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View Full Version : Bar/Stem Stiffness....I've got to ask


firerescuefin
01-30-2015, 12:47 PM
I used to be into bodybuilding and strength training. Used to dead and squat over 400 pounds and bench 315....I can rep 12-30 reps 225 on both bench and squats now...just a point of reference for my question.

I am reading a thread on stem stiffness....and I've read numerous threads on bar stiffness. I just got off my cycleops stationary trainer, where I can dial up about as many watts as my heart desires. I just got off running super heavy watts at low rpm (50ish). Even at these heavy watts I'm not moving the bars/stem appreciably. Who are the monsters that flexing these stems and bars. If I took the bars and tried to use them as a leverage point/prybar to twist it (the stem), how much would it actually twist. I'd imagine them breaking before they'd move enough for you to notice.

Basically, I am saying, I don't get it. I've had maybe one bar in my life that I thought was kind of noodly. Never a threadless stem.

Hopefully guys like 11.4, DK, and MarkMcm (know I'm leaving out others) will chime in.

crownjewelwl
01-30-2015, 12:54 PM
show off!:banana:

avalonracing
01-30-2015, 12:55 PM
I used to be into bodybuilding and strength training. Used to dead and squat over 400 pounds and bench 315....I can rep 12-30 reps 225 on both bench and squats now...just a point of reference

Dear GOD! When I was doing 6 reps of 225 (free weight) last year I thought I was the strongest cyclist in the world. (In all fairness I weighed 155 so if you weigh 250 I want the title back).

firerescuefin
01-30-2015, 12:59 PM
Dear GOD! When I was doing 6 reps of 225 (free weight) last year I thought I was the strongest cyclist in the world. (In all fairness I weighed 155 so if you weigh 250 I want the title back).

.....and you are probably in the top .5% of that type of strength for cyclists. Are you flexing bars and stems? I'm curious.

Added

I'm 190...so you're still the title holder. That's a really impressive STW ratio. Anything below 175 (what I'd like to be)...I start really losing strength.

Uncle Jam's Army
01-30-2015, 01:12 PM
I once had a pair of 3T Ergonova carbon bars (circa 2011) that you could visually see from the side of the bike the rider flexing the bars in the drop. A lot. Actually, scared me straight back to aluminum bars. Trying carbon bars again and find them much better now re stiffness.

Agreed on the stem, though. Aside from some quill stems in the 80's, I've never felt noticeable flex from a stem.

Oh, and BTW, 225 x 8 in my prime. 315 max. :p

avalonracing
01-30-2015, 01:35 PM
.....and you are probably in the top .5% of that type of strength for cyclists. Are you flexing bars and stems? I'm curious.

Added

I'm 190...so you're still the title holder. That's a really impressive STW ratio. Anything below 175 (what I'd like to be)...I start really losing strength.

I'm sure they are flexing some as you can just stand there and yank on them and feel some flex. I ride Ritchey WCS Aluminum bars and stems as I just don't completely trust carbon for the reason that I really can yank on the bars in a sprint. Yes, I know that carbon is supposed to be just as strong or stronger but I don't trust them as much.

For the record- That was a year ago :rolleyes:. I just started working out last week after six months of nothing. Now I'm benching about two reps of 225 and I weigh just under 170. I'll get it back in a few months though.

soulspinner
01-30-2015, 01:37 PM
I once had a pair of 3T Ergonova carbon bars (circa 2011) that you could visually see from the side of the bike the rider flexing the bars in the drop. A lot. Actually, scared me straight back to aluminum bars. Trying carbon bars again and find them much better now re stiffness.

Agreed on the stem, though. Aside from some quill stems in the 80's, I've never felt noticeable flex from a stem.

