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.
This past weekend was my favorite kind of weekend. Bike rides, tinkering on bikes, a few chores, cleaning up the bikes after rides, and watching some football.
It was awesome.
It’s a short week this week with the Christmas Holiday followed by a bunch of days off. This year had a lot of suck to it but as time off goes, I’ve never had it so good. Ever.
On tap for the remainder of the year, I’m thinking about shaking up my recovery a little bit. Maybe do some tinkering on that – or at least pay more attention to the tinkering I’m doing. Recovery has become such an engrained way of life, I really don’t think much about it, I just naturally do it reflexively. This is a good thing, of course, but I’m thinking I want to be a little more cognizant of what’s going on. Rather than let it happen, I think maybe I want to practice recovery (if that makes sense). I’ve also got a new sponsee who, like many, has reached that point where he has to start actively working the program or he’ll be out in the madness before long.
He’s at that horrific place where you’ve done all your growth possible with the first three steps, but the fourth and fifth are either too scary or too much like real work to proceed.
I can relate, having been there myself. Really, when you think about it, I’m there now in a manner of thinking. The only difference between my sponsee and I is that I know what’s on the other side of that work and it’s all good so I’m looking forward to not only doing the work, but the perks that come with that work.
This is one of those times where I wish I could take my experience and cram it into his melon so he’d be able to know why we work at this. On the other hand, if it was that simple, he would have the knowledge but not the experience. For me, the leap of going from three to four and five changed my recovery forever. We should all be so lucky to experience the epiphany for ourselves.
I am grateful for where I am today. That’ll do.
I took my Rockhopper 29’er out for the group ride yesterday, and it was awesome. We hit a few miles of mucky roads, but other than those few miles, the ride was phenomenal and fun. Though I was a little perturbed I’d have to clean my bike while we were out there, I had no idea the epiphany doing so would be responsible for. Had I known what I would stumble on, I’d have been doing fishtails in the mud.
It was all high-fives and smiles as we hammered home that last mile with a nice tailwind. We put in a few extra miles to help my weekday riding buddy get his miles in. He’s going for another 12,000 mile year and needs just 25 a day to get there. We ended up with 25 for us and pulled into the driveway with a 14.1 average. Chuck hit 30 for the day. I’ve grown fond of the additional effort required when I choose the mountain bike over my gravel bike for these winter rides – it tends to keep me warm.
I wheeled the mountain bike into the living room so I could clean it after breakfast and a nap… it was during the cleanup process that I took notice of the stem. It was looking quite spectacular on the mountain bike, really. Ironically, it was the original stem that came on the Venge. And there I saw, on the back of the stem where it pinches against the fork: +4. The stem has an adjustable +4, -4 insert that can change the stem from a 6 degree to a 2 or -10. It’s the lightweight upgraded stem, too, with an alloy shim… I wondered what the stem would look like on the Venge, with the insert turned to -4. I won’t lie, I was a little giddy as I went to the bike stand for my tools.
I stripped both cockpits down. Pulled the stem from the mountain bike, flipped the insert for -10… and installed it on the Venge.
And it is glorious.
And free. Almost a 20 mm drop in the front end.
I gained a small amount of weight, but it’s negligible. Maybe 50 or 60 grams (I did switch the titanium hardware). An eighth of a pound is worth it, though. I’ve got some weight to spare for the vanity of a slammin’ cockpit.
And so, for my lightweight speed demon of a road bike, my Great Cockpit Conundrum has been solved in the simplest, unlikeliest of manners… by raiding my mountain bike for the stem that came with the bike in the first place. The solution was literally right under my nose… and it is spectacular.
So, where all of this gets fun breaks down into two pieces. First, I have no idea how this will ride after dropping the handlebar 20 millimeters. The drop when I tried the -17° stem last week was much greater (likely 40 mm) and I might have gotten used to it given some time. It was a really steep drop. I’ll likely throw it on the trainer after our morning ride to see what I think. This won’t be truly done till I get it out on the road, though.
