Slammed and stretched out - Is that why we see so many crashes?
140mm stem slammed to the head tube. And looking at the fore/aft position of Gilbert’s saddle, it looks like he has that slammed back on the rails.
The Belgian might be an extreme example of a “pro-fit,” but I don’t think the bike fits of many pro riders are that far off from Gilbert’s. Look at pro riders’ bikes and the craze is long stems as low as possible. Even locally I see that trend replicated on riders who have no business being that low or stretched out on a bike.
My buddy Dr. Dave Mruz lent me his library of Winning Magazines (Circa 1980s to 90s. The doctor has an extensive collection, which even includes Road Bike Action – the first run before they folded it and then brought it back, as well as Bicycle Guide). The stems are not slammed and extended. Instead there are a couple of inches of the stem’s quill showing and lengths are in the 120mm to 130mm range. Riders have their hands positioned on the tops or hoods when cruising in the peloton. When they’re in the breakaway or off the front they lower their position by grabbing the drops of their handlebars.
In contrast, today I rarely see riders in the drops of their bars for any amount of time. In the break their mitts are still on the hoods, but with their elbows bent at 90° versus 45° when in the bunch. I think it’s because they just can’t get into the drops comfortably for any amount of time. I wonder, if they could get their hands into the drops would their knees hit their chests?
So in other words current pro cyclists have eliminated a hand position on their bikes due to the extreme positioning. Gone is the elevated position of the tops of the bars. Instead today’s pro riders have an extreme or more extreme position.
And before you start by saying these are pro riders and they can do it, I beg to disagree. While there are a few riders that focus on flexibility, I know and have seen many more with the normal flexibility issues that we “normal” riders struggle with - tight hamstrings and weak lower backs. I’m curious to see how these riders are faring once they’ve retired and hit 40. I suspect the chiropractic line of business will see an uptick in ex-pro riders paying them a visit.
While this extreme positioning looks “pro” this has to affect the handling of the bike, thereby resulting in a twitchy machine. Ever ridden a bike that was too small for you and noticed how uneven it felt? Then compound it with a saddle slammed back and long stem. All it takes is a rider to be slightly distracted or maybe reach for something in his jersey pocket. The bike swerves into the rider next to him and suddenly you have a bike yard-sale in the middle of the road.
Undoubtedly we will see large crashes in Grand Tours such as the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France again