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Stem length getting shorter with age

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Stem length getting shorter with age

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Old 05-04-18, 02:09 PM
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Lazyass
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Stem length getting shorter with age

I'm a young one here, I'm 50. But I started getting a stiff lower back on my rides. I've always liked a stretched out position. Not a low bar height, my preference is a 2.5 inch saddle/bar drop. But a long reach. A few months ago I replaced a 120mm stem on one bike with a 100. It felt alot better. But a couple of weeks ago I threw on an 80mm I had lying around for the heck of it. MAN, it's perfect. Ride on the hoods, drops, whatever. Not one ounce of pain at any distance. And this is on a 54cm top tube bike. I'm 5'10" and normally ride 56's and have even had 57's. I thought I would feel too bunched up, especially in the drops but it was fine. I do have more saddle setback than average just because of the way my body structure is.

I took one of my vintage bikes out yesterday. It's a 56 and I had a 100mm stem on it. A couple of miles in the lower back started getting stiff again. This morning I swapped out a super short 60mm Nitto quill stem that I don't even remember where I got it from. It's so short it looks funny. But I went out on a 32 miler and it was pure heaven. 100% perfect.

Is the short stem deal common with you old and crusty people?
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Old 05-04-18, 02:56 PM
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Flexability

It seems to me some work on your IT bands, hamstrings & glutes would get your position back in order. It's super common. There is two possibilities: 1) When your muscles get larger in diameter they get shorter...just like those hotdogs that plump when you cook 'em. That's why there is the stereotype of a muscle-bound gym rat that can't reach around to wipe comes from. Or 2) They just don't get utilized through a proper range of motion. So the muscles get complacent. My father in-law just sits & does nothing. He just sits and gets little to no glute engagement. This causes him a shakey shuffle & he can't reach to tie his shoes.

In either case the fix is the same: You need to train the muscle it's ok to be long again. Yoga or focused stretching ought to help. Not just for cycling, but for general mobility & resistance to injury as you get older. Take your current bicycle fitment as a warning for potential future mobility problems.

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Old 05-04-18, 03:02 PM
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They make pills for that.
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Old 05-04-18, 03:04 PM
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Ditto. A C&V forum dweller is sending me a shorter stem to try on my Centurion Ironman. I think it's a 90? Anyway, should be very different from the 110 c-t-c on the bike now (Centurion's catalog called it a 125 I think but that's probably measuring end to end).

Much as I've enjoyed getting back on a drop bar road bike since last summer, it's a literal grind on my neck -- my C2 was borked and permanently damaged in a car wreck years ago. So I can just about manage 20-40 mile rides before it gets really painful. At age 60 I'm actually in somewhat better shape than I was at 50 -- back then I was still walking on a cane, needed a neck brace and could barely turn my head at all. But the neck will never be quite right again.

On a recent fast group ride I was hanging on better than usual -- I usually get dropped -- and the group leader hung back with me for encouragement. Along the way he mentioned I looked too stretched out. That's all the confirmation I needed that the bike fit wasn't quite right for me.

I know I usually put my hands well back from the hoods unless I'm in traffic, or needing speed into headwinds, when I ride the hoods. I don't often use the deep drops either, so I may switch to a compact drop bar. Should be safer if I can comfortably ride the hoods with my hands closer to the brakes.

Seems like a lot of trouble to ride a road bike, but when I see the progress I've made since 2015, it's worth the challenge. Never thought I'd be able to do this at all, let alone reasonably fast.
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Old 05-04-18, 04:25 PM
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I haven't shortened stems, but I heard (a couple of years back) it was smart to consider lowering saddles by a small amount.. So I did. No knee problems, given only about 3-4000 mi per year. The other day i rode a newly finished bike with the prior saddle height and Wow, the higher position lets me spin faster and easier. I'll be listening to the knees though, and no hip rocking.
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Old 05-04-18, 05:13 PM
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I bike commute most days with longer weekend rides. I have three bikes: two drop bar roadies with slight differences between the riding positions, and one MTB-based commuter with inboard bar-ends and an aerobar. My main issue is hand-aches, which has made me mindful to change hand-holds fairly often...hoods, tops, outer curve and sometimes the drops. On the MTB I have the "normal" grips, inboard bar-ends, aero stretch and upright holding the elbow rests as if they were grips.

What I found is that when I began to consciously vary my hand grips, I had fewer issues with stiffness in my lower back, and I think it is due to the change in position.

