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Weird effect of lowering bars by 1 inch.

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Weird effect of lowering bars by 1 inch.

Old 07-31-18, 10:30 PM
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Weird effect of lowering bars by 1 inch.

I flipped the stem of my Giant TCX to the normal downwards position to see whether my flexibility has improved enough to support this position - and was surprised by how different the bike now feels.

The bike is a Giant "medium", which is actually quite small for my 5'9" (176cm) height and 34.5" (870mm) inseam. I've had stems from 90-120mm on this bike in an effort to find the sweet spot and had settled on 100mm (flipped-up) for the last few months. This gave a 6cm saddle to bar drop.

I started to feel a little bit hunched up, and thought an easy experiment would be to flip the stem down (but still with all the spacers), which would give me about 8mm more reach and 23mm more drop. Saddle to bar drop is now roughly 8.5cm.

What struck me immediately is not the bigger drop that caused me to flatten my back, but the fact that it made the bike feel *much* smaller.

More interestingly (to me anyway!) is the fact that my whole body also feels lower to the ground as though the saddle had dropped a couple of cm, even though it has not moved from its 760mm height (BB to trough of saddle).

The bike now almost feels like a toy! The medium size felt a bit small for me to start with (because of my long inseam, which required a higher saddle), but it now feels tiny - even though my position is now probably quite a bit more aero.

I'm wondering whether the lower arm & torso position requires any adjustment to saddle height or angle?

Could the lower bars compromise power output? I feel quite sluggish, but this may just be me getting used to the new position, and I need more time to get results.

Has anyone else had the experience of feeling like you are riding a completely different bike after making a minor fit adjustment?
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Old 08-01-18, 12:36 AM
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I spoke with a pro and 3 x national TT champ about fit vs power. His take, from lots of testing: your muscles need to get accustomed to a new position but your max power output stays pretty flat over a range of positions, with a quick drop off after that.

My only unexpected experience with fit changes is increased comfort with more saddle to bars drop.
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Old 08-01-18, 12:39 AM
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I've done a lot of physical therapy, what most likely happened is you hit the limit where your change in position caused some muscle groups to turn themselves off (when you're down that far). There's a reason why pros limit how far they'll go down for aerodynamics. Go down to far and your body can no longer use major muscles and you lose a lot more power from that, then you gain in aerodynamics.

You'll see some racers taking crazy racer positions going downhill to be as aerodynamic as possible, but they change back to a more normal position the moment they start pedalling.
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Old 08-01-18, 12:43 AM
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Narrow handlebars are also good at making the bike feel "smaller".
The frame is not too small for you. I ride the same bike and am taller than you.
I wouldn't mess around with the saddle position either.
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Old 08-01-18, 01:15 AM
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Most of the racing I did was on a velodrome. I was a speed guy. Back then, sprinters tried to get their bars as low as possible, knees where nearly in contact with the chest. The saddle also was more forward then you might see on a road bike, which I think might be the key to slammed bars; adjusting the riders saddle position slightly forward, allows for a lower position before breathing becomes compromised.
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Old 08-01-18, 03:23 AM
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Iím having a hard time reconciling the bike feelng like a toy with it also being sluggish. Toy suggests playfulness and liveliness, not sluggishness.

Iíd expect that shifting your weight forward and lower on the bike would improve handling and response to body movements; getting your weight centered on the bike I call ďmasteringĒ the bike, where you have optimal positioning for the bike to respond to you: This is where geometry becomes so important and really plain to understand for the road cyclist. MTB is different, because the bike needs to respond to terrain and surface as well, so the riderís relationship to geometry is compromised in the sense that geo also needs serve terrain. But I digress...

I can understand that mastering the bike would make it seem more playful because the rider has more control and response. A slight bend of an elbow, the subtle shift of the hips...small movements elicit a response from the bike; thatís fun, and makes the rider feel more capable and in control. Toy.

