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Question about hand position…

Old 08-29-17, 06:47 AM
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Question about hand position…

This thread has a good discussion concerning saddle position, despite the title. I would like to move to the next fitting step of hand position via, TT length and stem length as it impacts handling. This is a black hole in my mind because where your hands are impacts the handling of the bike due to the position of the hands and weight relative to the front axle (fore, on or aft).

So once the saddle is in the “right” position relative to the BB, what is the next secondary reference point? Clearly hand position moves a lot from top of the drops to hoods to drops. Even in the drops it can move from the end of the bars to facilitate shifting with bar ends or into the radius for braking. The distance varies, so do you set your bike up based on where you place your hands the most and then pick the stem length based on handling or saddle to bar?

It would make sense that if you did that then the TT length would determine where the HT is located with the angle and fork offset determining where the axle is, hence the handling response.

Length of stem is a compensator to TT length but impacts handling so what say you?
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Old 08-29-17, 09:01 AM
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In my opinion KOPs gets you close on the first one with some fine tuning. On this one it depends on rider condition and what you are trying to achieve, fast and aero or more upright and cruising. In other words there is no one right answer.

I set my newer bikes to ride from the hoods for the primary position.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:18 AM
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It's pretty much a giant can of worms. Your "ideal" hand position is a function of your body geometry, flexibility, riding goals, any previous injuries, etc. This is complicated by your choice of bars -- some are very deep, resulting in a big difference in torso angle between the hoods and drops, while others are very shallow, with almost no change in torso angle between the hoods and drops. Also, there are differences in reach, which effects your choice of stems.

You can use various online calculators, or the experience of a fitter to get your body in approximately the right position, but it ultimately comes down to how it feels. If you have a specific discomfort, there are some general suggestions on how to remedy it. Making it even worse, your body adapts over time. The position that may be the most comfortable as a seasoned cyclist, might be excruciating for someone just starting out.

There are exceptions, but generally, having the bars higher, and closer will be more comfortable, at least for short periods of time. There are costs to this position, as your upright torso acts like a sail, slowing you down. Also, it puts more weight on your saddle, which can lead to problems too. That is why professional racers are positioned the way they are -- it's not terribly comfortable, but they want the position that produces the least drag, while still allowing them to put down as much power as possible. Recreational cyclists want to strike a balance of being as comfortable as possible, while still minimizing drag. Just where that balance point lies depends a lot on you, and your conditioning / core strength.

I wish I could be more helpful, but bar position is kind of one of those things that takes a lot of messing about, and some time to approach a final position that works well. -- it isn't like saddle height, where you only have one variable, and a pretty narrow window for the "right" position.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:51 AM
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For me I like a classic stem at length that positions the stem just behind the front axel with some larger drop bars and nice aero levers to get several good riding positions.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:34 AM
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I agree that it is a can of worms along with intent. However the issue of how you determine correct TT length is still open. Or is it part of the can content?

I have always felt comfortable with the axle being hidden by the bar when my hands are in the most used position. It gives me a more neutral feel. That may be what i am use to.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:44 AM
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^ This is my baseline.

I noticed after having 5 hand surgeries, 2 of them for carpal tunnel, my hands don't get as numb as they used to. But anything that keeps the numbness away is good in my book.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:55 AM
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Maybe this is the answer:
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Old 08-29-17, 11:24 AM
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I have never picked a stem length based on handling. It's always about my body as a machine, making it efficient, aero and comfortable. (Now, I am en ex-racer. Bike handling makes a big difference in how much I like a bike but very little in how I finish a race (most races; exceptions - criteriums, not my specialty at all and a few big time descents). And given how much time you are going to spend on your racing bike training, any differences in handling from stem length will make very little difference come a race. But a few percent power difference from that stem change - the difference will be huge.

I had custom bikes built that can use 120 and 130 stems but that is so I can stay with easily available stock stems. Other bikes have longer to much longer stems to get a good fit. They are bikes I would never race, but the stems are not the reason, not would they stop me if the rest of the bike was right.

My Peter Mooney, a bike that fits the C & V category well, now sports a 155 -20 degree custom quill. Looks great on the bike and much more important, the bike comes alive because I do.

