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Saddle height vs Handlebars

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Saddle height vs Handlebars

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Old 10-02-18, 09:46 PM
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McMitchell
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Saddle height vs Handlebars

I am wondering if there is a constant relationship between how high the saddle should be in relation to the handlebars? It seems that many road bikes with drop bars have the handlebars lower than the saddle. On the other hand many MTN bikes have the handlebars, typically flat bars or risers, proportionally higher as compared to the saddle.

It appears that this ratio is more noticeable with those who race, particularly those who ride rode bikes where “aero” becomes an increasingly important factor. It seems that older people, who may be past their racing days, often raise the height of their handlebars, as “aero” becomes less important. Later in life flexibility often decreases and simple exercise and fun become more important.

It could also be that the relationship has more to do with personal physical features and physical challenges? I have been experimenting with different angles and lengths of bike stems. I just turned 69 and I am much more interested in exercise and comfort than speed. I did figure out it is easier to climb hills on a lighter bike, with tires that weigh less. I have been “ hybridizing” a Cyclocross bike for the paved/gravel roads I frequently ride on.

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Old 10-03-18, 05:34 AM
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For MTBs, different design and usage parameters apply. With big wheels and long-travel suspension forks, there's a limit to how low the bars can go. And if you're riding technically challenging trails and haven't sprung for a dropper post, you may want your saddle lower than dictated by ideal pedalling position for greater manouverability. For technical riding, having the bar at the right height and fore/aft position for out-of saddle riding can be quite important.
For those who actually race road bikes/take a keen interest in going fast/ wants to LOOK like the guys who race road bikes, being aero is a big thing. And getting your front end down low can help with that. There are style points to be gained by riding a bike that's "slammed" = stem resting straight on top headset race. As long as back and neck aches doesn't make you moan loud enough to shatter the illusion of being a serious rider, it's a win for some.

So the relationship goes something like this:
- want to go fast on good roads - set the bars as low as your body will tolerate. It's not only about neck and back flexibility, you need to have room to breathe too.
- want to do jumps, drops and switchback skid turns - set the bars where you get maximum control when out-of-saddle.
- Have realized you're not chasing a podium finish, set the bars at a nice compromise between comfort and the ability to hunker down in a headwind or during a descent.
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Old 10-03-18, 12:06 PM
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dabac,
Thanks for the favor of a reply. Yes my MTB got an upgrade to a drop post. So far I have mostly ridden the paved/gravel roads in the community I live in, so it has not seen much use. There is very little traffic, but lots of hills & switch backs due to the mtn environment. There are plenty of technical Mtn trails here in the Mountain Bike Capital of GA, though. I am honing my skills on the community roads.

Lately I have been working on the Focus Cyclocross bike, tuning it for every day ridding. The bike came with a 100mm stem with minimal rise. I felt a little cramped so I put a 110mm, 35 degree stem on it. I went a little longer as I knew the steeper stem angle might over adjust my sitting angle. The position felt good but maybe a little high. I am about to get a 110mm 17 degree stem, that I hope will “dial me in”.
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Old 10-03-18, 12:27 PM
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At 73, I still find a slammed -17° stem on my road bike to be the most comfortable for long distance riding. My bars are ~10 cm below my saddle. I also find being well stretched out to be the most comfortable both for my back and hands. Besides being more comfortable and more aero, I climb better with my bars low and well forward, which gets my torso over my legs. As I've aged, I've found most physical limitations can be overcome by staying fit. BTW, nothing to do with appearance, see my sig.
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Old 10-03-18, 12:57 PM
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I also have my bars about 10cm below my saddle. I feel more comfortable with my weight balanced over the center of the bike, rather than mostly on the saddle.
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Old 10-03-18, 01:09 PM
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Good idea guys. I can try the new 17 degree stem upside down too. I am not sure if my neck, injured in a car accident, will handle a 10cm drop though.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by McMitchell View Post
Good idea guys. I can try the new 17 degree stem upside down too. I am not sure if my neck, injured in a car accident, will handle a 10cm drop though.
Don't do it... You know better what is good for you. You said it all in OP. If you will get a problem with your neck it can be the end of everything. It's better to start more upright, than less.
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Old 10-03-18, 07:50 PM
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Chelvel,
Also offers sage reasoning. I thought about it and worked a compromise. I reinstalled the original 100mm stem, inverting the small positive angle to a small negative. My bar is now a little further away and a little lower, much less than 10cm. The handlebar is a little lower than my saddle, instead of higher/even. I made a test ride just before dark and it felt better.

