"Race" bike for long legs/short torso rider

Hi all,

I’m considering getting a new bike and have trouble defining the best choice considering fit/geometry and feel/handling aspects for racing. I have been enjoying this forum very much and thought that you guys could maybe give me some insights !

I’ve been riding and racing short distance triathlons for 3 years on a Giant TCX SLR 2 (cyclocross bike). I had a bike fitter look at my position and overall the “short and tall” CX bike is well suited to my body type (longer legs with short torso) and the need for a forward tri position (edit).

I’m considering getting into cx races and road/crit races in the future and figured that I would be best with two bikes: the TCX SLR for cyclocross and a road bike for road/crits/triathlons.

edit: after all the cx bike may stay my triathlon bike if it allows me to get a better position (steepening the seat angle by moving the saddle forward and resting the arms on clippons). Will have to test if I am quicker on a race bike with a road position or on the cx bike with a somewhat tri position. Curious how that will compare aero-wise, power-wise and confort-wise.

My actual bike has a stack of 556 and a reach of 375 cm and I had to change the seatpost for a zero offset one to get a better 'tri" position with clipp ons. Therefore I am looking for a road bike with similar stack and reach. Ideal stack would be a little higher, in the 560 - 580 range and reach should stay close to 375-380.

edit : will ask my fitter about best stack and reach range for road racing as I think his previous recommandations were biased by my triathlon needs. These needs exagerate my need for a short and tall bike, given my relative (but not extreme) longer legs / short torso.

After some research I’ve come to the conclusion that the bikes that would best fit me are in the “endurance” range of bike manufacturers. Especially :

  • Trek Domane (54) - closest to my fit
  • Canyon Endurace (MD) - reach is maybe a little too long
  • Giant Defy

My concern is that these “endurance” bikes, although they best match my fit, will maybe feel and ride different than a proper race bike with shorter chainstay and wheelbase (especially considering crit racing).

I also searched for “racier” bikes with tall headtubes and the trek madone H2 geometry is not too far from my expectations ( stack of 560, reach of 381) with a much shorter wheelbase. And it’s aero.

Am I overthinking the race vs endurance geometry ? Would you go for the racier Madone or the closest fit of the Domane ? Do you know of other “race” frames that will suit long legs/short torso riders ?

Many thanks !


I have long legs and a relatively short torso too, to make matters worse I always seem to fall between sizes (54 and 56cm for most manufacturers) even though I would class myself as being very average height/build.

Like you I have erred towards so called ‘endurance’ geometry bikes in order to keep the reach on the lower side. Out of your shortlist I’d say the Trek Domane is by far the best fit. I owned a Giant Defy for a few months (size M/L) and found the reach a little too much, the Canyon seems even worse on paper, though I confess I haven’t tried one.

I ended up going for a Cannondale Synapse (Hi-Mod) as my race bike. Out of all the various models tried, it had the best combination of fit and feel in that it didn’t feel like a slow turning barge like some endurance bikes can, and although a bit racier than the Trek in terms of reach/stack it is plenty comfortable enough for those of us with stumpy top half’s! It’s worth a look.

Dont forget that reach can be affected(and modified) by both the bar and the stem.

For example the 54 Domane comes with a 90mm stem, but bars with a 93mm reach. Giving you a “total” reach of 557 (374+90+93)

The Defy in size S is 90mm stem, but the bars are short reach at 76mm giving the total reach: 540 (374+90+76)

The Canyon is 100mm stem, bars are only 70mm: 553 (383+100+70)

So the Domane has the longest stock reach actually.

To add to that, “total” stack height(angle of your stem and spacer count) can also add and subtract a couple mm each direction.

(I pulled these numbers off each manufactures site using middle price point models. Some higher or lower end bikes may use different parts with different lengths in bar reach)

https://geometrygeeks.bike/ is also a great tool for comparing bike geometery.


(re-read and original post answered my question)

Thanks for the reply. I feel there are a lot of us in the same boat. The short reach is definitely a big limiter. The ‘endurance’ market provides some really good quality bikes that would fit well but the “slow turning barge feel” is definitely a concern of mine. Didn’t mention the Synapse but it was also on my shortlist, I’ll have a better look since it’s the one that gave you the best feeling.

Hi Spots!

You are right, I may have overlooked this fact thinking that stem length and bar reach would be somewhat standardized… Stack and reach is obviously not enough to compare complete stock bikes. Unfortunately it is quite a pain to get all this information from the manufacturers. I used the same great tool to narrow my search, will have to go deeper and add stem and bar length to really compare these bikes.

Are stem length and bar reach chosen by the manufacturers to provide the best handling of the bike or is it somewhat random? Should you trust them blindfold and therefore prefer bikes that will best fit you with their stock parts over a similar geometry bike with alternative parts ?

For example would there be a noticable handling difference if you were to replace the 93 reach bar of the Domane by the 70 reach bar of the canyon ?

I dont know why the select the bar/stem that they select. My thought is that they have collected enough data from riders/sales to know the average stem length for certain size bikes and spec that. Bars seem to be just whatever they felt was best is what every bike gets. Trek likes long reach bars(I think everything they make is 93 or above) where as most others I see seem to like the short 70-85mm bars.

I think you would notice the handling difference more in the geometry than changing the fit. The Domane for example is 72.1 head angle. That’s pretty slack compared to a Madone’s sharper 73. Thus the Madone with it’s sharper head angle and shorter wheelbase is going to be a lot more agile feeling than the Domane.

You can consider some brand’s “climbing” bikes. They tend to have less reach than “aero” bikes.

