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why do virtually all US made frames have long top tubes?(50 posts)

why do virtually all US made frames have long top tubes?tarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 8:29 AM
After having a Serotta fitting done last year, I searched around for a stock frame with a relative short top tube. I ended up buying a Gios, but could have found the right geometry with a number of European brands (mostly Italian) -- Colnago, Casati, Tommasini, Merckx, etc. However, Serotta is the only US brand that I have found with top tubes that are not longer than the seat tubes, and Serottas are mostly custom anyway and very expensive. Are there other brands I am not aware of, without going the custom route? What is the reason for this? Is it the Greg LeMond influence, since he is such a big promoter of long top tubes? BTW, the Gios is the first road frame I've truly been comfortable on, and I believe it is the geometry as I've had other steel frames. It just seems like there must be more people out there, like me, who don't fit the standard US frame geometries. After this experience, I wouldn't even consider buying any American frames unless I ordered a custom.
Imagine that...TJeanloz
Jun 6, 2002 8:51 AM
A Serotta fitting told you that the only American bike that would fit you is a Serotta? Interesting.

Conspiricy theories aside, American builders build bikes pretty much in the whole top tube range, with LeMond noted for longer top tubes.

Actually, in thinking about it, there really aren't many 'major' made in America bikes. In fact, does any major builder (by major I mean somebody producing a complete bike line), besides Trek, build a road bike in America?
Cannondale (nm)lonefrontranger
Jun 6, 2002 8:52 AM
Good call,TJeanloz
Jun 6, 2002 8:56 AM
My brain isn't really working since lunch today.
FWIW tarwheel is onto something herelonefrontranger
Jun 6, 2002 9:12 AM
I do sympathize with tarwheel on this one. I'm small with a short torso and have had a devil of a time for the past 5 years finding bikes that fit in the affordable range, and have been told that it's because LeMond himself was such an influence on geometry (why?). Until I weaseled my way into the good graces of a Colnago dealer (cost = still friggin' expensive but at least do-able) I was pretty much SOL.

I had a chance at an Airborne for a really good deal. Yes, it's a HUFFY, wouldn't you know it I used to *race* for the HUFFY team and Mike Melton is a damn good framebuilder by the way... Anyhoo, the smallest possible Airborne size came with some ridiculously long TT, I think it's a 54cm. The small TCR has a 53 effective. I can manage 51.5 cm max, or go to <100mm stem, which IME pretty much boogers up the handling (yes I'm a retro-grouch with my Merckxian ideas about geometry, so shoot me).

After all the research I've done, I find I am SOL unless you're talking Italian or custom.
What I wonder...ColnagoFE
Jun 6, 2002 9:28 AM
is why American bike makers can't do a really cool paintjob like the Italians do? Even custom makers usually only offer the usual fades and solids. Personally I have a short waist and long legs and fit well on Colnago geometry. I don't think all Italian bikes are the same though. I have a Bianchi that has a pretty long TT by comparison.

One exception though is Columbine Cycles. With a bike THAT nice looking though I'd be afraid to ride it. I'd hang it on the wall as art.

http://www.columbinecycle.com/
how about landsharks?tarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 9:39 AM
I've seen some Landsharks that make Colnagos look conservative.
don't really care for landsharks, but they are an exception (nm)ColnagoFE
Jun 6, 2002 10:01 AM
What I wonder...jschrotz
Jun 6, 2002 9:40 AM
if you're looking for a frame w/ a cool (custom) paint job that you'd rather show off by riding instead of feeling compelled to hang on the wall, check out

http://www.landsharkbicycles.com
What I wonder...Leisure
Jun 7, 2002 3:15 AM
"is why American bike makers can't do a really cool paintjob like the Italians do?"

Now here is a man with his priorities together! ;-)
What I wonder...No_sprint
Jun 7, 2002 7:04 AM
First of all, Klein is another.

