Race bike with spacers = Endurance bike no spacers?

I know this is an oversimplified question, however, if you have a race road bike and are using spacers under your stem (to get the right fit), would this setup be similar to an endurance road bike with no spacers (all else being equal)?

I currently have an aero/race bike (Cervelo S3). I am also using 3 spacers under my stem. I am leaning towards an Endurance bike for my next bike as given the type of riding I do, my age, … I think it is probably the category that will let me be the most comfortable on the bike.

I am curious if with the right size frame, would I likely be using less or no spacers on an Endurance bike given the different geometry, taller head tube, …?

I am looking to get clear what type of bike I want next (race vs endurance), so that I can then refine and narrow the search to what specific bike(s) I will be looking for.

No the head angle, fork length, trail, as well as other frame geometry can be very different. Adding spacers to a race bike thinking your going to get endurance behavior is wishful thinking.

That said, unless one is on the very pointiest of pointy ends of a race this might not be an issue or at least less of an issue than your physical condition and race craft.

I have both a Specialized S-Works Tarmac (racing) and Specialized S-Works Roubaix (endurance) - that is, same manufacturer, same top-of-the line frame and components - for comparison. The bikes are very different.

@webdev511 points out some of the technical differences. In addition, there are significant performance differences. The Roubaix provides great comfort for long rides, such as a century on rough roads, and is good, but not great in races (I tried it in a few crits prior to getting my Tarmac).

Conversely, if you have the bike handling skills, the Tarmac is extremely fast on technical courses, particularly technical downhills (e.g. I PR’d every hill in the SF Bay Area that I had ridden once I got my Tarmac and did quite well in a couple of hilly road races). The Tarmac is still very good on long endurance rides, but not as much as the Roubaix.

Bottom Line: I’d focus on what type of riding you mostly want to do for bike selection. You’ll then make it work for other types of riding you want to do to the best you can, realizing there are compromises.

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Nope, not at all.
Also, your premise seems to be that in order to get the right fit, you’d need to add or remove spacers. That’s not my experience. The amount of spacers on my previous endurance road bike and current aero road bike is identical. In fact, I got my current racy aero road bike, because I strongly disliked the geometry of my endurance road bike. I even tried what you suggested in the post, remove spacers, put on a longer stem. All that did was put me in a suboptimal body position.

There are quite a few differences between aggressive road bike and more relaxed, endurance road bikes. Since I don’t want to speak about specific models, I’ll stay general. That means, though, it might not apply to all road bikes, at least not to the same degree.

  • Endurance road bikes tend to be longer. An easy tell is toe overlap. With my previous endurance road bike, I had no toe overlap. With my current road bike, I do. That means the wheel base of endurance road bikes is longer, which makes them more stable — but also less willing to carve corners.
  • Endurance road bikes tend to have a slacker head tube angle. That does several things: it lengthens the wheelbase, makes the bike turn more slowly and for the reasons posted above, it’ll make it more difficult to corner. However, depending on your taste, you might perceive this as the bike being less twitchy and more stable.
  • Endurance road bikes make you sit in a more upright position. That’s more comfortable for many on long journeys, but also raises your center of gravity. A lower center of gravity makes you feel more secure when cornering. On a more aggressive road bike you might feel more as if you are “sitting in” the bike.

I’d add one more consideration, though, and combine it with a suggestion: why not look for a quiver killer bike like the Open UP? You’ll get an endurance road bike with tire clearance of up to 2.1". You can ride pretty much anything, from road to gravel. 1x, 2x, both are officially supported. The frame will weigh a tad more than the best non-aero road bike frames. But you can get the Open UP below the UCI weight limit if that is your thing (look at Rides of Japan’s Youtube videos, truly excellent content).

Moreover, endurance vs. race bike is a sliding scale. E. g. BMC’s excellent Roadmachine is known to be a very aggressive endurance road bike. If I were you, I’d try to test ride quite a few bikes to really understand what you actually like.

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Too simplified. One company’s “race bike” might be another company’s “endurance bike”. You’ll have to compare the geometry charts directly.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on race vs endurance geometry, just find a bike that you like and that fits you.


I wouldn’t go that far. There are some bikes that are a deliberate blend (e. g. the Open MI.ND), but typically, they are explicitly marketed as such.

I’d agree often these are just marketing labels and there is far more overlap and confusion than the manufacturers would have you believe.


In terms of stack, yes, this would be correct. But there are other geometry factors at play, the most significant being reach. Endurance bikes tend to have a shorter reach than race bikes, so just swapping to an endurance bike from a race bike and removing the spacers to obtain the same stack will leave you in a more upright position.

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Yeah, there are really 2 questions and details hiding here.

  1. Rider fit on the bike
  2. Bike handling

Each should be considered independently to a degree, but there can be limits that may place one as a priority over the other.


I will add that I have seen riders get very good positions on endurance bikes…there is one local guy who rides a Cannondale Synapse and he has a great position on the bike (and he is strong as hell). He gives up nothing in terms of position to those of us riding performance bikes.

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Indeed, good selection of stem and bar can get long and low reach even with an “endurance” geo. A long -17* stem and traditional drop bar can make a great setup that is quite racy.


On the whole aero/race bikes tend to have longer and lower geometry (or less stack and more reach) than endurance bikes, but this is by no means always the case. And there are more differences between bike types than just how they fit. Wheelbase, trail, frame material and properties (stiffness and compliance), wheel clearance, wheel and tyre selection, etc.