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i would suggest working with a fitter or bike store that can take your measurements and tell you which bikes/sizes will then work for your fit.
i dont have any that i can suggest that are online, but if you already have a fit dialled working with a fitter or good shop will help you take your fit to bikes geo and figure out from there what stem/cranks/seatpost/etc. would need to be changed out.

I have nothing to contribute, except for this is how I see you, in my mind :man_shrugging:

Don’t know…I also have long legs and a comperatively shorter torso, but as I have good flexibility I like my bikes with a short headtube and a long stem. I feel like flexibility is more important than torso length? One thing I’d say if you have the choice, is go for a bike with a longer seat tube. Otherwise you might end up with a lot of seatpost showing, or even struggling to get a seatpost long enough.

I have long legs and arms and a relatively short torso. The specialized Tarmac Sl6 works for me, as did a friend’s Caad12. They both have taller head tubes though the tarmac feels a little longer. Nothing that a shorter stem didn’t fix.
I do have a lot of seat post showing, and my saddle is a Prologo dimension pushed almost all the way forward.

Given how bikes marketed at women can have similar fork rake and offset as the men’s equivalent just with a shorter stem and narrower bars I am not convinced there is always much thought into handling from the manufacturers. Is in some obvious examples a case of a given stem length for a frame size then an arbitrary shaped bar (these days normally width based on frame size with something like 125 drop 70 reach).

Steering is dictated by the angles and lengths, i.e. head tube, fork rake and offset, stem length, bar reach, drop depth/shape and width (and logically tyre size but I can’t say I have noticed this). All of that needs to be balanced for how you like a bike to steer. Then on top of that you want to consider feel of the handling (IMHO mostly dictated by where the weight sits over axles, see below) and of course comfort.

As said above the issue is until you get on a bike in your preferred position it is so hard to know how that geometry feels. There are so many factors - where you like to sit compared to pedals (which sets your base on bike position) is just the start. Generally the lower you like the front end the longer reach you end up with, noting that lowering via removing spacers generally adds length, but where the weight then ends up can impact the handling through corners.

How a bike steers and feel can be both heavily impacted by bar width and I have found bar width then dictates what stem length feels ‘right’. Generally narrower bars allow a longer stem (think turning arc and how much reach to turn the bars), conversely if you ride off road you want a wider bar and shorter stem for stability but still may want the reach. That can mean going up a frame size.

It makes it very tough as in virtually all stores you are test riding the bike off the shelf which may not suit you. A stem change might be possible for a test ride but bar change less likely.

Best bet IMHO is get a fit on an infinitely adjustable jig type bike. Go and try the nearest fitting road frame (bit of trial and error on spacers and frame sizes might be necessary) then see how that feels.

All of the above meant I ended up on a 52 CAAD12 @ 178.5cm / 5’10". I run a 40cm Zipp SL-70 bar which has 70mm reach and 125mm drop. Stem is a -6 110mm with one small spacer.

It all makes a comfy great handing bike, stable but agile.

I worked with a fitter that took my measurements and helped me adjust my current bike. I asked him which road bikes could fit me for road and triathlon purposes and he dismissed some of my choices like the giant TCR or the Caad12 because the headtube length wasn’t big enough to suit me on the shorter sizes like the 54 Caad 12.

He told me that I was looking for a bike with a top tup length of 540 a seat angle of 73.5 - 74 and a headtube length of 180. Havn’t found bikes that match these needs except in the endurance range.

But these recommandations were made to allow me to get a good tri position on the bike (saddle forward + clippons) and I haven’t asked him for a crit racing use. I feel that if I were to decide that my triathlons are short enough (mainly sprints and a few oly) to ride them in a road position (getting aero on the hoods) he will make different recommandations. And if I were to be quicker on the CX bike + clippons on triathlons I still could return to the CX.

Gonna ask him what would be his recommandations for road and crit use only to see the gap.


Haha nice one! I came across this picture on slowtwitch.

I swear I am not a freak !

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Thanks! I like these two bikes, especially the caad 12. Will try to see if a size 54 can match my needs if I get rid of the need to get a tri position, and ride it like a roadie.

That is so true. I feel like you need a lot of experiences with different bikes to understand and feel what you like in a bike. Don’t have that experience for now, I’ll trust my fitter to narrow it down and will ask for a test ride.

Nice setup on the caad 12. I’m 180 cm tall and will be better with a 54 i reckon, just have to check if my flexibility will allow me to get as low on the front.

The standard CAAD12 steerer tube is very generous, the standard top cap is also quite tall and it has a big stack of spacers.

Just be aware the more spacers you keep the more you reduce the effective reach of the frame due to the head tube angle. With less height it also reduces straight line reach to bars. With the head tube lengths you mention the combined impact would change the reach of a frame significantly from the published measurement.

The frame reach difference on a CAAD12 between a 54 and a 56 is only 5mm by the way. The head tube on a 56 is however 1.6cm longer at 15.5cm so may be more suited.

I wouldn’t focus on top tube lengths (as method to measure varies bike to bike) or seat angle (as you can move a saddle back and forward and change seatpost setback) but instead reach and stack once you have established your saddle position (depending on the discipline you are riding).

You are right for the caad reach difference is not that much between the 54 and 56.

Following the fit report, for road my position would be :
A = 775
B = 83.5
H= 526
I = 83

But I don’t know how to translate it to stack and reach needs.

Edited my first post for clarification

Looks like the new caad 13 is a little taller and shorter and might win it :

Size 56 comes in 575 stack, 389 reach and HT of 164
Size 54 is 555 - 384 and 155

couldn’t find the stem length and the handlebar reach

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