Friday, October 21, 2016

It’s Not the Length of Your Stem. It’s What You Do with It.



If we look at some overall trends in today’s roadbike setups, there is an undeniable preference for long stems. For most male cyclists I know, a stem length of 110-130mm seems to be the desirable range, with anything shorter considered suboptimal, if not outright weird. 

Now, if you ask a rider to explain this preference for length, chances are they will tell you it is to do with handling, as it “puts them over the front axle.” The problem with this statement, is that the location of the rider’s hands in relation to the front axle does not depend on stem length alone. Rather, it is a function of stem length and handlebar reach, which can vary greatly from one set of handlebars to another.

I am reminded of this as I mess about with the front-end setup of my DIY 650B bike, which is currently undergoing a makeover …a makeover that has made me aware that I too am far from immune to the “longer is better” stem bias.



When I assembled this bike originally, it was during a visit back to Boston. I was in a hurry and had no money to buy new parts. So I fit it with whatever spare stem and handlebars were laying about in my old apartment, which happened to be a 11cm Nitto and a set of super-compact Soma Hway1s. It was never an ideal setup. The stem was 1cm longer than the length I had designed the frame for. And the shape of the bars wasn’t quite what I had in mind for that particular build. So a few months back, when I swapped over the bike's drivetrain, I decided to also change the stem and handlebar setup. 

The “new” (well, actually old; but new-to-me) handlebars I am going with are a set of 3T Prima199s. Not only is their bend significantly different, but they have quite a bit more reach (i.e. more space behind the hoods). To compensate, I knew that I would need a shorter stem. But how much shorter?

Well, I hate math. But let’s do some math. 

My old, compact bars had 75mm of reach. And I used them with an 110mm stem. So my overall reach to the hoods and/or outer drops was 185mm. 

The new bars have 95mm of  reach. To maintain the same overall 185mm reach to the hoods ad/or drops I would need a 90mm stem. 

But wait. Because, the thing is, I wanted the bike to have a tad less reach overall. Which meant that I needed an even shorter stem. 

"An 80mm stem?! Oh no, that’s too short!” I heard myself say, before I could stop the words escaping my mouth. 

Clearly I too have succumbed to the long stem bias. 

For days (okay, more like a couple of months), I stalled while the bike stood disassembled, trying to think up reasons why perhaps I didn’t want shorter reach after all, unwilling to admit that I simply didn’t want to put an 80mm stem on my bike because I thought it was uncool.  As it often happens in such cases, my mind then proceeded to conduct a psychotherapy session on itself.

“Tell me… Why are you so reluctant to accept that you need an 80mm stem? What would an 80mm stem mean to you?"

“It would mean… "

"Yes?"

"It would mean..." 

“Yes, what would it mean, for heaven’s sake?”

"Okay, I guess it would mean I had made a mistake in designing the bicycle frame; miscalculated in determining the optimal frame dimensions.”

“And why is that?”

“It just seems standard to design a bike for a 100-110mm stem these days."

"But what kind of handlebars does that standard assume?”

“Compact bars.”

“And are you using compact bars?”

“No.”

“Interesting…”

"Oh shut up!”



Anyway. In the end I got a grip, and snagged myself a sweet 80mm Cinelli XA.  Not only was it a bargain (shorter stems not being especially desirable, and therefore typically selling for less on the used parts market), but the new bars plus stem setup is practically weightless. 

And the reach? Well you can see for yourself in the pictures. The reach to the hoods and outer drops is a mere 1cm shorter, if that, which is exactly what I wanted. And yes, I am over the front axle.  

When folks today talk about stem length, I notice they seldom take handlebar reach into consideration. For that reason alone I think it's fair to suggest that the trend for longer stems is largely aesthetic. And I guess there isn’t really anything wrong with that ...Except in cases where a rider might benefit from long-reach handlebars, but will go with compact bars instead only for the sake of sporting a longer stem... which, I daresay is kind of silly.

Just remember, it’s not the length of the stem alone that determines your reach. The handlebars you use play an equally crucial role. Relaxing about stem length can open up a world of possibilities beyond the constraints of compact bars. 


80 comments:

  1. The only problem with very short stems on some frames is that once riding out of saddle you might end up hitting the bars with your knees.

