Options to reduce reach on a gravel bike

Bicycles Asked on January 6, 2022

I bought a 2020 GT Grade shortly after the pandemic hit. Bought it online, no test drive. It was a bit of a risk, but it seems to fit well enough with one exception: the reach feels a bit long. When I ride the hoods, I feel a little too extended. I’d guess I need to decrease it by ~30 mm.

I’d love to get a real fitting, but understandably none of the shops in my area are doing that yet, so I’m winging it and looking at some options with the help of my LBS.

My initial inclination was to shorten the stem. (It’s about 80-100 mm.) But when I talked with my LBS he thought that that might modify the steering too much and suggested instead that I consider "short" or "ergo" drop bars. I think my current bar reach is about 100 mm, and I see some for sale that are 65mm.

So, my question to this great group is what is your opinion on the best way to reduce reach:

1/ shorter stem
2/ change out the drop bars
3/ something else?

One Answer

When riding on the hoods reducing the reach of bars is equivalent to using a shorter stem. Only when riding on the tops a shorter stem will lead to different steering compared to shorter reach bars.

A change of 2 cm to 3 cm will change steering. However, it is not so dramatic that you will hit the dirt right away. Especially on gravel bikes that typically have slack steering angles and tend to be quite stable.

Swapping a stem is a bit less work than swapping bars. Stems tend to be slightly cheaper as well. Neither is terribly expensive or much work. You might give it a try and see if you like it.

An alternative would be to lower the height of the bars, by moving the stem further down, and/or flipping it down. When you tilt your upper body at the saddle your shoulders move roughly on a circular path. The lower your upper body is the further your shoulder are forward.

Before starting to get your hex keys you might want too try if you feel to stretched out when you are down in the drops, holding the bars where you can brake.

Answered by gschenk on January 6, 2022

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