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Finding right frame size for first serious bike: Is it ok to prefer a size smaller?

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Finding right frame size for first serious bike: Is it ok to prefer a size smaller?

Old 11-29-12, 03:40 PM
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junglemoth
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Finding right frame size for first serious bike: Is it ok to prefer a size smaller?

Hey all, first post here but i've been lurking around quite a bit recently. Basically my story goes like this: I bought a ****ty $100 steel bike on craigslist this past summer and absolutely fell in love with cycling. I can't believe that was the first bike I had owned since I was a kid.

Anyway, i'm ready to pull the trigger on a serious road bike but i'm having a dilemma as far as frame sizing goes.

When I went in to browse at both of my local bike shops, each one told me (after asking my height and a taking a quick glance at me) that I would most likely want a 56 cm frame. At one of the shops I was probably almost a full inch taller than the guy helping me and he told me that he rides a 56 cm. I figured for sure that would be the size that I need.

Well, today I test rode a few bikes. 2 of which were the exact same model, one was a 56 cm and one was a 54. For some reason, to me the 54 felt much better. I don't really know how to explain it other than that it felt more "right" than the larger frame. The thing that i'm unsure about is that with both the bikes I can make small changes (moving the seat forward or back, adjusting the stem, etc), and I can't figure out which frame size I should go with.

I know it sounds obvious and that I should go with the size that felt better. But since i'm pretty inexperienced with all of this I want to make sure that i'm not making a $1200 mistake, and that for some reason I will have wished I had the larger frame.

I tried to ask if there was a more scientific way to measure me but the guy basically said that either of those two frames would work and it was more about the "feel" of the bike.

So i'm just not sure what to do. I know for sure that will the 56 cm frame I would want to shorten the stem and move the seat forward, and that if I got the 54 cm frame I would want to slightly lengthen the stem and move the seat back a touch. For both I would need to make some changes, but I feel like the 54 cm frame is closer to where I want to be.

Is it ok to prefer a more compact riding position? I liked the 54 cm but feel like I "should" be riding a 56 based on what everyone has told me. I'm just not sure what to do.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old 11-29-12, 03:48 PM
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Hi there JungleMoth!

First of all, I would suggest that you always go with what "feels" best to you. That said, I have heard of people "feeling" one way at first, but then changing their minds only a couple days later, after riding thirty miles or so.

I've even heard of people getting "fitted", and then changing their minds about the proper fitting too!

Therefore, I say, just go by your intuitive instinct as to what "feels" good or not...

PS.

Of course, getting properly fitted reduces your chances of making the wrong choice about correct frame size...
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Old 11-29-12, 03:52 PM
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Thank you for your input! If it helps at all i'm around 5 feet 9.5 inches tall.
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Old 11-29-12, 03:52 PM
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Keep in mind, your fit will change as your level of fitness increases. But go with what works for you.
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Old 11-29-12, 03:56 PM
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Forget about numbers.

Get the bike that feels the best.
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Old 11-29-12, 03:58 PM
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we're about the same height and i ride a 54
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Old 11-29-12, 04:01 PM
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I'll put in a vote for getting what feels best. I'm 5'10 and depending on the bike, I'm comfortable on a 54cm or a 56cm. Some 54cm frames feel really small under me, yet others feel just right. Just depends on the bike.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:05 PM
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You are in the ballpark for a 54 and you can always make the 54 longer and higher if you need a more relaxed riding position.
What kind of bike was it? Fit does vary a bit from brand to brand.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:07 PM
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I personally prefer a slightly smaller frame with a longer stem. I owned a few bikes that were the "right size" and they never quite felt right. Then I happened to test ride a used bike that was set up the way it turns out I prefer. I bought it and the rest is history.

Worst case is you swap your components onto a new frame if it turns out to really not work for you. 54 doesn't seem crazy at your height.

I'm 6'3" and ride 58ish bikes with 120mm or 130mm stems.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Ultraslide View Post
You are in the ballpark for a 54 and you can always make the 54 longer and higher if you need a more relaxed riding position.
What kind of bike was it? Fit does vary a bit from brand to brand.
+1

If you must err, it's almost always best to err on the smaller side, as opposed to the larger side...
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Old 11-29-12, 04:13 PM
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The rule of thumb which has worked well for me is that if you are between sizes, go with the smaller size. Especially true if the bike has a level top tube and you have proportionally shorter legs. This is my issue and I've always gone a size down and replaced the stem.

And for what it's worth, I am 5'10" and consider 54cm to be my size.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:20 PM
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I'll go against the grain here and recommend the 56.

Right now your "feel" is probably just a preference for a relatively upright riding position.

As you get more experienced with road bikes, you'll want to adopt a more aggressive position. If you start with a frame that is too small, you'll be unable to do that because there's a limit to how far back the seat can go and to how long the stem can be.