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    Replies
    1. I have that EXACT problem when riding up stairs or while wheelie-ing.

      Spindizzy

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    2. What part of the bars do you hit your knees with?

      The ends of the drops are actually more forward on my new setup, compared to the old one.

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    3. I don't have this problem now (using a 100mm stem) but once I experimented with a 80mm stem and when riding out of saddle plus leaning forward, my knees were frequently hitting tops of bars.

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    4. Yes, the longer the stem in relation to the seat the less likely one is to hit knees while out of the saddle….It's not the ends, it's the tops.

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    5. That is fascinating. I tried pedaling out of the saddle yesterday this way and that, and my knees barely reach the base of the stem. You guys must be leaning way more aggressively forward than I am.

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    6. I also had that same problem when I was riding shorter stems. I was riding them because the bikes I rode in those days had longer top tubes and, when I was racing, I rode bars with more reach. Even with such bars, my knees would sometimes hit the "flats" near the stem.

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    7. It was always when climbing with hands on the hoods, that's when the lean was most extreme and leverage the best.

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  2. Funny, I went with my son into a bike shop to ask about bars and stems for a bike he was rebuilding. I had my antiquated thoughts about what he should have and asked for a certain length stem. The guy asked what kind of bars we had and went on to explain all the variations and differences at play and the importance of getting the correct combination. It was not an aesthetic thing it was a fit thing…..I do believe those who work on bikes, who fit riders to bikes, know these things and discuss them.

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    1. I think, as always, it depends on the bike shop and perhaps even on the general "climate" of your local cycling culture. In my experience, modern bike shops and fitters tend to steer (heh) riders toward compact bars. It is excellent news that your experience differs.

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    2. Indeed, my experience differs in two different parts of the country over a span of five years. They do a good job of asking questions and giving/explaining options. We idiots need it!

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    3. I live in Vancouver Wa, and frequent bike shops in Portland Oregon, most of the folks that work in bike shops out here, are accustomed to dealing with riders such as myself, touring/randonneuring types and can usually spot us and determine our bike fit preferences at a glance, (ie higher and more relaxed bar mounting) dunno how they know what I like, might be the smell of wool cycling jersey or the slightly crazy gleam in the eyes of an endurance cyclist. In any case, they're always helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and non-judgmental of my stem length choices. :P

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  3. Ever since my first bike fit I have been on stems as short as 65mm (with non compact bars)! Since then I actually moved to compact bars and an 80mm stem. I have gotten so used to short stems that 100mm would feel seem unusually long as I especially would not want to drop down to a smaller frame just to make it work and not be able to get my bars high enough. I guess putting aesthetics aside can be hard at first but when the result is a more ideal fit or function one can quickly forget about old aesthetic preferences.

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  4. You must remember that first road bike, the SH, and all the troubles you went through to get that to work and fit properly. Different stem lengths, different seat posts and positions, and I cannot remember if used the same handlebars but always had the sense you did not like the idea of such a short stem on a road bike and as you evolved towards a smaller frame size with those long stems it seems you took more pride in the photos of a 'proper looking set-up' but maybe it's just my reading into things.

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    1. On the SH I started out with something like 9cm with the long reach Nitto Noodle bars, then changed it to a 6cm stem. Then, while keeping the 6cm, I changed the bars to short reach ones. Problem was, the bike (with its 57cm top tube) was still too big even after all those changes. Which makes sense, as I've since felt consistently comfortable on bikes with 53cm or so top tubes and 9-10cm stems, depending on handlebars. Aside form comfort, I do find it pleasing to the eye when a bicycle setup looks "proportional" for lack of better word. Usually, a too-short (or too long) stem does not figure in such a setup.

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    2. Looking proportional is dangerous….I think it keeps many from riding, or accepting that they too can look good on a bike….It's so much bigger than that!

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  5. Another consideration is where the tops of the bars are, for those of us who spend lots of times on the tops.

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  6. "Ideal stem length" is a rascal. At my shop, if anything is changed, it's to a shorter, higher rise stem. That probably says more about race-influenced frame design more than anything. And it speaks to my average rider being in their late 40s to early 60s. Their priority is mostly comfort over long distances. I don't concern myself too much about handling. I'm smack in the middle of the Midwestern US's grid road system, so few of my riders deal with high speed turns as part of their average ride.