I realize that is not quite your issue, but I thought I'd share anyways.
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Old 05-04-18, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
I haven't shortened stems, but I heard (a couple of years back) it was smart to consider lowering saddles by a small amount.. So I did. No knee problems, given only about 3-4000 mi per year. The other day i rode a newly finished bike with the prior saddle height and Wow, the higher position lets me spin faster and easier. I'll be listening to the knees though, and no hip rocking.
I actually slowly lowered my saddle over the last few years. It's about 2cm lower than average. I used to have it 73cm above the center of the crank and now it's 71cm . All it did was make me more comfortable, since it eases the pressure on the sitbones as you pedal. No loss of power, no knee issues. That's why a 54 fits me so well now.

I'm 5'10 with a 32in inseam and this is how my bike is set up now. Looks like someone 5'7" rides it.

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Old 05-05-18, 10:26 AM
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At 72, my saddle is exactly the same height it's always been, measured against my leg, that is! And I increased my reach a bit when I was 60 to get a little lower and make my hands lighter. The older I get, the more I work on the little things that slow the decrease in speed.
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Old 05-05-18, 11:48 AM
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A taller stem like a Nitto dlx Technomic or a Soma Sutro might help also. An adjustable stem which allows the rider to experiment with different lengths and heights would be ideal. I'm pretty sure they exist, but don't know where..
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Old 05-05-18, 12:07 PM
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As I get older, mine gets shorter too, but it points up higher.
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Old 05-06-18, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by base2;20322721[...
My father in-law just sits & does nothing. He just sits and gets little to no glute engagement. This causes him a shakey shuffle & he can't reach to tie his shoes.
[...].
So, what do you suggest? Perhaps going from 110 mm to 70 mm or 80 mm will fix him up.
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Old 05-06-18, 10:11 PM
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I suggest he do yoga or focused stretching to relengthen all the right muscles to the way they were in his youth. Much the same advice I suggested the OP do.

You know what? My father in-law took the advice & it had a positive effect. Whether or not he continues is to be seen. But he is objectively better now than he was.
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Old 05-07-18, 01:47 AM
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Neck pain flared up Friday night and kept me in bed most of Saturday. Felt better Sunday, rode 50 mile with a new-to-me shorter quill stem -- 90mm to replace the original 120mm. Huge improvement. Better balanced, much more comfortable on my neck, feels more efficient because my weight is over the pedals on climbs rather than stretched out.

I should have done this months ago.

I'd heard some claims that a significantly shorter stem can feel twitchy, especially on fast descents, but it felt fine to me.

I even lowered the stem about 1/2" and still felt better. My arms are bent more naturally, absorbing road bumps. I'm not stretched out unnaturally. When I stand to climb or sprint my weight is over the pedals so I don't need to push backward. It's great.
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Old 05-15-18, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
As I get older, mine gets shorter too, but it points up higher.
Yep, same here. I'm 58, and my gravel bike has the saddle and bars roughly the same height now (bars just a wee bit higher) and closer in(70mm stem). I'm more comfy overall, the handling is fine, and the bonus is I find it a better all-arounder for varied terrain this way.
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Old 05-15-18, 10:24 PM
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So your stems are getting shorter? As close as I can measure, my stems are exactly the same length as when I bought them.

But seriously - I did move the 155 on my Mooney down to a 140 but that is mostly because I went with longer reach, deeper bars and bigger brake lever hoods. (I started with a 110 on that bike, Too short! A year later, 130. 15 years later I started using very long stems on other bikes and loving them. Another 10 years later, (about 10 years ago) went to the custom 155. Set the bars relatively high. Much better. Now I have the more extreme bars 15 mm closer but pushed down about a cm. Great!

Oh, 65 now. And., unlike my stems,I am getting shorter.

Ben
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Old 05-16-18, 04:37 PM
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Nobody's mentioned Rando bars? Randonneurs are a Sport Touring drop handlebar bar with an upward bend. If you want to give a pair a try, just browse for 'em. I have used them for years. Here's an article:

https://janheine.wordpress.com/2010/...donneur-model/
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Old 05-18-18, 04:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
I'm a young one here, I'm 50. But I started getting a stiff lower back on my rides. I've always liked a stretched out position. Not a low bar height, my preference is a 2.5 inch saddle/bar drop. But a long reach. A few months ago I replaced a 120mm stem on one bike with a 100. It felt alot better. But a couple of weeks ago I threw on an 80mm I had lying around for the heck of it. MAN, it's perfect. Ride on the hoods, drops, whatever. Not one ounce of pain at any distance. And this is on a 54cm top tube bike. I'm 5'10" and normally ride 56's and have even had 57's. I thought I would feel too bunched up, especially in the drops but it was fine. I do have more saddle setback than average just because of the way my body structure is.

