Need Advice: frame size, fitting, etc.

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by lmjorgensen, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. lmjorgensen

    lmjorgensen New Member

    Jun 12, 2012
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    First, I plan on getting a professional fitting before I commit to any purchases. Just trying to get an idea and understand things better before I partake in sales pitches. I'm 24, 5'8" with a 34" inseam. Very long legs, stumpy torso. The bike I've had since I stopped growing is a 1996 Schwinn Frontier GS Women's 16" Frame. I haven't ridden in a while and now that I'm settled into my community, I want to pick up riding. I hauled my old bike out and made it ride ready...but I'm running into some concerns. Keep in mind I'm bicycle-stupid so while it might be true, refrain from laughing at my idiocy, hahahahaha. First. The dealer who sold me the bike when I was younger ensured it would be a bike I'd grow into but when I'm sitting on it I feel hopelessly large in comparison. We bought it new but post model year. At most I've grown an inch since purchase and when purchased I recall it being too big. Second. When I pedal, my knees nearly hit my hands (in some cases they have!) on the handle bars. Is this even normal? I've adjusted the seat, the bars, every which way recommended in the forums and I just feel scrunched...squeezed between the seat and bars. I've even moved the seat back but I still feel awkward. Out of pure frustration, I've sat on a few road bikes, comfort bikes, and hybrids since this began. The larger frames seem more comfortable especially when my knees have a comfortable distance between the seat and handle bars. But I honestly feel so clueless. And I know seeking out a fitting will be helpful but I need better understanding first so I don't succumb to just any old sales pitch through my own stupidity. Sooooo, What should I be aware of? Is my bike too small? What frame should I consider? Where should my knees be...distance from handle bars? Should my bent leg be parralell to something? I'm not planning on races or anything quite intense yet, just leisure and general fitness. What are some considerations to take note of? Thanks for any advice! Sincerely, Clueless

  2. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

    Jul 23, 2005
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    FWIW. Comfort is a personal matter ... flexibility may be a factor ...

    I recommend that you take a TAPE MEASURE with you when you test ride a bike ...

    If you find a bike that you feel is (more) comfortable than your current bike, then measure the distance between the saddle & the handlebars ...

    • you want to know the top tube's length
    • you want to know the combined distance between the seatpost & stem
    • you want to know the stem length
    • you want to know the handlebar height relative to the top of the saddle

    I reckon that there is a 99.9% probability that if you have only grown an inch since the time when you bought your current bike then you can adjust the fit by installing a different (i.e., .longer) stem and/or handlebars and thereby replicate the fit of any of the bikes which you may have tried recently.

    Ultimately (?), you may need to decide whether you prefer an upright riding position ("Flat" handlebars) OR a less upright riding position (possibly, "Drop" handlebars) which will be better for longer distances.

    Whether or not you will actually benefit from a professional fitting is debatable, BTW, because many fitters have biases which often exclude the needs of the specific rider(s).
  3. e_guevara

    e_guevara New Member

    Jul 15, 2004
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    You probably grew more than the dealer thought you would.

    The frame has become too small for you. If your knees hit the bars when you pedal you will definitely have problems when you steer.

    The type of bike fit depends on the type of riding you would do. Road bikes and mountain bikes have different geometries. There are a lot of sites that have bike fit calculators based on your measurements. I suggest you start there.

    Competitive Cyclist has a good fit calculator:

    Lennard Zinn was an member of the US Cycling Team and now a custom frame builder. Here is his fit calculator:

    A good bike fit will give you a more enjoyable riding experience which will make you want to ride more. Do note that these online fit calculators are just a starting point to a good bike fit. Some adjustments/tweaking may be necessary.

    I would reserve the professionally-done bike fit when you get into "more serious" riding - it's more expensive that it's worth (at least for now).
  4. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

    Aug 31, 2003
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    Most riders with 34" legs are men who are at least 6'1", and they're riding 19" MTBs and 58-60 cm road bikes. But going that large will be too much stretch for your torso. You do need a larger bike. You just grew more than the dealer thought you would, especially below the hips.

    Anyway, your legs indicate a large frame, but your torso might demand something shorter. For mountain bikes and hybrids, I'd be trying WSD bikes in the 17-19" range. For road bikes, look at 54-56cm WSD frames with taller head tubes. The dealer might need to fit a shorter or taller handlebar stem.
  5. Dr Lodge

    Dr Lodge New Member

    May 3, 2012
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    Similar situation to mine...I'm 5' 8.5" with an inseam around 33" by my reckoning. I searched long and hard for a frame that had a shorter top tube and was stuck between a 55cm frame with too long a top tube and a 52cm frame which had a shorter top tube more to my liking....or so I thought

    I then went for a custom frame and got measured up. They stuck me on a 54cm Cannondale which has "moderate" frame angles (73.5 seat, 73 head), and a 54.5cm top tube. They started with a 10cm stem which is what I currently have (but on a traditional frame) then extended it to 11cm then 12cm. I think the new Ahead type stems also raise the handlebars slightly. I am actually more spread out on the new frame than on the old one, so its worth trying a few frames so see what fits.

    Unless you go custom, look at different frame geometries, then try out those you think will be the best fit. Try this fit calculator to get into the ballpark
  6. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2008
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    Dear Ms Clueless.

    A 34" inseem will put you somewhere in the 56cm or 58cm frame range (or somewhere 22inch-ish) but the big factor for you would likely be the toptube length. These are somewhat proportional to frame size - a shorter frame generally has a shorter top tube.

    Womens frames tend to have shorter top tubes than men and they also often had taller headtubes (the tube at the front of the bike that the forks go through) which means the bars will be a bit higher and probably more comfortable unless you're racing.

    If you're going for a road racing style of bike then either a woman's frame or an endurance men's frame might be the way to go. For example Specialized do the Roubaix bikes for men and Ruby for women.

    Terry - the original makes of women specific stuff also a very 'girly' looking line of bikes too. Designed for women oddly enough - featuring saddles that aren't razor thin, brake levers that are reach adjustable and narrower bars.

    ... now if you are just a guy that's riding a girl bike then you might have other issues going on that hopefully haven't progressed to your choice of attire on Friday evenings.