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Confused about stack/reach

Old 07-01-20, 08:48 PM
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ndrose
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Confused about stack/reach

Thinking about buying a touring bike. As it would be my first drop bar bike in a few decades, and at an age to want a relaxed geometry, Iíve been trying to learn what goes into that. I keep reading that what makes a touring bike comfortable is the stack/reach ratio, which makes sense to me. But when I look at numbers someplace like 99 spokes, it stops making sense. Iím not seeing the difference between touring bikes and other road bikes that I expected. To take an example from a single manufacturer, the 56 cm Quest Elite (race bike) has a 1.592 ratio and the 55 cm Aurora Elite (touring) has 1.479.

I know one number is not dispositive, but I have seen this pattern elsewhere also, where the figures donít seem to line up with the supposed markers one should look for.

Grateful for any insight.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:10 PM
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Touring bikes tend to have a more upright position which theoretically allows for greater comfort and the better ability to see the sights. This is generally achieved by a shorter "reach" and/or a higher "stack". I'm not seeing how the ratio between these two characteristics is that important. More important to me is how these two measurements compare to like measurements of other bikes that I'm considering..... or am I missing some simple elegant mathematical equation that results in touring nirvana ?
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Old 07-01-20, 09:15 PM
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Thatís my understanding also. A higher stack and/or shorter reach should make a bigger stack/reach ratio. In the example above, Quest stack is 605 vs Aurora 571, Quest reach is 380 vs Aurora 386. At least according to 99spokes.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:20 PM
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Hi, I am a frame builder / geometry knowledgeable sort of fellow. I would recommend staying away from those technicalities. I recommend that you focus on A) preferred reach I.E. the distance from the saddle nose to the handlebar center. And B) How much Higher/ lower you prefer that your handlebars are in comparison to your seat (using a level) Or you can measure your seat height from the ground and to handlebars, and come to a conclusion. For instance I have five bikes and It really works for me to have a preferred reach of 19.25" On my touring bikes, I have the handlebars even with the seat height and with some of my dedicated road bikes, I prefer to have the handlebars 1-1/4 " lower. I do worry about reach achieved on a frame that I am building, but only really because my feet were really broken in 2006, and I have to worry about building a bike that will end up with my knees hitting the shifters or handlebars. The general public/you should not worry about these things, you have normal feet. Hope this helps.
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Old 07-01-20, 09:30 PM
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I don't think there's any difference in proportional sizing. Why would a bike you spend 6 hours a day on be any different from another bike you spend 6 hour a day on? It's the same you, same issues with comfort and power production. The fact that one will usually go a bit slower on the flat when touring makes no difference. Headwinds exist on any bike. I'm 75, still ride the same geometry I've used on all my road bikes, or as close as that bike will allow me to get, which does vary, but I try for the same position. I don't happen to have a single tourer, rather my wife and I tour on our road tandem, same bike we use for sport riding, except that we take the captain's aero bars off so we can use a bar bag. I run a slammed -6į 90 mm stem on my long distance road bike and the tandem. The tandem does have a slightly taller head tube to allow for 3 tubes meeting there instead of 2. I don't notice much difference in fit.

If you're tall, I think an endurance bike geometry might work better than a full race bike with slammed stem.
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Old 07-02-20, 07:06 AM
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OP..I don't think the ratio really offers any useful information..it can run you down rabbit holes that yield bikes that aren't even close to a good fit. The individual values are useful for comparing bikes, however I've found that a range of values to be equally comfortable. For example..I have three road bikes (that I ride most often) with stacks ranging from 560 to 578mm and reaches ranging from 380 to 400mm(all 55cm Lemond bikes). They are all equally comfortable, to me. I rented a Spec Roubaix a few years ago and it had a stack & reach of 590 & 397mm. It was comfortable too, though the carbon frame didn't wow me. Note that the numbers above are stack and reach for the frames. Yet, no one has the frame as the contact points (saddle, pedals, and handlebars)..which is the final fit that concerns you the most.

