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Old school check your reach method

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Old school check your reach method

Old 10-30-22, 12:03 PM
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Old school check your reach method

Maybe this would be better posted in the Classic and Vintage forum but in the 80's we used for the starting point to check your reach on a road bike to look down at the handlebar and see it the wheel hub was obscured. If it was then you had a good reach to start with. We had a discussion about this at our bike shop and we can't remember whether this was done when down in the drops or not. Does anyone remember ?
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Old 10-30-22, 03:03 PM
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I have a pretty strong memory that it was in the drops, but I can't remember where I read that. I have 3 old bike books (Glenn, Delong, Custom Bicycle), and they provide 3 different methods.

There were a lot of rules of thumb, though all of them have problems. Flexibility, torso length, arm length, forearm/upper arm length, conditioning, habit, handlebar dimensions - all those and more can impact a rider's best handlebar location.
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Old 10-30-22, 03:23 PM
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For my first good bike in 1870 the shop had me put my forearm with extended fingers between the saddle tip and the back of the bars and declared it a perfect fit. Five foot eleven at the time, I have the torso length of a small woman and long legs and arms and was horribly stretched out on that bike. I had that bike for years and was miserable. Moved down to my tiny wife's bike, with a really long seat post, 25 years later and it was much better.
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Old 10-30-22, 03:27 PM
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One thing I can tell you is I have a custom/pro-fitted bike, and when I am on the hoods, the bars eclipse the front hub. I suspect it would be similar on the drops, since the reach is supposed to be similar (adjusting for angle of attack). However, I think I could change the stem length ± 20mm and it would still work, so it isn't a high-resolution solution. Also, I think it falls into one of those "coincidence" tricks, like KOPS, rather that being based on some fundamental principle of physiology.
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Old 10-30-22, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mdarnton
For my first good bike in 1870 the shop had me put my forearm with extended fingers between the saddle tip and the back of the bars and declared it a perfect fit. Five foot eleven at the time, I have the torso length of a small woman and long legs and arms and was horribly stretched out on that bike. I had that bike for years and was miserable. Moved down to my tiny wife's bike, with a really long seat post, 25 years later and it was much better.
Your fit and cycling has kept you in pretty good health. I wouldn't change a thing
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Old 10-30-22, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax
Your fit and cycling has kept you in pretty good health. I wouldn't change a thing
​​​​​​​Edit: 1970. Yeah, for 173 years old I'm in amazing shape.
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Old 10-30-22, 05:21 PM
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Thanks for the feedback guys.

I kinda remember it was done down in the drops, but it was a long time ago. I checked my vintage 1984 Trek 770 and it blocks the view of the hub when in the drops.

Took it on a spin today and really enjoyed the friction shifting. Don't have the old leather cycling shoes, to go with the clips and straps so I wore low cut tennis shoes.
Now I have to live with the shame.
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Old 10-30-22, 07:10 PM
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I checked on today's ride. Worked both on the hoods and on the drops.
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Old 10-31-22, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by frogman
Maybe this would be better posted in the Classic and Vintage forum but in the 80's we used for the starting point to check your reach on a road bike to look down at the handlebar and see it the wheel hub was obscured. If it was then you had a good reach to start with. We had a discussion about this at our bike shop and we can't remember whether this was done when down in the drops or not. Does anyone remember ?
Done since I started riding, in the 60's, was BS then and is same now.
Depending on how much lean you have in torso, puts view in any place behind, front or inline.
Depending if you bend your elbows...
Depending if you have long arms, short or long torso or whatever...
it's BS

Ride On
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Old 10-31-22, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by mdarnton
​​​​​​​Edit: 1970. Yeah, for 173 years old I'm in amazing shape.
And when you got your wife's bike, you finally had a modern safety bicycle. Huge improvement!

And to the topic, yes, bars hiding the hub is really not a good objective but it does a pretty good job of being right when all else is. And elbow on the seat nose, fingers extended - that is a good quick check (say if you are going for a ride on someone else's bike) once you know how much extra you need beyond your fingers (or fingers beyond the handlebar if you need closer bars). But - important - the seat must be properly located fore and aft for this to work.
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Old 10-31-22, 12:39 PM
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If you've ever watched the TdF, whether back in the 70's when I first started watching or today, you'll see some on bikes with their elbows having a large bend in them and their head extending beyond the bars so there is no way that they can't see the hub. Yet others next to them and on the same team will only have a slight bend in their arms stretching them out more and their handlebars or stem blocking their view of the hub.

So the "wisdom" from the past only applies for some. You might not be one of them if you are having issues with your bike fit.
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Old 11-01-22, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mdarnton
Edit: 1970. Yeah, for 173 years old I'm in amazing shape.
The comment is probably true even if you're 73 now!
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Old 11-03-22, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
And when you got your wife's bike, you finally had a modern safety bicycle. Huge improvement!

