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Saddle height and handlebar height(19 posts)

Saddle height and handlebar heightmtnbaker
Nov 12, 2002 2:36 PM
Avid mountain biker, new to road biking. I'm trying to find out what the general guidelines are for how much drop/distance is preferable for the distance between the height of my saddle and the center of the top of the handlebar (i.e., holding a yardstick out from the saddle towards the bar, how far below the stick should the center of my bar be). Right now, I've got 4" of drop, and the bar feels way too low. My LBS told me that generally, the drop should be no more than 3", and usually only the most agressive racers have that much drop. At best, I'm a recreational roadie, but I will on occasion do a 50+ miler. I'm thinking that 1" of drop would be more comfortable (less aero, I know, but I'm a non-road-racing clydesdale who generally rides less than 30 miles at a time).
re: Saddle height and handlebar heighttao
Nov 12, 2002 3:38 PM
A 4" drop is fine if you're over 6' tall, reasonably flexible, and used to a road bike. Otherwise, I'd start in the 1 - 2" range. If it feels to low, by all means, raise it up. Eventually you'll become more comfortable with the road setup, perhaps even gain some flexibility, and end up lowering the bars some. Of course if you want to look like David Millar, 7" is the way to go.
first, study the many learned responses below to Psydoc'sbill
Nov 12, 2002 3:40 PM
invitation to critique his position.
Then raise your bars.
To whatever you like. Gotta be comfortable.
You will, I assure you, in time get more comfortable with the position, which feels very bizarre after mostly MTB riding, and 2-3" from top of saddle to top of bars probably is more like it for reasonably fit and flexible younger guys, but ease into it, big boy. Whatever works.
Then, don't be a stranger.
look below under "stem length"...C-40
Nov 12, 2002 3:50 PM
Lots of discussion below under the topic "stem length".

Saddle to bar height is usually measured from the top of the saddle to the top of the bars. The easiest way is to measure the saddle and the bars from the floor up and take the difference between the two measurements.

4 inches is a lot of drop for many people, although it's not that uncommon. I use over 3.5 inches on a 54cm frame. Larger riders often tolerate a greater drop. Serious racers may have 5-6" of drop.

A 1" drop may be hard to achieve and could make for a goofy looking setup. As little as 1/2" to 1" increase in bar height may make a huge improvement in comfort. Try a small change first, to see if it helps.

Increasing back and abdominal strength will increase the ability to tolerate a large drop. The saddle must also be adjusted far enough back to help balance your weight.
look below under "stem length"...xcandrew
Nov 12, 2002 7:51 PM
5-6"? I don't think I see too many people with that much drop. My point of view is as a rider who started in the early '80's and followed what Lemond/Hinault/Guimard were recommending, which was 5-8 cm (2-3") for RACERS. 8 cm was described as pretty extreme. Of course, riders, pros even, nowadays rarely use the drops and they angle their bars up more. I really don't think it makes a difference in riding speed in races because you ride with the same body position either way. Your arms are just straighter with the lower bars. Lemond was very conscious of his body position and developed his position to maintain a flat aerodynamic body position, so going more than 8cm for most average sized people seems to be more of a style thing than anything else. Of course, taller people and people with long arms might prefer something lower, but I really do think that it has more to do with appearance and perception of speed or raciness than actual efficency. Kind of like how all the "fast" looking cars in the '80s had dumb looking fender flares... and just as ridiculous (even if harmless) a trend in my view.
re: Saddle height and handlebar heightScottland
Nov 12, 2002 4:15 PM
I am 6' with slightly longer arms. Just few weeks ago I lowered to 3.5" and rode century with it. It was OK but on the "out of comfort zone" side. A year ago even 1" was kinda tough. Mostly I had it even with seat. So guess you can start easy with 1" and see after some time. You can always change it if you feel more powerfull.
my MTB bars are much lower than road barslaffeaux
Nov 12, 2002 4:24 PM
I ride with my MTB bars much lower than my road bars. I'd guess that my MTB bars are 5" below my seat. My road bars are closer to 2".

