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  1. #1
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    Do pros/racers typically ride smaller frames?

    Looking at building up a new bike and am wondering if I should base the frame size off my current bike or perhaps go a bit smaller.

    Current bike is a 2001 Pinarello Prince 56cm. Top tube and seat tube are both 56cm. Head tube is 16.3. 110 stem. 6 feet tall, 33 inch inseam. It has been fit well and feels comfortable.

    I guess the reason I ask is because I see a lot of pros and local racers on what seem like smaller bikes. Examples; Hincapie is 6'3 and rides a 57. Ballan is the same height and rides a 55?!

    I've done the Competitive Cyclist fit calculator and it recommends and even longer top tube (between 56 and 57).

    Anyone have first hand experience with this or care to weigh in either way? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    If you are comfortable, have no aches or pains that can be addressed as a fit issue, and feel as if you are fitted to optimize your power output, why change? Especially at the cost of a new frame set. Change solely for the sake of change will probably only lead to displeasure and/or discomfort.
    “It is just a ‘Game Boy’ that has a gigolo attached at the end telling the racer when to take a piss,” Hinault

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by slimjw

    It has been fit well and feels comfortable.

    .
    Why change sizes? If it's not broken..........
    Dave Hickey/ Fort Worth

    My 3Rensho Blog: http://vintage3rensholove.blogspot.com/

  4. #4
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    Well, I'm getting a carbon frame as the aluminum can be rough on longer rides, so a purchase is definite at this point. Not changing for the sake of change.

    I just wanted to get feedback from anyone who has (or hasn't) run a smaller frame to achieve a more aggressive position and see how that worked out. I realize that if my current fit ain't broke there's no need to fix it, but I want to know what the differences would be if I went down a size.

    Example, I'm looking at getting a BMC and with their geometry the 55 with its longer TT (56) would approximate my current fit, while the 53 (TT 55) is just a hair smaller. And the usual size things factor in; smaller bike is stiffer and lighter.

  5. #5
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    I understand...I'm not suggesting you don't buy a new bike...I buy at least one per year:-)

    As for sizing, I'm probably the wrong person to ask.

    I've ridden frames smaller than ideal and I hated it. Shorter head tube is the main reason. I'm not very flexible and prefer higher bars than pros/racers run.
    Dave Hickey/ Fort Worth

    My 3Rensho Blog: http://vintage3rensholove.blogspot.com/

  6. #6
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    When I was racing in the the '70's our bikes were often considerably smaller than 'recommended'. Part of this was that it was the best (only?) way to get a stiffer frame from the 531 tubing. It also helped a bit with aerodynamics. The bikes recommended to me today based on 'today's recommendations' are generally around 53-54 (I'm 5'11") and seem right in the pocket with my old crit frames but smaller than my old road frames.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by slimjw
    Looking at building up a new bike and am wondering if I should base the frame size off my current bike or perhaps go a bit smaller.

    Current bike is a 2001 Pinarello Prince 56cm. Top tube and seat tube are both 56cm. Head tube is 16.3. 110 stem. 6 feet tall, 33 inch inseam. It has been fit well and feels comfortable.

    I guess the reason I ask is because I see a lot of pros and local racers on what seem like smaller bikes. Examples; Hincapie is 6'3 and rides a 57. Ballan is the same height and rides a 55?!

    I've done the Competitive Cyclist fit calculator and it recommends and even longer top tube (between 56 and 57).

    Anyone have first hand experience with this or care to weigh in either way? Thanks.
    Yes, but LA is 5'10" and rides a 58cm..

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by slimjw

    I just wanted to get feedback from anyone who has (or hasn't) run a smaller frame to achieve a more aggressive position and see how that worked out. I realize that if my current fit ain't broke there's no need to fix it, but I want to know what the differences would be if I went down a size.
    It worked out well.
    But a better way to describe my scenario than "run a smaller frame to achieve a more aggressive position" would be "get a properly sized frame to run more drop than the one that was too big allowed for"

    So yeah I went to a smaller frame and it worked out great but every situation is unique so I wouldn't make anything of my experience if I was you.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JacoStillLives
    Yes, but LA is 5'10" and rides a 58cm..
    While this is true, you have to look at the geometry of a 58cm Trek bike. The effective TT of a Trek is 57.2 cm, which would be considered a tad on the long side for someone 5'10". However, he's older and maybe not as flexible. Plus, he has so many people working for him and knows how to hide in a pack that he really doesn't need to hunker down any further to fight the wind. However, sitting more upright while spinning up climbs tends to be easier. Well, he makes it look easy at least.

    I'm 5'10.5" and ride a 56.5 TT bike. So hearing a 6' person on a smaller bike intrigues me. But I know that overall height and even inseam aren't true baselines for bike fit.