A second stack and reach to consider is the handlebar stack and reach. The stem and bars offer the final fine-tuning for fit. The frame stack & reach need to be close to what you need(in a range), then the stem & bars finish things off to fit you. Once you have a ballpark-fitting frame, compare the handlebar stack and reach for a final comfort estimate. For example again, the three road bikes mentioned above have handlebar stacks ranging from 641 to 717mm and reaches ranging from 430 to 478mm. The ratios don't offer any info, but the individual combinations of how the stack & reach combinations feel when riding a bike do matter. Undoubtedly all this is as clear as mud at this point. I'm a retired numbers-guy and I gotta say..the stack - reach measurements are a guide, but only a rough guide. I find the range of my numbers (and overall comfort on all the bikes) rather..confusing myself. I see folks quoting stack and reach numbers like they carry the weight(accuracy) of, say, a wheel size. They are moderately rough guides only, though still useful. I'm currently in the planning stages of building a drop-bar conversion of a mtn bike. I'm using stack and reach measurements from road and mtn bikes I own, and are comfortable, to select parts that will get me into what I think is a comfort range on the finished conversion.

Of course you're thinking at this point.."yah, but mfgs don't offer handlebar stack and reach data"..yep, you're right. Nothing takes the place of actually riding a prospective bike. If you have to buy without riding.. then target the frame stack and reach in a range of what you think you need and then take the leap of faith that you can make it comfortable with stem and handlebar options.


Some thoughts on:

Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
...I recommend that you focus on A) preferred reach I.E. the distance from the saddle nose to the handlebar center. And B) How much Higher/ lower you prefer that your handlebars are in comparison to your seat (using a level) ...
I agree on the handlebar-saddle height thing(though it's a different way of getting at handlebar stack and reach), however..

The "preferred reach" while a good comparison within your own stable of bikes (where the saddle has been independently adjusted to final fit), preferred reach is pretty useless when comparing potential bikes in general. As we know..typically the saddle height is adjusted first, then fore & aft adjustment is done to fit your knee cap-edge over the pedal spindle center, as a good starting point. The saddle is then fixed in space and is no longer adjusted relative to reach-fit. The problem with "preferred reach" as a comparison between unknown bikes is that saddle length varies, saddle rails are of different length, saddle height impacts this measurement, seatpost setback is uncontrolled(bike has a setback post or it doesn't), the saddle fitting itself isn't done(yet)...........waay too many uncontrolled variables, specifically on something that isn't a variable to reach anyway. The saddle is setup to fit the rider (knees-legs) and then it's no longer a factor in getting the right reach.
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Old 07-02-20, 08:11 AM
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I am clueless on things like stack, and it took me a few years of making minor tweaks to my bikes to get something that works well for me.

I think you will find that most bike tourists have the top of seat at about the same height as the top of the bars. I usually have mine a half inch lower, but I use the drops more often than many other bike tourists when I am pushing into headwinds.

Seatpost height, I find it easiest to start with my heel on my pedal, leg straight, pedal all the way down, and when I make tweaks from that keep them small, say a quarter inch but no more.

There are lots of other rules of thumb that i am sure others will mention here, like knee over pedal position, etc.

To some degree a stem change can adjust for reach. Some minor reach change can be made with different bars too, some bars mount the brake levers further forward or back compared to other bars.

And angled stems can do wonders. My road bike came with a very aggressive racing type of posture, but a steeply upward angled stem fixed that for me.
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Old 07-02-20, 12:17 PM
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Since you haven't ridden a drop bar bike in a long time, the best solution is to first ride a drop bar bike before committing to selecting your touring bike. I'd find a used bike that's in the neighborhood of your size and ride it for a few hundred miles. Go for some short rides. Go for some long rides. How do you feel? Do you wish for higher bars, shorter stem, etc.? Buy a few cheap stems of different sizes and try them out. When you get comfy on the bike, then take some measurements of your setup. Now you have knowledge that you can apply when surfing the the geo charts.

Looking at geo numbers without the knowledge of what works for you is putting the cart before the horse.
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Old 07-02-20, 12:41 PM
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Yeah, I know thereís not too much point to looking at this stuff before getting on some bikes. But nobody has much in stock at the moment, so Iím just doodling around online and looking at the pretty pictures while I wait.

I did think I might try renting a drop bar bike for a few days, but again thereís nothing in the category Iíd like to buy, so part of the reason for looking at numbers was to see what that was available to rent might be closest to a touring geometry.
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Old 07-02-20, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ndrose View Post
Yeah, I know there’s not too much point to looking at this stuff before getting on some bikes. But nobody has much in stock at the moment, so I’m just doodling around online and looking at the pretty pictures while I wait.

I did think I might try renting a drop bar bike for a few days, but again there’s nothing in the category I’d like to buy, so part of the reason for looking at numbers was to see what that was available to rent might be closest to a touring geometry.
Just be aware that geometry on a tourer is going to be different then a carbon racing bike. Head tube angles are going to be slacker, often in the 72 degree range to help make the wheelbase longer and to make for more stable steering with a load. Having a slack HTA moves the stem and bar closer to the rider. A race oriented bike might have HTA nearer 73/73.5 and that changes the feel and fit.

