Slam the stem? And how

I know getting aero is the best way to get more efficient on the bike so starting with a proper bike fit is good. Once you have that position how should you go about building more core or flexibility?
Is it just a case of getting in the drops more or removing a stacker on the stem whilst doing you TR sessions since we know adaptation takes time?
Or is there more we can do to help and how much lower have people managed to get? And what techniques have you used?

Would people be willing to share?

And yes I know it’s all very personal but I’d be interested to hear.

When I went for a bike fit I was told my drop was extreme; bordering on the maximum he would set up for a professional; yes was an ex-pro physio for a very well known team.
However my position grew organically, in such that I have never tried to spend more time low or removed spacers, it is just what comes comfortable for me. That said I do a lot of yoga, core work and stuff that generally keeps me flexible.
One thing to remember is that aero does not always mean low. In fact it might not always yield the best results. You could try a bit of home CdA testing to see if it is the case.

I had a bike fit and as it was on a race bike the fitter put me as low as possible with the advice try it out and see how you feel. Also I was heading into the winter so spent most of that time on TR on the trainer and following the “practice riding aero” notes in the rides. I ride on the hoods and flat on the hoods, I only use the drops when riding for longer periods tucked low, it definitely needs getting used to.

I did put a 3mm spacer back under the stem which made a surprising difference to my comfort levels, I wouldn’t call stretched out on an aero bike particularly comfortable at the best of time.
Luckily I spent a lot of time the season before working on my core but did next to nothing this season, the base held through most of the summer and it was only towards the end that I could feel the lack of core training.

In a nutshell, for me it took a fair bit of adaptation especially neck and shoulders and some core strength to support the more aggressive position.

Personally I think it’s all about finding a fitter who has a good holistic approach looking at both aero and physiology and sees fitting as an ongoing process not a one off event. I’d expect to come out of an initial fit with:

  • A position that works well for me now
  • An understanding of any physical limiters (flexibility, strength) and advice on how to improve on them, either specific exercises or even a recommendation of a good local physio or pilates instructor
  • A view on where improvements can be made to my position as I adapt to the changes he’s made and work on my limiters. E.g. “I’ve moved your seat up 10mm which is going to feel like a lot for now, but ideally I think you can go up another 5mm or so as you adapt. Ride this position for a few weeks and see how it feels, if there are no issues then try moving up a little more”
  • An ongoing relationship where I can pop back in for a follow up to make further tweaks after a period of adaptation, at a small incremental cost or included in the original fit. Maybe also the option to get advice over email or phone if you live a long way from the fitter

Certainly not the case that lower is always better, so I’d be wary of just taking out spacers to try and get faster. Even if it does make you more aero (not guaranteed), if it does so at the cost of power or comfort then it may not make you any faster.

+1 on yoga incorporating core stability exercises. I also do all of my indoor rides on the drops for almost all of the time(only normally shifting hand position to change things up when the wheels are about to fall off spectacularly during the back end of a particularly vigorous VO2 session…

Lower is not always more aero…your forearms can become too vertical, which is horrible for drag (round tubes are the worst shakes for CdA).

Aim to be comfortable with your elbows pretty well bent when on the hoods with your hips rolled forward.

Thanks for the replies guys - much appreciated. Think i’ll just work on it during my trainerroad sessions by increasing the amount of time on the drops or with my elbows lower though ill bear in mind what Power13 says about vertical upper arms.
Smurf and Jimmyd - what kind of exercises did you do for core?
Great thing about TR is i can play about with position and see how it feels over anything up to 90 minutes.

good points by Cartsman too - may need to develop a relationship with my fitter - if i could find a good one. Had three now or varying success rates…

I have to nitpick your post a bit because you say “getting aero is the best way to get more efficient” but it really isn’t because for majority of people, if you get too low (aero), you are losing out on power, breathing, etc. that will often outweigh any aero gains you may get. I’ve never understood the obsession with low stems, personally I set mine up the way that I can perform my best and make the best power, damn the aero gains.