    Maybe we should bring back those adjustable reach stems found on old track bikes.

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  7. In my younger days, I remember when fitting a bike was SO much more simple. You stood over the frame, with your feet flat on the floor, and if the top tube hit your crotch, it was too big. You tried progressively smaller bikes until you found one you could clear. Then with the seat adjusted to height, with your elbow at a right angle against the nose of the seat, you reached out to the bars with your fingertips. If they just touched, the stem was the correct length.

    There was little to no variation in bar curvature if you were looking at a pro bike, as they all had Cinelli bars. Track bikes were the only ones that sported significantly different bars; they had more drop.

    Life was so simple.

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  8. Good thing I don't care about being cool! Just comfortable!

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    1. Yes!!!!!!! You're the coolest of them all ;)

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    2. Yes but you have never NOT been cool. Some of us would need a 15cm stem to simply LOOK cool.

      You are a VIKING.

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    3. Right. You really expect us to believe that you rock 30cm handlebars for reasons other than being cool and posting pictures on the #narrowhandlebarp0rn forums? Lady, please!

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    4. I'll have you know my bars are 36cm, and they are truly compact with a nice shallow drop, so I can actually reach the drops. Sadly they are no longer made, but if any of your readers happens to have a Salsa Pro Road Small in 36 just lying around, I'd be happy to make a deal. I can't get a n+1 bike until I find another set of these bars. #narrowhandlebarp0rn

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    5. FP

      Go vintage. Lots of narrow bars available. Be very careful to avoid scarred, used up, fatigued bars. Even if you completely insist on NOS plenty is available.

      Salsa was a great company. I remember when it was all Ross Shafer and turnaround time on a custom stem was one week.

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    6. Narrow is coming back :-). My current bike is a 51cm with 38mm from the factory. The bike I got in 2012 had 42mm!

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  9. Ah Friday night on Lovely Bicycle! Love it :))

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  10. Not only stem length and bar reach, but bar width and bar drop, and drop of bar top below saddle. I've been comfortable for years with 80 mm stems: first with Nitto 185s, 42 mm wide, 3" below saddle, now with Maes Parallels , 37 mm wide, =>1" below saddle ; but 115 mm of reach and 125 mm of drop versus 90 and 140. There are so many, many variables. I've liked a 90 mm stem with 42 cm Noodles, but Noodles curve back a bit. I was comfortable with a 100 mm stem and 46 cm Noodles on a long top tube Sam Hillborne, but with bar 2" above saddle -- which I didn't like.

    My Matthews (dirt roads) has a 90 mm stem, 0* (Slammed! Radically sloping tt), a 42 mm wide Maes Parallel about 5 mm below saddle; it too is perfect.

    I gave up "bar flat blocking front axle" about the time I gave up KOPS. Now my front hub rides far, far out in front and I am perfectly comfortable.

    And I never hit my knees on the bar, though I sometimes hit my chin on it.

    ... And I'm in the market for a nice, unblemished 80 cm NItto Pearl ....

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  11. I'm 6'1"(my drivers license says 6'2" but they never measured me) with an average leg/torso length, The bike I ride the most is 60cm with a 59cm Top-Tube. I use an 80mm stem and get ALOT of advice about needing a longer stem because I'm tall. It's funny because with nice bars with long ramps and useful curves I have so many positions I can stretch out as much as on my Cross' bike with the 120 stem and compact bars(which only has about half the hand positions)or ride in a pretty upright position and still be able to get low and flat in the drops when I want. When I ride on the tops I can get low just by bending my elbows a bit more but if I put on that 120 I'd give up the nice upright position I get with straighter arms. The bike might look "Faster" but I wouldn't be.

    Shorter stems are also useful if you live in the hills and want to move the saddle back a bit to make the bike descend better. The bikes I rode in the flatlands of Texas growing up were sort of hairy flying downhill in Virginia at 45mph, but when I set them up with shorter stems and moved the seat back an inch or so they improved significantly. I've never had issues moving around fore and aft in relation to the pedals so maybe I get away with more than some other people.

