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Will a longer stem reduce hand pressure?

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Will a longer stem reduce hand pressure?

Old 06-13-17, 04:54 AM
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johngwheeler
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Will a longer stem reduce hand pressure?

I've been experimenting with various aspects of bike fit on a Giant medium frame, which may be a little of the small side for me (5'10 / 178cm tall).

One of my problems is feeling that I have a bit too much pressure on my hands when on the hoods. Part of this is lack of core strength, but some of it is due to simply having too much of my body weight in a forward position.

I've moved the saddle back as far as it can go, and as an experiment I scooted back so my backside was hanging over the end of the saddle. I immediately felt less weight on my hands - but of course the position is impractical. I was wondering whether getting a longer stem would have the same effect? I currently have a 9cm stem, so was thinking of trying an 11cm.

Am I likely to notice much of difference in comfort or handling with a 2cm stem length difference?

Thanks for any advice!

John
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Old 06-13-17, 05:16 AM
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brianmcg123
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If the bike is too small, you probably have a lot of saddle to bar drop. If you get a longer stem, I would also get one with more rise to it, i.e. 17 degrees. That will raise the bars a couple of centimeters and take some pressure off.
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Old 06-13-17, 05:22 AM
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A 2cm difference will produce a notable difference. At 5' 10" on a medium, I'm inclined to think you might want to go even longer (120cm). Also be sure that your saddle is level or even slightly nose up to prevent you from sliding forward and causing additional weight on your hands. One more thing to check is your handlebar rotation. If your hoods are angled down, you'll be trying to grip tightly to avoid sliding forward and this will get tiresome quickly. Handlebars can slip in the stem clamp and wind up at all sorts of wonky angles, and some people set them up that way for reasons unbeknownst to me. With modern shifters, most aim for a flat transition from the tops of the handlebars to the grips on the shifters. You may need to slide the shifters on the bars to achieve this, and depending on how much you need to move them it could require removing the bar tape.

Start with the stem, though, as you likely will benefit from something longer than 90cm. I'm 5' 8.5" and on most 'medium' size frames would use a 100mm stem.
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Old 06-13-17, 05:49 AM
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Here's the thing - if your current stem is too short, it can absolutely fix the issue you describe...by allowing your arms to be more bent and in a proper position more of the time.
If you've already got the proper reach, then logic dictates it could do the exact opposite.
Either way, it wouldn't be a hard thing to try.
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Old 06-13-17, 06:15 AM
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Thanks for the answers. I do indeed have a bit more saddle-to-bar drop so getting a stem that raises the bars a bit would be welcome.

It sounds like a 110-120mm might fix my issue if my reach is currently too short. It's definitely worth a go. I've tried all sorts of variations of saddle position and height and can't get comfortable, so the stem is probably the next thing to look at.

My gut feeling is that even if I am a bit more stretched out, I will probably be more comfortable in general, not to mention more aerodynamic.

John
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Old 06-13-17, 06:32 AM
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Regarding handling, I did the exact same thing, switched from a 90mm stem to a 110mm stem. Not only do I feel less cramped, but I noticed that I feel more confident in descending, since I feel like the linger stem takes away some twitchiness. (I'm 5'9"...on a size 54 frame)
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Old 06-13-17, 06:34 AM
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Here is a good comparison tool to plug some numbers in and play.

Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net
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Old 06-13-17, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
I've moved the saddle back as far as it can go, and as an experiment I scooted back so my backside was hanging over the end of the saddle. I immediately felt less weight on my hands - but of course the position is impractical.
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that have to do more with the butt to bottom bracket relationship, as opposed to saddle to bars distance? As in, I do not think a longer stem will have the same effect than the little experiment you did. Do you have a seatpost with setback? If not, one of those could do the trick. Maybe. I am not a fit expert.

