Let’s hit the ground pedaling, my friends. For those who clicked on this post for insight, welcome. For my friends, thanks for reading.
Picking the frame for your road bike is a big deal. As a noob, I had no idea what I needed, so I did what a lot of noobs do right off the bat; I bought a bike that was two sizes too small. That first one doesn’t count. For my second bike, the owner of our local shop, who has a vast expertise in all things cycling, set me up with a shop loaner. I paid right around market value for it and I immediately brought it home and cleaned it up. Having someone who knew so much about cycling was incredibly important.
So that’s it, on day one. A Trek 5200 T (for “Triple”), 1999 vintage. I’m 6’0″ tall and that’s a 58 cm standard frame. I have it on authority from the shop owner that more State Championships were won on that frame in the USA that any other frame in history. When I bought it, my plan was to upgrade it as the times changed, so I was still riding it when I had to trade in my road bike for a trike (hopefully not till I’m will into my 90’s). Therefore, size was imperative.
One can size a bike with an internet calculator but a calculator can’t possibly take into account how you want to ride on that bike. The calculator recommends a 57, 58, 60. or 61 cm frame for me. It doesn’t differentiate between old-school standard frames (as shown above), or modern compact frames. The new compact frames afford for a taller rider on a smaller frame, thus I’m a 56 in a compact and a 58 in a standard. Also, the bigger frames won’t suit the style of riding I wanted as a younger man (late 40’s now, early 40’s when I took that photo) and definitely enjoy as I grow older.
That’s my other bike, a 56 cm compact frame race bike.
See, I didn’t know it then, but I’m all about the aggressive riding style (high saddle, low bars, very aerodynamic). Choosing a larger frame would change the geometry so the handlebars would end up being too high. They say sitting upright is more comfortable, but I beg to differ, at least to a certain extent. I can’t comfortably ride any lower that the Trek and Venge are set up for. I’ve tried, I’m not flexible enough.
The main point is, I didn’t happen on all of that information by magic, and I wasn’t smart enough to get it off the internwebz. Most of my frame size knowledge came from the local bike shop owner. Some I came across reading internet articles, but that only added on to the base I got from the shop. It’s good to get to know the knowledgeable staff members at your local shop. They’ll help you avoid costly mistakes… like buying a bike that’s two sizes too small.
Starting with a frame, properly sized, is the most important aspect of building a bike. Everything after is built on that foundation.
The last important point to cover is get a fitting done at that local shop. If you want to ride an aggressive setup, tell them before you start. That’ll save both your technician and you some headache. Bike fitting technicians tend to assume most people want to ride in the industry’s idea of comfort, which would be more upright, so if that’s not you, let them know ahead of time.
Stay tuned for part three, where we’re going to start digging into changing parts to suit what we need.