Got Standover?

30 11 2011

I’m still smiling!

One issue I don’t really understand is the obsession with standover clearance. On quite a few of my bikes [both Surly LHTs,  my Pugsley & my Boulder Bicycle All Road] I have no standover clearance at all. When I straddle the bike with both feet flat on the ground I get light contact with “my boys”. In years of riding, crashing and falling off my bikes I’ve never hurt my groin due to smashing into my TT. In particular I ride my Pugsley on soft sand/snow where, in theory, I should have a ton of standover problems as my feet would sink into the ground reducing standover even more. Yet it just never happens no matter where I stop or how I crash – and I do crash on my Pugs – a lot!

Now you might say standover can’t hurt so why not make sure you have a bunch of it just in case?:

  • People buy frames that are too small for them to achieve the stand over they feel is essential when really the effective TT of the bike they are looking at is what’s important.
  • In order to achieve standover designers have to make frames very small with sloped TTs.
  • Small frames mean loads of seatpost stuck out which leads to other problems and much less space inside the frame if you want to use a frame bag or if you want to carry large water bottles.
  • With 29ers and full suspension the efforts to lower the TT start to drive bike designs to the point of compromising them.

Okay let’s say you must have 2″ of standover clearance on a bike:

  • Look at the geometry charts for bikes you are interested in and find the frame size that gives you the effective TT you need with a 100mm stem.
  • This will give you +/- 1cm of TT adjustment when you actually get the bike while keeping the stem at a reasonable size.
  • Check the tires they used to measure the standover clearance and adjust the stated TT height depending on what tires you would like to run.
  • Measure yourself by sliding a book up between your legs until you get light contact – don’t jam it up into your groin or you’ll be cutting down the standover you’ll actually experience on the bike.
  • Measure with your feet about 18″ apart….like you were straddling a bike…not with your feet together or you’ll get less standover than you expect on the bike.
  • Add 2″ or 50mm to the measured value and check that you have that mid-TT on your bike of interest.
  • If yes you are solid.
  • If not don’t buy the next size down as you’ll mess up the more important TT dimension. Instead skip that bike as the design doesn’t work for you and look for one with a more radically sloped TT.

Following this approach I couldn’t ride an 18″ Pugsley and a 16″ Pugsley would have a TT that was too short. I could fit on a medium Salsa Mukluk though. After all my fun adventures on the Pugsley I am glad I didn’t let standover clearance drive my decision process.

That’s not to say I don’t care about standover at all. I find light contact with my boys the practical limit for TT height. Not because I’m worried about injury, but because that’s how high I can swing my leg over my bike without too much trouble.



11 responses

30 11 2011
Rob E. Loomis

Agreed. I seem to remember in my youth riding bikes that I had to hold at an angle when I straddled them, just to clear the top tube. I suffered no ill affects from that, and when I bought my first new bike, I was sized by the shop based on standover height alone, and that bike always left me feeling cramped. My trucker I sized by riding a friend’s that was too big for me to stand over, but was almost a good fit in the cockpit, so I determined to buy the biggest bike I could reasonably hope to straddle, and it worked out fine.

30 11 2011

Can you recommend a good article to help determine what one’s ideal TT length would be? I see a lot online about getting the right seat tube length, but not much about other frame measurements. Thanks.

30 11 2011

@Adam – the best way is to measure a bike that you like. Second best is to go down to a LBS and find a bike you like and measure it. Trying to get such an important measurement based on a chart or an online resource is a mistake as there are too many possible factors that could affect the result.

Also keep in mind the type of bars you plan to use will affect the TT value you want. You need a shorter TT for drop bars, medium TT for flat bars and longer TT for swept back bars.

30 11 2011

I am always amused at obessions over standover…when you look at pictures from way, way back–they had none at all. Which, I guess, was still an improvement over having to jump off a high-wheeler!

But you’re right–the reach to the bars, both forward and down, is the single most important part of good bike fit.

