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Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?(24 posts)

Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?Abol98
Mar 26, 2002 7:56 AM
I was looking at the '02 Look catalouge and it seems to me that every pro bike in it had a stem that was at least 130mm long, and a lot of seatpost as well. Do pros tend to ride the smallest frame possible and extend the cockpit and seat hardware?

Is this for style, feel, weight-savings.... or am I just seeing something that's not there?
Artificially lowers frame weight for a given size.Alex-in-Evanston
Mar 26, 2002 8:03 AM
I can't think of any other reason.

re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?Troyboy
Mar 26, 2002 8:08 AM
Just watch the Tour de France closely. You'll see most of them with long stems and as small a frame as possible. I've learned a lot over the past many years and gone smaller and smaller than what I was originally fit with out of the shop. I am much more comfortable and much faster.
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?Sherpa23
Mar 26, 2002 8:43 AM
Actually, the real reason for the long stems is that most professional cyclists have very lean upper bodies. To compensate for the rearward weight, they need extra long stems. They also put their saddles back all the way and the combination of a long stem and nice setback is that weight is evenly distributed over the WHOLE bike. The seapost length is determined by the handlebar position and posture. If the rider likes a low handlebar, he has a lot of seapost (no one puts spacers under their stems unless they ride stock bikes). If the rider likes a higher bar, he has less seatpost. All the talk about riding smaller bikes because they are faster/lighter is a myth. The fast bike is the bike that puts the rider in the most efficient position while being balanced to the point that he can maneuver with no effort.
Exactly! Great explanation above!Troyboy
Mar 26, 2002 8:50 AM
Thanks for the further explanation. I am much faster on my better fitting smaller bikes, not due to the very small weight advantage.
Maybe I'm different.laffeaux
Mar 26, 2002 10:03 AM
I rode a bike with a 56cm TT and 12cm stem for a few years. Then I switched to a bike with a 59cm TT and 9cm stem. It's like night and day to me - the new frame is much more comfortable. My weight was so far forward on the old frame that descents were tough, I much prefer the larger frame. Then again, I'm a long way from being a pro.
Mar 26, 2002 11:06 AM
Especially nowadays, even the rouleurs are pretty damn lean and most pro riders are extremely weight conscious on top of a selective process that tends to weed out people who tend toward upper body bulk. Sure, there's some variation, but most of 'em are just way skinny with relatively small upper bodies. Most Div. 1 pros just don't look like folks you see walking around every day, even athletic folks, in pretty good shape, with a US Cat 2 or Cat 3 license.
Olano (+180cm/+6ft) on a medium TCR... (nm!)tempeteKerouak
Mar 26, 2002 11:18 AM
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?elviento
Mar 26, 2002 12:05 PM
Is that a guess or is there some proof from actual pros to back up the theory?

"They also put their saddles back all the way and the combination of a long stem and nice setback is that weight is evenly distributed over the WHOLE bike."

Also if they are trying to move weight forward, why push saddle all the way back? What you refer to as two measures combined to achieve the perfect weight distribution happens to be two opposite things that cancel each other out in terms of weight distribution. Explanation?
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?elviento
Mar 26, 2002 12:09 PM
It's almost like saying: "I am overweight, so I exercise a lot and eat lots of fatty food, which combine to achieve the optimal weight."
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?Brad S
Mar 26, 2002 1:30 PM
Most pros have proportionally longer femur to tibia ratio (in fact, a lot of them are genetic freaks when it comes to femur/tibia ratio - Indurian, Rominger, Merckx), hence the more setback and the better leverage over the cranks. Also, more setback is easier on your back and shoulders/neck (more comfortable) for the 200+ km stage races European pros specialize in. This is what builders mean when they claim "stage racing geometry" for a frame.

So the more saddle seatback that pros prefer pushes the weight balance to the rear of the bike, and most pros are pretty lean in upper body mass like Ryan said, so the longer stem helps balance the front of the bike and reduces the tendency for the front end to wash out in hard cornering.

