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Drop Bar Reach Positioning for Touring

Old 10-28-19, 08:07 AM
  #1  
jambon
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Drop Bar Reach Positioning for Touring

Hi all,

My question , is there any method or ballpark measurement to decide what reach or stem length to go for on a touring bike?

There is a lot of fit advice out there for racing type road positions , they seem to have a few general rules around bike fit but no so much for more relaxed touring.

Is it just a case of trying different stems and heights on the steerer until you find what works for you ?

for example this guys set up seems very very upright to me , while on the other hand I have seen people tour in slammed racing positions.


If anyone has any side on pictures of themselves on their drop bar touring bikes that they would share then I could get an idea of what that psoition looks like compared to a racing position.

Thanks ,

J

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Old 10-28-19, 08:16 AM
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Your own flexibility and comfort should determine the position and reach.
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Old 10-28-19, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jambon View Post
Is it just a case of trying different stems and heights on the steerer until you find what works for you ?
Very much so, don't be concerned what works for others, be only concerned what is ideal for you. In general, touring bikes are designed to be slightly more upright so your head is up such that you can smell the roses, as rarely is one concerned about maximum speed. That being said, there may be times when you're riding in your drops to avoid a head wind.
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Old 10-28-19, 09:26 AM
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Agreed. What is most comfortable, that you can spend 8, 10, 15 hours a day in with out issue is the best possible fit.

I had a bike fitter set me up with a "touring" fit. I hated it. Hotspots under the sitbones that turned to blood blisters, numb hands, sore arms, headaches, tight neck/shoulders. I had no power, a slow cadence, & felt like I was "walking."

I moved the seat forward so my knee was over the pedal axle. Then I extented the stem about an inch, flipped it, junked 40cm of spacers, lowering the bars so the flat spot on the shifters are 65 lower than the seat. Then tilted the bars up just a bit so my weight was bourne in a more direct line with my forarms...End result: Hours & hours of trouble free saddle time & still ready for more. I guess "agressive" or "race" fit is what my body proportions dictate. Who knew?

The fit that fits you is the fit you need. My personal rule is you should "feel" ready for another century after having just done a century. Then you'll know you're close enough.
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Old 10-28-19, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
Your own flexibility and comfort should determine the position and reach.
Mr Ham
This pretty much sums it up.
Let's start with this question- Do you have any drop bar bike experience?
If so, how much riding do you do and how is your present drop bar setup for comfort?

I set up my tough touring bike with bars slightly higher than seat height, and combined with shallow drops with slight flare,I can ride in drops for reasonable periods comfortably if headwinds are bad.

Bottom line, listen to your body.
Harder though if you don't ride much or don't have drop bar experience.

Ps, if you have a drop bar bike, post a photo of you on it, and your personal take on the comfort or lack thereof.

Last edited by djb; 10-28-19 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 10-28-19, 02:23 PM
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It is what works for you.

Reach and bar height are related, change one and you need to change the other.

Most bike tourists have the handlebars at the same height has the top of the saddle. But that is a rule of thumb that varies greatly, there are a few former racers on this board that have their bikes set up more like racing bikes with bars well below saddle height.

Some handlebars have more reach than others, it is not just stem and top tube lengths that vary.

Also consider that a lower handlebar position would correlate to shorter reach for many people. My folding bike has much shorter reach than my other bikes, but I accommodate for that by using a lower handlebar position. Most of my bikes, the top of my handlebar is from zero to a half inch lower than the top of the saddle, but my folding bike has bars a few inches lower than that.
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Old 10-28-19, 03:37 PM
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I took this picture for some friends who were doing a 400 km brevit. It took them 19 hours to complete the ride. This was typical of most of the riders' positions. These folks spend a lot of time in the saddle.


My wife's bike is custom made to her exact size and riding style. It was fitted to her by a Physical Threapist who specailizes in bike fitting.


