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Did a random bearded hippie just solve my fit/balance problem?

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Did a random bearded hippie just solve my fit/balance problem?

Old 01-17-21, 03:57 PM
  #1  
cormacf
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Did a random bearded hippie just solve my fit/balance problem?

Had a chat with a bike fitter today. Not a fitting, mind you, but a chat when we were both stopped to let a dog walker with a ton of dogs clear off a trail. I mentioned that I have really wonky femurs (super-short for my height—enough to limit my inseam to 30” at 5’10, despite being proportional from the knee down) that have forced me to run short (165mm) cranks and favor some combination of zero offset / steep seat tubes / forward saddle slam. Multiple bike fitters have suggested custom frames (will do so as soon as I can afford it with sloping top tubes (for a bit of standover easing), a 74ish degree seat tube, etc.

My current bike isn’t bad. Lynskey Sportive ML, 73 degree seat tube, zero offset, 165 cranks, etc. My knees thank me (used to have crazy pain after 20 miles when I was overextending, and now I can do 200), BUT, as with almost every bike, I always feel like I’m going to endo in the drops when I’m descending. Always. And I always find myself acting like I’m downhilling on a MTB, feeling way more stable hanging off the back and holding the hoods. I feel a little squirrely in the drops on flat ground, and actually pretty great in them when I’m going uphill (if I happen to grab them to change it up).

On the other hand, I feel super-good descending on any old MTB with any old flat bars—Jones, butterfly, traditional, etc.

I’ve been trying and trying for years to work on my balance issues, even going so far as to start track riding (though not a lot of downhill in a velodrome…). I’ve also tried all sorts of different stems, bar heights, top tube lengths--all the usual tweaks. I still feel like I’m going over the bars when I nose down even a teeny hill. I'm dreading RAMROD this year--not because of the climbing (that's the fun part, and that's just legs and lungs, which I can build), but because on the way down, I'll either be twitchy, nervous, and riding my brakes or I'll be straight up and down like a wind sail.

I mentioned this to the random bike fitter not he trail today and he says “Well, yeah. You need to get up on that bottom bracket because of your femurs, but you have a gorilla torso that’s throwing all sorts of weight forward, even when you’re on the hoods.”

Him: “Mountain bikes with slack-assed head tubes feel good, right?”
Me: “Right”
Him: “And gravel bikes with kinda slack head tubes feel better, too?”
Me: “A little, but unless the drops are super, super shallow, I still won’t use them, and they never feel GOOD when I'm descending."
Him: “If you really WANT drops and you aren’t going to be racing, look into some high-stack sub-70 degree head tube bikes like a Sutra to get your weight more balanced—or anything else that throws the wheel way the off out in front of you so you aren't totally throwing off the bike's balance."
Me: “Makes sense. Probably why I liked my low-trail Rawland?”
Him: “Yeah. Same deal. Like pushing a shopping cart.
Me: Thanks!
Him: "Any time. Also, stay away from crits. "

It sounds so simple that I want to believe it. Could my balance issues when descending (which don’t exist on a hardtail) just be because I’m tossing my weight so far forward because of my short femurs?
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Old 01-17-21, 05:46 PM
  #2  
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Sounds good....
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Old 01-17-21, 06:57 PM
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RAMROD is still very iffy. We're starting discussions next month about this year's. If the vaccine program weren't FUBAR, it should have been possible. But . . .Can only have vaccinated riders and volunteers and AFAIK the country won't be issuing vaccination passports like others are doing. So we won't know who is and who isn't without documentation.

And yes, that sounds like the solution. I love the descents and especially those last 35 gradual downhill miles.
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Old 01-17-21, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
favor some combination of zero offset / steep seat tubes / forward saddle slam. Multiple bike fitters have suggested custom frames (will do so as soon as I can afford it with sloping top tubes (for a bit of standover easing), a 74ish degree seat tube, etc
.........
BUT, as with almost every bike, I always feel like I’m going to endo in the drops when I’m descending. Always. And I always find myself acting like I’m downhilling on a MTB, feeling way more stable hanging off the back and holding the hoods
I think you or your fitter used the KOPS (Knee Over Pedal) method to adjust your saddle fore and aft position.

KOPS might NOT be the best for you.

Since you have short femur, you'll have proportionally longer torso and your weight distribution will be towards your torso. This will put your COG closer to the front wheel and more weight on your hands. KOPS can make it worse. This is why you feel like you might do an endo.

