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custom frames and changing bike fit(3 posts)

custom frames and changing bike fittarwheel
Feb 4, 2003 6:34 AM
One of our more distinguished and knowledgable posters, Kerry, wrote the following words of wisdom in a discussion on the components board:

"Someone new to road riding is highly unlikely to find their ultimate position on the first go. As they become accustomed to the riding position and get some miles in, sometimes over several seasons, people often find their
desired position changing. What was "stretched out" now feels OK, or what was "just right" now feels cramped.
With time, if you are working on your position along with all your other riding stuff, seat position tends to rise,
handlebars tend to be farther below the saddle, saddles tend to move rearward, and handlebars tend to be
farther forward from the saddle. You simply cannot say "this is the right position for someone of your body
dimensions" because there are too many variables and things that change with time. Get used to your position,
and then occasionally make small changes: raise/lower your saddle, move your saddle forward/backward. Ride
a while with the changes (a few 100 miles, anyway) and decide if it is better or worse. If it is better, keep
moving in that direction. If it is worse, try moving the other direction. If you don't try, you won't find out, but it is a
long term process, often taking years, to really dial in your position. And since your strength and flexibility are
changing with time, it is reasonable that your position would need to change also."

I have found this observation to be very accurate in my personal experience, and it makes me wonder if it is a smart thing for beginning (or, in my case, born again) cyclists to invest large amounts of money in custom frames. Two years ago, I was faced with the decision of buying a new frame to replace one that felt too big and stretched out. I had a Serotta fitting, which recommended a frame with 56 c-c seat tube, 54 c-c top tube, 73 seat angle, and a 9 cm stem. I couldn't afford to spend $1500 on a Serotta frame, so bought the closest stock frame that I could find, a Gios with 56 c-c seat tube, 55 c-c top, and 74 seat angle. Since the frame and fork only cost $600, I figured I could ride it a while and buy something new if it didn't fit.

Two years later, I am still riding the Gios and it fits fine -- but I have stretched out my position quite a bit. I now ride with a 12 cm stem, the seat a little higher and further back. Fortunately, the 74 seat tube angle makes the Gios fit a longer across the top than a similar sized frame with 73 angle. I recently bought a new bike (Merckx), and the shop recommended a 57 c-c frame with 57 top tube, and it fits great with a 10 cm stem.

Anyway, my point is that the conventional wisdom seems to be that new riders should buy the most expensive frame they can afford and cut costs (if necessary) on components. However, if you are new to cycling (or returning after many years), I am not so sure that is good advice. If I had spent $1500 on a Serotta frame, I would be stuck right now with a very expensive frame that was too small and built to strange dimensions that would likely be hard to sell. I am not trying to slam Serotta bikes or fittings, but just trying to make the point that a new rider perhaps ought to buy a relatively inexpensive stock frame for their first bike and ride for a while before investing big bucks in a custom frame or an expensive ti/carbon/unobtanium frame.
AgreeNessism
Feb 4, 2003 10:02 AM
Don't forget to mention that fit changes depending on what kind of shape one is in. For myself, spring dictates higher bars with a shorter reach. As I get into shape, a longer and lower position preferred.

I would like to encourage people to play around with their position to find what is ideal for them. Try different saddle positions and stem lengths. Know what the dimensions are on your current frame and make subtle adjustments from there. For example, if your current frame has a 74 degree seat tube angle and the saddle is pushed back on the rails, your next frame should have a slacker seat angle. Evolve as you go and try to be scientific - at least keep track of the changes.

And don't forget the custom framebuilders out there. Someone like Tom Teesdale will build you a full custom frame for far less than many off the shelf offerings. Become your own designer!

Enjoy.

Ed

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good runt butcyclopathic
Feb 4, 2003 1:32 PM
it didn't work out for me. I am short and have relatively long legs. Most small frames have too steep STAs. Imagine trying to fit saddle and constantly running out rail space, hunting for seatpost just because it has extra 2mm offset. Granted this is more of exception then rule.