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I have been riding a few different types of bikes. Recently I've decided on the Specialized Hardrock Sport or Trek 4300. When on the test rides, there weren't any dirt or extreme uphill climbs, so I wasn't really able to experience a full test ride.

I am 5'10" and about 148lbs. I felt the most comfortable on the 16" Trek 4300 and the Small Hardrock Sport which is 15". Normally people would recommend that I get a 17" frame, but I didnt really feel good on one.

So my question is, will I get any surprises when I take the bike onto the bumpy dirt fire-trials with such a small frame. Thanks.
 

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Why so small?

Are you crossing over from BMX? In my experience, I can toss a smaller frame around more easily, but I can't get my position right on it for anything but goofing around. If you get a frame that is too small, you will find yourself hunching over and causing back pain when you ride for any period of time. If you are planning on dirt jumping, and never sitting down, by all means, go with the small frame. If you want to do any rides lasting over an hour, go with a frame that actually fits.

I didn't even mention toe overlap problems (front tire and feet come in contact while turning) That always sucks.
 

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frame size is meaningless, go by top tube length

conventional wisdom would put someone your size -- same as my size -- on an 18 inch frame from most manufacturers. That a smaller frame feels more comfy makes me suspect that you have a short torso and arms, and long legs.
Seat tube size matters little since you can raise or lower your saddle to fit. Reach is way more important.
Also, there's a lot of variation in how builders size and proportion their frames. A 17.5" Yeti hardtail fits me perfectly, as does a 19" Ritchey and a 20" Klein. As I'm right at the peak of the male sizing bell curve, I've always found that if I say I ride a "medium" I end up with a good fit.
 

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i am a half inch shorter than you are and i too like the smaller frames. I rode a 15'' rockhopper for years and had no problem with going on various trails. you just put the seat up alittle and its alright. Also i like doing drops and jumps with that bike too, and if you slap the seat all the way down it works out arlight for that too. Only times that i wished i had a bigger frame was doing really easy trail riding or on the road. but i ride alot in NE area so everything is super technical and rocky. A smaller frame lets you be closer to the ground and handle the bike more.

going to harder bumpier trails will be easier on a smaller framed bike. There are alot of stuff i wouldn't have done on such a large frame (17'' and up), like jumps, drops, certain staircases. However i am more of a freerider type person then an XC guy and have come from a BMX background. I generally use my Specialized P2 for urban,DJing,and XC. Bottome line is do whats comfortable for you. however the larger bike will make those long rides a bit more easy since the geometry will be right for true XC riding, but will also make getting down very steep techincal stuff alot harder (along with other moves like hopping over stuff and larger drops). If you are doing fire roads and moderate hills and the trails are basically not too technical then i'd go with the larger frame, but if its the types of riding where its basically rockgardens and steep hills that make you want to flip over your bars every five seconds go for the smaller size. Just remember that this advice is coming from someone that uses their BMX bike as a car when at school... so i'm use to riding small bikes.
 
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