Sizing Conundrum
Last Post 08/20/2014 04:40 PM by ed custer. 35 Replies.
Author Messages
Jimmy

Posts:27

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06/22/2014 12:39 PM
Yesterday, my wife indicated she'd like to get a road bike. The first issue is trying to figure out the right size. We are exactly the same height at about half inch shy of six feet. However, proportionately, we are polar opposites. I have a very long torso, so I am always looking for bikes with a long top tube and front end. So I ride a 56cm bike, generally with a 56-57cm top tube and long stem. My wife's legs are in the neighborhood of 4" longer than mine, and has a proportionately short upper body. Further, being new to cycling, a long and low position is not going to work for her, sort of a bummer because I am selling my road bike right now, but I don't think I can get it to fit her correctly. I am assuming I need to look for a 58-60cm bike with a tall head tube and short top tube. Given her normal female proportions, but a very tall height, does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations?
zootracer

Posts:303

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06/22/2014 01:47 PM
You should look at a women's specific bike...they have shorter top tubes.....
smokey52

Posts:81

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06/22/2014 10:20 PM
Zoot, the issue with WSDs is that they generally use 650 instead of 700 wheels and are targeted for women shorter than around 5'2".
Jimmy, I would look for a more relaxed-fit bike. Rivendell has some. What price range are you looking at? You could consider a fitting session at a reliable shop. Sometimes they roll the price of the fitting into the cost of the bike. Depending on the brand, a touring bike can be more upright than a road bike.
You can also consider renting bikes to check the geometry out on an extended ride. I used to ride a triple-crank, but after renting a compact during a business trip, I bought a bike with one.
sappie66

Posts:10

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06/22/2014 10:34 PM
Smokey's advice is good. The "Plush" bike is now a well-established category now -- just see any "buyer's guide" issue in many bike magazines. These are the taller headtube designs like Giant's Defy line, Cannondale Synapse series, etc. Also, see Cervelo's view on WSDs -- they essentially say its bullshyte. Their sizing philosophy has always been their own rather than conventional -- worth a google.

BTW - my wife and I are also close in height, but considerably shorter than you guys.  My main bike is a 49cm Cervelo SLC and my wife rides a 51cm Spec Amira Expert.  I can ride it just fine, but the position is considerably more upright and the bar is closer in.  Her legs are longer than mine too.
jmdirt

Posts:707

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06/22/2014 11:45 PM
Jim, how much extra steer tube do you have? After I dinged my C5, I went from a 110 mm, -6 degree stem to a 90 mm, +6 degree stem, and raised it 1 cm on the steer. It made my position on the bike more comfortable, and it didn't change the handling enough to even discuss. My neck is better, but I'm keeping the position. As you know though, I only ride my road bike when the trails are wet. Anyway, that might make your bike work for your bride, or at least give you a good reference if it doesn't.
Cosmic Kid

Posts:1124

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06/23/2014 10:00 AM
Zoot, the issue with WSDs is that they generally use 650 instead of 700 wheels and are targeted for women shorter than around 5'2".


That's not quite accurate, smokey. Very few actually use 650c wheels, maybe a few of the smallest sizes, but even then it is not automatic. I don't think the Trek WSD bikes have any 650c wheels.

All the women's bike lines offer a full size range, as well. Some of the trek models go up to 62cm and the Specialized Ruby Sport has options at 57cm.

I would definitely look at some women's specific models, but the "endurance / gran fondo" style bikes would also be a good option.

Just say "NO!" to WCP!!!!
Keith Richards

Posts:739

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06/23/2014 10:51 AM
I agree with CK in that there are a wide variety of frames from her to choose from.

