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  1. #1
    Gunner. robncircus's Avatar
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    Does anyone tweak stem height for technical crits?

    Just curious. I'm doing my first 'technical" crit (Redlands) this weekend. I have heard from some of the more senior racers that they used to lower their stems (back in the quill days) for technical courses. Is this still common practice? I have about 1.5 cm I could lower and thought maybe I'd try it out. I'm merely pack fodder so I don't expect much improvement but who knows

    FWIW this is the course:


    Cheers

    Rob

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    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    No.

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    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    +1 No.

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    powered by Racer Ex gsteinb's Avatar
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    I bet you get 60-70 watts out a stem tweak.

  5. #5
    Senior Member NickDavid's Avatar
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    Nein!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Perhaps not common practice in these days of threadless stems... but don't let the people here discourage you from trying out new things on your bike. I would certainly recommend riding in the new position a time or two before your race, but don't be afraid to experiment. Lowering your bars will effectively shift your weight further over the front wheel which will make it more stable in a corner. You will also potentially be more aerodynamic in the lower position, and you will be more stable when the elbows start flying around.

    Along with the lower position, you might think about moving your saddle forward a cm or so, so you aren't sitting on the tip when in the drops. Be sure your fundamentals of fit are still correct after the adjustment. Don't be riding around with locked arms when in the drops, and make sure you can still raise your head high enough to see down the road. You should still be able to put out full power with your elbows bent and your butt on the saddle without knocking yourself in the chest with your knees. No point in getting lower if your power output suffers because of it.

    Lastly... if you experiment with new positions, you might find you like it. Most racing noobs have their bars too high and ride around with locked arms. Trying things out with a lower bar position and consciously bending your elbows might be illuminating.

    I am sure that if most people here were completely honest, the reason why most here don't futze with their stem is because they 1) bought an expensive fit and are afraid of changing anything afterwards, and 2) don't have the torque wrench they think they need and are completely paranoid about overtightening their carbon steering tube. Just a joke ... sort of. In my experience, bike racers sometimes make for the worst mechanics ever.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 03-25-10 at 11:19 AM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  7. #7
    Village Idiot
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Perhaps not common practice in these days of threadless stems... but don't let the people here discourage you from trying out new things on your bike. I would certainly recommend riding in the new position a time or two before your race, but don't be afraid to experiment. Lowering your bars will effectively shift your weight further over the front wheel which will make it more stable in a corner. You will also potentially be more aerodynamic in the lower position, and you will be more stable when the elbows start flying around. Along with the lower position, you might think about moving your saddle forward a cm or so, so you aren't sitting on the tip when in the drops.

    To be completely honest, the reason why most here don't futze with their stem is because they 1) bought an expensive fit and are afraid of changing anything afterwards, and 2) don't have the torque wrench they think they need and are completely paranoid about overtightening their carbon steering tube.
    You're pretty full of yourself aren't ya?
    You can generalize for most of the people on the racing forum?

    Position tweaking is generally a good idea. However, lowering your stem also might hinder your breathing and it takes time for your body to adapt to a new position, i.e. flexibility, power generation, etc. I'd stay away from blindly recommending stem and saddle adjustments.

    ktxbai
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
    You're pretty full of yourself aren't ya?
    You can generalize for most of the people on the racing forum?

    Position tweaking is generally a good idea. However, lowering your stem also might hinder your breathing and it takes time for your body to adapt to a new position, i.e. flexibility, power generation, etc. I'd stay away from blindly recommending stem and saddle adjustments.

    ktxbai
    Sorry, if you look again, I softened my comment; came out a bit harsh. But it's true, some of the best bike racers around ride the ricketiest rigs. They are interested in racing, not bike mechanics.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  9. #9
    Village Idiot
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    Heh, it's fine. My comment was a little tongue in cheek as well.

    I'd argue that a lot of bike racers are good mechanics because they can't justify paying someone to do all their work given the costs. Depends on their commitment to racing. There's no way in hell I'd let someone else I didn't know touch my bike before a race. There's only one mechanic who ever looks at my bike, and even after that, I take it home and tweak it.

    I need to trust my equipment, and I can only do that if I've done everything and know that it has all been checked and double checked.
    Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
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  10. #10
    Carpe Diem bdcheung's Avatar
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    we're getting a little OT here but I'm the same as rtc: me and one other person are the only ones who ever wrench my bike.
    "When you are chewing the bars at the business end of a 90 mile road race you really dont care what gear you have hanging from your bike so long as it works."
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  11. #11
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Sorry, if you look again, I softened my comment; came out a bit harsh. But it's true, some of the best bike racers around ride the ricketiest rigs. They are interested in racing, not bike mechanics.
    In my limited experience this seems true - there was a guy the RR last weekend with what sounded like a baseball card in his spokes..

