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To Test the New Cockpit Setup on My Good Bike, I Did the Unthinkable…


December 2020

I wrote about changing my cockpit on the Venge over the weekend. I swapped out the lightweight stem I’d had on the bike for the last five years for a stem that had more drop (-6° to a -10°). The switch was mainly for vanity – the front end looks vastly more impressive now. However, a blog friend, Dan, commented that the amount of drop was pretty extreme in the new setup. He was right. 20 mm, 2 cm, or roughly 3/4” is a huge change – especially for a bike I’d been professionally fitted on and riding comfortably for years.

Basically, what I did, for the reasons I did, is less than wise and goes against virtually every bicycle fitting “rule” there is. I’m going to be me, though, so full speed ahead. It’s not like I can’t put the bike back together the way it was in ten minutes flat, after all. If you simply look at where the bar end lines up with the hole the shift cable housing enters the frame, you’ll get a sense of the change (just looking at where the angle of the two stems doesn’t quite do it justice).

This leaves me a conundrum for Venge Day 2021, though. Typically speaking, this is going to be some kind of hooky day, early in the spring when the temps finally warm enough after our first major rainstorm that I can be assured I won’t be caking my good bike in the winter’s road salt. Venge Day usually isn’t a short day in the saddle, so I want to be able to roll the bike out of the house fairly confident that I won’t have to come home early because I’m an idiot and my bike fits like crap. Because that’d suck, though I imagine the blog post after would be interesting.

It was raining yesterday, technically, rain mixed with snow, so “snaining”. There was no chance I was taking a road bike outside, let alone my good one. That left… the trainer. I did the unthinkable. I put my trainer wheel on my Venge and spent 45 minutes on the trainer kicking the tires on the new setup.

Now, the trainer actually has several benefits built into it for testing a new setup. First, it’s not like you’re out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals whenever you get a chance. On a stationary trainer, my tuchus is pretty much in the saddle the whole time unless I stand up for a little break – I’m not about to bob and weave out of the saddle, putting that kind of torque on an irreplaceable carbon fiber frame. This magnifies any problems in the setup because I don’t get a break from the position I’m riding in. If it’s going to suck on the road, 45 minutes on the trainer will bring it to agonizing light. Especially when you’re watching John Wick whilst riding.

And so I did my 45 minutes on the Venge… and I liked it. A lot. I may have to tinker with the pitch on the saddle next season, after I get some decent test miles in, but I won’t have to take my toy and go home early on Venge Day. The ride is very low, but I have a good angle on the hoods and I’m well supported, likely better than the old setup. Watching the movie was a little difficult in the drops, but that’s as it should be. Watching the movie on the hoods was doable, and with my hands at the back of the hoods (not all the way up to the horns), watching wasn’t a strain at all. I didn’t spend any time on the bar top – a sure tell that the setup is rideable.

If you spend a lot of time with your hands on the bar top, or that’s the most comfortable place for your hands, that’s a sure tell your bike’s setup won’t work for you. It’s either too aggressive or too stretched out (or both). The most comfortable place for your hands should be the hoods. Use the drops for headwinds and your turn at the front of a pace-line and the bar top for long hill climbs (this opens the chest up and gives the diaphragm room to work). And, incidentally, on the trainer I want to be able to watch a movie from the hoods, about 20′ back from the TV. From the drops, I should be able to focus on the bottom edge of the TV (ours is off the floor about 3′) without trouble, but watching the movie should be a bit of a strain on the neck. I have all of this down to a little bit of a science, a sure sign I spend way too much time thinking about cycling.

In any event, this most important test was passed last night. Now all I have to do is wait four months for Venge Day.


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