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Stem length and bike fit/set up

Old 08-10-11, 09:23 AM
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scozim 
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Stem length and bike fit/set up

Is there an optimal set up or length for the stem on a vintage bike?

I know a lot of it is subject to top tube length, frame fit, saddle height, body build, etc. but I've always gone on the impression that when I look down to the front hub on the bike while riding the stem/bar should block my view of the hub.

For all of "the riders" in my stable this principle is pretty much in effect. I also try to keep fairly consistent in my top tube + stem length at 64-66 cm. However, on my Gitane Sprint the top tube is 2 to 2+ cm shorter than the other bikes at 53 cm. When I look down to the front hub I can see the entire thing. I've already changed the stem once - it's now 95mm. It looks like I would need a 110mm or so.

Are there any inherent stability issues with the shorter stem and the center of weight distribution for the front being further back? Obviously my position is more upright which isn't all bad on some days.
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Old 08-10-11, 09:53 AM
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The right stem is whichever stem provides the proper fit. As you're discovering that might be a few cm different from bike to bike even at the same "frame size" depending on TT length, etc. Shorter stems will make steering a tad more twitchy but unless you're going from 130mm to 50mm you'd probably never notice.

Now IMHO there's an aesthetic right and wrong: The stem should rise no more than it's extension nor should its extension be more than double it's rise on a typically configured road bike. On other bike types that's really not a rule.

Did I really just type that gibberish?
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Old 08-10-11, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by khatfull View Post
Now IMHO there's an aesthetic right and wrong: The stem should rise no more than it's extension nor should its extension be more than double it's rise on a typically configured road bike. On other bike types that's really not a rule.

Did I really just type that gibberish?
Yep.

If I adjusted my stems that way I'd never have been able to reach the handlebar even when I was so very much younger than I am now.
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Old 08-10-11, 10:09 AM
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I subscribe to the fit theory that I should be on the largest frame that I can mount.
Amazingly, that theory agrees with the nice bike that I was given.
So the top tube on my frame is slightly long and a 50mm stem has made a real difference in riding comfort.
The shorter stem does make steering slightly twitchy, but I can ride it hands free, so it doesn't bother me.
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Old 08-10-11, 10:13 AM
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Whether one rides hoods or drops should probably come in to play. So then not only does stem rise and length matter, but we can factor in the width of the bar, the depth of drops, etc.
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Old 08-10-11, 10:44 AM
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The shorter the stem, the more resonsive the steering becomes.

I like to set up my bars in this manner.

1. Level or no more than 1" below the saddle.

2. Place your elbow against the nose of the saddle, and extend your arm forward with fingers pointing towards the bar. Your longest finger should just graze the bar.

Doing this gives me the perfect fit for saddle to bar drop and reach.
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Old 08-10-11, 10:45 AM
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I've just started paying more attention to measurements and have come up with a TT + stem length of 69cm. Most of my bikes are sized as ~58cm but that's the seat tube measurement. The top tubes (obviously more important) are normally 56 or 57, so I need a 120 or 130 stem. I think ideally I'd ride a TT length of 58 or 59 with a 100 or 110 stem.
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Old 08-10-11, 10:51 AM
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if you're not riding a 130 length stem slammed into the headtube you are doing it wrong
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Old 08-10-11, 10:57 AM
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I think stem rules regarding stem length/TT + stem length are a little arbitrary.

Obivously riding a 60mm stem tells you that the bike is too long.

In the 80-130 length, I think any "rules" (like stem blocking hub) doesn't make any sense. The higher you raise your stem, the less reach you need. The lower, the more reach you need. If you lower the stem all the way down, you increase your reach to the bars, but the hub view may not be obstructed anymore... so what do you do? You get an even longer stem. Doesn't seem like a good guideline to me.
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Old 08-10-11, 11:26 AM
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It's definitely all subject to the rider. I always wondered, though, where the principle that the stem/bar should block out the view of the hub came from. Was it just a general - "here's a starting point, and then go from there."

I had clip on bars on this one for awhile and the stem is a little lower. I typically ride the hoods. Based on the measurements for the rest of the bikes I should be around a 110mm stem. This is the shortest bike I have so it's set up a little more aggressively than the rest.

And, yes, I need to adjust the height of the right brake level. I've been messing with that position a little and like where it is on the left side.

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Old 08-10-11, 11:51 AM
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scozim, The starting point for reference WRT a road (race) bike is when on the hoods the front axle is hidden by the handlebar, no rules are broken if stem length is then changed to suit you. Consideration has to be given for frames with lazier head tube angles and forks with more off set, which will place the front axle slightly ahead of the handlebars, depending on TT length.

