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having a fit about "fit"(55 posts)

having a fit about "fit"DougSloan
Jun 26, 2002 9:41 AM
In the most respectful way I can, I must disagree with what seems to be an over emphasis and apparent obsession with bike "fit".

Maybe it's just me, being about the "most average" person I know, I jump on a bike that's close, judging from about 2 inches of standover clearance, adjust the seatpost, seat, handlebars, and maybe trade out a stem, and just go. It seems to have worked for maybe 10 bikes in a row now, including race bikes, mountain bikes, a cruiser, and a tandem.

Sure, a bike shouldn't be so large that you can't straddle it with both feet on the ground, nor so small you run out of seatpost or bump your knees on the handlebars, but there is so much adjustability in bikes built in that the obsession with the fit mantra seems to be unjustified.

Newbies here appear to be bombarded with "fit, fit, fit," almost to the exclusion of quality, characteristics, and price. Don't you sort of assume people will buy bikes that are close enough on fit, especially if they buy from a shop? When someone discusses shoes, do we harp on fit above all else? Maybe it's implied or simply assumed that you get it close enough. Bikes have vastly more adjustability than shoes. I don't think we want newbies to be almost fearful of buying a bike because the "scientific" methodology of comparing their femur length to seat tube height and crank length is off by a millimeter for the bike they might want.

The fact that there are so many formulas or methods of determining fit has to tell us something. Not only are people different, but no one has really figured out what "ideal" fit is, anyway. It's almost like we are trying to use a yardstick to measure something, standing 10 feet away, thinking we have the precision of a micrometer. I think we are deluding ourselves if we even begin to believe that anyone has figured out the "right" way to do this or that the precision matters all that much, anyway.

Now, if you are Lance Armstrong and wanting to pare down that last gram of drag and obtain 1 more watt of power to win time trials, sure, obsess about fit. But for most of us, how much could it really matter?

Anyway, the thesis of my rant, I suppose, is that this fit issue seems to be blown way out of proportion to it's importance. In other words, get a bike in a decent range of what might fit, make some adjustments, and then just ride the darn thing. If it's a little off, re-adjust a little. It seems to work.

Well said!!Softrider
Jun 26, 2002 9:50 AM
Couldn't agree more.
Good rant.Jon Billheimer
Jun 26, 2002 9:54 AM

I think you make an excellent and very obvious point. However, I've observed here in Edmonton that a couple of well-known road bike shops will sell anyone anything they can, regardless of how appropriately the bike fits the person. I've seen some really egregious examples of this. So without obsessing over millimetres I do think it's important for new cyclists to make sure they go to a shop reputed for professional service so that they get a bike that's both functional and comfortable.
Good rant.Ted
Jun 26, 2002 10:19 AM
I don't know the shop I deal with has always dealt with me above board. Last year I bought a year old demo OCR 3 off of them and they treated me the same as this year when I bought a Marinoni Delta +.

It made no difference to them whether I was going to spend $700 or $4000(cad). I got a decent fit both times and never felt pressured to buy something I did not want.

THANK you.scottfree
Jun 26, 2002 10:02 AM
I have long thought the same thing, but haven't had the energy to lay it out as cogently as you have, and survive the expected flak.

I first came to this board back when poor Kristin was buying her bike, and the days flew thick with heavy advice on fit. I remember thinking: My, these are serious, serious roadies. They must all be Cat 1 gods to be so precise about fit. Took me a bit to realize they're mostly just bike geeks like me.

I've happily ridden bikes in all sizes, jacking up seatposts, jacking them down, jacking up handlebars, jacking them down (I realize we're not allowed to do that anymore, courtesy of threadless headsets, but that's another rant). I can sure slide a seat back and forth on its rails till its comfortable without using a plumb bob, and I've yet to find a bike more or less close to my size that I couldn't accomplish that successfully on.

Sure, a bike should be comfy; but given all the adjustments possible, and the range of human adaptability, the old 'straddle the top tube and if your boys swing free, you can ride' method ain't bad for most people.

I was thinking just this morning that we were having an unusually obnoxious outbreak of 'fit uber alles' on the board. Thanks for saying something rational on this subject for a change.
re: I just bought my wife a bike for Mother's day.JL
Jun 26, 2002 10:08 AM
She didn't want a road bike, just a comfort bike. We went to the same shop that I had bought my bike. We didn't measure anything. The shop owner found a women's hybrid (Trek) that he could adjust to her size. The stem is adjustable up/down (so fore/aft as well) and the seat has a quick release for easy adjustability. We played with the seat a little and she took it for a test ride. It felt good to her and in her mind it "fit". We bought it and took it home. She's ridden 2-3x a week since, about 6-8 miles. Her only complaint has been a sore butt and sore legs. Probably from not being used to riding. New bike shorts helped the butt and the legs felt better after we played a little with the seat height.