    And as the sprint wound up, the clicking got faster.. scary stuff.

    In regards to the OP, it seems like the last thing I'd want to do for a technical crit was change bike fit.
    cat 1.

    blog

  12. #12
    Senior Member agoodale's Avatar
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    Turn 1 is the only "technical" part of the course. The rest of it is not much different than the other crits in SoCal. More important than stem height is your position in the pack. Get in the top 10-20 for turn 1! It is much, much easier to get around that turn & accelerate. If you sit mid-pack you're going to be doing a full on sprint every lap to latch back on.

  13. #13
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    I've experimented with position a lot. A few thoughts crossed my mind.

    1. If you are considering adjusting your position, it means that this "new" position is within your realm of possibilities. I'd try it just because. Maybe not for Redlands, but I'd try it. Position evolves as BR points out.

    2. I've tried rotating my position forward just before big crits. I've also put on shorter cranks, longer cranks, huge gears, smaller gears, wider bars, narrower bars, blah blah blah. I realize after the fact that I should have tried the position a little more than a day or two.

    3. If your bars are too low you see double when you look up. Pinch nerve in neck or something.

    4. If you slide saddle forward a lot you end up losing power but gaining speed. I tend to cramp my calves more easily too.

    5. Lower bars aren't always better. Longer stem may be more productive. Weight up front is good.

    6. Don't put too much pressure in the rear tire. A hairpin turn with a forward-oriented bike can result in some slippage in the back.

    7. Know that you can shift from the drops and use your shifters to shift as you corner and as you accelerate.

    8. It's virtually impossible to practice a race hairpin turn. Don't try. Just follow wheels on race day. You'll learn within a couple laps that it's not that bad.

    hope this helps
    cdr

  14. #14
    umd
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    Rob, good luck on Saturday. Watch for jmechy, he's on the war path. Find his wheel and stay on it.

    Edit: he is the guy that won your first cat 4 crit.

  15. #15
    Gunner. robncircus's Avatar
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    thanks for the replies. I know it's not the hardest course but note that the course is only .65 miles long. These turns come fast. I was told last year's 4 crit was about 27 or so laps.

    Rob, good luck on Saturday. Watch for jmechy, he's on the war path. Find his wheel and stay on it.
    Will do. Obvioucly I've gotta work for the team too (we have a plan ) but I will watch for him.

    Cheers

    Rob

  16. #16
    shut up and ride
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    i'm confused, you are just a warm up ride away from the lax race and you are gonna race a hundred miles away?

  17. #17
    Gunner. robncircus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zzzwillzzz View Post
    i'm confused, you are just a warm up ride away from the lax race and you are gonna race a hundred miles away?
    I'm a wildcard like that. There are several of us driving out

  18. #18
    Last decade's model ijunes's Avatar
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    im going to the lavra race, redlands in the morning and driving back for circuit.

  19. #19
    i got nothing. Crash716's Avatar
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    redlands is a tough course...Good luck...i won't be racing it!!
    14 days...

  20. #20
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    Tip on hairpins, with a couple catches. First, you need to be able to corner. Second, you need to be able to move up extremely quickly - usually this implies you have a jump. Third, you need to be prepared for a world of hurt when you move up.

    With that out of the way...

    If you find yourself in trouble early on and you can't get into the first bit of the field, go all the way to the back. Use the hairpin as a recovery point. You should be able to coast a good 10-15 seconds before the corner, letting yourself get gapped off the back. Drink, stretch, etc. Then hit the turn at full speed. If you time it right you'll coast right back onto the tail of the field as they accelerate out of the turn. You shouldn't need to do more than a few hard pedal strokes. If you do this right you'll be amazed at how easy you can ride. I've watched my HR drop into the 130s in a highly competitive crit with hard turns, 120s even. Do this until your legs are better.

    When it's time to move up (has to be earlier than later, because you're going to cram in 5 laps of efficient move up into 1-2 laps of inefficient move up, and you need the field to be less than totally strung out) you do the following:
    1. Steel yourself for a hard couple laps. Mentally commit.
    2. Wait for the field to ease up. Maybe 5 laps to go? 7 laps? Just before everyone turns on the gas again.
    3. Hit the hairpin a bit closer to the field. Go superwide into the hairpin and carry what speed you can.
    4. Sprint out of the turn instead of just coasting out. You should be able to pass 20 guys doing this because you're taking a better line, you're accelerating when they're still trying to stay off the outside curb, and you've lined up a nice arc free of any constraints before the turn.
    5. Go crazy for the next lap, try to get into that "inside the top 20" bit of the field. I'd even say 10th-15th. You need to get there before the hairpin. You should be making your last huge move to get up there on the straight before the hairpin. Skip subtlety, you need to get the eff up there.
    6. If you don't make it to the front, follow wheels into the hairpin, jump hard, and keep up the effort. I can only do this for two laps.

