I got a nice message this week from a blog reader asking for some more information on my Bob Jackson build - a number of the queries related to frame sizing and comfort. According to the Competitive Cyclist’s excellent frame size calculator, a well fitting road frame can easily range 4cm for a person depending on the position and use of the bike. I was fitted for both my World Tour and my Condor Acciaio, the former is a 23” (58.5cm) frame, the latter a 55cm.
Both fit beautifully well, obviously the bars are higher and the stem is shorter on my Bob Jackson for a more comfortable commute and longer rides, the Condor is built with more of a race geometry and has a semi-compact frame.
I think there is a trend to go for the smallest frame possible, regardless of the use the bike is going to be put to, a larger frame allows you to easier get the bars high without excessive spacers on the steerer or an overly long quill stem.
On the Bob Jackson, my bars are probably about 2" below the saddle and I would be reluctant to go much higher although I am not particularly flexible - I could probably raise them about another .5 - 1" if I wanted. I think with the right frame the bars don't have to be level with the saddle to give you a comfortable position. Handlebar choice is important - something like the Nitto Noodle (that I have) or GB Rando bars will give more and better positions than most modern compact bars on a touring type bike. Choose your wheels and tyres carefully too (more later)!