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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A couple of questions for people who do their own builds and repairs. If you buy and assemble a new or used bike, how do you dial in the fit? Do you do that yourself also or pay a bike fitter to do it? The reason I ask is that bike fit is a main reason that so many steer you to buy from the LBS.

I'm faced with the dilemma. I'd like to do a custom build on either a new or used frame. To do it through my shop would cost considerably more than if I bargain hunted on the web. But then I worry that I'll have to pay everytime I want help getting the fit right.

My other dilemma is the money for the bike. I could pay $1000.00 for a complete bike on clearance that fits or I could pay $1600.00 and spec it just the way I want and with the frame I want. With the 1000 bike I would make upgrades which would raise the price to 1200 - 1300 or so.

I realize this is a personal choice, but I wanted to see what thoughts people had. Thanks!
 

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What the Hell is going on
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As for me . . .

The most important thing is to make sure you get the right size frame with the right size top tube length. Personally, I like to tinker with my bikes and after 20 plus years of riding I still am tinkering with my bike position.
 

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Documentation.

If you're riding a bike now and it fits reasonably well, take a couple of minutes to measure it out and then write the numbers down. As a bare minimum, document saddle height, saddle setback, reach, and bar drop. Add anything else you can think of - the more the merrier. Remember to define your terms with a little sketch or a notation. For example, I measure reach from the saddle nose to the spot on the brake hoods where I place my hands, which is not the classic definition of "reach."

Once you get all the parts for the new bike, your numbers will give you a place to start. Then, after you get your bike assembled, the fun of fine-tuning your position begins - as JaeP pointed out.
 

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classiquesklassieker
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A cynical view on frames

Kraige said:
A couple of questions for people who do their own builds and repairs. If you buy and assemble a new or used bike, how do you dial in the fit? Do you do that yourself also or pay a bike fitter to do it? The reason I ask is that bike fit is a main reason that so many steer you to buy from the LBS.

I'm faced with the dilemma. I'd like to do a custom build on either a new or used frame. To do it through my shop would cost considerably more than if I bargain hunted on the web. But then I worry that I'll have to pay everytime I want help getting the fit right.
I've only gone through a handful of bikes, but when I consider a new bike I take enough measurements to determine the relative positions of:
* saddle
* BB/cranks
* handlebar
Basically I consider the frame only as a tool for hanging these contact points. I then start with a 120 stem and assume the same handlebar as previously, and fill in the blanks from there: I then start worrying about TT length, relationship to STA, and then finally the head tube height (important and often missed!).

Many people go by handlebar height, TT length and seat tube angle. This will give a reasonably good approximation, I think, unless the BB height is very different.

In my limited experience, I rarely change the positions of the three contact points relative to each other. From one bike to another, or even within the same bike, I may rotate myself forward or backward a bit around the BB. Basically assuming that I don't rotate myself more than a few degrees, it changes the weight distribution a bit, but keeps the same biomechanics for the most part.

My current fit is actually nearly identical to what the <a href="http://www.veloeuropa.com/product_cyfacposturale.shtml">Cyfac fitting system</a> suggested. If I were to consider another bike, I can probably ask the Cyfac guys to run the measurement numbers on different frames and see what comes out. Although if the next bike were not a Cyfac, they may do it somewhat begrudgingly :).
 

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A shop is still only going to get you close, and there is a benefit to an experienced eye watching your form, but I find it takes weeks of riding and adjusting to get a new bike just right. I can get pretty close just by eye and knowing what's felt right on other bikes, then I throw it on the trainer, and can fine tune the settings there. Even after that I'll make minor tweaks during the first few hundred miles of real riding.
Most shops are just going to at best take a few measurements, set it by the book, and send you on your way. I'd save your money unless you have a shop where the mechanic will ride with you and critique your form as part of the set up process.
 

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I build all my own bikes. How do I fit myself? The same way I've been fitting myself for 40 years. Choosing a frame size is trivial. Give me your height and inseam and I'll tell you what size to get. The rest is a matter of comfort and efficiency.

By the way, I can usually get a pretty good fit on a frame that is not the ideal size for me so even that is not critical. It is easier to fit a frame that is the right size for you but not essential.

The only non adjustable part of the fitting process is the stem length. I have a bunch of stems that I can try. That's how I handle it. It is usually not necessary. Normally I can simply measure and get the right stem length. All 110mm stems are not the same length, by the way.

