I read (in an old copy of "Cycling" I believe, but can't remember for sure) an eminent writer of the day stating that the craze for very small frames in the 1920's had been a misunderstanding of the recommendation of a respec ted cycling authority (again I can't remember who, but it was someone like Bidlake) that people should ride "as little bike as possible". This, he sa id, was intended to mean as light a bike as possible, not as small a frame as posssible.
I'm sorry for my inability to quote a solid reference for this, but it's so mething that stuck in my mind, and which I recall every time I see photos o f large men riding tiny frames with a great length of seat post, from the 1 920's or recent times.
Weymouth, Dorset, England
> Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 22:01:23 +0000
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [CR]1930's: how big/small they rode their frames??
> CC: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Yes they rode frames smaller than we do now. From the early 1920s on
> quite a number of writers in the cycling press advocated frames as small
> as possible.
> Prior to about 1920 the traditional English racing bike for road or
> track use may have used 26in wheels but the bottom bracket was normally
> near 12in, the top tubes sloped down to the head and cranked seatstays
> were bolted to the seat lug and rear dropout with also cranked, often
> two part chainstays. And the frame was much larger \u2013 it was ridden with
> the saddle almost as low as it would go.
> Bastide frames built in Paris from c1910 with mainly top quality
> English Reynolds tubing with lugs and fittings provided by BSA were
> imported into the UK from 1913 by the Constrictor Tyre Company and these
> set off a revolution in racing bike design in Britain. They featured
> some quite radical ideas for the time: 26in wheels, calliper brakes
> operated by cable on the side of the rim; this offered quick wheel
> removal, 10.5in high bottom bracket, horizontal top tube and brazed up
> tapered straight seat and chainstays.
> Bastides were first displayed at the 1913 Olympia Cycle show where they
> were the sensation of the show. Bastide\u2019s frame was smaller and ridden
> with about 3\u20134in of seat pin showing. The net result was a machine with
> far sleeker and simpler appearance. It was almost certainly Granby of
> the British makers who first copied the Bastide design; they claimed in
> later advertising that they were building this design of frame from
> 1913, there is clear evidence that they were certainly using this design
> by 1915.
> The cycling press took up the idea of the new design and essentially
> smaller is better - by the middle 1920s frames had reached as small as
> they were going to get. 21in was a medium size ridden by someone now who
> would now ride a conventional 22.5in level top tube frame; 22in was
> large and 23in extra large and really rather rare. This sort of sizing
> continued until the last three years of the 1930s when frame sizes
> increased again as a result of continental and road racing influence -
> and after WWII frame sizes increased even more.
> Taking myself as an example with a 30.5in (77cm) inside leg I would
> have ridden a 19.5/20in (48/49cm) frame in the 1920s. It would probably
> have had a 23in (58cm) top tube with a 2in (5cm) stem. In the late 30s
> I would be riding a 21in (53cm) frame with a 22.5in (57cm) TT and 3in
> (7.5cm) stem. By 1950 I would ride a 22in (56cm) frame with 22in TT and
> 4in (10cm) stem. These days I would ride 20.5in (51/52cm) level TT frame
> with a 55cm TT and an 12cm stem. These suggestions are all approximate
> because different riders adopted more or less of the current fashion
> than others ... and as now raced different events in different styles.
> The race riding position has changed a bit over time - it is now more
> stretched out than it ever has been - in part due to the influence of
> Hinault and Lemond and is lower than it was in the late 1930s to 60s.
> Hilary Stone, Bristol, England
> Simon PJ wrote:
> > It seems that many of the frames one sees for sale now that date from t he
> > 1930's are on the small side - 21, 21.5 inch (c-t) being more common th an 23
> > or 24 inch.
> > Did they ride their frames smaller then? Or were riders smaller!
> > The reason that I ask is that at 6 foot tall (with a long torso), 23 or
> > inch is more my size, but I have been tempted into buying and riding fr ames
> > as small as 21.5 inch.... And I'm tempted again at the moment by a 22 i nch
> > frame!
> > So how 'wrong' would a 22 inch frame have been for a 6 foot rider in th e
> > 1930's?
> > Thanks,
> > Wyndham Pulman-Jones
> > Girton, Cambs., UK