If you want to go lower, drop one spacer at a time and see how you react, but I wouldn’t make that a priority. A lot of this will be limited by your bike geometry, crank length, etc as well.

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Don’t forget unless you are time trialling or an epic breakaway specialist you won’t need to hold an extreme position for that long.
In a race you’ll be slipstreaming a lot of the time but for those windy days, taking turns at the front, it’s worth the practice.

Core wise loads of planks and variations thereof, I downloaded a free app with workouts. As I’ve broken a collarbone and badly injured my other shoulder in the past I also do some strength training specifically to protect my shoulders - pull up bar and light weight shoulder press and so on.
Well I did last season, not so much this year…but I can feel the difference not doing them and will build up strength training again

That’s fine to nit pick.
What perhaps I should have said is that I’m trying to optimise the best position for me. Getting more aero will mean that it takes less work to go the same speed though obviously there is that trade of point when you’re not comfy, can’t look up., that kinda thing.

So there will be a balance or tipping point after which no more gains can be had but in order to try those out on the road I’m just wondering how others have gone about it as I think I could perhaps learn from others and become better. The core strength building seems to be something I’m lacking to help me on this.
I’m just trying to learn and become quicker.

Cleanneon98, Maybe it was a clumsy question, tell me you’ve never asked a clumsy or daft one and I may be inclined to disagree.

Have a super day.

Smurf - thanks for the pointers there. Good starting point. Kudos to you.

Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be insulting or anything, just frustrates me that some people in the community are so concerned with how many spacers are under their stems and neglect the things that IMO matter more. I was just trying to say that lower does not always equal faster. Some of my reply may have been more rambling about other cyclists, not you, my apologies.

I’ve lowered my stem one small spacer per year for the last two years, this year I am not changing my position because I’ve attempted to bend my elbows more in the drops to simulate this, and I end up kicking myself in the gut, my power starts to spike up and down (lose smoothness), and my HR rises. To me, those are not worthy tradeoffs for a little more aero. My “fast” position involves me pushing my palms into the back of my shifters, which puts me just as low as my drops, but further forward, and without exposing my forearms vertically, so more slippery. I have not had a bike fit in years, just make adjustments by feel a little bit at a time.

I agree with this, we don’t all have the same dimensions and even though I have enough room not to knee myself I still found trying to get too small meant my hr was higher for the same power output. (Come to think of it less of an issue when I went down to 40cm bars from 42cm, maybe I was trying to tuck my arms in more on the wider bars, not sure on that one.)

I just put a 0 degree rise stem on my bike. I’ve felt since I got it last spring that the bars on this bike were closer and higher but raced/trained all season with it anyway. This new stem puts me back where I was on my old bike. It’ll take a while to get used to but should be ok. Good reminders to stay on the stretching. If, after a few weeks, I’m having a hard time making power I’ll put the old stem back on.

I’m getting any younger after all!


There have been a couple other good threads with photos - that may be very helpful here.

I used the high-speed 60FPS video setting on my not particularly fancy cellphone setup on a stand perfectly perpendicular to me, and then took still shots with pedal at bottom position. Got some good feedback. If you take the images at an angle, it’s much harder to see; the video is also useful as it gets you a photo in motion, and you can catch a frame in any leg position.

If you’re starting from a more upright endurance bike position, there may be way more room to go than if you’re on a racing bike. I have a Trek “H2” geometry bike and over past couple years have slowly removed a 5mm spacer every few months, took a small step down in stem angle with spacers back under it again, and working on adjusting to each step and making sure it’s a positive direction. From where I started, no question it’s more aero/faster. But you might be starting from someplace different. Many of the answers above are just wild guesses without seeing more.

This could also be helpful - easy way to see how different stems will affect your reach and height if you try different angles/lengths:

Thanks all for the input. Cleanneon98 it’s OK I could have perhaps written my question better in hindsight so apologies from me too.
Smurf and Colinbrodsky thanks I’ll give the suggestions a try.
It’s clear to me that slow steps, stretching and core work is the way to go. Pics from the side is a really good suggestion. I’ll take out a 3mm spacer or 5mm and see how it goes.
Many thanks.