The other fitting issues are a matter of adjustment. I know what I like and need in a fit better than any fitter does. When I fit beginners, I pay close attention to how they describe the way they feel. Many fitters think fitting is a matter of right or wrong. It isn't. It is a bunch of variables that lead to a mix of comfort and efficiency. You can get pretty close to efficiency on a right or wrong basis. But not comfort. That is a very personal thing. Sometimes you need to give up some efficiency to get more comfort. If I fit a 20 year old and a 60 year old with the same basic body dimensions, I guarantee the fit will be different. It is true that you can get accustomed to a fit that isn't perfectly comfortable but, usually, I doesn't take much to get it the way you like it.

Perhaps it is time to learn to do it yourself. It really is the best way.
 

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eminence grease
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I transfer two critical measurements from my existing bikes - saddle height and saddle setback (tip of saddle behind a perpindicular line drawn from the center of the bottom bracket.) Stem can be dialed in as necessary, but I generally end up with a 120. Reach (saddle tip to center of bar) generally ends up +/- 5mm and that's good enough for me.

I buy the same saddles and bars so they're non-issues in the equations.

Getting to the ideal geometry the first time around so that you have a bike to transfer from is not so easy. It took me quite a bit of trial and error and research (using decent on-line fit calculators as starting points and for results checking) which often resulted in sore knees and a sore butt. But eventually you find the window and after that, it's easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So what are the minimum of tools I'll need?

In addition to a work stand, what are the most important tools that I'll need? I'd have the LBS put the headset on and face everything, but after that I would complete the rest (although I want more truing experience before I build the wheels). Thanks for the ideas.

Kraige
 

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terry b said:
I transfer two critical measurements from my existing bikes - saddle height and saddle setback (tip of saddle behind a perpindicular line drawn from the center of the bottom bracket.) Stem can be dialed in as necessary, but I generally end up with a 120. Reach (saddle tip to center of bar) generally ends up +/- 5mm and that's good enough for me.

I buy the same saddles and bars so they're non-issues in the equations.

Getting to the ideal geometry the first time around so that you have a bike to transfer from is not so easy. It took me quite a bit of trial and error and research (using decent on-line fit calculators as starting points and for results checking) which often resulted in sore knees and a sore butt. But eventually you find the window and after that, it's easy.

Ditto on what Terry does. The first thing you must get right it the saddle height and setback. If you are using a plumb line off the tip of the saddle you can measure the horizontal length from the string to the center of the crank. If you use the same saddle or the same length saddle, if you get the measurement right and the saddle height measurment right you are ready to go on the bottom half of your body.


After you do that, then you can measure the distance from the tip of your seat to your handlebar and the drop from the top of your saddle to the top of your handlebars.

The key is to make sure when you buy a frame you can work the frame so that those four measurments can be achieved. A steep seat tube means you would have to slide the saddle back (when compared to a bike with a slacker seat tube) which in effect lengthens the top tube measurement for that bike. Head tube height affects how many spacers you need to raise the handlebar up to the height you want, or maybe you can't get the handlebars low enough because you like a lot of drop.

If you can get those four measurements that give you the perfect position for you then you have it made.
 

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What Terry said....

terry b said:
I transfer two critical measurements from my existing bikes - saddle height and saddle setback (tip of saddle behind a perpindicular line drawn from the center of the bottom bracket.) Stem can be dialed in as necessary, but I generally end up with a 120. Reach (saddle tip to center of bar) generally ends up +/- 5mm and that's good enough for me.

I buy the same saddles and bars so they're non-issues in the equations.

Getting to the ideal geometry the first time around so that you have a bike to transfer from is not so easy. It took me quite a bit of trial and error and research (using decent on-line fit calculators as starting points and for results checking) which often resulted in sore knees and a sore butt. But eventually you find the window and after that, it's easy.
It certainly helps if you know your fit, I've in the past had several fittings done and gradually dialed the fit in. I as TB does, take 3 measurements, BB to Saddle height, Saddle Tip drop a line and measure distance from BB to line (for/aft) Keep in mind this can change slightly depending on the seat tube angle, and then measure the tip of the saddle to the center of the bar, plus the drop, and then transfer these measurements to each bike. I suggest you spec out your bike, it feels like it's more your own, rather than a cookie cutter bike from a shop. Plus it's more rewarding.
 

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Kraige said:
In addition to a work stand, what are the most important tools that I'll need? I'd have the LBS put the headset on and face everything, but after that I would complete the rest (although I want more truing experience before I build the wheels). Thanks for the ideas.

Kraige
Cassette lockring tool, cable cutter, 4-8mm allen wrenches and bb tool.