Tomorrow I will do a longer ride and test it more thoroughly to see how my neck and hands adjust to the change. Sometimes muscles get stronger and more flexible, which may help even nerve issues. Even old battered bodies can adjust, especially if one makes changes gradually, which is at least one reason I have three different stems to switch between.
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Old 10-04-18, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by McMitchell View Post
Chelvel,
Also offers sage reasoning. I thought about it and worked a compromise. I reinstalled the original 100mm stem, inverting the small positive angle to a small negative. My bar is now a little further away and a little lower, much less than 10cm. The handlebar is a little lower than my saddle, instead of higher/even. I made a test ride just before dark and it felt better.

Tomorrow I will do a longer ride and test it more thoroughly to see how my neck and hands adjust to the change. Sometimes muscles get stronger and more flexible, which may help even nerve issues. Even old battered bodies can adjust, especially if one makes changes gradually, which is at least one reason I have three different stems to switch between.
For back/neck issues, see: https://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycl...discovery.html
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Old 10-04-18, 06:51 PM
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Interesting article Carbonfiberboy. The stem change I made seemed to place me in a little different place on my saddle. I will try the pointing the ole belly button down trick tomorrow. I think I have a slight negative rake to my saddle. I will change that tonight too.
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Old 10-04-18, 07:16 PM
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Count me as another, 59 yrs and 3 or 4 inches below the saddle. It's comfortable, and what I prefer for long rides. Which for me currently is 45-60 miles. . My other bike, almost even with the saddle and also comfortable for commuting and short rides. It's more about how you hold your back and hips than about age and racing, IMO.
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Old 10-05-18, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
At 73, I still find a slammed -17° stem on my road bike to be the most comfortable for long distance riding. My bars are ~10 cm below my saddle. I also find being well stretched out to be the most comfortable both for my back and hands. Besides being more comfortable and more aero, I climb better with my bars low and well forward, which gets my torso over my legs. As I've aged, I've found most physical limitations can be overcome by staying fit. BTW, nothing to do with appearance, see my sig.
I'm about a decade behind CFBoy, but since I've started getting massage therapy and doing specific exercises for my lower back, I've migrated to the most aggressive handlebar position in my 40 years of riding, to the tune of 5cm longer and 3cm lower than when I was racing. It just feels better that way.

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Old 10-05-18, 01:41 PM
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Unfortunately the 110mm 17 degree stem was shipped to the residence I am not at. I can not experiment with that stem until I make the trip there. Here is what I have at the moment.

This is a -8 degree 100mm stem. I also raised the front end of the saddle and slid it forward about 1/2”.
Yes the gear bag under the seat is upside down.








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Old 10-06-18, 04:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
At 73, I still find a slammed -17° stem on my road bike to be the most comfortable for long distance riding. My bars are ~10 cm below my saddle. I also find being well stretched out to be the most comfortable both for my back and hands. Besides being more comfortable and more aero, I climb better with my bars low and well forward, which gets my torso over my legs. As I've aged, I've found most physical limitations can be overcome by staying fit. BTW, nothing to do with appearance, see my sig.
I'm sure I never developed the flexibility that Carbonfiberboy has, but when I started riding dropped bars in the 1960's I set my bars between even with the saddle and not more than an inch below. I was riding in my home neighborhood in Chicago and for errands, work, and exploration all over the city north side and north and west suburbs, and I knew I needed to see traffic without cranking my neck. Now at 65 yo I still have a similar vertical road position, but I stretch out more, and I talk in metric, liking a 2 cm drop. Sometimes I get hand pressure at that position, and it is relieved by moving the bars down a centimeter! My hands want to be a bit lower than "traditional!"

I've never gone the 10 cm / 4 inches below saddle route. It never felt like my back wanted to be there. Now with weekly (at least) 2 hours yoga, I think my lost strength due to a career driving a mouse at a desk is returning, and my flexibility if anything is better, except when I took a beginning ballet class in my early '20s. After that, I could touch my toes!

