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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Stem in normal, perhaps somewhat negative position, or flipped up to as much as 17 degrees? The question concerns primarily bike handling, as opposed to bike comfort. Obviously comfort will win out in the end, if racing is not part of the equation.

I recently have been riding a 90mm stem, flipped up 7 degrees. Someone suggested that putting in back in normal mode would have a nominal effect on reach, but would help to stabilize the bike, and make steering more sharp and secure. I flipped it, and much to my surprise, it did in fact make me more stable on the bike – but by presumably putting me in a better pedaling position, I actually increased my speed with a given amount of effort. This may be due to a very slightly lower position on the bike.

Just for the hell of it, (I have tons of pro bike pictures) I went thought about 100, l and did not find one with a flipped up stem.

Putter down and see the difference.
 

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rboseley said:
Stem in normal, perhaps somewhat negative position, or flipped up to as much as 17 degrees? The question concerns primarily bike handling, as opposed to bike comfort. Obviously comfort will win out in the end, if racing is not part of the equation.

I recently have been riding a 90mm stem, flipped up 7 degrees. Someone suggested that putting in back in normal mode would have a nominal effect on reach, but would help to stabilize the bike, and make steering more sharp and secure. I flipped it, and much to my surprise, it did in fact make me more stable on the bike – but by presumably putting me in a better pedaling position, I actually increased my speed with a given amount of effort. This may be due to a very slightly lower position on the bike.

Just for the hell of it, (I have tons of pro bike pictures) I went thought about 100, l and did not find one with a flipped up stem.

Putter down and see the difference.
I've tried my 90 up and down (6 or 7 degree stem) and while there is very little difference, I believe the flipped up position is a little more comfortable and also a little more efficient given my age, flexibility and athletic ability. Down does not always equal more efficient, in fact, depending on the body involved, it might be less efficient.

As for pros, their physical attributes, purpose for riding and access to different frames and forks are a lot different than even a serious recreational cyclist. They want and can handle so much seat to bar drop because of their athletic ability, flexibility, desire for areodynamics and such. If they find a need to change their fit by raising the handlebars a little, the pro has the option of putting on a new fork with an uncut steerer to replace the one that is slightly too low.
 

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consider also the center of gravity in handling.

the same concept applies to taking a corner in the drops as opposed to on the hoods.

also you increased your reach a little by flipping it down which may have caused you to come forward in your saddle and gave you a better position relative to the bottom bracket.

needless to say, there are a lot of factors that adjust when you change your position on the bike.

as far as I can tell from your post... flipping the stem was a win/win. Although, make sure your drops aren't now so low as they don't see any use.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Clearly body condition has some bearing on how low you feel comfortable. I am 67 and have only been riding for four years, but fore me the lower position just works.


Also I ran across an article or actually a study on some site a year or so ago. They were determining the efect the raised position had on overall stability. Results were pretty amazing. Also, my first "bike guru" insisted on not flipping the stem. There are other ways to "get comfortable".

But as indicated, its personal desire. All I can say is, I am so much more efficient with the stem down. And of course if one feels like sitting up, that options is also still available.

Serious recreationalist cyclist? You still want to go fast as possible don't you.
 

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There is absolutely no equivalency between 'up / down' and 'better / worse.'

What's right is what works for a given bike and rider combination. An notion that handling, comfort, or speed 'will' be better with the stem in one position or the other is just. plain. wrong.

Sure, there are ways to bet - lower will be faster and a bit less comfortable in many situations. But lower can be slower, and up can be less comfortable. And handling? Fuggedaboudit. That's entirely variable.
 

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rboseley said:
Serious recreationalist cyclist? You still want to go fast as possible don't you.
Comfort is more important to me and I'm pretty serious. I don't care if I get 1/2 MPH average speed faster if it's at the cost of any discomfort at all. Given reasonable comfort, yes I want to go as fast as my pathetic legs and lungs will take me.

The distinction I was trying to make when I used that term is that a pro rider will often or even usually have different goals and physical abilities than even the serious recreational rider or even a serious citizen racer. Not always, but usually.

I also think it is very likely that a pro will be able to make more substantial changes in equipment to dial in fit and efficiency. He/she will have resources for just up and changing frames, stems, bars and forks as opposed to many of us who might change stems and bars, but will do what we can with the frame and fork we have - and thus will more likely use the flip option of the stem as a cheap and easy way to adjust fit. The pro might get the exact same position with an unflipped stem by using a different frame or fork/steerer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I am alway amused at how a simple post seems to stir some folks up. In the original post, I clearly stated that comform would eventually win. ????

As for bike handling and stem position, spend about an hour with Google and you will come away with the overall finding that the non-flipped position leads to better handling. If that causes discomfort, then by all means flip it.

It's all geometry, and of course the human body.

Lower is slower? New one.
 

