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Exact fit/sizing for a road bike: How important is it?

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Exact fit/sizing for a road bike: How important is it?

Old 10-08-11, 12:08 AM
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PandaExpress
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Exact fit/sizing for a road bike: How important is it?

Casual rider/commuter here, been riding a hardtail mountain bike with hybrid tires for a while and now I'm thinking about diving into road bikes. Problem is, I have no idea what size road bike I should be riding. From internet sources, I've been told everything from 48 to 62 cm, and it certainly doesn't help that I have a longer torso and short legs (5'11, 29 inch inseam). I've been to a few bike shops to see if they'd size me for free, but everyone seems to be pushing "professional level" sizing programs that cost over $100. Since I'm not planning to compete, this price doesn't seem worth it to me.

So pretty much, for a person that just wants a road bike for casual riding, how much does exact fit matter? I think I can get one that will be an approximate fit like 54 or 55 cm and adjust the seats, but I'm a bit nervous about being hunched over or not being able to reach the pedals. What do ya'll think?
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Old 10-08-11, 12:28 AM
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56-58 would be good for you.

I had the same fears as you when I went over from my hybrid/mountain bikes to road bikes. You will be fine...
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Old 10-08-11, 12:54 AM
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Try these to get a basic idea...the first one is quick and easy. The other- lengthy and more legwork. Both good tools. Hope that helps!

http://www.ebicycles.com/bicycle-too...izer/road-bike

http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za...LCULATOR_INTRO

* EDIT- I tried to enter your measurements into the first calculator and couldn't??? I would try the second one.

Last edited by vuduchyld5; 10-08-11 at 12:58 AM.
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Old 10-08-11, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by vuduchyld5 View Post
Try these to get a basic idea...the first one is quick and easy. The other- lengthy and more legwork. Both good tools. Hope that helps!

http://www.ebicycles.com/bicycle-too...izer/road-bike

http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za...LCULATOR_INTRO

* EDIT- I tried to enter your measurements into the first calculator and couldn't??? I would try the second one.
See how frustrating it can be? Damn by short legs!!!

But I suppose a better question would be, does it matter if the frame size was off by a few cm if I just adjust the saddle position? And if so, would it be better to be on a bike that's too tall or too short?
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Old 10-08-11, 01:14 AM
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Most would say that a size smaller is best because it is easier to compensate to size with saddle height and stem lengths on a smaller bike...whereas a bike too big is just awkward and will stretch you out too much. In regards to your concerns from the original post...Any reputable bike shop should be more than willing to fit you for free if you show interest in purchasing a bike. If not you need to move your business elsewhere. Fit is important..VERY important, and who knows?..You might just buy this bike for casual riding as you put it, but you may fall in love and spend much more time in the saddle in the future than expected.

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Old 10-08-11, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by PandaExpress View Post
See how frustrating it can be? Damn by short legs!!!

But I suppose a better question would be, does it matter if the frame size was off by a few cm if I just adjust the saddle position? And if so, would it be better to be on a bike that's too tall or too short?
Yes, it will matter. Try to find a shop that will properly fit you and SHOW YOU why that's the right fit. Not, "it looks right" or asking you to tell them how it feels when you really will not have a clue how it's supposed to feel.

I worked with two riders yesterday that had major fit issues and were about to give up riding hurt so much. Fixed them up. Happy campers.

Last edited by roadwarrior; 10-08-11 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 10-08-11, 05:27 AM
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OP...you want to buy a bike with compact geometry for your leg length which will help for stand over to get a long enough top tube length.
I would say you will fit fine on a 56 with longish stem...or if you can find a 58 with sloping top tube you can stand over which maybe difficult. For you, you need to buy the biggest bike you can stand over for your 29" inseam and long torso.
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Old 10-08-11, 09:27 AM
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I bought a 54cm Trek 2.3 based on measurements that the LBS took.

I was told that the frame size range that would fit me would be 52cm to 56 cm. I cannot imagine riding a 52. It would be way too small. Like you, I have short legs and a long torso so the top tube length of the 54cm requires a 110mm stem to get a good fit.