I too bought my Trek 5200 at the same shop. I didn't measure my inseam, etc. I just test road some bikes and found the one I thought felt the best in my "size". It's been a year and half and I'm now starting to try changing stem lengths, etc. to dial it in a bit.

I have to agree it's very confusing visiting wrench science and others to determine bike "fit". I get all different sizes. I think like you said though, find a bike in the general range and then re-adjust whatever is "a little off".

Happy riding.

re: in short I agree :) - NMJL
Jun 26, 2002 10:10 AM
Is this a fit question?AllisonHayes
Jun 26, 2002 10:10 AM
What would be a good caption for this?....:)
The wrap tha grips better than little Tommy's cheeks NMLowend
Jun 26, 2002 10:55 AM
Nathan...Come help your Aunt Mary(Typhoid) cook dinner...hayaku
Jun 26, 2002 10:17 PM
Other than the hand up the A$$ that's a nice picture. But that depends on you perspective...
where do you come up with this stuff?DougSloan
Jun 27, 2002 6:21 AM
I'd hate to think you went looking for a photo like that to respond. I'd also hate to think you just had that one sitting around. Nonetheless, it's pretty funny.

Jun 27, 2002 7:02 AM
I just happened upon it when I read your post...So, in my overactive & wacky brain, I thought there just might be an association with your rant on fit: kind of like Found Art.

Just havin' fun...I would have thought there would be more captions related to fit though? How about:

"Let me see here, your seat post needs to be lowered just a smidgeon."

"Yep, you don't need Assos, you just need to move your seat forward and you butt won't hurt as much."
I agree, but...........Len J
Jun 26, 2002 10:14 AM
I think that fit has become more important with the advent of Threadless stems. Most riders (especially new riders) are not as flexible as you and therefor, if they buy a too small frame they are either stuck with an uncomfortable riding position (or an inability to use the drops) or a bike that looks bad because of excess spacers and/or riser stems. he penalty for a bad fit is bigger than it used to be with Quill stems.

The other thing that makes getting a bad fit more probable is the inconsistancies between how various manufacturers measure their bikes.

All that being said, I do agree that if you can get a reasonably close frame size, most people (if they spend a little time & money) can dial in a reasonably good fit.

Agree that threadless is a curse, but I wonderscottfree
Jun 26, 2002 10:28 AM
what aesthetic genius laid down the dictum -- blindly accepted by us poor wretches who actually use the things -- that spacers and riser stems are ugly? How can you make something already pig ugly any uglier? And why in god's name does it matter anyway, if fit is truly King? A little ugliness, if ugliness it be, is a small price to pay for getting your face off the front wheel. Sheesh.
I hear you, pal.elviento
Jun 26, 2002 10:30 AM
People obviously have very different levels of tolerance on bikes.


5'7" guys ride 21" MTBs all the time, while others need custom frames even if stock frames come in 1cm increments.

Some rave about MTBing on single speed. Some feel triple (3x9) is not enough for road riding. Still others spin out an 11T.

Interesting, huh?

Within a certain range, I think it's easy to customize fit with stem/post adjustment. My rule of thumb is to end up with a 11cm stem and 12-13cm post showing, and work backwards to the size.

Now as for your 2" cleance test, I have a question.

I am 5'8", wear 30" inseam dress pants, and ride a 53 c-t Litespeed with a 77.6cm standover. Perfect size, a healthy amount of post showing, 13cm from seat rail to frame collar, knees slightly bent at bottom of pedal stroke...

By your 2" clearance test, even a size 49 would be way too big for me. Maybe the inseam on dress pants is different from the cycling inseam???
yesJS Haiku Shop
Jun 26, 2002 11:18 AM
you (I) wear pants with a longer inseam than that measured in cycling shorts. first, shorts don't ride up when you sit down, since they're form-fitting. second, pants are bought for waist and inseam; cycling shorts only for waist (you know what i mean). i went around judging by a 32" inseam in jeans & pants, when i actually have around a 34" inseam in bike shorts.

do the book-between-the-legs test with cycling shorts on: put the book as far up **as comfortable**, level the book, then measure from floor to top of book. viola [sic]! your inseam wrt bike.
Jun 26, 2002 10:40 AM
"I don't think we want newbies to be almost fearful of buying a bike because the "scientific" methodology of comparing their femur length to seat tube height and crank length is off by a millimeter for the bike they might want."