There's nothing wrong with having a big bike as long as you have clearance for the jewels and your legs remain slightly bent at the bottom of the stroke.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:38 PM
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5' 10.5" here. Rode a 56 for 18 months and decided to try the same model but size 54.
I decided to sell my 56 and get a 54; my only regret a year later is that I didn't do it sooner.

By the way, in case you have not done it yet, this is good place to start to know "your range"
https://www.competitivecyclist.com/za...LCULATOR_INTRO
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Old 11-29-12, 04:49 PM
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As a rule of thumb and safety, always go by the general consensus...
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Old 11-29-12, 04:52 PM
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I tried a 54 and a 56. Went with the 54 as it felt best. 5'10" fwiw.
Go with what feels best.
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Old 11-29-12, 04:59 PM
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Go with what feels best. That feeling may or may not change as your become accustomed to riding. FWIW my wife is 5'9" and on a 54cm. But, realative torso, leg and arm lengths would make all the difference between the two.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:06 PM
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I'm 5'9", I ride a 54. I'm guessing at your height, without knowing anything else about your proportions, you can safely buy the 54. You always, as some have already said, have the option of making it a bit 'bigger'.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
As a rule of thumb and safety, always go by the general consensus...
I am amazed that the general consensus is for an inexperienced guy, who just got his first adult bike this summer, to go with a "feel", even though he can't even specify what makes those bikes "feel" differently from each other.

Can I at least suggest finding another local bike shop and getting a real professional bike fit?
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Old 11-29-12, 05:17 PM
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I'm 5'9" and it's hard for me to imagine a 54cm not working for you. The only real advantage to the 56 would be a slightly taller head tube if you wanted less saddle-to-bar drop. I have longer legs (32" cycling inseam) so 56cm frames are too stretched out for me unless I were to use a really short stem. With shorter legs for my height I could probably ride either frame size (which sounds counter-intuitive.) And BTW, I stopped trusting LBS's to pick frame sizes for me since they just want to sell you what they have in stock IME.

Last edited by Dunbar; 11-29-12 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
I am amazed that the general consensus is for an inexperienced guy, who just got his first adult bike this summer, to go with a "feel", even though he can't even specify what makes those bikes "feel" differently from each other.

Can I at least suggest finding another local bike shop and getting a real professional bike fit?
This might also amaze you, but a pro fitter is going to tell him exactly the same thing.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
I am amazed that the general consensus is for an inexperienced guy, who just got his first adult bike this summer, to go with a "feel", even though he can't even specify what makes those bikes "feel" differently from each other.

Can I at least suggest finding another local bike shop and getting a real professional bike fit?
You can suggest that. But, even that fitter may get it wrong. The OP is right at one of those break points where he's straddling the cross over between two sizes, if he's of reasonably average proportions. What 'feels' right to him now may change as he learns more, or, may not. You're spot on with your observation that he may not know what the best fit feels like. But, if someone is initially convinced that they feel more comfortable on a bike, they are of course more likely to get on it and ride it. If they're not comfortable, they're less inclined. In the process of riding more he may find that he desires a higher/longer position. But, at least he will have made it to that point and can then purchase a different bike that he has learned fits his changing desires and sell the first.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:23 PM
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I wouldn't worry about it too much. Whichever size you get wont matter because you will want to get an even nicer bike in six months.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:30 PM
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I'm 5'9" and prefer to ride bikes with 54cm effective top tubes.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
But, if someone is initially convinced that they feel more comfortable on a bike, they are of course more likely to get on it and ride it. If they're not comfortable, they're less inclined. In the process of riding more he may find that he desires a higher/longer position. But, at least he will have made it to that point and can then purchase a different bike that he has learned fits his changing desires and sell the first.
I am suggesting to get the 56, to shorten the stem and to move the saddle forward. I suspect that, after these changes, he will no longer feel that 56 is inferior to 54 in stock configuration.
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Old 11-29-12, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
I am suggesting to get the 56, to shorten the stem and to move the saddle forward. I suspect that, after these changes, he will no longer feel that 56 is inferior to 54 in stock configuration.
Um,.........saddle for aft should be, on a road bike, a function of positioning realative to the bottom bracket, not used to adjust reach. The stem could easily enough be switched out, but why if the 54 already feels more comfortable?

None of us are trying to 'fit' the guy over the internet and with so little info. Even one of the shop staff said either could work for him. He's stated that he feels more comfortable on the 54 and asked if there was any reason, not to get the smaller size? To which most of the respondents have replied, "no", by suggesting that he get the bike that does feel more comfortable.

It's not an arguement. It's a bunch of BF'ers encouraging a guy to go with his personal appraisal over any mathmatical models.

And, as far as LBS staff reliably fitting anyone to a bike. I have loads of horror stories. I would almost trust someone putting there numbers up here and letting us argue over where they should start more than half the lbs's I've walked into.
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