Secondly, I really think Colnago is the exception over there, like Klein and Landshark here. Who else across the sea is painting like Colnago? Coppi? Look? Orbea? Ciocc? DeRosa? Pinarello?
maybe so, but airbrushing isn't that complicated.ColnagoFE
Jun 7, 2002 10:08 AM
I mean a builder could just add it as an option for x$...I'd not that it's some kind of lost art that the Colnago factory only can do. It would be pretty easy to find people to airbrush all matter of cool stuff onto bikes. Since that is a plus (in my opinion--some people hate Colnago's painjobs) of owning a COlnago, why haven't other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon?
major?DougSloan
Jun 6, 2002 8:54 AM
Not sure what you mean by "complete bike line" (dept. store bikes, too?), but Litespeed comes to mind.
I wouldn'tTJeanloz
Jun 6, 2002 8:57 AM
I wouldn't count Litespeed. Too high end.
re: why do virtually all US made frames have long top tubes?pinarello
Jun 6, 2002 9:00 AM
My 2 cents tell me it's because American Mfg. are more prone to make crit bikes or bikes with a higher bottom bracket. And I do believe this is by as much as .5. Thus a shorter seat tube. Nothing is standardise in the business and trying a bike is better then taking all the geometry for granted. Catapult
EXCELLENT questiongregario
Jun 6, 2002 9:07 AM
I also need a short top tube as I have really long femurs in relation to the rest of me. Before I really knew what I was doing, I bought a Colnago when I was 20 or so and I basically lucked out because they have short top tubes. Now that I am twice that age and know what I need I can't find any stock frames with short enough top tubes. You are right in that the Italians have shorter tops that most others. The other poster is right in that Cannondale top tubes are a little shorter than the average as well, but still not as short as a Colnago. Last year I bought a custom Anvil and it has something like a 62.9cm seat tube with a slightly sloping 57.4cm top tube. Frankly, I blame Greg Lemond. He was the big advocate for long top tubes and everyone went along with that. If you need shorter you either have to compromise with a smaller frame and longer seatpost and probably a shorter stem or go custom. There are cheaper custom builders out there than Serotta. I like my Anvil and it wasn't nearly as expensive as a Serotta would be. I've also heard good things about Strong.
Why do so many Euro frames have short top tubes?Stampertje
Jun 6, 2002 9:25 AM
I'm Dutch and quite happy at least American manufacturers make top tubes that are long enough for me... but perhaps I'm a freak, too :)
I'm the opposite from youweiwentg
Jun 6, 2002 9:25 AM
I have a relatively long torso.
but, I am, as LFR so delicately pointed out, 'that short' (actually I raised the question and she answered it). so, go to a list of frame geometery specs, scroll down to the top tube length, see that it's ok, and move over to the standover height and find out I'll be getting a wedgie.
thank heavens for compact frames.
road bikes are not so problematic - I can fit on the smallest Specializeds, Treks, Kleins, etc (but not the *(#^$@ Cannondales). my cross bike gave me headaches, and I had to get custom (Italian was too expensive, custom was $30 more than the Trek). so, I can sympathize in part.
most of the small, not-too-expensive custom builders do steel. I did see one or two who made aluminum, but I can't remember their names (Woof asked about custom Al in the components section a while back). your best bet, if you want custom, US steel, is a small framebuilder.
part of the problem is that mfgs measure frames differentlytarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 9:38 AM
However, if you compare bike frames consistently, measuring center-to-center, there are very few (if any?) stock American frames that have top tubes the same length or shorter than the seat tube. I've checked all the standard brands that I can think of, as well as a number of smaller brands, and they're nearly all the same -- top tubes about 1-2 cm longer than seat tubes.

I don't think the fact that Serottas have a different geometry has anything to do with my fitting. They ran the numbers on me and came up with a recommended frame size -- top tube about 1 cm shorter than seat tube. I couldn't find any US frame that fit those dimensions. Serotta came the closest, but that doesn't really matter because they'll make their frames custom to any dimensions you want.

Anyway, I just think it's odd that you can find European frames with relatively long top tubes (Bianchi, Ciocc), "square" geometries, and short top tubes -- but I haven't been able to identify a single US company that does so. Litespeed probably comes the closest, but when you consider that they size their frames center-top, they're top tubes are also longer than their seat tubes, just not as much as other companies.
I read somewhere...Jon Billheimer
Jun 6, 2002 9:56 AM
that the geometry/stem length issues initially arose from the fact that North American males in general have larger, longer torsos than their European counterparts. Can't remember if this was in an Ed Burke book or somewhere else.
Americans v. Europeansgregario
Jun 6, 2002 10:22 AM
Yeah, and Americans "supposedly" have wider feet too. I guess I must not be an American because I have really narrow feet and require short top tubes.
Jon, you hit the nail on the headMel Erickson
Jun 6, 2002 11:49 AM
Most US manufacturers sell to US buyers and most of them are male. They make what is demanded and sells. Longer TT's are whats demanded the most and sell the most because, on the average, US male riders have longer arms and torsos than their european counterparts (and may be more influenced to seek out the "racer" position). It's really that simple. Give the customer what he wants (or thinks he wants). Of course there are US males that are not average, but they fall on either end of the bell curve. Typically they have to go to a european manufacturer or go custom. There are still alot of stock bikes manufactured with relatively shorter TT's and the selection should not strain one's pocket book either.
I read somewhere...slow-ron
Jun 7, 2002 5:04 AM
I find this hard to believe since we are primarily a country of European decendants. (Not disputing what you read.) When we became a melting pot did we change the way that we develop?