Yes all this obsession over "fit" had sure started to bother me. When I bought my 1st (and only) bike, I just spent some 5 minutes each, on 4 bikes in my appox frame size. Decided what felt good and bought it. Since then I've only adjusted the seat post and stem insertion lengths and the position of the saddle on the seat post. Didn't have a problem till now. May buy a slightly higher stem though. Ride about 70-100 miles a week.

I guess unless one is doing mega miles or racing, exact fit doesn't really matter. And if you are doing either of those, chances are you have spent enough time on a number of bikes over a number of years to instictively get a feel of whether the bike frame fits you or not within a few minutes. Stems and seat posts and be adjusted or changed easily.

Another thing is that a lot of vocal members on this board are into racing or ride mega miles, and maybe fit does affect them more than it does me or other weekend warriors. I wouldnt know as I dont race. However I believe that the larger majority of people who regularly follow this message-board ride less than 100 mi/week, dont post that often and are also perfectly happy with their fit. These cases you never hear.
Yeah, I half-way agree.djg
Jun 26, 2002 10:43 AM
Most folks have some flexibility to begin with. It's not just that they can make stem and post changes, it's that they can adapt to a certain range of options. While the size of the fudge factor may vary from individual to individual, there likely is no one optimal setup for most folks. Often times people talk about factors like balance with a sort of mystical precision that cannot possibly account for, e.g., the way people normally move around on the saddle while they ride. It's not that balance is irrelevant--it is relevant--it's just that there's a limit to what builders can actually figure out here (I defy anyone to build a bike that is balanced to account for the fact that my right forearm is both longer and heavier than my left--I grew up playing competitive tennis; so sue me).

And, of course, on top of that are the many possibilities to equalize this or that metric by swapping out a stem or a seat post (or even just by moving the saddle on the rails).

So you're right: some folks worry too much about looking for a certain precision in initial fit that may be unnecessary or even chimerical. Some folks do it so they have something to sell. And some folks just get caught up in the quest.

OTOH: It's not as if it's impossible to screw up. Some folks go to a shop and get a REALLY bad fit. Not everybody is equally adaptable and it's not at all impossible to walk away from a shop with something that, say, prevents a certain rider from every using the drops or that causes neck or back problems. In fact, I needed to go up in size because the bike that fit me fine--on the small side--as a twenty-something racer just didn't work for me as a harried forty year old; it hurt to ride for any significant distance and that sucked. Getting a consult on fit helped me quite a bit. The thing about shoes is that trying them on--while imperfect--is very likely to tell you what you want to know. Straddling a bike? Maybe, but less likely.
re: having a fit about "fit"SJMatt
Jun 26, 2002 10:45 AM
Since I have posted a number of questions recently on fit, I have to come to my own defense.

About 4 years ago, I bought my first road bike from a "very reputable" local bike shop. I didn't know anything about fitting a road bike and came home with a 57 cm bike. I'm 5' 8".

Yes, I can ride pretty comfortably on it for about 10 miles. But then my lower back starts hurting. And my shoulders. And my neck. I want to be riding 50, 70, 100 miles at a time, not 10-20.

I spent almost all year last year saying "man I really enjoy road riding, but I just don't want to do it any more. It beats up my body more than running." Finally someone pointed out that the bike looked too big for me - I seemed really stretched out.

Low and behold, I was indeed on a bike that fit my lower body, but not my upper body, and it had me so close to giving up riding.

So, this time around on buying a bike, I really wanted to get well educated on it, and not drop a few grand on something that ends up sitting in the corner never to be ridden.

Lastly, there are so many different opinions on fitting out there in the world, and a lot of them are never explained - just stated as fact. RoadbikeReview has been an incredible resource for getting clarifications and elaborate explanations.

Okay, the defense rests.
Well said, I totally agree...rwbadley
Jun 26, 2002 10:51 AM
I have several bikes, each one being a different size, some drastically. I have been able to enjoy each one, and they all feel different to ride.

The bikes I have set up to "go fast" all have a similar saddle/bar/crank relationship. It's not that I ignore fit, but think maybe a bit much might be made of it for most rec riding.

The one that feels good for the purpose is perfect fit.

Hear, Hear!!dsc
Jun 26, 2002 10:53 AM
When I decided to get seriously into road riding about 7 months ago, I checked out a few different bikes in the local shops (to get in the ballpark), then started to shop the used market. I did this because I knew I that after having ridden XT/XTR for so long, I would not be happy with anything less on my roadbike.

I ended up buying a used Zurich that had been fully upgraded to Dura Ace (among other goodies). Was this bike the "perfect" fit for me? No, but by adjusting the saddle and flipping the stem, I got it pretty close.