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...or-road-bikes/
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Old 06-13-17, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
Regarding handling, I did the exact same thing, switched from a 90mm stem to a 110mm stem. Not only do I feel less cramped, but I noticed that I feel more confident in descending, since I feel like the linger stem takes away some twitchiness. (I'm 5'9"...on a size 54 frame)
That's good to hear. I also find my bike (with 90mm stem) a bit twitchy, and would welcome slightly more sedate steering.
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Old 06-13-17, 06:55 AM
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Saddle position should be set based on leg length and position relative to the BB. It should not be used to adjust handlebar reach.
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Old 06-13-17, 06:59 AM
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First things first, put your saddle where it needs to be relative to your BB/pedals; don't try to address reach issues with your saddle or you're going to be chasing fit problems in circles. Address fit in the order of feet, then hips, then hands. Your feet are connected to the pedals - put the cleats where they keep your feet happy. Position your hips such that you get the right amount of extension and a firm platform from which to pedal. Position your hands such that you have a sustainable position that provides control.

As far as a longer stem and hand pressure, I would think that going longer isn't going to help and may make things worse. You're experiencing hand pressure because you're not supporting your upper body with your core - your body needs to be more upright, which usually means moving your hand position either up or in, not moving it out or down. This isn't to say that you don't need a longer stem - you very well might - but I don't think that too short of a stem is what's causing your upper body support problems.

Is your steerer already cut or do you have room to put spacers under the stem to move it up a bit? Before buying anything, this would be the first thing I'd try (assuming you've got saddle tilt correct, as JoeJack mentioned above).
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Old 06-13-17, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by PepeM View Post
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that have to do more with the butt to bottom bracket relationship, as opposed to saddle to bars distance? As in, I do not think a longer stem will have the same effect than the little experiment you did. Do you have a seatpost with setback? If not, one of those could do the trick. Maybe. I am not a fit expert.

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...or-road-bikes/
This is a good observation. Yes, clearly I was changing the saddle to BB relationship, but I wasn't pedalling, so I'm not sure how much difference these really makes. If I imagined myself sitting on the saddle normally, but having my hands 2-3cm further forward, I would expect the feeling to the same of very similar. I understand that my feet would be more directly under the saddle when sitting normally so the result might be slightly different in feeling.

My seat post doesn't have a set back, but I may need to consider one in addition to / or instead of a longer stem.

Thanks for your input.
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Old 06-13-17, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
My seat post doesn't have a set back, but I may need to consider one in addition to / or instead of a longer stem.
What frame do you have? I don't recall seeing any Giant road bikes with a stock zero-offset post.
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Old 06-13-17, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
This is a good observation. Yes, clearly I was changing the saddle to BB relationship, but I wasn't pedalling, so I'm not sure how much difference these really makes. If I imagined myself sitting on the saddle normally, but having my hands 2-3cm further forward, I would expect the feeling to the same of very similar. I understand that my feet would be more directly under the saddle when sitting normally so the result might be slightly different in feeling.

My seat post doesn't have a set back, but I may need to consider one in addition to / or instead of a longer stem.

Thanks for your input.
@PepeM is right.

Hand pressure is caused by the center of mass being too far forward relative to the pedals. Excessive seat slope can also contribute.

Pedaling harder mitigates this by shifting the fulcrum of balance more forward (from seat towards pedals).

A stronger core helps if you're pedaling harder already.

Get a setback seat post.
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Old 06-13-17, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
That's good to hear. I also find my bike (with 90mm stem) a bit twitchy, and would welcome slightly more sedate steering.
To clarify, I agree with others that too much weight on the hands is likely caused by your seat needing to be further back, or core strength, or both.

However, an easy way to test is to ride with your palms cupped over the hoods for a bit and see if the extra stretching out feels better or worse.
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Old 06-13-17, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Saddle position should be set based on leg length and position relative to the BB. It should not be used to adjust handlebar reach.
^^^This.

When the leg is at 90 degrees front of knee cap should be in line with center of pedal.
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Old 06-13-17, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
This is a good observation. Yes, clearly I was changing the saddle to BB relationship, but I wasn't pedalling, so I'm not sure how much difference these really makes. If I imagined myself sitting on the saddle normally, but having my hands 2-3cm further forward, I would expect the feeling to the same of very similar. I understand that my feet would be more directly under the saddle when sitting normally so the result might be slightly different in feeling.