Second, it’s a little comical to me how much I know about bikes compared to eight years ago… yet how tiny that is in the overall scheme of things. It’s no wonder most people simply buy their bike, have it fitted, and leave it alone. However, this is me I’m talking about, here. I love this stuff! I love how all of the pieces and parts go together to make the bike work. There’s no doubt, cycling has vastly improved my quality of life, but tinkering with this stuff on a day I’d normally spend lounging on the couch doubles the fun.
Good times and noodle salad, my friends.
My wife and I are mainly inside this time of year. My buddy, Chuck likes to ride when the snow flies, but I’m not that guy. I like to spin on the trainer to burn a few calories and keep my legs, but other than that, if it’s not fairly spectacular outside, I’d rather stay in. I have friends all over the spectrum, from straight up outdoor nutter to “I’ll see you in March”.
I could have hit 10,000 overall miles this year but I’ll come up short. I’d have needed somewhere around 800 miles in December to do it. I didn’t even try. I’m at 9,600 and I’ll probably hit 9,800, give or take. The truth is, I like being able to say, “Baby, it’s cold outside! I’m gonna sweat it out on the trainer, shower up and have some dinner”. From March till November, I ride every single day I can. 26 to 31 days a month for nine months. I like having a couple of months a year that I can say, I’m not even riding tonight. I want a day off.
My fitness goals are pretty simple, as far as goals go:
- Don’t get fat.
- Stay fast.
- Stay strong enough to be in the upper crust of the B Group.
- Be happy.
None of those will keep me from taking it easy for a few months in the winter. One requires it.
The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Setting Up the Cockpit of a Road Bike; Handlebar Angle, Hood Angle, and Drop – and the Pain Getting It Wrong Can Lead To: Part 3 The Handlebar
So, in this series I’ve looked at the hoods and the stem. Today we’ll look at the handlebar. If you’ve got one of those new-fangled stem and bar combo’s, you’re pretty much stuck unless you buy another stem/bar combo, or you buy a handlebar and stem separately (if you even can with the fork you’ve got).
Let’s assume we’re talking about a standard setup, though. The stem is one piece and the bar is the other. The handlebar can be almost as versatile as the stem. There are several distinct styles of drop handlebars for road bikes. We’ve got standard drops, round bars, aero bars (where the bar top is foil-shaped), shallow drops, ergonomic drops (the drop with a hump where the hands go when riding in the drops), and we can get all of those in either carbon fiber or aluminum alloy. The different measurements we have to be cognizant of are “width”, “reach”, and “drop”. Width standards are typically 42 cm for a male and 40 cm for a female, but there are variances depending on the size of the person involved. Typically, the width is gleaned from measuring the pointy parts of the shoulder bones in the back. There have been innovations of late, though. The industry is currently trending to bars that aren’t near as wide as the usual drop bars we’re used to for aerodynamic considerations. For this post, we’ll concentrate on standard bars and leave you with enough to make an educated decision on whether or not you want the aero-aero drop bar.
From experience, I can tell you without doubt, not wide enough is better than too wide when it comes to your drop bars. I was measured as a 42 but rode a 44 for a time on my first road bike (because I didn’t know any better). I bought a new bike in 2013 that had a 42 cm standard drop bar on it and I immediately loved it. In fact, when I upgraded the handlebar on the new bike to the fantastic S-Works carbon bar in the first three photos above, I put the old handlebar on my old bike. The wider bar forced my arms out at an awkward angle that made riding less comfortable. Just two centimeters’ difference was a vast improvement in “feel”.
Next, we’ve got reach and drop. The S-Works drop on my Specialized is a 125 mm drop with an 80 mm reach. The bar on my Trek has a 123 mm drop and a 93 mm reach. Ideally, we want to incorporate the length of the stem in with the reach to get to the drops. I didn’t on my Trek because I really didn’t know any better at the time, though, and it really hasn’t mattered much. It gets a little “stretchy” in the drops, but it’s livable. And it’s especially livable because the bar looks freakin’ fantastic.
Now, here’s the biggest question I get when we start talking handlebars. The one everyone wants to know before they drop $300 for a freaking handlebar: Can you tell a difference between alloy and carbon fiber?