    Stems can be a pain to swap back and forth unless they have a removable faceplate but it's sometimes the part of the set-up that makes the most difference.

    Spindizzy

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  12. The tendency to fit bikes with long stems even for small frames is one example of an anti-small-people (which means anti-women, too) bias. I'm 5'6", short for a man, though I'd be averagish height if I were a woman. I have a short upper body and narrow shoulders, too, so in addition to small frames I want short stems and narrow handlebars. And I'm more comfortable on wider saddles, too! And my hands are small! All this makes me kind of weird for a man and I find stuff marketed to women tends to be closer to right for me. It has gotten worse over the years in some ways. 38 cm used to be a stock bar width, but no more. On the other hand, grip-reach adjusting screws on brake levers are common now and formerly didn't exist. (Also, marketed-to-women didn't used to be a thing at all for roadbikes, so that's another improvement.)

    Walter

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    1. "38 cm used to be a stock bar width, but no more."

      Actually I get the impression this size is coming back. At least it seems available from EU/UK sellers.

      Having ridden with bars in the 38mm-44mm range, I am strangely indifferent to handlebar width. the optimal width seems to depend on the bike.

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    2. That is amazing news. I have been noticing that 40cm bars are more available from online vendors in the States. Locally the only size is 44, unless 46 is in stock. Customers under five foot tall are steered to 44.

      Yes it varies bike to bike. Yes most riders will be comfortable on more than one width. In vintage there are widths smaller than 38 and they can be useful. This six foot rider usually prefers 40 and would take a 38 before a 42.

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    3. My husband is just under 6' with very wide shoulders and has discovered that he prefers 40-42cm bars, which to me seems narrow considering his stature - but hey, he is consistent. Whatever works, and it's good to have options.

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  13. Oh, and 165mm cranks! Used to be fitted stock to small roadbikes and now are hard to find at all, except for track cranks.


    W.

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    1. If you're in the UK, stockists include Spa and SJS. Manufacturers include TA and Stronglight.

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  14. Bars come in all shape and sizes, don't they? Have yet to figure them out but don't really care anymore because my current arrangement works perfectly. The shape of your new black bars is what I changed from, it wasn't a reach issue, it was a drop issue. When reaching for the drops I found my forearms often hitting the top of the bars and if freaked me out. Sort of like toe clip overlap for you…It was a deal breaker.

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  15. Cinelli XA...3T Prima199...
    Haha I sense the husband's influence! Is an Italian makeover underway? Looking forward to the result.
    Frank

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    Replies
    1. It's his influence for sure in the sense that he got me into the habit of paying attention to component weight. The Italian theme is incidental, but not unwelcome. It will match the drivetrain at any rate.

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    2. Wait a minute, you're replacing your cranks as well? Or by drivetrain are you referring to derailleurs?

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    3. The cranks were the starting point, yes. They've already gone to a new owner.

      Basically, I have moved my Seven's Chorus drivetrain to this bike.

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    4. So you started with a White Industries, switched to a Compass, and now have settled with Campy is that the correct progression? Was it an aesthetic choice of matching black components or something else?

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    5. The WI cranks were on this bike's predecessor, but yes.

      The RH is the most beautiful crankset I've ever laid eyes on, so it was definitely an un-aesthetic progression based on functionality.

      For me (and I stress the me here, because there are those who claim that for them it is otherwise) the RH crankset married to 10-speed ergo lever Chorus just did not work perfectly. It worked almost perfectly and better than the WI. Unfortunately the "almost" would come into play at the most inconvenient times. The one time I crashed on this bike was from the drivetrain seizing up as I tried to shift between rings. After that I felt it just wasn't worth the anxiety.

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    6. You know, over the years I doubt there has been a single drive train that I've used that didn't have a lapse at some point. Some had been cobbled together and a few were matched and installed by the manufacture and maintained by a bike shop. Perhaps it was my fault, I dunno, but always the chain would drop at the worst time in traffic or during some climb or descent or pressure situation. It never killed me but was anxiety provoking at times. Now I've got a SpeedHub on my road bike and for the last five years have not had a single bad shift and as I approach those very situations which could lead to a seized chain I've got no worries. Best move I've ever made and all the bike shops now wonder why I never show up anymore ;)

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    7. Velouria@4:28

      For someone whose expectations and reflexes are based on current era shifting, perfection is a different animal than it is for someone accustomed to shifting on a Herse or a Singer. The old shifting drill was always keep the cranks moving but back off a bit on pedal presssure until the shift is complete. Applying full pressure on the pedals while shifting guarantees malfunction on any system with less than fully integrated components. Even if you do relax pedal pressure a moment you will need to wait a bit for the shift to be completed.

