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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Back in the day (30 years ago) the formula for proper frame size was that on a horizontal frame (we didn't have anything but then) the seatpost should stick up a "fistful" which is about 4 inches. Since then most hip riders have gravitated more and more to smaller frames where the seatpost sticks out 2, 3 or even more fistfuls.

During a recent bike festival (Fall Foliage Bike Festival) in Staunton, VA I encounted a number of older riders sporting old classic steel bikes. Almost invariably these guys were from the old school and had just a "fistful of seatpost" showing on their bikes

As an older guy myself I have been riding frames which tended to be 54cm or so and showed slightly more than a fistful. However, I recently traded off one of my classic steel bikes on a newer steel bike with a significantly smaller frame where the seatpost sticks out about 7". It's a Lemond Buenos Aries which is listed as a 51cm but which really measures 52cm to the top of the seat collar.

After riding the bike throughout the festival, I'm here to say that the little bike really is more comfortable. It feels really zippy and nimble in a way that the older larger frames didn't. I really don't know if it's faster but had no trouble keeping up with riders on carbon and ti bikes.

I'm in the process of converting my fleet of bikes over to smaller frames. Plus I'm tired of hearing all those whippersnappers in my club tell me "that frame's too big for you!"
 

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I have a feeling you're going to get a lot of back-and-forth in response to this thread. There does seem to be two different schools of thought with proponents on both sides. Your comments remind me of something I came across on the Rivendell site regarding frame sizing. They mention the "fist full of seatpost" idea and suggest that most folks today ride frames that are too small.

I know for me (at 5'9") my first frame was a 58cm and it took me a few years of riding before I finally came to the conclusion that it was just too big. Fortunately, the overall geometry of it is pretty relaxed and it is still rideable. I am slowly but surely converting it into a commuter. For my next bike purchase I went with a 56cm frame. I tried a 54 but I felt like I was all over the bike. Maybe that's because I had gotten used to riding the 58 by then and the difference was just too great. The 56 feels good to me, not too big, not too small.

Glad to hear you found what works for you.
 

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If you have short thighs, the smaller frame will have the saddle in a more forward position over the pedals. It feels more powerful and nimble, as it is more of a time trial position. Also, the seat posts are usually designed so as to be more vertical on the smaller frames as well.

I'm 5'8" and much prefer a 52cm over a 54cm. What I dislike is that many bike brands don't offer a size 52: rather they jump from a 51 to a 54... so that one is either too small, or the other too large.

Smaller frames are great when seated. However, when getting out of the saddle on a long climb, that's when the extra room of a larger frame is a bit nicer. However, since the vast majority of a ride is seated, I'd rather optimize for that.
 

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Opus51569 said:
I have a feeling you're going to get a lot of back-and-forth in response to this thread. There does seem to be two different schools of thought with proponents on both sides. Your comments remind me of something I came across on the Rivendell site regarding frame sizing. They mention the "fist full of seatpost" idea and suggest that most folks today ride frames that are too small.
I highly respect Grant Petersen and the stuff he does at Rivendell, but his whole thing on frame sizing is that he wants the rider to be able to jack the bars up to not just level with the saddle (which isn't extreme at all) but maybe even a couple or three inches above the saddle. By race-fit standards, that's nosebleed high. :eek:

Even one of those Nitto Technomic stems Grant loves can't always get the bars that high all by its lonesome. So, Grant decided to size the bikes bigger as well, do upsloping top tubes, etc etc.

Which is all well n' good... IF you want to ride the way Grant wants you to ride, which I'd say is the extreme opposite of the extreme 'race' position/fit.

Obviously, if you're a racer or time-trialist, you don't want to size your bike Grant's way, because you'll have a hard time getting the bars low enough. And if you're someone in the middle, which is many of us, well, it is the era of up-angled stems currently, and it's certainly not tough to buy a -17 degree stem, flip it over, put it on a racing-sized frame and still get the bars level with the saddle if you want. Only tall riders would need to size up if that was the goal.

'Fistful of seatpost' is a vague guideline in any case. It does work well for Grant's fit/sizing method, but not so much for everyone else, at least not tall or even medium-height riders.

I myself got screwed over as newbie and was riding a 60cm Lotus for a little while back in the '80s, when what I really needed was a 54 (bought a bike used from an a-hole... don't ask). So, I'm not only familiar with a 'fistful' of seatpost, but also a 'finger's width' of seatpost as well. I sure wouldn't go back to either.
.
 

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I ride a bike made by Grant Petersen to commute on. He probably thinks I show an immodest amount of seatpost. My 52 CM Sam Hillborne has a whopping 59.5 cm toptube. The next size up had an even longer top tube.

