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  1. #1
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    Setting up your handlebars

    I've got two vintage Bianchis. Both are the same size, but the handlebars are set up differently on the two bikes. How do I tell which one is set up the best (confort aside)? The one seems to be set up in more of a radical road riding position whereas the other is set for a more comfortable riding position.

  2. #2
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    One consideration is how you intend to use the bike. The purpose can help lead you to the desired body (and bar) position.

    And "comfort aside" is not, IMO, a logical way to approach bar or bike set-up. Comfort is actually a major consideration -- way up high on the priority list. If the bars aren't comfortable, are you going to ride that bike?
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustTooBig View Post
    One consideration is how you intend to use the bike. The purpose can help lead you to the desired body (and bar) position.

    And "comfort aside" is not, IMO, a logical way to approach bar or bike set-up. Comfort is actually a major consideration -- way up high on the priority list. If the bars aren't comfortable, are you going to ride that bike?
    Agreed, and amplified: Unless it's a pure sprint bike, comfort is probably the top measure amongst the things that go into the balance. An aero position that hampers breathing, or that hurts the taint so much that it's a distraction after a few miles, can easily end up real-world slower than a nominally less aggressive position.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the info. I'd post pictures of the two, but for some reason I can't get the uploading function to work yet. I'll try again later, a picture being worth a thousand words.

  5. #5
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  6. #6
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    I looked at a book on bike repair and each of them seems to be set up in one of the two ways that the books describes setting handlebars. The SPort SX is set so the bottom part runs parallele to the top tube and the Premio (the red one) is set so that an imaginary line would intersect the seat tube and aimed at the rear axle.

  7. #7
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    The celeste one is set up for very aggressive, in the drops position. It won't be comfortable on the hoods. The red one is set up for riding mostly on the hoods. The stem is also lower on the celeste one. In addition, the saddle nose is pointed up, which seems it might not be ridden as much.
    So which one do you do? Ride both, see what feels better. That's how you decide. There is no "one is right" answer, except for what you feel.
    Personally, I'd choose the red, because I'm not that flexible, and I ride in the hoods. But, if you're more comfortable in the drops, then you should adjust your bars accordingly.
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  8. #8
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    The red one has the hoods (brake levers) pretty far up and the bars rotated pretty far up. Also appears to have a shorter stem set at a higher height. All those factors will effect your fit and comfort. The celeste bike is set up much more traditionally from a bar rotation/hood position standpoint. The bars themselves appear to be the same or similar though. if that is the case...

    For the minimal expense of replacing your handlebar tape, I would suggest taking the tape off one of the sets of handle bars and experimenting with both the rotation of the bar (you want to be comfortable in the 3 major hand positions: tops, hoods, drops) and hood position on the bar. Play around with that until you find a set-up you are comfortable with. Then unwrap the other bars and make them match.

  9. #9
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    You guys have great eyes. The Celeste bike will have the seat adjusted (I didn't even notice that) and I think I'll rotate the bar back a little to make it more comfortable to ride on the hoods, but leave it lower since I think the division of labor between the two is that the Celeste will be ridden more when I'm in the mood to be more adventurous speed wise and the red one for longer rides where comfort is more of an issue. Both bikes are pretty comfortable within the limits of my skill set and are a ball to ride. At this point I'm just happy to be out there doing as much as I am and am looking forward to pushing my own limits. That's when I'll probably find out what the final adjustments should be, or if I just enjoy the experience of riding two different setups. Thanks much for all the input.

  10. #10
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    Gerard Vroomen of Cervelo has been posting on his blog about fit. There are a couple about bar height, this one I found interesting. Quick sum up of the post is your body is going to find the position it wants to be in to produce power, you arms just take up the slack. If your riding with outstretched arms why not raise your bars and bend your elbows and keep the same body position.

    The post is very short you should give it a read.

    Body position vs bar height – part 1

  11. #11
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    Adjusted the seat and handlebars of the celeste unit to match the red one. Didn't need to raise the handlebars. Thanks again for all the help.

  12. #12
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    Late to the party, but with the bars set up like those on the Bianchi, you're bound to get numbness in the wrist and fingers because the angle of the drops is horizontal and your arms typically are at about 15 degrees from vertical when riding in the drops. Schwinn in its setup instructions said to set the drops up initially at 15 degrees downward tilt. The typical rider's arms would then form a 90 degree angle to the drops and there would be no wrist strain. In practice, the drops typically point to somewhere between the rear brake bridge and the rear axle, depending in the rider's riding position when in the drops. Basically, you want the wrists to be in a neutral, or handshake, position relative to the drops in order to avoid wrist strain and wrist/fingers numbness.