Yes you can. It dampens road chatter a little bit and makes for a more comfortable upper body at the end of the long miles. That’s the wrong question to ask, though. The right question is this: Is that improved comfort and 50 to 100 fewer grams worth an extra $200? Not even a little bit. Nope. I’m just as happy with the alloy bar on the Trek. If I’m all that concerned with road chatter, all I need to do is spend an extra $10 on some decent bar tape. In reality, I ride just as many long miles on the Trek and find no need to upgrade that bar. If you’ve got the money, and for the Venge I absolutely did… es muy bueno.
In the end, now that I’ve got a better understanding of how everything in the cockpit fits together, the reach of the handlebar will directly work with the length of the stem, and too much reach is a bad thing.
To put a bow on this post, let’s talk about drop a little bit:
123 mm seems to be a fairly standard “shallow” drop across the Trek and Specialized lines. There exist much shallower bars, however. I can’t stand anything less than 123 (the 125 mm Tarmac bend for my Aerofly I bar and the 123 drop for my Trek bar is great for getting low to cut through the wind. I had a shallow drop (103 mm) bar on my gravel bike and I absolutely hated it, even on the gravel bike. When I upgraded that bar, I immediately swapped out the bar on the gravel bike. What I don’t like about the shallower drop bars is the feeling that, even though I’m down in the drops, I still feel my body catching wind. In order to get under that, I have to bend my arms so much it becomes a bore and slightly uncomfortable. The drops are not meant for someone to spend the whole day in. They’re meant for turns up front (of a group or pace-line) or headwinds.
To tie everything in, the cockpit doesn’t have, at least not that I’ve found, a set “you have to have this here, and that there, and this has to be this high (or low)” set of measurements. It’s more about “feel”. I want the most comfortable place to put my hands to be on the hoods. I want for the bar top to be a place to set my hands while I’m sitting up, spinning up a hill, or just a place to move my hands to change things up a bit before moving back to the hoods. I want the drops there so I can get as low as possible into the wind, but I want to be able to spend an hour in the drops if needed. The stem, handlebar, and spacers are meant to get everything in a comfortable position. With too much reach in the bar or too much drop in the stem, I might feel more comfortable with my hands on the bar tops. This is a massive red flag that I’ve done something wrong and need to correct it immediately if not sooner. The bar top is a great place for a break. It’s horrible if I have to hit the brakes, though.
If we follow a simple order of things, we need to remember this:
You can’t be cool or fast if you’re not comfortable.
I was just informed yesterday I’d come upon my ninth anniversary with WordPress. Nine years a blogger…
I started out with an idea that a couple of friends of mine would help out but when they balked, I went it alone with the purpose of sharing my experience, strength and hope, that these might help others recover from a seemingly insurmountable disease of the mind and body. My little niche was adding fitness to the recovery. Life in recovery is fantastic, there’s no doubt. I didn’t know it at first, because I went straight into being active immediately after getting out of treatment. After several years of recovery, I hit a point of stagnation. I stopped with most physical activity and sat on the couch playing video games. I was in my early 30’s and, without seeing it in the mirror, I ballooned from 150 pounds to 195. I only noticed because someone had taken a photo of me without my knowing it and, on seeing that photo, I had a double chin.
That day sucked.
Shortly thereafter I’d purchased running shoes and got to work. My wife had already been running, so she showed me the way and I ran my ass off. Literally.
The interesting turn to the story is that my life improved with exercise. My attitude and outlook were vastly better with the program and running. My health improved and the weight came off. I haven’t stopped to so much as take a breath, since. Recovery and life are good.
So it is, and God willing, so it shall ever be. After I found a new freedom and a new happiness, I found another freedom and happiness and it’s all the better. Life isn’t always easy, I’m thrown curveballs just like everyone else, but there’s something profoundly awesome to be able to wake up in the morning and think, “Man, it’s good to be me. Thanks, God.“
Throughout those nine years I’ve had some pretty stellar experiences writing, mainly in the form of comments from people my writing touched. I never did well as a sponsor because I tend to work the people I sponsor. It’s the quickest way to freedom and happiness I know of, but it’s not exactly the most popular way to do things. With this blog, though, I found a way to reach people I never could have. I found a way to work with others, and therefore fulfill my role in the last step. It is by working with others that we insure our recovery.
