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Making my road bike more nimble questions, need help!

Old 04-14-21, 05:23 PM
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@johnoliva1
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Making my road bike more nimble questions, need help!

Hey guys, Iím an everyday rider, and I have a question for knowledgeable cyclists here that have ridden different frame sizes with different reaches in their day. Hereís my dilemma and question -

I just got a sweet one off litespeed single speed bike thatís a 53cm. Itís a nice tight ride, the bike handles amazingly, itís very responsive and nimble. I love it....

My road bike is a Litespeed ultimate from 96 55cm, with a seemingly long Ibis ti stem and basically Iím more stretched out over my front wheel on this bike and I donít like it compared to the other bike.

My question - if opt for a short cinelli or Nitto quill stem and essentially match the seat to cockpit distances etc, do you guys think the bike will handle more like the single speed?

both bikes have 165mm cranks, and Iím aware that the singlespeed has an oval downtube and clover top tube for strength. The ultimate flexes more, but Iím cool with that for the long hauls, I like it.

If anyone here has experience in bouncing around between 53, 54, and 55cm classics geometry, any advice is greatly appreciated!


The new Litespeed...a Tuscanny single speed? You tell me! Please!
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Old 04-14-21, 07:18 PM
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Generally speaking, from what I have read, I thought that nimbleness (i.e., maneuverability) is largely determined by fork offset and chain stay length, and that stem length is mostly used to adjust fit, with the caveat that if the stem is too short the steering becomes twitchy.
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Old 04-14-21, 08:13 PM
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i think it would come down to your ability no really the parts , the only difference i ever felt was in handle bar width , not stem length !
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Old 04-14-21, 09:29 PM
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OP- nimble feeling mostly comes from the head tube angle coupled with the fork rake, and the chainstay length.

Head tube angle plus fork rake = trail. Lower trail number = a feeling of faster steering and less effort needed to change direction. Higher trail number = a feeling of stability and more effort needed to change direction.
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Old 04-14-21, 09:42 PM
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My '93 Trek 5900 OCLV came with a longish Ibis titanium stem, which I like for the aesthetics and low weight. But it was a bit uncomfortable, due to chronic neck problems from old injuries. I switched from the old conventional drop bar to an FSA Omega Compact, which really helped with comfort. And the handling is great. Unfortunately I had to replace the 1" Ibis stem with a 1-1/8", which doesn't look right to me on that bike.

However I'm about to switch to a Soma Highway One, which has nearly identical dimensions to the FSA Omega, but will work with the original 1" Ibis stem.

The reach is also affected by the brake/brifter hoods. Your Litespeed has old school aero brake hoods which have a bit less reach than most brifters. If I switched my Trek 5900 back to the original setup -- aero brake hoods, downtube shifters -- the reach would be perfect with the older drop bar. But I like the brifters on it now, which means I need to shorten the reach via the drops -- so compact drops with shorter reach work for me, without needing a shorter stem.

I can't say I notice much difference in handling between my three road bikes, which differ slightly in dimensions, ranging from 56 to 58. What I do notice is how handling is affected by reach, especially via the stem. I've tried shorter stems which were superficially more comfortable but felt twitchy on fast curves on rippled and rough pavement. A longer stem felt much more stable. I wouldn't have guessed there'd be that much difference between 90mm and 100 or 110 stem length, but I can really feel the difference on tricky pavement.
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Old 04-14-21, 10:04 PM
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A shorter stem will make the bike feel more nimble, especially at relatively slow speeds. The shorter stem reduces the side-to-side motion of the bars. Also, a shorter reach makes turns more of a upper arm rotating at the shoulder joint rather than an upper back rotation.
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Old 04-15-21, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
A shorter stem will make the bike feel more nimble, especially at relatively slow speeds. The shorter stem reduces the side-to-side motion of the bars. Also, a shorter reach makes turns more of a upper arm rotating at the shoulder joint rather than an upper back rotation.
Agreed. The stem is essentially a lever. The longer the stem, the less force required to move the front wheel...however...the greater the distance the bars will have to move left or right to change the deflection of the wheel. Having said that, as others have pointed out, things like fork rake and wheelbase have to be a part of the equation to determine the overall "nimbleness" of the bike.
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Old 04-15-21, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
Agreed. The stem is essentially a lever. The longer the stem, the less force required to move the front wheel...however...the greater the distance the bars will have to move left or right to change the deflection of the wheel. Having said that, as others have pointed out, things like fork rake and wheelbase have to be a part of the equation to determine the overall "nimbleness" of the bike.
Referring to your second point and some of the posts above, the OP didn't ask us for our opinion on how to build a nimble bike from the ground up, but rather to advise how a bike he owns now could be made more nimble. Instead of the shorter stem, replacing the current fork with one with more offset would make a larger difference. He could measure the offset on the SS and the Ultimate and see if there's any difference.

