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Bike Buying Advice(15 posts)

Bike Buying Advicebert41
Aug 13, 2002 8:24 AM
I recently graduated from college, and want to get into competetive cycling after being a competetive runner for the past 8 years.

I bought a 58cm Trek 5200 last fall as my first real road bike. The problem is that the bike is too long in the top tube, and was giving me severe numbness and pain in my back. I took it to a local shop and they said that there is nothing they can do to get it to fit better (since I already have an 80mm stem on it). So, I recently sold the bike.

I have had a size-cycle fitting done and the shop is strongly encouraging me to go with a custom (55 ST c-c, 53 TT, 74 deg STA). I looked at smaller stock frames from various companies, but I'd have to go down to a 51 or 52 c-c from most of them to get a top tube that is even in the ballpark. So, it looks like I need a custom, right?

That being the case, I'm struggling with what kind of custom to get. I'm very light (5'11", 130lbs), and I can really feel the extra weight of heavier bikes. I have been looking into a custom Cannondale, and it looks like that would work out fairly well. My only reservation with it is that it is very jarring over poorly paved roads. The shop has suggested putting on Spinergy Xaeros and a carbon seatpost to dampen out the shock. It seems to help some, but are Xaeros meant for everyday riding? I loved the feel of the OCLV frame and would consider a custom carbon, and I've liked the Ti bikes I've test-ridden, but they've substantially more expensive.

Basically, I'm looking for some advice on what to consider or what other questions I should be asking given that I don't have much riding experience. I'd like to get into racing next spring once I'm back in decent shape, and would probably start out with crits. Hopefully I'd add some road racing sometime thereafter.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Sorry this is so long-winded.

re: Bike Buying Advicedjg
Aug 13, 2002 9:10 AM
I really don't know what you feel comfortable spending, but some custom carbon (e.g., from Calfee) is not terribly expensive, all things considered.

The other option is to consider custom steel. I know that you want a light bike, but consider two things:

1) The higher end steel tubesets nowadays allow some pretty light frames to be built (I have a friend riding a Pegoretti built from Deda's EOM 16.5 tubing and it is NOT a heavy bike). Deda has EOM 16.5, Columbus has Ultrafoco, etc.

2) An economical, yet very good, custom steel frame might be significantly less expensive than a custom Ti or CF frame (or than the custom Ti or CF that you want). You could put some of the savings into light parts and still get a very light bike out of the deal. Remember, most of the weight of the bike is not in the frame itself.

Also, back pain should be discussed with any builder--it may be partly a function of reach and partly a function of drop.
Check out IF, Seven...cabinfever
Aug 13, 2002 9:26 AM
You want a light bike, but with your back pain, it sounds like you want something comfortable too. As suggested in the previous post, you might want to look at steel. Ever check out Independent Fabrications ( I know a guy with a Crown Jewel (road), and the mountain bike from IF. Both rave over their comfort and handling. I know IF will custom build to size too. Seven cycles also does custom I think. In terms of carbon or aluminum, I'm not sure who would do custom sizes. Good luck.
Try Strong Frames at
Aug 13, 2002 9:47 AM
Carl has a lot of experience working with people in your situation, and makes beautiful and light steel and ti frames. Give him a call or send him an email and you will find out what I mean.

Aluminum is a great material for racing frames, but all else being equal, is pretty jarring relative to steel and ti, and not as durable in the long run.

The frame he made for me is Foco Steel, and it built up to 18.5 pounds with Speedplay pedals, Thompson Stem, Selle Italia Flight Gel Seat, Campy Daytona Group, Carve Fork, and Mavic Open Pro Wheels. With Ultrafoco Steel, Campy Record, and Racing Wheels it would be significantly lighter.

You will be able to get a great custom bike from Strong, IF, and others, so just pick the one you like the best and go for it!
re: Bike Buying AdviceCT5
Aug 13, 2002 10:05 AM
Size-wise, you're like me. Colnagos in size 54 or 55 would fit your specs well - shorter top tube. You can buy a Ti/Carbon CT1 from Maestro for about $1700, shipped, with a top of the line star carbon fork. That's what I did. The ride is very comfortable, but stiff in the bottom bracket. It descends like no other which I assume is due to its geometry. The 5200, which I extensively test rode, does not feel or handle as well. Good luck.
re: Bike Buying AdviceCT5
Aug 13, 2002 10:08 AM
I just noticed that a Colnago in size 55 matches your specs EXACTLY.
re: Bike Buying Advicebert41
Aug 13, 2002 10:28 AM
Where are you getting the Colnago specs? I'm looking at the following website for a shop near me...