To go the opposite, a lot of Americans have shorter legs/longer torso w/ more upper body mass relative than your type Euro pro, and also ride/race less distances. So most good custom builders put your average American more forward (because of shorter femur/tibia ratio and shorter distances, allows better short term power - crits, time trials), w/ a longer toptube and shorter stem to balance out the overall weight distribution.
Are you serious?Sherpa23
Mar 26, 2002 2:35 PM
What do you mean is that a guess? Proof from actual pros? That statement IS a statement from an actual pro - me! At any rate, yes it cancels each other out which is exactly the point. If your saddle is all the way back and you have a relatively small upper compared to the lower body, the front end is too light/back end too heavy. The solution? Longer stem. And there are different reasons that a lot of us ride with pushed back saddles. I for one, like many other professionals, have long femurs. Other people like the weight distributed along the whole bike, hence they need to put the weight at the extremes of the wheelbase (saddle back, long stem). And yes, they have to cancel the weight out or the bike is not going to handle right. That's why when people say fit is not everything, balance is key as well, they are right.
Well, he does have a point. Not to say that setting your bikebill
Mar 26, 2002 3:18 PM
up that way doesn't accomplish something, but it doesn't seem to me that it could be about spreading out your weight. There is no difference that I can determine in my little pea brain between putting 50% of your weight directly over the seatpost and 50% of your weight directly over the head tube and spreading it out more (50% a little or a lot in back and 50% a little or a lot in front) in terms of weighting the bike. Maybe it gets a bigger dude on a smaller frame, but it doesn't make any sense to say that you have to use a long stem to get more weight out over the front end to balance a weightier undercarriage and then you need more setback to balance that out. You've just canceled out what you said you were setting out to do.
Also, the authorities I've been reading (I believe everything I read on the Internet; don't you?) don't place much truck with the "long femur" theory, either. What difference does a long femur make, they ask, and I'm not sure that I get the long femur explanation for anything either. Your leg works all together. The location in the sysem of the pivot point of your knee means, well, I'm not sure what it means. Bontrager doesn't find it significant, if I understood him, and he claims to know something about physics AND bike-building.
If you can add to this, I certainly would welcome it, because I'm trying to sort it all out.
Adding to the confusionSherpa23
Mar 27, 2002 7:22 AM
Well, I can add a little based on my experience, and it may or may not help. I started off on a smaller frame than I ride now (13cm stem and 6-7 inches of drop from top of stem to top of saddle) and through the 6 years I have been racing, my position has become more stretched out and the handlebars a little higher. In the course of that progression, I realized that I had more power and felt more comfortable with the seat further back. I tried out the power part with a quick test on a Computrainer. At any rate, I found that, with my pedaling style, I produce the most power with my saddle all the way back on a 73 degree seat tube with a big setback post, and with the saddle position a little bit on the low side of neutral. I chalked some of this up to the long femur approach. The last time I raced in Europe, my mechanic was the Lotto mechanic, and I had a new bike and I was fiddling with it and he came over and put the saddle all the way back. He didn't even see me on it. I asked him and he said that you ALWAYS put the saddle all the way back unles something is very out of proportion or injury related to prevent that. I think that is big part of Old World European bike racing theory. I think that a lot of the pros grew up and moved through the ranks with saddles all the way back and that is a big part of why their saddles are all the way back. The long stem is to compensate for that weight distribution. At any rate, I rode with Danilo DiLuca at some point and I am pretty sure his seat angle is like 74.5 or something. Guess what? His saddle was all the way back. Instead of riding a normal seat tube angle and having a saddle forward or in the middle of the rails he has a steep angle and his saddle is slammed. It's interesting to say the least. This is only my experience but I hope that this helps at least somewhat.
Interesting. In thinking about what difference could abill
Mar 27, 2002 7:47 AM
relatively long femur make, all I could think of is that a long femur I guess rotates less on the hip than a shorter femur, which would rely more on the knee flexion to complete the motion of the pedal. Any kinesiologists to address this issue? But, what difference would this make in terms of position over the bottom bracket?
Bontrager is his essay discusses how little difference the relative position in relation to gravity over the bottom bracket makes, and he uses as his example a recumbent. I'm convinced -- what could gravity have to do with it? Bontrager argues that the saddle in any position in a circle, the same distance from the BB, is the same anatomical movement, so that there could be no "better" position for a seated rider.
On the other hand, you ain't always seated. If you are up in the saddle, maybe long-femured guys need a relatively longer cockpit. When your foot is at the 12 o'clock position, you've still got to accomodate the movement of that long femur. I don't know; make sense?
The other thing that occurs to me is that practicing it makes it so. If you train in a position that keeps your hips flexed at a certain angle through a certain relative motion, that's where you'll be most efficient.
well said Ryan!! (nm)Brad S
Mar 26, 2002 1:13 PM
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?dzrider
Mar 26, 2002 8:37 AM
We went to the Tour Du Pont years ago and were amazed by the long limbs and short torsos of many of the riders. In addition to the lighter weight and slightly stiffer frame, they may fit better on bikes set up this way.
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?LC
Mar 26, 2002 10:32 AM
A smaller frame is stiffer for climbing and the longer stem puts your arms in a better position for climbing.
This gets into the issue bandied about (with some blood on thebill
Mar 26, 2002 11:09 AM
floor, as I recall) a little while ago about what difference it makes to use different elements of the frame and compenentry to get your contact points lined up. I've been looking at various sources to try to figure this out -- I've got two bikes, not radically different in size but one a little smaller with a slightly steeper STA, and they feel, well, somewhat different. There are loads of differences of course, but I'm focusing on the way I feel in the sadddle, tooling along. Actually, I think that I have overlooked one possibly reasonably significant variable, and that is reach to the hoods -- the distance from the point of the saddle (identical saddles) to the center of the bar is identical, the saddles seem to be identically positioned in relation to the BB, but the bikes still feel different enough that I'm thinking that the one cm or so difference in reach between the two bars may be decisive in how I feel about the way I'm carrying my weight.
Sheldon Brown has some interesting essays on his site and linked to his site that seem to boil down the difference to how much weight you feel like tolerating on your arms as well as the distance you need to work with in the cockpit, most importantly for climbing and sprinting OUT of the saddle. Interesting. There did not seem to be too much emphasis in distributing the weight fore and aft for handling purposes per se.
What I got out of it all was that you need to have enough stem length so that out of saddle, when you are supporting your weight with your feet and your arms, you need to have enough distance to the bars so that you can keep your butt bent some (positioned for power) while not pulling the bike over on top of you because your center of gravity is too far back. This is true both for sprints and for climbing. There was more, but I'm still tryig to process it.
Pretty much everyone poo-poohed the KOPS thing.
One more thought Bill:djg
Mar 26, 2002 11:23 AM
You've probably thought of this already, but fixing the distance from the tip of the saddle (wherever exactly that is) to the center of the bar doesn't fix the cockpit. Seems to me that you might well have a somewhat different drop from the saddle to the bars between your Litespeed and your Pegoretti--apart from the issue of the different bars, changing the drop would give a very different feel (seems to me that a cm more drop would be more perceptible than an extra cm reach on the bars all by its lonesome, but that's a guess).
Of course you may be right, (but you knew that already). Thebill
Mar 26, 2002 11:55 AM
drop, however, is actually pretty close. I recently lowered the saddle on the Pegoretti a little bit (good move, too, by the way; I'm using more of my whole leg than just quads -- don't know if that's how it's supposed to work, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it), and, well, I haven't measured it with a level recently, but the drop is pretty close. What I'm finding is that I'm still sliding forward on the saddle on the Pegoretti. It's better after lowering the saddle and pushing it forward a bit, but I still I end up on the nose, push back, feel okay, and then find out that I'm back on the nose. I don't think that it's saddle angle; if anything, the Peg's nose is up a bit.
Fooling around on the margins. We'll see.
re: Pros = Smaller frames and longer stems?jim hubbard
Mar 26, 2002 11:29 AM
From what I remember a few years ago if the frame is set up in France they tend to have a longer top tube and a shorter stem, whereas if the frame is setup in Italy it will have a shorter TT and a longer stem. Just to add to the mix.
do you refer to body type and length of their ... uhm nevermindWoof the dog
Mar 26, 2002 1:17 PM
juvenile and immature my dogass


