How interesting to have this topic come up while I am in the midst of reading Nancy Neiman Baranet's 1973 book, "Bicycling." ***
It's enlightening to read her descriptions of the various types of bikes - especially when she refers to wheelbase length. Kind of fun to note that she considers road racing bikes to have wb of around 40 to 42 inches, for instance. I note with particular amusement that she lists angles of 73 to 75 degrees for track bikes, as well as a wheelbase of 39 to 40 inches. She doesn't list BB heights, but I wish she had - that would have made for enlightening reading, too.
Flash forward to the present - the norm in today's road bikes is what was considered standard for track iron 30 years ago. Exhibit A would be the 1997 Bianchi Alloro currently sitting in my kitchen, which has a wheelbase of 38.75 inches, chainstays that are 41cm, and a BB spindle height that is right at 11-inches on 23mm tires. Couple those numbers along with a steeper seat tube angle, and you get a position on the bike that is very similar to what used to be normal on track machines.
Now, I'm gonna rant here - don't even think of trying to get the bars within 3 inches of the saddle height, because you can't do it. Of course, on the track, you wouldn't want to anyway - but why is it assumed that if you get a road bike, you want the most aero position imaginable, no matter the cost to lower back, neck, arms, hands, etc? Of course, the steeper, higher BB, shorter bikes with stubby stem quills/threadless headsets and stems DO offer some benefits to manufacturers and marketing types. They make things like padded bar tape and carbon-fibre forks NECESSARY, 'cause if you've got that much weight on the bars, you need to cushion your hands.
I'm afraid I am squarely in the same camp as Douglas Brooks, Grant P., and many others - give me a bike that fits in the traditional fashion, please.
*** Yes, THAT Nancy Neiman Baranet. The one who wrote "The Turned Down Handlebar" and who has more National Champion's jerseys in her closet than I ever will. The book is pretty cool, too, with lots of Rebour-ish line drawings (probably from the old Cyclo-Pedia catalogs); a neat picture of Jack Heid (from the mid 50s?); a full-page photo of NNB, Gene Portuesi and Joanne Speckin (Klein, '59 National Champion); and many cool older photos from eras when cycling seemed more relaxed and gracious.
I particularly like the number of line drawings used to illustrate fitting points, etc. - the vast majority of the bikes drawn have rod-operated manual front derailleurs.