Thou Shalt Slam Thy Stem: Part Two, the Reckoning (or alternately, only if you’re young and wildly flexible).
I reported yesterday morning that I’d decided to slam my stem as low as it could go. When I bought the bike, it looked like this:
That’s 20 millimeters of spacers below the stem. The bike was okay like that but I had my saddle two millimeters too high and that was caught during my Specialized Body Geometry fitting.
When we lowered the saddle, I didn’t want to mess with my drop from the nose of the saddle to the bar top so I took one of the five millimeter spacers and moved that from below the stem to above the stem. That worked so well I went another step further and put 10 mm of spacers above and 10 below:
After I got used to that, and when I upgraded my handlebar I decided to take it one step further. 15 mm above the stem and 5 mm below:
There it stayed for a considerable amount of time because that setup was exceptionally comfortable and it allowed me to ride low, aerodynamically.
One of the pompous, yet fashionable, rules regarding spacers and stems is that there shouldn’t be any spacers, especially on a race bike such as mine (even if I don’t race it).
Well, for another post (and a nagging desire to be fashionably correct), I finally decided to slam the stem and see how that felt…
The idea is, if I felt comfortable riding with the stem slammed, I’d take the fork in this winter and have it cut down so I could lose the spacers above the stem. To finally get that last piece of tailoring done.
After 26 miles on Friday, I went into Saturday very optimistic. It only took 14 hard miles with my friend Mike and my wife to question that optimism. 30 miles later and I was struggling mightily to keep pace – 44 miles laid waste to that optimism, and I still had four left to get home.
I struggled with numbness in places that don’t do well to be numb, my legs felt sluggish and sore, as did my shoulders and neck. A case of too much of a good thing is bad. I thought about trying to suck it up for Sunday, thinking maybe another 50 would shake things loose, but while watching the baseball game I had a change of heart.
15 mm above, 5 below, until I can get that fork into the shop to have the excess cut off and lose at least that 10 mm spacer on top.
I came to the conclusion that at 45 years-old, I can leave that last bit of fashion for vanity to the kids who are flexible enough to ride that low. It’s just too much for me, and I’m okay with it.
Fast is a balance of comfort and aerodynamic positioning on the bike. Too much of either good thing, in my case, is bad. Better to be fast and comfortable than slow and uncomfortable for the sake of fashion. At least that experiment was mercifully short.
Yep, 46-1/2 miles later and I know switching back was the right thing to do… I spent most of the ride either first or second bike and even had to dial it back a few times to keep from dropping everyone.