A neat article. When my mom got me my first 10 speed bicycle, it was a frame and a box of parts from a garage sale. I remember taking a trip to the school library to get a bike repair book to figure out how it all went together. Surprisingly, few parts were missing, and it just needed a lot of time to put together. But getting it to fit me was a bugger. That took a lot of trial and error, and a few more books, but eventually I got it. That bike lasted me through college. Once I knew how it went together, I just replaced parts as needed.
From the article:
Bicycle fitting had very humble beginnings at the turn of the century – an era where bicycles had common design and sizing features. These features and the fact that bicycles were largely similar in size and were made of the same materials, allowed many "anecdotal fitting" techniques to suffice. As bicycle design and performance has evolved steel has been replaced with carbon, titanium and exotic aluminum and magnesium alloys. The once standard bicycle sizes of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have been replaced with a proliferation of choices that make each brand somewhat unique. There are women’s specific bicycles (more upright with shorter reach), there are "Tour De France" replica bikes (featuring long and low reach) and there are the rotund cyclist versions that have all the high tech features, but are slightly gentler on the body of a weekend warrior.
So how does one choose a bike given the myriad choices in the sizing, materials and features? Perhaps the better question answers how can you avoid buying the wrong bike. There is one company that has a three decade obsession with the science and art of bicycle fitting. When Ben Serotta built his first bicycle sizing machine in 1979 he knew that was going to be pioneering a new approach. His company, "Serotta Competition Bicycles" has relentlessly developed new ways to enhance the cycling experience.