Try COG (Steve Hogg's) method in setting your saddle fore and aft position and see if that improves your comfort and stability on the bike:

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...or-road-bikes/

If the saddle fore and aft position is correctly set, you'll be able to do this (8:27) of video without any sensation of sliding forward nor backward on the saddle (with the saddle tilt and height set to your preference and fit)

Go to 8:27 of video. This video is also good for setting your setback to fix stability on bike:

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Old 01-18-21, 10:47 AM
  #5  
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I know people over 6 feet tall that only have 30" inseam. So don't feel you have stumpy legs.

Not sure I quite understand everything yet since I haven't had all my morning coffee. However if your normal riding position is somewhat more upright than a normal rider on a drop handlebar bike will be, then yes, moving the rear wheel more under you might do something for you. This means getting a seat post with more setback or a frame with more acute seat tube angle which also has the effect of moving the bb further forward. And that is the geometry of a leisure bike or cruiser style frame, IMO.

If cycling causes you pain in your knees the number one reason in my opinion is that you ride too often in too high a gear that requires too much effort to pedal. Pedaling should be easy for most any time you are riding. Even on a single speed track bike you slowly and easily work yourself up to the maximum speed you want to obtain. If you are trying to make yourself rapidly get to a certain speed on a track bike or simply fail to recognize you need to shift to a lower gear on a road bike, you risk knee pain.

No proper fit is ever going to fix knee issues from pushing too high a gear. IMHO.

As for balance issues... balance how? you talking about no hands riding or simply how much weight is on your hands and wrists?

Last edited by Iride01; 01-18-21 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 01-18-21, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
As for balance issues... balance how? you talking about no hands riding or simply how much weight is on your hands and wrists?
He seems being pushed forward excessively because he feels much better uphill when the riding position shifts to the rear (read below).

You are correct to suggest increasing setback (and using frames with shallower seat tube angle in the future). The problem is when fitters or even riders blindly subscribe to KOPS (knee over pedal setback) which really isn't good for everyone. Tilting the saddle up won't stop the forward pressure and might only cause excessive perineum pressure.

Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
I feel a little squirrely in the drops on flat ground, and actually pretty great in them when I’m going uphill (if I happen to grab them to change it up).
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Old 01-18-21, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
Had a chat with a bike fitter today. Not a fitting, mind you, but a chat when we were both stopped to let a dog walker with a ton of dogs clear off a trail. I mentioned that I have really wonky femurs (super-short for my height—enough to limit my inseam to 30” at 5’10, despite being proportional from the knee down) that have forced me to run short (165mm) cranks and favor some combination of zero offset / steep seat tubes / forward saddle slam. Multiple bike fitters have suggested custom frames (will do so as soon as I can afford it with sloping top tubes (for a bit of standover easing), a 74ish degree seat tube, etc.

My current bike isn’t bad. Lynskey Sportive ML, 73 degree seat tube, zero offset, 165 cranks, etc. My knees thank me (used to have crazy pain after 20 miles when I was overextending, and now I can do 200), BUT, as with almost every bike, I always feel like I’m going to endo in the drops when I’m descending. Always. And I always find myself acting like I’m downhilling on a MTB, feeling way more stable hanging off the back and holding the hoods. I feel a little squirrely in the drops on flat ground, and actually pretty great in them when I’m going uphill (if I happen to grab them to change it up).

On the other hand, I feel super-good descending on any old MTB with any old flat bars—Jones, butterfly, traditional, etc.

I’ve been trying and trying for years to work on my balance issues, even going so far as to start track riding (though not a lot of downhill in a velodrome…). I’ve also tried all sorts of different stems, bar heights, top tube lengths--all the usual tweaks. I still feel like I’m going over the bars when I nose down even a teeny hill. I'm dreading RAMROD this year--not because of the climbing (that's the fun part, and that's just legs and lungs, which I can build), but because on the way down, I'll either be twitchy, nervous, and riding my brakes or I'll be straight up and down like a wind sail.

I mentioned this to the random bike fitter not he trail today and he says “Well, yeah. You need to get up on that bottom bracket because of your femurs, but you have a gorilla torso that’s throwing all sorts of weight forward, even when you’re on the hoods.”