My wife and I on a long tour. The reach fit is similar in all the photos, the body is at about a 45 degree angle. Fit you seat height first, next adjust seat position to bring the front of the knee over the pedal spindle, then use a stem length/angle and bar height that will get the reach and body position you desire. We used this fit to ride an average of a little over 50 miles a day for 74 consecutive days without any problems.


Last edited by Doug64; 10-28-19 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 10-28-19, 05:03 PM
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Doug, I suspect this is a fairly common angle of body setup. I'm pretty sure I have a similar setup.

jambon, you know the term, the devil is in the details? Bike setup is often made a lot better by just a small amount of change, so while you can use photos like these as guidelines, we still come back to you listening to your body and adjusting the details so its comfortable for you, while still being as efficient as possible for getting power to the wheels in a long term sustainable way for your body.
Heck, even very slight fore aft seat positioning, or cleat positioning, can make a difference--so ride, ride and ride, and experiment and be observant.
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Old 10-28-19, 05:07 PM
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Yeah dealing with dialing in my touring bike too. I am using the guidelines, shop advice and then reply on testing it out. Went from a 60 stem to a 90 on Friday. Feels better but I think I need more tweaking.
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Old 10-28-19, 05:40 PM
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I used to have an adjustable stem that I used on a few bikes to get my exact bar position just right, the adjustable stem made it very easy to change stem angles plus I also had a stack of steerer spacers that I could move from below to above the stem, etc. Made it easy to keep trying different setups for several weeks until I felt I had the perfect setup. Nice thing about being able to try different options that was is that what feels perfect one day might not feel so good on uphills on the next day or downhills the day after, you can keep making small adjustments until you get what is the best possible compromise.

Loaned out that stem to others for the same purpose several times. Before you ask, it is no longer available.
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Old 10-29-19, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
It is what works for you.

Reach and bar height are related, change one and you need to change the other.
These two things are both important to be said and often overlooked.

I have seen a lot of terrible setups where folks wind up with locked elbows and arms that look like they are pushing the bars away. Avoid that like the plague. It is important that arms, shoulders, and hands are relaxed. Elbows should never be locked. Shoulders not hunched. Finger should be draped loosely over the bars. When that isn't the case either there is something wrong with the setup or you just need to relax your posture.

Personally I like my bike setup pretty much the same for touring as I do for racing. My bars have always been 3-5 inches below the saddle. If that wasn't a relaxed and comfortable position for long hours on the road I wouldn't use it, but it is for me. I figure that if anything, when on tour I am most likely to be well conditioned to long hours in the saddle and used to the riding posture since I tend to do only longish tours. The big complaint with that is likely to be neck pain, but I found that once I got my neck muscles conditioned to it I never had a problem with it again. YMMV, but if you can ride a road bike that way you just might find you can happily ride your touring bike the same way.

Will I maybe start raising my bars a little now as I approach 70 years old? Possibly, but I don't know, I haven't yet.
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Old 10-29-19, 06:45 AM
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Sorry, I have no side photos with me aboard. I now have my bar tops about 2 inches higher than low point of the saddle with a really short stem. That said, I'm not quite as upright as the fellow in the video. I must have a slightly longer top tube. I'm also small (5'6") and prefer the frame with a sloping top tube. I have near zero stand over height with a horizontal top tube and 700c wheels. My position is similar to Doug's in his photo above.

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Old 10-29-19, 07:11 AM
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Thank you all for the inputs and pictures , This is the position of the person in the video that I posted . I will post one of me on my current position once my photographer gets back.

Last edited by jambon; 10-29-19 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 10-29-19, 08:49 AM
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He is on the flat top of the bar, but it does look a bit upright.

Bottom line is that most of us have spare stems kicking around because we diddled and fiddled trying to figure out what works best for us, emphasis on us.

When your photographer is back, sure put some photos, but take what internet strangers say about your riding position with large copious grains of salt.

