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Changing Stem Length to Improve Comfort?

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Changing Stem Length to Improve Comfort?

Old 08-06-16, 01:58 PM
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Changing Stem Length to Improve Comfort?

Hi fellas,

I'm a beginner cyclist, and a several-months lurker here on Bikeforums, and have thus far appreciated reading the more seasoned perspectives (opinions) shared here by many of y'all.

I've recently purchased my first road bike, a french 90's road racing bike made of steel, and have taken it out for rides a handful of times : no longer than an hour of riding at a time.

As this is my first road bike, with no prior sizing knowledge, I decided to go by the sizing guidelines provided by Rivendell Cycles (correct me if i'm wrong, this may be called French Fit).

When I ride my bike, I feel that my arms are quite stretched out when resting on the hoods, and after some fatigue threshold, I exert somewhat of a pressure on my wrist in order to keep a strong hold. Possibly related, I'm also getting those infamous saddle sores even after riding for just 30 minutes.

It seems that the reach could be too long for me, so I have done the two easy adjustments of: setting saddle setback to push the saddle forward , quill stem exposed to maximal level, and yet I still feel it's not 100% dialed in.

The stem is 120mm of length with 100m exposed out the head tube.

As per Rivendell's recommendations, to complete the bike fitting, the reach should be compensated for, by using appropriate stem dimensions.

However, I am beginning to get a little skeptical about this, and so would like to hear your input...

Could swapping the stem with a 100mm length one improve my comfort on the bike? Is it common to dial up stem measurements upon new bike purchases?
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Old 08-06-16, 03:11 PM
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I had similar symptoms and switched from a 110mm to a 90mm, which I found to be a tremendous improvement.

But whatever you do, don't adjust your saddle fore/aft to alter your reach. It just makes things worse. Saddle position is for your legs, stem length/rise is for your arms.
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Old 08-06-16, 04:04 PM
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My experience is that the more I ride, the more I stretch out. I start each season having to reach for the top of the bars; after a couple of hundred miles, the hoods become comfortable, and the drops are semi-comfortable, but without my big gut, the drops would be fine. If you haven't ridden a lot, changing stems now might make you feel cramped in a month.
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Old 08-07-16, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57
My experience is that the more I ride, the more I stretch out. I start each season having to reach for the top of the bars; after a couple of hundred miles, the hoods become comfortable, and the drops are semi-comfortable, but without my big gut, the drops would be fine. If you haven't ridden a lot, changing stems now might make you feel cramped in a month.
I agree with this. The more I ride the more stretched out I prefer but there are way points between positions. Sometime tipping the bar up or down a tiny bit will change comfort. Moving the seat back will reduce weight on hands and wrists which is counter-intuitive. My solution to the myriad possible combinations is to mark up the handlebar and seat post with a white-out pen and commence moving things around. If the change does not work out it is then easy to get back to the previous position. Among all the possible changes, of course is a shorter stem as you have suggested.
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Old 08-08-16, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by tony_blue
The stem is 120mm of length with 100m exposed out the head tube.

As per Rivendell's recommendations, to complete the bike fitting, the reach should be compensated for, by using appropriate stem dimensions.

However, I am beginning to get a little skeptical about this, and so would like to hear your input...

Could swapping the stem with a 100mm length one improve my comfort on the bike? Is it common to dial up stem measurements upon new bike purchases?
OK couple things... few things maybe:120mm stem is a long stem. Stems that long usually come attached to tall bikes. How tall are you? How tall is the bike? And 100mm exposed out of the head tube?? Are you confusing the neight of the stem with the length of the stem? Modern stems have pop top heads and are trivial to swap out and can be obtained fairly cheap from some brands. Ignored by many riders is the reach of the handlebars themselves. The "standard" reach of those classic bend handlebars on the 90's road-bikes was 100mm. The reach of "compact bend" or "ergo bars" from the 20 oughts is around 80mm. Between bars and stems and their careful selection some comfort can be found. As an earlier poster mentioned the riders fitness and/or flexibility are not always static and what isn't comfortable today might become so after some time is spent developing flexibility or fitness.
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Old 08-08-16, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm
OK couple things... few things maybe:120mm stem is a long stem. Stems that long usually come attached to tall bikes. How tall are you? How tall is the bike? And 100mm exposed out of the head tube?? Are you confusing the neight of the stem with the length of the stem? Modern stems have pop top heads and are trivial to swap out and can be obtained fairly cheap from some brands. Ignored by many riders is the reach of the handlebars themselves. The "standard" reach of those classic bend handlebars on the 90's road-bikes was 100mm. The reach of "compact bend" or "ergo bars" from the 20 oughts is around 80mm. Between bars and stems and their careful selection some comfort can be found. As an earlier poster mentioned the riders fitness and/or flexibility are not always static and what isn't comfortable today might become so after some time is spent developing flexibility or fitness.
Hi Leisesturm,

The bike is 57cm bottom bracket to the top of the top tube, is exactly in my 56.5 - 57 recommended frame size range for an 82 PBH measurement at 5'9.5" tall.

I've done some measuring:
top tube is 58cm
handlebar reach 10cm as per your prediction
handlebar width is 42cm for my ~41cm width shoulders, and handlebar drop is 15cm.
quill is exactly as written, length being the horizontal portion of the "7" and height being the vertical.

I can certainly testify not being in shape at ALL after being head-deep in them books for the last two semesters.

[MENTION=348079]philbob57[/MENTION] , [MENTION=195670]berner[/MENTION]
I appreciate the input, and will consider this as I go forward riding this season; but I also heard a contradictory stance that our bodies adapt to any given posture with the best of its ability, which could prove damaging and/or cause pain the more you ride. (don't remember where I heard this one) It makes sense: the more I sit on 'naturally' non-comfortable chairs, the less I find it to bother me.

Tony
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Old 08-08-16, 12:56 PM
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My old Raleigh bought when I was 19 had 120mm stem and I could ride it fine at 19 - I also rode Unicanitor saddles then
7 years ago, I couldn't reach over that stem anymore - was constantly hunting for a comfort spot - and, ala Rivendell, rebuilt it with a moustache cockpit. Went with a 70mm stem for that rebuild - Technomic stem with 160mm exposted quill - and the bike has become my glove and fit benchmark.


A few years after that, built up an Italian road bike, with about the same top tube length, went with a 100mm stem - a Technomic deluxe with about 90mm exposed quill - and for the drop-bar riding position, it works great for me.

Last edited by bulldog1935; 08-09-16 at 06:41 AM.
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Old 08-09-16, 04:09 PM
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The body is amazingly adaptable but there are limits. We come closer to those limits with repetitcious use. For example, even an activity such as typing can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Old 08-10-16, 02:39 PM
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Adjustments are common and your handlebars are probably in the wrong place for you.

At 43 and 5'9.5" on a 55 center-to-top frame with a 55.5cm top tube I switched to a +6 degree 100mm stem (110mm was OK too) from 120mm -17 degrees.

My posture had gotten atrocious in spite of riding over 800 miles a month with some rides over 100 miles.

While you're the same height, your bike is bigger and you ride less.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 08-10-16 at 02:45 PM.
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