We also agree about slamming the saddle back (judiciously) to bring the body center of gravity in our cycling tucks in line with the bike center of gravity. That plus the comfortable drop leads to good comfort.
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Old 10-06-18, 07:56 AM
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A few questions:

First I wonder how people are measuring their drops. One might measure from several places I can think of: highest point of handlebars, top of stem (either where the stem actually protrudes or the top of the stem), use a level to find a perpendicular line from the seat top to some other point......Then maybe people “eyeball” it?

Particularly for “older” riders....

The position one may or may not ride in most certainly has to do with flexibility. I do some stretching on a Nautilus sit up bench I have, do a few Tai-Chi stretches...I use to be able to put at least one foot behind my head, when I was wrestling. I have heard Yoga mentioned....I picked up a little Tai-Chi mostly from video tapes. I have been thinking of trying to find a Yoga instructor...or maybe a video...

Oddly enough the more I ride my bike the better I seem to get at it. I am of the opinion that some things change with experience/exercise. I am making it up hills in higher gears now. The issue is I am a little concerned about higher speeds, at my age. I have come to learn that things break easier and take longer to heal at my age. I try to tell myself that as I “get faster” I develop greater coordination and strength that may make me safer at those higher speeds.
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Old 10-06-18, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by McMitchell View Post
A few questions:

First I wonder how people are measuring their drops. One might measure from several places I can think of: highest point of handlebars, top of stem (either where the stem actually protrudes or the top of the stem), use a level to find a perpendicular line from the seat top to some other point......Then maybe people “eyeball” it?

Particularly for “older” riders....

The position one may or may not ride in most certainly has to do with flexibility. I do some stretching on a Nautilus sit up bench I have, do a few Tai-Chi stretches...I use to be able to put at least one foot behind my head, when I was wrestling. I have heard Yoga mentioned....I picked up a little Tai-Chi mostly from video tapes. I have been thinking of trying to find a Yoga instructor...or maybe a video...

Oddly enough the more I ride my bike the better I seem to get at it. I am of the opinion that some things change with experience/exercise. I am making it up hills in higher gears now. The issue is I am a little concerned about higher speeds, at my age. I have come to learn that things break easier and take longer to heal at my age. I try to tell myself that as I “get faster” I develop greater coordination and strength that may make me safer at those higher speeds.
I put a long enough level on the saddle then measure from the bottom of the level to the top of the handlebar. Just a simple easy method.

For flexibility and overall strength including core, I like Iyengar yoga. It’s strenuous and rigorous, but the teachers are trained to teach poses in the way that is accessible to the student, and to recognize your real limits for yourself. It is butt-kicking and hard, but no injuries. Aerobic too, but not anaerobic.

Control of speed is something each of us has to learn. Bikes have brakes as well as propulsion, and you just hav to tie wthin yourself as you learn your limits and those of the machine. Don’t fall, especially be careful when you dismount.
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Old 10-06-18, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by McMitchell View Post


I just turned 69 and I am much more interested in exercise and comfort than speed. I did figure out...


ditto on everything except that for me or in addition to the above... increasing rpm and seeing improvement of avg. mph does provide positive reinforcement... that and looking forward to a pint of IPA after the ride.
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Old 10-06-18, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post

I put a long enough level on the saddle then measure from the bottom of the level to the top of the handlebar. Just a simple easy method.

For flexibility and overall strength including core, I like Iyengar yoga. It’s strenuous and rigorous, but the teachers are trained to teach poses in the way that is accessible to the student, and to recognize your real limits for yourself. It is butt-kicking and hard, but no injuries. Aerobic too, but not anaerobic.
l

Control of speed is something each of us has to learn. Bikes have brakes as well as propulsion, and you just hav to tie wthin yourself as you learn your limits and those of the machine. Don’t fall, especially be careful when you dismount.



I have a riser handlebar, not sure what area to consider the top? If I go all the way to the end of the handlebars I want be where my hands rest. I have inner bars too...If I go all the way to the end of the bars then I am back about, level with the top of my saddle. I was calculating more where my hands rest, or the center of the bar to try to be concistent with where I believe people grip drop bars. Although there are multiple hand positions on drop bars. I think most people ride on the hoods most of the time which are usually level with the top of the bar or slightly higher. Hoods can redistribute weight in my experience. They can also reduce the feeling that one may go over the bar at any second, which was one of the reasons I did inner bars.

