Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Musings about standover

I get a lot of questions about standover height, and I wanted to try to clear up a couple of confusing issues, or at least give folks my take on them.

First off, there's some confusion about what standover is for. Most people think standover clearance is a safety measure to keep you from hitting your crotch on the toptube. This is actually not true - you will *never* hit your crotch on the toptube in a riding situation, unless your solution to a poor choice of line is to take both feet out of the pedals and lurch slowly forward off the saddle. In reality, a crash in which the bike stops suddenly and you don't go over the bars will invariably result in smashing yourself into the STEM, not the toptube.

I have been riding bikes for a LONG time, and I have crashed them every possible way, and I have never once hit my crotch on the toptube. Not once.

In actuality, the situation (on a mountain bike) where standover is helpful is when you're getting on or off of the bike in a tricky spot (such as an offcamber hill). You want to be able to get your foot down while keeping the other foot clipped in (or keep a foot down while clipping in) and if the toptube is too high, this is very hard to do.

That's a pretty important thing to be able to do, so standover does matter. Just not for the reason most folks think it does.

The second point I want to make is that there isn't a standard way of measuring standover. If you throw a leg over your favorite frame and stand over it, you'll notice that you're standing just in front of the saddle, maybe even with the nose of the saddle touching your back. Your crotch is much closer to the seat tube than the head tube. Back in the day, this wasn't relevant, because toptubes were all pretty much level from the front to the back. But I do a lot of bikes with 20+ degrees of toptube slope - so the standover changes depending on where you measure it.

Unfortunately it's hard to predict *exactly* where you'll stand over the bike, so I measure standover at the midpoint of the toptube between the seat tube and head tube. But many manufacturers measure at other points, or in some cases, simply make up a standover number (at least as far as I can tell). The only way to check standover on a bike, really, is to either do the trigonometry yourself or else measure the bike in person. Standover numbers on websites are wrong at least half the time, in my experience.

How much do you need? That depends on your preferences with regard to tricky mounts and dismounts. Some folks really don't need any standover. Others need 3 or 4 inches to feel comfortable getting on and off. Generally, the more experienced a rider you are, the less you'll need. And on road bikes, you really don't need any at all - there's no such thing as a tricky mounting situation on a road bike, at least if you have any idea at all what you're doing.


Jon said...

Absolutely true. Also, without knowing what tires you have and what shoes you're wearing, nobody can tell you the standover.

I would point out that there are plenty of stupid things you can do that would necessitate greater standover... such as, try to bunny hop a full suspension bike in place, going higher and higher until on one bounce, your cleats let go of the pedals and you smash your pelvic bone on the top tube.

But I'm not saying I ever did that last summer in Fruita.

Andrew Brautigam said...

If you do something stupid on a really steep step-up or roller, and have to dismount suddenly, a bit of extra standover is nice. That is the only time I've ever noticed it.

Josh said...

I’ve got a sneaking feeling that this one was directed at me. I requested a ton of standover clearance on the bike that Walt is working on for me as we speak.

Hey, what can I say…. I’ve got a very sensitive crotchular area… and short legs.

Anonymous said...

I too like a lot of standover and a lot of exposed seatpost. And when my time comes in a few months, that is what I will be asking for! So feel good about your request Josh.

Sabrosa Cycles said...

Check. Well stated Walt.
What’s your clearance, Clarence?

Walt said...

Hey Josh, guys -

I'm not against compact frames and lots of standover - just trying to educate a little about what it does (and doesn't) do, and explain how I measure it.

I like standover too. I just want to make sure people are asking for it for the right reasons. Your nuts aren't the problem - tipping over and tumbling down the hill with one foot still clipped in because you can't reach the ground is.

So for the last time, stop talking about your crotches! Jeez!


a sumo wrestler eating noodles said...

Dismounting my rigid on a steep technical descent without any standover made for some tearfully unpleasant memories. Thankfully, I've already all the children I want and need, you know, for chores and whatnot. Anyways, yes, I do appreciate good standover clearance, but I'll argue that nothing beats a proper gooseneck pad in a checkered pattern if not for sake of mind, but for sake of balls. I shall now make a Haiku:

Riding my bike fast
Mercilessly mountain laughs
Rigid Waltworks will not crash

(word verification: woryi)

grannygear said...

Good, thoughtful piece of writing, Walt.

Oh, poignant haiku, sumo man.


zoovegroover said...

I suspect the some of the issue of standover clearance is marketing necessitated by off the shelf manufactures who have to fit 3 or 4 sizes to the general buying public. It is not a criticism - just a observation. I remember my first mtb bike was sized for me by the staff by checking how far I could lift the front wheel while straddling the top tube. It is just easier to explain to noobs that if that bar is to high, the bike is too big and you're going to pop your nutz like balloons!! The bike Walt built for me has no top tube clearance if the above test is employed. It also does not have 18" of seatpost hanging out of the frame! Oh...and the last time I checked (checking now) the boys are still hangin together!

Dan O said...

Another great post.

Having a ton of crotch clearance usually also means a low head tube - meaning low bars - meaning aching back.

Plus a seatpost that's gotta be a mile high. Sometimes that's a good thing on a hardtail- a little passive suspension.