      For the Herse crank I would expect better shifting from an old Campy NR derailleur than from anything current. An old Huret or Simplex would be good too. Any of these will work well with an Ergopower left shifter. But you still have to expect slower shifting. In olden times shifting required planning and thought and technique. Often you just stayed in the same gear because shifting was potentially problematic. Any who have learned to think that way will never notice minor imperfections in how a Herse crank shifts. Only someone fully formed in the current era could find the problem you have had. It is a real problem, I wouldn't expect the designer/purveyor of those cranks to ever notice.

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    8. I shift gears in the exact manner you describe. It was not a technique issue.

      My first 2 years of roadcycling experience were on a non-indexed drivetrain. I am comfortable with classic drivetrains. I do not expect a classic drivetrain system to work like a modern ergo system, or vise-versa. Each has their benefits and drawbacks and I enjoy each in their own right. What I am saying is, that *mixing* them has, in my experience, not been ideal - reducing the functionality of both rather than enhancing it.

      I think everyone would agree that the optimal use of the RH, WI, TA cranksets and similar, is in a classic drivetrain setup with non-ergo (ideally, non-indexed) shifting, which gives the rider more control over the shifting process. However, the RH & WI manufacturers (not sure about TA) claim that their cranksets can be used successfully with modern 10-speed ergo systems, tempting some of us to experiment. For me that experiment has not produced the "best of both worlds" result I was hoping for. Should I ever want to use an RH crankset in future, I would stick to the system it was optimised for.

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    9. The worst front shifting ever occurred in the early days of mountain biking. Every system was cobbled together and no one knew what they were doing. Then you went out and banged and bounced around the woods and figured out novel ways to abuse the bike. Personally I broke a lot of chains, peeled a lot of teeth off a lot of chainrings, produced chain snarls that required cutting the chain in five places. Never succeeded in crashing due to a blown front shift. In a hard ride back then you might come off the bike fifty times and riding companions all did the same. So crashes are something worse than just coming off the bike. But even including merely coming off the bike, a blown shift should not cause that. There are equipment problems and there are riding technique problems. A general state of anxiety is not a good place to begin a bike ride. Or a good place to begin mechanical diagnosis.

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    10. Not a blown front shift exactly. The drivetrain seized up due to chain getting jammed (and jammed pretty good) between the two rings - i.e. pedals wouldn't turn. Last time it happened, it happened so unexpectedly and in such an awkward spot that yeah, I probably did not react as calmly as I could. What can I say, I am not a tough mountain biker. And it is extremely difficult to analyse this sort of thing over the internet.

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  16. The trend on mountain bikes now is for super-short stems. In some cases they look like no-stems. Word on the popular sites and youtube channels is something about shorter stems being more responsive, or compliant, or something, better for going uphill or down, I can't remember which. I typically go both directions, I notice. Switching between my old and new mountain bikes seems like mainly an aesthetic adjustment: the old Bontrager mtb has what looks like a very long stem now, while the new bike has what looks like a very short stem. Both frames do feel like those were the stem lengths they were designed for, though, if that makes sense.

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  17. I found the stem on my cyclocross bike to be way too long, so changed it for a stubby one, with a slight rise. I found this improved control on technical sections, but other riders said they found the opposite was true for them. I kind of thought it would make it handle more like I remembered my BMX did as a teenager (whose stems are not very far forward over the front hub), and for me it did the trick.

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    Replies
    1. I seriously think that it depends on the rider. Not only on their bodily proportions, but also on their sense of balance and proprioception. An individual approach is key.

