Wednesday, July 25, 2012


You probably know the story of the “Princess and the Pea,” the fairytale about the king’s daughter who was so sensitive that she couldn’t sleep if there were a single pea placed under a stack of mattresses twenty feet high upon which she reclined.

You may also be aware that cycling great Eddy Merckx was constantly noodling with his handlebars and saddle and allegedly carried a wrench with him on rides so that he could continually tweak his stem and seat heights to exact perfection.

But what you may not have noticed is how particular you yourself are to minor changes in the set up of your bike(s).  This may be, in part, because we get used to whatever we ride, but if you want to test my claim, do like I did a few weeks ago and put a stem on your most-ridden rig that has 10 millimeters more reach on it than the one your currently run.

When I replaced the cockpit on my Saluki, I thought I’d try going from a 60mm reach to a 70mm.  Sometimes, I’ve found the steering a bit floppy and I thought if I were stretched out just a tiny bit more, the front might be that much more stable.  Plus, that 70mm was all that the distributor had in stock and I figured what the hell, I’d never even be able to notice such a tiny distinction, less than half an inch in real numbers.

But I’ll be damned if the bike didn’t feel all wrong with the longer stem reach.  I tried to convince myself that it didn’t really make a difference, that I was just imagining things; plus, the prospect of redoing the entire cockpit held me back, too.

After a couple of weeks, though, I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I put the 60mm back on and now I love the bike all over again.

Tonight, before bed, I’m checking under the mattress for peas.


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