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Old 09-08-13, 04:33 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tariffville, CT
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Bikes: Tsunami Bikes

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I've been dealing with this while trying to find usable bars for me that aren't 20 years old.

What you should consider is your overall reach over the front wheel. If you're not that extended over the front wheel, and you can deal with a couple cm more reach to the tops, then I'd get the longer stem and compact bars. This puts your weight over the front wheel a bit more when on the tops, leading to additional stability at speeds higher than a walking pace. When I dive into a turn I'm actually as forward as I can be on the bike to really plant the front wheel. This gives me more control in a turn. Granted you should be on the drops when you get into a potentially dicey situation, but overall being more forward will give you more stability.

A longer reach to the tops will also give you a more advantageous position for climbing, assuming your body allows you to lean over a tad more. You recruit your glutes more readily, giving you a lot more power. You'll notice yourself leaning forward automatically on hills - this allows you to recruit those muscles, and your body does it instinctively. A longer bar position will help you with that.

If you get more traditional bars the tops will be closer to you. This is fine if it's a better fit for you. However if you try the longer reach (I did) then you'll find that you're in a lower, more efficient position more of the time.

I have what used to be considered a shallow drop bar, 15 cm, with a then-normal 11 cm reach. Compact bars typically drop 12 cm and have an 8 cm reach (or shorter).

Quick math told me I'd lose 3 cm reach going to the compacts (FSA) and 2 cm drop. Since I was already on 12 cm stems I went to a 14 cm stem (15 cm road stems, at -17 deg, are basically custom jobs, and even 14 cm are hard to find). I got a 14cm track stem that had a -20 deg angle (not the normal -35 for a track). This resulted in a net loss of 1 cm reach at the drops and about 1.5 cm of drop, but an increase of 2 cm reach to the tops.

I really liked the increased reach to the tops. However the drops were too shallow and I couldn't sprint well. I realize now that I started having back problems as well since I had to support my torso more than normal.

I then got the FSA Energy bars - they have the same reach but 15 cm of drop. I found them to be much closer to my old position. My back problems went away but I didn't realize it for a month or so. My out of saddle efforts seem to be better as well. The only thing was that the drops were angled/"ergo" so they're closer and higher than the specs would indicate. However they're much better than the FSA Compacts, at least for me.

I did find that I liked the 2 cm increased reach to the tops. The hoods didn't move much, still 1 cm closer. They're a tiny bit higher than they used to be (the new bars allow hoods to be mounted pretty high up on the curve and still have a nice transition between the bars and hoods).

Black bike has old crit bend bars and 12 cm stem. Red bike 14 cm "track" stem (-20) and FSA Compacts (this is in March/April of this year).

Believe it or not the red bike has 3 cm less reach and 2 cm less drop. The frames are custom and have virtually identical geometry (the red frame has 3 mm longer chainstays, a limitation of the tubeset used, but the top tube length etc are both the same).

Red bike with same stem but FSA Energy bars, deeper drop (Aug of this year).

Post that accompanies the second picture, it has more thoughts on exactly what you asked about:
carpediemracing is offline