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  18. You are making this much too simple. Reach to the bars begins with where you sit. Which is a function of femur length. Long femur sit back. Short femur sit forward. Of course foot length and foot/ankle flexibility will come into play. And ideal seating may be constrained by seattube angle, saddle wire design and seatpost/clamp design. After seating is settled then reach is a function of torso length, arm length, hand size. Hip flexibility will have a huge role. If your hips flex enough to allow a flat back then your reach could be very long, even with a short torso. Then there's the question of how much reach you want. If riding all day or thinking of a lifetime in the saddle you might choose a shorter reach. If the horizon stops at 200 meters in less than ten seconds you might go for lots of reach, who cares, you only need to keep the bike on track for moments. And these are only first order considerations. Now it starts to get complex.

    My head hurts just thinking about it. I'll go lie down now.

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    Replies
    1. You're right, of course. I'm talking about an "all other factors remaining equal" scenario.

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  19. Calculating total length by adding the length of the stem and the reach of the handlebars is a bit simplistic. Nominal bar reach is measured with the flats of the drops on a horizontal plane. The effective reach of your 3T Prima bar when rotated upwards as shown in the pictures is at least 15mm longer.

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    Replies
    1. Does this not depend on the style of handlebar? The 3T Pimas are kind of an interesting bar, in that they have long reach but anatomic bends on the drops. The flats of anatomic-style drops are not meant to be horizontal, as far as I understand.

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    2. Interesting, when I went to a fitter he set up the machine with bars which had the anatomic bends and once we got around to placement of hands on hoods adjustments were made, then we placed hands on drops bars were changed out for ones which allowed the best position on both drops and hoods. Made so much more sense and now, for the first time, I ride a drop bar bike with about a 60/40 ratio of percent on hoods or drops and get a lot more out of the design of the bike. Wonderful!

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  20. Slightly OT, but I didn't think Cinelli stems from that era were compatible with 3T bars due to different diameters. I remember having problems attempting such a combination.

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    Replies
    1. You are correct. But this is easily fixed with a shim hand-crafted from a can of beer/coke/SanPellegrino.

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  21. I think one reason for the long-stem fashion is that pros nowadays all ride stock frames. It's not practical, it seems, to get custom-made frames in carbon fibre even if you're a Continental pro tour rider. So they use long stems to get the flat positions they need.

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  22. When you originally designed this bike did you have a stem length a specific handlebar in mind and figured into your frame measurements?

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    Replies
    1. Yes. I was planning to use a 100mm stem with compact (75mm reach) handlebars such as the Deda Piega. So in terms of reach alone, my original setup was only 10mm off - which was not a huge deal; I just raised the stem a tad higher than I would have otherwise done.

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    2. I'm a bit older than you so that 10mm is a big deal! The change in your set-up was very noticeable in photos. Not only did I get the sense the stem was slightly higher but also the bars tilted to move the hoods towards you…It threw off the look and I figured something was going to change, soon ;)

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  23. The more remarkable thing is you going from silver to black….You really are evolving!!

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    Replies
    1. That was the bicycle's request. "I'm too shiny."

      (Seriously though, does anyone else ever find that the light reflecting off an overabundance of chrome/ polished alu parts hurts their eyes?)

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    2. Polished anything tends to draw attention to itself which is the last thing I'd want in a bike. The uglier the better. Can't say I've ever had glare issues but then again it's been away since my bike was adorned with any silver. Does this mean the fenders will go as well?

      You know, it's interesting, I was thinking about this the other day while watching cyclists go by or meander about (I'm a regular visiter to a large urban park) I was saying 'this person has made their bike their own' or 'this person is not yet comfortable with their bike' ….. Something about the way they sat on it, the confidence or self consciousness with which they road, the shininess of the bike, etc, etc….Then I thought there as a certain moment when my bike became mine…we were one. When I was a art student and struggling with a painting a professor let me wander for awhile and one day came into my studio and asked 'who's in charge here, you or the painting?' I've got to respect the painting and the rules but at some point after many paths I've got to make it mine. I feel the same with my bike. It's not what I expected but there's no argument, we're one.

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    3. What? WHAT?!?! Too shiny? I'm not a fan of chromed fork-ends and so on, but I love my shiny Velo Orange bell on the bars partly because of the way it gives a fish-eye-lens reflection of... me as I'm riding. That might sound narcissistic, but it's the angular distortion and the way it reflects my legs that I'm looking at, rather than my face.