I will try to find an Iyengar Yoga instructor in my area.

Good advise on dismounting the bike. It seems my leg does not want to lift that high after a ride. I typically lean the bike way over to get it lower while dismounting.

McBTC,
Motivation is important.

There are very steep downhills here which is where I may get unfomfortable speed wise. Sometimes just tapping the brakes can cause skidding on the gravel covered roads. I realize this is a learning process too. It still makes me a little nervous when my rear end passes my front end! I have to drink gluten free beer or wine but they are good too.






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Old 10-06-18, 08:18 PM
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A few more suggestions:

You mentioned swapping ends as you apply brakes: practice shifting your butt back when you brake and using both brakes - it will add weight to your rear wheel and help to keep it planted. Plus if you shift your butt back you will be much less likely to go over the handlebars. Even on gravel, the front brake gives you the lion's share of the slowing, and the rear brake serves to stabilize the bike by pulling backwards. In big freight trucks the same thing happens even with many tons in the trailers - the tractor brakes slow down the whole vehicle and the trailer brakes keep the trailer from jacknifing. So you do have to use the front brake and the back brake.

On your gravel, practice braking right up the threshold of losing traction - back end swapping or front end washing out - you need to learn to feel the onset of those conditions.

I use the center of the bar, but I only have drop bars. I think it's your choice - most of the discussions involving saddle to bar drop are relative to drop bars. Most people grip drop bars on the ramps (between where the bar curves forward from the handlebar clamp and the brake lever) or the hoods (top of the brake levers). The drop measurement is generally on the top of the center section (called the tops).

Again regarding dismounting and your leg lift: do you clip your shoes into pedals that latch them? If you do, you have to practice unclipping the foot on the dismount side before you stop - your foot needs to be stable on the ground before you lean the bike down and swing your second leg off of the bike. The way I have seen it done is to slow, unclip on the dismount side, stop, put that foot down, unclip the other foot, lean the bike while you are on one foot (sheesh!) then swing your other leg off. Get both feet on the ground and breathe!

Honestly, I never thought about how complicated it is to get off of a bicycle!

For yoga look at www.IYNAUS.com: Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States. They have a directory of registered teachers certified in the Iyengar method (different from other certifications) by where they are and to what level they are certified. In Atlanta, there are at least three identified on the site.
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Old 10-07-18, 08:31 AM
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Wow Road Fan,
Much good information in the post above, thanks.

There was a touch of sarcasm in my comment about my rear wheel passing the front, that has never actually happened. The amount of gravel on these roads changes frequently as does the frequency of other foreign objects on the road. They replenish the gravel on the roads frequently, resulting in major changes between where they started and finished dumping. The road is just barely wide enough for two cars to pass, some places it is a single lane, with pull offs for passing. There are very steep drops off the sides of the road. The “pavement” ends at the very edge of steep drops into ditches or steep drops down the side of the mountain, or both. The point being that small skids or lapses in consintration can have dire consequences.

The challenge I face on the roads I ride on has to do with constant change. Many steep hills, sharp turns/switch backs, and frequent changes in how much gravel/leaves/moss/sand/dirt may be on the road. The road is in deep woods, so dead wood, lage amounts of leaves, fallen trees...are frequent too, especially after storms. There are tons of squirrels, dear, birds, snakes and the occasional black bear. The Squirrels are particularly good at running into a riders path at the last second. I do ring a bell constantly while riding but dear & squirrels still seem to wait to run out in front of me. These factors may result in one having to brake unexpectedly. I understand that practising proper braking still helps.

At least for now I use flat pedals and a riser bar in an attempt to deal with my unique conditions, which may be more typical for MTN bikers than “road bikers”. On the plus side, traffic on the “roads” I ride is light to null and much slower.

Still, experience is a great teacher. I was ridding “my” roads on a 27.5+ MTN bike, which was geared better for all the hills. I do find I am increasingly able to stay more in the middle of my chain set on the lighter bike which I just adapted to a 1X, GX Eagle, group set.

I will check out the Yoga site you mentioned.



