Newbie needing help with a too-large bike

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by imei, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. imei

    imei New Member

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    Hi,

    I'm relatively new to cycling, and awhile ago I bought my first road bike (it's actually a tri bike). I bought it used for a great price, and so I overlooked the fact that it was slightly too large (bad choice, I know...)

    Here's the thing, though. I'm a woman with a long torso and short legs, so while it's slightly too tall (I can stand over it, but there's only a couple of millimetres between my crotch and the bar), my torso seems to fit the frame well, at least, that's how it felt when I was test riding it.

    As I've gotten more used to it, I've found myself riding on the drops (instead of on the hoods, my preferred position) because I feel like the handlebars are slightly too far. Also, the seat is the lowest it can go, so the handlebars are slightly above the seat.

    I don't get off the bike feeling sore (although I haven't ridden more than 10km, continuously), but I do feel as if something is not quite right. Is there some way to make this bike fit me better (change the stem length, or the crank arm length so I can raise the seat, perhaps?), or have I just bought the wrong bike?

    Thanks for your help!
     
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  2. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    Hi IMEI and welcome to the forums.

    It sounds like your bike is not sized properly. You could change your stem and alter your reach by 10 to 20 CM's. Without pictures it is hard to tell if any other adjustments are available for you to work with. The saddle adjusted all the way down is a clear indication the bike is too large.

    If you are serious about cycling a trip to your LBS may be the thing for you. You could get properly sized and on a bike that fits like a nice pair of shoes. You could offset the cost of a new purchase many ways things like trades (some shops out there still take trades but not many) left over models or reselling your current ride.

    Today the major bike manufactures have a line of bikes refered to as "WSD" woman specific design. These bike frames are built proportionatly to the female anatomy. You have describe some of the issues woman are faced with when sizing bikes. This may be the bike frame for you.

    Dave
     
  3. OldGoat

    OldGoat New Member

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    If you are intent on keeping this bike rather than purchasing one more appropriately sized, you might consider purchasing a set-back seatpost, flipping it around to make it a set-forward seatpost, and moving your saddle as far forward as its rails will permit. Doing this will make it possible for you to raise the saddle a bit (moving the saddle forward will shorten the saddle-to-pedal distance), lowering the effective reach to the bars and perhaps also putting your hips & knees in a more advantageous position for power transfer to the cranks. Like you, I have a long torso and short legs, and this has worked wonders for me; not only has my knee pain disappeared, but my power has improved markedly. Of course, our physiques all differ, and what works for one of us may not work for others. Good luck!
     
  4. RoyalDutchShell

    RoyalDutchShell New Member

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    I would think about selling the frame and replacing/upgrading to one with a better fit. A more experience friend/cyclist, your LBS (local bike shop) or some internet research should help too. You can get good used stuff on eBay.
    There's nothing better than riding a bike that fits you well.
    Good luck!
     
  5. imei

    imei New Member

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    I guess I've just been clinging to the hope that somehow I can make it work, but I went for a longer ride today, and came back incredibly sore with lower back pain, so I've been convinced... Thanks for all your help! LBS, here I come!
     
  6. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. IMO, based on your limited description of how your bike is set up, you can make your current bike work for you if you want to ...

    • as you anticipated & davereo has confirmed (and, I concur), you can change the stem length (maybe not by "20 CM's" but certainly 2 centimeters) + you can change handlebars (different bars have a different reach & drop).

    The standover height is probably more meaningful for MTBs than for Road bikes ...

    I have had many bikes over the years whose frame size varied by quite a lot ... the first bike I was sold by a bike shop was a 60cm Gitane (this was a long, long time ago ... I'm 5'9" tall) -- after riding that bike for 10+ years, I sold it because I had already bought a replacement frame (57cm Fuji S12-S LTD) which many would now consider to be too large -- I based the size of the Fuji on the Gitane's 57cm top tube length + a 90mm stem.

    Eons later, thanks more to serendipity in the beginning than anything else, I continue to maintain that same combined top tube +stem measurement (i.e., 66cm +/-) regardless of the frame size BUT my preferred handlebar width & saddle setback have changed. Knowing some specific measurements means that I can set up almost any bike to suit my current "fit" preference in just a few minutes ...

    This (below) is typical of how the my saddle & handlebars are oriented relative to the pedals:

    [​IMG]


    Basically, if you can manage to orient your pedals, saddle, and handlebar to fit YOU + the frame has the head tube angle you prefer, then the frame size is more cosmetic than a lot of people would like to think ...

    BTW. When I ride a larger frame (presuming the fore mentioned components have been adjusted for me), I simply LEAN the bike to the right (the theoretical curb side) when I stop.
     
  7. imei

    imei New Member

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    Yeah, I found myself doing that too. Like I said, I can stand over it without leaning, but leaning helps a bit. I'm thinking my back pain might be caused by a bad saddle. I'm heading out to buy a woman's saddle from my LBS, and get them to take a look at my bike and see if they can make it work.

    Also, why would standover height not matter as much for road bikes?
     