She should look at both women's and men's sizes appropriate for her. And as always, stem and bars to finalize position. When I worked at a shop a stem and or bar swap would do wonders, especially for taller female riders.
----- It is his word versus ours. We like our word. We like where we stand and we like our credibility."--Lance Armstrong.
Master50

Posts:235

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06/23/2014 10:59 AM
Since your wife is tall she does have more options than many women. In general you need to adjust bike size for Top Tube length and in most cases you need a smaller frame size for your wife than you do with a long torso. My wife rides a bike 2 cm smaller than a man of the same height to ensure her stem is not less than 10 cm. I picked that stem length to ensure goo balance. If drop from the seat to the bars is a problem for her you may need to look at bikes with a taller head tube as the smaller frame size will make this issue worse because of the longer seat post she needs.
Obviously a lot of really good bikes are available in women specific builds and you can even get a top level bike like a Colnago in custom size but I expect that option is over the top in this case?
smokey52

Posts:81

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06/23/2014 07:24 PM
Cosmic,
I guess things have changed in the last decade. When I searched for a bike for my daughter's college graduation a few years ago (11), all the WSDs had 650s.
Jimmy,
Another way to check on sizing would be to extend the seat post up to comfort height and rotate the bars up (or down) to simulate a change in stem length/angle. Take the measurements and find a frame/stem that replicates.
jookey

Posts:141

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06/23/2014 08:27 PM
I always tell my wife size doesn't matter.
THE SKINNY

Posts:409

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06/23/2014 08:29 PM
you might spring for a professional fit. they are pricey but sometimes they take that out of the price of a new bike. plus that puts the burden of getting a comfortable fit on the shop and not on you. sadly, now women specific bikes come in much nicer colors than men's bikes. those dark flat charcoal and glossy magentas do it for me.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Oldfart

Posts:484

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06/24/2014 02:11 PM
Master50, what is wrong with a stem under 100mm? By balance you mean?
79pmooney

Posts:1156

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06/24/2014 04:22 PM
I have heard for years that bikes with stems shorter than about 10 cm tend to be very quick steering and that if the front end geometry isn't designed to compensate, the bike can require undo attention to ride safely. I have never ridden shorter that 11 cm (at least not since I was riding my UO-8 with it's steel rims and very slow steering) so I cannot comment first hand but I have pushed the other extreme, to super long stems. I want the bike under a 180 stem to be too quick for normal use.

The thoughts that have been around for dedicated are that longer stems have more inertia so a sudden bump to one side of the handlebar has less effect and that handlebars on longer stems move more to make a course adjust; this in effect "desensitizes the steering. That first thought, inertia, makes a lot of sense to me. Rotational inertia is a function of the mass of the system times the square of the radius. Since the system includes the handlebars, brakes, tape, etc. the radius is affected a lot by a change in stem length. (Comparing a 100 to a 130: 130^2/100/2 = 1.69 or a 130 stem and bar has almost 70% more inertia than a 100.)

Now, you can make the bike behave as I said before with proper geometry. There are millions of proper handling bikes with very short stems. Even stems pointing back.. But you will notice the fork and headtube angles don't look racy, certainly not anything you would put a friend on. (Witness all the third world cargo bikes.)

Ben
SideBySide

Posts:179

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06/24/2014 07:32 PM
Wouldn't the vast majority of inertia be in the spinning wheel? I would think the stem length would be relatively less important, especially at speed.

Note: My last physics class was in high school, a long time ago.
79pmooney

Posts:1156

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06/24/2014 09:28 PM
At speed, yes. But at slower speeds, wheel inertia doesn't stabilize steering much. (And the inertia we are talking about here is gyroscopic. It isn't very hard to turn a light spinning wheel held by the axle. You can put your SO on a bike with heavy wheels and tell her it is for her safety, but I will leave the premises before you start.)

I haven't run the numbers and don't plan to. But as I said above, I have noticed real changes when I increased stem lengths.

Ben
Oldfart

Posts:484

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06/24/2014 11:27 PM
I have a 90 on my Giant and I ran an 80 on my cross bike. I once rode a bike with a 130 and it felt very weird. I think the long stem would feel normal after a few rides though. On my hard tail I run a 60. On one free ride bike I had a 40. Completely different than a road bike of course due to wider bars and slacker steering. Long stems put the riders weight further forward. Very bad off road.

