Handmade Bicycles: The Custom Experience- The Fit Part II

Editor’s Note: Now that we have met some builders, Grannygear gets to the nuts and bolts of a custom build, starting with….The fit.

Last article, we met the builder of choice for our mock build of a 29er, steel softail frameset. I laid out a bit of my preferences and what I was looking for in general terms. Now it is time to put measuring tape to bike, put the numbers down on paper and see where we are coming from. Sharp eyes will notice the crash damage that I am sporting. Yes, even old guys fall down. Even sharper eyes will notice the prototype rear shock on the Lev. Inspired by the fork offset test that Guitar Ted did recently, I decided to test the relative shock absorbsion qualities of various woods. Currently I am testing Pine, next is Oak, then Birch or Ash, depending on the relative humidity. I will say that Pine is stiff, yet compliant, responsive yet stable with a rising rate of 100%.

We also will take some pictures that will be provided along with the measurements and pass it all on to Doug at Curtlo Cycles. The idea is to show how my current bikes are set up, how I look on the bike(s), and give Doug some scale to refer to. We began with pics showing me on each bike, two different pedal positions, and then took out the tape and filled in the numbers of key points on the bikes.

Here is the Lev:


And here are the key points we measured: dscn4318

A: Saddle Height 1 – center of seat to center of bottom bracket = 30.25”

B: Saddle offset – how far behind the bottom bracket the saddle sits = 3”

C: Saddle Height 2 – from ground to saddle top, perpendicular to ground = 42.5”

D: Bar Height – ground to center of bar at stem clamp = 41.5”

E: Reach – nose of saddle to center of h-bar at stem clamp = 22.25” to 22.5” depending on how you measure it.

F: Saddle length – center of rails to nose = 6”

The saddle is a WTB Pure V, the stem is a Bontrager 100mm, 7* rise. The h-bar is an Easton Monkey Lite XC low rise.
Running the Reba at 100mm of travel gives me a slack angle set of 70* HT and 72* ST.

The Karate Monkey got the same treatment: dscn4298dscn4301

A: Saddle Height 1 – center of seat to center of bottom bracket = 30.5” (allows for sag in suspension seatpost)

B: Saddle offset – how far behind the bottom bracket the saddle sits = 4”

C: Saddle Height 2 – from ground to saddle top, perpendicular to ground = 41.25”

D: Bar Height – ground to center of bar at stem clamp = 40.5”

E: Reach – nose of saddle to center of h-bar at stem clamp = 22.5” to 22.75” depending on how you measure it.

F: Saddle length – center of rails to nose = 6”

The saddle is a WTB Pure V, the stem is an Easton 110mm, 6* rise. The h-bar is an Easton Monkey Lite XC high rise.
Running the RST fork at 80mm of travel gives me a factory angle set of 72* HT and 73* ST.

I also took a pic of each saddle to show where it was located on the seatpost rails. Notice that I have the saddle all the way back on the no-offset Thomson post (the 72* angle of the Lev helps here) and all the way forward on the very offset Thudbuster and I still cannot get them the same as far as saddle fore-aft to bottom bracket center.


I also measured KOPS on both bikes to demonstrate where the knee is located over the pedal spindle. As you can see on the Lev, the knee is slightly ahead of the green line (pedal spindle center).



On the KM, I am slightly behind the pedal spindle.
We then measured the inseam on my finely tuned body by placing a book in the crotch and measuring from the top of the book to the ground. It was 34”.

This should be a good beginning to getting a bike built to fit my needs. Stay tuned as the dialogue continues between builder and client on the path to the handmade bicycle experience.


No Responses to “Handmade Bicycles: The Custom Experience- The Fit Part II”

  1. maheo Says:

    Do the 2 frames have the same BB height? Seems as though measuring off the floor this would be pertinent. What size Lev do you ride?

  2. grannygear Says:

    maheo – Definitely not the same BB height. I performed the measurements that the builder asked for. In your thinking, how would BB height change the cockpit fit of the bike? I have the KM set up to have a higher relative H-bar height compared to the Lev. That works out well as I spend a ton of time standing and pedaling/climbing on the SS and less on the Lev…gears, of course.

    The higher H-bar allows me to remain a bit more upright and saves the low back.

