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3mm - really?

Old 05-30-20, 09:16 AM
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3mm - really?

I decided to take the Botty Team for some exercise today. It's a gorgeous bike and quite responsive, but it's seemed a little "squirrely" since I built it. Most of the bits were take-offs from the Merckx Professional (aka rust bucket) I had a few years back. I just put them on the Botty without much thought, other than getting the fit to match that of my De Rosa (a sublime rider!) On today's outing I happened to glance at the stem and noticed there were more witness lines to one side of the stem than the other. IOW, the bars were slightly off-center. Odd, I thought. I wondered aloud if this slight mis-alignment could contribute to the odd handling I had noticed from the start. A few minutes later I stopped and repositioned the bars, about 3mm or so, to pretty much center them in the stem collar.

Lo and behold it worked! I thought at first it was confirmation bias, but I deliberately rode slowly and experimented with hand positions. At low speeds I could now reach for the water bottle without weaving. It is still very sensitive to steering input, but nothing like before, and I actually enjoyed riding it. I also noted the bike is more stable when my upper body is lower.

I've never before had a bike where seemingly inconsequential differences mattered. Has anyone else encountered this, or am I just nuts? I made no changes to the bar/stem after removing it from the Merckx, and I do not recall it being an issue with the Merckx's handling.

Speaking of Merckx; if this is a real phenomenon, no wonder he was obsessed with his bike setup!
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Old 05-30-20, 10:04 AM
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Wow, that's only a 1.5 mm adjustment per side!?
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Old 05-30-20, 10:17 AM
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I am not too sure about the OP's result and interpretation but I do know one thing - small adjustments can and do make a difference. In my case, knowing next to nothing or darn little about fitting myself to a bike, it takes me many rides to dial the fit in. Perhaps I am just fooling myself, but do spend a lot of time trying to get it just right. And, when you stop to think about it, the number of adjustments to seat post height, saddle tilt, saddle fore aft, stem reach, stem height and so on, no wonder a little tweak here coupled with a little tweak there, and first thing you know, a better feel.

That's the way I see it, these days. I do, however, often wonder what things would be like if I could afford a professional fitting. The question is - to what. One bike is a 58, one a 56 and one a 54.
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Old 05-30-20, 10:20 AM
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Maybe the Merckx frame had a separate alignment issue that the off-center bars corrected. Just brainstorming here.
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Old 05-30-20, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Bianchi84 View Post
Wow, that's only a 1.5 mm adjustment per side!?
Not exactly. I moved one side 3mm closer to the stem.
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Old 05-30-20, 11:00 AM
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I was buying in until the comment on while reaching for a water bottle things were improved. Hmmm
if one had both hands on the bars and the control points were not equidistant- ok
with one side control? Should not be an issue.
Maybe one arm earlier to ride one handed than the other, but that I think is a Hand dominance issue.

beyond that humans by and large are not symmetrical. My left leg is 3 mm shorter than my right, my right foot is 1/2 a shoe size smaller. I could go on- Not sure on arms or shoulders.
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Old 05-30-20, 11:21 AM
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When it comes to saddle tilt, tiny adjustments make a HUGE difference. This is why the Campagnolo seat post was my first Campy acquisition. It was also why micro-adjust seat posts are everywhere now.

Also, I find I am sensitive to small changes in brake lever location (higher or lower on the bars' curve).

Handle bars 3 mm (1/8") off center? It would never leave my garage that way. I couldn't handle that much error. <--- channeling Adrian Monk here.
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Old 05-30-20, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
My left leg is 3 mm shorter than my right, my right foot is 1/2 a shoe size smaller. I could go on- Not sure on arms or shoulders.
Do you ride different crank lengths each side? mine are a mm or so off, and I've wondered if I should try something like that.
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Old 05-30-20, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
When it comes to saddle tilt, tiny adjustments make a HUGE difference. This is why the Campagnolo seat post was my first Campy acquisition. It was also why micro-adjust seat posts are everywhere now.

Also, I find I am sensitive to small changes in brake lever location (higher or lower on the bars' curve).

Handle bars 3 mm (1/8") off center? It would never leave my garage that way. I couldn't handle that much error. <--- channeling Adrian Monk here.
+1 on sensitivity to saddle tilt, and love for two-bolt seatposts.
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Old 05-30-20, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by jeirvine View Post
Do you ride different crank lengths each side? mine are a mm or so off, and I've wondered if I should try something like that.
no - the differences seem to equal out.
even with isolated power meters. I do lead off with my right leg- the leg I would hop with in a game of hopscotch, and was left hand dominant from the start.
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Old 05-30-20, 12:27 PM
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Glad you are enjoying the Bottecchia. That was a wonderful riding bike for me.
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Old 05-30-20, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
I am not too sure about the OP's result and interpretation but I do know one thing - small adjustments can and do make a difference. In my case, knowing next to nothing or darn little about fitting myself to a bike, it takes me many rides to dial the fit in. Perhaps I am just fooling myself, but do spend a lot of time trying to get it just right. And, when you stop to think about it, the number of adjustments to seat post height, saddle tilt, saddle fore aft, stem reach, stem height and so on, no wonder a little tweak here coupled with a little tweak there, and first thing you know, a better feel.

That's the way I see it, these days. I do, however, often wonder what things would be like if I could afford a professional fitting. The question is - to what. One bike is a 58, one a 56 and one a 54.
it would be interesting to see the measurments of saddle to handle bar distance, saddle to pedal, etc..... I would guess that these all end up fairly similar. a number of custom builders, who work remotely use these as an important part of fitting, not just body measurements
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Old 05-30-20, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
When it comes to saddle tilt, tiny adjustments make a HUGE difference. This is why the Campagnolo seat post was my first Campy acquisition. It was also why micro-adjust seat posts are everywhere now.