I decided to try a 56cm on my current build (Pedal Force CG2) and I am back to a 90mm stem and my saddle is adjusted accordingly.

I feel great on both bikes.
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Old 10-08-11, 09:59 AM
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When I just started out, using my road-bike for city-commuting, fit wasn't that important. If you're going to sit on the bike short periods of time, as long as you're in the ballpark, you'll be fine. My Trek dealer sized me up, gave me a round on a 56cm and 58cm (I'm about your height, by the way, but with a longer inseam), and then let me roll on the 58cm, which felt better. For a year and a half, I didn't know better - but was perfectly happy with what I had.

Until I started cycling longer distances, and eventually started competing. Suddenly, the ridiculous 46cm-wide handlebars were uncomfortable - I now use 42cm. I experienced a series of minor pains, and kept fiddling with the bike to adjust. It wasn't terrible, but I knew things could be better - so I went to a fitter this past Thursday. He used the Retul method, and watching my measurements live on the screen was revelatory. My seat was too far back (means I need a new, zero-offset seatpost), my handlebars at odd angles (adjusted them for comfort on the drops, but that means losing the hoods on a traditional-bend bar - need compacts now), my stem too long and my cleats misplaced.

Was it worth it? After today's Yom Kippur hammerfest, I can say: It sure was. Rode 130km at high speeds, climbing 1,700m of elevation total, time-trialling, descending and pack-riding with a group of athletes far more experienced and trained than I was - and without the usual pains. It'll take a bit to adjust - my hamstrings now get worked more, and my ankles are at a different angle - but my neck and lower back didn't ache at all.
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Old 10-08-11, 10:23 AM
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We have a very similar sizing issue, I have about the same inseam and my torso is fairly long even though I'm 5'9" my reach is like a monkeys I guess? A bike that fits my inseam, and a longer reach stem seems to do the trick though, I can sit upright comfortably and when I hit the drops I don't feel like I'm the aluminum can in the crusher... my only truly fitted bike is 53cm Seat Tubex53xcm top tube, with a 3 inch stem and the bars are fairly long as well.. dunno if that helps you but it might

A tip on fitting, I was told this by someone on here who I think knows what they're talking about, a properly fitted bike on the downstroke your knee/ankle will be at 15-30 degrees... I could be misquoting but if I am, I'm sure one of these gurus will correct it.
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Old 10-08-11, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by PandaExpress View Post
See how frustrating it can be? Damn by short legs!!!

But I suppose a better question would be, does it matter if the frame size was off by a few cm if I just adjust the saddle position? And if so, would it be better to be on a bike that's too tall or too short?
I'm in your situation, just not as extreme. 29" inseam, 5'7". I decided to get a custom frame made in the winter 2009-2010. It was the best decision I ever made regarding fit. I spent about $800 each on my frames (no fork). You can skip the BB30 (I'd recommend it, for ease of building the bike), and you can ask for perhaps a bit less extreme geometry.

I have a 56.5 cm top tube, 40 cm seat tube, 39 cm chainstay. I include the latter because the very long frame puts a lot of weight on the front wheel. A 40.5 cm chainstay (about average for a road/race bike) was a bit long. If you're not racing it should be fine, but I like the 39 cm so much I'm actually having my first frame altered to get the 39 cm chainstay. The shorter stay plants the rear wheel in hard turns; a longer one is a bit more comfortable.

Frame fitting process:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...t-session.html

Frame overview:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...7-tsunami.html

You can get a similar frame, but I imagine it'll be longer by 3-4 cm, maybe a 60-61 cm top tube, and you may want a taller head tube (higher bars). It'll look like a BMX frame but it'll work super well.

Custom is a big step but fit is critical, especially when dealing with unusual proportions.

Given the choice I'd give Joseph at Tsunami Bikes a call/email, see what he says, maybe buy a frame from him for $750-800, buy a $800-1200 blowout road bike for parts, swap the components (all but the frame, you may have to buy new cables/housing, maybe a chain), and be done with it. You'll have an excellent fitting bike, a solid basic road bike that you can upgrade (and you'll know how since you swapped the parts), and you'll really enjoy riding the bike because it fits.

