Stem length angle help or suggestions



magicman22

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Aug 20, 2012
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I just recently purchased a Trek 2.3 that I am looking to get to hopefully feeling a little more comfortable for me. I have already adjusted the seat height and setback. I am just not happy with how far I have to "reach" to get on the brake hoods. I then feel like I have to crane my head up to see where I am going! I don't care about aerodynamics as much as I just want a comfortable bike to ride. I don't think it will take a big change to overcome this but wanted some suggestions before I just start changing things around. I am 6' 1" on a 58cm bike. (56cm and 58cm test rides didn't yield much difference)

I think changing my stem length is the only option...handlebars are at their highest with 30 mm of spacers below.

I currently have a 100mm stem with 7degree rise. I messed around with a stem length calculator online (google it) and comparing my current stem with others and was maybe toying around with the idea of a stem that is 90mm but with 10 degree rise. The calculator shows stem reach would be reduced by .44 of an inch. Is that a big jump when trying to find the right length? Would going from my 100mm/7deg stem to a 90mm/7deg stem be noticeable?

how do I determine the best stem length to buy? Any suggestions will be appreciated!!

Thanks
Darren
 

oldbobcat

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Aug 31, 2003
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Basically, it sounds like you're trying to get your new 2.3 to fit more like a 7100, so I'm inclined to say you're on your own. I don't know your physical limitations, though, so here goes.

0.44" is more than a centimeter, which is quite a lot when you're talking about handlebar reach. When I switched to a shorter reach handlebar I felt cramped, and when our shop fitter saw me coming back from the group ride he confirmed my impression. I bought a stem 1 cm longer and it was spot on.

Consider that when you raise the handlebar it raises the torso and shifts the center of gravity back, so you might want to slide the saddle forward and raise it a bit. Consider a riser stem of the same length or 1 cm longer.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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OR, get a HI-RISE stem -- the effective forward reach is ~90mm AND (depending on your current stem) will raise the clamp at least one more inch.

If your LBS doesn't have one, then you can probably get one at REI (they used to carry them ... presumably, they still do).
 

danfoz

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Apr 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by magicman22 .

I don't think it will take a big change to overcome this
- You are correct, 1cm is very noticeable with regards to stem length

I think changing my stem length is the only option...handlebars are at their highest with 30 mm of spacers below.
- probably, the options to add/remove reach, drop are: spacers, stem length, stem angle. You've exhausted the first.

I currently have a 100mm stem with 7degree rise. I messed around with a stem length calculator online (google it) and comparing my current stem with others and was maybe toying around with the idea of a stem that is 90mm but with 10 degree rise. The calculator shows stem reach would be reduced by .44 of an inch. Is that a big jump when trying to find the right length? Would going from my 100mm/7deg stem to a 90mm/7deg stem be noticeable?

-I personally like this stem calculator: http://alex.phred.org/stemchart/Default.aspx It shows comparitively how different setups relate to each other, visually.

how do I determine the best stem length to buy? Any suggestions will be appreciated!!
- there are different formulas, as well as fitting paradigms (i.e. when sitting with hands on the drops, the front hub should be obscured by the handlebar, etc.). These don't work for everybody. How do you determine? Trial and error. No one but you can say if the 90 or the 100 would be better. Maybe you just need a 100mm with a 0 degree (zero) rise like the thomson elite x4. This was the case with my last bike where flipping the stem was just too much of a change.

Hopefully your LBS is accomidating, or like some of us you'll need to purchase the equipment, trial and error it, and sell the leftovers on ebay. This is where cheaper used components make a lot of sense, i.e.when we are not particularly sure of the fit.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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You check with your LBS to see if you can get a test-ride with a different stem. Switching stems is something they can do quickly, and it's a surefire way for you to determine what change is sufficient.
 

magicman22

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Aug 20, 2012
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Thanks for all of the tips. I did contact my LBS and was informed that they didn't normally do a straight swap but offered to sell me a stem at their cost (50% off) and I could keep my current stem. I got a 90mm 7 degree stem and it is better than what I was dealing with. I am going to give it a try for a while and see if it will work for the long haul.

I know that the seat setback is usually set up to line up your knee over the pedal axle but can SMALL changes be made here to help get me closer to the handlebars if I wanted to be. My seat is about in the middle of the adjustment rails.

Thank folks!!
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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magicman22 said:
Thanks for all of the tips.  I did contact my LBS and was informed that they didn't normally do a straight swap but offered to sell me a stem at their cost (50% off) and I could keep my current stem.  I got a 90mm 7 degree stem and it is better than what I was dealing with.  I am going to give it a try for a while and see if it will work for the long haul.  I know that the seat setback is usually set up to line up your knee over the pedal axle but can SMALL changes be made here to help get me closer to the handlebars if I wanted to be.  My seat is about in the middle of the adjustment rails. Thank folks!!  
Saddle setback shouldn't be changed to provide easier access to the handlebars. Saddle setback is all about getting your legs properly positioned with respect to the bottom bracket/crank.
 

danfoz

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Apr 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by alienator .


