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I bought a bike online based on a recommendation that a 56cm frame would be ok for me (I am 5ft 10, with 30" inside leg). However I think it is slightly too big. I have to lean forward a lot and my arms are almost locked out to reach the brakes. At the moment, the handlebars are on the lowest setting. It makes it very hard to look over my shoulder to turn right and if I do I sometimes lose balance and swing into the middle of the road...lucky there was no cars there at the time.

Is there a way for me to move the handlebars closer to me?

  • Try bending at your pelvis so that you can arch your back less. – freiheit Sep 15 '14 at 22:04
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    This is why it is recommended to buy from your Local Bike Shop. It doesn't help with the current problem, but hopefully it will help someone in the future. By using your LBS you can expect to get a bike that fits (avoiding additional expense and possible injury), and it helps them stay in business, so they'll be there when you need service. Hope the various suggestions help you to happy cycling. – andy256 Sep 16 '14 at 0:40
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Presumably its a 56 cm frame, not a 56 inch frame. The number doesn't always correlate well with what size you should be using.

You can try a shorter stem, different handle bars, or a different seatpost which allows you to move more forward (or just move your seat).

A good idea would be to go to a bike shop and pay for a bike fit if you haven't done this before (or at least check out youtube on how to do this).

If none of that works, you're going to have to sell or return the bike and get a smaller size.

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  • Yeah, oops, my bad! I can take my current bike and get it fitted? Or would I need to buy a new one? – Kaish Sep 15 '14 at 18:20
  • You can try. They may find that there isn't a reasonable way of fitting the bike you have to you. – Batman Sep 15 '14 at 18:28
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The frame size is just the length of the seat tube. It will tell you some crucial details such as being able to stand over the frame and how well you can pedal, but doesn't tell you how well your bike fits your upper body. Two people the same height can have different proportions. I'm 6'2 and have a 31 inch inseam, so you are a lot leggier than me.

If your legs seem to be fitting OK you can reduce the forward reach by switching stems or switching handlebars, particularly if your current bike has drop bars, you can look into getting flat bars, although that will be expensive due to brake lever changes.

You could make up a bit of distance by moving the seat forwards on its rails.

If your legs are just barely reaching, you should switch bikes!

I would also like to recommend Sheldon Brown's article about frame sizing.

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    The problem is every change you make to the fit changes something else. Moving the seat forward changes your position relative to the pedals which can cause more problems with riding than moving the bars. On the other hand moving the bars towards you does affect handling. Swings and roundabouts. – Holloway Sep 15 '14 at 19:56
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I'm in the same boat, but a little farther along. I am 5'9" and found a nice 56cm frame w Dura Ace last Spring. Its my first road bike so it took several rides to realize something was wrong. In short, I've changed to a shorter stem, switched to a 0 setback seat post and am looking at trying to switch to compact bars as I'm still just about 1 to .5 inch away from being completely comfortable right on/behind the brake hoods. (looking at compact bars because mine are older/full sized curve and I've had to cheat the brakes back to where they are really on top of the bars.)

In all likely hood, I'm going to get a bike fit and order a frame for next Spring.

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It's possible to make a bike bigger but closer to impossible to make a bike smaller. You may be fortunate and be able to make a change, ie a different seat post, that doesn't affect the handling of the bike too much.

My recommendation: sell the bike and then get a bike that fits you like a glove. You'll take a loss most likely but not really since you'll likely be spending tons on trying to get your current bike to work.

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