Best to go big or small on frame size?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Best to go big or small on frame size?

    Hi, new forum member here. I've been researching rigid, steel setups and have found a lot of great information here. I'm hoping to find a complete used bike that suits my needs. I ride my full-squish on the occasionally pretty steep, often rocky singletrack in Sonoma and Marin. Not much that's flat around here.

    I recently came across an el mariachi that looks good. According to the manufacturer, I'm about at the maximum height for the size of this particular frame. In terms of proportions, my legs are slightly short for my torso. I wonder if anyone has opinions about riding a small frame or a larger frame. Is either one better for climbing and descending?

    ps: I recently sold a xc hardtail race bike that was at the smaller limit for me. Narrow bars sucked for climbing, and the tight geometry was a little sketchy coming down (falling down) the steep technical stuff. If I had to ride that style of bike on my local trails, I'd want a larger frame. If I could ride a slacker frame, I could go as small.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    i would get a size bigger because a lot of climbing is done standing. you dont want the sensation of being too far forward when youre really cranking on the bars and pedals.

  3. #3
    Downcountry AF
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    The El Mar has a pretty short reach if memory serves. If you have a longer torso you'd probably want a bigger frame if you can manage the standover. I'd hold out for the proper size. Standing position on a SS generally benefits from a slightly longer reach and higher handlebar position compared to a geared hardtail in my experience.

    I've been seeing a lot of great used bikes lately. How tall are you and what size frame are you looking for? Also providing a budget helps.
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  4. #4
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    Thanks for responses! Exactly the kind of insight I was looking for. I will pass on that mariachi. I'm 5'5". The squisher I bought a few months ago is a small (650b) and feels perfect for what I do with it. I had ridden a medium (different brand, identical geometry) and it fit fine but felt a little truckish compared to the small. So I guess for SS I might take a medium, depending on the reach. Or maybe a small with a long stem and high stack.

    Ideally I'd like to get a nice springy frame that emphasized agility for climbing and avoiding/navigating hazards than a burly frame that emphasized bulldozing. (I've found with this full-susp bike, which is my first after many years of holding out, I tend to get lazy and bomb stuff when I'm tired rather than pick a good line.) I've been looking at all of the frames and bikes that others have discussed: unit, karate monkey, honzo, soma juice, jabberwocky, el mar, nimble9, etc...

    As far as budget goes, good question. I'd really like to find a complete used bike in great condition for $600-1k. I imagine that might be a tall order. Otherwise, a frame for 500-700 and build it up with used stuff. There is a decent looking used sir 9 on ebay that starts at $400...

    Any and all advice appreciated!

  5. #5
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    One more thing, I'm not even sure 29 is the best bet for someone of my height. I'm open to 650 and 26...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by babybabe View Post
    One more thing, I'm not even sure 29 is the best bet for someone of my height. I'm open to 650 and 26...
    I really like 650b. When I ride single track (geared or SS) I seldom sit. I stand 99% of the time. I use the nose of the seat between my legs to help control the bike in turns and tech stuff. To me frame size for this style of riding isnít as critical as say the frame size for a road or gravel bike where I sit more BUT what fishywishy already stated if the frame is so small you need an extremely long stem then that may not be good either. On my b side (650b) I am running a large frame at 6í. I could ride an extra large but for what I primarily use this bike for a large works fine for me for bike packing, gravel, and single track. FWIW I use a 90 mm bontrager stem with a 17 degree rise. This bike feels good to me.

    Find your happy medium 👍

  7. #7
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    Iowamtb, how does your b-side ride in the technical stuff? I've read all over that the Soma frames feel light and steely. And are there steep trails where you are?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by babybabe View Post
    Iowamtb, how does your b-side ride in the technical stuff? I've read all over that the Soma frames feel light and steely. And are there steep trails where you are?
    Absolutely! The newer b sides are better yet. They tweaked the stays so you can fit plus tires if you want. Yes this frame is light! In SS mode with all steel and aluminum (no carbon!!) it weighs 25 lbs on the nose. Thatís with Hope hubs, Stanís rims and 2.4 Maxxis Ardents. The bare frame weighed less than 5 lbs. I run a Salsa Cromoto Grande steel fork but will be upgrading to a steel Firestarter fork after tomorrow.

    I ride in St. Joseph mo and around Omaha Ne and yes a lot of the trails are steep as they are along the Missouri River.

    My front end is super light so I can pop it up easily but I find I have to lean forward on steeps to keep the front wheel down. The bike rides a lot better than my capabilities thatís the sure.

  9. #9
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    Right on! Thanks for the insight.

  10. #10
    WillWorkForTrail
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    I'll back the idea of a Soma frame. I don't think there's anything that would make me happier with my Juice. For a SS setup, for where I am, even the geo is good with 120mm of squish up front. The ride is superb. Epic good fun. Don't let the notion of wheel size slow you down. If you think 650b is the way to go, snag the B-side and don't look back.

