Geometry Wars

"Were you ever fitted to that bike?  I noticed your arms are quite a bit extended when you're on the brakes."

My coworker, a retired pro racer who can easily blow me out of the water on a rest day, was the first person to notice how much I look like Superman on my bike.  And with all of his experience and killer stories, he's not someone to ignore.  

We were waiting at the train station after work when he asked me about it.  I'd actually already ordered a much shorter stem to try to compensate, I just hadn't installed it yet.  The reality is, it's not that the bike didn't fit me - it's the fact that I'm fighting geometry.  

Before I went to the Yamaguchi Frame Building School I knew next to nothing about geometry.  Dutch bikes kept you upright, and track bikes threw you forward, while everything else floated in between - that was it.  I did find it a bit odd though that when I inherited the District and hopped on it, it felt nothing like my District Carbon.  On Trek's website, I remember looking at the geometry specs and noting that they were different, but I didn't quite know why.

After much learning (with still much more to learn) I know that my District Carbon was built with aggressive Madone geometry meant to give you a more forward, aero position.  It was built to put you in the drops, whereas Nine, the original District, was meant to be more of a relaxed, upright ride.  It's certainly no Dutch frame, but with 74 degrees and flat bars, this bike was not meant to be aggressive, and it's extended geometry was fighting with my pursuit bars.  While the frame was technically "my size," the top tube, combined with a long stem and forward reaching pursuits, was not.  This had been on my mind since I got back from Mr. Yamaguchi's class, but I had yet to truly address it until now.  

I am stubborn, and if something can be fixed I will figure out a way.  So I dropped the District's stem from a 110mm monster to 50mm teeny little thing, which brought the measurements from seatpost to brakes to the same values as my District Carbon.  While it's certainly hacky, I can get into a bit more aggressive position, my arms are nowhere near fully extended, I have better posture, and overall feel a lot better and a lot more in control.  Ideally a different frame more suited to my needs would be the best solution, but there are a limited amount of belt compatible frames right now that would work for me, and with all of my other projects right now, it's not my biggest priority.  Plus...I really like this bike.  

Having ridden almost 100 miles on my itsy bitsy new stem, I can say it's loads better.  And though it's not optimal, it's working well for me and my various jaunts around the bay.

Ah man, my stem cap is crooked.
From now on, I'm going to try to be much more aware of geometry on all of my bikes, and really try to be in tune with what fits me and what doesn't.  I'm definitely more in tune of what is aggressive (like Zakat!) and what isn't, and I'm getting a better feel of which components work with which bike, and why.   

This also highlights something that Mr. Yamaguchi taught us - you built the bike to the components, not the other way around.  The District was built for flats bars and a more relaxed ride, and its geometry certainly reflects that.  Doesn't mean I won't try to make it work for me!

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