Edit: re the hand position I set my bikes up for - I always set the bike up first to have a position in the drops I can ride all day if I have to. So if I have to spend the next 3 hours there going upwind, I can. If I am dragging my butt home, dead tired and stupid in the poor light at the end of the day, I can still ride those drops - meaning that rock I was too tired to notice won't knock my hands off the bars. Only after I get the drops dialed in do I finalize where the hood should be.

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Old 08-29-17, 11:40 AM
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I feel like too much thinking these days is aimed at finding the one ideal perfect somethingorother, as if there is only one true answer of many. You see it especially in younger posters here, who ask a question and expect one number, down to two decimal places. In truth (or at least in my experience), setting up bike fit around drop handlebars involves many compromises, and finding a combination of frame, stem length, handlebars, and brake levers that allow all the positions to be comfortable enough. On a drop-bar bike, you're not supposed to park your hands in one spot for the whole ride. It's useful (and healthier for your hands) to utilize different positions as you go. I relish the fact that when I go into the drops on my bikes, my back and arms stretch out, my wrists are at a different angle, and even my butt's position on the saddle changes a little. It seems like modern bikes are set up with shallow drop bars with hardly any reach, so that all positions are just slight variations of each other, and I wonder what the point is.
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Old 08-29-17, 01:01 PM
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Hand position IME has been more a function of the bars. When I set up a bike I have a single number of top tube + stem length which is my personal definition of "reach". My personal number is 69 cm that I have used for numerous bikes and it has worked well for me. The handling and feel of the bike can vary greatly according to the bars and position of levers on them, so for me that is where a lot of the tweaking of fit goes in. I have a couple of types of bars that I know I like and tend to put those on my bikes when I can.
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Old 08-29-17, 01:20 PM
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My experience (limited) is that 10mm stem difference is minimal in terms of handling but more in terms of comfort. I am not looking for an ideal dimension but more of what the criteria y'all are using to set up the "front end"

Typically I use 5 positions on my drops, depending on the shape of the bar. Since riding more miles, I can tolerate a pretty deep drop even with 2" or so stem below the saddle and be comfortable for awhile. I had to work into it though.

After riding the Colnago (58 ST) with a 90 stem and then starting to ride the Pinarello (60 ST) with a 120 stem, I really felt stretched out and uncomfortable. Then after several hundred miles it was like, "wow, I really like being stretched out!" I changed the stem on the Colnago to a 120. At this point, the Pinarello is about to get a 110 stem. I think my hand discomfort is due to being too stretched out.

I appreciate the feedback and input!
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Old 08-29-17, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
After riding the Colnago (58 ST) with a 90 stem and then starting to ride the Pinarello (60 ST) with a 120 stem, I really felt stretched out and uncomfortable. Then after several hundred miles it was like, "wow, I really like being stretched out!" I changed the stem on the Colnago to a 120. At this point, the Pinarello is about to get a 110 stem.
I go through a mini-cycle of this every year, since there are a couple of months every winter where I basically don't ride a bike at all and lose flexibility. Thank goodness my bikes all have quill stems that are easy to raise and lower as needed.
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Old 08-29-17, 02:50 PM
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As a starting point, I go for KOPS to set the saddle's fore-aft position and then select a stem which lets me just touch the top (horizontal) portion of a drop handlebar when my elbow is against the nose of the saddle. Your mileage may vary!

I have one of those rare classic Ambrosio adjustable-reach stems on my Capo Sieger project bike. When I get it into riding condition it will be interesting to experiment a bit with the reach, although I suspect I'll end up in about the same position as always.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:08 PM
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OK, how do you measure KOPS? Hold a plumb bob against the front edge of your knee and have a helper sight it in front of the pedal spindle?
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Old 08-29-17, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
OK, how do you measure KOPS? Hold a plumb bob against the front edge of your knee and have a helper sight it in front of the pedal spindle?
More or less. The way I learned it: hold the plumb bob against the groove under your knee cap (between patella and tibia), and it should go through the pedal spindle.

There are some variations.

I have to point out that I think the controversy and "myth" allegations over KOPS are stupid. It's just a traditional rule of thumb, and a good starting point. If someone prefers a different position, fine. Take it or leave it. I think it makes a whole lot less difference than saddle height, and many people (me included) shift around on the saddle all the time anyway.