The sluggishness part is harder to understand. Maybe,though, being in more of a power position where youíre on top of the pedals, youíre actually riding harder and putting out more power and riding faster than you think, and just fatiguing earlier than you were expecting. Fatigue and sluggishness fit. Do you track your rides at all? Having a power meter would be ideal, but maybe you can see something in HR or speed.

In any case, give yourself a few rides to adapt before making a call on the fit.
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Old 08-01-18, 04:00 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
I'm wondering whether the lower arm & torso position requires any adjustment to saddle height or angle?
Maybe. But I always take several rides over a week before deciding on a change.

Could the lower bars compromise power output? I feel quite sluggish, but this may just be me getting used to the new position, and I need more time to get results.
You might be feeling the difference in the way the hip adductor muscles are working. That's the second difference I notice with any change in bike fit, whether it's saddle height, handlebar/stem height, etc. The first thing I notice is how my neck feels. Due to an old C2 vertebrae injury and more recent shoulder injury, I have a very narrow comfort range. So every adjustment is a compromise between comfort and efficiency.

If my bar is too high, it's superficially comfortable but I'm not getting efficient use of the adductors. If it's too low, I feel cramped between my thighs and torso (I'm about 5 lbs over my optimal weight, not much of a gut). Right now it's just about perfect, about 2" below saddle height. I can't do slammed.

Has anyone else had the experience of feeling like you are riding a completely different bike after making a minor fit adjustment?
Yeah, I can feel even a 1/8" tweak in saddle height, fore/aft, stem height/length, handlebar tilt, etc. But again that's mostly due to the old neck injury and recent shoulder injury.

I read recently that Chris Froome is an ergonomic mess, with an awkward body that fights against his exceptional stamina and cardiovascular capacity. To me he looks like a pterodactyl that swooped down, killed the actual cyclist and stole his bike. His posture is awful. And apparently he needs frequent fit adjustments to be comfortable and avoid injury -- like, daily, if not throughout the day on a ride. Sometimes he prefers the saddle ridiculously low, but it works for him. With his elbows splayed out, head down, knees bowed and legs without normal extension, he defies every bit of conventional wisdom about bike fit.

Do whatever works for you and is comfortable.
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Old 08-01-18, 04:43 AM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler
I flipped the stem of my Giant TCX to the normal downwards position to see whether my flexibility has improved enough to support this position - and was surprised by how different the bike now feels.

The bike is a Giant "medium", which is actually quite small for my 5'9" (176cm) height and 34.5" (870mm) inseam. I've had stems from 90-120mm on this bike in an effort to find the sweet spot and had settled on 100mm (flipped-up) for the last few months. This gave a 6cm saddle to bar drop.

I started to feel a little bit hunched up, and thought an easy experiment would be to flip the stem down (but still with all the spacers), which would give me about 8mm more reach and 23mm more drop. Saddle to bar drop is now roughly 8.5cm.

What struck me immediately is not the bigger drop that caused me to flatten my back, but the fact that it made the bike feel *much* smaller.

More interestingly (to me anyway!) is the fact that my whole body also feels lower to the ground as though the saddle had dropped a couple of cm, even though it has not moved from its 760mm height (BB to trough of saddle).

The bike now almost feels like a toy! The medium size felt a bit small for me to start with (because of my long inseam, which required a higher saddle), but it now feels tiny - even though my position is now probably quite a bit more aero.

I'm wondering whether the lower arm & torso position requires any adjustment to saddle height or angle?

Could the lower bars compromise power output? I feel quite sluggish, but this may just be me getting used to the new position, and I need more time to get results.

Has anyone else had the experience of feeling like you are riding a completely different bike after making a minor fit adjustment?
Yes. Minor fit adjustments (or differences between bikes) can make bikes feel VERY different. I know the feeling of being a LOT lower, too - I've felt like I was crawling on the ground on a bike that felt totally normal the week before - I'm guessing that's more like what you mean by riding on a toy - something child-sized - rather than something fun.