And guess what else? (this applies to all newbie roadies)
What felt slightly uncomfortable one month was more comfortable the next, and no issue at all the month after. As my body adapted from mtb to road, I "grew" into the bike, so to speak.

Now, after riding a century, I might have some stiffness in my neck or lower back, but it will be gone the next day. Of course, part of my problem is that I still feel the need to carry all of the water, food, tools, etc. that I might ever possibly need along with me (can't shake the mtb roots). Probably if I had someone handing me a feed bag and fresh bottles every 20-30 miles, I could ride all day :O)

Good rant, Doug. As we dirt-heads like to say:
"Just Shut-up and Ride".

Right on!JimP
Jun 26, 2002 10:56 AM

You are right about too many folks wanting the "perfect fit" and then complaining about lack of comfort. Most people don't consider the variablity in the dimensions of the human body.
I replied to a post about bar height a couple of days ago - 2 schools of thought - ride upright like on a mountain bike or on the drops like a racer. Pick what's most comfortable for your riding style and conditions. I guess the "riding style" part is missing from most of the questions and ridiculous replies we see on this board.
Last week I rode with a fellow riding a hard-tail mountain bike with knobby tires at the 50 mile mark of a metric century. I looked at him and thought "that sure is a lot of air to push and a lot of rolling resistance" but then we hit some rough pavement and his tires and front suspension soaked up all of the bumps. Whatever you're comfortable with riding - more power to you. If you like what you ride and are comfortable, you will have more enjoyment and will ride more.
Well saidLeroy
Jun 26, 2002 10:57 AM
I've got two bikes I ride regularly and to me they both "fit". I bought them both on the internet and the geometry seemed ok on paper. They are different in head/seat angles, top tube measurements, standover, etc. What do you know, I like them both. They both ride just fine. I didn't have to go through some initiation fitting rite or anything like that. No anal bike tailor with a tape measure. I think some folks just like to tweak measurements, etc. Good advice is one thing, but these 'formulas' - junk science IMHO - are just sales devices; ways to come up with a little extra perceived value in the product. Me, I'd rather just ride.

Dave Loving
hey, you're putting Anvil out of business! :-)ET
Jun 26, 2002 11:33 AM
You do have a point, but people can get screwed too.

Doug, can I ask you what your height and inseam are, and what size bikes you ride? Thanks.
oh, noDougSloan
Jun 26, 2002 11:57 AM
Sure, I imagine some people with weird dimensions still might need or want a custom bike. Anvil will always have business. I wouldn't agree, though, if custom makers hyped their bikes with the proposition that it is impossible to get good fit on an off the rack bike. I don't think any do.

I'm 5'9", with, I think (but am not sure at all), a 32" inseam; 155-160 pounds; 54 and 55 cm road bikes and 17-19" mountain bikes.

Jun 26, 2002 12:25 PM
Anvil did make a point a while back that a seat slid a cm forward and a stem 1 cm smaller does alter the balance on the bike, to the point that some will notice it. Take that FWIW. Also, as I've said before, many get caught in that "just size by top tube" rule (somewhat circular rule, as how do they know what their ideal top tube is?) and then e.g. they buy a Trek OCLV, with a size 56 (seat tube) really being a 54, and then often can't comfortably reach the drops nor correct the problem, and regret the purchase. This is much more common a problem than you think. Some also are fitted on too big a bike. Didn't Dino say he felt a world of difference once fitted properly? (Of course, that could've been "new bike-itis syndrome", where you imagine your new bike is the greatest thing in the world. :-))

I'm also 5'9", also flexible like you, but with a 33" inseam (84.2 cm, to be exact, measured the Colorado Cyclist way--stand back against the wall in socks, feet spread around 6", shove book under crotch with medium firm pressure, push book back so its edge behind you is level against wall and mark booktop position on wall--use co-worker assistance if necessary), then use tape measure to measure distance from ground. Repeat several times and take average.

I'd really like to know your inseam, as this is of more than just theoretical interest (I'll further my point later). Not sure at all? Can you measure as described above and post it here? Thanks.
inseam = 32.25 inches w/ book method nmDougSloan
Jun 26, 2002 5:36 PM
OK, then, here's the dealET
Jun 26, 2002 8:26 PM
We're the same height, both very flexible (I take yoga and, among other things, can get my palms flat on the ground when doing the standing forward bend), only diff is you have .75 inch more of you in the torso than I do. Then maybe you can explain why a certified Serotta technician, after giving me 3 hours on a Serotta size cycle and charging me $100, placed me on a 57 c-c(!) bike with a 57.5 tt! He even wanted to go higher! If anything, I should probably have a shorter tt than yours. I made my purchase based on his fitting. He messed up on the seat tube angle as well. I can still ride the bike (I'm flexible!)-- seat is slid forward one cm and stem came down one cm, but it's not a perfect fit by any means; it's too big. Ideally, I'd rather have a slightly shorter but lower reach than I do. Can still ride: longest ride so far is 53 miles (I've had some unrelated medical troubles preventing a faster buildup), and in fact I've had no soreness or trouble from the rides. But that doesn't mean it's an ideal fit. I'm glad my first road bike was not a super-expensive one.