For stock frames I agree with the statement that a compact frame would work best. I rode a Giant (compact geo) size M bike for a bit (55.5 cm top tube) but the bars were too high. I rode the size S also (53.5 top tube) but it put me back to a too-short-in-length frame.

Stock frames are fine if you fit them, but if you don't... it's like buying an off-the-shelf suit. I can't imagine that you can buy a suit/pants set off the shelf with no alterations. That's what a stock frame would be like. It fits some people great, it doesn't fit unusual proportion people. A custom suit/pants set will fit great.
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Old 10-08-11, 10:41 AM
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Let me add a note on fit/comfort. My bike looks aggressive but in fact it's not. It's low only because my legs are short. I feel most comfortable on my bikes in the drops - after a few hours on the bike I prefer the drops to any other position, except when climbing out of the saddle (or doing long climbs in general).

I never, ever felt at ease like that before. I mean, yes, I could ride 6-7 hours, but I'd struggle with where to hold the bars, alternating all the time between the hoods, tops, and drops.

Granted, my normal rides are all of an hour long, but the acid test for fit is to go for a long ride. If you're pretty good comfort-wise at the end of the ride your bike is good.
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Old 10-08-11, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by PandaExpress View Post
Casual rider/commuter here...

So pretty much, for a person that just wants a road bike for casual riding, how much does exact fit matter?
Really, for the riding you're doing exact fit isn't that big of a deal. However, since you are going to buy a bike, you may as well get one that fits you as much as possible.

So, as others have recommended do one of the online fit calculators (Competetive Cyclist is good) and then go with a top tube that is fairly close to the recommendations. Then, get your saddle height and setback adjusted according to those calculations and go ride the wheels off the thang.

Good luck!
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Old 10-08-11, 04:04 PM
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Exact sizing is important for people with odd proportions. At 5'11" with a 29" inseam, you qualify. Todayilearned suggested a 56 or 58, but I can tell you from personal experience that if you stand over a standard geometry 58 with legs that short, your feet won't reach the ground.

Like you, I'm oddly proportioned. 5'10" with 31" inseam (30" pants inseam) doesn't sound too bad, but I'm all thigh and no shin. For that reason, I need the laid back seat tube angle of a larger frame while I also need the smaller head tube and the lower stand over of a smaller frame. That means in some brands, I don't fit a single size they offer. For you, you need to find out the rest of your proportions and figure out where you stand in this mix.

I know $100 for a professional fitting is unappealing, but speaking as someone who bought a bike and then 2 more frames after that trying to get a fit that didn't cause knee problems, $100 is cheaper than buying the wrong size and then buying the right size afterward.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:07 AM
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Went to wrenchscience and got these results:


Frame Size center-to-center: 51 cm
Frame Size center-to-top: 53 cm
Overall Reach: 7.49 cm
Saddle Height: 69.53 cm
Handlebar Width: 44 cm

That being said, would it be completely ridiculous for me to order a 54 cm bike online? Or should I go for a 52 cm just to be safe?
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Old 10-13-11, 03:50 AM
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It's easier to embiggen a smaller bike than to shrink a bigger one. But I don't think 54 is completely ridiculous, as we are similar sized and I consider a 54 cm bike to be my starting size. The bike that fits me best is my Gazelle Champion Mondial, which is long and low: the ST is 52.5cm ctc but the TT is 54.9cm ctc:

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Old 10-13-11, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by PandaExpress View Post
Went to wrenchscience and got these results:


Frame Size center-to-center: 51 cm
Frame Size center-to-top: 53 cm
Overall Reach: 7.49 cm
Saddle Height: 69.53 cm
Handlebar Width: 44 cm

That being said, would it be completely ridiculous for me to order a 54 cm bike online? Or should I go for a 52 cm just to be safe?
Yes, it would be completely ridiculous for you to order online. Online is alright for someone that knows precisely what they want.