I took one of my vintage bikes out yesterday. It's a 56 and I had a 100mm stem on it. A couple of miles in the lower back started getting stiff again. This morning I swapped out a super short 60mm Nitto quill stem that I don't even remember where I got it from. It's so short it looks funny. But I went out on a 32 miler and it was pure heaven. 100% perfect.

Is the short stem deal common with you old and crusty people?
I thought it was supposed to happen to your spine, not your stem!

But seriously:

First, ride what's comfortable - why not?
For me, onset of back pain is related to not sitting correctly. The good posture for me is to bend at my groins (the fold between the upper thigh and the pelvis), not my lower back. I try to keep my back straight all the way down to my sacrum, pelvis tilted kind of forward, and with a saddle well-set back that does not cause inner thigh chafing. A properly tensioned Selle Anatomica usually does it for me, though I've been known to be comfy on a Specialized Alias or Toupe. I look for an easy fast spin without overly controlling it, and with my body balanced over the BB. After that, I don't care if my arms are comfy at a "long" or "short" reach. I'm a spinner rather than a masher, so I have my saddle height a little short relative the the LeMond criteria.

Almost fergot! this positioning for me has become easier and even natural after being a yoga-doer for the past 7 or so years. Not a lot of volume, but a pretty lengthy session 1 or 2 times a week, most weeks. I can even dry my feet without sitting after all this!

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Old 05-18-18, 09:15 AM
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You may get as much or more posture-related relief from raising the stem as you've gotten from shortening it. That is what the market for comfort/endurance bikes with taller head tubes and shorter top tubes is all about (including the current trend of going to wider rims and larger tires for greater comfort).

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Old 05-18-18, 08:54 PM
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No, my 54cm road bike has the same 110mm stem that I originally put on it. 5'10' same as you, 32" pants inseam, but I'm 58 now. I have a 56 also, with a 120mm stem, but the handlebars are set higher so it's both more stretched out and upright.
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Old 05-21-18, 01:19 PM
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I have not thrown a leg over my road bike in a long time.. just no point.
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Old 05-23-18, 05:23 AM
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I have just dropped my seat height by about half an inch and - after a short ride - have noticed it is easier on my back. There is a balance between a hurting back and damaged knees and I think we are all looking for that sweet spot!
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Old 05-27-18, 09:16 PM
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Yes. I have been using a shorter stem lately too.
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Old 05-31-18, 10:25 PM
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Why is nobody talking about bike fit? Getting into an efficient and comfortable position on the bike involves a number of factors, and of these the last you should adjust is stem length. Generally, you should start with seat height. Next move on to saddle fore-aft position and adjust it independently of where the handlebars will end up being. The further back the saddle, the less weight there is on the arms and the less stress there is on the shoulders and back of the neck. Once comfortable in a not too stretched out position, adjust the stem height and length so that your torso is in a comfortable position.

Also, for folks our age, unless racing I think the 2.5" saddle/bar drop mentioned is way too much unless you have gorilla arms. Most of my bikes have the bars even with the saddle.
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Old 06-01-18, 04:26 PM
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Am I the only one who stretches out as I ride more? I start each season on the tops, and after a few 100 miles, my natural position is on the levers. IOW, the right stem length changes over time - or I've already got the right compromise. The strength of my shoulder, neck, core, and leg muscles change over time, too.

That's the main thing that makes me question the value of a 'professional bike fit' for a seasonal rider, especially one with limited funds.

I'm more than interested in what any fitters here might say to settle my concerns.
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Old 06-02-18, 05:33 PM
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I must be shrinking.
The last time I rode my mountain bike, in Nov. 2017, everything was adjusted perfectly.
Seat was at the right height; knees just barely bent at the 6:00 pedal position, with no hip rock.

I had to lower the seat almost 4.5 inches today to eliminate the stretch and hip rock.

Bike has been under lock 'n key, no one could access the bike to mess with it.

I can't believe I shrunk nearly 5 inches.
That would put me that much closer to the ground, yet I still can't reach my toes, and can barely reach my ankles ....
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