And elbow on the seat nose, fingers extended - that is a good quick check (say if you are going for a ride on someone else's bike) once you know how much extra you need beyond your fingers (or fingers beyond the handlebar if you need closer bars).
FOr those with sufficiently long forearms and fingers and handlebars with sufficiently short reach. I first came across this rule in Eugene Sloan's The Complete Book of Bicycling in 1970. It was replete with other gems like keeping the handlebar level with the saddle, raising the saddle to 108% of the inside leg length to the fully extended pedal platform, and getting the largest frame you can comfortably straddle. Sizing and fitting a bike doesn't have to be rocket science, but bikes have changed, fashions have changed, and we've learned a few new things over the last 50 years.
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Old 11-03-22, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by oldbobcat
FOr those with sufficiently long forearms and fingers and handlebars with sufficiently short reach. ...
You missed my "... once you know how much extra you need beyond your fingers (or fingers beyond the handlebar if you need closer bars)." I need about 4" past my fingertips. But once you know that, you can very quickly judge bikes for at least ballpark reach. Obviously you also have to look at the handlebars.
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Old 11-04-22, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
You missed my "... once you know how much extra you need beyond your fingers (or fingers beyond the handlebar if you need closer bars)." I need about 4" past my fingertips. But once you know that, you can very quickly judge bikes for at least ballpark reach. Obviously you also have to look at the handlebars.
Yeah, the elbow to the fingertips makes a pretty good measuring stick. Isn't that a cubit? It just doesnt directly correspond to any relevant measurement on the bike. My reach always went a few cm beyond my cubit, too, and my ape factor is well over 1.0. But if the sum of the virtual top tube plus the stem makes 69-70 cm, depending on the handlebar shape, saddle length, and seat tube angle, it will work for me.
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Old 11-05-22, 10:48 AM
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This is one of those old-school methods which proves that we have moved on somewhat from the 80s.
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Old 12-25-22, 12:43 PM
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This method, even when working correctly for your body, doesn't apply to current bikes because hoods have gotten so much longer. Most good fits today put the handlebar behind the hub to make up for the long hoods.
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Old 12-26-22, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
This method, even when working correctly for your body, doesn't apply to current bikes because hoods have gotten so much longer. Most good fits today put the handlebar behind the hub to make up for the long hoods.
Which indirectly answers the o.p. question, which I believe was, 'where do you do the sighting from, the drops or somewhere else? I belive the 'eyeball the hub' method is done from the hoods, not the drops. That's the way I do it anyway. No, actually I don't. I use the fingertips to the bars (cubit) measurement most usually, and I don't need more than a finger or two beyond a cubit for comfort. The first thing to go on any bike I bought after 55yo, is the 100mm stem it came with. 80mm, even 70mm is just about right.
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Old 12-26-22, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm
Which indirectly answers the o.p. question, which I believe was, 'where do you do the sighting from, the drops or somewhere else? I belive the 'eyeball the hub' method is done from the hoods, not the drops. That's the way I do it anyway. No, actually I don't. I use the fingertips to the bars (cubit) measurement most usually, and I don't need more than a finger or two beyond a cubit for comfort. The first thing to go on any bike I bought after 55yo, is the 100mm stem it came with. 80mm, even 70mm is just about right.
Definitely not.

In the '80s if you used the hoods and eyeballed the drops it might give you a 110 stem length. With current hoods you'd also get about a 110 stem, but your reach will be longer because the hoods are longer. The eyeball and the cubit measure both fail to take the longer hoods into account. Now that everyone deathgrips their hoods all the time, and the hoods are longer than they used to be, stem length has to be shorter to compensate.

When I fit people I'm generally trying to keep a reasonable stem length (not 60mm) while having a comfortable back angle (45 degrees or more to the ground) and not exceeding a shoulder angle of 90 degrees to the upper back/chest with a bit of elbow bend. All of which are negotiable depending on riding style and flexibility, except the 90 degrees which really matter for shoulder comfort.
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Old 01-16-23, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by oldbobcat
Yeah, the elbow to the fingertips makes a pretty good measuring stick. Isn't that a cubit? It just doesnt directly correspond to any relevant measurement on the bike. My reach always went a few cm beyond my cubit, too, and my ape factor is well over 1.0. But if the sum of the virtual top tube plus the stem makes 69-70 cm, depending on the handlebar shape, saddle length, and seat tube angle, it will work for me.
So, the forearm trick, the straight leg with heel on pedal, and possibly the handlebar trick are about as good as carrying a tape measure in your jersey pocket and knowing your numbers? I would say, knowing you saddle setback and angle values are as important.
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Old 01-16-23, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan
I would say, knowing you saddle setback and angle values are as important.
Likewise for handlebar reach and cleat placement. The frame, saddle, stem, and handlebar are a significant investment. Most riders can suss out the other issues after they buy the bike.

Last edited by oldbobcat; 01-16-23 at 12:39 PM.
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