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Old 08-29-17, 06:15 PM
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To find hand position ride bike. Ride bike a lot. Ride bikes plural a lot.

Adjust as required. If you made an adjustment before the ride take those tools with you on the ride. Never be afraid to move stuff around.

Thought I knew some stuff. Got one of those 40s/50s bars that droop from center and it was weird. Took a lot of getting used to. Were it not attached to a mostly original bike that was so very cool would have ditched those bars pronto. Glad I kept them, great bars.

Another bike came with those Philippe Professionel bars with the super long ramps the rando boys all rave about. That looked weird too. What stem length do you use with that anyway? The only loose French stem in house pressed into service. Two or three centimeters less than normal. That works great too. If I were to switch great bars between two great bikes pretty sure it would not work at all.

No fixed answer to your original question. Ride bikes. Change stuff around. Riding bike should always be fun. The machine should never be in way of fun. Enjoy your ride.
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Old 08-29-17, 07:03 PM
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Nice post, @63rickert.
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Old 08-29-17, 08:14 PM
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On many bikes I have the same width and bend of handlebar, a model I first fitted over 40 years ago.
Stem length varies by top tube length, (as measured forward of a vertical line through the BB center)
Some bikes have a short front center and top tube, they get a longer stem to get the key dimensions the same.
Handling is effected of course, so you select the bike for the ride planned.

I bought a French bike a few years ago with of course French parts and sizing, so more effort to change and a top tube at the shorter end of my typical size range. After setting the saddle position, I found the existing "cockpit" (not totally friendly with that term) was spot on in the hooks and on the hoods, but as the forward throw of the bar is much longer, the stem is short, by over 2 cm compared to what I would expect. The has become my go-to climbing bike, Andy Hampsten nailed it with a comment, paraphrasing, who do you see climbing in the drops for a sustained period? On his Giro winning steed, the stem is set much higher than when racing elsewhere. More Upright is the way to go for climbing.
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Old 08-30-17, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
I would like to move to the next fitting step of hand position via, TT length and stem length as it impacts handling.
Good topic. Good discussion here too though some of it isn't so much about handling as about general fit.

I've found the the difference in handling from one drop bar bike to another is nowhere near as great as between drop bar and upright. I have a hard time riding an upright in a straight line! That being said, I do think moving the hands forward with a longer stem makes a difference, just not a very big difference.

I pick the stem to match or compensate for the TT, but I just guess, no multiple iterations involved. Then if the bar was too close I've lowered the bar (literally, and figuratively too I guess) to where my body position feels good. I tend to ride on the hoods most of the time. I've never agreed with any line-up-the-skewer rule. Every bike feels different and the shorter frame(s) feel smaller for the first half mile. After that they all feel comfortable.
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Old 08-30-17, 08:46 AM
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@jimmuller - I agree with your statement about differences, but they are noticeable for me after several thousand miles and getting in better shape. I can pay more attention to the little things when the pain is gone .

For a very long time I didn't know about fit of any kind, just set things up to be comfortable. One day someone mentioned the handlebar/axle thing and checked. Sure enough that is where my bars were.

Changing quill stems is a bit of PIA. Just looking for some validation that my instincts are going in the general direction of others experience.

I opted to ride the Pinarello today. Felt a bit stretched so will likely swap the stem soon. The other change will be trying out the 8 spd Ergo's on the DA driveline. Reports are mixed on success. Nothing like doing it.
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Old 08-30-17, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
Changing quill stems is a bit of PIA.
Yes it is. That's why I don't bother to iterate in to an ideal stem length.

To expand further, for me fit isn't so much about actual stem length but how my body is stretched out. I suspect without measuring that my body and hands are more or less at 45 degrees from horizontal. But 45 deg or not, moving the hands closer (or further) means I'm stretched out less (or more). The hands being moved closer either from a shorter reach stem or by raising the stem or even by re-positioning the levers or rotating the bar slightly all do almost the same thing. Because the HT is angled back whereas the stem is horizontal, raising the stem 1cm should make slightly more of a difference than a 1cm shorter reach.