From what I see, I'd need to go down to a 52 (c-t) as opposed to the 57ish c-t that has been suggested by the fitting, to get the 53 top tube I need.
re: Bike Buying AdviceCT5
Aug 13, 2002 10:39 AM
You're right. My mistake. I mixed up the top tube and seat tube dimensions. Sorry.
re: Bike Buying Advicehammy4200
Aug 13, 2002 11:29 AM

Most people I sell bikes to at 5'11" tend to ride a frame with a top tube in the 55-58cm range. That doesn't mean that everyone must, but unless you have freakishly long legs, I'm going to question that 53cm figure. It's possible that your shop did not do a good job of fitting you, and you may want to consider a second opinion.
It's also possible that there is something going on in your back that may require some medical attention, and riding a bike with a too-short top tube will probably not solve your problems.
In the event that you do have freakishly long legs (not that there's anything wrong with that!), you will certainly want a custom frame.
Previous posts have suggested Strong, Seven, and IndyFab (among many) and they are right; steel is still an excellent material for frame building.
Yep. Strange Math.jtolleson
Aug 13, 2002 6:08 PM
I'm 5'7", and in typical woman build, longer in legs (32 inch cycling inseam) than torso... but even I spec out at a 53.5 tt. The math does seem odd. Is it possible that you are uncomfortable on the Trek for reasons unrelated to the TT length... such as saddle to bar differential, or an undiagnosed back problem?

What is your cycling inseam? (that's floor to crotch, SNUGLY).
re: Bike Buying Advicebert41
Aug 13, 2002 6:49 PM
Here are the body measurement numbers we came up with. I couldn't describe exactly how the Arm and Torso measurements were done, but they were done according to the guidelines supplied with the Serotta Size Cycle info.

Inseam: 85cm
Arm Length (corrected): 63.5cm
Torso Length (corrected): 59.5cm
UBM (Arm + Torso): 123cm
Shoulder: 39.5cm
re: Bike Buying AdviceMasterBlaster
Aug 13, 2002 12:10 PM
My advice is pay the LBS to size you on a fitting bike and go from there. Euro frames tend to have shorter a TT length and may work for you.
Good luck.
Another suggestion for a framebuilderj-son
Aug 13, 2002 1:05 PM
My wife and I both have Steelmans (, she rides an SR525 road frame and I have a Manzanita mountain frame.

Both are superbe bikes. And Brent Steelman is a great framebuilder and his customer service is just about the best in the industry. His prices are quite reasonable also.

He offers a wide range of sizes. Most sizes come with a long or short top tube option. He will also spend a considerable amount of time with you (via email or telephone) making sure you get the righ frame.

I would echo the advice to double check you size needs. If you are 5'11" then a 53 cm tt would be pretty short. Not saying you don't need that short of a tt, just make sure you need it before you get. In comparison, I'm 5'9.5" and ride a 54.5 to 55 cm tt comfortably.

Steelman has a pretty good offer right now, I think 15% off of in stock frames.

I don't work for Steelman or get a kickback. I'm just a saitisfied repeat customer.

Advice on back problemol
Aug 13, 2002 7:21 PM
Having experienced back problems myself mainly only when I was riding, I can relate to your problem. I agree with one of the posters in regards to your situatuion and that it probably requires medical attention. I suspect if your lower back really tightens up whilst riding, you might have very tight hamstrings. I would do some serious stretching in that area and also get some deep tissue massage in the lower back area.
re: Bike Buying Advicetarwheel
Aug 14, 2002 4:14 AM
I am almost the same height and inseam as you, but heavier. I also had a lot of problems with hand numbness from being too stretched out, but thankfully no back problems. After a Serotta fitting, they recommended a frame with a 56 c-c seat tube and 54/55 c-c top tube. I shopped around and found that some of the Italian and other European steel frames have much shorter top tubes than most American brands. Here are some suggestions to check out:
-- Gios Compact Pro, only sold by in Boulder, CO. This is what I ended up buying. A great value at $550 for the frame, and $150 for steel fork or $250 for carbon fork. This is not the lightest frame around but a beautiful classic frame with beautiful paint, chrome and details. My frame is size 57 c-t (or 56 c-c) with a 55 c-c top tube, and it fits me great.
-- Eddy Merckx frames, sold in various places. Merckx no longer makes steel frames, but they have some nice aluminum and ti frams. Although the top tubes are a little longer than the Gios, Merckx frames have a very relaxed seat tube angle, effectively shortening the top tube because you can move the seat forward more. The Merckx Majestic has a reputation for a very nice ride, and is reasonably priced for ti.
-- Dean custom frames, These are some of the most reasonably priced custom frames around. They sell light weight steel, steel/carbon combo, and ti frames.
-- Check out, which sells a lot of steel and aluminum frames for great prices. Web site has photos posted for each frame, with seat and top tube measurements.