Oh, and BTW, 225 x 8 in my prime. 315 max. :p

Ya. Im not as strong as you guys up top but unless you are running the flexiest 150 mm stem the bars are usually your biggest flexors under stress.

jmoore
01-30-2015, 01:38 PM
What do you mean puny cyclist?
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/10/25/article-2476435-18F8CFEC00000578-700_634x437.jpg

Bostic
01-30-2015, 01:52 PM
The 3T Rotundo Pro Team 40cm carbon bars I bought to build up a ww bike flex very noticeably when I'm out of the saddle in max efforts. I'm 5' 7" 144 so hardly a power guy. In contrast to Pro Vibe anatomic 40cm that don't budge at all. But they weigh more..

jr59
01-30-2015, 02:22 PM
I used to be into bodybuilding and strength training. Used to dead and squat over 400 pounds and bench 315....I can rep 12-30 reps 225 on both bench and squats now...just a point of reference for my question.

I am reading a thread on stem stiffness....and I've read numerous threads on bar stiffness. I just got off my cycleops stationary trainer, where I can dial up about as many watts as my heart desires. I just got off running super heavy watts at low rpm (50ish). Even at these heavy watts I'm not moving the bars/stem appreciably. Who are the monsters that flexing these stems and bars. If I took the bars and tried to use them as a leverage point/prybar to twist it (the stem), how much would it actually twist. I'd imagine them breaking before they'd move enough for you to notice.

Basically, I am saying, I don't get it. I've had maybe one bar in my life that I thought was kind of noodly. Never a threadless stem.

Hopefully guys like 11.4, DK, and MarkMcm (know I'm leaving out others) will chime in.

I'll say this, I'm bigger than you, and before my shoulder injury, stronger than you, and very few bars I notice much flex. None at all in the cowbells, nor the nitto bars that I use a lot

6'5" 270 . Ex power lifter, dead lift 650, squat 775, and bench 400. But those days are gone forever now. Oh well, I still enjoy my time on the bike

nooneline
01-30-2015, 02:47 PM
I'm a lot smaller than you and my squat and dead numbers are quite a bit lower (though respectable for my bodyweight).

What's most noticeable is changing from a flexible system to a stiff system. You might not be able to say "okay, it is THIS part that is the issue," but you'd probably be able to feel it.

It's easy for me to notice bar flex when I'm in the drops. When I'm riding, though, there's enough overall bike movement that it's barely noticeable. There's plenty of system flex in any given bike's front end that's not too hard to discern - but it's hard for me to ID the source.

One thing I've noticed is that some forks that have really flexy steerers (EC90s were the worst offenders). As in, it's really easy to hold the bike, twist the handlebars a little bit, and cause enough flex that the front wheel rubs the brakes. Yeah, this is not really a riding action, but sprints can flex the system enough to cause rub.

FlashUNC
01-30-2015, 02:51 PM
My arms will never be allowed into the gun show -- even before my robot elbow limited my upper body workouts -- I never much noticed stem/bar flex or much outside those Scott Drop-in bars that were scary as hell.

Even in the most riotous road/track sprints. Maybe I'm just a weakling?

firerescuefin
01-30-2015, 03:08 PM
I'm a lot smaller than you and my squat and dead numbers are quite a bit lower (though respectable for my bodyweight).

What's most noticeable is changing from a flexible system to a stiff system. You might not be able to say "okay, it is THIS part that is the issue," but you'd probably be able to feel it.

It's easy for me to notice bar flex when I'm in the drops. When I'm riding, though, there's enough overall bike movement that it's barely noticeable. There's plenty of system flex in any given bike's front end that's not too hard to discern - but it's hard for me to ID the source.

One thing I've noticed is that some forks that have really flexy steerers (EC90s were the worst offenders). As in, it's really easy to hold the bike, twist the handlebars a little bit, and cause enough flex that the front wheel rubs the brakes. Yeah, this is not really a riding action, but sprints can flex the system enough to cause rub.