I agree with Terry b. It is a starting point rather like KOPS or the handel bar-front hub thing. A place to start in fitting a bike. But frame geomerty, your physiology, purpose in riding and age all figure in to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm a little over 5'*8" but have rather short legs (about 31.5"). My best standover bike size is 52cm, but many of them are too short fore and aft. I need a 54 cm TT with a 120mm stem to get things right.

I've still got one bike which is 54cm and it remains my fastest. I'm thinking of trading it for one I have located which is 52st/54tt compact.
 

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FWIW, I wasn't necessarily advocating the Rivendell website's point of view, merely pointing out the different philosophy. You're right that each person is different and will have different needs based on physiology as well as the type of riding they do.

For me, as a Clydesdale who will never race, I think (slightly) bigger is better when it comes to frames. I'm only an inch taller than the O.P., but I just can't imagine feeling comfortable on a 54cm frame, much less a 52. My biggest fit issue seems to be reach. The 56cm frame I have also came with a 110mm stem. That seems to be just a bit long for me. One of these days, I plan to swap it out for a 90mm.
 

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I am 5 foot 5 and ride a 52cm compact track frame with a double and a half fistful of post showing, a 53 and a 54 with a fistful showing. The track frame feels the quickest and most nimble but frankly the numbers don't bear that out, my 54 is the fastest, I have really long femurs and prefer a few cm saddle to bar drop only. Even at that, I have a short (90cm) stem and 3 spacers. This is the 54 below

 

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+1 'A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down'. Utterly meaningless to me. Whose fist are we talking about-the rider, his mom, the LBS mechanic? I never confuse aesthetics with riding comfort and efficiency. The whole thing is down to personal comfort. I'm back on my first non-sloping frame in over 15 years, I'm 5'3" and I need this much seatpost to feel comfortable. If you look at my sloping tube road bike you'll see that the saddle to bar height differential is about the same as the track bike. If it comes out as a fistful for some riders it should really just be coincidence.

View attachment 181105

View attachment 181106
 

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george kraushaar said:
It feels really zippy and nimble in a way that the older larger frames didn't. I really don't know if it's faster but had no trouble keeping up with riders on carbon and ti bikes.

I'm in the process of converting my fleet of bikes over to smaller frames.

Sounds a little drastic at this point. There are tons of factors other than seatpost height that could be contributing to a new frame feeling more zippy than an old one.
 

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I go both ways!

:ihih:

I have 2 road bikes both with horizontal top tubes, one has "a fistfull" the other maybe 1.5 fistfulls. Will bicyclists start measuring in "spans" and "cubits" next?

Like others have said, put the 2 bikes side by side and the bars, saddles, cranks end up in nearly the exact same position. I'm a recreational rider so bars end up about 2-3" lower than the saddle.

The most extreme seatposts I see is in the British "Cycling Plus" magazine. They ride really small frames with like 10" of post showing and still complain that they can't get bars low enough.

Chris
 

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Two things:

In the Merckx, fistful of seatpost days, racers road mostly in the drops, whereas now, they ride on the hoods more. The relative position of saddle v. drops on a "fistful" bike, and saddle v. hoods on a "modern" bike is similar.

Also, on older saddles, like the example below, the distance from the top of the saddle to the rails is much greater than on modern saddles, so different amounts of post would have to be exposed for the equivalent position.
 

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Good points all, but I think the "fist full of seatpost" comments and the overall frame size debate are more about the extremes than the majority of us who are somewhere in the middle. Riders who are 6'+ tall but insist on a 48cm frame with the seat post run all the way up and a 130mm stem with risers just to be able to fit on the thing. I could be wrong, though.
 

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It is a matter or geometries and components.

My steel bike is a 58, horizontal top tube, quill 10cm stem, brooks saddle.

My carbon bike is a 57 sloping horizontal tube, 11cm stem, SLC saddle.

Both are setup with identical sadlletip-to-handlebars, handlebars to front-hub-axis, saddle-to cranksetaxis triangles

The steel one show one fistful of seatpost, the carbon one much more.
 

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" It feels really zippy and nimble in a way that the older larger frames didn't. I really don't know if it's faster but had no trouble keeping up with riders on carbon and ti bikes."

Same components on the Lemond as your classic? you may have been feeling the affect of lighter wheels and a lighter frame. As stated earlier in this post is that the seat post lenght above the top tube is meaningless. bike fit is about top tube length, headtube lenght, and knee position above BB. the lenght of the seat tube can vary. Does the Lemond have the same seat tube angle and top tube lenght as the classic?
 

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mendo said:
Two things:

In the Merckx, fistful of seatpost days, racers road mostly in the drops, whereas now, they ride on the hoods more. The relative position of saddle v. drops on a "fistful" bike, and saddle v. hoods on a "modern" bike is similar.
The funny thing is, while a fistful of seatpost might've been common in Merckx's day, Merckx himself seemed to show more seatpost than that...maybe 1.5 fistfuls?: :idea:






And at 6'0", he was not a super-tall guy or anything.
.
 
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