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  1. #1
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    How much does bike fit change

    I bought my road bike last September and did not ride it a lot in the winter months (rode a different bike) but have ridden it a fair amount since April. The last few rides have left me wondering if moving the handlebars down a bit would be a good thing. Currently, my handlebars are at about the same level as my seat (judged by eyeballing it, so I could be off). I did a ride today where I was trying to up my pace and I found that I could go faster in the drops. I did not want to derail Will's thread on riding in the drops as my issue is different. I can breathe comfortably in the drops. I think that they could even be lower. How do you know what height to use for your handlebars? How much does fit change when you lose weight and become more fit? I am not that much lighter than I was when I bought the bike, about 10 pounds or 10%. My limiting factor likely is neck arthritis but I have not been having neck problems if I keep up with my core work and exercises my PT gave me.

    Thoughts?

    If I want to experiment, how do I make the change? I have those spacer thingies on the stem.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Yes, your fit changes as you get fitter. I've had my current road bike for about six years. When I bought it I had to install a shorter stem because I wasn't comfortable being stretched out in the drops. But after a while I was able to reinstall the original stem - I was a bit lighter, and time and repeated practice had made me a bit more flexible than I'd been before returning to cycling.

    You can certainly go faster in the drops. Typically, if I move from the hoods to the drops my cadence (and therefore speed) will rise between 5% and 10% for the same level of effort.

    If you want to experiment, all you do is remove the stem from the steerer, take out a spacer or two, replace and tighten the stem wI the removed spacer(s) above the stem instead of below it. It needs care, because when putting the stem back on you have to ensure that the headset is properly tensioned - too tight and you can't steer properly, too loose and you have play in the headset which isn't safe. It's easy to do, but slightly difficult to describe. I'll look for a video for you.

  3. #3
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    My own experience is that it changes an appreciable amount, with physical condition, weight, age and with how used to riding you are. My ideal has changed a number of times in the last year. I'd personally be afraid to mess with the stenosis, even if it's not bothering you now. Extending your neck back may set off another spell of problems. I know that, when I've done something to start one of those episodes of neck issues, it lasts weeks and makes riding really painful. Is an extra 1 or 2 mph worth that?

    But, if you want to do it, it's easy enough. I'm assuming that you meant that your steerer is long enough so that the spacers are being used to raise the stem. If so, all you have to do is loosen the bolts holding the stem on, remove the stem, remove as many spacers as you want to, and put the stem back on. Alternatively, you could substitute a stem with a steeper angle, or a longer stem, or both.
    L'asino di Buridano...

  4. #4
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Chasm mentioned feeling stretched out when you first were riding. Last fall riding on the hoods made me feel too stretched out. Now that feels fine, if not almost cramped.

    Chas, a video would be nice.

    Tony, I worry a bit about the stenosis. I really don't want to make it worse. I have to think about that before making a change. Going 1mph faster means that I can actually ride with my friends back home. Which has value to me.
    Last edited by goldfinch; 07-06-12 at 12:30 PM.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Goldfinch, have look at this video. it covers the whole business of headset adjustment, but you have to know most of it to move the spacers around. Like I said, with care it is easy to do, so don't be afraid to experiment.

    EDIT; just to be clear, you only need to do the first half - the bit up to and including moving the spacers off the steerer tube. You don't have to mess about with the bearings, just tighten everything back up as shown at the end.
    Last edited by chasm54; 07-06-12 at 12:42 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member CJ C's Avatar
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    my personal experience, as my gut shrinks it allows my to have more of a drop from saddle to bars. personally i feel more comfortable in the drops but my fat gut doesnt allow it. So i ride on the hoods mostly and in the drops when wind picks up. I started last year with a bike that had the seat level if not a bit lower than the bars. after winter got a new bike in March and started with the bars level, and seat slammed forward. as of right now i have no spacers just the coned shaped cap and moved my seat back a few cm. also funny that i lower my bars i also need to raise the seat by a cm or two?

    i actually would like to go lower as it seems i am more comfortable but i cant go lower cause the drops will be useless as i would pedal my gut gets in the way and probably would restrict my breathing.