I've certainly "felt" flexy forks. The first time I road a tapered front fork I noticed a difference (prefer it). I've never owned a stem and thought, "man I need something more stout." I was riding next to a guy on a local group ride a few months ago and noticed he had some new goodies on the front of his bike. This guy weighs 140ish and is telling me that he needed stiffer bars and stem, because what he was riding before was too flexy. This is a guy I have ridden with quite a bit. Let's just say Cav and Kittel are safe. I thought to myself....."bull····".

I am open to my inability to perceive something others do, but I don't see a lot of this stuff flexing to the point where you can truly feel the difference.

fogrider
01-30-2015, 03:16 PM
I think most of the latest stuff is stiff enough but a few years ago (5-10) some of the lightweight stuff flexed pretty good when I lean over the bars and sprinting. and under those conditions, the bike really needs to track straight!

berserk87
01-30-2015, 03:52 PM
Back in the day my lifting numbers were in the same ballpark - bench 330, squat 550 and DL 505. Used to love powerlifting and training for football.

I don't lift anymore due to old injuries and the fact that my body (finally) adds muscle mass quickly. When I was playing football, it took an act of congress to add muscle mass. The added mass does not help me on the bike. So I am not as strong as I was. But I have found parts that work for me with regard to cockpit flex.

When I was using quill stems I noticed quite a bit of flex when standing to climb, jumping to sprint, or navigating rough roads.

Some "modern" stems still seem flexy to me. I ride Thomson 4x stems now and they are really solid. If dudes are flexing those, then there are none stiff enough.

As for bar flex, I do notice some but it never bothered me like stem flex used to. I've ridden Kestrel carbon bars on the road for years and they have a bit of flex but not enough to be a bother.

I wonder if stem length and bar width are noticeable factors in perceived flex? I would imagine that the longer stems and wider bars would have more.

zap
01-30-2015, 04:16 PM
The Thomson X4 is a stiff stem. The one I have is a 140.

I felt that the Time Monolink (120) was a nice stiff stem.

The 3T Team is maybe a bit more flexible than the Time but totally acceptable. Have this stem on one of our tandems (120) and on the Crumpton (130).

The one stem I recall that was not to my liking was a Modolo quill stem. Certainly not dangerous but I replaced it with a steel stem. Both stems were 140. That was long ago when I was racing and able to squat over twice my weight.

Of all the bars I had over the years, the oddest was the Zipp SL carbon that I used last year on the Crumpton. That thing just had movement that was odd. Replaced it with a Thomson Road bar and all is in order.

I guess with years of riding, riding hard and racing that one develops a certain feel. Just like frame stiffness and wheel stiffness. Some bits feel just right, others less so.

palincss
01-30-2015, 05:43 PM
I'm sure they are flexing some as you can just stand there and yank on them and feel some flex.

But of course when you're riding you shouldn't be yanking on them in the first place, so how much could it possibly matter?

nooneline
01-30-2015, 06:44 PM
But of course when you're riding you shouldn't be yanking on them in the first place, so how much could it possibly matter?

you don't climb or sprint?

Peter P.
01-30-2015, 07:52 PM
I think the litmus test for whether you need stiffer bars or stem is, have you felt the bike was unsafe due to a flexible bar/stem?

I've never heard anyone complain.

Besides, a little flex in the bar/stem system is good since it becomes a shock absorber.

berserk87
01-30-2015, 08:01 PM
I think the litmus test for whether you need stiffer bars or stem is, have you felt the bike was unsafe due to a flexible bar/stem?

I've never heard anyone complain.

Besides, a little flex in the bar/stem system is good since it becomes a shock absorber.

I have complained about the quill stems in the past. The flex over rough roads on some of the local descents was a bit disconcerting. On steeper downhills body weight tends to shift forward and the bars are bearing more weight via the hands, so it magnifies the effect.

For hard out-of-the-saddle climbing or sprinting, too much flex is just a bit annoying - not as much of a safety issue. It makes it harder to coordinate control of the front end of the bike.