My seat post doesn't have a set back, but I may need to consider one in addition to / or instead of a longer stem.

Thanks for your input.
Yep, I think @PepeM is right on point with this. Take a look at this article by Peter White -- the whole thing is worth a read, but the section on 'saddle fore/aft' is especially germane to your issue.

How to Fit a Bicycle
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Old 06-13-17, 12:05 PM
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My take, based entirely on my experience with ~200,000 miles of road riding, the vast majority after I happened on a bike with near perfect fit: Seat to BB relationship overrides everything else and should be as "right" as you can get it before looking at the handlebars. (Granted, that's a tough one as you have to put the handlebars somewhere to ride the bike to evaluate the seat and its location make a big difference.) There are lots of "rules" for seat height and setback. Many are worth more than the ink it takes to print them and work for many people. But they are a little like saying "men are 6 feet 0 inches, I can show you 253,345,321 examples of men who verify this rule."

I have a "sacred" BB to seat relationship of a length and saddle tilt. I rotate this relationship a little depending on the bivke and its intended usage, back to a more "cruiser" ride, forward for my faster bikes, forward more for my fix gears. (I might be spending an hour or two going upwind with no lower gear to "hide" in.) I also have a lean forward and arm extension that feels best. So once I get my seat located, I know where the bars should be.

Now the seat "rotation" about the BBB dictates how much weight will be on my hands. Quite a bit on my fix gears. To make those bikes comfortable, I have to pay far more attention to detail on the handlebar position and brake lever details (lever type and size, position on the handlebars, even that I have them properly "toed-in".

When I set up a bike, especially my faster bikes, I ride them initially with no bar tape. Just the cables electrical taped. I bring all the bar, stem and brake lever wrenches and stop anytime things don't feel perfect and tweak. Then cloth tape goes on. Cloth because I can unwrap it, tweak the levers and rewrap as many times as I need to.

I have never heard this from anywhere, but I find I need to ride with my brake levers near the 40 year old "old-school" position of horizontal from the apex of the drop curve. Any angle up at all and I start getting numbness in my palms triggered when I am riding out of the saddle but staying numb long after. So my bikes look universally "wrong" by the modern look, but my hands are happy. (The last bike I set up, I was having this issue, mostly in my right hand. Measured up my levers. Right was significantly higher than the left. Evened them out and dropped both roughly the distance the two had differed. Went to a ride with a 700' climb, about 2/3s out of the saddle. No issues at all. I think this bike is dialed in but the cloth tape stays on until it is shot. If I have no more issues, time to put on the good stuff!)

Not an answer to your question, but maybe food for thought.

Ben
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Old 06-13-17, 12:10 PM
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You might want to check into some Ergon Grips
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Old 06-13-17, 02:05 PM
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All above about saddle-BB relationship being correct, it's also true that as one increases lever arm, force to provide a given torque decreases. Thus yes, a longer stem also reduces hand pressure. A good metric for reach is to have ~90° angle between upper arm and upper torso.
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Old 06-13-17, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
What frame do you have? I don't recall seeing any Giant road bikes with a stock zero-offset post.
The bike is a Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2; it probably does have some setback, but it's not very extreme.

Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
To clarify, I agree with others that too much weight on the hands is likely caused by your seat needing to be further back, or core strength, or both.

However, an easy way to test is to ride with your palms cupped over the hoods for a bit and see if the extra stretching out feels better or worse.
That's a good test; I'll give it a go on my trainer.

Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Saddle position should be set based on leg length and position relative to the BB. It should not be used to adjust handlebar reach.
Yes, I realise this, but I'm also trying to find a saddle position that allows me to balance my upper body without significant support from my arms. I need to at least touch the bars to determine this, but I'll make the reach adjustment by moving the bars, not the saddle.

Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
First things first, put your saddle where it needs to be relative to your BB/pedals; don't try to address reach issues with your saddle or you're going to be chasing fit problems in circles. Address fit in the order of feet, then hips, then hands. Your feet are connected to the pedals - put the cleats where they keep your feet happy. Position your hips such that you get the right amount of extension and a firm platform from which to pedal. Position your hands such that you have a sustainable position that provides control.