BTW we are lucky around here to have one of the best bike mechanics working out of his garage. He can do a fitting in less than a half hour.
 

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A torque wrench will help

I recently built up my first bike and was amazed at how easy it was. I bought a ratcheting torque wrench for $30 or $40 off eBay a couple of years ago and I think it's essential. If you have a basic bike tool kit along with the torque wrench and allen fittings for the wrench you'll be fine. After I got the fit right I even installed some Cinelli Ram bars in less than an hour.

As far as fit I agee with previous posters. I use a yardstick with fishing line and a weight to get the setback right based on my current setup. I rest the yardstick along the top of the saddle, make sure it's level (I like my saddles perfectly level), drop the line and measure. You can also get a good measurement for saddle to bar drop using this method. Then I measure out tip of saddle to bars. I can get pretty close initially and then make adjustments after the first few rides.
 

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How would you recommend sizing for those of who don't have a perfect fitting bike to start w/ and measure from? My wife is rather small and we are a little skeptical of the LBS expert who says he can tell she's roughly a 46-48 cm frame and will dial in the rest within 90 days of ownership.(we're buying a built up Soma Smoothie ES, they have none in stock) A friend is trying to push me to use the Serrotta Fit system, but I don't really want to pay $100 to have someone do the math that I teach for a living. Opinions? Thanks.
 

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Park Road Positioning Chart

There is some really good advice already given by other posters regarding recording your current position and transferring it to another bike. Here is another tip. Park Tools has a very detailed “Road Positioning Chart” on their website, along with excruciatingly detailed instructions.
http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=130
The chart itself is in PDF format so it is downloadable. Admittedly this might be considered overkill by some but I find it a useful tool.
 

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I have a chart on the wall

I had a professional fitting done several years ago, and have over time adjusted all the measurements and keep them on a chart. Every time I change out a frame, bars, etc. I just refer to the chart and I have all the info to get the stem length, etc.

Of course, once I get it to the basic measures then I spend a ride or two tinkering with seat angle, bar angle, etc. to get it just right.

Like others said...if you have a bike that fits you right now, measure it and write it down. Easy enough to then transfer to another bike.
 

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im 6.0 ft tall and 33.5 inseam

fmw said:
I build all my own bikes. How do I fit myself? The same way I've been fitting myself for 40 years. Choosing a frame size is trivial. Give me your height and inseam and I'll tell you what size to get. The rest is a matter of comfort and efficiency.


Hi ive read yr post and would like to seek yr advice . ive had different view on frame size for me. im 6.0 ft (180cm) and 33.5 inch (85cm) inseam . what i would like to know is the range of frame sizes that wuld fit a new road biker like me. thanks everyone~
 

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Hi ive read yr post and would like to seek yr advice . ive had different view on frame size for me. im 6.0 ft (180cm) and 33.5 inch (85cm) inseam . what i would like to know is the range of frame sizes that wuld fit a new road biker like me. thanks everyone~[/QUOTE]

i would say about a 57 cm TT is what you need
 

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"It's alive!"
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Getting a bike that fits well is the most important step. Getting a bike that is put together well is critical as well. Finally, it is essential that you spec components that all work together seamlessly.

If you feel you have the expertise to accomplish all these tasks, then by all means buy a frame and find the components you think are best for you. If you do not feel confident in your abilities, I highly recommend you trust your cycling pleasure to the fine folks at the bicycle companies who make their livings spec'ing bicycles that work very well and to the friendly staff at your LBS who make their livings putting these bikes together, selling them to the public, and making them fit folks much like yourself.

That said, if you are a person who enjoys the trial and error process, go for the plan as you laid it out in your original post. But get ready for a roller coaster ride of successes and potentially spectacular (and costly) failures.

Whatever you do, have fun doing it.

Yours,

FBB
 

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I enjoy building my own bikes and have done so since my BMX days in the early 80s. Building them has been a trial and error process over time, but with experience, I can pretty know what will work and won't work for me. As others have said, documentation of fit distances are key to insuring all your bikes line up and preventing injury. Important for me was getting my first road bike totally dialed in with "fit coach" who tested me before and after with power meters to see if one was more effecient than another. We also adjusted for comfort to find my "optimal" position. This became my baseline for all my bikes.

My road, fixte, and MTB all start off the same, but I've found that you may need to "tweak" each for specific riding (IE MTB may have a slightly more "upright" riding style vs. my road etc).

Finally building your own bike enables you to spec. exactly what you want and nothing you don't.
 
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