Also, I find I am sensitive to small changes in brake lever location (higher or lower on the bars' curve).

Handle bars 3 mm (1/8") off center? It would never leave my garage that way. I couldn't handle that much error. <--- channeling Adrian Monk here.
Monk must be a C&V rider -- ADRIAN!!!
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Old 05-30-20, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
(...)
My left leg is 3 mm shorter than my right, my right foot is 1/2 a shoe size smaller. I could go on- Not sure on arms or shoulders.
Picasso would have liked you.
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Old 05-30-20, 02:57 PM
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Would love to see the front end of this machine - and the stem length + bar width.

-Kurt
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Old 05-30-20, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Would love to see the front end of this machine - and the stem length + bar width.

-Kurt
I whole-heartedly concur. Heat tube angle, fork rake, and resulting trail differences can be substantial.
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Old 05-30-20, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by non-fixie View Post
Picasso would have liked you.
Totes. Both his eyes are on the same side of his head, too.
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Old 05-30-20, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Dfrost View Post
+1 on sensitivity to saddle tilt, and love for two-bolt seatposts.
Sensitivity to tilt, definitely. Two-bolt posts, not so much, anymore. I like the ones with one large bolt, that actually adjust tiny clicks, going by the indents, but are hard to move the right amount. I usually move them too far, and have to start over a few times. 🙄😉 But once you get it right, it stays there pretty good, at least.
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Old 05-31-20, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Would love to see the front end of this machine - and the stem length + bar width.

-Kurt
Originally Posted by RiddleOfSteel View Post
I whole-heartedly concur. Heat tube angle, fork rake, and resulting trail differences can be substantial.
Here's a comparison, as close as I could make it. The Botty has a slightly taller head tube, but the angles look pretty close to me. There may be a slight difference in trail/rake, but I can't really tell. Bars are same width (40cm) but the Botty stem is 5mm shorter.

What do the experts think?

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Old 05-31-20, 06:48 AM
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it would be interesting to see the measurments of saddle to handle bar distance, saddle to pedal, etc..... I would guess that these all end up fairly similar. a number of custom builders, who work remotely use these as an important part of fitting, not just body measurements
Actually, I do have some measurements that I work towards on initial fit set-up. And the numbers are close to the same for most bikes. However...

Thanks to the natural process of aging, we all tend to get shorter. Usually loosing more height through our upper body than the lower. With that in mind, I went from a 56 cm seat tube to a 54 and still found comfort and decent fit. But something strange has happened...

I now prefer the comfort level offered by a 58 cm frame, providing it has a shorter top tube, as is the case on this Torpado. The bike is perfect for an old codger like me. In fact, though it will take some doing, the Torpado just might push the Legnano out of the "my favorite bike" status. I should go check the measurements and compare to my present favorite ride, a 1968 Legnano Grand Premio.
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Old 05-31-20, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by horatio View Post
Here's a comparison, as close as I could make it....What do the experts think?
Skip the comparison; makes my eyes water. Just one and the other would do. If you have an angle finder to find out the headtube angle, even better (and if you don't have a level, just use the angle finder on the top tube to determine whether the bike is level or not).

-Kurt
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Old 05-31-20, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Skip the comparison; makes my eyes water. Just one and the other would do. If you have an angle finder to find out the headtube angle, even better (and if you don't have a level, just use the angle finder on the top tube to determine whether the bike is level or not).

-Kurt
Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. It’s like the princess and the pea!

I did a similar analysis on a Paramount OS frame years ago. There was a difference in trail, IIRC, compared to my other bikes. The Campy semi-aero wheels are not helping - they do not like wind.

I just need to put in more miles and adapt to the responsiveness.
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Old 05-31-20, 11:41 AM
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It looks like your Merckx Professional turned into a De Rosa?

As you noted, the Bottecchia was already a lively rider/steerer. As time goes on, and the longer we are away from a bike like that, re-riding a bike like that will shock us a bit. My former Guerciotti Super Record was one such frame/bike with its very steep head tube angle and very low trail. It was a very squirrely bike. Somehow when I came back to it a little later, it wasn't nearly as active. I have that '89 Battaglin SLX with a 74.5° HT angle and 47mm of trail. With a higher (than would be traditional) bar/brake lever position, it's definitely a lively steerer, but a lot of fun. Light wheels help.

I think you'll get used to it again, and that the Bottecchia's character and distinction from other bikes will endear itself to you.
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Old 05-31-20, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by RiddleOfSteel View Post
It looks like your Merckx Professional turned into a De Rosa?

As you noted, the Bottecchia was already a lively rider/steerer. As time goes on, and the longer we are away from a bike like that, re-riding a bike like that will shock us a bit. My former Guerciotti Super Record was one such frame/bike with its very steep head tube angle and very low trail. It was a very squirrely bike. Somehow when I came back to it a little later, it wasn't nearly as active. I have that '89 Battaglin SLX with a 74.5° HT angle and 47mm of trail. With a higher (than would be traditional) bar/brake lever position, it's definitely a lively steerer, but a lot of fun. Light wheels help.

I think you'll get used to it again, and that the Bottecchia's character and distinction from other bikes will endear itself to you.
I sold the Merckx frame to Doc a few years ago. He sold me the Botty. lol The De Rosa has become my "gold standard," if you will. I tried to like the Paramount, but I never felt comfortable on that bike, and I could never ride it hands-free.

Your point about getting acquainted/re-acquainted is well-taken: the De Rosa itself seemed a little squirrely after not riding it for several months. I'm sure most of the issue is related to infrequent riding. The Botty is a keeper. I just need more time with my thoroughbred.
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