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Old 08-10-11, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by horribleoldman View Post
if you're not riding a 130 length stem slammed into the headtube you are doing it wrong
This reminds be of what Ratfink (I think) said in the "best riding bike" thread about Colnago frames being designed to be ridden a little small with a longer stem.
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Old 08-10-11, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Capecodder View Post

2. Place your elbow against the nose of the saddle, and extend your arm forward with fingers pointing towards the bar. Your longest finger should just graze the bar.
This although I was taught fingertip should extend to centerline of bar. Either way, I tried this a few days ago and realized I've been riding on a much-too-long stem.
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Old 08-10-11, 12:06 PM
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I've been able to fit a bike a little bigger than I should, using a short stem and zero-setback seat post.

I've never been able to make a smaller bike comfortable, despite pretty much dupliacating the dimensions of my "normal fit" bike.

Plus, the long stems freak me out.
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Old 08-10-11, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post

Plus, the long stems freak me out.
Bu, Bu, But you supplied me with this long stem.....


130mm but not slammed all the way down? I guess I fail...
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Old 08-10-11, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by tiger1964 View Post
This although I was taught fingertip should extend to centerline of bar. Either way, I tried this a few days ago and realized I've been riding on a much-too-long stem.
My most comfortable long distance bike has my finger tips hitting the middle of my stem.

My most comfortable go-fast race bike has my finger tips hitting somewhere close to the steer tube.
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Old 08-10-11, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Puget Pounder View Post
My most comfortable long distance bike has my finger tips hitting the middle of my stem.

My most comfortable go-fast race bike has my finger tips hitting somewhere close to the steer tube.
Better replace the stems on both bikes cause they are too long
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Old 08-10-11, 12:59 PM
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it could be a little longer
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Old 08-10-11, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Capecodder View Post
The shorter the stem, the more resonsive the steering becomes.

I like to set up my bars in this manner.

1. Level or no more than 1" below the saddle.

2. Place your elbow against the nose of the saddle, and extend your arm forward with fingers pointing towards the bar. Your longest finger should just graze the bar.

Doing this gives me the perfect fit for saddle to bar drop and reach.
I feel that this is much too short, although it's a common rule of thumb. I've experimented a lot, and I've never been able to even come close to satisfying both this rule and the handlebar blocking front hub view rule. It's one or the other, and for me, the handlebar blocking hub view fits a lot better.
On my best-fitting bike, the distance from fingertips to center of bar is 3 1/2." I've tried a lot of set-ups, and I need at least 2" to feel comfortable.
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Old 08-10-11, 01:16 PM
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This thread is going to wind around a lot 'till someone categorizes these rules for different riding positions.
Surely "Ricky racer" isn't going to follow the same fitment as "upright Clyde"?
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Old 08-10-11, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by horribleoldman View Post


it could be a little longer
twss!
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Old 08-10-11, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by 20grit View Post
Whether one rides hoods or drops should probably come in to play. So then not only does stem rise and length matter, but we can factor in the width of the bar, the depth of drops, etc.
+1 Also the reach of the bars themselves, which levers you're using and where you have them mounted on the bars.

I've heard all these rules and used them as starting points over the years, but ime there's really no substitute for trial and error and miles on the bike.

The elbow against the saddle nose rule would depend, to some extent, on one having the same saddle on all bikes.
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Old 08-10-11, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by due ruote View Post
+1 Also the reach of the bars themselves, which levers you're using and where you have them mounted on the bars.

I've heard all these rules and used them as starting points over the years, but ime there's really no substitute for trial and error and miles on the bike.

The elbow against the saddle nose rule would depend, to some extent, on one having the same saddle on all bikes.

All very true, but it's all just a starting point. Everyone is different and requires a different setup.

As far as saddle nose to bars, you do need to use the same saddle and a stem with the same amount of setback. There is just far too many variables to fit someone over the internet, it's hard enough to do it in person.
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Old 08-10-11, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Capecodder View Post
All very true, but it's all just a starting point. Everyone is different and requires a different setup.
Agreed -it's so very subjective. I posed the question because I was always going off something I had heard growing up but had no basis whether it was right, wrong, starting point, ending point. Over 30 yrs I've obviously found out a lot about fit.

I swapped out the 95 mm stem for a 110mm and the bike doesn't feel so compact - makes sense with a longer stem. I'll mess with saddle position a little but this increase will stretch me out a little more. With this set up the bike now moves to 64 cm combined top tube and stem length which puts it 1 cm behind the Trek 510 and PX10 and 2 cm behind the Gitane TdF.

I love the flexibility of these tests and seeing how different bikes compare. The head and seat tube angles on the two Gitanes are identical. The seat tubes - 52 c-t-t vs. 54 c-t-t. However, top tube on the TdF is 2 cm longer than the Sprint's which. I would suspect because the TdF was more of the "Ricky Racer" bike.
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Old 08-21-11, 08:33 AM
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This guy probably knows nothing about frame fitting.... https://davesbikeblog.blogspot.com/20...rearm-and.html
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