Look, you're right that fit is somewhat overblown. I would word it otherwise: using a few common-sense rules, fit, while important, doesn't have to be so intimidating or mysterious. Start by finding your ideal seat tube angle (which will be good for life) by making sure that saddle at or near the center of its rails is your most comfortable position on a few long rides; make note of STA and preferably stick to bikes with such an STA. For top tube length, put the back of your arm against the nose of the seat, your other hand's knuckles horizontal against middle of first arm's vertically-suspended fingers (i.e., positioned so thumb is on top, pinky on bottom), and then pinky of second hand should end up just about dead on the middle of the straights of the handlebar if the tt length is good. (You don't even have to go out for a ride or even get on the bike for this test! This rule of thumb, er, pinky, appeared in Cycling Plus. Before you laugh, it works or comes very close for a very large percentage of the riding population. Try it and see.) You can use hub test while riding as another approximate backup. Standover clearance should be around 1.3 to 2 inches. Ride! These simple tidbits will work for 90% of the people. And yes, here minor adjustments will be fine.

So fit is important, but overblown as to its difficulty. That is not to say bad mistakes aren't common. Note, BTW, that due to your smaller inseam, despite our equal height, you will be .75 inch vertically closer to the bars than me (no wonder you have that fabulous reach :-)). As a few other illustrative examples, some come on to this board and say they want only a Coppi, others a Look. Well, just about all sizes of Coppi have a 74 STA, Look 72.5. That's almost a 2-cm difference in seat position right there. So these things matter and can be problematic, but don't have to be with a drop of thought, a little preparation, and a few test rides.
youre the same size as me but I fit on a 52ishmael
Jun 26, 2002 6:34 PM
Im 5'8 with a 32 inseam and i fit on a 53 top tube with a 10cm stem. Its not custom
You're not average, Doug.Spoke Wrench
Jun 26, 2002 11:55 AM
You have lots of bicycling experience and have a good handle on what you need. Of course the bikes you buy are going to be comfortable.

I, on the other hand, get to deal with the rest of mankind. I have people bring me bikes with over a foot of seatpost showing who complain the handlebars are too low. Or the seat down on the top tube with the seat clamp turned backward to get the seat more forward. Or who have the seat canted at 45 degrees. Or who have knee problems. The one thing all of these people have in common is they feel like they just spent a lot of money for their bike. They're not happy now, but they don't want to buy another frame.

People who need a 56cm bike want me to give them permission to buy a 60cm bike because it's a good deal and has Dura Ace. That's almost 2 inches difference and a short stem isn't going to make it work. A 105 bike that fits is way more fun to ride than a Dura Ace bike that doesn't. People who don't have your experience need to be told that.

On the other hand, I'm a little amused by the computer fit systems. We had a fellow on the board a week or so ago who was very worried about tenth's of cm in top tube length. That's obviously going overboard.

I still think that fit is the most important thing. Besides the length of your bones, however, your flexability and how you plan to use the bike are important factors that have to be considered. I think that most people can be fit on a couple of different bike sizes by a guy who has a good feel for how bicycles and bodies work.
I think you're right and....terry b
Jun 26, 2002 12:30 PM
I'm sure there's an entire population that will never get bitten by the upgrade bug. People who think they should not have to replace $100 parts on 4 figure bikes to get it right a year down the road in order to get rid of the pain the back, neck, shoulders, etc.
You're not average, Doug.pmf1
Jun 26, 2002 1:06 PM
Good points.

Its my feeling that most people will fit on most bikes. If I want a Trek 5500, a Colnago C-40 or a Litespeed Classic, there is some frame/stem combination that is going to fit me.

I get so sick of hearing people on this board give the "fit, fit and fit" advice to someone asking what bike should they buy. Its not like one bike will fit them and another won't. One or two centimeters either way on a stem doesn't make that much difference. The supposed "short" top tube on a Colnago is not going to make it unridable for the vast majority of riders.