I once borrowed a friend's road bike for a somewhat technical fast descent. It was way twitchy compared with my Trek. I didn't like that at all! I much prefer a bike that just goes where it's pointed. I didn't take any measurements to try to see where the twitch came from.
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Old 04-15-21, 09:59 AM
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Does the OP want the bike to be just more nimble? Or does the OP want it to be more quick and nimble? If he/she wants it to be more quick and nimble, then get some Vanilla Ice. That will solve the problem.

Now to the serious part. Like the OP I can ride bikes with TTs of 54-58. The 54s will have plenty of seatpost showing and the 58s practically none. Here are my thoughts:
If the SS has a shorter TT and a shorter stem, then your body as a whole is further out towards the front wheel on the SS that on the road bike. I'm 5'8" and around 200lbs. (the weight trends up and down) 31.25 inseam and 72 inch wingspan. Muscular fireplug body(and a gut as well) I much prefer a bike with a 56ish TT/53 or 54 ST/90ish stem over a bike with a 53/54ish TT and a longer stem. The reasons are:
1. The shorter TT/longer stem puts more of my weight forward and affects the feel of the bike. At times, it feels like I have a low/flat front tire or the front brake is dragging, especially when climbing. The longer TT/shorter stem centers my weight more between the 2 axles.
2. There's just more room in the imaginary rectangular box between the seatpost and the handlebars for my arms, legs and body to operate with the longer TT.
3. The shorter stem also gives me quicker steering which I prefer.
I have 9 or 10 vintage steel bikes that I rotate through cycling. Some are 53/54ish ST/56ish TT. Some are 55ish square or 56ish square. All are set up identically with the same 3 measurements.
Front of saddle to middle of stem/handlebars.
Center of BB to center of stem/handlebars.
Center of BB to top of saddle.
They all ride about the same. The only differences are what the different frame geometries produce.(racing frames vs sport/touring frames) The bikes with shorter STs will have more seatpost showing than the others and visa versa.

My advice would be to take some measurements from the bike you like and try to duplicate it on the other bike through stem/seatpost/saddle position manipulation. Then, go from there.

Last edited by seypat; 04-15-21 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 04-15-21, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
My '93 Trek 5900 OCLV came with a longish Ibis titanium stem, which I like for the aesthetics and low weight. But it was a bit uncomfortable, due to chronic neck problems from old injuries. I switched from the old conventional drop bar to an FSA Omega Compact, which really helped with comfort. And the handling is great. Unfortunately I had to replace the 1" Ibis stem with a 1-1/8", which doesn't look right to me on that bike.

However I'm about to switch to a Soma Highway One, which has nearly identical dimensions to the FSA Omega, but will work with the original 1" Ibis stem.

The reach is also affected by the brake/brifter hoods. Your Litespeed has old school aero brake hoods which have a bit less reach than most brifters. If I switched my Trek 5900 back to the original setup -- aero brake hoods, downtube shifters -- the reach would be perfect with the older drop bar. But I like the brifters on it now, which means I need to shorten the reach via the drops -- so compact drops with shorter reach work for me, without needing a shorter stem.

I can't say I notice much difference in handling between my three road bikes, which differ slightly in dimensions, ranging from 56 to 58. What I do notice is how handling is affected by reach, especially via the stem. I've tried shorter stems which were superficially more comfortable but felt twitchy on fast curves on rippled and rough pavement. A longer stem felt much more stable. I wouldn't have guessed there'd be that much difference between 90mm and 100 or 110 stem length, but I can really feel the difference on tricky pavement.
thanks for this. My 94 ultimate has a campy chorus setup, so my shifting is in my levers, so Iím sort of married to that position on the bike. All of my other bikes have twitchy steering and Iím a well versed 20 inch foldy guy from my touring days, so i think Iím gonna start with half the distance of this Ibis. Inapppreciate all of your time here!
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Old 04-15-21, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
A shorter stem will make the bike feel more nimble, especially at relatively slow speeds. The shorter stem reduces the side-to-side motion of the bars. Also, a shorter reach makes turns more of a upper arm rotating at the shoulder joint rather than an upper back rotation.

this is great. Thank you
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Old 04-15-21, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Does the OP want the bike to be just more nimble? Or does the OP want it to be more quick and nimble? If he/she wants it to be more quick and nimble, then get some Vanilla Ice. That will solve the problem.

