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  #1  
Old 12-27-2007, 10:41 AM
benb benb is offline
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Rant about women's bikes (advice needed)

Last night I went with my girlfriend to look at road bikes and find out about getting a fitting... we went to a place that sells Trek, Lemond, Specialized, Cannondale, etc.. as well as selling Serottas and I believe they sell Sevens too.

We were mostly looking at scheduling a fitting session. The shop did not want to do one at all for her, they wanted her to just pick a few bikes out on her own and test ride them. We were a little angry about this. It sounded more like, "You gotta pay your dues and figure it out yourself, if you have to buy 3-4 bikes in the process, we're here to sell them." There almost seemed like there was a dose of "Women don't want road bikes" too.

Here is the thing. She is 5'9". I suspect her inseam is longer then mine. (I'm 6'1".)

The "WSD" bikes we looked at the geometry for appear to top out as 53cm or 54cm frames, maybe one of the companies had a 56cm women's frame... based on her inseam these all seem like they are going to be way too small and we won't get the bars in the right place. Given that her torso is so much smaller then a mans I'm worried about someone throwing her on a men's bike without taking great care.

What should we look for assuming we're not trying to break the bank, would like to avoid custom for now, etc... Any brands we should look for that will have a better range of sizes? Custom stuff is well into the "sticker shock" range for her since she's never even had a road bike. I'd pick up the slack but she doesn't want me to help her out there... there is another expensive gift she wants me saving that money for.

I still gotta go talk to my LBS... see what they say, we'd happily buy the bike there even though it's kind of inconvenient for her as I'd do her maintenance anyway so she wouldn't be having to drive out of her way for basic stuff.
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Old 12-27-2007, 11:36 AM
swoop
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go custom. i'll bet zank can do her a perfect race bike for the same cost as a stock dama give or take.
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  #3  
Old 12-27-2007, 11:46 AM
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SadieKate SadieKate is offline
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Unfortunately, at her height she's out of the "WSD" size range and it sounds like she needs a short top tube, but even then the set-back maybe weird. I'd find someone who can do a good fitting no matter what brand bikes the shop carries. My own LBS in Davis, CA, would to that for a reasonable cost and then help steer you to whatever brand fit your needs, even if they didn't sell it.

Once you have that info you might be able to use a non-WSD bike with the proper modifications. All women don't need WSD frames.

Of course, she may just not fit any stock geometry from anyone so knowing this sooner rather than later could save you a heck of a lot of time. Or you could find a used custom frame. Get the fit first!
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Old 12-27-2007, 11:51 AM
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Ginger Ginger is offline
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ben,
you are wise to be concerned about a shop putting her on a bike based on her leg length. They generally then stick a very short stem on the bike and call it good, and that short stem causes handling issues. Yes. The bike might "fit" but its handling is compromised.

I do have a suggestion. She's the only one who can protect herself from getting a bike that doesn't really fit. But you can help...tell her that while she'll be in a different position on a road bike, she shouldn't be leaning forward on soft tissue. And that's the key...if she comes across a fitter who tells her that some pain up front is "normal" they're wrong. There's a difference between a bit of pressure and leaning on the soft tissue.

Custom sounds scary, but it's the best thing I ever did for myself. While I'm not as tall as your girlfriend, I have a similar leg length/height thing going on.
If she really has no clue, start with a fit with a good Serotta fitter in your area. It will get you in the ballpark of what bikes will work for her.

And really, a custom cures a lot of expense down the road. No buying more saddles to fine "the one" when it just isn't going to happen, no buying different seatposts, stems, and handlebars trying to get all that dialed in.

For those of us who don't fit in the Nth percentile that most bike companies design for, custom is a cheap option.
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Old 12-27-2007, 11:55 AM
stevep stevep is offline
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women can be challenging fits. long legs, short torsos and arms.
( sometimes if not usually)

when colnago designed his classic race frame he was looking at a picture of giuseppe saronni not lynn bessette...and the stuff since has been a variation on that theme.
will take a little more effort but it can be done.

i thk wsd are largely for women on the shorter end of the spectrum... which is another whole problem.
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  #6  
Old 12-27-2007, 12:26 PM
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BumbleBeeDave BumbleBeeDave is offline
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I would suggest a Serotta fitting session . . .

. . . even if you don't end up buying a Serotta. The fitter will give you a sheet with all the suggested measurements for the bike. Then you can either have a Serotta made--or take those measurements and go shopping for something stock that might indeed fit her. It would be a very good investment of the $100-200 it might cost to get it done.

