Saturday, December 6, 2014

The High Front End

Despite some overwhelmingly convincing evidence about the benefits of a low stack height, it appears that a growing number of cyclists are now choosing not to “go low”. A new wave of “high flyers” are touting the benefits of the high front end as a more healthy and desirable bike setup option. The difference in opinion is likely to form a rift in the cycling community, or at least add to the growing disharmony that already exists: roadies vs mountain bikers; 26” vs 29”; baggy shorts vs lycra; and all cyclists vs triathletes.

Here are the pros and cons of both a low and high front end. Hopefully it will contribute to some objective discussion on a very fractious issue.

Low Stack Height
While this provides for a very aerodynamic and professional looking setup, it can be an uncomfortable position that may lead to a sore back and compromise your ability to descend steep technical sections of off-road terrain.

High Stack Height
A comfortable position that affords great visibility (head's always up), however it can make your bike look like a praying mantis in a wheelchair.

If you’ve chosen to take your cycling in the downward direction, incorporating a low stack height, then some helpful hints and tips are provided in the article mentioned above.

If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to raise the bar (literally) of your cycling to impressive new heights, then look no further than the fine example below, photographed in Melbourne’s always fascinating inner-north.

The owner of this bike has pretty much got the high front end nailed.

There aren’t too many other things you could actually do to a bike in order to raise the front end any higher than this—short of replacing the front fork and wheel with something salvaged from a penny farthing. Here’s how you too can customise your ride to achieve a similar level of elevation:

1. Add a SATORI Heads Up 4 steerer tube extender. It’s a similar concept to seafood extender in that it makes your steerer tube go further, but without the expense of a new fork (or actual crab meat).

2. Add some spacers above the SATORI Heads Up 4 steerer tube extender.

3. Add an adjustable stem.

4. Push the limits of your adjustable stem by setting it to an almost vertical position. I shudder to think what this kind of near-zero-offset handlebar positioning will do to your bike handling but try not to let practicalities like this get in the way of your quest for elevation. In fact, aim to get your stem angle to match your head tube angle for maximum symmetry.

5. Tilt your handlebars skywards. The shift/brake levers can be re-purposed as fighter-jet-style dual joysticks, rather than the typical ergonomic bicycle hand grips that they were initially intended as.

6. Add a set of secondary CrossTop brake levers as you’ll be unable to actuate the regular shift/brake levers (which are now pointing to the sky) without some advanced degree of upper-extremity contortion.

7. With an elevated position like this, you’ll obviously not want to lower yourself to stooping for a typical frame-mounted bidon so rig up a contraption that allows you to mount your bidon holder in a more appropriate position near the dashboard. In this case the steerer tube-mounted bidon holder bracket also serves as a handy extra steerer tube spacer.

With this nifty adaptor you can keep your bidon high and your stem even higher!

Also note the use of the disposable plastic water bottle wrapped in a hand towel signalling a clear “fuck you” to decades of oppressive bicycle industry bidon holder standardisation.

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of bike that you are starting with. It’s all well and good to extend your steerer tube, add spacers and tilt up your handlebars, but if your bike has a short head tube, then many of these gains will be rendered obsolete. Bike head tubes can obviously vary greatly…from short…

…to long… confusingly indeterminate…

Where'd that head tube go?

If you are looking to maximise elevation gain at the front end then make sure you start with a suitably lengthy head tube. Although this is probably pushing it…

For reference, the bike featured in this article is made by Asian handmade boutique manufacturer Giant and its model name is “Revolt”—which is an interesting choice of name given the feelings of nausea that sightings of this bike tend to stimulate.

The Revolting bike transformation is quite remarkable.

It’s the type of Extreme Makeover that makes you wonder why bikes haven’t made the leap in to the world of mainstream reality TV yet.

Just getting on board this Clydesdale could be considered an achievement.

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