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Longer Stem or Longer Reach Bars?

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Longer Stem or Longer Reach Bars?

Old 09-07-13, 08:28 PM
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Longer Stem or Longer Reach Bars?

Any advice/perspective on whether its better to get a longer stem or longer reach bars to extend the cockpit? Not trying to go super long or anything. Considerations are a stem between 90 and 110, bar reach between 70 and 85ish. Thoughts?
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Old 09-07-13, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by goatalope
Any advice/perspective on whether its better to get a longer stem or longer reach bars to extend the cockpit? Not trying to go super long or anything. Considerations are a stem between 90 and 110, bar reach between 70 and 85ish. Thoughts?
I think the bike will handle the same either way, a 110 stem is preferred by many custom builders, I would start their, If I was considering such a change.
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Old 09-07-13, 08:57 PM
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Do you like the current top & drop positions? Longer reach will move the hoods forward, but keep the tops and drops in basically the same place. Stem moves the whole assembly.
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Old 09-08-13, 04:33 AM
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I've been dealing with this while trying to find usable bars for me that aren't 20 years old.

What you should consider is your overall reach over the front wheel. If you're not that extended over the front wheel, and you can deal with a couple cm more reach to the tops, then I'd get the longer stem and compact bars. This puts your weight over the front wheel a bit more when on the tops, leading to additional stability at speeds higher than a walking pace. When I dive into a turn I'm actually as forward as I can be on the bike to really plant the front wheel. This gives me more control in a turn. Granted you should be on the drops when you get into a potentially dicey situation, but overall being more forward will give you more stability.

A longer reach to the tops will also give you a more advantageous position for climbing, assuming your body allows you to lean over a tad more. You recruit your glutes more readily, giving you a lot more power. You'll notice yourself leaning forward automatically on hills - this allows you to recruit those muscles, and your body does it instinctively. A longer bar position will help you with that.

If you get more traditional bars the tops will be closer to you. This is fine if it's a better fit for you. However if you try the longer reach (I did) then you'll find that you're in a lower, more efficient position more of the time.

I have what used to be considered a shallow drop bar, 15 cm, with a then-normal 11 cm reach. Compact bars typically drop 12 cm and have an 8 cm reach (or shorter).

Quick math told me I'd lose 3 cm reach going to the compacts (FSA) and 2 cm drop. Since I was already on 12 cm stems I went to a 14 cm stem (15 cm road stems, at -17 deg, are basically custom jobs, and even 14 cm are hard to find). I got a 14cm track stem that had a -20 deg angle (not the normal -35 for a track). This resulted in a net loss of 1 cm reach at the drops and about 1.5 cm of drop, but an increase of 2 cm reach to the tops.

I really liked the increased reach to the tops. However the drops were too shallow and I couldn't sprint well. I realize now that I started having back problems as well since I had to support my torso more than normal.

I then got the FSA Energy bars - they have the same reach but 15 cm of drop. I found them to be much closer to my old position. My back problems went away but I didn't realize it for a month or so. My out of saddle efforts seem to be better as well. The only thing was that the drops were angled/"ergo" so they're closer and higher than the specs would indicate. However they're much better than the FSA Compacts, at least for me.

I did find that I liked the 2 cm increased reach to the tops. The hoods didn't move much, still 1 cm closer. They're a tiny bit higher than they used to be (the new bars allow hoods to be mounted pretty high up on the curve and still have a nice transition between the bars and hoods).

Black bike has old crit bend bars and 12 cm stem. Red bike 14 cm "track" stem (-20) and FSA Compacts (this is in March/April of this year).

Believe it or not the red bike has 3 cm less reach and 2 cm less drop. The frames are custom and have virtually identical geometry (the red frame has 3 mm longer chainstays, a limitation of the tubeset used, but the top tube length etc are both the same).

Red bike with same stem but FSA Energy bars, deeper drop (Aug of this year).

Post that accompanies the second picture, it has more thoughts on exactly what you asked about:
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Old 09-08-13, 06:02 AM
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OP, you have to determine what you need. It shouldn't be about style but rather cycling efficiency and comfort. Do you need long reach to the tops only, but want the hoods and drops not much farther away? Longer stem, compact bars. Or do you want same tops, but further reach to hoods and drops. Same stem, deep bars (if you can find any). Finally do you want longer reach to all three, tops, hoods and drops. Then longer stem and deeper bar. I like higher tops and deeper drops to give me very different riding positions. That is not common these days. It is all up to you and, of course, to what you can find to buy.
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Old 09-08-13, 06:19 AM
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Some great insight above about the subject.
For me OP....its a compact bar...I ride a FSA compact wing.
Reason? As carped stated...I don't like my top bar position too close. With tradition bar, the top of the bar is a bit too close for climbing and fast flat riding with elbows tucked in when my hood position is correct for hands placed on the hoods. I also like a compact bar for the drop position because I don't like my drops too far away fore/aft in particular and down especially so I don't have to ride on the rivet as much which isn't as comfortable...can stay a bit more back on the saddle to support my sit bones when in the drops.
This stuff is all preference. I would say for the average less than uber flexible rider like myself, a compact bar makes a lot of sense. I ride with a 130mm stem.
A last note. I prefer a pretty long reach. I see many ride with a shorter reach and a low handlebar. I prefer the opposite...a long reach and a relative high handlebar. I have tried every position under the sun and this is what works best for me. YMMV however as each of us are built differently.
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Old 09-08-13, 06:49 AM
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I'd prefer a 120 stem, ideally. I've ridden 110 & 125 with good results. I vote for stem.
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Old 09-08-13, 05:54 PM
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I like compact bars, but maybe for a a couple different reasons than some of the others stated above. My philosophy is that the drops should be as low as possible to still be useable for a sustainable distance regardless of drop type. The advantage IME with compact bars is that for this given drop position the hood position is lower relative to a bigger dropbar so I end up spending more overall time in a lower more aerodynamic position. If I can ride the drops comfortably for 30+ mins then the hoods are no problem, and I hardly ever find myself needing to sit completely upright like a lot of riders I see do, so even the tops are relatively aero compared to a bigger drop. If I do need to sit all the way up its usually when I'm relaxing and stretching out so I just go no hands.
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Old 09-08-13, 06:15 PM
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I like the handling characteristics of 120-130mm stems on bikes with standard trail. So I base my frame buying decisions on geometry that will allow this.
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Old 09-08-13, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gsa103
Do you like the current top & drop positions? Longer reach will move the hoods forward, but keep the tops and drops in basically the same place. Stem moves the whole assembly.
+1. It isn't rocket science. Also if you hold the drops on the forward part of the curve with bent elbows then a longer reach bar will also increase this distance.
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Old 09-08-13, 07:39 PM
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I like longer stem, shorter reach bars which provides more knee clearance to the backside of the bars, especially when climbing steep slopes. Knee clearance is in many cases a main decision maker for the stem/bar length decision.
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