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I enjoy watching videos of racers from the earlier days of cycling, in particular during the eras of Coppi, Anquetil, and Merckx. I've noticed several differences in their older machines from those of the modern era (and I'm not talking about lugged steel vs. carbon and friction vs.Ergo/STI shifting).

The older racers like Coppi and Anquetil seem to have run their seat height quite a bit lower and you can see more bend in their legs at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This is especially noticeable with Coppi, known as one of the smoothest pedalers of all time. Anquetil pedaled with his toes pointed down, lower than any other racer I've ever seen. This flies in the face of advice from modern coaches and makes one wonder if they could have been even better with a higher seat height? Maybe Anquetil's toe down style was natural to him, but it sure looks unusual. I guess it's hard to argue with their results.

Merckx ran his seat higher but had the front pointed up noticeably, much like Coppi and Anquetil. It seems like most of the other pros of the time had theirs set at a similar angle. The drop from seat to bars is less than some of the newer racers, too. When the camera zooms in on their chain rings and freewheels, they seem to run pretty tall gears too, even in the mountains. Their pedaling cadences seem slower. Is it possible they tilted their seats up to stay on the back of the saddle, where they could push harder on the pedals?

There were undoubtably other differences, but these are the most striking to me. Irregardless, I enjoy watching these champions of the past and have a great deal of admiration for their remarkable rides.
 

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waterproof*
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Astute observations. I won't address every one, except to note that there's a lot of "fashion" or "tradition" (pick your word) in this sport, which includes position. That was true in the old days too.

OTOH there's now better ways to objectively measure the impact of position changes. I doubt it's to the degree of accuracy that many claim, but it's better than the old days foer sure.
 

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chamois creme addict
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Sean Kelly, low rider

Sean Kelly also ran his saddle on the low side with a lot of success.

One thing you notice about the saddle-handlebar drop being much less in the old days is very true. But as riders have tended towards more saddle-handlebar drop they have also started to rotate the bars upwards and mount the STI/Ergo/Double-Tap levers much higher on the bars. In the end, the brake hoods end up coming back up. And the reach to the bottom of the drops is lengthened as the bars are rotated away from the rider.

Much of this has to do with the professionals' preference to be fit to a smaller-than-what-was-normal frame. Just compare how a pro's bike looked in the age of Indurain, circa 1993 to the current day. Riders ride slightly smaller frames, turn the bars up, move the hoods up high.

One guy who sort of bucked the trend was Armstrong, his Madones and OCLVs looked not that drastically different than his Motorola Merckx from 1993. And he was victimized by Trek's short head tubes, the spacer police would have fun with him as he had to use a 20 mm spacer to get his bars up high enough on his Treks.
 

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Dopers ruin sport
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I always thought it was a trend thing. Back then the pros' used bigger frames, with the seat lower and a short stem. Now-a-days pros go with smaller frames jack up the seat post and slap on a long stem.
 
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