise the handlebars because of my increasing belly stopping me from using the drops. The handling got kinda weird. I replaced it with a 56cm Soma Pescador, because the reach was right and the tall head tube made it not look funky with a few headset spacers. Here is the Soma when I settled on the fit, but hadn't wrapped the bars yet.

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Old 04-22-20, 06:16 PM
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If you have short legs, a racing frame should not have a stack that's too short, since the difference is only 2-3cm. Getting a longer reach should be no problem, since the most common shimano brake hoods have a long reach, which helps and some brands put long 100mm reach bars on their bikes. You might have to swap the short stem with something 20mm longer.
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Old 04-22-20, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
I think that maybe a custom frame would be ideal solution..
Try a Trek Domane. It would have worked for me.

The bikes I fit with horizontal top-tubes (standover-heightwise) are too small.
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Old 04-22-20, 06:54 PM
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I have similar proportions, and short-ish arms as well. (6', 32", 56cm frame)

Long torso = lots of saddle set back to balance in a fairly low position and short-ish stem for the reach.

For a more upright position the bars need to be closer as well, so no need for custom or a long top tube.
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Old 04-23-20, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
My inseam is 30.5" and height is 5'10".
You're a tall guy - I'm 5'6" and my inseam is 28.7" ;-)

I ride a Cannondale Synapse size 51, which I love, but would prefer a size 49 - there's a part of my body that often touches the top tube,and the seatpost is set rather short, bad for some flexion/shoch absortion and harder to mount the saddle bag plus rear light.

You can easy tune the reach with a longer or shorter handlebar steam, but you can not change the toptube height... Go for the size with a confortable standover heighth. If you can, get a bike fit before buying the bike,and chose based on the bikefit results
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Old 04-23-20, 02:55 PM
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When asking about frame size, post your actual saddle height. I always post my setup as an example. From that, it's not hard to adjust for other saddle heights or saddle to bar drops. My saddle height is 73cm, my stack is 527mm, plus a 15mm headset top, with no spacers. Using a -17 (horizontal) stem, ihave a 10cm saddle to bar drop. A -6 stem will raise the bars about 2cm, to produce an 8cm saddle to bat drop. To get a 6cm drop, 2cm of spacer would be needed.
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Old 04-24-20, 01:04 AM
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https://99spokes.com/compare?bikes=g...cm|w.700|bb.71

Am half an inch shorter than you, but with opposite inseam length.

As you're chasing a bike more along the endurance line (fairly relaxed/neutral front end) I've listed those bikes/frame sizes, with a 'reach' and 'stack' range which I feel would roughly suit you.

Each bike there should have low enough, or just low enough, standover for you with shoes on. You would need to find minimum saddle height though.

Although the Revolt and Warbird are 'gravel' bikes I've listed them anyway.

Ignore the model/price I chose. There will be cheaper / more expensive models with the same geometry.

Note the Warbird has the longest chainstay, which for an endurance bike, I'd gravitate toward one of the other bikes.
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Old 04-24-20, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by grumpyracoon View Post
That is what I am trying to do. Trying to find the largest frame that would still give me adequate saddle height (and standover, if possible).

I think that maybe a custom frame would be ideal solution. But a bit too much for.my first road bike.
​​​​​​Idea is to get a first one, acquire some experience and maybe going for a custom frame for the next one.
Don't do what @AnthonyG suggested, as he has it wrong. Others have given you the correct advice, always buy for reach. Leg length is the easiest dimension to accommodated simply by seat post height. Reach is your challenge. PG
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Old 04-24-20, 07:42 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Don't do what @AnthonyG suggested, as he has it wrong. Others have given you the correct advice, always buy for reach. Leg length is the easiest dimension to accommodated simply by seat post height. Reach is your challenge. PG
Really,. What have I suggested that's wrong?
What I said was buy a bike for your legs and sort out the handlebar position second.
Now , what's "right" for your legs is probably not as straight forwards as some would have you believe but I stand by this 100%.

Now for the record, standover height is completely useless as an arbiter as to "what is right for your legs". Completely useless, so in no way am I recommending that you buy a bike based on standover.
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Old 04-24-20, 07:47 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Don't do what @AnthonyG suggested, as he has it wrong. Others have given you the correct advice, always buy for reach. Leg length is the easiest dimension to accommodated simply by seat post height. Reach is your challenge. PG
I strongly disagree. If you want a bike to fit well and not have a dorky look, with many spacers or a high rise stem, then the stack must be within a narrow range. Get that right first and then see is the reach is in the ballpark. The reason for that is that reach can only be compared between frames, when the stack is the same.

For example, pick any two adjacent sizes, for any road bike. The larger size will usually have 20mm more stack height. If you just compare the listed reach for those two frames, the comparison is WRONG. You must assume that 20mm of spacer will be added to the smaller frame, or a stem angle change made to raise the bar height to be the same on both bikes, so the saddle to bar drop is the same. Once that is done, the reach on the smaller frame will become about 6mm shorter. If that correction is not made, you're comparing two different fits.

I notice some brands using 100mm reach bars and long reach Shimano brake/shift levers, and then using a stubby 80mm stem. They should use 75-80mm reach bars and a longer stem.
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Old 04-25-20, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by AnthonyG View Post
Now for the record, standover height is completely useless as an arbiter as to "what is right for your legs". Completely useless, so in no way am I recommending that you buy a bike based on standover.
Maybe not your decisive point, but you *must* assure that the standover height allows to get your leg over the top tube and nopt compress your balls on the tube.
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