A New Angle

Ever since I first got my Jamis Coda Comp a few years back, it has been a challenge to adjust things to provide an efficient position on the bike.  I worked the seat up and down over a range of at least 2”, and finally found a spot that seemed to work for knee flex and pedaling efficiency.  The bike has straight bars, and I always felt somewhat “stretched out” in reaching them.  They provide absolutely no alternate hand positions, because the brake and shift apparatus, and the bike computer, take up too much of the inboard bar room between the grips and the stem.  So the Coda has only limited options to relieve muscle fatigue brought on by my position on the bike.

One of the problems with position was that I had a little trouble getting my head up high enough to see far ahead.  That was a clue that it was not a good position.  Another problem was the absence of alternatives for posture.  But by far the most important was that I came to feel too stretched out, that my back just wasn’t up to handling this position without a degree of ongoing fatigue.  I was at a point that I’d begun to call the bike “The Rack” in my interior monologues.  It was no longer a vehicle that I happily anticipated riding.

So finally a few days ago I did what I should have done long ago, and which the Jamis people had already provided the means to do.  They had built the bike with a Ritchey adjustable stem.  I’d always been afraid to mess with it, which shows that I’m a foolish coward about some things.  The stem attaches to the center post with a simple two-bolt clamp.  Immediately in front of the post, a large bolt goes through the stem to join the clamp part of the stem to the neck of the stem.  The fact that there are two pieces joined at this point is what makes the stem adjustable.  Once I’d convinced myself that I could do no damage by taking this construction apart, I just got out my Allen wrenches and went to work.  I discovered that the stem is built solidly, with deeply interlocking ridges at the adjustable point. I simply took this joint apart, realigned the two interlocking pieces at a different angle that looked about right, and re-bolted everything together.

stem

Ritchey Adjustable Stem on Jamis Coda Comp, at new angle

The result is that while the stem used to tilt just barely upward, at right angles to the steering column, it now juts up at a slightly jauntier angle, perhaps 10˚ or 15˚ above the 90˚ angle.  As a result, the handlebars are now about 2” higher than they were.  I do not have to bend my back over so far to hold the handlebars.   To finish the job, of course, I had to rearrange the brake and gearshift levers to compensate for the new angle, because they still have to slant downward so that when my hands are on the bars in a natural position, they catch the levers in the right places on my fingers.  Likewise, the computer had to be readjusted so that it lies at a good angle to be read.

A couple of rides have convinced me that this was a good move.  I feel more in control of the bike, my back muscles are less overly stretched, and I can see things more immediately.  I still have what I’d call an “aggressive” posture, not sitting upright as if I were in a straight-back chair, just not in racing mode.  So I’m now wondering why I didn’t do this years ago.  Of course, now I have noticed that the bars are just barely off-center to the right horizontally, but that’s easily fixed another time.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

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