Regarding sluggishness, I'd say yes, you may just need to get used to the new position to get the same or better results, but even if it's more aero and you do start to see better results, I don't think that means it's necessarily a better fit. More than how a bike happens to feel when I get on and start riding along, what makes for an ideal fit, in my book anyhow, is a smooth, natural feeling when transitioning between riding positions - going from cruising along on the hoods, to the drops, getting up on the rivet and sprinting, and riding out of the saddle and sitting back down, and a consistent predictability of handling response throughout the range of positions. Not only do I want to be efficient and feel "right" in each position, I don't want to lose a beat when making any transition, wiggling around "resetting" myself each time.
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Old 08-01-18, 10:14 AM
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I get a substantial drop in power if I get the bars too low.

Could train into it somewhat but the only benefit seems to be possibly looking faster

while actually being slower.
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Old 08-01-18, 11:31 AM
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When I increased my saddle-to-bar drop on my medium-sized Giant without changing the stem length, I had to move my saddle back to not have too much weight on my hands. I'm 5'9" with a 32" inseam.
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Old 08-01-18, 11:32 AM
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I have around 1" variation in saddle/bar drop between some of my bikes. I really don't notice it that much.
Just because the drop changes it doesn't mean your torso angle does. That can stay the same and the variation taken up by the amount you bend your elbows.
See how much more/less you need to bend your arms to move your hands up and down 1". It is hardly anything.
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Old 08-01-18, 01:47 PM
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I don't know what a Giant "Medium" frame equates to in traditional frame size but using the LeMond-Guimard formula, a 34.5" inseam would suggest a 58 cm frame. Ball park of course. If so, I'm guessing your reach is going to be too long in a 58. If a Medium is roughly equal to a 54-55 frame I'm guessing it would feel a bit small to you. For comparison, I'm 5'9" with a 32.5" inseam and ride what is called a "square" frame at 55 ST and 55 TT.
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Old 08-01-18, 01:50 PM
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Just checked the Giant size guide. What a joke. Not even a TT measurement. Good grief.
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Old 08-01-18, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19
Just checked the Giant size guide. What a joke. Not even a TT measurement. Good grief.
Every bike I've looked at on Giant's site has the TT spec'd. Current TCRs are 550mm in medium.
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Old 08-01-18, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by surak
Every bike I've looked at on Giant's site has the TT spec'd. Current TCRs are 550mm in medium.
This is what I saw on the Giant.com site......https://www.giant-bicycles.com/_uplo...frame_size.pdf
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Old 08-01-18, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19
This is what I saw on the Giant.com site......https://www.giant-bicycles.com/_uplo...frame_size.pdf
https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/tcr-advanced-pro-1
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Old 08-01-18, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by surak
Every bike I've looked at on Giant's site has the TT spec'd. Current TCRs are 550mm in medium.
2017 Giant TCX medium has ETT =545mm, but head tube is only 145mm, which makes it feel quite low.

I recall seeing an equivalent frame size on one Giant geometry chart of 52.5 (seat tube length)- which sounds very small to me compared to other manufacturers. Itís not a good measurement of actual frame size IMO - better to use stack and reach.

Had I had more experience, I would have have chosen the M/L size, which is a little closer to a typical 56cm frame. My other bike is a Spec Roubaix in 56cm and this fits well - although I canít get the bars low enough on this bike because of the tall head tube!
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Old 08-01-18, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler


2017 Giant TCX medium has ETT =545mm, but head tube is only 145mm, which makes it feel quite low.

I recall seeing an equivalent frame size on one Giant geometry chart of 52.5 (seat tube length)- which sounds very small to me compared to other manufacturers. Itís not a good measurement of actual frame size IMO - better to use stack and reach.