Don't ignore the advice given above by multiple and very experienced people.

Something is wrong also with those results. The top tube usually is 2cm wide so the difference between c-t-c and c-t-t is 1 cm. Your posting results is 2!
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Old 10-13-11, 07:30 AM
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c-c and c-t can vary. My Giants have a 4 cm difference between c-c and c-t.

c-t is the actual limiter for saddle height, i.e. you can't lower the saddle below that point.

c-c is related to stand over but it's kind of irrelevant now. c-t of seat tube is related to saddle height, c-t of top tube is stand over.

Was overall reach supposed to be 74 cm instead of 7.4 cm? I don't know what this number refers to so I'm guessing that 74 cm would be top tube + stem, or, if you use a 12 cm stem, a 62 cm top tube. I don't know what dimension would be 7.4 cm on a bike.
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Old 10-13-11, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
It's easier to embiggen a smaller bike than to shrink a bigger one.
only a jeopardy contestant would know that's even a word.
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Old 10-13-11, 07:52 AM
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My $0.02 cents for what it's worth! Go to several bike shops and test ride different bikes that are within your price range. Find the one that you feel the most comfortable on and that's your bike. Get a pro fitting for ultra fine tuning and you'll be a very happy rider. Even with the type of riding you say you are going to do now, you can and most likely will change your mind as you start riding more. Even on short rides, a proper fit means that you don't get off the bike sore and feel that you no longer want to do this if it's always going to hurt somewhere. Regardless of how much you spend on a bike or what brand it is, if it doesn't fit you properly, you have wasted your money.
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Old 10-13-11, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
c-c and c-t can vary. My Giants have a 4 cm difference between c-c and c-t.

c-t is the actual limiter for saddle height, i.e. you can't lower the saddle below that point.

c-c is related to stand over but it's kind of irrelevant now. c-t of seat tube is related to saddle height, c-t of top tube is stand over.
Actually you're talking about a measurement that's mostly limited to a few companies and models like Giant and Fuji. Normally c-t-t refers to the top of the top tube and not to the top of the seat post
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Old 10-13-11, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
Actually you're talking about a measurement that's mostly limited to a few companies and models like Giant and Fuji. Normally c-t-t refers to the top of the top tube and not to the top of the seat post
I'm assuming you're referring to seat tube? I only notice this number because it's important to me (since my saddle normally sits pretty low on a frame). I know Cannondale points out this number. I used it to figure out which Specialized frame to get too (but that was a while ago, haven't looked at Specialized specs recently).

I understand it used to be to the top of the top tube. This was back when manufacturers started making oversized steel tubing (mid-80s?). Manufacturers needed to differentiate sizes in a way that old school fitters could relate to - since the top tube could be 1 cm taller, and frames usually came in 2 cm increments, the wider tubes could push a frame up half a size (if you went by c-c instead of c-t).
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Old 10-13-11, 08:29 AM
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Whoops. I meant seat tube like you said.
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Old 10-13-11, 08:50 AM
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No biggie. It is important to distinguish c-t of top tube and c-t of seat tube, since they refer to different things.

I look at c-t of top tube along with "standover height" to determine if I can get on/off the bike without killing myself.

I look at c-t of seat tube to see about how much seat post would be sticking out of the frame. I prefer more post showing because I'm short

So although I've ridden a 52 cm Cannondale I prefer a 40 cm (c-c of top tube; 44 cm c-t of seat tube) Giant TCR (size S). I modeled my Tsunami after the Giant, just stretched it out a lot (+3 cm top tube, along with a steeper seat tube), and added the Cannondale's front end geometry.
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Old 10-13-11, 09:38 AM
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Just a passing comment. I'm 5'8" 1/2 with 32.6 inch or 83.5cm inseam. And I was told by Competitive Cyclist and a Trek dealer I could take either a 51cm or 54cm. Then CC emailed me saying I could take either 52cm or 53cm to be more precise. If I wanted more top tube clearance and more maneuvrability I'm leaning more on the side of taking a 52cm.
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