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The anti-Fench Fit fit

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The anti-Fench Fit fit

Old 08-18-19, 02:15 PM
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masi61
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The anti-Fench Fit fit

I was just wondering if I was the only one who has changed their notions of proper bike fit from the old days and updated it using a different point of view?

I put thousands and thousands of miles on my 25” and 61 cm road bikes back in the day. This was a carry over from when I was a teenager and the bike shops would suggest the largest possible frame for you going on the idea that you might continue to grow or something. And I do love my 25” frame Puch Marco Polo with its short 8cm stem and minimal seatpost exposure. It is geared nice and low with a Specialized road triple cranks and a SunTour Winner 7 speed freewheel that is a 12-32 size. But climbing the steepest climbs on such a tall frame for my 5’11-1/2” self is more of a leisurely, seated type affair.

I happen to like climbing out of the saddle. I also enjoy longish stems for how they feel while descending (less fidgety). I even enjoy short head tubes for their ability to get me lower for those fast descents. True, I sometimes still use an upward rise stem these days, but more of a 6 degree rise. I also like to spec shallow drop handlebars.

But I am posting this on classic and forum because I was curious if folks seeking “n+1” vintage road bike builds experiment with different fit notions than what they previously had in their head as an “ideal” frame size for themselves.

So so for me at nearly 6’ tall, I for a while thought a “57” center to center would be great, then it became a 56, and now I’m like - what the hell, give me a bike with a 54.5 top tube that I can run a 13cm stem on and have the maximum amount of seat post height elevation. The increased seatpost height, when combined with certain posts (Ritchey Flexlogic or a titanium setback post come to mind) helps with built in flex and compliance allowing you to tune your ride, while the low top tube makes climbing out of the saddle much more joyous.

Presently I am building up a Klein Performance that appears to be a size 54. Again, a voice in my head is saying “why bother, it is too small” but my real world experience so far is that it is more tossible, quicker, lighter and looks cooler too.

Here is is a picture of my 1990’s era Veritas titanium to give an example of the (non)French Fit that I now prefer in my middle age:



I didn’t expect this bike to be comfortable for me, but I was wrong! I almost felt like I was cheating on some of my group rides while I dance on the pedals climbing with a road 53/39 double and a 12/25 rear cassette rarely missing my triple crank.

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Old 08-18-19, 02:59 PM
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If your hands, butt and feet are relatively equal in position, I can't see how you get there matters that much. For myself, butt and hands need to be pretty close and the BB can move around some. If the BB is forward, out of the saddle can be different, but after 15 minutes of riding, I get used to it.
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Old 08-18-19, 03:08 PM
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5'11"-6' on a 57 frame sounds small to me let alone a 54.

In my younger days I was all about being stretched out like the Italian pros but these days I like to sit up and see whats going on.
The saddle height is about the same as 25+ years ago but the stem is much more upright.


The stem on this one is just a touch too tall, but comfy. This bike was squired in 2009
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Old 08-18-19, 03:15 PM
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The saddle to top of bar drop of zero feels sluggish to me when I want to go fast.

I did have lumbar L4/L5 surgery 15 years ago but I have fully recovered from that. I find that when descending, my butt slides further back on the saddle and my pelvis sort of rotates forward, making getting into a low fast position pain free and fun.

But where the real fun with some of these realizations factor in to the “classic and vintage” world is how this knowledge of the new fast and comfortable fit opens up build opportunities for some super cool unloved vintage frames. I would love to acquire a size 55.5 Merckx MX leader or Moser with El-OS tubing for example.
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Old 08-18-19, 03:31 PM
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Whatever floats your boat. The amount of seatpost showing is odd. I hope you have as much not showing as you have exposed.
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Old 08-18-19, 03:44 PM
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BITD, I was only 5'8" with 29.5" pants inseam (now at age 60+ I've shrink to 5'7"). I still prefer to be 'stretched out' on a 23"/57-58cm frame than the cramped-feeling of a 21" frame (my classic Fujis were only offered in odd inches).

Even today, my smallest frame is 57cm. But yes, I now ride almost exclusively on the top 'shoulders' of the bars and not in the drops... and the bikes still fit me just fine. Would I grab a 56cm/22" if such a bike tempted me? yeah, probably. I still fit my bikes to the old 'elbow on the nose of the seat, fingertips just touching the bars...'
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Old 08-18-19, 03:49 PM
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My first vintage road bike - a Schwinn Le Tour III - was too big for me at 25", but I didn't know it. I'm 5'10" and had some nice rides on it.

I'm pretty adaptable with size, depending on distance. My smallest roadie is a 55cm. I love riding it. My Moto Grand Jubile is a 23" and it's nice and comfortable. I don't really care for longer top tubes and long stems. Had a Puch Bergmeister years back in a size that seemed right for me, but the top tube was too long. The range of sizes I have work well for me.
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Old 08-18-19, 04:07 PM
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I have gone the other way. I was fitted(incorrectly) for 56 cm when I bought my last new bike, in '96. I rode that for 5 years; then bumped up to 58. Currently, at 67 years old, I prefer tall(60, 61) bikes with racing geometry and short stems. I'm effectively 6' tall.
All that said, I won't go longer than a 58cm top tube.
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Old 08-18-19, 04:13 PM
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I tend to ride what I think are small frames compared to what most in C&V seem to ride. I'm 5'7 and ride a 52 or 53. It seems most people on C&V around 5'7 ride a 53-56.

