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Methods to figure out saddle to handle bar distance / Reach

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Methods to figure out saddle to handle bar distance / Reach

Old 08-10-16, 08:33 AM
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Methods to figure out saddle to handle bar distance / Reach

Hi ,

Question , Is there any reliable way to get a ballpark estimate of how far the handlebars (drops) should be from the nose of the saddle or how long the stem should be on a road bike ?

Saddle height and fore aft I can figure out with a plumb line for KOPS and the inseam method but I'm still struggling to get the reach figured out .

Thanks for any advice ,

J
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Old 08-10-16, 09:42 AM
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Seatposts have quick release clamps for height adjustment, and saddles have rails for fore/aft adjustment, but stems are pretty static. That's a pity. Even so called "adjustable" stems are only adjustable in the vertical plane when what a rider really wants is the same fore/aft adjustability that saddles provide. What works for me is to use my cubit measurement (elbow to fingertip) as a guide. With a normal men's saddle (~10.5") a saddle to back of handlebar flats distance that is equal to my cubit distance works with 100mm classic bend handlebars to provide an athletic fit for fast weekend riding. With 80mm reach compact bend bars the same stem (80mm) provides a reach that can work for commuting. I would expect a male rider on a properly sized bike to need a stem around 100mm. If you need much more than that you likely have the experience and/or guidance experts informing your choices. The first thing I do when I get any older bike is to replace its stem with one that allows for swapping stems without having to remove bar tape or brakes, shifters, etc. Deda Elementi stems have 22.2mm quills that fit older steel frames but have two bolt clamps so you can change them in 20mm increments if you need. They are $50 though. A collection will be pricey. Salsa and Dimension stems fit modern threadless headsets, they have the "pop top" clamps normal on modern stems for easy swaps, and are available in 10mm increments and a variety of angles and are under $20 each. FWIW. Experiment. Find what works. Sell what you don't need on Craigslist. Or keep them around, you never know...
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Old 08-10-16, 10:19 AM
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You start by getting your saddle position correct. KOPS is a good starting point, but from there tune the fore-and-aft position for balance: while riding down the road in a low position, you should be able to briefly take both hands off the bars without sliding forward on the saddle. If you slide forward, move the saddle back. If your hands feel too light, move it forward. Most people need a setback seatpost to achieve proper balance. KOPS is merely a first approximation. Balance rules.

Then worry about the stem length. A simple method is to ride hands on hoods or hooks, forearms more-or-less horizontal. Your elbows should be in front of your knees by 1 to 4 cm. That will produce the normal stretch for a comfortable yet fast road position. Another way to evaluate reach is to position yourself while looking in a large mirror. With your back as straight as you can get it, your upper arms should make a 90° angle with your torso when your elbows are bent throughout the range of hood and drops positions.

If you can't achieve these positions with normal length stems and saddle rails, then your bike is probably the wrong size for you.
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