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Will short-reach compact handlebars lower the reach to my hoods?

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Will short-reach compact handlebars lower the reach to my hoods?

Old 04-14-14, 05:40 PM
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jdip
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Will short-reach compact handlebars lower the reach to my hoods?

In 2012 I bought a 54cm Cannondale Synapse from a LBS. They were certain that was the size for me and it was my first road bike purchase ever so I didn't know any better. I'm 5'8 so definitely in the ballpark for that size. But my body hasn't liked it since the beginning (top tube too long, making me feel stretched out and leading to much discomfort in the neck and shoulder areas) and have done a lot of core work off the bike to try mitigate it, but it hasn't helped much. I swapped out the stem from the 100mm stock one to an 80mm one and that helped a bit, but I still feel too stretched out in the hoods. The discomfort has led me to also move my saddle all the way forward to reduce reach, which I know makes my pedal stroke sub-optimal but it seems like the lesser of two evils, because the discomfort on the bike can be a real PITA.

I was thinking about getting some shorter reach compact bars, something like the 3T Ergonova. I know it will bring the hooks and the drops closer to me, but I'm unsure if that will make a difference with my reach to the hoods. Would it bring my hoods a bit closer or would the reach stay the same? Thanks

Here are the specs of my current bars (Cannondale C3 Compact):
-Width: 42cm, center to center
-Drop: 140mm
-Reach: 90mm

Specs of 3T Ergonova:
-Width: several options
-Drop: 123mm
-Reach: 77mm
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Old 04-14-14, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
In 2012 I bought a 54cm Cannondale Synapse from a LBS. They were certain that was the size for me and it was my first road bike purchase ever so I didn't know any better. I'm 5'8 so definitely in the ballpark for that size. But my body hasn't liked it since the beginning (top tube too long, making me feel stretched out and leading to much discomfort in the neck and shoulder areas) and have done a lot of core work off the bike to try mitigate it, but it hasn't helped much. I swapped out the stem from the 100mm stock one to an 80mm one and that helped a bit, but I still feel too stretched out in the hoods. The discomfort has led me to also move my saddle all the way forward to reduce reach, which I know makes my pedal stroke sub-optimal but it seems like the lesser of two evils, because the discomfort on the bike can be a real PITA.

I was thinking about getting some shorter reach compact bars, something like the 3T Ergonova. I know it will bring the hooks and the drops closer to me, but I'm unsure if that will make a difference with my reach to the hoods. Would it bring my hoods a bit closer or would the reach stay the same? Thanks

Here are the specs of my current bars (Cannondale C3 Compact):
-Width: 42cm, center to center
-Drop: 140mm
-Reach: 90mm

Specs of 3T Ergonova:
-Width: several options
-Drop: 123mm
-Reach: 77mm
Yes it will help. Bringing the bars up a little might too. I'd go ahead and pay for a competent fitting before throwing too much money at the bike. FWIW, I'm 5-8 and rode a 54 cm Cannondale (a CAAD7, but probably similar ~54.5 cm ETT?), and I could make it work. I ended up buying the same size frame, but in one that is more like your Synapse - a Felt Z - mostly because of the taller head tube, like your Synapse.

As a suggestion, before or in lieu of spending a lot of money on new handlebars, I've put these bars on two of my recent bikes and they are pretty nice bars with short/shallow design, but fairly inexpensive. They don't look "cheap" though, but are a little heavy compared to more expensive bars. They are virtually functionally identical. So if you're interested in this particular shape and dimensions, get whichever one has the right color and/or clamp diameter for your stem.

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Old 04-14-14, 05:58 PM
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they will shorten the reach, as per the measurements you posted. also, you can flip the stem back instead of down, and move the shifters further up on the bars.
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Old 04-14-14, 05:58 PM
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or get a shorter stem
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Old 04-14-14, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I'd go ahead and pay for a competent fitting before throwing too much money at the bike.
Good suggestion.