I'm built like a German farmer because I've come from a long line of German farmers. I guess German farmers like to ride Colnago's.
IF?heloise
Jun 6, 2002 10:55 AM
Haven't checked in awhile but I know Independant used to offer the Crown Jewel in both "short" and "regular".
p.s.heloise
Jun 6, 2002 10:57 AM
I MUCH prefer the labels "short" and "regular" (or "long") to the whole WSD crap.
Ever try to sell a bike with a big ol' WSD sticker to a guy with a short torso and long legs? Well I have and it ain't pretty...
I don't know about that ...tarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 11:29 AM
But the standard IF geometry is for a very long top tube, comparable to a LeMond. The IF, however, is like Serotta -- if you're spending that much money, you can get a custom fit. I'm talking about "off the rack" bikes that people can buy without spending an armload.
don't forget seat tube anglegtx
Jun 6, 2002 10:50 AM
the Gios has a steeper seat tube angle than many or most of the American bikes. Once you factor seat tube angle into the equation, they're actually all pretty close. The Lemond, which has "long top tubes" according to some also has a slack seat tube angle.
I Don't get this? help.Len J
Jun 6, 2002 10:57 AM
I've heard this before & I don't get it.

1.)Slack seat tube angle moves the seatpost back (compared to steep seat tube angle).

2.) Seatpost back=seat back (compared to steep seat tube angle).

3.) The effect of the measured length of the top tube on fit is related to where the rider is sitting and how far he has to reach to the bars.

4.) Therefore if I have a 57 mm top tube My reach is at least the same no matter what the seat tube angle is. (And in fact slacker would create a greater angle than steep & therefore if anything my reach is longer with the same top tube length).

What am I missing?

Help the ignorant.

Len
I Don't get this? help.gtx
Jun 6, 2002 11:04 AM
think of the position of the seat relative to the cranks. For most experienced riders this is a constant, regardless of the frame they are riding. Now, on the bike with a slack seat tube angle, you have to push the seat farther FORWARD on the seatpost to acvhieve the same saddle position relative to the cranks that you would have on the bike with a steeper seat tube angle. Very roughly, 1 degree difference = 1 cm (depends on frame size). Does that help?
Yes, but........Len J
Jun 6, 2002 11:10 AM
If that is the case (& I agree it is) then what is the benefit of a slack seat tube angle offset by a longer top tube? I thought it was geared to longer femur riders who in your example would need the slack seat tube angle to get KOP.

Thanks for the help

Len
Yes, but........gtx
Jun 6, 2002 11:20 AM
you tend to end up with a more stable bike with a longer wheelbase (I'm generalizing--slacker STA generally necesitate longer c-stays). And these bikes do tend to appeal to riders who prefer a more laid back position--long femurs or otherwise. I can't get my proper seat position with a normal layback (Campy) post with bikes with STAs steeper than about 73 degrees.
Got it thanks. nmLen J
Jun 6, 2002 11:23 AM
I am considering thattarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 11:04 AM
The Gios, with a 74 seat angle, has a seat/top tube ratio that is effectively square -- the same as many other Italian frames with 73 angles and slightly longer top tubes. Even when you factor in the seat angle, most American frames are longer across the top. Actually, the Merckx century frames might have the shortest effective top tube because they are square (that is, same top and seat tube lengths in my size anyway) with relaxed seat tube angles.