Woof the dog.
Well, I'm no pro. To me it's mostly a handling issue.Leisure
Mar 28, 2002 5:09 AM
Where I toiled a lot over years getting the right ride quality on my mountainbike, I just told the person fitting my roadbike the handling quality I liked and asked him to translate it for road. The feel I was trying to replicate from my mountainbike was where I felt I could wrecklessly toss the bike into a turn with good stability and always recover. For me that meant a smallish frame and longish stem.
With a shorter wheel base I could more easily keep my CG centered on the bike in high-speed corners or descents, while the long stem made steering less dramatic, more precise, and easier to recover from, both by being slower and also by increasing the leverage with which my body weight would passively recenter the handlebars after turns. I could rail my mtb into a steep switchback with the rear wheel sliding all the way around, and just when I thought I had gone too far, I'd just relax and the bike would just seem to straighten itself out. A real rush, and even though you can't skid roadbikes around the way you do mountainbikes, I still wanted that tossable feel. So again I went with a slightly small frame and long stem, and feel I've gotten similar results. (Admittedly some of that is also my choice of fork and frame.) I mean, it feels fabulous at any speed between 10 and 45 mph, really intuitive and drama free. Okay, okay, I quit with the unabashed enthusiasm. But it's so much fun! Just lean the bike to and fro, don't bother with the brakes, la, la la, la la!
Also, I too find that when I'm really cranking up a hill I'll push to the rear of the seat.