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Old 04-14-14, 06:34 PM
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At 5'8, a 54 is the right size for you. Since you're new to riding the bike is going to feel like a torture rack.... there's just no way around it. Assuming that you didn't cut the steerer tube, do you have all the spacers under the stem and have the stem at a positive angle?

If you do, and it's still uncomfortable, you just have to keep riding more until your body gets use to it. Road bikes are made to go fast, not made to be comfortable.
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Old 04-14-14, 06:35 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. A comprehensive fitting is a good idea. I think I will try rotating the bars up slightly and/or moving my hood positions in the meantime and see how that fares.

Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
This looks like an interesting option. I send them an e-mail to find out how much it would be to get them shipped to Canada. Thanks
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Old 04-14-14, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Will Goes Boing View Post
At 5'8, a 54 is the right size for you. Since you're new to riding the bike is going to feel like a torture rack.... there's just no way around it. Assuming that you didn't cut the steerer tube, do you have all the spacers under the stem and have the stem at a positive angle?

If you do, and it's still uncomfortable, you just have to keep riding more until your body gets use to it. Road bikes are made to go fast, not made to be comfortable.
I'm not that new to riding... I'm on my third season riding and have several thousand km's on the bike now and have experimented with all kinds of saddle, stem and handlebar positions to try and find something more comfortable.

As for a 54cm being right for me, I think there is more to frame size than just how tall you are. I think I may have slightly shorter arms/legs compared to the average 5'8 person. I tried my cousin's 52cm Allez and it felt SO much more comfortable to me.
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Old 04-14-14, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
I'm not that new to riding... I'm on my third season riding and have several thousand km's on the bike now and have experimented with all kinds of saddle, stem and handlebar positions to try and find something more comfortable.

As for a 54cm being right for me, I think there is more to frame size than just how tall you are. I think I may have slightly shorter arms/legs compared to the average 5'8 person. I tried my cousin's 52cm Allez and it felt SO much more comfortable to me.
Why not sell the bike or trade it in and get a smaller frame? Life is too short to ride on a bike that does not fit you.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
I'm not that new to riding... I'm on my third season riding and have several thousand km's on the bike now and have experimented with all kinds of saddle, stem and handlebar positions to try and find something more comfortable.

As for a 54cm being right for me, I think there is more to frame size than just how tall you are. I think I may have slightly shorter arms/legs compared to the average 5'8 person. I tried my cousin's 52cm Allez and it felt SO much more comfortable to me.
If that's the case, then you should probably sell your bike and get a 52. I've ridden a bike with a frame that was too big for me in the past and I can tell you.... it's horrible.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by fstshrk View Post
Why not sell the bike or trade it in and get a smaller frame? Life is too short to ride on a bike that does not fit you.
I've been wanting to do that for the past couple of years but it just feels like a big hassle. But you're right, my body would be much happier with a smaller frame and life is short!

Originally Posted by Will Goes Boing View Post
If that's the case, then you should probably sell your bike and get a 52. I've ridden a bike with a frame that was too big for me in the past and I can tell you.... it's horrible.
Yep, can confirm that it is pretty sucky. I suppose selling and getting a new bike in my situation would be the ideal scenario.

Last edited by jdip; 04-14-14 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
I've been wanting to do that for the past couple of years but it just feels like a big hassle. But you're right, my body would be much happier with a smaller frame and life is short!
I have had success with a fitter near where I live (2 hrs away). Before that I was in the same boat as you. It may be worthwhile to give it another shot, but if you end up suffering after that, I think a new bike/frame is in order.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:24 PM
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Cheers guys, you have been very helpful
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Old 04-14-14, 07:32 PM
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I really like my FSA Omega bars. They are cheap to try. Note that they are 1cm narrower at the hoods -- a 42cm is 41 at the hoods.

The reach to the hoods is definitely shorter. I had a 90 stem, and put the 100 back on when I got these bars.

