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Frame size dilemma

MartinB2444MartinB2444 Posts: 266
edited January 2012 in Road buying advice
I have been riding my MTB on the road pretty hard for the last few months in preparation for getting my first road bike in March. I have been to one or two dealers and sat on a few bikes. Most tempting so far has been the trek madone H2 based bikes. I am 5' 11 1/2" and according to the Trek size guide should be probably be looking at a 58cm frame. I've sat on both the 56 and the 58. The 56 feels snug and part of me whereas the 58 feels a bit big. On that basis I should go for the 56 but I know what seems good in the shop isn't necessarily what will suit after a few climbs and 2 hours in the saddle. I know the best solution is, well, to do a few climbs and have 2 hours in the saddle with each bike but this isn't feasible.

Has anyone got any advice for this road noob. Is a bike that feels a bit big in the shop likely to feel even bigger out on the road, or is the bike which feels snug and agile likely to be twitchy and crampy in real action.

I am coming up to 53, reasonably fit but not especially flexible. Most of my riding will be 1-3 hour runs in the Peak District but I will have the occassional all day ride and hope to do the odd sportive. I'm also planning to try out the Cube bikes for size in the near future.



  • BryndBrynd Posts: 39
    I’m the same height and had the same dilemma last year when choosing between a 56cm and 58cm Specialized Secteur Sport. The 56cm felt to short and the 58cm felt a little stretched out. The bike shop said I looked correctly positioned on the 58cm so went for that. Did a few hundred miles on it and it always felt stretched and had too much load through my arms. So I shortened the reach by changing the stem from a 110mm to a 90mm and the bike now feels comfortable. If I had the smaller frame I probably had done the opposite and changed the stem for a longer one.
    There is an old tail to determine reach, put your elbow against the front tip of the saddle and extend your open hand towards the handlebar and the handle bar should be around one inch from the tip of your long finger.
  • Thanks Brynd. I'll try the reach test, makes sense.

  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    There are many variables to reach so the 'reach test' is a very rough guide as is when sitting on the bike with the hands on the bars, the front hub should be obscured by the handlebar. As you ride the bike more, you should develop core body strength and flexibility that should make holding the position easier. Finally, if you are having to run a very short stem (90mm or below on a road bike) just to get some sort of fit, a the smaller size frame is probably a better idea.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • Thanks Monty. The Trek FAQ page suggests that if you are undecided between 2 frame sizes it's better to go for the smaller because you have more scope for making adjustment. Not sure how valid that is. I would love to take them out for a ride but they don't have them as demo bikes.

  • rutledrutled Posts: 3
    I'm the same height as you, my inside leg is 31 inches, I have ridden Trek 1500 for past eight years in 58 frame. When I was deciding the LBS kindly let me ride a 56 and 58 for about an hour or so before buying and instinctively the 58 felt right. Im glad I did as went on to develop a neck problem that restricted neck movement, happily cleared up now, but dont think would have coped with smaller frame. I flipped the stem for a while which helped me achieve an upright position which helped. Four years ago I forked out for Madone 5.9 in 58 frame and it fits fine. hope this adds something for you, good luck in your decision
  • Wirral_paulWirral_paul Posts: 2,476
    I'm 5ft 10 with a 31" inside leg but yet am on only a 54cm frame. As Monty Dog says, I went more on the front hub obscured by the bars test as a base point for frame sizing but then fitted a 1cm longer stem then standard after a full pro fitting.
  • Thanks Rutled and Paul. Seems that there may be more flexibility when choosing a bike and a lot comes down to personal preference rather than a specific formula.

    I'm going to try a Cube Agree GTC. A few people have commented that these seem quite small compared with other bikes for a given ST length.

  • arlowoodarlowood Posts: 2,561
    Hi Martin

    I am exactly the same height as you with an inseam of 32-33inches.

    Don't get too hung up on the paper stats. My recent experience suggests that you should sit on and preferrably ride both frame sizes for at least an hour to help you decide.

    In just the last two weeks I test rode a 58cm Trek Madone 5.9 (2011 model with £1100 off the list price). Based on the paper stats this should have been the ideal choice to replace my 58cm Spesh Secteur Elite. I did an hour test ride and knew within the first 5 minutes that the 58 Madone was too big - I was over-reaching to get into my usual riding position on the hoods. Even shortening the stem by 20mm would not have helped enough. I then tested a 56cm frame and even there I needed to relace the 100mm stem with a 90mm to get my ideal position on the bike.

    Picked up the new 56cm Madone 5.9 yesterday from Wheelbase and have just returned from my first serious, though relatively short, ride. I have to say I am mightily impressed with this first experience of the bike. Still have to tweak a few things such as saddle height and set back but overall the initials impressions are fantastic.

    Also debating whether to stick with the Bontrager Race Lite wheels as supplied or swap the RS80's from my Spesh onto the Trek - they have only done 1500 miles and I would be loathe to sell them on with the Spesh when it goes. I might also keep my Charge Spoon saddle which has been a great find but I will give the supplied Bontrager Affinity perch a few more rides before a final decision.

    Where do you live by the way - Wheelbase in Staveley (near Kendal) have a shedload of Treks of all desciptions and would happlily let you have a test ride if you are serious about buying. If you are too far away from them then check out the Trek website for dealers closer to home.

    Good luck in the search.

    BTW I can give you 14 years in the age stakes and I'm still as keen as ever - hence the new carbon steed sitting in the garage.
  • Thanks Arlowood, that is really helpful. Because of my inexperience it is difficult to have confidence in my judgement even though the 56" felt better, knowing you felt the 58" was too big is reassuring.

    I live in Chesterfield and went over to Stanley Fern Bikes in Matlock. Very helpful guys and Aiden advised that both looked ok but it would depend on me. They did offer to let me take the bike out around the car park but it was blowing a gale and raining so I decided against but I think they would let me have a longer run on a suitable day if I was commited to buy. It would be the 4.7 for me.

  • arlowoodarlowood Posts: 2,561
    hi martin

    Keep in mind Leisure Lakes who have an outlet in Long Eaton which is only 40mins down the road from you. They were the suppliers of my Spesh Secteur Elite and seemed to be a good bunch of guys - got a decent deal from them also on the Spesh at the time and they were happy to let me take the bikes for a test ride.

    They are also big Trek stockists and have 2012 Madone 4.7's in both compact and triple chainset versions. eg ... ?&id=17380 ... ?&id=18349

    They also have some 2011 models in their sale but unfortunately the 4.7 Madone they have is a 58cm. But they do have a 3.1 Madone in a 56cm with £300 off the RRP ... ?&id=14447

    However I reckon you could haggle that down much further as one shop I visited was offering me £200 off the RRP of a 2012 Madone 3.5 which is the top seller at the moment due to the excellent Bike Radar review. BTW, FYI Wheelbase in Stavely have a 56cm Madone 3.5 sat in their showroom - spotted it while i was picking up my 5.9 on sunday
  • Thanks for all the advice everyone. Today I managed to sit myself down on a 58cm Cube Agree GTC Race 2011 going for £1469. It seems a perfect fit for me with none of the doubt I had with the 56 and 58cm Madones. It's a compact and I was interested in a triple but that would have meant waiting an indeterminate amount of time for a 2012 model(2 months min) and paying another £400. With a bit more training I will be blasting over Curbar Gap :D

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