I'm puzzled by what I understand from your original post might be an attitude from the LBS that they would be willing to spend the time with you for her to do the various test rides, yet they didn't want to spend what would have probably been the same time investment to do a professional fit session on the Serotta size bike. Can't say as I blame you for being peeved. They can't be a Serotta dealer without having a certified-by-Serotta fitter on staff. So what's up with them? I would ask for the manager there and ask them what's up. They are supposed to suggest a fit session.

At the very least, you need to get a fitting to establish your girlfriend's leg length-to-trunk ratios. If she is tall and still has the typical woman's ratio, then yeah, you would need to get a custom, or a larger bike in WSD. But if she is tall and has a male type ratio, then she might be able to ride a stock men's size.

In any event, pay attention to what Ginger says. She knows her stuff!

BBD
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  #7  
Old 12-27-2007, 12:39 PM
benb benb is offline
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Yah I really don't get it since they'd make a couple hundred on a serotta fitting and nothing on test rides.

I want her to get the Serotta fitting but around $200-250 seems to be the going rate for Serotta fits versus $50 for fit kit. I may pay for the Serotta fitting if she really doesn't want to pay for it, but I think she will... she very much understands that 2 cheap bikes cost as much or more then one more expensive bike.
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  #8  
Old 12-27-2007, 12:40 PM
djg djg is offline
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I'd post a different question: tell folks where you are, and ask the board whether they have suggestions about a good local fitter or shop person to deal with (IME, except with a very few shops, it's worth having a pointer to an individual at a particular shop, and not just a particular shop). If somebody can recommend a person who has dealt with a number of women road riders, that's an even bigger plus. 5'9" with long legs is tall-ish for a woman, and maybe outside the range of some factories' womens' specific models, but it seems to me hardly an unusual fit task, much less a rare one -- there ought to be somebody around who knows how to work with her.
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  #9  
Old 12-27-2007, 01:03 PM
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Ti Designs Ti Designs is offline
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I'm going to agree with BBDave - don't worry, this doesn't happen often...


Start with the size cycle and nothing in mind as a final outcome (don't try to fit her onto something that doesn't work). Do the whole thing, as if you're initial plan was to go full custom. Get everything in the center of the adjustments so there's room to play with once she starts riding. When you're done you have numbers to go with.

Now my very own rant about women's bikes. It's perhaps the worst of the sweeping generalizations in the bike industry. It's not even a solution, it's a response to a complaint - "I'm on a man's bike, I have too much weight on my handlebars, the bike is too long". Anybody who's worked in a bike shop has heard this a zillion times. So the bike makers, knowing that some genius is going to show up at the bike shop with a tape measure and pick the bike with the shortest top tube, make bikes with very short top tubes. There's only so much you can chop off the front of a bike before you run into your own front wheels, so the move the seat forward with a steeper seat angle.

This is where my second argument comes in. If women have longer legs and shorter torsos, wouldn't that mean the seat should move the other way? I always go back to the office chair scenario, sit on a chair with good posture (neutral spine), and lean forward. If your feet are slightly in front of your knees your glutes will take up the effort and you'll be able to sit there all day like that. Move your feet back a few inches and the quads have to fire. Three minutes later and your legs are starting to shake and you're leaning against the desk to hold yourself up. Put your feet under the desk and try this and you'll probably hit your face on the desk. So, their model is longer legs, which probably means longer femurs, and they're moving their hips forward??? If you can't get the saddle to pedal relationship right there's no point in continuing...

My third argument is about those women specific components. Trek uses the Bontrager WSD bars on all of their WSD biks now, from the 44cm up to the 56. In many cases I love those bars, they let riders with a short torso or limited rangeofmotion use both the tops and the hoods. Calling them WSD bars is one of the dumbest things in the bike industry (right behind myself). I recently did a fitting on a trek that came with those bars, but the customer have an almost unlimited range of motion and long arms. If I gave her a position on the tops that would allow her to take the strain off her lower back the hoods would have been about 5cm too close. If the bike companies want to do women's specific bikes - er, I mean short top tube bikes better, they need to work with the shops on options and component credits. Anything short of that is saying that a well fitting bike for someone with a short torso is going to cost a lot more. Think about it, you buy a whole bike, then you change out the seatpost (need more setback - stupid steep seat angles), the bars, the stem, the saddle, the crank length...



