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Old 09-21-11, 05:59 AM   #1
jlstrat
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Bike Stem Size

I have a Litespeed Blue Ridge that I bought used a few years back. I just recently bought a Brooks B-17 and went in to the LBS to have it fitted because I'm doing 100K this Saturday. The guy did the adjustments to the saddle, but suggested that I needed a shorter, higher stem because my elbows were locked and I'm reaching for the brakes. Plus, my shoulders are straining. He's right, but I've been riding this bike this way for three years now, and I'm probably used to it. With this new stem, all the usual stuff about saddle position goes out the window. I can clearly see my front hub, which was obscured by the handlebar before. Just wondering what the typical experience is here. I trust the guy at the shop. I've been dealing with him for years, plus I do feel a lot less back strain this AM.
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Old 09-21-11, 07:32 AM   #2
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It seems that the "bars obscuring the front hub" is not as popular as it once was as a stem-length rule of thumb. I went through an elaborate fitting on my Synapse and they switched me to a longer stem, something I would have never considered doing, having some lower back issues and a core that, though it's stronger than it used to be, is still in need of work (plus the new stem has a higher angle, which helps counter some of that additional length). But after putting a couple of hundred miles on it, I have to say it's working great for me, even though my line of sight has the bars out considerably in front of the hub. So I guess I'd say if the guy seems to know what he's doing, and it seems to be working for you, give it a shot for a reasonable amount of time.
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Old 09-21-11, 08:54 AM   #3
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If you're feeling a bit less back strain, and you concur that your shoulders were straining, and trust the guy, I'd say go with the flow. My first professional fitting was an eye opener, in that, the person doing the fitting said, "If everyone were the same size and build the old myths around fitting would work." He then pointed out how my left leg is a few mms longer than the right, how my right should tends to slope down more when standing straight, how my torso is slightly longer than the "average" person with my inseam measurements, etc. Give the new stem a shot and see what happens.
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Old 09-21-11, 09:31 AM   #4
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I always size my stem so I have about a 50-deg (from horizontal) back angle with a slight bend at the elbows when my hands are on the hoods or the grips for flat bars like on my ATB.

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Old 09-21-11, 01:48 PM   #5
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Both my wife and I have gone longer and lower. I'm riding with the tops of my bars 10cm below the top of the saddle and find it works great for my back. I'm sure it wouldn't work for everybody, but it's working for us.
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Old 09-22-11, 02:28 PM   #6
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Thanks for the info, folks. I've ridden for two days on this stem, about 50 miles, and I can say I like it so far. Much less strain on my back. I got a little psychological reassurance from one of the other guys in the LBS when I called. I told him I had this mind-set that the handle bar had to obscure the hub or something wasn't right. He's probably about my age and he asked, "If it's OK to ask, how old are you?" I told him I was 55. he said that measure/criterion is not as valid for guys over their mid-40s as it is for younger riders. I still have to get used to this stem, but overall I find that my upper body feels more relaxed as I ride.
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Old 09-22-11, 02:43 PM   #7
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First Road bike and I got a stem to bring the bars up to the height of the saddle to ease a back problem. It did help a bit but never cured it. Did a lot of riding that year and I think any easing of the pain was due to building up core strength. 1 year later and I got a new race geometry bike. Frame size was better for fit but the shop put the bars 4" below the saddle. I had my doubts but they sent me out for a ride and 30 minutes later I was back at the shop and they asked what needs changing. "Nothing" was my reply. That shop knew my body better than me and that long low ride position is comfortable. Only problem I had was the neck as looking up that much was straining things. Two things cured it- Building up the core strength again and taking the peak off the helmet I was using.
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