  11. #11
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    I'm 5'6 and all my SS bikes are smalls and 29ers 65mm stems wider bars 720-780. Dont go for a 26 for SS, 27.5 really isnt that much different but it helps, if it fits b+ and 29 so much the better.
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  12. #12
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    I find that most modern bikes are still made too short in reach for their stated size. I fit OK on medium frames at 5'9" but many mediums end up with a cramped cockpit. I picked my Jabberwocky specifically because Vassago is one of the few companies that makes a steel hardtail right in that regard. I am 100% against "sizing down."

  13. #13
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    Given how much you need to stand on a SS, I would definitely not recommend going to the smaller size. I like roomy for long standing climbs.

  14. #14
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    If you wanna bomb down gnarly descents, go longer (larger). A longer wheelbase, all things being equal, should be more stable at higher speeds.

    If you want flick-a-bility, more playful, go with stated size or even smaller... i.e. shorter wheelbase.



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  15. #15
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    My wife is 5'5 and rides a medium el mar.

    I'm 5'11 and have owned a large el mar.

    Great bikes in general, especially at the price they can be found used.

    As mentioned above, on singlespeeds the reach measurement is one of the most most important to me. Too short and you'll really feel cramped on climbs. Too long and you may have to shift your weight so far forward that traction becomes an issue.

    Also in general on rigid bikes I prefer slightly bigger for stability.

  16. #16
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    For shorter riders like myself (5'6") sizing down is a reasonable consideration if a low stack height is required to get the seat to bar drop you prefer. I did own a El Mar in small. Side note it was far to heavy and aluminum stiff for my steel frame preference.

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  17. #17
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    Your handlebar hieght can be changed with a lower stem or bar. Your cockpit reach cannot be changed without affecting the handling. I would err on getting the reach you want with the stem you want to optimize steering.

    Saddle to bar drop is partially a red herring. BB hieghts vary and reach vs. stack come into play. However, effective stack and reach - where your hand end up relative to your feet - is more universal. Your saddle position has only a secondary relationship to where your bars go.
    Last edited by mack_turtle; 12-26-2017 at 08:41 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rumblefish29er View Post
    Given how much you need to stand on a SS, I would definitely not recommend going to the smaller size. I like roomy for long standing climbs.
    This.

    I'm 5'9" and fall right at the cutoff between small and medium frame sizes on my bike.
    At first I had a small Vassago Jabberwocky which was fine most of the time, but I could get 'out over the bars' pretty easily on climbs. I ran a 90mm stem with 750mm bars, and went to a 100mm stem briefly but hated it. I actually OTB'd once going UPHILL.

    My new Verhauen is the exact same geometry but a size medium and it fits great with a 90mm stem. The bars are under me even on the really steep climbs, but it's not ridiculously long where I can't get my weight back or down low.


    I wouldn't buy a 'too big' bike for any reason, even SSing, but if you're on the fence, size up.
    Donít modify the trail to match your skills, modify your skills to match the trails.

  19. #19
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    Test ride if possible e-advice only worth what you paid for it.
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  20. #20
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    Thanks, all. Lots to consider. As a recreational rider, I don't get bent about fit with mountain bikes, especially given the standing and all of the other moving around on the bike. I typically like a shorter stem that keeps the bars close to the head tube. (I've ridden bikes with small frames that have been made to "fit" with long stems, and that setup feels a little too bmx.)

    So it sounds like with all the standing that for my tastes a healthy reach, short stem, and possibly higher bars are the ticket.

  21. #21
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    I'm really liking larger frames with shorter stems. Try to ride both!

  22. #22
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    I ride a large Kona Wozo which has a TT that's 26" which is pretty long for someone who is typically between a medium and a large. That said, I rode all of last year with a 75mm stem and switched to 55mm when I stripped one of the steerer clamp bolts and when climbing, I definitely miss the longer stem.

    For me, climbing feels more productive if the bars are out in front of you a bit when you're standing (which is all the time). With the 55mm, the bars are closer to my waist when in a natural standing posture, and it's never felt as comfortable as the 75mm.

    But it's a tradeoff, because for descending, I like the 55 a bit better. At the end of the day, if I wasn't riding a premium stem (ENVE) I would probably go back to the longer one.

    What I'm getting at, is even though I'm already on a big bike, I like the room and would probably have an even harder time getting a comfortable climbing position on a medium (which is an inch shorter).

    End of the day, for SS'ing I tend to think bigger is better.

  23. #23
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    Helped a friend install a susser fork on his specialized crave SS yesterday(a real deal off craigslist), took it for a test spin, medium size, felt way too stretched out even though 50mm stem and seat forward of center(he's about an inch shorter than I am, but new to MTBing). You can't really go by reach numbers alone for fitment, seat tube angle, saddle height, stem length, & bar width/height all need to be considered.
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  24. #24
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    Absolutely. If a bike doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. Period. But it's my belief that if you're a in between sizes, you'll see more benefit having a slightly bigger frame for SS'ing than smaller.

  25. #25
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    I'm 5'6'' on a small '13 El Mar. I'm opposite of you in terms of proportions--more leg than torso here. It fits good enough with a 400mm setback seat post and a 90mm stem, but sometimes I wonder if a medium would have been better. My next frame will probably be a bit longer in the reach.
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