I'm in between road bike sizes. Can I make my small bike work?

I am looking for advice on my current setup and what I could do to make it more comfortable.

Here’s what I’m riding:

I believe it is 51cm. I am 5’ 8". However, I have shorter legs and arms relative to my torso. Sizing charts show I should be riding a 54cm frame. If the bike were any bigger, I would not be able to stand over it, but my LBS mechanic is saying it’s too small. I had a sense it was small because my knees have hit the butt-end of the drops (ouch), and I get some neck and shoulder aches from possibly having too much weight on my hands and leaning over more than I want.

I don’t race, so there’s no need for an aggressive setup. I am more interested in building fitness and going for longer rides.

Would it be possible to swap out some parts (maybe something about the headset or handlebars) that could make this a bit more upright and comfortable for me?

I am willing to invest a few hundred bucks to get this more comfortable for group rides and longer endurance rides.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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I’m 6’ and occasionally borrow a 48 from a client office, which I can make fit, so I’m pretty sure you’d manage to make that work.
I also prefer smaller frames over larger anyway, though I like a fairly significant saddle to bar drop.

You should definitely be able to find a position where your knees aren’t hitting the bars, as most of my height is in my legs and I can ride smaller frames than that without problem.

The saddle looks reasonably far forward. You probably want to get a bike fit, really. It might be that you’re too far forwards and that is what is causing your legs to hit the bars and for you to fall forwards, ideally when the saddle is located correctly you should be able to sit with your feet on the pedals and feel like you can take your hands off the bars and control a cycling position (not upright) with only moderate effort from your core.

I certainly wouldn’t (personally) be trying to find a more upright position than you already have that bike set to while staying on a road bike. That’s already super-upright for a road bike layout.

I would certainly look into finding either a bike fitter, or looking up bike fitting guides online though. Just getting the saddle set appropriately would probably make a fairly significant difference and, just for reference, less upright doesn’t automatically equal more weight on shoulders if the fit is correct.

Thanks for your response! I’ve always wondered how road cyclists could have such a steep angle between their saddle and handles. Perhaps it’s something for me to practice and get used to (and do lots of yoga).

The photo does not reflect the saddle position I’m currently using. I’ve pushed it back as far as I could, and it’s a bit more comfortable. You’re spot on with that advice.

Several people have recommended a bike fit. I think it’s time for me to give that a try!



GCN has a video you should watch about frame sizing. It’s pretty informative and validates the size bike the USAT Level three coach selected for me. I may need to have it adjusted after a couple of years of riding it, but it is spot on for what I need. According to most sizing charts, I can and should ride a 52-53/Medium frame. I’m on a small Pinarello frame and it works just right. Need to swap out the saddle though.

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Bike fit may be in order, but before you start spending cash:

Try putting your saddle in a more horizontal position. You’re currently sliding forward and putting undue pressure on your hands.

Ride elements of style a couple of times to figure if you’re missing certain techniques. It’s always a good routine.

When going for bikes, it’s easier to make a small frame fit (longer seatpost, longer stem) than trying to make a large frame fit.