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I am alway amused at how a simple post seems to stir some folks up. In the original post, I clearly stated that comform would eventually win. ????
Perhaps you're just easily amused. Stating something clearly doesn't make it so. Many times, I've stated something clearly—only to find out that almost no one read it, that the ones who did read it didn't believe it, and that I was wrong. :D
 

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I've always gotten a kick out some of the bike adds in major mags. They show a bike with the seat raised like like six inches higher than the bars, the notion apparently being that it makes the bike looks aggressive and sporty - something a pro would ride. It's all marketing, of course - how many of us could really ride more than a few miles in such an extreme position? My stem is flipped up, one spacer removed; the bars about an inch and a half below the seat. I can ride with the bars lower with no back or neck issues, but I find that the benefit curve flattens out pretty quick for me. If I need to get low and aero - like spinning on long flats, that's what I've got the drops for.
 

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rboseley said:
Clearly body condition has some bearing on how low you feel comfortable. I am 67 and have only been riding for four years, but fore me the lower position just works.
That's awesome. My dad is 66 and thinks he's too old to ride a bike. I wish he'd just try it once or twice and I know he'd be into it.

Nothing else to add- back to the stem discussion...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
TO Close this subject, which is going nowhere. Yes as a matter of fact I am easily amsued. You should try it. Makes for a joyful day!

One whould think that I had come down from the Mount with a rock. What I really said was if comfortable flipped up - FLIP THEM.

I also gave the results of my hour on Google. For all I know those experts may have been smoking something!

Lighten up folks. Life is short. Should you find your toes stepped on - just juse the other foot until the paid leaves.

Stem up. Stem down. No stem. If it feels good by all means do it.

Amusing.
 

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stem down

I bought a 7* 120 stem mounted downwards when I bought my bike, and ordered a 17* 120. When the new stem came in, I mounted it in the down position, expecting to be a little faster on the flats. I was, but surprisingly teh bike handled much better as well. I don't know if it's the lower center of gravity, or what; but I am happy w/my setup.
 

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rboseley said:
Lower is slower? New one.
Easily true if done without discretion. Sure, going from beach cruiser upright to TT flat will be faster. But... assuming one has a relatively normal road bike position, there's a calculus between the lower drag from modest lowering, and the decrease in power that comes from a more closed hip angle and diminished lung capacity. Tack on performance losses from discomforts that may occur, and it's easily slower.

Not every time, not even most of the time. But enough of the time that 'an hour on google' will do nothing for one's understanding of proper bike fit.

The analytical outcome of pro bike pictures is useful for... pro cyclists. It's not an unreasonable argument that someone with a flipped stem is simply on the wrong (or at least wrong size) bike. But since the breadth and depth of humanity generally don't have access to custom bikes, sponsored rides, or even a decent range of brands, models and sizes, stem position and spacer use is perfectly acceptable wherever is correct. They are designed to be adjusted in that way, right?

I guess the point is, your initial statement misses the point entirely. Whatever benefits you have seen are the result of better positioning, not the direction of the stem. If you were trying to fit to a different bike (or the same bike but you were shaped slightly differently) benefits could easily accrue to the other angle.
 

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I am no expert but doesn't getting the proper stem rise solely depend on steerer tube length in order to get proper fit? Wouldn't a zero degree stem on a long/uncut tube be equal to 10 degree rise stem on a cut tube? Why would you have a stem flipped downward so the the rise is negative? Why not just cut the stem and have a zero degree stem or keep rise positive/upward and take spacers out?

So to me whether one has it "flipped" or not is meaningless unless you know the length of steerer tube, and in the end it all depends on proper fit. I guess that is why stems are made in multiple stem rises. "Normal" is only relevant to whether it fits or not.
 

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I was riding what I believe was a +16º 90mm stem on my Specialized Roubaix, and just recently got professionally fit at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. What they discovered that my posture (mainly because of core strength) was horrible. I was hunched over and holding myself up. Breathing wasn't the greatest as a result. They prescribed some training/PT for that (and a knee problem) and told me to go buy a 40º rise stem (90mm). It's going to look really really weird with such a high-rise stem on a road bike, but if it helps my comfort and allows me to take the time training, I can gradually switch to lower rise stems.
 

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What about stem length vs. flipped or not?

I have a 100 mm stem on my new Tarmac SL2 and am finding that I still have some annoying lower back and mid shoulder blade pain after 20 to 30 mile rides. I am going back to the LBS to change stems....I initially had wanted a 80 mm stem and he urged me to try this one b/c in his opinion longer length translates to better handling. BUT, given my back and shoulder pain, seems to me I likely have too much reach, hence the idea for the shorter stem....

Suggestions / comments guys?
 

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I have experimented with different stems on my Cannondale CAAD5 as well as my Tarmac. Stems ranging from 100mm +/- 6deg to Specialized's adjustable stem system 120mm +/- 16deg. I'm 50, 6ft/165# with decent flexibility, and ride ~4500mi/yr (mostly road with some MTB). Surprisingly, flipping my stem UP to + 8-16 deg makes my neck/shoulders LESS comfortable on long (40-100mi) rides. I seem most "happy" with 120mm stem at -6 to -8 deg. May be due to higher stem position putting my shoulders at a funny (non-anatomic) angle to the bars. No idea how this all affects my power output- never spent the $$ to be tested.
 
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