Had I had more experience, I would have have chosen the M/L size, which is a little closer to a typical 56cm frame. My other bike is a Spec Roubaix in 56cm and this fits well - although I canít get the bars low enough on this bike because of the tall head tube!
Why would you rather a M/L when you are only using a 100mm stem on a M?
On your Roubaix do you have the lowest headset, flat bars, slammed -17 stem and it is still too high? You could still go to a track stem with even more angle.
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Old 08-01-18, 11:19 PM
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Wait... a change to an 8.5cm drop is big? I think my saddle-to-bar drop is about 15cm, and I've got a 35mm stack under the stem.
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Old 08-02-18, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Dean V
Why would you rather a M/L when you are only using a 100mm stem on a M?
On your Roubaix do you have the lowest headset, flat bars, slammed -17 stem and it is still too high? You could still go to a track stem with even more angle.
It sounds odd, I know, but the Medium size just feels small compared to the 56 cm Roubaix. Maybe itís just the slightly shorter top tube and head tube. I tried it with a 120mm stem, and the handling felt wrong - just too slow, and I felt my arms were too far from my torso.

On the Roubaix, the frame feels like itís the right size (100mm stem as well), but even removing the spacers and putting on the 0mm headset top itís a bit high. I could change the bars (they are ďhover barsĒ with 15mm rise) and get a more agressive stem, but itís not such a big problem that I want to spend any money on it :-)
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Old 08-02-18, 02:33 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope
Wait... a change to an 8.5cm drop is big? I think my saddle-to-bar drop is about 15cm, and I've got a 35mm stack under the stem.
Well, itís not big in absolute terms, I know! But itís very noticeable after a 5-6cm drop - makes the whole bike feel lower to the ground.

15cm drop even with 35mm of spacers is pretty significant. What bike & frame size do you have, and how long is your inseam? Sounds very ďproĒ :-)
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Old 08-02-18, 07:31 AM
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My road bike is a 58cm, inseam is about 89.5cm. Torso is... short-ish, I guess, so I end up with frames that need like 22-24cm of seatpost showing to accommodate the spidery legs, and then the bars are way down just in relation to the saddle. I'm running the stem "all the way up," the steerer is uncut.

So I never feel close to the ground, really. The top of the saddle is about 110cm from the floor. If I had gone to a 61cm frame, it would have a nubby short ~90mm stem on it, which would look even weirder than it does now. Sometimes the frame looks tiny to me, then I see someone who rides a 54cm, and mine looks cartoon-like.

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Old 08-02-18, 07:41 AM
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1 in more drop is not a small adjustment. You'll get used to it.

Personally I think it would affect (~1-2 hr) long continuous climb most when my hands are on the bar and in a more upright/relaxed position.
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Old 08-02-18, 08:06 AM
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1 inch is a lot. I used to always be trying to run my bars as low as possible, until I figured out that when I run them low, I just quit using the drops, and am on the hoods and bar tops 95% of the time.

Right now, my bars are maybe 2" lower than the seat. which is optimal, and allows me to make full use of the drops as intended. If I go any lower, I will just find myself abandoning the drops, which is a real tragedy as it deprives me of many useful and comfortable hand positions. So these days I don't bother fighting it.

I have found I like bike with longer head tubes than I used to, Marco Pantani used to like bikes with large headtubes, because it allowed him to do much of his climbing in the drops. I think I'm coming around to this same conclusion.
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Old 08-02-18, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Colnago Mixte
1 inch is a lot. I used to always be trying to run my bars as low as possible, until I figured out that when I run them low, I just quit using the drops, and am on the hoods and bar tops 95% of the time.

Right now, my bars are maybe 2" lower than the seat. which is optimal, and allows me to make full use of the drops as intended. If I go any lower, I will just find myself abandoning the drops, which is a real tragedy as it deprives me of many useful and comfortable hand positions. So these days I don't bother fighting it.

I have found I like bike with longer head tubes than I used to, Marco Pantani used to like bikes with large headtubes, because it allowed him to do much of his climbing in the drops. I think I'm coming around to this same conclusion.
Interesting observations; thanks!
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