Monday, February 03, 2014

Equipment - Radical Steelman Stem On Bike

A few people have asked me what my stem looks like on the bike. I posted a pretty distorted picture that really makes the stem look ridiculous so I wanted to post something a little bit better.

The distorted picture, a still off the helmet cam; the stem was unpainted at that point.

When you look at that picture it looks like the drops end up below the 60mm fairing of the front wheel. The saddle looks like it's a good foot up in the air (I guess my National Lampoon style taillights don't help either). Although I have some saddle-bar drop the picture makes it look just a little bit ridiculous.

Therefore I lugged the camera down to the basement take a more reasonable picture.

The now-painted stem on the bike, in the trainer room.

I took the picture kneeling, hiding myself from the camera by placing myself behind the head tube of the bike (meaning so I don't appear in the mirror, or the flash in the mirror doesn't drown out the bike). The drops are shown a little more accurately in terms of relative drop.

Of course my kneeling position makes the saddle look like it's pointing up but trust me, it's not. It's level with a little dip in the middle. However the saddle doesn't look like it's towering over the bike like it does in the first picture.

The drops end up in the same spot as they were before, about next to the tire. Due to the compact bars, with their 3 cm shorter reach and 3 cm less drop (meaning it's 3 cm higher), I commissioned Steelman Bikes to make me a stem that would situate the drops properly.

They did and it does.

Yesterday I went on an Expo ride and the unstoppable Heavy D had his helmet cam on. I grabbed a couple stills from there to illustrate that my position on the bike isn't nutty as the stem makes it look.

In the paceline. I'm on the right, in case you didn't realize.
(still from a clip by Heavy D)

I admit I do have a flatter back than many riders out there, but it's because my back hurts if I ride in a more upright position. Another Expo rider, chatting with me on the roll out, theorized that the longer, lower position would reduce the load on my back by transferring it a bit to my hands. That makes sense. My back is definitely my weak point and it can be almost crippling at times. Riding on the drops is almost like therapy for me, easing the discomfort and making things much more manageable as far as my back goes.

Of course it doesn't hurt that it's aerodynamic or anything, but if my back forced me to sit upright that's what I'd be doing instead.

Making an effort following a hard working Jeff.
(still from a clip by Heavy D)

My position isn't radical at all. My arms are a bit bent but the low drops isn't meant to give me straight arms or bent arms or anything like that. It's meant to give me a good position when I'm out of the saddle and my only contact points are the pedals and the drops. I need the drops to be low enough that I can pull up on them and so that the front wheel gets a bit of weight on it. With higher bars (by 3 cm) the front end got really skittery, making the bike hard to control in sprints. My short legs determine the bar height, not any need for mucho drop.

Unfortunately I was behind Heavy D when I made my rare jump efforts on the group ride so there's no shots of me actually going hard out of the saddle from that ride.

You may notice that I have a saddle bag on my bike. I normally carry stuff in my pockets but with a limited amount of pocket real estate on my jacket (one huge pocket, one key pocket), plus the fact that the stuff was moving around too much on me in Florida, pushed me to use my saddle bag again. It's nice - no worrying about it, not as much weight bouncing around in my pocket, and easy access (I tightened a bottle screw just before we rolled out).

So that's the bike. I need to get a second stem for my other bike, so that I have two bikes with the same set up. There are other maintenance things I need to do, mainly gluing tires, but for this year that's the only significant change I'll make as far as the bikes go.

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