If you demo a racing bike, just be aware that a tourer is going to fit differently. If you have an option on the rental/test ride, try to get on a tourer (not likely at your typical LBS) or a gravel or endurance bike with more relaxed geometry and a longer wheel base. If you have an REI nearby they are likely to have a larger selection of adventure/touring bikes, if they ever get any back in stock !
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Old 07-02-20, 02:48 PM
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I've never seen stack/reach ratio before. I like that the one # allows us to get an idea of rider position. Remember that this is just frame measurements. One of two bikes with the same stack/reach ratio could have handlebar grips that are over 10" higher then the other with different bars and stems. Different seat post seat back can add to the reach as well. If their both drop bar bikes and use nearly flat handlebar stems like many do, Then IMO it is worth noting. But of course we really should test ride these bikes first.

My Giant Sedona has a stack/reach ratio of 1.79:1. Add to that a 40 degree stem and low rise bars and I get handlebar grips that are 8" above the seat. I love this bolt upright position. Needless to say it isn't fast so I wouldn't recommend one for medium - long commutes. But for recreational riders like myself, Or for short commutes, It's the most pleasurable bike I've ever owned. I think Gravel and Endurance bikes also have a higher stack/reach ratio then racing bikes.

The "10 speed racer" I had 45 years ago had a much lower stack, Longer reach, and of course drop bars. I don't remember it being uncomfortable though. One things for sure, It was much faster.

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Old 07-02-20, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by ndrose View Post
Yeah, I know thereís not too much point to looking at this stuff before getting on some bikes. But nobody has much in stock at the moment, so Iím just doodling around online and looking at the pretty pictures while I wait.

I did think I might try renting a drop bar bike for a few days, but again thereís nothing in the category Iíd like to buy, so part of the reason for looking at numbers was to see what that was available to rent might be closest to a touring geometry.
Any friends that have bikes they can loan you for a few days?

My road bike and touring bikes are set up almost identically. My rando bike is slightly more aggressive geometry, but that was by choice and the difference is very minor. My folding bike has a shorter reach, I compensate by setting the bars a bit lower so I lean forward at an angle that is nearly identical to my touring bikes.

My point is that you contact the bike with your hands, your bum and your feet. Thus, only the pedals, saddle and handlebar locations are important to bike fit. You can figure out the geometry on any kind of bike that is comfortable for you. But, I suspect a racing bike would not allow you to make the adjustments you need to try to find a good fit.
​​​​​
It is common for people to need a different stem to make a bike fit them right.

Touring, you want a fit that is comfortable for at least six hours, and the same amount of time the next day, and the next day. So, you have to be thinking about that when you try a bike so you do not find yourself adjusting to the bike, you want to adjust the bike to you.
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Old 07-02-20, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ndrose View Post
Thinking about buying...
The utility of S/R is it tells you how close a given bike/frame size is to a known preferred geometry. I know a 2012 vintage Surly Disc Trucker in 56cm is close to fitting me well, so if I see a bike with 59/39cm S/R then I know I'm in the ballpark. I can adjust fit with adequate fork steerer tube and headset spacers, stem angle/length, drop handlebar reach/drop, and saddle height. However, S/R ratio to me seems relatively useless - you need actual S & R figures, preferably in cm. For example, a S/R of 68/45cm is the same ratio as my preferred 59/39cm, but that "65cm" bike is definitely too big for me to ride.

If you are inexperienced with S/R and don't know what fits you, then you have to resort to determining geometry of your current bike and comparing to others, which can be difficult for some and impossible for others. Most in this situation start with effective top tube and standover height, factor in stem and handlebar effect on total reach, determine how much steerer tube is available to raise bar, make sure unusual seat tube and head tube aren't throwing off your estimate, etc, etc. S/R is simply easier method for reckoning how a bike will fit you.

Another approach is to find the actual bike in correct size at a LBS and test ride it. Problems here are touring bikes are a relatively unpopular niche, so few shops stock them and they are rarely found in correct size. Also, short test rides don't necessarily give you a exhaustive evaluation of long term comfort and fit. A few laps around a large parking lot can be relatively ineffective in determining your ideal fit. Good luck.

Last edited by seeker333; 07-02-20 at 05:36 PM.
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