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I was a late bloomer cyclist, picking the sport up at 41 after it became apparent I was too cool to ride a bike the day after getting my driver license at 16-years-old. Sad, really, but at least I’m riding now. Getting to the point, once I realized how much fun cycling was, I wanted to get into the “sporty” side of it. Light, sleek bikes, flashy setups with the saddle several inches above the handlebar… it seemed like an “elegant” sport to use to keep fit.
For those who want to get into this side of cycling, there are a few hurdles. First is weight. A spare tire can’t be cycled around – we have to lose it before the front end of the bike can be lowered. We’ve gotta ride the gut off, first. Second is the local bike shop’s setup of the bike (or the previous owner’s setup if buying used). The tendency with fitting a person on a bike is to “get you in a comfortable position”. Riding with the handlebars dropped in the front, with the saddle high, isn’t exactly comfortable… at first. Once you’re used to it, that’s another story, In my case, I started with the shop setup, then started lowering the bar as I got comfortable with riding. I didn’t have any weight constraints. The others can be overcome with a little knowledge. How to swap spacers from below the handlebar to above, etc.
For most of my 40’s, I’ve tinkered with my setup on two, now three, road bikes until they were each as low as they could be at the front while still allowing me to ride comfortably. To be honest, I’m a little sad that I’ve found my limit on all three of my road bikes.
This all started back when I brought home my Trek 5200 that the shop had set up with the handlebar only a couple of inches lower than the saddle. Within weeks I was lowering the handlebar, a little bit at a time, till I got to about four inches. Then, my Specialized Venge in 2013, at the end of the season. I had a Body Geometry fitting done on the bike – the only thing they did was lower the saddle two millimeters. I’d set the bike up myself, correctly, with that small exception. Once the Venge was set, I shifted my attention to the Trek. I tried to match that to the Venge as closely as I could. Here are four photos that illustrate the changes over time:
In the last photo, bottom right, you can see the nose of the saddle on the left, and the huge increase in drop from the photo just left of that. The changes to the Venge were subtler, but substantial at the same time:
The drop from the saddle to the handlebar on my 5200, after the last adjustment, was so profound I actually had to put a spacer below the stem to raise it up 5 mm so I could ride it comfortably in the drops. The key is to know my limits… but to know them, I had to find them first, then back it off a bit.
Sadly, age is finally catching up to me as I near 50. I’m still quite flexible, and the bikes as the setups are now are comfortable and fast. I just can’t go any lower unless I get into drastic remedies to improve my flexibility. I won’t say never, but it won’t happen any time soon. I’m content to leave well enough alone at this point.