If you feel too low, then you are.
re: Saddle height and handlebar heightmadwiscbiker
Nov 12, 2002 4:46 PM
A few things:
At the beginning comfort is key, it keeps you on the bike. If every day you get off the bike and your back and neck are sore there is less incentive to get on it tomorrow, so start easy, what feels good.
Also, there is a diffenrence between drop to a bar and hood height. If your bar is rotated a bit to far forward or if the hoods were put on a bit too low on the bar, your drop could be fine but you'll be overextending to reach the hoods. Don't let that shoulder be out of its socket to make the reach.
Enjoy and be well.
bar level w/saddle, and I don't want any argument!cory
Nov 12, 2002 5:02 PM
Hardcore road riders won't listen to this, but the single most significant change I've made in 30 years of cycling was to raise the handlebar so it's level with the saddle. You can read the reasons on Rivendell's Web site, www.rivendellbicycles.com, but when I bought a bike from them, I set it up the way they recommended. The difference is astonishing--I can ride much longer in comfort, climb more easily, breathe better, no back or neck pain, I'm NOT ANY SLOWER ANYWHERE, and when I need to get aero, I can still get down and ride on the drops, which is what drop bars originally were designed for.
Now, ask me if you want a double or triple crank, and I'll give you the LONG lecture.
listen to corytarwheel
Nov 13, 2002 5:27 AM
The single most important thing many cyclists can do to improve comfort is to raise their handlebars. Twenty years ago, the standard fit was to position the handlebar from 0 to 1" below the saddle. For various reasons, bike shops and manufacturers and customers have been pushing lower and lower handlebars -- which can cause numb hands, neck and back pain for many cyclists. The funny thing is, you rarely ever see cyclists with low bars riding in their drops. Low bars have totally negated the whole purpose of drop handlebars. I ride with my bars about 1" below the saddle and can ride comfortably in my drops for extended periods, particularly when I riding solo. So, if I need the aero advantage, I've got it. Contrary to what many claim, there is little to no penalty to riding with higher bars if you are riding in a paceline or a group because the draft gives you all the aerodynamics you need. Then, when it's your turn at the front, get down in the drops and crank away.
listen to cory & tarwheelRickC5
Nov 13, 2002 6:04 AM
I'm also a clydesdale, and have had my bars even/level with my saddle since the mid-1980s. Its totally comfortable, and I've tried having the bars in lower positions, but it feels so uncomfortable that I always revert back to having them level. Try it, you may like it!
3-6cm may be a good starting pointDaveG
Nov 12, 2002 5:43 PM
In general taller riders seem to use more drop (longer arms). I'd say start high and work your way down. If you have a threadless stem (as most are now) you can always go smaller but once you cut the steerer you can't go back up (without a new stem). With current designs (compact frame, threadless stems) its tough to get the stem near level with the saddle without a super large frame or a riser stem. FWIW I have about 7.5cm of drop and am 6'3".
18 inches....Iwannapodiumgirl
Nov 13, 2002 1:38 AM
opps - misread the post!

My sloping frame, even though has a massive 16cms os post showing, has a saddle/bar drop of 6cms. It is comfortable, yet I think I will cut the steerer by 1cm eventually once I get more flexible.
Spacers, Stem Length & Angle vs Bar Ht & Reach (long)B2
Nov 13, 2002 7:11 AM
Bar height, stem length and stem angle. I was curious about they all interact together so I set up a spreadsheet to analyze different configurations. I got a little carried away, but I learned a bit from the exercise. I thought some of you may find it interesting.

I'm currently setup with a 57cm Colnago frame with a 71.8 degree head tube, 2cm of spacers, an 11cm x 80 degree (8.2 degree rise) stem and a bar drop of about 8.8cm to the top of the bar. Although I'm quite comfortable with this set up, from what I understand, an 8.8cm bar drop is on the high side. My saddle height looks pretty normal at 18cm above the top of the TT. My cycling inseam is 85.7cm and my saddle height is 75.7cm so (coincidentally) I'm right on the .883 x inseam saddle height rule of thumb. But I thought if I wanted to raise my bar height, how would I go about doing it? With 2cm of spacers already installed; more spacers aren't really an option.