I can ride in the drops much more comfortably than with my old ergo bars.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
I really like my FSA Omega bars. They are cheap to try. Note that they are 1cm narrower at the hoods -- a 42cm is 41 at the hoods.

The reach to the hoods is definitely shorter. I had a 90 stem, and put the 100 back on when I got these bars.

I can ride in the drops much more comfortably than with my old ergo bars.
Thanks for the input! The FSA Omega is an option that I was also considering as well. It's half the price of the Ergonova which is pretty cool. The reason why I was leaning towards the Ergonova is I have a 3T stem so it was for aesthetic/matching reasons. Also, a friend just got them and they feel pretty nice. But it seems like the Omega would be pretty comparable in that regard.
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Old 04-14-14, 07:55 PM
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Have you looked into the Zipp Service Course SL-70 bars? The reach in them is fairly short at 70mm.

FWIW...I'm 5'8" with a 30 inseam. I had two Cannondales and they were both 52's. I can't see myself on a 54cm Cannondale...I'd have no seat post showing.

Here is my 52cm...after I was fit. I have a longish torso...my stem is a 110mm and the reach on the Easton bars is 75mm (I think).

Last edited by I <3 Robots; 04-14-14 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 04-14-14, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by I <3 Robots View Post
Have you looked into the Zipp Service Course SL-70 bars? The reach in them is fairly short at 70mm.

FWIW...I'm 5'8" with a 30 inseam. I had two Cannondales and they were both 52's. I can't see myself on a 54cm Cannondale...I'd have no seat post showing.
No I had not looked at anything Zipp because I thought they would be too expensive. But I just looked up the SL-70 you recommended and found they are $110. That is around the same price as the 3T Ergonova, so that could be an option as well. The 70mm reach sounds very appealing.

You confirm my suspicion that a 52cm would be a better fit for me. I have a 31" inseam, but I also have very little seatpost showing. I wish I could raise it higher because the low saddle look irks me to no end, but if I go any higher from where it is now my hips rock while pedaling, resulting in lower back pain.
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Old 04-14-14, 08:42 PM
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I'm 5'7", buy 30" inseam jeans, which means my real inseam in about 29". I rode a 52cm Cannondale System Six but due to my torso length it was literally 3-5 cm too short, even with a 12 cm stem. I could barely straddle the frame in cycling shoes.

Having too big a frame is an exercise in futility. The biggest drawback is that your weight will end up too far back relative to the front wheel. I prefer more weight on the front wheel, i.e. a longer stem, because it makes the bike so much more stable once I'm moving more than about 5-10 mph. I tried really hard to maintain that forward weight distribution.

I ended up with custom geometry frames (40 cm seat tube, 56.5 cm effective top tube, 75.5 degree seat tube angle, and it worked so well I bought a second frame) but chances are that you'll fit a factory frame - most people do. I waited way too long to get a frame that fit me, way, way, way too long. I wondered why I didn't do it before. From someone that tried to make factory frames fit for literally decades, take it from me - get a better fitting frame. The 54 sounds huge for you. Instead of steering a big awkward thing with a too-big bike you'll feel like the wheels are simply extensions of yourself on a properly sized bike.

Shorter reach bars disrupt weight distribution just as much as a shorter stem because your hands end up further back relative to the front wheel (and BB and saddle etc). When I went from a standard type bar (11 cm reach, 15 cm drop) to a compact bar (8 cm reach, 12 cm bar), I had to get a stem that was 3 cm longer and dropped 3 cm more. Otherwise the compact bar's drops were too close and too high. Even too high was bad - I got within 1 cm of the reach with a longer stem but 3 cm too high for vertical drop. Terrible. With a proper stem (unfortunately for me another custom job) the drops are back where they used to be and I'm fine again. Front end has weight, the BB->Drops relationship is normal, and I have full control over the bike in a hard effort.