Him: “Mountain bikes with slack-assed head tubes feel good, right?”
Me: “Right”
Him: “And gravel bikes with kinda slack head tubes feel better, too?”
Me: “A little, but unless the drops are super, super shallow, I still won’t use them, and they never feel GOOD when I'm descending."
Him: “If you really WANT drops and you aren’t going to be racing, look into some high-stack sub-70 degree head tube bikes like a Sutra to get your weight more balanced—or anything else that throws the wheel way the off out in front of you so you aren't totally throwing off the bike's balance."
Me: “Makes sense. Probably why I liked my low-trail Rawland?”
Him: “Yeah. Same deal. Like pushing a shopping cart.
Me: Thanks!
Him: "Any time. Also, stay away from crits. "

It sounds so simple that I want to believe it. Could my balance issues when descending (which don’t exist on a hardtail) just be because I’m tossing my weight so far forward because of my short femurs?
I read your post with zero expectations. I am the same height with even slightly shorter legs (although as far as I am aware, my femurs are not disproportional). I have the same sensations on downhills. I always just attributed it to personal failings and paranoia. Unfortunately I don't think the answer will be quite so simple, at least in my case.
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Old 01-18-21, 10:31 PM
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cormac, good post. I have a very different body type from you but I can relate to your issues. And like you, I have a choice on many non-customs of getting good weight balance on the bike or getting good position for riding comfort and power. (I'm a daddy long legs spider. Short torso, limbs that go forever.)

I like that guys advice of shallow head tube bikes. Really, I think that adds up to long "front center" for you. Front center is the horizontal distance from the bottom bracket to the front hub. It's also about getting your weight back relative to the wheels, but; as you are understanding, pushing yourself back to get good bike balance doesn't make for good riding position for some of us.

You might try measuring the BB to hub distances on your various bikes. When you go to look at a new bike or frame, bring a tape measure. Or calculate the front center from the specs. (Wheelbase minus chainstay length will get you pretty close.)

My two challenges are weight balance, much like yours only less extreme, and finding sufficient reach. I go to the specs or take a tape measure, then draw up that frame on my CAD program; laying it on top of my others. Is the weight balance OK? Does it require a non-stock stem I do not have on hand? Not exactly your issue, but I get it. If I were you, I"d keep on playing with your current bike to get the position that "is to die for" forgetting about handling. Do the homework to find the front center you like. Now look for the bike with that front center that allows that fit. (It might look odd. That's not your issue, just that of the beholder.)

I love seeing people with unusual bodies on unusual bikes that fit and work!
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Old 01-19-21, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
Could my balance issues when descending (which don’t exist on a hardtail) just be because I’m tossing my weight so far forward because of my short femurs?
A forward fit puts your weight forward, yes.

This is the same reason that TT/Tri bikes tend to have long front-centers. When aerobars first came about in the 1980s, and triathletes were attempting super-forward fits on road frames, they had a tendency to feel squirrely and like they were "out over the front wheel." Designing the bikes with the front wheel farther forward solves this.

Mountain bikes are a bit different: MTB fits aren't generally more forward than road fits, but mountain biking creates a lot of situations (due to its technicality and steep descents) where it's much harder to keep your weight comfortably behind the front-end than road cycling does. So, mountain bikes tend to have very long front-center.

A shallow headtube angle can be used to create a long front-center, but it affects steering geometry as well (along with fork offset). Frame reach also contributes to front-center.
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Old 01-19-21, 12:10 PM
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I'm changing my mind. I think my post 3 was too quickly done. Post 4 is correct. I also have short legs. I use a 30mm setback post and have my saddle back a little past the midpoint in the rails. And it could be further back. I still have a 90mm stem to get proper reach. I bomb descents, no fear. Balance on the bike is the key to good handling.
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Old 01-20-21, 04:31 AM
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Sounds like you just need the saddle slightly more to the back (and also lower to compensate) until you're stable on the bike. My legs aren't very long either, I can lose or achieve stability over the front wheel by sliding the saddle forward or back on a slightly setback post, if I moved to a straight seatpost, I'd probably have to clamp it pretty far back. Of course a big change might require a shorter stem to compensate for increased reach.

Bikes with a longer front-center (that's a measurement from the BB to the center of the front wheel) are also helpful if you prefer / want more forward saddle position, As Htupolev mentions, TT bikes have the front wheel further in front to accomodate for a pretty forward saddle.
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