Here's what I came up with stated as a delta, relative to the 2cm spacer, 11 x 80 degree stem, 8.8cm bar drop setup:
2cm spacer, 13cm x 100 degree stem: +4.57cm vert & +0.57cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 13cm x 100 degree stem: +3.62cm vert & +0.88cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 13cm x 100 degree stem: +2.67cm vert & +1.19cm horiz reach
2cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +4.10cm vert & -0.31cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +3.15cm vert & +0.00cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +2.20cm vert & +0.31cm horiz reach
2cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +3.63cm vert & -1.19cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +2.68cm vert & -0.88cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +1.73cm vert & -0.57cm horiz reach

If I were to setup a 58cm frame (seat tube angle both frames = 73, head tube angle 72.2 in lieu of 71.8, top tube 0.70cm longer), here are the results stated as a delta relative to the 57cm frame with 2cm spacers, 11cm x 80 degree stem and 8.8cm bar drop setup:
2cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +4.98cm vert & +0.20cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +4.03cm vert & +0.50cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 12cm x 100 degree stem: +3.07cm vert 7 +0.81cm horiz reach
2cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +4.51cm vert & -0.69cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +3.56cm vert & -0.38cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 11cm x 100 degree stem: +2.61cm vert & -0.08cm horiz reach
2cm spacer, 11cm x 80 degree stem: +0.88cm vert & +0.48cm horiz reach
1cm spacer, 11cm x 80 degree stem: -0.08cm vert & +0.78cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 11cm x 80 degree stem: -1.03cm vert & +1.09 horiz reach
2cm spacer, 10cm x 80 degree stem: +0.74cm vert & +0.51 horiz reach
1cm spacer, 10cm x 80degree stem: -0.21cm vert & -0.21cm horiz reach
0cm spacer, 10cm x 80 degree stem: -1.16cm vert & +1.10cm horiz reach

I thought it was interesting to see that the bar height rose by 0.88cm because the head tube angle went from 71.8 degrees to 72.2 degrees. The spacers have a lot more affect on reach than I imagined. A very enlightening exercise.

Bryan
Hey Bryanvindicator
Nov 13, 2002 1:21 PM
I'd love to have a peek at that spreadsheet, and tweak it to apply to my current setup. Is it something you'd mind emailing?

dave.dyroff@husch.com

Thanks,

Dave
Can't believe I said itB2
Nov 13, 2002 6:35 PM
"I thought it was interesting to see that the bar height rose by 0.88cm because the head tube angle went from 71.8 degrees to 72.2 degrees."

Geesh - I forgot the frame size is larger and therefore the top of head tube higher. Maybe that's why the bar height went up when using identical stem and spacers - doh!

Bryan
re: Saddle height and handlebar heightJames OCLV
Nov 13, 2002 10:18 AM
I have a 3" drop (my LBS cut the steerer) and the bar is definately too low. I suppose my only options are to either get a new stem or possibly flip my existing one. I have an ITM Millenium w/an 80 degree angle. What difference would I get in inches by flipping it?

Thanks,

James
re: Saddle height and handlebar heightB2
Nov 13, 2002 11:20 AM
You would go from a 80 degree stem to a 100 degree stem. This is fairly significant; your bar height should go up a pretty fair amount by flipping the stem. You should take note that your horizontal reach will decrease as well when you increase your stem angle. The head tube angle and the length of the stem are needed to calculate the actual inches or cm variances.

Bryan
re: Saddle height and handlebar heightJames OCLV
Nov 13, 2002 12:07 PM
Thanks! Well, like I said I've got about a 3" drop as-is. If I could reduce this by as much as 2" I would be happy. Like you mentioned, the reach may be an issue, but I think that it's worth a try.