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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
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    4,713

    Stem replacement and handling

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    I'm beginning to suspect that the reach on my bike is a little long. What's that fit trick? With your elbow at the nose of the saddle your fingers should touch the handlebar clamp? Yeah, my fingertips rest just forward of the headset cap. (Granted, I have tiny hands and short fingers.)

    I'm going to see how much changing the angle on the stem helps (it's adjustable), but it's not exactly my first choice. (I don't want or need that really upright position...I'd look like an idiot, for starters. )

    Is there a general guideline as to how short you can make a stem before it affects handling too much? Any other information I should know?
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
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    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    983

    Stem replacement and handling

    Your best option is to have a bike fit done if you haven't. AS I'm sure that you are aware, there are many factors to being comfortable on the bike.. flexibility, stem, top tube and head tube lengths, frame geometry etc... A fitter can actually look at you while you're on the bike, and give you much more feedback then we can online.

    With that said, there is a very vague measurement that you can try. Sit on your bike and put your hands in the drops of your handlebars. Once you do that, look down through the stem to your front wheel... in an ideal world you should not be able to see the hub of your wheel. That distance can change quickly change a bit as we move back and forth on the saddle, but as I said earlier, this is a very basic measurement.

    Good luck !!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    I'm the only one allowed to whine
    Posts
    10,576
    If you can, have someone measure (eyeball or goniometer) the angle your upper arm bone makes relative to your torso while you are on the bars. General rule of thumb is that armpit angle should be about 90 degrees.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Riding my Luna & Rivendell in the Hudson Valley, NY
    Posts
    8,409
    Quote Originally Posted by Owlie View Post
    (I don't want or need that really upright position...I'd look like an idiot, for starters. )
    I find the more I ride the less I worry about looking like an idiot.


    In general, I think anything shorter than a 7cm stem effects your steering stability. I put on a 5 once, rode with it for about 1000 miles and decided the wobbly hill climbing was something I didn't want to keep. I went back to a 7 and it was fine. but everyone's different.
    Lisa
    Our bikes...OurBikes...and my mountain dulcimer blog
    Ruby's Website and My blog
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Weir, TX
    Posts
    403
    Quote Originally Posted by BleeckerSt_Girl View Post
    In general, I think anything shorter than a 7cm stem effects your steering stability. I put on a 5 once, rode with it for about 1000 miles and decided the wobbly hill climbing was something I didn't want to keep. I went back to a 7 and it was fine. but everyone's different.
    I agree.. my Mixte came with a 60cm stem (and 34cm bars!) and "twitchy" was the only appropriate way to describe it.. it did not work for me. Those same bars and stem are on my 9 year old son's mixte and he does great on it, but that bike has smaller tires and a shorter wheelbase, so I think it kind of makes up for the short stem. My kid is short too

    As far as the seat nose to the handlebar clamp..I'm nowhere close (middle finger is about 2cm past the headset), but I have a short saddle (the 's' brooks) so it may not be a fair comparison.. I might just reach it with a 'standard' brooks. That said, the reach on my felt is perfect for *me*, and that's all I'm worried about.. I've not had a professional fit on it, but I am not having any "problems" on it either.. I've had the bike 7 months now, and I still adore it.

    I think the "can't see the hub in the drops" is probably a more accurate way of seeing if you're in the "general right area" over the bars, since there are a lot of factors that influence the reach of your bike.. but even then, maybe you have a long/short neck, or very long/short arms.. it's an average that may apply to some, but certainly can't apply to all. I wouldn't rely on any one measurement alone in determining if your stem is too long, other than how the bike actually feels when you ride. If you feel too stretched out or you think you have too much weight on your hands, then it might be too long, but it's not always the stem that's too long in that case... it could be the frame too, you can only adjust the stem so much, after that it might be time to try a different size frame, and at that point it's probably very wise to consult a good fitter for help.
    '08 Felt FW40 w/ Brooks b68's'
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    214
    Caution: The "guidelines" you quote are pretty old and were really based on no real data when they were new. ( elbow to fingertips, bar obscuring front hub, heel on pedal etc )
    Many folks still fall prey to these unfounded rules.
    The advice above about a proper bike fit make good sense.
    Keep in mind that you can shorten up your reach via a shorter reach handlebar. It doesn't need to be all in the stem.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    Good points all. Something with this bike is not exactly right, and I don't quite know what it is. My guess it's some combination of saddle, lack of core strength and a slightly too long reach. I've got some more questions for you...

