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Road Bikes: How Much Drop from the Saddle to the Handlebar Is Enough, Not Enough, Or Too Much?


My Tasmanian doppelganger asked, in response to a post I wrote the other day, what the drop was from my saddle to the handlebar of my Venge – the photo above was one in that post about whether or not one should set their bike up like a pro.

I have no opinion about whether or not one should – most will try anyway, so what I feel about it is… quite useless.

The answer to the question, though, is important because I’m 50, a touch overweight. Not by BMI or the scale, though. I’m overweight because I say so – let’s say I identify as overweight, using the properly maligned “woke speak”. Most who are actually overweight would look at me as a nut and accuse me of appropriating overweightness or something. Whatever, I’m a little on the chunky side for a cyclist. Point is, I ride that Venge up there, with that setup, comfortably, without issue.

The drop from the saddle to the handlebar is 5″ on the nose (or 12.7 cm in Moose-ian). I recently dropped the cockpit by switching from a 6 degree stem (flipped) to a 10 degree (flipped). I don’t know if I could go much more, or if I’d even want to. In fact, I don’t think I would want to risk it.

Incidentally, my I actually know how much the stem change dropped the bar on the Venge because I had my 5200’s setup done to match the Specialized.

The Trek is at 4-3/4″ or just a shade over 12 cm in Euros, so the stem change dropped the handlebar about a quarter-inch.

I absolutely know the “bridge too far” drop as well. It’s somewhere between 5-1/4″ and 5-3/4″ because I know for a fact 6″ is WAY too much for this old fella. Tried it, hated it, wouldn’t ride like that unless you paid me – and even then, a 6″ drop is so uncomfortable, I’d be willing to bet I’d lose watts over the setup.

To reiterate my point from the last post, the right amount of drop is that which you can tolerate comfortably. Too much is uncomfortable. Too little and you act like a sail atop your road bike. The fun part is finding out exactly where the butter zone is.

Take your time and enjoy the experiment.


7 Comments

  1. Nice! I’ve managed to match the drop on both my bikes now, at 10.5cm (4 inches and change). With a lot of time spent in the drops that seems to be the sweet spot for me to stay comfortable on longer rides.

  2. idlecyclist says:

    How do you measure that drop, just distance from the ground?

    • bgddyjim says:

      No… Take a four foot level, set the level on the saddle, measure from the bar to the level. Technically, you could go to the bar’s center, because whenever you measure anything with the handlebar, you go to the center, but in my case, because I have an aero handlebar, I just measured to the top of the flat to keep it simple.

      Now, you could measure from the floor to the handlebar, then the floor to the saddle and subtract the bar from the saddle measurement… that would work just fine, too.

  3. I sometimes get lower back aches from climbing steep hills on my bike. I’m wondering if it’s a bike fit issue or a weak core issue? My bike was professionally fitted when I purchased it. Any thoughts?

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