Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lowering the bar

Is this next?

An interesting thing happened the other day and it has changed things up a bit regarding the way I set up bikes.  I was unboxing a test bike and it had a very aggressive bar position, that being low and somewhat far out there.  It was a XC/Endurance focused FS 29er, so that was not out of the norm for a cockpit set-up, but it was a bit much for me.

I went to swap the stem position, but hesitated, thinking I would 'try it their way' first.  In time, and really a very short time, I found I liked it.  Never moved that handlebar.

In fact I took my Specialized Epic, a similar bike, to a 10mm longer stem and flipped it negative.  I liked it.

Then I rode my single speed, a bike I had been happy with the set-up on, and felt like I was on a beach cruiser, that h-bar being high and in my lap.  Huh!  So I flipped that stem too.  Now I was weighting the front wheel better and was happy.  How odd.

And it goes to show that you can get used to anything, even the wrong thing.  It took a couple of bikes lately to point that out.  One was the long, low XC FS bike with the flipped stem and the others were a couple of 130mm/140mm travel Fs bikes.  But that taught me another lesson and one a bit different then the XC bike.

"Longer stems on smaller frames can be a good thing."

  I typically ride an XL, but I am a bit of a tweener in sizing.  I can go either way, often as not.  But I have found that the two bikes, both pretty big 29er trail bikes, were better to ride in a smaller frame (LG) with a longer stem (100mm).  I found that the smaller frame and the resulting shorter wheelbase gave me a good dose of maneuverability often missing in XL bikes and the longer stem was weighting the front wheel, which was already closer under me due to the frame size reduction.

And that was an epiphany.  In a short time, I reversed the long march I had been on to shorter stems and longer bikes and I am stunned by how much better it was, at least on the long travel bikes.

It goes to show that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks and it pays to experiment with stuff like cockpit setup now and again.