Now to the serious part. Like the OP I can ride bikes with TTs of 54-58. The 54s will have plenty of seatpost showing and the 58s practically none. Here are my thoughts:
If the SS has a shorter TT and a shorter stem, then your body as a whole is further out towards the front wheel on the SS that on the road bike. I'm 5'8" and around 200lbs. (the weight trends up and down) 31.25 inseam and 72 inch wingspan. Muscular fireplug body(and a gut as well) I much prefer a bike with a 56ish TT/53 or 54 ST/90ish stem over a bike with a 53/54ish TT and a longer stem. The reasons are:
1. The shorter TT/longer stem puts more of my weight forward and affects the feel of the bike. At times, it feels like I have a low/flat front tire or the front brake is dragging, especially when climbing. The longer TT/shorter stem centers my weight more between the 2 axles.
2. There's just more room in the imaginary rectangular box between the seatpost and the handlebars for my arms, legs and body to operate with the longer TT.
3. The shorter stem also gives me quicker steering which I prefer.
I have 9 or 10 vintage steel bikes that I rotate through cycling. Some are 53/54ish ST/56ish TT. Some are 55ish square or 56ish square. All are set up identically with the same 3 measurements.
Front of saddle to middle of stem/handlebars.
Center of BB to center of stem/handlebars.
Center of BB to top of saddle.
They all ride about the same. The only differences are what the different frame geometries produce.(racing frames vs sport/touring frames) The bikes with shorter STs will have more seatpost showing than the others and visa versa.

My advice would be to take some measurements from the bike you like and try to duplicate it on the other bike through stem/seatpost/saddle position manipulation. Then, go from there.
thanks, yeah Iím 215lbs, so I empathize with some of those long stem issues. The word ďnimbleĒ may not be the best way to describe that Iím after quicker steering and feeling less thrown over the whole bike. Gonna do a shorter stem and take it from there. Thx
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Old 04-15-21, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by @johnoliva1 View Post
thanks, yeah Iím 215lbs, so I empathize with some of those long stem issues. The word ďnimbleĒ may not be the best way to describe that Iím after quicker steering and feeling less thrown over the whole bike. Gonna do a shorter stem and take it from there. Thx
Nimble was the perfect word. It gave me a chance to use the Vanilla Ice joke!
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Old 04-15-21, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Referring to your second point and some of the posts above, the OP didn't ask us for our opinion on how to build a nimble bike from the ground up, but rather to advise how a bike he owns now could be made more nimble. Instead of the shorter stem, replacing the current fork with one with more offset would make a larger difference. He could measure the offset on the SS and the Ultimate and see if there's any difference.