If you can find a 52 to ride that would be the ticket. Also look at the geometry tables and see if there are other bikes that would match what you're looking for. Make some measurements on your bike now, write down what you think would be ideal (like where the seat tube would end, how much post would show, top tube length, stem length, etc). Then start perusing the geo charts to see if anything matches up or comes close. Consider the effects of compromising your ideal frame set up. Etc.

Good luck with the process.
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Old 04-14-14, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
I'm not that new to riding... I'm on my third season riding and have several thousand km's on the bike now and have experimented with all kinds of saddle, stem and handlebar positions to try and find something more comfortable.

As for a 54cm being right for me, I think there is more to frame size than just how tall you are. I think I may have slightly shorter arms/legs compared to the average 5'8 person. I tried my cousin's 52cm Allez and it felt SO much more comfortable to me.
a bicycle rider does not sit on the frame. touch points are feet, seat, and hands. all are modifiable by lengthening seatpost or setting saddle back or forward or shorter or longer stem, and adjusting stem height with spacers. however, there are limits and aesthetic considerations.
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Old 04-14-14, 09:18 PM
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Yes...you can adjust the length of the bar, stem, saddle...but there will be a point to where its obvious that the frame is too big (or small). Like running a 60mm stem, saddle slammed all the way forward...with little post showing.
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Old 04-14-14, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
I'm 5'7", buy 30" inseam jeans, which means my real inseam in about 29". I rode a 52cm Cannondale System Six but due to my torso length it was literally 3-5 cm too short, even with a 12 cm stem. I could barely straddle the frame in cycling shoes.

Having too big a frame is an exercise in futility. The biggest drawback is that your weight will end up too far back relative to the front wheel. I prefer more weight on the front wheel, i.e. a longer stem, because it makes the bike so much more stable once I'm moving more than about 5-10 mph. I tried really hard to maintain that forward weight distribution.

I ended up with custom geometry frames (40 cm seat tube, 56.5 cm effective top tube, 75.5 degree seat tube angle, and it worked so well I bought a second frame) but chances are that you'll fit a factory frame - most people do. I waited way too long to get a frame that fit me, way, way, way too long. I wondered why I didn't do it before. From someone that tried to make factory frames fit for literally decades, take it from me - get a better fitting frame. The 54 sounds huge for you. Instead of steering a big awkward thing with a too-big bike you'll feel like the wheels are simply extensions of yourself on a properly sized bike.

Shorter reach bars disrupt weight distribution just as much as a shorter stem because your hands end up further back relative to the front wheel (and BB and saddle etc). When I went from a standard type bar (11 cm reach, 15 cm drop) to a compact bar (8 cm reach, 12 cm bar), I had to get a stem that was 3 cm longer and dropped 3 cm more. Otherwise the compact bar's drops were too close and too high. Even too high was bad - I got within 1 cm of the reach with a longer stem but 3 cm too high for vertical drop. Terrible. With a proper stem (unfortunately for me another custom job) the drops are back where they used to be and I'm fine again. Front end has weight, the BB->Drops relationship is normal, and I have full control over the bike in a hard effort.

If you can find a 52 to ride that would be the ticket. Also look at the geometry tables and see if there are other bikes that would match what you're looking for. Make some measurements on your bike now, write down what you think would be ideal (like where the seat tube would end, how much post would show, top tube length, stem length, etc). Then start perusing the geo charts to see if anything matches up or comes close. Consider the effects of compromising your ideal frame set up. Etc.

Good luck with the process.
Thank you very much for posting your extensive experience and thoughts on this. I appreciate your insight. When I rode my cousin's 52cm Allez I noticed a huge difference. Regardless of the fact that the Allez has a more aggressive geometry than my Synapse, I didn't feel super stretched out like how I do on my Synapse and it just felt so much better. I don't know how difficult my bike will be to sell, but it seems like something worth pursuing. If it's priced right, I can't imagine it being too hard to sell.

Where did you go to get a custom frame?

Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
a bicycle rider does not sit on the frame. touch points are feet, seat, and hands. all are modifiable by lengthening seatpost or setting saddle back or forward or shorter or longer stem, and adjusting stem height with spacers. however, there are limits and aesthetic considerations.
That is true, but I'm somewhat at the limits that you mentioned. And I'm not a fan of the current aesthetics of my bike like this. It's made me sad for a couple of years now

Originally Posted by I <3 Robots View Post
Yes...you can adjust the length of the bar, stem, saddle...but there will be a point to where its obvious that the frame is too big (or small). Like running a 60mm stem, saddle slammed all the way forward...with little post showing.
You sir, understand my situation!
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Old 04-14-14, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
If you can find a 52 to ride that would be the ticket. Also look at the geometry tables and see if there are other bikes that would match what you're looking for. Make some measurements on your bike now, write down what you think would be ideal (like where the seat tube would end, how much post would show, top tube length, stem length, etc). Then start perusing the geo charts to see if anything matches up or comes close. Consider the effects of compromising your ideal frame set up. Etc.

Good luck with the process.
A Cannondale 52 could be/not be the ticket. Cannondale's geometry is sometimes not the optimum geometry for certain people with peculiar proportions. I am 5' 10" tall with a 34ins cycling inseam. My height is mostly in my legs. Most people are surprised when I tell them that I am only 5' 10" tall, thinking I am at least 6' tall. Anyway, I have had two Cannondale road bikes in the past, and the geometry was just impossible. My last cannondale was a CAAD 9 in a size 54, as the 56 was just too big. The 54 was too small ( had about 4.5ins saddle to handlebar drop and showing tons of seatpost). My ideal size in the Cannondale would probably have been a 55cm. I could not even feel comfortable on the size 56 with a 90mm stem. Just too much length in the top tube.

My take is just that certain geometries just don't work for some people. When I buy bikes now, geometry is what I focus on first. So, the second recommendation re researching other geometries is a sound advice.
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Old 04-15-14, 04:31 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
I'm not that new to riding... I'm on my third season riding and have several thousand km's on the bike now and have experimented with all kinds of saddle, stem and handlebar positions to try and find something more comfortable.

As for a 54cm being right for me, I think there is more to frame size than just how tall you are. I think I may have slightly shorter arms/legs compared to the average 5'8 person. I tried my cousin's 52cm Allez and it felt SO much more comfortable to me.
Bingo.

Go to the head of the class.

I've had two 5'8" people standing side by side, but with different leg lengths they will get two different size bikes.

If a shop only measures your leg length run for the hills.
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Old 04-15-14, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by jdip View Post
Thank you very much for posting your extensive experience and thoughts on this. I appreciate your insight. When I rode my cousin's 52cm Allez I noticed a huge difference. Regardless of the fact that the Allez has a more aggressive geometry than my Synapse, I didn't feel super stretched out like how I do on my Synapse and it just felt so much better. I don't know how difficult my bike will be to sell, but it seems like something worth pursuing. If it's priced right, I can't imagine it being too hard to sell.

Where did you go to get a custom frame?
You're welcome, just trying to spread out what I've learned over the years. For what it's worth I started riding pretty seriously in 1982, first contemplated a custom frame in the 1992-1995 range, seriously tried to get one in 1995 (told "that front center is too long so we won't make it", i.e. too long from the BB to the head tube, so I gave up), then decided to give it a shot with the "budget" Tsunami Bikes in late 2009. It's a pretty solid/hefty aluminum frame (1300g), I have no need for a better frame, the fit is what makes it work, comfy with 23c tires for many hours. I'd love to have a shorter frame so that I can use a normal stem but for now I'll do with the ridiculous looking custom stem.

Custom frame is from Tsunami Bikes, actually suggested to me here on BF. Until them I was out of the price range and functionality, looking for aluminum or carbon but limited to under $1000 for the frame. Their prices aren't on the site anymore but I'm pretty sure it should be about $800 now. When I ordered my two frames, in very late 2009 and very late 2010, I was charged $650 and $750, or something like that, and it included an up charge for BB30. The second frame was also "aero" in style.

