Question: This is the year that I mortgage the house and buy my titanium dream bike! The problem is, I’m not as flexible as I used to be. The bike I want has the handlebar almost 5 inches below the saddle. On a test ride, I felt stretched out and uncomfortable. On my old bike, the bar/saddle difference is 2 inches and it feels great.
On both bikes, the top tubes and stems are the same length. Why the discrepancy? Is there any way to get the handlebar higher in these new bike designs? — Glen P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Having the bar so far below your saddle puts it farther away due to the slope of the head tube. That’s why you feel so stretched out on the new bike. Conversely, raising the bar moves it back toward the saddle, in effect shortening the top tube.
A bar that’s 5 inches below the saddle is suitable for time trialing with aero bars that have arm rests. It’s not suitable for normal road riding. You’ll see some pros with almost that much differential, but inevitably they’re young, skinny and flexible, with a long torso and long arms. Normally proportioned mortals need the bar higher.
Being able to get a comfortable and efficient position on the bike is the most important factor in any purchase. If your dream bike won’t allow you to do this, it’ll become a nightmare. It’s essential to go with a bike that fits.
I doubt if you can make up 3 inches in bar height if the bike is already built. You’d need a new fork with an uncut steerer tube. Then you could leave it sticking up above the headset and use a handful of spacers. This isn’t recommended on a fork with a carbon steerer tube. A stem that slants up will buy you a little more height, too, but probably not enough.