I once borrowed a friend's road bike for a somewhat technical fast descent. It was way twitchy compared with my Trek. I didn't like that at all! I much prefer a bike that just goes where it's pointed. I didn't take any measurements to try to see where the twitch came from.
fast descent...thatís a good point. Iím sort of used to twitchy bikes amongst my other ones, so I think Iíll start with a stem thatís half or a little less than half the distance of this one. I know for sure Iím not gonna miss how far this reach is, Iím just curious here to see if steering will be easier, and it seems like it will. I get that my SS is direct chain line, so the torque and ďgetting up to speedĒ will be unmatched, but now that this SS is so quick and allows to me to take tighter turns and bob and weave a bit more, I really want to get my road bike feeling similar. Thx!
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Old 04-15-21, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Toespeas View Post
i think it would come down to your ability no really the parts , the only difference i ever felt was in handle bar width , not stem length !
too bad you canít feel what we feel dude...
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Old 04-15-21, 12:14 PM
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Heres the ultimate - both bikes have 165mm cranks, but the SS has Donnellyís at 28c 100psi (they are kind of soft), and the ultimate has 23c ďall weatherĒ tires. Iím hoping a stem change will make the ultimate feel less like a long stride and more like this quick responsive SS I got.
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Old 04-15-21, 12:16 PM
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Bars are similar....Nitto 38cm classic drops and Scott pilots on the SS. So different clamp sizes.
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Old 04-15-21, 03:42 PM
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Is it just me, or is your saddle a lot farther back on the Ultimate? The seat tube angle is slacker on the Ultimate, and then there's the set back seatpost with the saddle clamped near the front of the rails.
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Old 04-15-21, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Is it just me, or is your saddle a lot farther back on the Ultimate? The seat tube angle is slacker on the Ultimate, and then there's the set back seatpost with the saddle clamped near the front of the rails.
Yep, changing that now. Iím gonna match as much as I can, and swap the stem this week.
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Old 04-15-21, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by @johnoliva1 View Post
Yep, changing that now. Iím gonna match as much as I can, and swap the stem this week.
What I do to match bikes is to stand them up in my kitchen (because the floor in my garage isn't level), with the back wheel against the door to the garage, just barely leaning on the counter so that the handlebars are as close to level as possible. Then I measure all the things like BB center, saddle, bars, etc. from the floor and the door, and then I can compute things like saddle to bar drop, or saddle setback from those. If you know the distance from the wall to the saddle nose, and the distance from the wall to the BB center, you can easily match the setback from bike to bike.
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Old 04-15-21, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
What I do to match bikes is to stand them up in my kitchen (because the floor in my garage isn't level), with the back wheel against the door to the garage, just barely leaning on the counter so that the handlebars are as close to level as possible. Then I measure all the things like BB center, saddle, bars, etc. from the floor and the door, and then I can compute things like saddle to bar drop, or saddle setback from those. If you know the distance from the wall to the saddle nose, and the distance from the wall to the BB center, you can easily match the setback from bike to bike.
good idea, I may have a wall I can trace out as well! Thx
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Old 04-18-21, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by @johnoliva1 View Post
good idea, I may have a wall I can trace out as well! Thx
Do you have the specs for each frame and fork? Could well be a trick of the pictures, but if I had to guess from looking I'd say the SS has a steeper head tube angle.

I get you in wanting the 'nimble' feeling. I just built up an older steel CX race frame with Rival, and it feels AMAZING.
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Old 04-18-21, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Viich View Post
Do you have the specs for each frame and fork? Could well be a trick of the pictures, but if I had to guess from looking I'd say the SS has a steeper head tube angle.

I get you in wanting the 'nimble' feeling. I just built up an older steel CX race frame with Rival, and it feels AMAZING.
short of measuring it all out, the SS is some sort of one off, so there isnít info readily available info. I actually just moved my saddle forward and matched the nose angles and itís much more responsive already. The reach is still farther, but in a ďCadillacĒ kind of way, itís comfortable, and steering is quick enough. Going to do a few hundred more miles on the ultimate with this set up and see if itís holding up to expectations. Thanks everyone except for that one dude lol Cheers, John
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Old 04-19-21, 07:39 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Is it just me, or is your saddle a lot farther back on the Ultimate? The seat tube angle is slacker on the Ultimate, and then there's the set back seatpost with the saddle clamped near the front of the rails.
the issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that the Ultimate seat tube isnít straight. To tuck the rear wheel in and shorten the seat stays, the seat tube essentially curves around the rear wheel, rising almost vertically out of the BB and then slackening off. So, while the seat tube looks pretty slack in the pic, the effective STA - the angle from the BB center to the center of the seat tube at the top tube joint, is probably 72 degrees - steeper than the OPís other bike, which is a version of a Tuscany, I think.
Later iterations of the Ultimate used a straight seat tube with a cutout for the rear wheel
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Old 04-20-21, 12:03 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Litespud View Post
the issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that the Ultimate seat tube isnít straight. To tuck the rear wheel in and shorten the seat stays, the seat tube essentially curves around the rear wheel, rising almost vertically out of the BB and then slackening off. So, while the seat tube looks pretty slack in the pic, the effective STA - the angle from the BB center to the center of the seat tube at the top tube joint, is probably 72 degrees - steeper than the OPís other bike, which is a version of a Tuscany, I think.
Later iterations of the Ultimate used a straight seat tube with a cutout for the rear wheel
nice observations, thank you. I moved my saddle forward and the bike is doing what I hoped. Itís still a few more hairs a ďCadillacĒ than the SS, but itís much better. Prolly keep my stem for the moment and check in with my brain after a few hundred more miles. Cheers!
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