Lemonds, even with the slack seat angle, are way too long for me. I could tell that test riding one, even before I had a frame fitting done.
I am considering thatgtx
Jun 6, 2002 11:08 AM
well, I think Lemond varies the STA throughout the size range whereas Gios has a 74 STA throughout. In my size (roughly 56-57 cm c-c) I think (and I could be wrong) the effective difference in terms of cockpit between the two bikes would be less than 1cm.
I am considering thatgtx
Jun 6, 2002 11:25 AM
ok, I checked the geo charts. I couldn't figure out if Lemond measures c-c or c-t. But the 57 Lemond has a 57.5 tt with a 72.5 STA. The 57 c-t Gios has a 55 with a 74 STA. I think at this size 1 degree = about 1.2 cm or so. So according to my poor math the effective cockpit length between the two bikes would be .7 cm--not all that significant. The problem for me is that I would have the seat slammed back all the way on the Gios with a Campy post.
That is an issuetarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 11:38 AM
With my Gios, I am not able to use many saddles because I can't move them far enough back on the rails. This is one of the reasons why I've been looking for a steel Merckx frame -- because I can get an effectively shorter top tube with a slack seat angle and a properly positioned saddle. Also, 1 cm may not sound like a lot, but in my experience it has made a world of difference in comfort. You see, even with a short top tube, I also use a relatively short stem (9 cm). With a LeMond, I would need something like a 7 or 8 cm stem.
That is an issuegtx
Jun 6, 2002 2:50 PM
yeah, but Eddy gets angry if you set up his bikes with anything other than an 11....
thanks for pointing this issue out again! ....... nmJohnG
Jun 6, 2002 9:53 PM
here's a couple more things to consider.theBreeze
Jun 6, 2002 11:38 AM
Flexibility plays a role in how comfortable someone finds a certain geometry. Someone who has greater low back/hamstring flex and who likes to ride more stretched out, may not mind a relativly longer top tube.

When I was bike shopping I was surprised to find that one of the bikes that ended up on my short list was a Lemond Zurich. At just barely over 5"1" (if I raise my eyebrows)and short-waisted I was constantly told "Oh, Lemonds have long top tubes, you won't fit those." Then I rode one and it felt good! Just not as good as what I finally bought. I have long legs, with long femurs so maybe that played apart in why the bike fit. (Really, I don't look as weird as it sounds!) Maybe the shop had built it with a shorter stem, I don't know.

Bike fit and geometry is a game of millimeters, literally. So I wouldn't necessarily rule out a bike that may be marginal based on the numbers "published" by the manufacturer. In the end you really need to ride the thing to tell for sure.

So what's the problem with buying a European bike? Hey it's a global economy. FWIW I did end up with a "gen-u-wine made in the US-of-A" bike. Gunnar, made by Waterford in Wisconsin. Very nice bikes at nice prices. I guess they could be considered as having a "fleet" of models; a roadbike (stnd road race geometry), a mtn bike, crossbike, and SS.
flexibility is definitely an issuetarwheel
Jun 6, 2002 11:44 AM
And it's one of the things Serottoa looks at when they do a fitting. However, on the flexibility scale, I rank very low -- which is one of the main reasons why I fit best on a bike with a shorter top tube. BTW, I have no problem buying a European bike -- I've owned 3 of them. I just don't understand why no American manufacturers have addressed this issue. It seems like it's a market to be exploited, in my view -- and it is, to an extent, by all the custom frame builders. (Just like extended head tubes.)
here's a couple more things to consider.theBreeze
Jun 6, 2002 11:40 AM
Flexibility plays a role in how comfortable someone finds a certain geometry. Someone who has greater low back/hamstring flex and who likes to ride more stretched out, may not mind a relativly longer top tube.

When I was bike shopping I was surprised to find that one of the bikes that ended up on my short list was a Lemond Zurich. At just barely over 5"1" (if I raise my eyebrows)and short-waisted I was constantly told "Oh, Lemonds have long top tubes, you won't fit those." Then I rode one and it felt good! Just not as good as what I finally bought. I have long legs, with long femurs so maybe that played a part in why the bike fit. (Really, I don't look as weird as it sounds!) Maybe the shop had built it with a shorter stem, I don't know.

Bike fit and geometry is a game of millimeters, literally. So I wouldn't necessarily rule out a bike that may be marginal based on the numbers "published" by the manufacturer. In the end you really need to ride the thing to tell for sure.