To wrap this post up, I’d forgotten that earlier this year I realized I’d hit a milestone at some point late in the year. I missed the day by about 45-50 days, though. I hit 2,000,000 words at some point around the middle of October. Today’s tally is 2,026,000 and some change. It’s been an awesome run, and so shall it continue.
We rolled out Saturday morning, it was cold. Now, we’re not talking about your hyperbolic cold, either. We’re talking about below freezing cold… though it was spectacularly sunny, and we don’t get that too often in November. We opted for the skinny tire bikes – I missed riding the 5200 immensely so I lobbied hard for the road bikes. Normally, when it’s that cold we go for the gravel bikes because they’re naturally slower, so technically less cold. We save the go-fast bikes for warmer times.
Phill brought his gravel bike (a nice Airborne titanium rig) with road tires, but everyone else had their good carbon… my wife, Mike, Diane and Brad. I wanted to try to ride the Venge, but it was just too cold. I can’t wear foot or toe covers because of the pedal/crank arm interface (not enough room). I was plenty okay with my Trek, though (different pedals, different crank arms, much more clearance).
We rolled out into the wind – eight miles dead into it before we made a turn that gave us some crossing tailwind. Even then, it was only a respite of a few miles before we were back into it again. We were almost 20 miles into our ride before we got a break. That was it, though. We were heading home and all but one mile was tailwind.
Oh, how I missed those easy 22-mph miles! The ride home was a blast, well worth eating the wind to get out that far.
We rolled into Durand, I was up front leading the group and I had a few miles up front but I was going for the City Limits sign. My buddy, Mike went way early and I had to hammer to catch up to him. He let up when he saw a police car waiting for speeders. I hit the gas, trying for a speeding ticket. Sadly, after that long up front and at a pace meant to discourage anyone from wanting to come around me, I didn’t have enough in the tank to pass 28-mph. I broke the speed limit heading into town, but not by enough to make the officer look cross at me.
One day I’ll get pulled over for speeding on my bicycle… and I’ll take a selfie with the officer and frame the photo and ticket.
We pulled into the driveway with a little more than 35 miles in 2:03 and change, and 716 miles for the month. We did 35 on the tandem Sunday and I wrapped up with a ride on the hamster wheel, Monday to finish with 772 miles for the month. Decent for a normal month, but astounding for a Michigan November. Well beyond my previous best November (by about 100 miles, usual is 200 better). While I was at it, I checked my Octobers going back to 2012 as well… 799 miles for the month was another best.
What a Thanksgiving weekend that was! If they make better weekends, they make them for other people. I’ll actually be ready to go back to work come Monday! Better, only eight days and I’ll be off for another week and some change between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
2020 can kiss my ass on the way out – it sucked for one major reason – but I can’t lie, there was a silver lining. The cycling was freaking awesome.
I bought my wife a Specialized Alias in 2014, for Christmas, hoping a decent high-end bike would help her embrace cycling more… enthusiastically. She was still running back then and liked to dabble in the occasional triathlon so that particular bike made sense. It’s a brilliant mix between a triathlon bike and a road bike, with a forward swept seat tube that gets the rider over the pedals. This incorporates the quads for cycling leaving the hamstrings and back of the legs fresher for the run. She’s come to love that bike. Absolutely adores it – especially the aero-bars when she’s up front. In fact, she loves it so much she wouldn’t let me replace it after the carbon was slightly damaged in a crash with a deer (the shop looked it over and gave it their blessing).
That photo was from a few years ago… I bought her carbon fiber wheels since that photo. Over the years, as I did, my wife has walked away from running and moved to cycling exclusively for her fitness (though she’s just recently started going to the gym with my daughters). While both her trainer road bike and her gravel bike are compact frames, they both feature the more traditional seat post angle. Throughout the last couple of summers, my wife has become quite the strong cyclist. She can put a few of the guys we ride with in a hurt locker and she’s been known to make my tongue dangle into the spokes from time to time. She’s also developed a nagging backpain since. Well, she finally went to her doctor to get it checked out. It was tendonitis. The doctor gave her a shot that relieved the pain but we started talking solutions.
I started doing some research.
