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I keep looking at my summer bike and thinking it's perfect, except for the towering stack of spacers under the (upturned) stem...

Partly out of vanity (well, mostly) and partly out of wanting to go faster in the wind, I keep wondering about how I go about getting used to lower bars.

Obviously stretching, yoga and core strength will have something to do with it, but on the bike front, could I just start lowering the bars gradually over a number of months and hope my body adjusts?

Or are some people just cursed to have to run bars pratically at the same height as their saddle?

Ta

14 comments

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VeloUSA [298 posts] 4 months ago
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First off, is your stem -6 degress and flipped angling downward? If not do that first as it will lower your riding height. Once you're comfortable with this arrangement, I would remove one 5 or 10mm spacer at a time until your reach the ride height most enjoyable.

"Or are some people just cursed to have to run bars pratically at the same height as their saddle?"

That's not a curse. One rides with what one feels most comfortable with. I have a friend who competed and finished Iron Man Kona. His weekend rides are 50-75 miles one way on a steel Cinneli with 30mm of spacers under his bar.

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hawkinspeter [3864 posts] 4 months ago
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I did this kind of thing for a while. I'd remove a spacer and then spend a few weeks getting used to the lower position, rinse and repeat. I did this on a Cannondale Synapse which has a big 25mm cone spacer which you're probably not supposed to remove, so I switched it with a https://slamthatstem.com/ cap-spacer and continued downwards. I've now got a racier geometry bike and haven't found the need to lower the handlebars (yet).

I'm naturally quite flexible, so I adapt quite quickly to lower bars (and my saddle is lots higher than my handlebars as I have long legs) but lower isn't always better. At some point, comfort will prevent you pedalling as hard and lower isn't always more aero, but it's tricky to test that without a wind tunnel.

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DoctorFish [211 posts] 4 months ago
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"Or are some people just cursed to have to run bars pratically at the same height as their saddle?"

Why is that wrong?  Got to be comfortable to enjoy riding.

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Simon E [3798 posts] 4 months ago
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DoctorFish wrote:

"Or are some people just cursed to have to run bars pratically at the same height as their saddle?"

Why is that wrong?  Got to be comfortable to enjoy riding.

I agree but you gotta follow The Rules.  3

Unless you have a strong reason for doing so (i.e. racing) and are sure it will be of benefit then why do it?

Shorter riders have more difficulty getting low but TBH it's not the only factor in producing less aerodynamic drag. There is also a point beyond which your power will start to decrease, cancelling out any possible aero gain.

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PRSboy [535 posts] 4 months ago
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Do you spend lots of time in the drops?  If not, do that, as it will get you used to holding a lower position longer.

I just took a couple of spacers out of my bike one day and got on with it.  That said, at the time I was a regular gym bunny with decent flexibility and core strength.  Try it and see.  You can always put them back in if you don't get on with it, as long as you don't cut the steerer down.

Re aero, if you look at riders on a TT bike, the position is not necessarily that 'low'.

 

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srchar [1488 posts] 4 months ago
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Do you know that your body can't take being much lower? You might actually find it _more_ comfortable. I did (removed 20mm in one go)

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Rick_Rude [301 posts] 4 months ago
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I did a year on my bike as it came, stem upwards. Tried a year with it flipped and dropped and have now put it back up as I've found I go quicker overall in comfort.

There's a guy I always see in my area and he has that 'pro' look and I just know it would cripple me to ride like that and if I did get used to riding like that it would probably pay me back sat at a desk with pain.

I guess a lot of it comes down to personal geometry as well. I'm long of leg but short of body so I'm never going to get comfortable  with the pro drops.

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Dr Winston [794 posts] 4 months ago
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As somebody who rides a lot around the West lancs open plains I know a thing or two about riding in the wind...in fact a lot. There’s basically nothing between where I live and Ireland..apart from wind and open fields. 

I’ve done the dropping the bars thing to death. My advice would be that you invest as much time as you can in learning how to ride lower on a reasonable height bars rather than trying to ride under the wind on very low bars..it doesn’t work. 

Clip on aero bars are better than dropping the front end too much...as is replacing low drops with deeper drops...but both of those need to be coupled with the ability to ride low and the right technique. You absolutely can get lower without compromising comfort at other times.

Stretching and yoga sounds good to me.

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Dr Winston [794 posts] 4 months ago
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Nice article https://www.active.com/cycling/articles/get-under-the-wind

he suggests lowering the front end as much as four inches in time..but I would disagree. Riding in wind can be quite exhausting quite quickly...tri bars and the ability to put your weight on them is far easier with a drop of only a couple of inches....and then you’re good out of the wind as well. I assume you are in a windy part of the world are you?

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Welsh boy [673 posts] 4 months ago
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"Or are some people just cursed to have to run bars pratically at the same height as their saddle?"

I seem to remember an American guy who hasnt won the Tour de France rode with his bars almost the same height as his saddle.  I can also remember Mario Cipollini saying that he always slammed his stem which meant that on some bikes he couldn't ride in the drops.

Have you got shallow bars?  If not, get some and remove a few spacers of flip your stem but other than that get used to the look and enjoy the ride.  (P.S. I know how you feel, an upturned stem does look a bit naff but a comfortable position is more important.)

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Linkan [18 posts] 4 months ago
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As some mention above, lowering your handlebars can actually increase comfort removing some pressure from hands and weight from wrists as your spine will carry more of the load. Seemed counterintuitive to me at the time but removing all spacers and (later) flipping the stem made all the difference as I no longer go numb in my hands on full day rides. Sadly I cant really claim any noticeable speed gains due to a more aero position. However the experience has made me rethink my preconceived idea of bikes with endurance geometry as the only choice for the type of riding I do. 

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IanEdward [323 posts] 4 months ago
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Thanks everyone, had to avoid thread for a couple of days until I caught up with Fleche-Wallon result!

Not racing, but do aspire to higher average speeds over distance, and perhaps keeping up with some faster mates who do have a lower front end.

Was actually surprised to find my bars are already approx 30mm lower than saddle, must be a bit of perspective going on to make me think they were level.

Won't be flipping stem, not going to dust off my high school trigonometry but pretty sure flipping the stem is a pretty big difference in heighr, certainly more than a spacer's worth.

Interesting comments about achieving an aero position without dropping the bars, I have been feeling I could do with 1 or 2cm additional reach when forearms on the hoods.

Given that my S.I. joint has coincidentally started twinging this week maybe I'll just leave the bar height alone for now!

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Dr Winston [794 posts] 4 months ago
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Forgot about this thread. Have you considered Spinaci extensions...they’re great for getting aero and lower whilst still maintaining a good ride height for your bars. I’ve used them many times. 

Banned by the UCI btw...but that was because it didn’t sound like a good idea for so many riders to be riding together without being on their brakes....a lot of pros really liked them though.

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matthewn5 [1380 posts] 3 months ago
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Do you cycle to work? If you do, start by lowering the stem on that bike, 5mm at a time. I eventually got quite a bit lower at the front doing that, then copied that setup to my road bike. The bars are now about 75mm lower than the saddle.

The irony is that when I dug out my 1973 Raleigh, the set up was exactly as I'm now riding, 46 years later... and the rule was then, "bars 3" lower than the saddle". Maybe some things never change!