Sportif-ying a race bike

GyatsoLa Posts: 667
edited November 2008 in Workshop
I've a Cannondale R600, about 5 years old, with CAAD 5 frame, own brand stem and Cinelli alloy handlebar.

The bike was set up quite well for me when I bought it (it was my first 'real' roadbike after years of using mtb's) and its great for fairly short sharp riding. But after about 2 hours in the saddle I find it too low in the front and very harsh - sometimes my whole upper arms and shoulder go numb from vibrations and find myself longing for a higher front end (I ride on the upper bar rather than the grips a lot of the time). This hasn't been a problem simply because I've rarely had time for very long rides - most of my day to day riding is on my Pompino fixie.

I'm planning a 3-4 week light and fast road bike tour over the winter with this bike, but clearly its set up isn't ideal for what I want. I need, in effect, to make it more of a sportif or audax type bike, more comfortable for long days in the saddle, and better adopted for admiring the countryside rather than head down pedaling. I reckon I probably need new, more ergo friendly bars and a higher front end.

I've made an appointment with my lbs to measure me up and fit new bars. But (without meaning to disparage bike shops), they will obviously try to sell me whatever super expensive new bar and stem they have in the shop, when the solution may be simpler.

So, any advice or warnings about what I'm about to do? Recommendations for good bar/stem set ups, or other hints?


  • Monty Dog
    Monty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Without seeing your position on the bike it's hard to make specific recommendations. The two obvious areas are the contact points. In terms of the bars, assuming you can't add any spacers, the first thing to try is flipping the stem to give a slight rise. Perhaps a shorter stem - try 1cm and likewise flipped will be better? You could also tray a Compact handlebar like the FSA Omega - shorter reach and shallower drops and very reasonable for £25. Saddles are more personal, but you won't go far wrong with something like a San Marco Rolls or Selle Italia Prolink. Also, fitting a wider tyre will help too - 25mm have a bigger 'footprint', a bigger airpocket and therefore can be run at lower pressures.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • Al_38
    Al_38 Posts: 277
    To raise the front end you could always flip the stem giving you a slightly more upright position.
    I have a pair of flat-topped easton ec70s on my Caad5 dale and have found them to be significantly more comfortale than the alloy bars on before. This could be due to the carbon damping vibrations or simply the shape exerts less pressure. However a cheaper alternative might be changing bar tape and / or putting gel inserts on the bars. If you go for new bar tape then specialised roubaix or easton stuff are pretty good as they absorb quite a lot. They do give quite chunky bars though - personally I am more a fan of a decent cork tape, but this doesn't absorb as much.

  • softlad
    softlad Posts: 3,513
    I've just done exactly the same thing on my old 653 race bike, which I just dragged out of the shed after a few years off. How I ever managed to ride it like that is a mystery to me now... ;)

    But, I've gone 1cm shorter on the stem and flipped it so it raises - rather than drops - the bars and the position is near-on perfect.

    Next stop is a new frame...
  • fizz
    fizz Posts: 483
    I flipped the stem on my bike, it was comfortable before, but on long sportives I find it gives just that little bit more height and it raises the comfort level.

    Decent bar tape also helps, as may gloves with some kind of gel insert in them.

    I run 23mm tyres on my bike and I find they do give a more comfy ride than the 20mm tyres I used to run.
  • meagain
    meagain Posts: 2,331
    "....changing bar tape and / or putting gel inserts on the bars." should help numbness etc but won't do much for actual riding position! And I love the way it's assumed that stem at present angled downwards!

    I guess what trying to achieve is equivalent of a longer head tube i.e. top bars level with or thereabouts rather than 2-3" vertically lower? If insufficient steerer (assuming a-head rather than quill) then only way to do that is a seriously rising/upright stem. An adjustable one will help determine "ideal" position - even if then buy a rigid one to match that position.
    "Cancel my subscription to the resurrection."
  • GyatsoLa
    GyatsoLa Posts: 667
    Thanks for the advise so far.

    I think I should say that I've found the existing bars quite uncomfortable, even with good quality tape - so I'm tempted by oversized or flat topped bars. I also suspect that the existing bars are a little too narrow - I find the Midge bars on my fixie much better.