See, we all know, the seat tube on a tri-bike is swept upright a lot more to engage the quads, right? Right. Well, because my wife stopped running, she’s developed a massive imbalance between her quads and the muscles/hamstrings in the back of her leg. This pulls on the hamstrings which connect to tendons in the back, which can’t deal with the constant pull, become inflamed and voila; tendonitis.
I’ve searched for solutions in the past, too. We went from a zero-offset seat post to a 20mm offset. Now we’re going to try a 32mm offset (FSA K-Force SB32) to see if we can get her back far enough she can get a little more use out of the backs of her legs in the pedal stroke.
Before you head to the comments section and ask, yes, I’ve tried to get her into buying either a new frame or a whole new bike. She’s not having any of it. She wants to run the options out on the seat posts first and see if she can solve the issue that way… and happy wife, happy life. Some $#!+ you just don’t fight.
The Key to Loving A Lowly Entry-level Bike Is to Accept the Bike for What It Is… And NOT Expecting It to Be What It Isn’t.
I’ve spent the majority of my time on my Diverge AL-1 Sport of late – this time of year is what we bought gravel bikes for in the first place. Once the temp drops below 40 (4C), the go-fast bikes get put up.
See, there’s no point in speed when the faster you go, the colder you get.
I’ve written about why my wife and I chose entry-level bikes before, two high-end carbon gravel bikes were simply going to cost too much, considering we only bought them to use in October, November and December. Having to do it over again, though, I might buy one stellar gravel frame and another set of wheels rather than two road race bikes (one for good weather, one for iffy weather) and an entry-level gravel rig. The only problem going the one bike suits all route is that if that one bike brakes down and takes more than a day to fix, I’d be missing out on riding days… but I’m getting off topic here, so I’ll bring it back.
Back when we bought the bikes, I did think, “What if they’re right?” Technically, maybe it is the engine that matters? Watching the Durianrider video on the Sora groupset and whether he’d keep up with the likes of Team Sky on it seemed a little like unicorns and rainbows to me, but just maybe…
Sadly, having completed the experiment myself, there is no such thing as a unicorn that farts rainbows.
Look, I’m a decent engine. I’m not fantastic, but I’m pretty stinkin’ fast, and the gravel rig weighs twenty-four pounds. There’s no way I’m keeping up with me on my on my fifteen pound Venge very long. Oh, with a good draft and a tailwind, maybe it wouldn’t suck so bad, but what takes the Venge 100 watts, takes the Diverge 180-ish. That extra 80 watts is a big deal.
So let’s run that out. My best ride last year, on the Venge, averaged something like 270 watts over an hour-and-a-half. That’s a fair output and landed us a 24-mph ride over 28 miles. Not spectacular, but for a 50-year-old weekend warrior, it isn’t bad. On the Diverge, the same ride would have taken around 500 watts… and that’s on the light side of the arithmetic!
The key here is to not expect that entry-level gravel bike to be anything like a $6,000 race bike. It simply isn’t. No chance, no way, no how. And yet…
I went for a ride with some friends Sunday. Nothing particularly smashing, but we averaged about 16-mph for 26-miles and it was below freezing – it was chilly. We had a lot of headwind on the way out but chose to hammer into it all the way out before turning around to let it push us all the way home. On the return trip, heading down Old Miller Road, it’s notoriously bumpy. The asphalt has expansion cracks every 12′ to 15′ (4 to 5 meters) and on a road bike, those cracks get real old real fast.
On the gravel bike, with its 32mm tires at 50 psi (3.5 bar), I barely noticed the cracks were there. And that’s where I found my way to love my gravel bike for what it is – and only what it is. There’s no way my Diverge becomes a slicked down, lightweight speed demon and there’s no amount of “want to” that’ll fix that. On the other hand, used for the purpose it was intended, my God is it a fun, simple comfortable ride.
I pulled into the driveway with a smile on my face that I hadn’t been expecting.
Technically, I was hoping for snow, but it’s a little early for that down here. Rain will do, though. These are my favorite days of the winter – days no sane human would go out for a ride. My buddy Chuck
likely will, though did… dude is freaking nuts – I actually passed him on the way to pick up pizza last night. He’s admirably nuts, but nuts nonetheless. It was raining and just barely above freezing (37 F or 2 C).