As far as a longer stem and hand pressure, I would think that going longer isn't going to help and may make things worse. You're experiencing hand pressure because you're not supporting your upper body with your core - your body needs to be more upright, which usually means moving your hand position either up or in, not moving it out or down. This isn't to say that you don't need a longer stem - you very well might - but I don't think that too short of a stem is what's causing your upper body support problems.

Is your steerer already cut or do you have room to put spacers under the stem to move it up a bit? Before buying anything, this would be the first thing I'd try (assuming you've got saddle tilt correct, as JoeJack mentioned above).
Good advice about not moving the seat and chasing adjustments. However, I'm not sure that moving forward and getting more upright is the solution for me. I tried this earlier, but because my bars are still at least 5-6cm below the saddle, I ended up just putting more weight onto my hands when I moved forward. My gut feeling is that moving my weight backwards will lessen the weight - as long as I don't compromise peddling position and power.

I'd ideally like the bars to be higher, but I've used all the spacers and flipped the stem already. As I experiment, I've rotated the bars upward a bit, but haven't tried riding it like this yet. It may well result in an unnatural wrist position. Maybe a stem with a more extreme upwards angle would gain a couple of cm?
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Old 06-13-17, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
Yep, I think @PepeM is right on point with this. Take a look at this article by Peter White -- the whole thing is worth a read, but the section on 'saddle fore/aft' is especially germane to your issue.

How to Fit a Bicycle
That's a good article. Thanks!

One thing I've noticed when I used an iPhone bike fitting app that analyses still frames of your position, it that my upper arm to torso angle was quite steep (73 degrees, IIRC). If I stretch out a bit more (either moving saddle back or longer stem, or both) then that angle should get closer to the recommended 90 degrees.
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Old 06-13-17, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
All above about saddle-BB relationship being correct, it's also true that as one increases lever arm, force to provide a given torque decreases. Thus yes, a longer stem also reduces hand pressure. A good metric for reach is to have ~90° angle between upper arm and upper torso.
I'm still uncertain of the best way to determine saddle fore-aft position.

I have used KOPS as a starting point, but have also read that it's really your balance point that's the important thing. The actual position of the saddle with respect to the BB is determined by the combination of factors such as length (femur) length, torso and arm length.

It's all a bit confusing for a newbie!
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Old 06-13-17, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
The bike is a Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2; it probably does have some setback, but it's not very extreme.
That looks like the same seat post that's on the Defy, which I didn't buy because it doesn't have a zero-offset option. IIRC, that post has rails/cradle that allows you to switch between different offset positions, something like -10cm in the forward position and -30cm in the back. Between the possible offset of the post and moving the saddle back while still remaining within the clamping area of the rails, you should have enough offset.

Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
Good advice about not moving the seat and chasing adjustments. However, I'm not sure that moving forward and getting more upright is the solution for me. I tried this earlier, but because my bars are still at least 5-6cm below the saddle, I ended up just putting more weight onto my hands when I moved forward. My gut feeling is that moving my weight backwards will lessen the weight - as long as I don't compromise peddling position and power.

I'd ideally like the bars to be higher, but I've used all the spacers and flipped the stem already. As I experiment, I've rotated the bars upward a bit, but haven't tried riding it like this yet. It may well result in an unnatural wrist position. Maybe a stem with a more extreme upwards angle would gain a couple of cm?
I'm not telling you that you need to move forward, I don't know what your need w/r/t your BB (honestly, at this point I'd just use KOPS as a starting point so that you're not making stem/bar adjustments based on some WAG of a saddle position), but you either have a saddle that's tilted nose down or you're too bent over for your core strength. If you don't have any adjustment left, as far as the stem and spacers are concerned, you could get a 17° of the right length once you have your saddle position in the right ballpark.
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Old 06-13-17, 11:45 PM
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A longer stem helped me. It is easy to try and not so expensive if you picked up a used one.
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