    Staying in the top 10-15 is great but requires a huge engine. You have to fight lap after lap to maintain position, and the main reason is to be able to control acceleration out of the turn - at the front you accelerate less since you slow for less time. But after a few laps it's quite hard to hold a strong position like that.

    If I was targeting the race I'd go hard at the ***, try to gain that top 10-15 spot, and then see how it goes. If guys are just drilling it every lap and I can surf relatively worry free inside the top 20, that's great, I'd keep doing it. If there are huge pauses and surges elsewhere on the course and holding that forward position pushes me over the edge I'd revert to plan B above.

    Hope this helps
    cdr

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by robncircus View Post
    thanks for the replies. I know it's not the hardest course but note that the course is only .65 miles long. These turns come fast. I was told last year's 4 crit was about 27 or so laps.

    Will do. Obvioucly I've gotta work for the team too (we have a plan ) but I will watch for him.

    Cheers

    Rob
    a cat 4 team with a plan? what would that be: not to all crash out?

  22. #22
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    I loved our cat 4 team plans. They crumbled before the race even started.
    EOL Ra Ra F
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    Random thoughts:

    1. What will lowering your stem do that bending your elbows a few degrees can't accomplish as well?

    2. 3 laps into your race you will realize that you don't even need to be in your drops (much less worry about lowering your stem) during that hairpin turn. Even the lead guy in the pack (who has the luxury of picking the "perfect line") will still only be doing about 18 mph through that hairpin. And everybody behind him will be going slower than that.

    3. Some corners you can pedal through without losing any speed at all. Most corners you can at least carve at full speed with minimal coasting. But some corners require braking no matter how skilled you are at cornering. 180 degree hairpin turns on a narrow course at the end of a long straightaway is a corner where you will have to brake. Lowering your stem won't change that.

    4. I'd be more concerned about clipping a pedal in that turn rather than being able to carve it at full speed. Without a doubt that is a slow-speed corner. You might be better served by considering shorter crankarms or slimmer pedals for that corner instead of messing with your stem.

    5. IMO the key to getting through that corner is going to be your position in the pack. Not your position on the bike. The accordian effect that everyone dreads will be amplified by that turn. If you are not in the first 5 guys every lap that corner is going to take its toll. And if you are one of the lead guys, make sure that you accelerate sharply coming out of that corner each lap. That will kill everybody in back of you. (Imagine being one of the guys forced to scrub speed as you approach that corner, while watching the lead guys already coming out of that turn out of the saddle sprinting past you in the opposite direction! They're doing 20 mph on their way to 28 mph. You're doing 20 mph on your way to 14 mph. Bummer).

    6. The other reason to be near the front at that turn in every lap is because there WILL be crashes there. Maybe not high speed broken bones type crashes. But nevertheless there will be crashes. And if you get caught behind one of them, there's a good chance that you'll never be able to get back to the lead group. Especially if they attack when they hear the crash (which is pretty routine).

    7. I'm all for tweaking your position on your bike from time to time for fit/comfort/efficiency/power reasons. So in that sense BR makes a good point as a general rule of thumb. But that doesn't mean that it makes any sense to do so solely on the basis of one turn in one race.

    Bob
    Last edited by Bobby Lex; 03-26-10 at 07:01 AM.
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  24. #24
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by botto View Post
    a cat 4 team with a plan? what would that be: not to all crash out?
    I remember my first win (Cat 4), we had these great plans to support our climber. I sat in the top 5 to keep things together up there until he made his move. It was a circuit race with a 2-minute 7% climb every 1.5 miles. My idiot climber teammate spends two laps at the front duking it out with another guy while they both kill each other's legs... without any sort of gap. I'm sitting 3 wheels behind him telling him to knock it off, but his ego was too big.

    Well, a couple other guys who also had their upgrade points started drilling it at the front and dropped all my teammates. Coming into the climb at the end I was 5th wheel. At 1' to go, everyone in front of me had died, and I did my first ever WRI (from the front of the field) to try to not be the next guy to die, and I won.

    Too bad I didn't make the connection back then to the kilo attack. I thought I won because everyone else screwed up.

    The team tactics were a joke, but they did keep me up front that day, when I was planning to just get in a good training ride with a pack finish and apply for the upgrade that week.

  25. #25
    Announcer EventServices's Avatar
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    Changing the geometry of the bike at the last minute is a great idea. (<----note sarcasm)
    A better idea is to spend some time working on your cornering skills on your current set-up which is capable of negotiating ANY turn you'll ever see.

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