Saddle setback shouldn't be changed to provide easier access to the handlebars. Saddle setback is all about getting your legs properly positioned with respect to the bottom bracket/crank.
+1. This is generally a big compromise.
 

Monroe71

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Sep 11, 2012
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The rule of thumb for stem length is that with your hands on the hoods the Handle bars should obscure the front wheel hub when you look down.That said everyones proportions are different - if you've tried a shorter stem and it is still uncomfortable you may consider getting a smaller frame.

Good luck with it.
 

oldbobcat

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Aug 31, 2003
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Originally Posted by Monroe71 .

The rule of thumb for stem length is that with your hands on the hoods the Handle bars should obscure the front wheel hub when you look down.That said everyones proportions are different - if you've tried a shorter stem and it is still uncomfortable you may consider getting a smaller frame.

Good luck with it.
Only if you don't like to look at your front hub while riding on the hoods. Really, there are so many variants to fit that if one went be the "hide the hub" rule, so many other elements would be out of proportion.

The objectives of correct reach for the handlebar are agile steering control of the bike, balance of the upper body over the bike, agility of the upper body over the bike, ability to use the arms to pull on the bar to augment power, and sufficient stretch to facilitate breathing and back extension. The alignment of the hub, the stem, and the rider's eyes may coincide with these objectives in some cases, and it could be used as a criterion for sizing a frame, but it should not be used as an overriding consideration.

The point of reference I start with is a a 90-degreen angle from the humerus to the back when the hands are on the hoods, mainly because this puts the rider in a position where he can start to feel agility, balance, and power. This is only a starting point, though.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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oldbobcat said:
Only if you don't like to look at your front hub while riding on the hoods. Really, there are so many variants to fit that if one went be the "hide the hub" rule, so many other elements would be out of proportion. The objectives of correct reach for the handlebar are agile steering control of the bike, balance of the upper body over the bike, agility of the upper body over the bike, ability to use the arms to pull on the bar to augment power, and sufficient stretch to facilitate breathing and back extension. The alignment of the hub, the stem, and the rider's eyes may coincide with these objectives in some cases, and it could be used as a criterion for sizing  a frame, but it should not be used as an overriding consideration. The point of reference I start with is a a 90-degreen angle from the humerus to the back when the hands are on the hoods, mainly because this puts the rider in a position where he can start to feel agility, balance, and power. This is only a starting point, though.
+1. I've been comfortably seeing my front hub (it appears betwixt my handlebars and the horizon) for years.
 

Dave Cutter

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Jan 15, 2012
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I am wondering.... if the OP may just need to stretch or warm-up a little bit. I know my bicycle fit is good... and I know I like the fit. Yet at times when I am a bit stiff from arthritis... or maybe the outside temperature is a cool and I am not warmed up yet... I can feel overly stretched out myself. There have been times I have even considered a somewhat pricey "worlds lightest bicycle helmet" to reduce that crick in the neck [as if my helmet weight could cause that].

But... there are also other times when I feel perfectly perched and balanced as if the bicycle is merely an extension of my own body. On those days I know... the bicycle is properly sized and set. I think it is called "in the zone" when everything seems in tune and working. I don't know if old age causes fewer "zone days" or not. But I certainly do appreciate those good days more than I used to.

I have found that just letting myself warm-up and stretch out for a while at the beginning of my ride is... for me... normal.
 

danfoz

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Apr 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by Dave Cutter .

I am wondering.... if the OP may just need to stretch or warm-up a little bit.
This is an interesting thought. After a warmup and then banging out a few laps at speed in the drops, when returning to the hoods I often feel really upright, almost too upright. When I start my ride the bike usually feels just right, but I often finish a ride thinking I can get that stem a little lower. After lowering it, I sometimes finish the ride with a mildly sore neck, and that tell-tale twinge in my upper hams that precipitates an episode with my lower back. Too low. As my bike is set up now it accomidates the range between cold and warm muscles nicely.

I think the moral of the story is that proper fit is a process and many factors play a role in being comfy on the bike. It also highlights the fact when being fitted on a bike one may be better served after a proper warm up.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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danfoz said:
I think the moral of the story is that proper fit is a process and many factors play a role in being comfy on the bike. It also highlights the fact when being fitted on a bike one may be better served after a proper warm up.
Exactly. My trusted fitter does exactly that.