At some point someone in the industry is going to say "we can't offer a range of bars and stems and saddles with every bike" because it would mean more SKU's and inventory and *gasp* fitters who know what they're doing!!! If you go back 10 years, they said the same thing about frames. When Seven stared doing not only custom geometry but also custom ride a lot of people thought they were idiots. Now it's expected of a high end frame builder.
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  #10  
Old 12-27-2007, 01:41 PM
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gt6267a gt6267a is offline
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follow the advice and spring for the fitting.

buy a used steel bike off ebay or the forum classifieds. know you'll sell it for what you paid for it. think of shipping as your rental fee. Know that it won’t be perfect. Play around (I’m still talking about biking, get your mind out of the gutter) with lots of fitting ying. Maybe even get some cheap stems and try out different saddle bar drops and heights. Learn about cycling and bikes.

Don't go for a ride more than 30 miles (not until a bike actually fits).

if its time, buy a cheap bike and allocate finances towards the rock since, um, that is more important ying than cycling.

When she says, “so, this bike has been fun, I know I like cycling, but, um, I don’t love this bike” Get her a custom bike. By that time, there won’t be any slack to pick up, since it will be the same pool of cabbage.

Last edited by gt6267a; 12-27-2007 at 01:50 PM.
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  #11  
Old 12-27-2007, 01:43 PM
jmr986 jmr986 is offline
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maybe they were trying to do you a favor?

A couple of things.

Did you specifically tell them you were there, or only wanted, a fitting? If your GF is a newbie maybe a stock bike would be OK for now. When I first got in to cycling I did the same thing. Went to a local LBS that does custom builds only. They give you a "free" fitting and spec a bike for you. Being my first road bike I thought it a bit over the top for a first bike. So maybe that was their intention. Put her on something cheaper, then if she bails from cycling, her investment was minimal. BTW I didn't feel all that comfortable on the fitted bike.

I took a friend of mine who has the same dimensions as your GF. She also is 5'9" with lonnnnng legs. The LBS spent a long time fitting her to an in stock Klein. She only needed tweaks. And the stem was a manageable/safe size. As far as I know, aside from the summer we rode on a corporate team, she hasnt ridden that gorgeous plum crazy Klein.

I guess my point is they may be doing your GF a favor. Besides unless you've ridden an ill-fitting stock bike, how will you ever know if the custom bike really fits you properly?
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  #12  
Old 12-27-2007, 01:45 PM
Dr. Doofus
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i know you said no custom

but, i'll still suggest paul sadoff

call him up and get her a rock lobster

1100.00 for steel or 7005 AL

made plenty of bikes for gals

get an inexpensive gruppo and you're in business

(or just parts out a used bike with 105 or something on it, for less than the kit cost)
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  #13  
Old 12-27-2007, 02:08 PM
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Ginger Ginger is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmr986

I guess my point is they may be doing your GF a favor. Besides unless you've ridden an ill-fitting stock bike, how will you ever know if the custom bike really fits you properly?
Two things...

Bike shops need to stop doing that sort of "favor" for women. It's condescending and offensive.

If a stock bike can't be made to fit without going to extremes, it would be far better to start out riding a custom bike that fit you rather than go through X number of stock bikes that don't fit looking for something comfortable. The thing is, if you don't KNOW what a bike that doesn't fit feels like you don't KNOW that the stock bike doesn't fit...you just think it's normal.
You're told, and so you think that you just need to ride more and it will be ok. So you get used to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of bikes that don't fit, that aren't balanced, and are at times, dangerous due to poor position (balance) on the bike and the lack of complete control (really more an issue on the trail than on the road I think...except for descents). But fighting all that stuff is NOT an enjoyable ride. It sucks.

Go custom if it would be better for her. Think long term investment. Even if she doesn't ride much, she'll still have a bike that doesn't cause pain to ride 20 years from now.
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Old 12-27-2007, 02:09 PM
DukeHorn DukeHorn is offline
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Unless you are totally pressed for time, what's wrong with the initial advice of testing some bikes out? Don't we normally tell people to try out all the bikes they want to buy to see how it feels? Especially with you there to give tips on avoiding short stems etc.?

I obviously wasn't there to guess the tone of the conversation but when did test riding multiple bikes morph into "buying 3-4 bikes to see which one fits"?

I mean if she's never biked before, what's the point of a fitting session since her posture will probably change in 6 months when she gets more comfortable? Am I totally missing something?
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Old 12-27-2007, 02:25 PM
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vaxn8r vaxn8r is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ginger
Two things...

Bike shops need to stop doing that sort of "favor" for women. It's condescending and offensive.
You can make it about sex if you like but that's just how some shops work, whether you're male or female. Ride a bunch of bikes and find out what feels right. The guys who I trust in the business can look at you and get pretty close.

If fit cycles worked why are their so many wacky bikes out there? You don't sit on a fit cycle the same as you sit on a bike on the road. I've heard dozens of horrow stories about fit cyle fittings that ride like %#&!

atmo.
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