Little Bike Experiment

I spent a few moments looking at the bikes a few of my friends were riding at the 3S3M and saw that one guy was an inch taller than me but his bike was a 54cm, where mine is a 58.  I’ve had this seeking suspicion for a while that I’d be happier on a smaller frame and this just fanned the flames.

My Mom recently switched frames to something a little smaller and she loaned me her old frame to try.  It’s an Orbea in women’s colors and is around a 54 cm.  Dad and I built it up with parts I had around the basement and with a few odd and ends from Dad’s.  Last night was my maiden voyage on it.

My suspicions were confirmed.  Its too small, but not WAY to small.   If I found a seat post with lots of setback I could probably ride it, but as of now I’m constantly wanting to hang my but off the back.  I did a speed run on the trail and was very comfortable in the drops for extended amounts of time.  The short reach seemed to take a lot of strain off my body.

I took a short spin on my bike tonight and found it to feel really big after riding the little bike.  Now I’ve got it in my mind I need to find a 56 frame.

What do you guys think, 5’11” dude, 58 or 56 frame?


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Rides, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Little Bike Experiment

  1. Dan Koch says:

    Matt, I think the main question will be how much drop you want from your seat to the handlebars. Secondly, but less of an issue is the reach. The smaller frame will put the seat higher than the bars, but if you felt comfortable in the drops of a 54, I’d think you’d feel good on a 56. Besides, a 56 weighs less than a 58 and should be more responsive. I started out on a 62, but found that I felt much better on a 60. I enjoy reading your blog!!

  2. Steve says:

    6′ 0″ and I’ve been directed to 56 frames by two different shops.

  3. I’m 5’7″, and my Madone is a 54. But…my Surly Cross Check is a 50. Both fit me perfectly. That tells me you can’t really make generalizations across brands & different frame geometries.

  4. Jim Russell says:

    If you look at a photo of a professional bike racer on his bike, it looks to me as if the bike frame is way too small. The seat post is extended a mile high and the bar stem is quite long. I guess a small frame would be somewhat lighter (faster?) and more maneuverable in tight traffic. And as you said, these guys get paid to go fast, not be comfortable. I think a lot of bike shops are going with the pro racer set-up which is probably not the best for the average bike rider, just my thoughts.

    I am 5’ 7’’ and my Trek is a 54, it seems to fit OK.

    • Steve says:

      Jim, I think you are on to something. I am increasingly of the belief that the cycling industry has sold cyclists a bill of goods on racing bikes. Consequently, we have WAY too many cyclists riding bikes with FAR too aggressive positions, simply so they can look more like proper racers. With frames, I believe this means people tend to have bikes that are too small for them to ride comfortably over long distances. Just a thought.

  5. Jason Armes says:


    I figure you would be riding a 56. I’m 5’9″ and I’m very comfortable on a 54 on any distance ride. I did have 56 for a wile and it felt too big. It was flat bar road bike and ended up getting a smaller frame when I got my first actual road bike.


  6. Matt Gholson says:

    Thanks for the reply guys, It definitly seems I’m a bit oversized based on these unscientific results.

    Tracey you are totally right, Some 56s may have 56 top tubes, others 54, in the case of my CAAD 9 the Head tube is short because its a racey type bike. Size isn’t comparable across brands.

    Jim, I totally agree with you but want to add that I want to go fast so I need as aggresive position as I can handle, which if you look at the spacers under my stem and the fact its pointed up I can’t handle much.

  7. Dave Mailander says:

    Matt, I’m 5′ 11 inches. My inseam (which is way important ) measures 33″ with the book adjustment one has to apply to the groin area when measureing properly. I have owned 4 road bikes. The first three all were 56 CM frames built by Meile, Basso and DeRosa. The only difference amongst the 3 was: length of crank arms (I ride a 172.5 now). I would also suspect that my handle bar stem length has also been tweaked over the years in addition to fore and aft of the saddle. I was measured for a 58 CM Calfee and that is my current ride.
    I guess the question I would ask you is: How much time do you spend in the drops of your handle bars? The lower you go, the more aero dynamic which is aggressive in my book. IMHO I would pay for a sizing if you really want to seek out a rig that’s aggressive and will sustain your training goals.

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