I also get so sick of hearing how great Seven or Serrotta is because they are custom. Guess what --- 98% of us don't need a custom bike. Whatever they make special for you isn't going to be much different from an off the rack bike. Women may be an exception because most bikes are made for males, and the proportions of male vs. female bodies do differ.

I agree with Sloan .... this fit thing is way over played.
Jun 26, 2002 1:54 PM
I've seen a lot of folks with pretty poor fits. I hate to see new riders on poorly fitted bikes who ride a few times and then get discouraged - basically due to poor fit. However, if there were more folks like Spoke Wrench out there in the LBS world (I assume SW is in the LBS world) - this likely wouldn't happen as much. I also agree with SW that some folks carry the fit scenario too far - it's a rare person who could tell a tenth of a cm difference. There is a happy medium out there for the new rider.

This is another good reason that folks new, to fairly new, to the sport of cycling should buy reasonably priced bikes and ride their way into high end bikes (after they know how they ride and what fit is best for them).
re: 80% correct answercyclopathic
Jun 26, 2002 11:57 AM
most bikes are designed around avg person /~5'10" male with proportional torso/femur length/ and yes no doubt most will fit on stock bike with stock seatpost/stem. Trouble is some of us are much shorter/taller, females, have longer femurs or torsos.
All I know is, I know what I likeTig
Jun 26, 2002 12:04 PM
Remember, when experts disagree, novices suffer!

I use modern fit and position wisdom as a general guide to help with efficiency and to prevent injury. After that, I follow what my body tells me combined with what first hand knowledge I've accumulated over the last 15 years on the road.

Working with a true expert (rare) on fit and positioning could help many people gain comfort and efficiency. This beats years of trial and error, but most of us don't know anyone who could help us that much. I sure don't. Get someone in the right ballpark to start with and if they are in touch with their bodies, they can fine tune their position to suit themselves and enjoy riding better than ever.

The fine details of shoe cleat positioning is more important than most other adjustments IMO. Once that is set up, seat height and fore/aft position comes next. From there, work on stem length and brake hood position. Bam! That's all we need!
In defense of fitPdxMark
Jun 26, 2002 12:09 PM
"Newbies here appear to be bombarded with "fit, fit, fit," almost to the exclusion of quality, characteristics, and price."

Well, yes, anything in excess or to the exclusion of all else is no good, but in my simple experience, fit of a bike frame is a relevant issue in how well I enjoy a bike. When a post on this board says "I want to spend $X, these three bikes fit the range, which should I get" it would seem that price and quality have already been set by the poster. We all could say, and often do, pick the one that you like to ride best. Or, without asking a single question about how the poster rides or how he wants to use the bike, we could all chime in "get the Merckx." But it seems hard to believe that fit, and careful consideration of fit, should not be a factor.

For some people it might not matter whether you get a 56cm or 58cm Trek. For others it might not matter whether they noticed a long top tube on the 15 minute test ride. But as one of many factors between two equally priced bikes, fit does seem to be relevant. Other posts in this thread point to folks who were steered toward ill-fitting bikes and how, for some, a good fit is not trivial.

So, when someone asks for advice, we could discuss cost (whether it's better to spend more or less), quality (Merckx or Colnago), or characteristics (titanium or steel), but to say anything you stand over will always be close enough isn't true for me.

So, yes, there is a huge range or adjustability of bikes. You can flip or replace stems, slide seats and seat posts, etc., but sometimes the resulting fit is not as good as it could be. And the resulting change in the handling of a bike might be more than the original difference between different bikes.

So, a professional fitting might just be voodoo, or a way to suck money from the gullible, but for me and a lot of people I know, a professional fitting has added significant enjoyment to riding a bike.
Excellent point!bnlkid
Jun 26, 2002 12:12 PM
I had a serotta fit to see if I could fine tune my riding position and to make sure I am standard fit. Sure enough a 54cm x 54cm works fine for me. I did, however, find out that a 12cm stem would work a bit better than the 11cm stem for ideal riding position. It was an adjustment I was going to make anyway. What really got me, though, was the suggestion that a 55cm top tube would be too long. What? Can't I go with a 11cm stem and still have the effect bike position. Granted I am going to be 1cm less over the wheel(big deal), but the bike would still fit me.