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    4. >"(Seriously though, does anyone else ever find that the light reflecting off an overabundance of chrome/ polished alu parts hurts their eyes?)"

      I've never had an issue with it. I've had someone behind me comment on it, though!

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    5. Absolutely, bright sunshine reflecting off chrome handlebars is uncomfortable for me, even with sunglasses.

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  24. I would suggest your 'DIY' bike gets a respray in a brighter colour, a couple of 'Velouria' stickers for the downtubes, and 'LB' logo stickers for the head tube and seat tube ... DIY bike dead, and from then on Velouria phoenix bike :)

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    1. I think I give up on colour; don't even know what colours I like anymore. As I get older I find myself drawn to various pinks and metallic shimmery yellow. To avoid regrets, seems best to leave it alone!

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    2. This begs the question, I know you've redone the Seven, it must be back from the painter. What changes are in store, when will it be back on the road? I'm holding my breath.

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    3. Colors only exist in a context, a complicated context.

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    4. I haven't painted my Axiom (was waiting for a trip back to Boston, but don't think it will be happening any time soon). It is actually still de-commissioned and my roadbike holdings are in a state of flux at the moment. For now I am riding a vintage Italian bike that my husband built for me, and the proto-Seven.

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    5. Careful of yellow. Nothing shows dirt like yellow. Metallic and shimmery would make it even worse. Constant cleaning required, every nick or scratch is a permanent beacon. If you want to be obsessive about inspecting for cracks yellow is the color to choose.

      Pink will result in everyone you meet making comments about the color. Everyone. Endlessly. A nice maglia rosa will get frequent positive comment. A pink bike is a lot like wearing a kick me sign.

      You can't go wrong with basic black. Boring as all heck. It is the next step after the purgatory of pink.

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    6. Pinks and yellows and bikes, you say? Just found this….http://www.rebeccakinkead.com/paintings.html

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  25. It's odd, but I find stem orientation different as I get older, but long stems were hugely popular in the 90's, people ran small frames to save weight and then long stems & Seat posts. Now I find myself gravitating towards higher but not really shorter.
    Actually, I don't try to do more then a rough stab at the stem length and assume I will need to change it, but invariably I usually land on 100MM, but sometimes as short as 80MM if the bar extends forward a lot like a Mustache bar.
    One set up trick I find that works for me is that when I am sitting in my desired saddle position, my hands on the bars should lie in the same plane that extends from my eyes to the front axle. Typically the bar directly blocks the view of the front axle. Make sense? - Mas

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  26. When you go into a curve your inner knee will be up. The stem will make your drop bars move sideways as well as back, preventing the drops from hitting your knee. Modern bikes have shorter top tubes.
    "A robot welded my frame"

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  27. I love critiquing your bikes, since you do the same, and am curious to see how this one plants its feet onto the floor after the latest rehab.

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  28. Anonymous at 9:46 am: I've been cobbling drivetrains together since 1970, and there have been very few, derailleur or otherwise, that haven't worked just fine if properly set up. I've made all the mistakes: like retrospectively learning that, What! Different cranksets may require different spindles? But as long as you are not installing a 108 mm bb crank with a 128 mm spindle, it's not rocket science to set things up so that they don't spill your chain.

    Anonymous at 12:45 pm: Old cranks can be shifted fine with modern derailleurs, as long as you shift in friction and, #2, follow the drill you described. And, having used both indexed and friction (preferred) front shifting, the latter is so close in speed that the difference is negligible.

    Of course, you can go the other way, too, and shift modern cranks with old derailleurs. I am shifting a Bontrager mtb triple 44/40/26 against a 15-30 9 speed cassette with Dura Ace 7410 derailleurs (and Silver shifters). It all works fine, though the fd requires more throw than is ideal.

    Finally, narrow bars: Compass sells its wonderful Maes Parallel in sub 40 cm wide sizes.

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  29. Don't forget also that some of us have things like arthritis in the neck, that prevent us from assuming the traditional posture on the bike. In my mid 50s, I find that I can flip the stem over and I can feel the big muscles in the back coming into play, and my aerodynamics are so much better, for about 10 miles, and then the neck problems kick up and I have to go home.

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