Now there are differences. If you compensate for a shorter stem + TT by lowering the bar, you correct your body angle but your arms will be more vertical and carry more weight. That's why you can't totally fix a short TT with bar height alone. So if you then choose a longer reach stem it moves your arm mass further in front of the steering axis, which should improve dynamic stability. (At least, it improves mine.) So this is a win-win choice.

But once you get the stem reach in the right ballpark the difference between a small stem change and a small bar height change becomes less significant. Which is good because swapping out the stem is a PIA.
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Old 08-30-17, 10:03 AM
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It may be counter-culture of me, but I think that where the elbows are is the real key, and that the hand position should then be on some point on the arc defined by the elbow at the center.
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Old 08-30-17, 11:36 AM
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Well that took several decades + 22 posts to finally understand the support for TT length being the right way to assess the correct frame size!

What I understand now is that it is easier to get in the ball park of frame size because of the ability to get the saddle in the right location relative to the bb. The real challenge is to get a bike with the TT the right length with the associated stem and bar physical dimensions right, the head tube angle correct an a fork offset that yields a fantastic ride for many miles!

Every deviation from what ever the current proper fit is, has multiple impacts from tolerance of how far your can ride to physical pain somewhere in time or right away! I wish my bikes were as adaptable as my body!

OK so now that y'all have calibrated my thinking about TT length and stem length, what about hand position relative to the axle? Should we call that hand trail - the distance between the vertical line through the axle and the location of the hands (based on the center of the palm)?

Does it matter? Jim says it does based on the difference between upright riding and drops. Of course the weight distribution contributed to that but, he said he couldn't ride in an upright position and pedal a straight line. When does "hand trail" become an issue?
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Old 08-30-17, 12:04 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
Yes it is. That's why I don't bother to iterate in to an ideal stem length.

To expand further, for me fit isn't so much about actual stem length but how my body is stretched out. I suspect without measuring that my body and hands are more or less at 45 degrees from horizontal. But 45 deg or not, moving the hands closer (or further) means I'm stretched out less (or more). The hands being moved closer either from a shorter reach stem or by raising the stem or even by re-positioning the levers or rotating the bar slightly all do almost the same thing. Because the HT is angled back whereas the stem is horizontal, raising the stem 1cm should make slightly more of a difference than a 1cm shorter reach.

Now there are differences. If you compensate for a shorter stem + TT by lowering the bar, you correct your body angle but your arms will be more vertical and carry more weight. That's why you can't totally fix a short TT with bar height alone. So if you then choose a longer reach stem it moves your arm mass further in front of the steering axis, which should improve dynamic stability. (At least, it improves mine.) So this is a win-win choice.

But once you get the stem reach in the right ballpark the difference between a small stem change and a small bar height change becomes less significant. Which is good because swapping out the stem is a PIA.
Jim,

This a wonderful summation of all the elements that go into the larger question of upper body fit, and how subjective it usually is. I'm going to incorporate it into a "bike fit" discussion that is part of class we teach at the local bike non-profit. And it's timely since that will be one of tomorrow's class topics.

The only exception is my OCD-ness in being willing to iterate on stem+bar reach for the best feel. Or at least best for my current state of flexibility, and shortened-with-age (now 68) torso length.
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Old 08-30-17, 01:14 PM
  #25  
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I think of this as being about locating my shoulders properly in relation to the seat and doing so with comfortable arm bend. So, if my shoulders are supposed to be in one certain location and my arms swing an arc about the pivot of my shoulders, that means that any location of the handlebars that puts my hands on that arc will not change that location. Now, for the short portion of that arc that is practical, the arc is nearly a straight line. Very conveniently, this line has a "slope" of 2 horizontal to 1 along the steerer. So I can shorten the stem two cm and push it down one for the same shoulder position (and a rather different, but also quite suitable ride). Now I vary that line's height for different bikes with different purposes.

I have that line (and many bikes I have and have owned) drawn on a CAD program. I use it to set up bikes and see if prospective bikes will be good for me and whar stem I will need.

I know this sounds extreme but as one who has arms long enough that most bikes out there require custom stems or a "B" fit or worse, that drawing has been a real blessing.

Ben
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