You make an excellent argument. What would be nice would be for custom fit builders to make a bike that will accomodate one leg being 2mm shorter than the other. :)
leg lengthsDougSloan
Jun 26, 2002 12:16 PM
Would different length cranks help with leg length discrepency?
leg lengthsbnlkid
Jun 26, 2002 12:23 PM
Won't that make the pedal stroke feel weird or out of balance? I haven't tried this, but if someone has, and says it works, I might be willing to give it a try. I think my body has adapted, however. Which brings into account another point. Even with a less than perfect fit, the body will adapt to the bike. Aren't you in different riding positions when you go from a road bike to mountain bike? I know I don't have any fit issues with that.
re: having a fit about "fit"Akirasho
Jun 26, 2002 12:14 PM
... well I'm one of them "fit fit fit" ranters... cuz the consequenses of a bad fit... especially for a neophyte could be to be turned off from the sport forever... I'm sure many of you have had non riding friends and family members criticize the saddle on your road bike without ever actually trying one... there's already a preconceived idea that road bikes are uncomfortable... if this is "validated" by a bad fit... the news of such spreads faster than wildfires in the west (no disrespect to those who are at risk).

True, there will be more to riding than that initial fit... but without a good base to build from, all could be for naugth...

We abide.

Remain In Light.
Sing itoff roadie
Jun 26, 2002 12:35 PM
I think the "fit fanatisism" comes from bike sales folk. It gives them "facts" to "prove" the bike they are trying to sell is the "best" one.

When I bought a used road bike, I basically looked at the previous owner and said "yup, we are about the same size". Sure, it was uncomfortable for the fist few rides, but I was used to MTBs with big riser bars. After a few 50 mile rides, it seems to fit pretty good. Maybe I got lucky, but (at least with a used bike), what more do need to do?

Both of us are 6 foot plus males- I'm maybe 2 inches taller. I did sit on the bike and ride it around the block, but I wasn't gonna worry about it being a cm or two off. After I'd had it a while, I measured it out of curiosity. Well, I have a 33" inseam and am 6'2", and its a 58 seat tube, 58 tt. I haven't even considered checking for "KOPS".

For some odd reason the bars are 40cm, even though both of us are 6 foot plus males. Ah well, they have some nice bars for only $30 at the LBS.

For what its worth, the bike has a DB steel frame, DB spokes, 105 componants (8 speed) and new Armadillo wheels. It was $250, and the previous oenwer was a proffesional mechanic. Price and Quality, yep, those were BIG factors- given that those are so good, I can convince myself that the fit is perfect!
Nice rant, but...MXL02
Jun 26, 2002 12:48 PM
Doug- I agree with the majority of your rantings, but it is very difficult to buy your "dream bike" costing many thousands of dollars, and just hop over the top tube and exclaim, " yeah, this one seems ok". For a new rider trying to buy his or her first road bike, I agree that a few basic fit tenets are all you need to get the bike set up decently for leisure riding. But when I bought my dream bike, purchasing a frame sized in 1 cm increments, I wanted it perfect.

Ride on!
wanted it perfect, or wanted to THINK it was perfect?off roadie
Jun 26, 2002 1:31 PM
I'd argue that you more wanted somebody to convince you that you were getting the best possible value for your money, and that the fit was one aspect of that. As you say, its hard to hop on an (expensive) "dream bike" and just say "yah, it fits"- but I think that is because we are looking for psycological justification of such an large expesne.

There's nothing wrong with that- prevenbting "buyers remorse" is a very important part of any good vendors job, and is valuable for the customer if it lets them get on with using a product rather than fretting over the cost.

But, is there really a difference in how "perfect" a frame fit is given a varience of only 1cm? Probably not, at least not to the extent and formulaic basis commonly promoted by road bike sales people.

BTW, I'm sure you got a great bike and love riding it- and that's what matters, even if the "fit" is as much psycological as physical. Ideally, it should be both.
To my chagrin...MXL02
Jun 27, 2002 5:46 AM
I have to admit to purchasing a frame in a size too small, 2cms, and having to change it out because I couldn't get it dialed in correctly. If you want value, don't buy an expensive bike, because, even tho I have one and love it, there is no way to justify having does not make me ride any better, nor help my fitness is an emotional purchase, so value is really not an issue. That being said, getting it to be, (ok, ok maybe not perfect) as close to perfect as possible, is part of the emotional experience. Knowing that my bike "fits" correctly is important, at least to me.

By the way, yes I could have adjusted the stem and seat post to get the smaller bike to fit, but it didn't make sense to me to have my "dream" bike jury rigged together because I wasn't savvy enough to buy the correct size in the first place.
re: My advice is that fit is more about balance than numbers.dzrider
Jun 26, 2002 1:00 PM
I have been able to create the same triangle between seat, pedal at its most forward position and handlebars, with many bikes in my range of sizes. It takes a little fiddling but it is certainly possible. When I get that triangle I feel centered and balanced on my bike and life feels good.
re: having a fit about "fit"GEORGIADOG
Jun 26, 2002 1:41 PM
That is the smartest thing I've read on this site yet! I knew there was some intellegence on here somewhere
re: having a fit about "fit"zray61
Jun 26, 2002 2:42 PM
Since I'm obsessive about fit, my two cents. I'm 6'4" getting a comfortable fit on a bike is very difficult. Going into a LBS and and even finding a bike to straddle is nearly impossible. Most bikes in the stores are for "average" people. Next time you are in your LBS see how many 63cm or 64cm bikes he has on the floor. Also, as the seat tubes get into the sixty cms, the top tube is not proportionally increased. As noted by others, a large frame generally leads to an aggressive and painful riding position.

