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I am very new to road bikes and have decided to buy one. The problem is both shops I have gone to said I should get a 54cm frame, even though I'm only 5'5. This seems to go against a lot of online information and my friends advice. What should I do?

  • Rule #1 is standover height -- you should be able to straddle the top tube (not the seat) of the bike and stand flat-footed ... without any increase in the frequency of your voice. Something around 2" of clearance is ideal (for a standard diamond frame with a horizontal top tube). The next issue to consider is "reach", but that's a lot harder to characterize. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 18 '18 at 20:02
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    Ask to try riding a 52. Push hard. If they don't have one, or if you're looking at higher-end, more expensive bicycles and they pull out a less-expensive, lower end bicycle, leave. And never come back. For anything. If they don't have a 52, or only have less-expensive 52s, they're just pushing you onto a 54 because that's what they have. Pushing someone onto a bike that doesn't fit just to make a sale means that's a bike shop you don't want to do business with. Ever. – Andrew Henle Jul 19 '18 at 12:32
  • And read this regarding bicycle fit: peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.php – Andrew Henle Jul 19 '18 at 12:38
  • Keep in mind that frame size is really only useful when comparing between two different sizes of the same model bike. While they are generally the same, a Trek 54 XXX will likely not exactly match a Specialized 54 YYY. Beyond that, even within the normal ranges, there is such a range of human anatomy that size X is not appropriate for all people of height Y. It's entirely possible that with your dimensions, with the bike in question a 54 is right for you. Or it could be a bad/pushy salesperson. Take a "bike friend" and see what they think. – Deleted User Jul 19 '18 at 23:58
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54cm does seem large for you. I'm between 5'8" and 9" and ride a 54 or 55cm (and I have relatively long arms).

Some thoughts:

  • Some models are effectively larger or smaller than their seat tube measurement. Bicycle shop staff may have been taking that into account for a specific bike you were interested in.

  • Take a knowledgeable cycling friend with you when looking at bikes.

  • Look at the sizing charts that some manufacturers publish e.g., this from Trek. Print it out and take it with you when looking at bikes.

  • Sit on or ride a 54cm, then say 'that feels too big'.

  • Thanks for your answer. I must say the 54cm Specialized and Cannondale I tried felt comfortable to me but then again I have no experience to compare it with, nor do I know how it's supposed to feel. I have looked at sizing charts which is why I was surprised by the bike shops telling me to get a 54. If its any help my inseam is 30'' and exact height 5'5''. – DevinJC Jul 18 '18 at 19:12
  • Problems don't show up on a short test ride. I test rode some 56cm bikes and they felt OK, but I know that I really need a smaller frame. - reach on a 56 is too much for me. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 18 '18 at 19:16
  • Ok, I'll look into 50-52cm frames instead :) – DevinJC Jul 18 '18 at 19:26
  • General advice from this community is to test ride lots of bike - and don't be shy about asking bike stores for rides. Visit as many stores as you can and talk to different staff persons. It may be that you just encountered a couple of less experienced people. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 18 '18 at 19:29
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Basically the size of the roadbike depends on the length of your legs. First you need to measure that and then you can decide which size you need. Furthermore the geometies of the frames also vary, so you can't compare a 54cm frame of company X fo 54cm of company Y. Always check the frame geometry. Usually, if you are more a racer type, you would choose a smaller frame and larger stem, due to better steering and handling properties of the bike. Have a look at Canyon size and positioning tool/calculator to find out which body measurements are important and should be consideren (torso length, shoulder width, ...)

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If this is your first road bike then perhaps you should do one of two things:

  • buy from a store that has a good exchange policy. Many stores will let you return a bike in 30 days in exchange for another bike they have. This way, if you really feel it’s too large, you can downsize.

  • often it’s good to buy a used bike when you shift to a new style of biking. Road bikes feel very different from mountain bikes which feel different from recumbents. By buying used, you can sell it once you know what you like or dislike and what size or posture feels right. Features such as disc brakes might not be for everyone, etc.

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