    Also I'm in my 30's so i forsee that as i get older i may slowly go back to a more level setup. So as your body changes you fit should change too, one would think.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJ C View Post

    Also I'm in my 30's so i forsee that as i get older i may slowly go back to a more level setup. So as your body changes you fit should change too, one would think.
    Yes and no. Certainly things change with changes in your physical condition, but at 57 I am now back to riding in as aggressive a position as I used in my twenties. Unless there's a problem like arthritis or whatever, it's conditioning rather than age that counts.

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    My 0.02. Saddle to drop is more affected by flexibility than fitness. Fitness does have an impact on flexibility when "lost" fitness accumulates in the midsection and physically prevents torso flex. I've seen guys 20-30 pounds wealthier than me riding comfy with more saddle to bar drop than what i have in my bike.
    Gets cold here early, no riding for me November to February/March. Depending on how much "lost" fitness has accumulated in the midsection, March/April when getting the bike ready for the new season first thing i do is put most/all the spacers below the stem.
    I move spacers above the stem (lower the bars) as the season progresses and I can ride comfortably with more saddle/bar drop. Following year, rinse and repeat.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Fit changes with fitness and other factors, sometimes age. Gold by strengthening your core it makes sense that you are able to lower your bars. There are at least two different theories as to how the fit should be so it might pay to experiment.


    Mark

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    I bought my road bike last September and did not ride it a lot in the winter months (rode a different bike) but have ridden it a fair amount since April. The last few rides have left me wondering if moving the handlebars down a bit would be a good thing. Currently, my handlebars are at about the same level as my seat (judged by eyeballing it, so I could be off). I did a ride today where I was trying to up my pace and I found that I could go faster in the drops. I did not want to derail Will's thread on riding in the drops as my issue is different. I can breathe comfortably in the drops. I think that they could even be lower. How do you know what height to use for your handlebars? How much does fit change when you lose weight and become more fit? I am not that much lighter than I was when I bought the bike, about 10 pounds or 10%. My limiting factor likely is neck arthritis but I have not been having neck problems if I keep up with my core work and exercises my PT gave me.

    Thoughts?

    If I want to experiment, how do I make the change? I have those spacer thingies on the stem.

    Fit does change; I know personally as my gut shrinks I should lower my handlebars. I'm a long way off from that though.

    One other issue I ran into is that I noticed that my seat actually fell about 2-3 inches over the winter. My theory is that since it was out in the cold, the metal shrunk, and since the seatpost is aluminum and the frame is steel, they shrunk at different ratios, which allowed the seatpost to fall into the frame. Might want to check to make sure that didn't happen to you.

  11. #11
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    Goldfinch, how deep are your drops? One solution that would be kind to your neck AND let you go faster is shallow drops. That would let you ride on the hoods or even the tops at a level comfortable for your neck, and would give you less severe drops for speed.

    Another, very counter-intuitive way to accomplish this would be, if you've got room for more spacers on your steerer, is to RAISE your bars so that the drops are at the "speed" height you want, but not so low that they hurt. Of course, this puts your hoods up even higher than they are now, which might be useless for you.

    This combination - shallow drops and a higher, shorter stem was one of the results of my pro fit. I now have drops that are a little below the seat level, that I can ride in for speed for extended periods, and tops and hoods that are really neck-friendly. Just a thought. It certainly doesn't look as cool as having a lot of seat to bar drop... But I'm almost 60 years old, and looking cool isn't the priority it once was.
    L'asino di Buridano...

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    Bike fit changes as body fitness changes. One of the measurements used to start fitting a bike is your flexibility. Some can only put their hands on their knees when doing a forward fold and some can put the palms of their hands flat on the floor.