    Like the OP, I am interested to hear how many people ride smallish bikes. Heck look at Ryan Trebon's bike and try not to shake your head in disbelief.

  10. #10
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    One of my bikes is a size small. I have more saddle to bar drop on that one than on my slightly larger other bike. Both are comfortable, but I think I prefer the larger one.

  11. #11
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    You need to decide how much drop you want from the saddle to the bars,.
    pros ride smaller frames and they have a fair drop from the saddle,
    Personally I prefer the bars higher, so I ride a larger frame. I'm 5.11 and I ride a 58cm Trek and a 57cm Litespeed. It depends how you measure the frame.

    I'm a tourist so I tend to go for comfort.

  12. #12
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    I am 5'6" and ride one bike with an effective top tube of 53.5 cm and another bike that is smaller, about 51 cm (just eyeballing it versus the other). The big difference is the amount of saddle to bar drop I run on the 2 bikes turns out different. The bigger frame is limiting the amount of drop I can achieve unless I want to go to a really short stem.

    As far as the pros go, they can dial it up 65-70 kph at the end of a 200 km ride, but I cannot. I don't need to have a bike set up like theirs...

  13. #13
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    Like the others have said, it depends on whether you want to achieve a more aggressive position. Certainly, going to a smaller frame gives you more flexibility with saddle-to-bar drop. However, if you end up preferring your old position, you'll probably be running a lot of spacers.

  14. #14
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    special case...

    You've got short legs and a long torso, if that 33 inches (84cm) is an accurate cycling inseam. That would mean a saddle height only around 74cm. A frame that has the head tube length that's appropriate for that saddle height (130-150mm) may require a 130-140mm stem, but that's common for the pros.

    When comparing frames you need to look at the head tube length, the TT length and the seat tube angle. Even better are brands that list the stack and reach (Trek, C'dale and Cervelo). Stack eliminates the BB drop and fork length variations.

  15. #15
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    I have the classic "Chimp Build" short legs, short torso and long arms. I am 6 foot tall and I ride a 54 cm Bataglin Road bike, a 56 cm Waterford, a 52 cm Sam Hillborn, and a 52 cm compact frame Vitus

    I can echo the replies above. Buy what makes YOU happy and comfortable not what someone else rides. Also pro-racers are PAID to ride and paid to win. and that changes the equation somewhat.

    BTW I thought Lance Armstrong was about 6 foot 2 or 3 inches. He is fairly tall for racer.
    Fai Mao
    A Proud Retrogrouch

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fai Mao
    BTW I thought Lance Armstrong was about 6 foot 2 or 3 inches. He is fairly tall for racer.
    According to Wikipedia he's 5'9.5"

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JacoStillLives
    According to Wikipedia he's 5'9.5"

    He is 5'9".... I can't speak for the latest Treks he rides but the older Treks were measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat collar.. His 58cm frame was closer to a 56cm from other manufacturers

    To the OP, final thought on the subject.. you are going to spend some serious coin on a new frame.. Don't send the money on something that you "think" might work, what what pros ride or what a bunch of people on an internet forum offer as their experience... it's meaningless to your personal fit...

    If you are thinking about a smaller size, test ride it.....be sure....
    Dave Hickey/ Fort Worth

    My 3Rensho Blog: http://vintage3rensholove.blogspot.com/

  18. #18
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    Wikipedia is a notoriously unreliable source.
    Fai Mao
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  19. #19
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    Thanks for all the answers, everyone. I wound up going for the 55 (TT, ST, and HT closer to my current ride) and will see how it works out.

  20. #20
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    Wikipedia's accuracy aside, 5'-9" is what I have always remembered reading, too, but according to his page on the Team Radio Shack web site, Armstrong is 5'-8" tall.

    Of course it's possible he's shrunk. People do that when they get old.

    /Hmmm, said web page also gives his height as 177cm, which works out to about 5'-9 5/8". That's nearly a 2" variation so one value or the other is clearly wrong. As mentioned, 5'-9" is the number I've always seen.
    Last edited by Allez Rouge; 07-01-2010 at 12:36 PM.
    Allez Rouge

  21. #21
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    5'9 and 160-165 pounds at race weight? I think there are some shenanigans going on out there on the internets, y'all...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by slimjw
    Looking at building up a new bike and am wondering if I should base the frame size off my current bike or perhaps go a bit smaller.

    Current bike is a 2001 Pinarello Prince 56cm. Top tube and seat tube are both 56cm. Head tube is 16.3. 110 stem. 6 feet tall, 33 inch inseam. It has been fit well and feels comfortable.