Generic stems around here are about 20 bucks or less, I dunno, 10 quid?
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Old 10-29-19, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by jambon View Post
This is the position of the person in the video that I posted
Wow that seems quite upright for a drop bar bike. The lack of stem length is surprising too.
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Old 10-29-19, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
...
I have seen a lot of terrible setups where folks wind up with locked elbows and arms that look like they are pushing the bars away. Avoid that like the plague. ....
I am guessing from your description of that setup that saddle position is also wrong, probably too far back.
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Old 10-29-19, 10:01 AM
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To elaborate a bit more on my comment on reach and bar height being related, I included a photo of a road bike I bought a year and a half ago. Initially it had that classic racer setup, bars quite low, etc. The photo below is after I changed the stem and saddle.

I try to size my bikes mostly based on effective top tube length, not based on seat tube length. And of course stand over height has to be adequate, but that has never been a problem for me.

The bike almost has that classic horizontal top tube, it has very little slope. Historically when you had a horizontal top tube, you wanted to have a "fist full of seatpost" sticking out of the frame. In the photo you can see I have a lot more seatpost sticking out than that, perhaps by a couple inches or so. Thus, by using the classic "fist full of seatpost" bike sizing, this frame is a bit too small for me. But it had the top tube length that I know from the past that is what works best for me. A longer top tube and I would have trouble finding a stem that is as short as I want.

Initially the stem from teh factory was almost zero degrees, but I bought a 35 degree stem to get the bars up to where I want them. I wanted to buy a 25 degree silver stem, but could not find one, thus got 35 degree. That put it higher than I wanted, but the bike came with 25mm of steerer tube spacers, I lowered the stem by 15mm with spacer positioning on the steerer tube which I would not have needed to do if I could have found the 25 degree stem I wanted.

The top of handlebar is just a bit below the top of saddle.

I mentioned in my previous post that some bars have more reach than others. The bars on this bike have slightly more reach than most of my other bikes.

And when I install brake levers on a handlebar I usually have them slightly higher (angled up a bit more) than the factory installed levers on the bike in the photo. That brake lever position on the bars also has a slight difference in hood height and reach, and you usually ride on the hoods.


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Old 10-29-19, 10:22 AM
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Great points tourist, hope it helps the Irish fellow have a better idea of how to adjust stuff.
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Old 10-29-19, 12:37 PM
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However one sets up a bike, reach is always the last thing you tweak. Ideal reach is usually that reach which brings your upper arms into a right angle with your straight torso. That combined with the usual bike geometry will frequently create an approximately 45 torso angle to the horizontal. That's been the usual bike position ever since the creation of the safety bicycle. MTB riders use about this same fit, and it's also shown in the 400k rider's position in post 7. I was a 15-18 hour 400k finisher in my late 60s, bars ~10cm below saddle, 90mm stem, comfortable all the way.

I use a slightly different fit on our tandem, whether sport riding or loaded touring: Bars ~2cm below saddle, upper arms still square off the torso, slightly more upright torso angle. Our tandem has a much longer head tube than my singles.

One really wants to avoid the bolt upright position shown in the above video and stills. This position amplifies the shocks which the bars deliver and also those which the saddle delivers. There's no shock absorption which the usual inclined torso and arms deliver. Think: when one is upright, and one hits a bump, the head goes up and down, which also means that the butt shock is more severe. In the normal road position, only the butt goes up and down. Similarly when upright, bar shocks are delivered right to the shoulders. With normal reach, only the hands and maybe elbows go up and down. the shoulders don't feel it. Thus sore hands are less likely in the normal road position in which the rider's position takes the place of the suspension which the bike lacks. I understand that this is opposite to what the casual observer might think to be the case.
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Old 10-29-19, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
.... Think: when one is upright, and one hits a bump, the head goes up and down, which also means that the butt shock is more severe. In the normal road position, only the butt goes up and down. ....
Very eloquent.
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Old 10-29-19, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jambon View Post
Thank you all for the inputs and pictures , This is the position of the person in the video that I posted . I will post one of me on my current position once my photographer gets back.
Looking at the video, I would say that his bike is a bit small for him. It has a super short top tube and most people would find that kind of straight up position uncomfortable after a while. Any impact goes straight up the spine. A more bent over position usually is more comfortable in the long run because your spine is suspending the weight rather then being compressed by it.