  8. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. I think the notion of being able to stand astride of a bike with a certain amount of crotch clearance is one of those notions originally promulgated arbitrarily by someone who wrote for one of the cycling magazines who remembers falling onto the top tube when s/he was a child ...

    Personally, I think that the odds of landing on the top tube in an uncomfortable way is much less likely on a Road bike than on a MTB because after a certain age you will generally have a tendency to fall to the left-or-right and the top tube will more-than-likely (¿) simply (?) graze the inner thigh ...

    While there are times when a panic stop may be required on a Road bike which might result in a person simultaneously planting BOTH feet on the ground, I think THAT particular necessity is rare whereas I guess that I can envision that a double-foot-plant may occur for a MTB rider on many occasions during a season when laying the bike down just seems like an excessive gesture OR laying a bike down is impossible because there isn't enough space ...

    If you were to look at the ads in some some vintage cycling magazines OR manufacturer's sales brochures from 1980-or-before, you would see that the amount of exposed seatpost is considerably less than you will see on today's bikes ...

    • In part, prior to the mid-80s when general purpose bikes gave way to "racing" & "touring" bikes (of course, the so-called "true" racing bikes which always existed), a common philosophy was that the crossbar of the handlebars should be at approximately the height of the top of the saddle for non-racers ... and, in the days prior to the high-rise stems, a relatively high handlebar meant a relatively tall head tube which meant a relatively tall seat tube with a horizontal top tube generally exceeding the height of a person's crotch. It just wasn't a big deal to lean a bike to one side or the other.

    This is NOT the best example, but here's another mid-70s Raleigh which I once had which was probably more-typical-than-not with regard to how much seatpost exposure one could expect a non-competitive rider's bike would have in those bygone days -- the comparable-to-my-other-bikes setup for me meant a typical-for-the-time 90mm stem + the deep drop Cinelli 66 handlebars which allowed my hands to be in almost the same relative level when in-the-drops as with the smaller "white" Raleigh which is pictured above:

    [​IMG]
    The distance from the back of the "horns" of the hoods to the rear of the saddle (the arbitrary points from which 'I' measure) is approximately the same on both bikes AND on my other bikes ... and, that's why the frame size is partly cosmetic.



    FYI. The reach on BMX & DH (Downhill) stems is abbreviated to the point where the handlebar is almost touching the fork's steerer ... so, really short stems are available.
     
  9. imei

    imei New Member

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    Hmm, thanks for the information!
     
  10. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    BTW. If it did not already occur to you, you can simply move most of your current components to a "new" frame rather than buying a complete bike ...

    You can buy carbon fiber bikes from China via eBay for under $500.

    Other frames (new & used) are available on eBay, too, for less ... some cost more.

    The seatpost size may-or-may-not be the same on the next frame as on your current frame. The headset TYPE and/or SIZE may be different.

    If you are inclined toward buying a smaller frame sooner-rather-than-later, since seatpost "exposure" is (IMO) a cosmetic issue AND certainly a valid way to choose a frame (once the fit has been determined), then you can work your calculation for your frame size backwards from the desired seatpost "exposure" and then choose the frame whose seat tube length complies arithmetically.
     
  11. simonetti

    simonetti New Member

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    If you enjoy cycling and want to do more of it, sell the oversized bike, go to a quality bike shop and buy one that fits you (a good bike shop will correctly fit you).
     
  12. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. I think that it a mistake to believe that "a good bike shop will fit you correctly" ...

    There is a very good bike shop in my town which consistently "fits" bike frames at least one-size-larger than is the cosmetically accepted norm ...

    That is, the owner will fit you using his Serotta-sizing-gizmo as if it were the mid-80s (or, earlier); so, all my friends who have bought bikes from the shop have a larger frame than I think that 50%-or-more of the other "good" shops in the country would select for the particular rider ...

    • a ROAD frame can certainly be TWO sizes (i.e., 4 cm) too large by the today's conventional wisdom before it is truly too large because a shorter stem will make a larger frame "fit" correctly

    Of course, if the larger frame offends a person's aesthetic sensibilities then a smaller bike may be warranted if one's bank account allows it ... but, as I previously noted, simply buying a new frame ($100-to-$5000+) is probably the better option.
     
  13. simonetti

    simonetti New Member

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    All good advice.

    Do your homework and ask around to find out which bike shops are good in your area.

    Also there are plenty of bike frame fitment guides on the net (competitive cyclist website has one so do some research).

    General rule (rough guide) on road bikes (for sake of simplicity not mentioning "virtual centre to centre") :


    5'6" to 5'8" = 52 cm top tube (centre to centre)

    5'8" to 5'10" = 54 cm top tube (centre to centre)

    5'10" to 6'0" = 56 cm top tube (centre to centre)

    6' + = 58 cm top tube (centre to centre)
     
  14. davereo

    davereo Well-Known Member

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    I am 5' 10" and ride 54 and 56 CM Cannondale road bikes. I am using a 100CM stem on the 56 to compensate for my reach.
     
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