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Stem Height and Aging

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.
View Poll Results: Which riding position best describes your current riding position?
Position 5 - Leisure
5.88%
Position 4 - Fitness
30.59%
Position 3 - Performance
40.00%
Position 2 - Agressive
24.71%
Position 1 - Aerodynamic
10.59%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 85. You may not vote on this poll

Stem Height and Aging

Old 09-23-20, 08:28 AM
  #1  
PoorInRichfield
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Riding Position and Aging

TL;DR (Too Long, Didn't Read)

Are you still able to ride in an aero position (Position 1 and 2 in the diagram below)? If so, how old are you? Do you stretch and do core exercises?

The Long Story

As the image below shoes, Posture 1 and Posture 2 are the preferred position for being aerodynamic while riding a road bicycle. As we all know, to be fast, aerodynamics are key and body position plays a bigger role in aerodynamic efficiency that just about any aero bike or bike parts do. When a rider is young and potentially stronger and more flexible, these riding position are quite common and usually involves having a "slammed stem" on the bike to allow the rider to stay in a low position with a horizontal back. As a rider ages, he/she often migrates more towards the Position 5, gradually replacing one's aero road bike with a more leisure bike that allows for a very up-right and very un-aerodynamic riding position. This makes me sad (I.e., it makes me sad that people feel obligated to by recreational bicycles instead of race bikes due to the stiffness and muscle loss that is a part of aging.)

I am currently 46 years of age with "50" being my next major age milestone. In my experience, I was starting to migrate towards a Position 3 riding style simply because I wasn't doing any stretching or core exercises to keep my upper body strong. I used to think that stretching was unnecessary as long as I "warmed-up" at the beginning of a ride to avoid injury. However, due to some nagging lower back pain that was lasting the better part of a year, I started doing daily stretching and regular upper-body exercises in the Winter of 2019 and am still doing them.

Thankfully, I got my lower back pain under control and as an added bonus, I've found that I am once again able to ride in Position 1 and 2. I have my road bike setup with a nearly "slammed stem" and as of right now, it's working well for me. Also note that I do have an endurance bike (2020 Trek Domane), so that has also helped me feel better on each ride but probably doesn't allow me to go as low as a pure race bike would. As of the last month or so, I've been able to do solo 60+ mile rides with regular frequency and feel really good when I'm done. This is something I wasn't able to do decades ago, so I'm super excited that I'm still able to ride like I want to without all the pain!

My concerns is whether or not riding in Position 1 or 2 is possible throughout my entire life (like in my 60's, 70's, 80's, and beyond?!?!?!) with proper stretching and upper body exercise, or is aging and stiffness inevitable and it's only a matter of time before I'll be looking for a more up-right bicycle?!?!


Last edited by PoorInRichfield; 09-23-20 at 08:34 AM.
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Old 09-23-20, 09:11 AM
  #2  
Iride01
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I might be in the 3, but think or at least want to think I'm in an aggressive position.

As I've aged, now 62, I've gone from 5 or 4 to lower and lower positions since passing 52 yo and the years I only leisurely rode a bike to riding more and more and more. Back to what I rode when much younger teen and the days I was also riding at fast high efforts.

If your fit philosophy is for low power output riding, then likely you are going to want to sit more upright. If you ride at a higher output level, then I'd think you'd find as I have that more drop on the bars and balancing yourself over the bb, not the saddle, provides much more comfort.

On a road bike, I'd claim that position 5 shouldn't even be used. If you want that position, you will be searching for saddles and changing your stems to rises and lengths that make it no longer a road bike. A cruiser style bike will be a much better choice for that.
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Old 09-23-20, 09:35 AM
  #3  
Clyde1820
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Never did ride in "aero" position. Never wanted to.

Now, it's upright and used for commuting and leisure.

Was extremely fit (great cardio, very strong, flexible) up through the mid-90s or so. Fitness began to give way to coping with and focusing on old injuries, and what exercise I could accomplish. About 2005, I began to raise the stem and the bars. In 2014, I got an adjustable stem and even taller bars. Now, it's 5" riser swept bars and a nearly-upright riding position, with a shorter top tube, wider Brooks saddle. The past 20 years have been a change from modestly-athletic (posture 3/performance) riding position to one that's upright. Pretty much tracks the injury condition and ability to manage it.