Although the Schwinn I rebuilt over the winter is a 53.5 with a 58cm top tube. I thought for sure I was going to have fit issues as I like to ride a 52-54 top tube with 90mm stem usually, but with a 70mm stem and the RH randonneur bars it is an incredibly comfortable fit, even if more stretched out than usual.

My upcoming builds are all 50-52cm seat tubes.

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Old 08-18-19, 05:34 PM
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I've heard the theory that stem length affects whether the bike feels stable or twitchy. But on my own bikes it depends on frame size and overall fit.

I think my Ironman is 57cm or 58. The original stem was spec'd at 125mm, although I don't know whether that was c-t-c, end to end or something else. When I measure stems they never match the specs, nor does any combination of measuring methods. Anyway, it felt stable, especially on fast curves, but I felt too stretched out. A 90mm stem feels much better, and took only a little practice to feel natural.

My 56cm '93 Trek 5900 came with the original 140mm Ibis titanium stem. Elegant little thing, but I was way too stretched out and my neck ached after every ride. I just swapped to a 90mm last week and it's much better. But the shorter stem also feels more stable. With the longer stem I really had to pay attention when checking over my shoulder to be sure I didn't drift off line. With the shorter stem, no problems. And it feels more stable on fast curves. I also switched to compact drops with shorter reach to the hoods and drops, both much better than the original.

I suspect the longer stems were spec'd for younger, fitter riders who could use a more aggressive position. For me it was just torture. I'll never be fast enough for a slight aero advantage to translate to faster speed in the real world.

I doubt switching to a smaller frame would work for me. I'm 5'11" with somewhat longer than usual thighs (shorts that fit knee length on other folks ride up mid-thigh on me, like 1960s short-shorts). A 56-58cm frame feels about right. I have one bike that's marginally too small, a Globe comfort hybrid I use as an errand bike. It's spec'd for riders up to 5'10". It always feels cramped no matter how I adjust the handlebar, stem, saddle, etc.

I've ridden only one newer bike with the currently vogue shortish top tube and deeper drop from the saddle. It felt odd at first but okay after a few minutes. I didn't ride long enough to know whether it would be comfortable on longer rides. It seems to substitute certain advantages and disadvantages without actually fixing every bike fit problem. The arms aren't as stretched out, which may be more comfortable on longer rides. But it doesn't necessarily look any more aero in terms of rider position, which may be why some pros take risky and aggressive positions -- sitting on the top tube -- on fast descents.

Dunno. If I'm miserable after 50 miles, it doesn't matter how the bike looks or rides or theories about bike fit.
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Old 08-18-19, 05:55 PM
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Isn't a non-"French Fit" called a "Competitive Fit" or something like that?
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Old 08-19-19, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Isn't a non-"French Fit" called a "Competitive Fit" or something like that?
That sounds about right.
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Old 08-19-19, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Whatever floats your boat. The amount of seatpost showing is odd. I hope you have as much not showing as you have exposed.
The seatpost was the biggest factor in making this bike functional. I wish I had more inside the frame but unfortunately this (330mm) post is at the limit line. The part inside the frame does go just beyond the top tube, thank God. The Ritchey post has some patented “Flexlogic” innovation which makes it act as a bit of a shock absorber. I believe I can feel this little bit of compliance.
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Old 08-19-19, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
I tend to ride what I think are small frames compared to what most in C&V seem to ride. I'm 5'7 and ride a 52 or 53. It seems most people on C&V around 5'7 ride a 53-56.
I'm right in that range. Was 5'7 1/2" in the late 50's early 60's, in my prime running shape. Old age shrank me to around 5'6", less if bad posture. I am with @iab. If hands, butt and feet are within my comfort zone, I ride. Fleet runs from 52 cm to 56cm seat tube size but the 52 has a 55cm top tube. Also saw my weight rise from118-122 range up to 160+ as fat replaced muscle. In January I set a goal of 150#. Reached & new goal is 140#. I'm at 148-149 now and have seen 147# a few times. Highly recommend benefits of lowering rider/bike mass by losing a few pounds. Don
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Old 08-19-19, 09:46 AM
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As a long torso'd and short legged gentleman (5' 11" ish) at least in terms of standard bike fit, the French fit long TT works for me. I tend to ride 58 cm with very little stand over clearance and less than a fistful of seatpost showing and that works for me. I have started really looking at how the stable measures and how the different bikes feel and it really brings home how much fit can affect the ride for me, like the fact that one bike gives me some arm discomfort after about 10 miles has a shorter TT than bikes that I feel fine on or different stem lengths etc. Trying to dial in the best fit but it starts with a 57-58 cm TT for me. YMMV

Ironically for this post I rode a 54 cm Cannodale for about a decade influenced by pro fit until I realized that A) I am not a pro, B) 54 is too small for me, and C) Steel frames smooth out the rough roads in my neighborhood.. I recently tried to get a 56 cm to work for me but I just couldn't dial it in.