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Old 10-08-18, 10:07 AM
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M'k, but As a touring and transportation rider, my drop bars are at same height ,
Trekking, and the ergon grip equipped straight bars on my folding bikes,
those are higher than the saddle.

But OP , seems younger than I, and has more performance focused needs ...

... and peer support for that choice?





....
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Old 10-14-18, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Count me as another, 59 yrs and 3 or 4 inches below the saddle. It's comfortable, and what I prefer for long rides. Which for me currently is 45-60 miles. . My other bike, almost even with the saddle and also comfortable for commuting and short rides. It's more about how you hold your back and hips than about age and racing, IMO.
I would think you could try to spend more time on the drops than the bars to get more flexible and comfortable in the lower aero position.
I spend most of my riding time on the bars but am trying to change that.
I also have one bike that is 5 to 6 inches below the saddle because the frame is at my smaller limit so I raised the saddle to the max spec, like 6 to 7 inches above clamp and the bars are right at the headset. Its been hard for me to ride comfortable on this bike but it is forcing me to be more flexible.
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Old 10-15-18, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by joesch View Post
I would think you could try to spend more time on the drops than the bars to get more flexible and comfortable in the lower aero position.
I spend most of my riding time on the bars but am trying to change that.
I also have one bike that is 5 to 6 inches below the saddle because the frame is at my smaller limit so I raised the saddle to the max spec, like 6 to 7 inches above clamp and the bars are right at the headset. Its been hard for me to ride comfortable on this bike but it is forcing me to be more flexible.
I am increasingly believing this too. I rode my bike a few times with my -6-8 degree, 100mm stem and liked it. As others may be suggesting “stretching” out ones position may actually relieve some of the issues age seems to visit upon us. I am starting to think raising the saddle in relation to bars actually stretches the rider out more, as I believe Carbonfiberboy and Road Fan among others have suggested. I am also trying to change my back & pubic bone position on the saddle, as Carbonfiberboy links to above.

I am back in Milton, GA now, and do not have the gravel roads in the development to ride on. Which might be good as the trails in & around Alpharetta, GA tend to be flatter. I am thinking I may switch to the -17 degree, 110mm stem to see how that does. I may try it upside down & right side up, to see which position works better for me. I have 20mm of spacers, below my bar, to work with too.

I am trying to leave my handlebar as is for now, as changing that may change too many things at once.

Last edited by McMitchell; 10-15-18 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 10-15-18, 08:32 AM
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wphamilton
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Originally Posted by joesch View Post
I would think you could try to spend more time on the drops than the bars to get more flexible and comfortable in the lower aero position.
I spend most of my riding time on the bars but am trying to change that.
I also have one bike that is 5 to 6 inches below the saddle because the frame is at my smaller limit so I raised the saddle to the max spec, like 6 to 7 inches above clamp and the bars are right at the headset. Its been hard for me to ride comfortable on this bike but it is forcing me to be more flexible.
Why? I'm comfortable either way and spend quite a bit of time in the drops on my road bike. Are you saying that 4" drop isn't low enough to be aero?

Or are you talking to OP with that?

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Old 10-15-18, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by McMitchell View Post


I am increasingly believing this too. I rode my bike a few times with my -6-8 degree, 100mm stem and liked it. As others may be suggesting “stretching” out ones position may actually relieve some of the issues age seems to visit upon us. I am starting to think raising the saddle in relation to bars actually stretches the rider out more, as I believe Carbonfiberboy and Road Fan among others have suggested. I am also trying to change my back & pubic bone position on the saddle, as Carbonfiberboy links to above.

I am back in Milton, GA now, and do not have the gravel roads in the development to ride on. Which might be good as the trails in & around Alpharetta, GA tend to be flatter. I am thinking I may switch to the -17 degree, 110mm stem to see how that does. I may try it upside down & right side up, to see which position works better for me. I have 20mm of spacers, below my bar, to work with too.

I am trying to leave my handlebar as is for now, as changing that may change too many things at once.
I don't think that anyone is suggesting to raise your saddle in order to get more drop to the handlebars, nor for reach! We should set saddle height in relation to leg length, and adjust reach with the stem. When you raise the saddle it does place you slightly further back (due to the ST angle).
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