Sign of the times.
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Old 09-23-20, 10:15 AM
  #4  
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I wouldn't mind being solidly in 2 but am more like a 3. I've got congenital disk fusion that led to pretty good neck arthritis with the accompanying bone spurs. We'll see what more time brings... I'm just 51 now.
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Old 09-23-20, 10:41 AM
  #5  
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Position 1 on my TT bike (which isn't just about stem height but a entirely different set of bars and saddle position)
Position 2 on my road bike
Position 2.5 on my CX bike

Positions 4 and 5 make my ass and back hurt after a few miles. It's counterintuitive, but I find being low, stretched out, and most importantly weight balanced fore and aft to be most comfortable for long miles.
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Old 09-23-20, 10:57 AM
  #6  
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I'm 58 and I think I'm about 2.5. I commute, but I don't enjoy riding upright for very long. A glasses-mount mirror helps me see behind me in such a forward position. I will use the drops in heavy headwinds (or for varying my hand position for hand relief)which lowers my position further but that inhibits situational vision enough that I won't do it in traffic. I also used to have aero bars on my MTB for hand relief and that was very, very comfortable to stretch out forward, but lousy in traffic, both for visibility and maneuverability. Ironically, I could hold the elbow-rests for very upright riding. But I converted the MTB to drop bars last year since my hands can't do straight bars comfortably any more.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:05 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Position 1 on my TT bike (which isn't just about stem height but a entirely different set of bars and saddle position)
Position 2 on my road bike
Position 2.5 on my CX bike

Positions 4 and 5 make my ass and back hurt after a few miles. It's counterintuitive, but I find being low, stretched out, and most importantly weight balanced fore and aft to be most comfortable for long miles.
+1 I don't TTs so no Position 1. Position 2 much of the time. It is getting a little harder and my limited riding this year hasn't helped. Bars are coming up slowly over the years. (67 now.)

I like to think of cats stretching when I ride. That stretch where they get really long, paws way out in front. My back loves it when I can do that; ride with a near flat back and arms way out in front. Going to not-so-low bars but really long stems 25 years ago was a complete eye-opener. I came home feeling great from 70 miles with real hills on a fix gear I'd just put a 180 quill stem on. (Hammered but my back loved it.)
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Old 09-23-20, 11:21 AM
  #8  
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75 y.o. Have clip-ons on my road bike and tandem - which has aero bars for stoker as well. I stretch, though it's not necessary for "the position." I mostly stretch to keep my knees out of trouble. I can always put two knuckles under my shoe soles. Too often when people say "core exercises" they mean like sit-ups or crunches, which don't do diddly-squat for cycling. Back exercises are good, but the best back exercise and the best stretch is to spend more time on your bike in position 2. Just do it. You're going to age, but you don't have to get old.

Besides stretching and riding, hiking and backpacking are really good for the lower back, as is taking long fast walks while rolling your hips, say 3-5 miles. My wife and I just got back from our annual 10-day backpack in the Cascades.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:38 AM
  #9  
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I'm 62. I practice yoga and light weight training once a week.
Position 1 - my track bike
Position 2 - road bikes
Position 3 - gravel bike
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Old 09-23-20, 12:07 PM
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Age 69, as of a few days ago, and I ride in positions 1 and 2 almost exclusively. Breaking my left elbow (for the second time) at the beginning of my growth spurt at age 12 or so resulted in a deformed bone structure, which, in turn, ensures hand numbness whenever I ride a bike for more than fifteen minutes in any of the other positions. I used to put up with the numbness, but then aero bars were invented. Using aero bars on all of my bikes means that I can ride all day without hand numbness.

Stretching always seemed a waste of time for me; same with the currently fashionable "core" exercises. Echoing CarbonFiberBoy: putting in the miles is pretty much all I need to do to ride comfortably in my preferred positions.
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Old 09-23-20, 12:13 PM
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70 year old. No yoga, but I touch my toes regularly.
I don't understand this thread.
Riding position? Singular
Bike? Singular


#5 = Hydrating position

#3 = Cruising along enjoying the day on an endurance geometry frame

#2 = making some time

#1 = into the wind, 'thru-the-eyebrows' vision. And don't forget your readers.


YMMV
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Old 09-23-20, 12:19 PM
  #12  
PoorInRichfield
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
70 year old. No yoga, but I touch my toes regularly.
I don't understand this thread.
You appear to be an anomaly in the world of cycling and aging None-the-less, glad to see at least one person in their 70's riding in the drops!
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Old 09-23-20, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
You appear to be an anomaly in the world of cycling and aging None-the-less, glad to see at least one person in their 70's riding in the drops!

My opinion = it's more a matter of a saddle that allows one to rotate their hips, then one needs to trim the eyebrows to avoid the heads-up viewing needs. A little core strength and less girth helps. But I am lucky = a lifetime without major injuries and active outdoor hobbies. 35+ years as a regular roadie gives me a 'muscle memory' advantage, that is, it just feels natural.

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Old 09-23-20, 02:06 PM
  #14  
PoorInRichfield
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
My opinion = it's more a matter of a saddle that allows one to rotate their hips <snip> But I am lucky = a lifetime without major injuries and active outdoor hobbies.
I'm pretty sure it's the latter (you stay active) that allows you to do the former (rotate hips). I have a desk job and while I stay active outside of work, hours of sedentary work really takes it's toll on flexibility. In addition, years of cycling and perhaps physiology I was born with have left me very inflexible and it only gets worse if I don't actively stretch and work-out.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
I'm pretty sure it's the latter (you stay active) that allows you to do the former (rotate hips). I have a desk job and while I stay active outside of work, hours of sedentary work really takes it's toll on flexibility. In addition, years of cycling and perhaps physiology I was born with have left me very inflexible and it only gets worse if I don't actively stretch and work-out.