My wife rode a Guerciotti with a 60 mm stem for years. Not a twitchy bike at all. I don't think stem length changes handling as much as folks think.
smokey52

Posts:81

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06/25/2014 12:36 AM
When I got a new bike last year, it came with a fitting. I changed from 100 mm to 80 mm. I haven't noticed any effect on stability or steering (even though the bike is quite faster), but I have found it much more comfortable to ride in the drops.
jmdirt

Posts:707

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06/25/2014 10:53 AM
Like I said above, I switched from a 110 to a 90. I was worried that the handling would be twitchy, but the handling/stability didn't change.

I bought a Schwinn Prologue in '93 that had a 130 stem and it was the most ill handling POJ on the planet. It was my first road bike so I figured that it was just "different" than my dirt rigs. A friend of mine had a 100 stem so I tried that and the bike railed. So I'm the opposite of Ben in that I prefer shorter stems. When I got my Scott Addict I decided to give the stock 110 a try, but then I ding my neck and needed to make things comfy. Like oldfart I prefer short stems off road. My main rig, Scott Scale 29, has a 70, and even "back in the day" my long stem was a 105 (usually 100).
Jimmy

Posts:27

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06/25/2014 11:01 AM
I think a bike fit may need to take place. She needs a more upright position, but standard frames are going to be too long by a LOT. I have done extensive research on women's specific geometry, and I find it applicable to some size bikes, but not readily available in her size (around a 60cm). Thanks for the input everyone.
THE SKINNY

Posts:409

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06/25/2014 12:21 PM
"I have done extensive research on women's specific geometry"

boasting?
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
SideBySide

Posts:179

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06/25/2014 02:58 PM
Posted By 79 pmooney on 06/24/2014 09:28 PM
  You can put your SO on a bike with heavy wheels and tell her it is for her safety, but I will leave the premises before you start.)

Ben

I may be slow but I am not stupid.   When looking at bikes for her, I was concerned she would be more interested in a plush ride.  Her question when looking at bikes was "Can we get a lighter one?"
jmdirt

Posts:707

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06/25/2014 05:10 PM
skinny, can one boast on an anonymous forum? No one knows who you are so where is the satisfaction in that?

I do have a 10 inch pianist (does anybody else remember that joke?).
Master50

Posts:235

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06/25/2014 05:21 PM
Obviously MTBs are coming with short to no reach stems so it isn't the turning the bars but the balance on the bike. A lot of people do not put enough weight on the front wheel as it is. Many people also never approach the performance capability of their road or MT bikes so these compromises might not mean as much to a sport rider as a 30,000 km a year pro.
Every bike has a sweet spot and I always look for a size that allows at least 100 mm of stem and puts the bars about where you want it. Downhill bikes are made to behave with a very short stem. City bikes are balanced when sitting upright and road bikes are also getting more upright but with a more traditional road stem. Flipped over too.
zootracer

Posts:303

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06/25/2014 09:03 PM
You can either get you wife professionally fitted (been there, done that) or just find a LBS with a large inventory and have her test ride as many bikes as possible. When she finds something that fits, she will know. A lot of it depends on your wifes riding style and flexibility. And by a test ride, I mean a 10 miler at least, not a ride around the parking lot type thing. See if she can latch onto a demo bike.

I was fitted once and now ride something quite opposite.
Jimmy

Posts:27

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07/02/2014 03:14 PM
So, I collected a detailed set of measurements, including leg length (upper, lower, total), torso length, arm length, height to the sternal notch, and overall height. Based on this information, she is supposed to ride a 60-62cm frame with a 56cm top tube. Umm, yeah...OK. Lot's of bikes with that geometry available off the shelf...said nobody. Ever. I sort of inherently knew this before the measurements, but this confirmed it.

There are no WSD bikes that go into larger sizes like this. So, we decided on finding a bike with the tallest head tube possible in a 58cm. This provided a modest increase in top tube length (57.5cm), a long enough seat tube (I hope) and limited the saddle-to-bar drop as much as possible. The stem is +25degree 11-12cm. Given the upright nature of the stem, it should not increase reach too much, and also continue to help limiting the saddle-to-bar drop.