    I guess the reason I ask is because I see a lot of pros and local racers on what seem like smaller bikes. Examples; Hincapie is 6'3 and rides a 57. Ballan is the same height and rides a 55?!

    I've done the Competitive Cyclist fit calculator and it recommends and even longer top tube (between 56 and 57).

    Anyone have first hand experience with this or care to weigh in either way? Thanks.
    Wow! I'm the same height with a 34" inseam and I currently ride a 58 cm Felt. When I rode Treks, 60 cm fit me better. Sounds like your bike is already on the small side as it is. If it fits, don't change.

  23. #23
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    In general, if nothing is broken with your current position, don't change it. If you want a super long drop, then try a smaller frame with more setback and a longer stem and see if it handles how you expect.

    As for the pro's sizing you pointed out, not all companies sizes are "standard". You have to look at the effective top tube to get a general idea of "reach" (of course depending on STA and HTA).

    For the record, I'm 5'10" and have bikes that are 550 and 555 effective TT with 120 stems on each. That's a 53 on a BMC.

  24. #24
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    What any group does (on average, since obviously there will be variances) or what any individual that isn't exactly your same size, fitness, flexibility, and goals and interests on the bike has absolutely no bearing on what size bike you should buy.

    Never mind that 'size' is something of a fiction anyway. My two main bikes are a 57 and a 63, and fit identically without any particularly weird parts or slams. There's only 1.5cm's difference in the top tube, one has a 100cm quill stem - stock on the bike. The other has a 110 threadless that's got a +7 rise - again, the stock item on the bike. Minor differences in bar and hood reach cover the few mm's difference left over.

    And no, despite lore, a smaller frame is not stiffer. I mean sure, it is as an independent object, but if the contact points remain the same distance from one another, the leverage remains the same, and so the flexion does too. Actually, the longer stems, posts and smaller bracing triangles probably mean the smaller bike under the same person is less stiff.

    The trend for excessive bar-saddle drop is often poorly considered - it essentially damns the rider to using the hoods for most riding, leaving the drops only for 'emergency' efforts, and not allowing the tops to be as upright as they could stand to be for long seated climbing efforts. A proper fit will make the drops perfectly comfortable yet very efficient, and leave the hoods for more measured pack riding.

    If I were going to make meaningless blanket advice - which I'm not - I'd advise getting the largest bike that allows a proper fit without doing anything goofy, rather than the smallest. They ride better, they track better, they're stiffer. There's arguably a small weight penalty, but it's not of an amount that would be noticed.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by danl1
    What any group does (on average, since obviously there will be variances) or what any individual that isn't exactly your same size, fitness, flexibility, and goals and interests on the bike has absolutely no bearing on what size bike you should buy.

    Never mind that 'size' is something of a fiction anyway. My two main bikes are a 57 and a 63, and fit identically without any particularly weird parts or slams. There's only 1.5cm's difference in the top tube, one has a 100cm quill stem - stock on the bike. The other has a 110 threadless that's got a +7 rise - again, the stock item on the bike. Minor differences in bar and hood reach cover the few mm's difference left over.

    And no, despite lore, a smaller frame is not stiffer. I mean sure, it is as an independent object, but if the contact points remain the same distance from one another, the leverage remains the same, and so the flexion does too. Actually, the longer stems, posts and smaller bracing triangles probably mean the smaller bike under the same person is less stiff.

    The trend for excessive bar-saddle drop is often poorly considered - it essentially damns the rider to using the hoods for most riding, leaving the drops only for 'emergency' efforts, and not allowing the tops to be as upright as they could stand to be for long seated climbing efforts. A proper fit will make the drops perfectly comfortable yet very efficient, and leave the hoods for more measured pack riding.

    If I were going to make meaningless blanket advice - which I'm not - I'd advise getting the largest bike that allows a proper fit without doing anything goofy, rather than the smallest. They ride better, they track better, they're stiffer. There's arguably a small weight penalty, but it's not of an amount that would be noticed.
    If you do not believe smaller Frames are stiffer take a look at "The Rinard Frame Deflection Test" on Sheldon browns website. Here is an excerpt.

    "All frame builders know that smaller frames are inherently stiffer and larger frames are inherently more flexible. What I found in my testing is that this effect is greater than I thought. Even the lightest tube sets, when made into a small frame, end up nearly the same stiffness as the heaviest tube sets, when made into a large frame"

    And there is a chart a as well with all the deflection data, which conclusively shows that smaller frames are stiffer, and all the stiffest frames tested were also the smallest frames. As far as weight you are generally loosing 100-150 grams, which in the grand scheme of things is not a big deal, but the way frames are priced these days that 100 grams would cost you at least one or two thousand dollars.

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