I don't have a lot of pictures of me riding...it's difficult to take pictures of yourself...but I do have this one of me on the C&O Canal. My arms are a bit more locked than normal because I'm not in a "normal" riding position due to how the picture was taken on a timer. I just had time to run down the path a ways, turn around and come back.

IMGP1059 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

This picture was taken by our professional photographer at work and, again, it's more staged than usual because he was having me ride across the field of view

18298 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

In both, I'm a little taller in the saddle than most road bike people would like but I'm not sitting straight up like the guy in the video. I've never experienced any back pain while touring either on- or off-road.
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Old 10-29-19, 03:58 PM
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jambon, my riding position is just like the good examples shown. I also hardly have any photos of myself riding, but here is one.

the other thing about a riding position close to those examples shown here, is that along with comfort compared to the "too upright" one in the guys vid, is that you get the bonus of it being more efficient in terms of putting down power.

think of the sitting position on a bike--there are three contact points
hands
keester
and feet

you want to find that position where all three have a fairly equal weight going on them, and as mentioned, you want the weight on your hands to be light and relaxed.
Theres an old saying that someone should be able to come beside you and swat one of your hands aside off the bars and you should be able to keep riding straight and controlled--ie, you want a lightish amount of weight on your hands, elbows slightly bent to absorb bumps. Too vertical like youtube dude, and the impacts go into your back, with a good body angle, impacts get distributed between bum and hands, and your arms flex like when you ski and absorb bumps with your knees.

of course, your pedalling power makes a diff, if you are soft pedalling, its hard on your arse and hands, and yes, core strength gets stronger the more we ride, which also helps.
good luck trying out stuff
ps, I too can ride all day, day after day, week after week, and dont have back or hand issues at all.
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Old 10-29-19, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
jambon, my riding position is just like the good examples shown. I also hardly have any photos of myself riding, but here is one.
<snip>
All true, but lacks an explanation of how we get to wherever this is. . .
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Old 10-29-19, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
All true, but lacks an explanation of how we get to wherever this is. . .
Good point. It certainly ain't easy putting down a clear "how to", especially when we aren't being paid ;-)

It's hard too I've found with beginner riders, or folks who don't ride much, and who then are sometimes soft peddlers, or who coast a lot, as this plays a part. I think too that's it's pretty common that people find it hard to listen to their bodies when riding, or from lack of experience, find it hard to recognize this or that.
Or simply don't care about it, but then still will ride uncomfortably, and then come to the conclusion that they don't like bike riding, that's it's clearly uncomfortable.

I do think that the cheapie, ugly, heavy adjustable stem idea is a great one, to try different positions to really get a better idea over time.
Lord knows I've ridden for ages on so so setups that weren't ideal, but I was younger, didn't care, or couldn't be bothered to change a stem..... so I know from first hand experience that its easy to live with just so so.
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Old 10-29-19, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Good point. It certainly ain't easy putting down a clear "how to", especially when we aren't being paid ;-)

It's hard too I've found with beginner riders, or folks who don't ride much, and who then are sometimes soft peddlers, or who coast a lot, as this plays a part. I think too that's it's pretty common that people find it hard to listen to their bodies when riding, or from lack of experience, find it hard to recognize this or that.
Or simply don't care about it, but then still will ride uncomfortably, and then come to the conclusion that they don't like bike riding, that's it's clearly uncomfortable.

I do think that the cheapie, ugly, heavy adjustable stem idea is a great one, to try different positions to really get a better idea over time.
Lord knows I've ridden for ages on so so setups that weren't ideal, but I was younger, didn't care, or couldn't be bothered to change a stem..... so I know from first hand experience that its easy to live with just so so.
Sorry for the misunderstanding! I means where is this? Those are some beautiful old trees. Some parts of the US are probably old enough to grow them, but OTOH that's a paved path and paving hasn't been as popular here as it is in Europe. But you know . . . me and wife on bike there!
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