I don't know Joseph's building status right now. He's fighting cancer, has been for a bit, but he is cranking out some work anyway.

My Cannondale (52 cm System Six), which has the best front end of any bike I've ridden. It was, in 2008, the stiffest frame they had ever made, not sure if that includes the original aluminum frame. Since Cannondale is local and since some of the engineers are friends I asked one what frame I should get, based on their knowledge of my riding style and preferences (love contesting field sprints, do stupid long rides, dislike climbing). My long time friend - we've been racing 25+ years together - told me the System Six, 2008 if possible, so that's what I got. The best front end I've ever ridden, I hope to have a frame one day that has the same fork and front end rigidity. Top tube was only 53.5 cm with a slacker seat tube angle so it was way too short for me. However that's about the geometry I've been riding since the mid 80s.


First Tsunami frame, so the aforementioned 40 cm seat tube (c-c, about 44 cm to the top of the tube, modeled after a size S Giant aluminum TCR which I loved for the clearance), 56.5 effective top tube length, 75.5 seat tube angle. 40.5 cm chainstays, front end is totally normal at 73 head tube angle and 43 mm rake, which is what the Cannondale had.


Black frame, the second one. I always try to have two bikes, same set up, so I can switch from one to the other no problems. The Giants were such a set up, except one was carbon and one was aluminum. I wanted to do the same with the Tsunamis. The red frame is the formerly-orange one after getting the chainstays shortened "as much as possible" (my request) to about 39.2 cm, so about 1.3 cm shorter than before. THe black bike has 39.0 cm chainstays and they are incredible. Bike is super responsive out of the saddle, which is a huge thing for me. I also got enough weight on it in corners, which with the long front end was a problem with 40.5 cm stays. It also has good traction on super-steep wet climbs (20% or so), not that I do them that often.


Red frame with compact bars and the necessary custom stem, picture from March of this year. The drops are basically in the same spot as before, meaning just under the hoods, where I sprint. Therefore the pedal-to-drops relationship is the same. Before, in the above picture, the drops were 6 cm too high. Even after I got 15 cm drop bars they were still 3 cm too high, and the 15 cm drop bars had a funky shape so it was really only about 13 cm drop. In the linked picture the top of the compact bar is 3 cm lower than the regular one. WIth the ridiculous looking stem I'm back in my original position and I no longer have 20 year old iffy handlebars that might crack or break.


The position looks extreme but it's not. I have a bad back, I am not flexible, and I'm good on the bike for as long as I can pedal, 6-8 hours. In fact I prefer the drops once I start getting fatigued after an hour or so. The drops are easiest on my back. Picture of me where the stem is not visible so you can look at the position without any preconceived notions. Picture from a race in March of this year, I was sprinting standing up and in the picture I'm starting to sit down.
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Last edited by carpediemracing; 04-15-14 at 07:24 AM.
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Old 04-15-14, 07:54 AM
  #25  
valygrl
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I bet your frame is too big. I spent years on too-big frames. (common problem for women)

However, that said, I just made a change to my cranks that changed my fit in the direction you are interested in.

I went from 170mm to 165mm cranks -and moved the saddle up 7 mm, forward 5mm (this might be a problem for you), lowered the stem 15 mm and went to a 10mm longer stem. All the other fit changes were to accommodate the new cranks length.

People don't talk much about crank length as a component of bike fit, but I found it is huge - with shorter cranks, I can use a longer/lower frame.

Also - before buying another bike, read up on Reach and Stack measuring systems, that will help you compare how different frames will actually fit - bike mfrs (including c'dale) are starting to finally publish R&S in their geometry charts.

This is an old and tri-focused article but a good place to start: Stack & Reach Primer: Chapter One - Slowtwitch.com

So if you can't sell your bike, you could see if you could hook up a shorter crank and that might help - except for the moving the saddle forward part, that could be a showstopper.
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