My Venge was set up using Specialized’s BG Fit method (BG stands for “Body Geometry”). It’s the Cadillac of the bike fits (keeping in mind, there are Benz’s, Beemers, a Lexus…you get the idea, I hope). It’s not the standard, “let’s get you in a comfortable position on your Allez so you can ride it to the grocery store” fitting. The BG Fit took three hours, measured my flexibility, took into account my medical history (which is flawless with the exception of some big back problems that mostly resolved themselves since I started running and virtually went away since I started cycling) and what I wanted as well. While there is nothing wrong with the more upright riding posture, that’s not me. I wanted fast.
Now that’s fast baby.
In the end, after some minor cleat adjustments, my saddle was lowered by two millimeters. That’s it, two millimeters on the saddle height from where I’d set the bike up. We’re talking about video, lasers, angles… All of that data analyzed, and my saddle had to come down two millimeters. Later, as I became more comfortable on the Venge, I lowered the handlebars by a couple of spacers to where it’s at today. My 5200, on the other hand, was never quite as aggressive. It’s a bigger bike:
This is the 5200 as I bought it, though I put a better fitting saddle on it and slammed the stem (also the drop was only a 6.5 cm or 2.5 inch to start). I hated the handlebar though. Hated it. So when I upgraded the bar on the Venge to the S-Works Aerofly bar, the old bar from the Venge went on the Trek (don’t tell the Brand Police):
Originally I had a shorter stem on it, a 70 mm to match the size of the original quill stem, but that made me feel to crunched into the cockpit compared to the Venge. Luckily I had an 80 in the garage and that felt a lot better but the drop from the saddle to the bar just didn’t feel right. I had a tough time putting my finger on it, but it just wasn’t right. I monkeyed with the saddle, I brought it forward a little bit and raised the hoods a couple of millimeters and called it good. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as close as I could get on my own without really messing up my position over the pedals.
And therein lies the rub. The Trek, while a fantastic bike, is a standard 58 cm frame. The Venge on the other hand, is a compact 56 cm frame (generally speaking you can tell a standard from a compact frame by the sloped top tube). Going by measurements, I belong on a 58 or preferably a 59 cm frame. I bought the Venge a size small on purpose so I could peg the saddle and slam the stem which would give me an exceptionally aerodynamic position on the bike. The 58 cm Trek was recommended by the owner of our local bike shop before I really knew anything about cycling, under the assumption that aggressive but comfortable would be best. For more on this, see this GCN video “How to set up your bike like a Pro” (at 1:58):
Looking at the two bikes, one would assume the Trek is more stretched out, and one would be right – even though the Venge feels more stretched. You would also be right if you figured that the drop from the saddle nose to the bar top was greater on the Venge (but it’s only 5 mm [less than a quarter of an inch] – I’d bet you thought it was more).
With that out of the way, that two millimeter drop in the saddle from the BG Fit was actually a pretty big deal in terms of comfort and power. Even though by the heel method to determine my saddle height (where you place your heel over the axle of the pedal and pedal backwards, your legs should straighten at the bottom of the pedal stroke without your having to rock the hips to get there, it’s quite simple) had me at where I set the saddle, analyzing the video showed a hitch in my giddyup.
After that fitting the Venge was so comfortable I decided to try to transfer that setup to the Trek. Now keep in mind, the Trek is just my rain bike. Between May and October, I might ride that bike fewer than a half-dozen times. I ride it more often in November, exclusively in December thru much of March and split time in April. The first item to change was the handlebar and stem. Then, I had to move the saddle forward, which messed up where my knee was in relation to the pedal axle when the crank arms are parallel to the ground but it was the only way I could get the Trek’s reach as close to the Venge as possible.
Now fast forward from this spring till last week. Rare for early summer, we’ve gone through an odd stretch of wet weather. I’ve got a phenomenal year going and I didn’t want to take a bunch of time off the bike for a chance of rain so I took the Trek out four times in a row. On finally going back to the Venge after that stretch, for the first time in two years, riding in the drops on the Venge felt odd. Red flags went up, well technically it would be closer to say I freaked out a little bit. I scheduled some time at the shop and took both bikes in so I could see if there was any way I could make the Trek fit exactly match the Venge so it wouldn’t matter which bike I rode, the feel would be the same.
After an hour of taking measurements and crunching numbers, the owner of our local shop (a man who built a 24 world-record breaking bike frame) stood up and said, “Jim, you did as good a job as you could have setting [the Trek] up as close to the Venge as was possible”. At that point, I was beaming with pride a little bit, so I can’t get the rest of the quote right, but the word “impressive” was used in that next sentence. In the end, the drop from the saddle to the handlebar was, as written earlier, 5 mm less. There was a 5 mm difference in stretch (distance in length from the center of the saddle to the center of the bar) and a 5 mm difference from the nose of the saddle to the center of the crank (this latter measurement being the most important).
Now, the drop from the saddle to the bar is simple enough, especially with three spacers on the Trek’s stem, two of which could be removed… If the threaded part of the fork was cut down (it’s got an old-style quill stem which complicates lowering the bar further.). In the end though, making the two bikes match exactly just won’t be possible without dumping a lot of cash into a backup bike. The geometry on the Venge is too different from that of the Trek.
The owner of our local shop suggested, and I agreed, that there are better ways to spend my money. The Trek is closer than government work and that’s good enough for me… Unless I pick up the new Venge and use my old Venge as my rain bike… Imagine that, a $5,000 rain bike.
The photo is from a GCN video about the new Venge available here. PS. See if you can find the brakes. Also, where did all of the cables go? Oh my, I likey!
To my wife, who will undoubtedly read this post at some point: “Don’t worry sweetheart. I think.”