    It is an XL Lev, but he builds his bikes a bit short, 24.5″ TT on the XL. I do feel a bit cramped at times, other times, not. It will be interesting to see what Doug ends up with as far as TT length.


  3. maheo Says:

    I’ve never ordered a custom bike, I’m learning through you. If the BB to seat height is a constant, then a higher BB would raise the seat height if measured off the floor. I would think the seat/BB relationship would be a separate measurement.I’ve got a lg 3″Lev so I know it’s BB is higher than most.

  4. maheo Says:

    I just reread the fit. Cypress is lighter than pine and easier to work, about the same rising rate, and holds up better in the elements, IMO is better looking. If I’m correct, I have about 20 years on you and at least 20 years less biking knowledge.

  5. grannygear Says:

    Maheo – You are correct, it does change that factor. However, measurement ‘A’ does keep the seat height/BB in perspective. I would imagine that the builder would work with the manufacturers data for that, but I do agree that it seems reasonable to ask for that measurement. I did wonder why that was not on the sheet from Curtlo. I will ask that later in the process.

    Ah, yes, Cypress. I see you know your woods!

    Well, if you have 20 years on me and you are mtn biking, you are my hero!


  6. maheo Says:

    Thanks, 40 years working with wood, you’ve become one of my favorite resources.Steve

  7. sinnerspinner Says:

    This is the least scientific “bike fit” attempt ever. Your knee is behind pedal spindle on one bike because your heel is down, and in front of pedal spindle on the other because your heel is up. Your foot is also in a completely different location on the pedal. The KOPS measurement is also dependent on saddle height, which makes me wonder what the tennis shoe-eggbeaters thing is all about? Who cares about KOPS? Top-tube is too short. Your back hurts because you’re sitting straight up and down, like in a chair. You’re not recruiting the powerful muscle groups, and probably tearing your back apart under power. I would suggest a longer stem, but this will slow down handling some, and the top-tube length issue needs to be addressed anyway. The longer top-tube should open up a bit more power and stability for out of the saddle efforts as well. You may also be a good candidate for a “knee behind pedal spindle” position as this would encourage a more cantilevered torso position while keeping your hands light. The goal of your new custom should hopefully be to “open things up” a bit, and stretch out.
    I’m really struggling to be constructive here, but this is kind of a joke.

  8. grannygear Says:

    sinnerspinner –

    It does not seem like you are struggling at all to be constructive. It seems to come easy for you. It is too bad you had to put in the last sentence.

    If you can see so much of the poor fit in the pics, perhaps the builder will as well. It must be very obvious. I was surprised when I saw the pics.

    I do not think that KOPS is that big of a deal either, but I will let the builder make that final determination as to the pics, etc. That was the first time for me to even attempt that measurement and If I did not do it correctly, so be it. It seems to be a controversial measurement as to whether it means a whole lot, at least from what I read.

    My back does not hurt. Tearing it apart? Hmmm? However, I do agree that I feel like a 25ish” TT is more like it for me. I do not like longer than a 100mm stem. It will be interesting to see what I end up with on the drawing board.

    Keeping you amused,


  9. sinnerspinner Says:

    yeah, I aplogize for that that sentence. Especially now, learning that this is your first time taking these sort of measurements.

    I commented on the “back thing” only because you had brought it up in a response to maheo. I don’t mean to pick on you, I guess I’m just a little jealous of the opportunities that you and GT are presented with sometimes! I would trade all of the fancy forks and tires in the world for the chance to work with a custom frame builder like this.

    I hope this finds you well.

  10. grannygear Says:

    No worries. I am certainly not an expert in any sense, but neither is the average custom frame buyer, so if I make a mistake, let’s let everyone learn from it, myself included. No offense taken.

    Ah, the back thing was poorly expressed. I was referring to standing climbing with a high effort on the SS, steep hills, etc. I raised the bar a bit so I was not so hunched over the bars when I stood, but seated feels fairly good as far as back issues. I have a history of back surgery, so I have to adjust a bit for this.

    However, on both bikes I do feel cramped. Interesting since I am right in the production bike frame ‘zone’ for guys my height on a LG/XL bike. Seldom do they get past a 24.5″ TT without getting very tall in the stand over, exceptions being Turner and a few others.

    Wishing you the same,


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