    I like to have my bars as high as I can get them or around saddle height. I have great flexibility but I don't like all the pressure on my hands with a low bar. If I want to get low in the drops and become more aerodynamic, I just go to the drops and if I want to go lower I will bend my elbows and drop on down. My thinking is that I can always bend my elbows and go lower but I can't lengthen my arms to go higher if the bars are too low.

    I usually only ride in the drops when descending or if the wind is trying to blow me backwards. I probably spend 10% of my time in the drops and the rest on the tops.

    So I guess what I am saying is to experiment by bending your elbows to get lower to see how you really like being lower. Once you decide that you need to be lower then you have to flip it. Which is supposed to be the standard answer in the road forum. They take the stem lose from the bars and the steering tube and rotate it so that it is now sloping down. This usually gives about a 2" drop without having to move any stem spacers. If this is too much drop then you will need to shift the spacers around.

  13. #13
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
    Goldfinch, how deep are your drops? One solution that would be kind to your neck AND let you go faster is shallow drops. That would let you ride on the hoods or even the tops at a level comfortable for your neck, and would give you less severe drops for speed.

    Another, very counter-intuitive way to accomplish this would be, if you've got room for more spacers on your steerer, is to RAISE your bars so that the drops are at the "speed" height you want, but not so low that they hurt. Of course, this puts your hoods up even higher than they are now, which might be useless for you.

    This combination - shallow drops and a higher, shorter stem was one of the results of my pro fit. I now have drops that are a little below the seat level, that I can ride in for speed for extended periods, and tops and hoods that are really neck-friendly. Just a thought. It certainly doesn't look as cool as having a lot of seat to bar drop... But I'm almost 60 years old, and looking cool isn't the priority it once was.
    All the spacers are below so I can't raise the bars. I don't know if one would consider my bike handlebars shallow or not:



    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    Bike fit changes as body fitness changes. One of the measurements used to start fitting a bike is your flexibility. Some can only put their hands on their knees when doing a forward fold and some can put the palms of their hands flat on the floor.

    I like to have my bars as high as I can get them or around saddle height. I have great flexibility but I don't like all the pressure on my hands with a low bar. If I want to get low in the drops and become more aerodynamic, I just go to the drops and if I want to go lower I will bend my elbows and drop on down. My thinking is that I can always bend my elbows and go lower but I can't lengthen my arms to go higher if the bars are too low.

    I usually only ride in the drops when descending or if the wind is trying to blow me backwards. I probably spend 10% of my time in the drops and the rest on the tops.

    So I guess what I am saying is to experiment by bending your elbows to get lower to see how you really like being lower. Once you decide that you need to be lower then you have to flip it. Which is supposed to be the standard answer in the road forum. They take the stem lose from the bars and the steering tube and rotate it so that it is now sloping down. This usually gives about a 2" drop without having to move any stem spacers. If this is too much drop then you will need to shift the spacers around.
    I like the idea of just experimenting with riding more in the drops. I can see how my neck handles it. So far, no issues.

  14. #14
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    OT, but post like this remind me of how nice it is to have vintage bikes/stems that let me play with heights really easily.
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  15. #15
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    I've been going through more or less the same.

    When I got back on the bike about a year ago, gut, lack of core strength and limited flexibility all impacted my comfort. To the point that I was considering increasing my bar height and shortening my reach.

    A year later, quite a few kilos lost, core strength improving and constantly working at stretching my ham strings, I've actually moved my bars down from where they were originally and am considering additional fit adjustments.

    One thing that did get affected when I moved my bars, was my seat angle. With a lower torso my saddle nose became less comfortable. With it tilted down at all, I start to slide forward. I haven't fixed this yet, but, am working on it.
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

  16. #16
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
    OT, but post like this remind me of how nice it is to have vintage bikes/stems that let me play with heights really easily.

    I agree, I like threaded headsets. Still got one on one of my bikes.

  17. #17
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    Try a new stem http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...35_-1___202442 them buy the correct size non adjustable when your comfortable.

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