30 11 2011

I`m with you on this stand over stuff,
why i like the original ()purple then grey) pugsley frames as there is more room for 2 water bottles and JanDD frame bag or with the Epic (Revelate now) frame bag more storage,
reach to the bars is most important, and lenght of stem,

30 11 2011

Definitely agree about the reach being important and about not buying any bike just on specs. I’d warn people about buying custom bikes built on measurements too, rather than getting an actual fitting from the frame builder. Especially when a significant amount of cash is involved. But I have to say, being a little guy I have had trouble with not having enough stand over. The problem is not when riding but when stopping or having to dismount suddenly. you know like when a car or tree suddenly pulls in front of you ( yes, if you’re riding an unknown trail at speed, they sometimes do that!) and you have to do an emergency brake or stop. Leg either clips the top tube or I can’t balance the bike or I lean the bike to one side only to find the ground is not level and get more than slight contact with ‘my boys’. More like sudden HARD contact and yes, it hurts! I’ve only had this happen once or twice in several years of riding but it is an issue. In a similar way guys around 5’4″ ( me ) have trouble supporting a stationary motorbike because of the size of the thing compared to height and body weight. Once riding and up to speed, no problem. Anyway I generally find that I have to look at the two smallest sizes in any bike manufacturers range to get something that feels comfortable when I straddle it. Yep, a lot of people ride too small frames, but some of us need ’em. If you can ride a bigger frame, you’re lucky” But when i tried that the bike was riding me, not the other way around 🙂 More frame space for accessories is always good.
You are so right about there being too many variables in measurements. You got to get on the bike, ride it and see for yourself, If a frame fits well, you should feel agile on the bike and be able to ‘throw’ it around a bit. It’s not a sofa.

30 11 2011

Hah, I did have a standover issue once with an old style road bike – it was 52cm x 52cm pretty much and so it was too big for me with a dead horizontal top tube…. the first time I stopped on it I had an incident with the top tube!

1 12 2011
Greg Weber (@onespeedgreg)

I liked this post. I have worked in shops for years and fit is by far the most important aspect of riding. Getting new riders out of this smaller is better mentality can be a bit tough at times. It was real tough in the 90’s when Ned Overend was saying go with the smallest bike you feel comfortable on. Gads, what does that even mean?? If you go to Matt Chesters blog he has some interesting notes on fit. One of them is flexability. I have found this is pretty crucial, as I am well into my 40’s.
I pretty much have junk on top tube on all my rides. Road , cross and mountain. I am 5’10” with a 33.5 inseam. so I am a bit of an oddy body. I am consistantly on a bike a size up from others my height. I “can ride” anything from an 18 to 20. Or a M to L from the companies that are too freaking lazy to make a full size run. I love showing up at the trail head and seeing a six foot dude folded in half riding a M “because its easier to flick around”.. Maybe its because we have a lot of guys coming over from bmx.. that this idea prevails.
I too am all about tt length.. I wont even look at a bike unless it has 600mm. I prefer around 610mm. If it puts me on a 20 then it puts me on a 20. As long as i can get a leg over the top..

2 12 2011

It’s not exactly easy or convenient to swing your leg over the saddle of the bike, especially if you have to lay down a heavily loaded bike somewhat to mount it, maybe with loose items, like groceries.

If lower top tubes or slacker seat tubes make that easier, I’m all for it, and for some people, I think it works.

2 12 2011

@Champs – at most I’ll tilt the bike towards me 10 degrees and I don’t try and get my foot over the saddle as that would be too high for me. So nothing will fall out that wouldn’t fly off when riding.

Some people simply can’t raise their leg very high and in those cases I totally understand the desire for low standover. Most of the time when I hear people talk about SO that’s not the case.

BTW – if somebody needs an easy to mount bike the Bike Friday Tikit and NWT style bikes offer that in spades!

30 08 2012
Interior Design… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

[…] Personally I don’t need any standover clearance on my bikes – including my mountain bike…. I’ve been riding and falling off bikes for decades and never had any groin to top tube issues. My trusty Pugsley… […]

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