Not that I race 'cross (yet?), but I did opt for a fit-kit sizing with my new CX bike. Having been a road and MTB racer in my high school days, I was accustomed to having my saddle about one to two inches above my handlebars. The fitting on my 'cross bike put my bars and seat at the same height, due in part to the fact that I've been out of cycling for about 13 years and I'm getting over a back injury. I was advised that the bars can be made lower as my back healed and i was more comfortable on the bike.
How about the rest of you? What is the relationship of your saddle height vs. handlebar height, and what kind of riding do you do with you setups?
This is really an individual preference. I race on the road all Summer with my bars really low compared to my seat- like over 10 cm, with a very deep drop bar. I don't have back problems- it actually feels more comfortable for me. But my cyclocross setup, for racing and joyriding on rough roads/trails is set up higher, my seat maybe only 6-7 cms below my saddle, which is still quite low for most people. But even after many years of road racing, and several years racing cyclocross, I still play with position once in awhile. Mountain bikers may be more comfortable with the bars higher than many roadies as it's closer to the position they are used to. Lower aero positions really don't mean much in cross races- whatever helps you handle the bike easier and generate the power you need to get up hills and through mud and sand. I wouldn't get too obsessed about it, especially if you are coming back to cycling, with back issues. Your high position is a good place to start, and you can lower this if you want later on. Variations on bar drop also make some kind of rule of thumb for bar height meaningless, so take anybody's setup with a large lump of salt when thinking of emulating it, there's no substitute for experimenting- even a static fit machine is going to feel different than your bike on a cross course, so take the measures from your fit test as approximations only. You do want to have a setup high enough where you are comfortable in the drops most of the time for racing cyclocross- you can brake easier, shift easier, and the bike handles better. A professional fitting for an ideal cyclocross setup is not the same as a road setup- most fitters don't take this into account unless they know something about cyclocross, which most of them don't. About the only time I'm on top of the bars in a race is when climbing a steep hill or bunnyhopping a barrier. I recommend lots of stretching or yoga to loosen up your back and back of your legs- it helps me a lot (racing at 45 yrs old... what am I thinking?) This whole discussion points out the limits of using threadless forks and stems. Its much harder to adjust your bar height with a threadless setup. You can go down, but experimenting to raise the bars means you have to have a length of steer tube sticking up, or you're out of luck if you cut the fork too short. One of my cross bikes has a traditional quill stem, and I can play with my position and translate it to my other bikes- but even that isnt perfect because they are not all identical, so whats best on the one feels a little different on the others. Y In my opinion, if you have a decent threaded fork, don't "upgrade" it to threadless just to save a little weight, or switch to carbon, at least until you have a lot of miles on it (both summer and winter, your winter position will change because of cold temps, and wearing lots of clothes)!