I would figure out what kind of bike you want based on what kind of riding you’re going to be doing. And then take your fit numbers (or go see a fitter or good LBS if you need a fit or need help translating your fit numbers from your current bike) to see which models and sizes within that bike type will work well with your position.

E.g. I have relatively short legs and long torso which means I have a fairly long and low position. My position is exactly the same on both my aero and endurance bikes (i.e. same relationship between saddle, hoods and bottom bracket). And I only have 1 spacer on each bike (though it’s a 10mm on the aero and 5mm on the endurance bike), because with my position I chose an endurance bike with relatively low stack. But on the endurance bike I have a 10mm longer stem, 20mm wider bars, and bars with a bit of sweepback from the stem clamp, all of which combines to give more relaxed handling. It also has a slightly slacker head angle and a longer wheelbase which add to the relaxed handling. Plus I run 30mm tyres compared to 25mm on the aero bike, as well as shallower rims. Plus the endurance bike is titanium, vs carbon aero bike. All of which adds up to the bikes feeling and handling very differently despite having the same position and only 5mm difference in spacers between them.


Here is a good stem calculator where you can compare two different setups: Stem Comparison Tool | yojimg.net

Between that and https://geometrygeeks.bike/ you should be able to compare two different bikes, and the effects of spacers and stems, quite well.

No doubt….and body differences play a role, too. The guy I referenced above doesn’t have anything extraordinary for his stem. It is a -6* stem and what most people would consider a “normal” length…in the 100 - 120 range.

His body just happens to fit an endurance geometry well for a really good “race” position.

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Is it, though? In my experience, bikes are still designed to take similar amount of spacers for the same fit even if the geometry is quite different. And IMHO that makes sense: you want to have enough leeway to accommodate riders of the same height and limb length range.

I assume you mean that he can get low and aero with that? I have tried that, and it didn’t work for me.

Without a doubt that’s technically possible, but to achieve that you will probably need more extreme stem lengths and stem angles.That (in my experience) compromises handling, because you are using the bike in a way that was not intended. In a way it is pretty similar to going a size up or down when you are on the higher/lower end of suitability for a frame size. You can make that work, but IMHO would lead to compromises e. g. in the handling department.

When I did what your buddy did, it still did not make my endurance road bike fun. It was still sluggish and the more extreme position exacerbated the problems I had with my long legs (“my knees were massaging my breakfast in the drops”).

Is his body a good fit for endurance bikes in general or just this particular bike? Don’t get me wrong, if your buddy is happy with his bike, there is no reason to change anything, but in my experience it is quite normal that your body meshes well with one particular bike and not with others. Has he tried more aggressive road bikes?

Within the same company? Generally yes this is the case. If you size for similar reach numbers, then the endurance bike generally has more frame stack, so to get the same effective stack the race bike would need more spacers. For example take a tarmac 54: 387/534mm reach/stack. Compared to a Roubaix 56 384/605mm reach/stack. 7cm taller.

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I have the Canyon Endurace which is apparently on the racier side of endurance bikes. Pro’s are it’s definitely more comfortable, absorbs more of the bumps, isn’t as stiff. Cons are it’s slow off the start. Really not great at rapid accelerations. I’ve never done a crit but I think you would be at a serious disadvantage on one.

In terms of descending I’m typically the fastest or second fastest on any group ride. And that includes some pretty technical descents. I imagine this has a lot to do with the bike.

I clocked 51 mph on this descent with the endurance bike. It’s the most technical descent in L.A.

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Yup, along with shorter reach and higher stack, there are often changes to longer wheelbase, slacker head tube angle and larger tire clearance between the “race” and “Endurance” labeled bikes within a brand.

Between brands it gets more muddy. One brand X’s Race bike may be closer to brand Y’s Endurance bike. So using good frame geo calculators, especially ones that show frames overlayed very handy. My current favorite is Bike Insights, that gives a great 1:1 comparison.

Here is just one example of the Cervelo S3 and Caledonia in 56cm. Note the similar reach and stack in this case, but notably different wheelbase and head tube angle.

Then the huge difference in R&S in the Spesh stuff while the wheel setup is way closer.

There is a wide range of ways these companies all address these bikes. Fit and function at a range of options, so using tools like this becomes useful to understand the full picture presented by the geos.


You can also set up the same geometry for two vastly different “fits”, if you think about your body position as rotating about the BB axis. These are my nearly exact geometry cyclocross bikes, one set up for <60min racing with a slammed -17deg stem, and one for all day comfort on bumpy terrain with a normal -7 and a couple spacers

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I think we are slightly talk past one another, but are both correct: what you are saying is correct, this is how you get a bike with a more upright seating position after all.

However, I was referring to spacers and not stack height, which was what @vanbc was talking about in his original post, i. e. both bikes need the same amount of spacers to achieve a good fit for me. I reckon this is because bike companies want the same amount of leeway to make their bikes fit to customers.

Descents are mostly down to skills and the size of your gonads. A buddy of mine is a really good descender. He placed in the top 10 on a really competitive downhill segment on an old road bike with 23 mm tires. He has a background in motor bike racing, though, and is a very capable offroad descender as well.

To add to your excellent comment: geo charts are useful, but IMHO mostly after you have figured out what you like. E. g. you can anticipate that two bikes with very similar geo figures handle very similarly.

What you cannot figure out with geo charts is what kind of geometries you actually like.