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Old 08-19-19, 09:57 AM
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I'm 5' 8" and have an 81.5cm cycling inseam (32"). My center of BB to top of saddle is 72cm with 172.5mm cranks. I can ride a TT of 54 to 56 by using different stems, 130mm for 54 to 100mm for 56. My sweet spot is 54.5-55cm with a 120 stem. All of my road bikes (but one CL beater) are traditional steel with level TTs. I like them tending toward the small side as opposed to the other way around. The smaller triangles seem to climb, sprint and corner better, it could very well be my imagination but if I believe it, I guess in a sense that makes it true. @masi61 that's the bike you rode on the last Saturday club ride we did together, it looked like it fit you to me. The older I get the more "rules" I ignore when it comes to making a bike fit or work for me.



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Old 08-19-19, 01:22 PM
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The Open University posted a series of interesting bike related videos. This one on frame design (
) suggested that the main impetus behind the move to sloping top tubes is that one frame size can accommodate a much wider range of differently sized cyclists, so fewer sizes of any given model need to be produced. The ultimate purpose was to reduce production costs, which in the case of custom carbon-fiber would be several orders above astronomical - to the point of being impossible.
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Old 08-19-19, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by d_dutchison View Post
This one on frame design suggested that the main impetus behind the move to sloping top tubes is that one frame size can accommodate a much wider range of differently sized cyclists, so fewer sizes of any given model need to be produced. The ultimate purpose was to reduce production costs, which in the case of custom carbon-fiber would be several orders above astronomical - to the point of being impossible.
Has anybody confirmed that this is actually true? The reason why I question this line of reasoning is that, as far as I can see, modern frames with sloping top tubes are offered in the same range of sizes as older frames with traditional top tubes. If anything, modern production frames are offered in more sizes than many vintage production frames, especially on the smaller side of the spectrum.
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Old 08-19-19, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
I was just wondering if I was the only one who has changed their notions of proper bike fit from the old days and updated it using a different point of view?
.
I ride a few vintage lightweights that back in the days would be considered undersized for me. Love them, especially the noodle frames.

What's considered proper classic racer style vs comfort vs speed to who really cares?

Obree and Boardman likely didn't care what the experts said.


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Old 08-20-19, 09:32 AM
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I'm 5'10.5" long torso, short legged and have been riding 58cm frames. I picked up a 56cm frame (Thank you rhm) primarily to try a more "compact" fit.
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Old 08-20-19, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Whatever floats your boat. The amount of seatpost showing is odd. I hope you have as much not showing as you have exposed.
Haven't heard of this being a thing- equal parts inside the tube as expoas exposats new to me. Posts have a min insert line that isn't near the middle.
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Old 08-20-19, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by d_dutchison View Post
The Open University posted a series of interesting bike related videos. This one on frame design (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uXtiK5nDvo) suggested that the main impetus behind the move to sloping top tubes is that one frame size can accommodate a much wider range of differently sized cyclists, so fewer sizes of any given model need to be produced. The ultimate purpose was to reduce production costs, which in the case of custom carbon-fiber would be several orders above astronomical - to the point of being impossible.
I've seen this repeated whenever compact frames are discussed and I can see some truth in it. At the same time, there are a lot of compact geometry frames with a lineup of 5-8 frame sizes. The Trek Domane has 8 sizes, and the Cannondale Synapse has 7 sizes, for example. Meanwhile, bikes from Trek, Miyata, Schwinn and more had 5 or 6 sizes in the 80s.

Perhaps it became popular due to reduced costs because at the start, fewer frame sizes were produced?
Or perhaps it became popular because a smaller triangle is stiffer?
Or perhaps it became popular because it's easier to mount/dismount like an MTB as the trend started once MTBs went away from lugs and embraced sloping top tubes?

If it was initially only due to cost reductions by way of fewer frames, that didnt last since many popular compact bikes have a ton of sizes.
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Old 08-20-19, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
The seatpost was the biggest factor in making this bike functional. I wish I had more inside the frame but unfortunately this (330mm) post is at the limit line. The part inside the frame does go just beyond the top tube, thank God. The Ritchey post has some patented “Flexlogic” innovation which makes it act as a bit of a shock absorber. I believe I can feel this little bit of compliance.
Isn't the usual wisdom to have at least another diameter's worth of the seatpost below the bottom of the top tube?
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Old 08-20-19, 08:01 PM
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I've always been anti-Fench. Don't ask me why. But dad was anti-Fench, and his dad ... and his dad's dad.

Not his dad's dad's dad, though. He was very pro-Fench.
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Old 08-20-19, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Isn't the usual wisdom to have at least another diameter's worth of the seatpost below the bottom of the top tube?
It probably is. The bottom of this post is cut at a 45 degree angle. The lowest point goes beyond the top tube orifice inside the frame. The post resides in a Delrin sizing shim taking it from 30.2 to 27.2.
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