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Handlebar/Stem Stiffness

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Handlebar/Stem Stiffness

Old 12-30-09, 05:44 PM
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Handlebar/Stem Stiffness

Since I've been doing some riding on the trainer, I notice that my stem and handlebar system is about as stiff as wet spaghetti. Probably not helpful in transferring power to the road.

Would a stem upgrade, or a handlebar upgrade help with this or do I need to upgrade both? Recommendations?
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Old 12-30-09, 06:13 PM
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If you can flex a stem you're one hell of a strong human!
Possible to feel some flex if you are pulling hard on the bars (especially when climbing) in the drops.
Maybe riding the trainer you are a bit wobbly and moving the whole bike?
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Old 12-30-09, 06:38 PM
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On my new build I noted I could get a good bit of bounce from the bars just by holding on the drops and leaning on them while standing next to the bike. I'm a bit miffed by that as they're a non-cheap set of Deda 215s but I don't plan on replacing them with anything else until I get the bike finished and I can actually ride it.

So yeah, I can easily see someone flexing their bars while riding.

I gotta agree with the stem comment, though.
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Old 12-31-09, 04:53 AM
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I think it's possible to flex both bar and stem. Bar is easier to see, since you can see minor movements easily. Stem movement is harder to see but still significant, since the net effect, out at the drops or hoods, can be substantial.

I also think that having a stiffer stem/bar is usually beneficial for super hard efforts. The difference in just feel is significant. I don't know how much the mechanical efficiency helps with wattage, for example, but there's got to be some benefit. Otherwise we'd be riding the noodly stems of the 80s right now, or the pros would be when it counts.

When tubular steel and tubular aluminum stems came out, they were a huge improvement over the solid stems. Much stiffer. Of course a bunch were recalled, others were noodly, but ultimately they developed to a nice compromise between stiffness and comfort.

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Old 12-31-09, 07:19 AM
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start hanging weights from them and see if you can measure any change it could be in your head? i guess your a pretty big guy?
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Old 12-31-09, 07:23 AM
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Is there any chance you have a loose headset?

Bars have a fair amount of flex, but I suspect you'd trash your bike if you regularly subjected it to forces sufficient to flex the stem much.
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Old 12-31-09, 07:48 AM
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The power loss from the flex between a cheap road bar/stem and a super-stiff setup would scale with the power loss from increased bottom bracket flex, which I feel is ~0 (approximately zero) until I actually see a study on the subject that says otherwise.

I have a bike with a cheap Forte' stem and 25.8mm bars. I can see the flex difference between that and a WCS stem set up with 31.8mm bars, but my out-of-saddle max and 5" power on both setups seems to depend more on how I'm testing that day than which setup I'm using.

The feel difference doesn't matter to me in racing (I'm not really that sensitive to it).
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Old 12-31-09, 08:44 AM
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I think I know what you're talking about and it's probably the wheel and a little bit the fork. An easy check is to see if the front brake gets closer to the rim when you twist the bars.
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Old 12-31-09, 01:13 PM
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Sure you feel more flex on the trainer when the frame is bolted down, but when you are riding it feels fine...

"ride up grades, rather than upgrade, if you want to improve"
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Old 12-31-09, 01:20 PM
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There are wet noodle stems. It feels really weird but you probably won't be losing much power, if any, due to the flex. It does make your steering feel a little disconnected since the stem is twisting around.
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