    BSG: Yeah, there's a little vanity involved, but the primary reason for changing the angle would be a more upright position. I'm quite comfortable-- save the arm soreness and a bit of mashed 'girly parts'-- in the position I'm in now.

    When you mention the stem length, do you mean length of the "body" of the stem, or the length that "projects" in front of the bike? Are we drawing triangles and playing with the Pythagorean theorem? I imagine the former, but physics and I had a bad relationship.

    Ridebikeme: I'm having a little trouble visualizing this. So, get on the bike, get in the drops, then focus on where the hub should be. If you're in the right neighborhood, it should be obscured by...what?

    Oh, Seajay answered that for me. And good suggestion on the bars, since I hang out on the hoods, have tiny hands and would like shallower drops. (And maybe carbon, but that's something else all together.)

    I'm booking a bike fit as soon as I can come up with transport to the LBS and the $$...at the same time.
    Last edited by Owlie; 10-06-2010 at 04:32 PM.
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
    1996(?) Giant Iguana 630|Specialized Riva


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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    983

    Stem replacement

    Owlie... if you are in the drops and looking to see if you can see the front hub the stem/handlebar might block your view. Again, this is a very basic way to check length, but definietly NOT an absolute. A bike fit is always better because it entails so much more than sight.... flexibility, top tube/stem/ lengths and what is comfortable. There are many factors related to fit. If you insist on doing this yourself, then record everything and ride for a while, and make very small adjustments. If you truly have an idea of what you are looking for, then put your bike on a trainer and watch yourself pedal in a mirror.

    But I still suggest a bike fit

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Riding my Luna & Rivendell in the Hudson Valley, NY
    Posts
    8,409
    Quote Originally Posted by Owlie View Post
    BSG: Yeah, there's a little vanity involved, but the primary reason for changing the angle would be a more upright position. I'm quite comfortable-- save the arm soreness and a bit of mashed 'girly parts'-- in the position I'm in now.
    I wouldn't be able to put up with mashed girl bits.


    When you mention the stem length, do you mean length of the "body" of the stem, or the length that "projects" in front of the bike? Are we drawing triangles and playing with the Pythagorean theorem?
    It's the length of extension/projection, measured between center of vertical part of stem, to center of handlebars as they go through the stem:
    http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d7.../QuillStem.jpg
    Lisa
    Our bikes...OurBikes...and my mountain dulcimer blog
    Ruby's Website and My blog
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Abq, NM
    Posts
    309
    Where is your seat in relation to the seat post clamps?
    Lookit, grasshopper....

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    BSG: Thanks.

    Chicken: Currently, it's all the way at the rear stop. I need to move it back a hair to deal with the above-mentioned mashed parts (DBF trying to be helpful again...).
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
    1996(?) Giant Iguana 630|Specialized Riva


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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,845
    ARe you sure you just don't need another saddle that doesn't mash your girlie bits?

    Do you have the nose of the saddle just tilted slightly downwards?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Quote Originally Posted by Owlie View Post
    When you mention the stem length, do you mean length of the "body" of the stem, or the length that "projects" in front of the bike? Are we drawing triangles and playing with the Pythagorean theorem? I imagine the former, but physics and I had a bad relationship.
    As Lisa said, stem length refers to the physical length of the stem, but you have to remember - especially when you've got an adjustable stem and especially when you're taking it to extreme angles - that changing the angle does change the handlebar offset (which is what you need either plumb lines or Pythagoras to measure) - and it's the offset that actually affects your handling.


    And it sounds like they're right, that it's the saddle that's your real problem.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Abq, NM
    Posts
    309
    I'm going with the saddle theory here, too.
    Lookit, grasshopper....

 

 

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