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  13. #13
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    Wow, Scoop, that is cool. Read a lot of "proper" setup stuff from, er, Bridgestone and Rivendell, but never seen Schwinn's version. For years (decades?) the style rule has been to mount the drops horizontally. Why, I'd ask my friends, when your wrists aren't horizontal when you ride? "its like the top tube - they have to be horizontal because!!". The shallow drop bars in fashion right now usually have their drops at such an angle - Schwinn was ahead of their time!


  14. #14
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    When I re-adjusted the celeste unit I actually raised the handle bars so that there was a slight rise in the angle above horizontal of the top of the bars so that even when just grasping the top of the bars my wrists were somewhat relaxed. Unfortunately I don't have a "Twin-Stik" to measure the stem, but the idea is noted and I didn't change that at all since it seems to work as is.

    Best part is I'm getting over the fear of fooling with my own stuff and it's fun to work on these, so I may fiddle with both of them to fine tune the settings.

  15. #15
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    Oh, while I'm at it, I read several of Vroomen's blog entries and also practiced riding with my elbows bent and pulled in closer to my body using the new settings. This has indeed been an enlightening thread. When you don't know much, it's easy to learn lots.

  16. #16
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    If you are having fun learning about fit and would like to continue, give Steve Hogg's blog a look.

    Blog Steve Hogg's Bike Fitting Website

  17. #17
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    Handlebar angles shown have always varied that much. This is not new. Tourists generally went with more angle, racers more horizontal.

    "Horizontal" bars are not gripped horizontally. The drops are usually ridden in the curves.


    Of the two shown, the red bike looks least comfortable. I don't see a single angle that matches the angle of my hands when sitting on the bike.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
    Handlebar angles shown have always varied that much. This is not new. Tourists generally went with more angle, racers more horizontal.

    "Horizontal" bars are not gripped horizontally. The drops are usually ridden in the curves.


    Of the two shown, the red bike looks least comfortable. I don't see a single angle that matches the angle of my hands when sitting on the bike.
    A look at the team bikes of the 2011 TdF shows the drops are a fairly consistant ~15 angle from horizontal. I believe they're all set up for professional racers.

    Tour de France 2011 team bikes
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    A look at the team bikes of the 2011 TdF shows the drops are a fairly consistant ~15 angle from horizontal. I believe they're all set up for professional racers.

    Tour de France 2011 team bikes
    I thought we were talking about two 20 year old bikes with no STI and whether people used to angle their bars up or not. That is how I responded, and I'll stand by that response.
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  20. #20
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    My point is that the prevalent bar position really hasn't changed over the past forty years, STI, friction, whatever. If you look at photos of racing bikes forty years ago, the bar position is virtually the same as today's road racing bikes except for the weird ergo bends instead of Maes bend bars.

    This is from a 1973 book by Clarence Coles, and I've got at least a dozen other books published overthe last four decades by trainers and sports medicine gurus like Andy Pruitt who are consistent in their recommendations.

    -Stan
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  21. #21
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    I'm definitely more of a tourist than a racer and I will spend very little time in the drops. And that seems to be the consistent theme of the thread is that there is no one size fits all setting. As it is, I set the celeste version up almost identically to the red one, but that may change. It's a bout a two minute project with an allen wrench to make it anything I want it to be, from racer to tourist and these bikes will suit me just fine.

  22. #22
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    PS, again, thanks for all the great information.

  23. #23
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    I notice that it also says to tilt the seat so the forward end is raised slightly, and I just lowered mine down. I'm wondering what the thought was to tilting it upwards>

  24. #24
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    Is the stem on the red one really long (height-wise) or do you have it raised too much? Quill stems have a minimum insertion mark on them and yours looks to be past that, assuming it's a "normal" stem.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    My point is that the prevalent bar position really hasn't changed over the past forty years, STI, friction, whatever. If you look at photos of racing bikes forty years ago, the bar position is virtually the same as today's road racing bikes except for the weird ergo bends instead of Maes bend bars.

    This is from a 1973 book by Clarence Coles, and I've got at least a dozen other books published overthe last four decades by trainers and sports medicine gurus like Andy Pruitt who are consistent in their recommendations.
    And here's a picture of two "racers" from the era these bikes are from with their bars a few degrees from level:

    These guys also liked to race:




    And since you dig literature, here's what Lemond wrote in his 1987 book, "Greg LeMond's Complete Book of Cycling":

    "Handlebars should awlays be adjusted so that the bottom of the bars (known as the drops) is parallel with the ground, or nearly so."


    This isn't a thread about fit and I'm not really making any suggestions. I am answering the question and addressing Sablotny's statement that all bikes used to have the drops horizontal - which they didn't. TDF winning race bikes of the '60s '70s, '80s and '90s often did, while tourists who didn't use the drops frequently did not. So I don't understand your "correction" of what I posted - it is pretty clear that there was a long period where "mostly horizontal" was the norm for racing.
    Last edited by Kontact; 08-07-2011 at 07:12 AM.
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