These days are the days I tinker with bikes.
Oh, there was some general maintenance to take care of first, things like cleaning drivetrains and such. I rolled the mountain bike out to clean it as it’s been on a few dusty rides of late but it was surprisingly clean. I did adjust the rear brake a little bit after tinkering with the rear derailleur’s adjustment that was just a touch off. I didn’t know it, but when I had my ear down by the rotor at high wheel speeds, there was a slight rub in the rotor and the inner pad. That took all of two minutes.
I put in an hour on the trainer, with my wife while we watched Iron Man. Then I took a nap around between 2 & 2:30. Oh how I love weekend naps! Then I turned my attention to the Venge.
Now, this is going to be exceptionally nitpicky, but we all know, if anything, I’m that. When I look at the lines on the Trek, I see fantastic. Smooth, crisp, aggressive… the bike simply looks sharp. The Specialized is superior to the Trek in every single way but one. It’s got a better drivetrain, a better crankset, better pedals, brakes, handlebar, stem (both bikes have the same saddle)… it’s lighter, faster, sleeker, quieter and quicker (yes, quick and fast are two different things) than is the Trek. But the stem and handlebar angle just don’t look right on the Venge. They’re not right. Something is hinky. Wonky.
I took a trip to the shop and borrowed a 17° x 110mm stem from their stock to kick the tires on… to see if I might want to change stems. I swapped out the old stem and had it on the trainer in short order (with my trainer wheel, of course – because the Trek and Venge both have 10-sp transmissions, I can swap wheels between the bikes). The front end went from slightly raised with the 6° stem (flipped) to dead nuts level with the ground with the flipped 17°… and I hated it. Not, “I simply didn’t like it”, hated it. It just didn’t look right, like the “organics” of the bike were just completely… off. The 6°, the way it follows the slope of the top tube, looks like it belongs, at least. The flipped 17° looked like it belonged on a different bike.
The problem, I think, is last year I rotated the handlebar forward a little bit during one of my tinkering exercises to maximize my drop to the hoods. I was under the impression the hoods, where my hands rest, should be level with the ground. I’ve since found out that was a mistake. So yesterday, when I put my old stem back on the bike, I rotated the bar back up a little bit to where I once had it back in 2018:
Now, you may not see a difference, but I do. The easiest “tell” is the bottom of the handlebar drop. In reality, we’re only talking maybe a centimeter’s difference in the height of the hoods, but I think the looks were cleaned up substantially – and my hands will likely be a little happier after next year’s centuries.
I’d noticed at the end of last season the front brake had developed a bit of drag in the line. This presents itself with just a few millimeters of play in the lever when the brake is applied and released. The lever should have a little bit of snap to its rebound. No snap? You’ve got drag in the line. On close inspection, the angle that the angle that the housing entered the brake caliper was slightly off. The housing was too long (btw, too long is good… too short is a much longer post). If the cable housing is too long, especially for the front brake, it puts a strain on the cable to make the odd turn into the brake caliper.
To fix this is quite simple. I took off the cable end, disconnected the cable from the brake’s lock nut, threaded the brake line out the hood to a point I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t be trimming the brake cable, then trimmed the end of the cable housing off, pushed the cable back through, reconnected everything, set the brakes, and presto. Perfect braking. The interesting part in the last two paragraphs is the length of the piece of housing that had to be removed:
To demonstrate size, I’ve got an end-cap to a presta valve innertube, the lock nut, a pair of needle-nosed pliers and my housing/cable snippers. The length is about 10mm, maybe a half-inch. I probably could have taken a little more but I didn’t want to run into issues with the housing too short for the handlebar to be turned. Probably a touch over-nervous, but I can wear that.
And with that, I’m done with the Venge till 2021’s Venge Day. I’ve cleaned and lubed everything that can be cleaned and lubed, fixed the fork length, taken apart the headset for its yearly cleaning, and attended to even the tiniest of issues to make sure the bike’s good to go for next year.
… Although, thinking about it… maybe I shouldn’t close the door on a 100mm 12° S-Works stem for the Venge. Hmmmm…