I'm stretching and working-out ON the bike.
I'm an active (restless?) rider, not a passive seated spinner. Maybe why I seldom have an issue with saddles or handlebar wrap. But I'm not a daily distance rider, solo metric century would be my enjoyable limit these days, which would require a rest day following. 100miles per week is my realistic goal about 35-40 weeks per year.

My personal observation is that my 35 cycling years have not contributed to inflexibility.

Workout =
practice deep breathing,
rapid breathing,
suck in the gut,
work different leg muscles with different positions (climbing, on-th-rivet, relaxed touring),
arms in different positions supporting little or much of my upper body
suck in the gut,
sprint occasionally,
stand and stretch.
Repeat often.
etc.


But I recognize the trends toward endurance geometry, fat tires run soft, suspension/damping road frames, headset suspension systems. My coming concession will probably be disc e-bike for hilly mixed surface rides. Hopefully, next decade.

Last edited by Wildwood; 09-23-20 at 08:05 PM.
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Old 09-24-20, 05:27 AM
  #16  
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Age 80 in couple of months. Can still touch my toes. Riding position 2-3 hasn’t changed much in 65 years. Still riding updated 1957 Maclean Featherweight, when not riding tandem. I don’t do exercises.
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Old 09-24-20, 08:33 AM
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I'm 73 years old (74 in 3 weeks) and more of a distance rider than a speedster. No stretching before or after riding. I do a mile or so warm up and then a mile or so cool down period at end of the ride. I have aerobars on both of my road bikes and it's where I spend a good portion of my ride time.

After riding 30 miles with Amanda Coker - the day she broke the Guinness and HAMR World Distance Record - April 5, 2017.
My avatar is also with Amanda on the day she broke the woman's world distance record, just 4 months after she started the attempt - Sept 21, 2016.

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Old 09-24-20, 09:54 AM
  #18  
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I ride a 3 or 4. I'm certainly flexible enough to ride a 1 or 2. They aren't painful or anything but I enjoy riding in a more upright position. I notice there's not a "touring" position.
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Old 09-24-20, 10:21 AM
  #19  
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61 and 1 & 2.



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Old 09-24-20, 10:36 AM
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PoorInRichfield
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mackgoo I don't know what it is about "Celeste green" Bianchi's, but they have made me drool ever since I was a kid. I love both bikes, but am totally drooling over the older one. I don't think I'd even ride that bike... I'd just keep it in my house and pet it.
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Old 09-24-20, 11:53 AM
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Position 1 on the time trial bike. That's obvious. Position 2 on my road bikes. Position 3 for my MTB and cross/gravel bikes.

I recently sold a few bikes at my LBS to help finance a new Pinarello Dyodo. When it came in, I had him match the geometry to my old Pinarello FP6, on which I had a Specialized Pro Body Fit, (or whatever they call it these days). The dealer couldn't believe the seat to bar drop. He said it was one of the most aggressive drops he has seen. More surprising because I'm an "old guy". He insisted that I ride around the parking lot a few times so he could observe me while riding.

Maybe my arms are just longer than average. I don't know. All I know is that ever since getting that Pro Fit, I have no more pain ANYWHERE when riding. Doesn't matter the distance, long or short. Nobody messes with that FP6 now and every bike I get has its geometry matched to it.

I recently turned 69 years young. No stretching or core specific exercises, however I realize that I need to do some of that. Especially the stretching.
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Old 09-24-20, 12:43 PM
  #22  
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I just turned 60 and those years came with a lot of injuries including my neck. Pretty much every bike I have is position 3 except my tour bike which is 4.
Even though I have bikes good enough to race on, Iím not a racer. I have no use for positions 1/2.
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Old 09-24-20, 06:00 PM
  #23  
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I have been riding position 5 now in my fourth year. I probably am a 4.5. I am not a Lea sure rider . I still ride distance. Almost every ride I still do some areo by laying my forearms on the bars and grabbing the bars near the stem. When I ride a road bike now it feels very weird. I especially like wider softer tires. Of course Iím not as fast as I was but I donít care as Iím still on a bike and enjoying it. I am 69 and multiple wrist surgeries force this. Just takes longer to get there. Custom built by me old mountain frame with high end shimano. Nitto stem and bars.Brooks B67.

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Old 09-24-20, 06:49 PM
  #24  
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Does Orders

I am 70 and after a spinal fusion by Drs orders all my bars are at Position 4.
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Old 09-25-20, 09:32 AM
  #25  
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I'm 66 and I set the bar about 1 or 2 inches below the saddle as opposed to 4 inches 30 years ago. I also use shallow drop bars on my main road bike.

Stretching may be beneficial in some ways but some of us are just less flexible as we get older. Some of this is skeletal, as others have said. Old injuries, arthritis, joint pain, etc. I'm still riding a very stiff frame and do have aches and pains after several hours on the road. A lot of the roads around here are in bad shape.
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