So what's the problem with buying a European bike? Hey it's a global economy. FWIW I did end up with a "gen-u-wine made in the US-of-A" bike. Gunnar, made by Waterford in Wisconsin. Very nice bikes at nice prices. I guess they could be considered as having a "fleet" of models; a roadbike (stnd road race geometry), a mtn bike, crossbike, and SS.
Whoops, sorry, how did that happen? (nm)theBreeze
Jun 6, 2002 11:43 AM
don't use the "back key" after posting message....... nmJohnG
Jun 7, 2002 5:27 AM
Cervello, Sampson, TI Cycles, WaterfordMel Erickson
Jun 6, 2002 1:04 PM
Although Cervello is Canadian. All of these have geometries that are essentially square, especially in the most popular sizes of 54, 56, and 58. Sampson will make a bike for you with just about any geometry you want for an off the shelf price. Waterfords are pricey
Also add Aegis in Mainekenyee
Jun 6, 2002 1:57 PM
They have mostly square geometries, though their prices aren't exactly cheap (though cheaper than some other CF frames).

I'm in the same boat as tarwheel, though my differential was 2cm (55 ST and 53 TT).

No shorter TT in a stock size except for WSD Treks. I've seen occasional used custom Serottas owned by females w/ a short TT, but that's it.
I beg to differ ...bianchi boy
Jun 6, 2002 6:42 PM
I'm not familiar with Cervello and Ti Cycles, but Sampson and Waterford both have longer top tubes when you measure all the tubes center to center. If you look at their geometry charts, they size their frames center-to-top and use oversize tubing. So a 58 Waterford or Sampson is really more like a 56 measured center-to-center -- and the top tube is longer than that when measured c-c. I agree, however, that both Waterford and Sampson can customize their frames with shorter top tubes. Waterford charges extra for this, I believe, at least with some of their models and they're pretty expensive.
Yeah, Waterford's expensiveMel Erickson
Jun 7, 2002 5:12 AM
but you can get whatever you want, as you can from most boutique builders. Sampson, on the other hand, is not a boutique builder in my estimation. Hard to classify exactly what they are. They'll build to your specifications and at a price that is very competetive. Pick almost any geometry you like.
Maybe I'm just crazy but...empacher6seat
Jun 6, 2002 2:04 PM
I have a long torso, and in my long, frustrating search for my first road bike, I couldn't find anything with a long top tube. Eventually I bought a slightly bigger size and sacrificed a bit of standover height. It's comfortable... but probably not as good as it could be.
YOU ARE WRONG.....C-40
Jun 7, 2002 4:28 AM
Hate to disagree, but comparing the top tube length of a Gios with a 74 degree seat tube angle to an American bike (like Litespeed) with a 73 degree STA is not a proper comparison.

If you run the numbers correctly, taking into account the effective LENGTHENING of the TT from the steep seat tube angle, you'll find that there is rarely more than 1cm difference in the effective TT length between any brands that you would like to compare.

Post a specific brand and size and I would be glad to run the numbers, applying the proper correction for STA.

A great example is a 55cm Litespeed that has a 73 degree STA and a 55.5cm TT. A 55cm Colnago has a 74 STA and a 54.3cm TT. To correct for the difference in STA you have to add 1.2cm to the TT length of the Colnago to account for moving the saddle back 1.2cm to get the same saddle position relative to the bottom bracket. When this correction is made, the "effective" TT lengths are exactly the same!

The formula to use for the STA correction is: saddle height x (cosA-cosB).
i don't think so .....tarwheel
Jun 7, 2002 9:32 AM
I understand that a steep seat angle effectively lengthens the top tube. However, even taking that into account, the Gios steel frames have relatively short top tubes. Also, Litespeeds and many other frames are sized measured center-top. If you compare frames consistently, using only center-center measurements, I think that you will find that I am right -- even taking the seat tube angles into account. Admittedly, the difference is often only 1 cm or so, but in my experience that can make a big difference in achieving proper fit.

Let's take your example of a Litespeed. A Litespeed Classic in size 57 has about a 55.5 cm seat tube when measured center-center. It's top tube is 56.5 c-c. And Litespeeds have shorter top tubes than most American frames. A Gios in size 57 is actually 56 cm measured center-center with a 55 c-c top tube. If you figure that the steep seat angle requires you to move the seat back about 1 cm, the Gios top tube would fit about 0.5 cm shorter. A comparable Eddie Merckx frame, however, has a 56 x 56 frame measured center-center, with a 72.5 seat tube angle. So the Merckx would actually fit the smallest across the top. These differences are generally not large but if they don't matter, why do bike companies make so many different configurations?