Last september, my son and I swapped bikes for a day. He wanted to ride my re-built Roberts equipped with an Ultegra group and wheels. I wanted to ride his Cervelo R3. His climbing bike.
It was a great, scenic ride along the Squamish Valley Road but what impressed me most is how well the Cervelo fit. How comfortable I felt on it. Why did it fit better than my own bikes? The question has plagued me ever since.
The following week, I brought out the tape measure, comparing all dimensions. Saddle height. Reach. Bar width. Stem height and angle. Frame angles. There was 1 difference I could do something about. The reach.
The Cervelo had a shorter reach. Not a lot. Just a few millimetres. Just enough to make a difference. My hands were in a neutral position, fit comfortably over the hoods, allowing a slight bend at the elbows.
Today I installed a stock 80 mm MEC stem on the Roberts replacing the Classic Ritchey 90 90 mm one I have been riding with. 10 millimetres. Less than 1/2 and inch. That’s all. And yet, it makes a noticable difference. I’m not reaching. My hands rest comfortably on the hoods. My elbows are slightly bent. My back is straight and relaxed. I’m positioned back on the saddle where I need to be.
I have stems ranging in length from 80-110 mm. I have ridden with them all. I have like them all. But the 80 mm is the most comfortable. It puts me in a position where I feel more powerful, more relaxed, faster, and more stable. You would have thought I would have figured this out a long time ago. After all, I’m not new to this sort of thing.
So much for professional bike fits. I have had several. What I have learned is that a bike fit is a subjective process. The fit depends on your goals. Your fitness. And, your pocket book. At different times, I had different goals. These days, I’m training for long distance events where I spend hours in the saddle. Comfort is paramount. I don’t mind discomfort for short periods but when I spend 4-8 hours in the saddle, I need to be comfortable and that means being in the most neutral position possible.
10 mm is all it took.
You see, millimetres matter.