I knew this effort was going to be about limiting extremes as much as possible, so we will see if this works! I'll update once we have the bike and get it dialed in.
zootracer

Posts:303

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07/02/2014 05:47 PM
Which bike?
Jimmy

Posts:27

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07/06/2014 09:36 PM
It's a Roubaix.
Gonzo Cyclist

Posts:203

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07/06/2014 10:43 PM
I was going to suggest a Ciocc, we have had great success sizing these for women with that exact sizing issue
Oldfart

Posts:484

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07/10/2014 03:31 PM
Posted By Mike Shea on 06/25/2014 05:21 PM
Obviously MTBs are coming with short to no reach stems so it isn't the turning the bars but the balance on the bike. A lot of people do not put enough weight on the front wheel as it is. Many people also never approach the performance capability of their road or MT bikes so these compromises might not mean as much to a sport rider as a 30,000 km a year pro.
Every bike has a sweet spot and I always look for a size that allows at least 100 mm of stem and puts the bars about where you want it. Downhill bikes are made to behave with a very short stem. City bikes are balanced when sitting upright and road bikes are also getting more upright but with a more traditional road stem. Flipped over too.

Actually the short stems on mountain bikes allow the rider to weight the front tire more as there is less chance of going over the front. That would be the same on a road bike wouldn't it?
Master50

Posts:235

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07/12/2014 11:44 AM
Posted By Andy Eunson on 07/10/2014 03:31 PM
Posted By Mike Shea on 06/25/2014 05:21 PM
Obviously MTBs are coming with short to no reach stems so it isn't the turning the bars but the balance on the bike. A lot of people do not put enough weight on the front wheel as it is. Many people also never approach the performance capability of their road or MT bikes so these compromises might not mean as much to a sport rider as a 30,000 km a year pro.
Every bike has a sweet spot and I always look for a size that allows at least 100 mm of stem and puts the bars about where you want it. Downhill bikes are made to behave with a very short stem. City bikes are balanced when sitting upright and road bikes are also getting more upright but with a more traditional road stem. Flipped over too.

Actually the short stems on mountain bikes allow the rider to weight the front tire more as there is less chance of going over the front. That would be the same on a road bike wouldn't it?


I would say the position of the rider has a big influence here. You ride an MTB more upright in many cases so the balance of the bike is different right out of the box. A road bike has a much forward position so a riders weight distribution is around that position. A cross country rider's position is more like a roady and while MTB stems are shorter than road stems XC bikes are made with a longer stem in mind. A DH bike puts the weight back toward the rear wheel but look at the terrain and the bikes geometry. Bike is neutral on steep downhills. weight to the back. pointed downhill weight is more even front to back. I really don't see long stems for DH bikes because the centre of gravity is already pushed back from a road or XC bike
Jimmy

Posts:27

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07/22/2014 11:29 AM
So, the 58cm Roubaix seems to work well. Fortunately, she has proportionately long arms, so her reach is just fine. It's more of a reach out than it is down, but she doesn't have to stretch out too much, and the bars are plenty high enough for her. She looks like Chrissy Wellington on a bike, only she's attractive
ChinookPass

Posts:463

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07/22/2014 04:14 PM
Well then we need pics so we can affirm your choice!
in bikes.
Jimmy

Posts:27

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08/20/2014 11:59 AM
[URL=http://s1304.photobucket.com/user/JimmyCrouch/media/IMG_0782_zps5274710e.jpg.html][/URL]

Here is a picture from last week in Bend. This was about 25 miles into a 45 mile ride, her longest yet. Soon thereafter it started pouring rain, followed by thunder and lightning. It ended up being an epic ride, and my wife's first burly effort. She never once complained on the ride. At the end, I told her how impressed I was that she took it all in stride. Her response to me was simply; "Rule #5". I love that woman.
ChinookPass

Posts:463

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08/20/2014 02:46 PM
Thumbs up!

She can take most of those damn rules with a grain of salt though, if at all. And let's be truthful, most of us would have bagged it knowing that a storm was rolling in.
vtguy

Posts:243

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08/20/2014 03:09 PM
You married well, Jimmy.
zootracer

Posts:303

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08/20/2014 04:40 PM
Pretty gal. Hope she is happy with her bike. Ride lots.


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