Those who need bikes in the 49 cm or 50 cm will also have problems with fit. If you go to Cannondale's site and check their frame geometries you will notice the descrepancies in the small and large frames with the "average" frames.

So, if you have a small girl friend and you want to keep
her. Listen to her complaints and try to help her.
I agree and disagree.look271
Jun 26, 2002 3:09 PM
I was for the most part, like you. Just get the correct size (using standover height, etc), adjust the seatpost, stem, saddle, and off I'd go. When I got my kg, I thought, "why don't I do this right?", so I went to my buds at World Cup and they adjusted my position on the bike. It wasn't any real scientific formula, it was more like "try this-how does it feel? Let's do this, etc." Moved the seat back and up a bit, adjusted my cleats and swapped out the stem, I've never been more comfortable on my bike. So, yes, you don't really need a secret formula, but it does help to have someone who knows more than you help you out.
re: having a fit about "fit"bic
Jun 26, 2002 4:38 PM
Gosh could you not apply that same thought process to everything in cycling. Frames, tires, grouppos, saddles (not)!, yada, yada, yada.
Jun 26, 2002 5:38 PM
I think it really is important for my tires to fit well. :-)

ditto shorts...NM :)bic
Jun 26, 2002 6:46 PM
Jun 26, 2002 4:51 PM
But how 'bout the alarming number of people that wind up being sold bikes that aren't even close to what they need? Or aren't even given enough service help to get things approximately right?

I suppose it's like buying ski boots if you don't ski very often or very hard then big sloppy rental boots are fine. But if you're using the things all the time, crank them down unitl your eyes bug out then slam donw the mountain at the speed of heat, then fit really is going to matter. Problem is that every one has an inflated self image and we're all "above average" when asked.
mostly agreedSoultrain
Jun 26, 2002 6:34 PM
I have a bike right now that is far from fitting me, it is just a beater that I am using while I am in a particularly humid, and hot, tropical climate. I am 5'10" w/ a 33 and a half inch cycling inseam. My kestrel and Klein are 56 c-c and 55 c-c respectivly. they both fit quite well, the problem child is my lugged AL frame that I have here on the island. The frame that I have now is a 63x64. I am using an 8cm stem and it just can't make up for the huge size discrepancy.
I only have to ride it for two more months though. then my shoulders and back will get a rest. It has started to become a problem, as I am having to take steps to keep my back in shape. I can say that I now know about how far I can go and get away with improper fit. I think that I could do fine with two or three cm too big(58-59).
I could go a cm smaller(54) but wouldn't want to go much further than that.
Good rant Doug,
Agree in some part...DINOSAUR
Jun 26, 2002 8:33 PM
The problem is it can be very confusing for a person new to the sport. And most LBS's don't do any type of fitting and tend to just sell you a bike.

Most of us who have ridden for a couple of years have all gone through the 'don't fit' routine and ended up with a bike that doesn't fit due to inexperience and a shop that will sell anything to anybody.

Probably if we took a poll most of us could list the specs and geometry of what works for us. Two important measurements are ST and TT (TT most important). After that it's a matter of dialing in your saddle height, saddle tilt, KOPS, finding the right stem length and rise, crank length, cleat position, handlebar tilt yada, yada, yada, yada...even down to the angle of you cyclocomputer..

Most of us are two different animals, the equipment freaks, who are always trying to find the perfect position. And the other type, just make a couple of adjustments and ride it.

I've found also that when you get older your body changes from one day to the other. What feels good one day, will not on another. So I'm transferring from an equipment freak to just make a couple of adjustments and ride the damn thing...find the middle ground within a couple of mm's..
Along the same line:Skip
Jun 27, 2002 7:23 PM
Another one that has never made sense, is the issue of rake/trail.

ie: "My ABC fork with a rake of 44, was just unrideable; but then I switched to one with a rake of 42, and what a difference. It rides like on rails. Descends mountains, through the curves, just slicing effortlessly, in the groove."

2mm - hummmmmmmmmm - maybe .05% of the top riders could perceive the difference.