Why Do Professional Cyclists Slam Their Stems?


– The pros are renowned
for their aggressive slammed riding positions, but of late there’s
been an increasing trend towards the extreme. (calm music) Now, when you consider that
my bike is pretty slammed, and by that I mean
there’s a big differential between bar and saddle height, the same as when I was racing, and you compare it to the
extremely aggressive position of Johann van Zyl,
you’ll know what I mean. Now, we’ve talked to a few riders about they seem to be taking things, position-wise, to the extreme. Look, we’ve had a little
cheeky look at your bike, and straight away, that to me, is a relatively extreme position. We know a lot of the riders
now like their slammed stem, like to get nice and low at the front, but there’s a real trend now for saddles being tipped down whereas before everybody
was using a spirit level. So, explain the benefits of that position and why you ride in that position. – Well, I don’t know. Well, I think before I
had pretty level-up saddle but now, with this model, I put it a little bit more down, it’s more comfortable
when I reach on the drops, so, yeah, it just feels okay. – Is it a position that’s more like riding on a TT bike do you think, as well? ‘Cause it does look a
little bit like that. – I don’t think so because I’m not, I don’t like to be on a TT bike, so it’s definitely not that. – So, how long have you been
riding in this position? – Since the beginning of the year when I got the saddle, so, yeah. – Johann, there’s a
definite trend, isn’t there for riders to slam their
stems in the pro peloton, but what we’re seeing as well now, is for the seat position
to be really forward, and quite often, tipped downwards. Could you just explain
this quite extreme position that you’ve got here? – Yeah, sure, so what
I like about this is, I lowered my stem by quite a bit. It’s, I think, up to two centimeters lower to what I had before. So, obviously with your whole
body being shifted forward, it helps if the seat is
also a bit like that, so then your whole pelvis
can also just forward. So, I find it more comfortable, don’t slide around and I
can kind of lock myself into that aero position. – So, how long have you been riding in this particular position? – After the season finished last year, at 2016, then I thought that
I would try something new ’cause, you know, like, every year you want something better,
you want to be lower, more aero, faster, so, I slammed on the down-angle stem and I liked it, so I’m keeping it for now. – So, Kenny, we’re seeing
this real trend in the peloton towards, you know, very,
very slammed positions. So, very low in the front, but increasingly, kind of
extreme saddle tilting. But that’s not just a trend, that’s not just fashion, is it? – No, they changed the rules. Before it was like a three-degree angle that you could have on your saddle and now they changed it to nine, so that’s a remarkable change, and it’s, yeah, more visible now, because three degrees you barely see. – So, what kind of advantage
does this give the riders? ‘Cause looking at all the
bikes in Dimension Data, most riders have adopted
this new, sort of, slanted, more aero position. – Yeah, moving it to the front and lowering down the tip, like, it’s also like the saddle pressure is much lower then. So, and also give you a
little bit more comfort and to have, like, an extra
push point on the saddle. – Just hunting around another relatively extreme
position we’ve got here, is Jon Dibben of Team
Sky, his Pinarello F10. As you can see, saddle pointing in a rather saddlery position, slammed forward on the seat post. And look at that for a
negative inverted stem. I say that’s a 14 centimeter stem. That is an extremely low
position for Jon Dibben. Another pretty slammed
position, seat-wise, look at Robert Gesink’s position there. Slammed forward on the rails and pointing in a rather
saddlery position as well. So, there we have it. This isn’t just a passing fashion trend, it’s the relaxation of
the rules by the UCI that is allowing riders to get into a more comfortable and
aero position on the bike. That begs the question, will we see further
relaxation of the rules in the future, what will bikes look like? Anyway, we’d love to hear
what you’ve got to say in the comments section down below. Now, to subscribe to GCN, don’t forget you can click on the globe, and for some more Abu Dhabi content, in particular our look at crank length in the World Tour Peloton, click just down here and for GCN versus Mark
Cavendish with LEGO, click just up here.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. I was the first to do this. I was doing this way back in 09. When I was concerned more on aerodynamic than comfort.

  2. I am just an average joe six pack. I enjoy going for bike ride after a meal and would probably barf in the hunch back position on the video here mentioned . I am not a pro and the more upright I am the less fatiqued I will be .

  3. … headset adjustment is in the stem… the more spacers… the more chance of a loose headset… when cranking on the handlebar no worries of speed wobbles… it looks really nice too…

  4. I bought a girls tourer bike for ten bucks. Totally slammed my balls on that old hornbags backward tilt seat, before I figured out why the slam. And the riders are getting more ballsy.

  5. Wait… huh? No real answer to why pro are slamming… other than UCI allows for greater saddle tilt. There has to be more science to this other than it was setup for me like this and I'm forced to ride in any pretzel position on the bike. Next thing you'll now they will adapt the Chris Boardman "Superman" position. Which look cool for the TTs

  6. Not every pro cyclist ride like that. In fact, many have a comfortable set up, only few are riding slammed.
    Now, do not fall into the trap to copy what pros do. Elite athletes train so many hours a week and they just train, eat, rest, train, eat rest, massage, etc. We regulars need very different training methods and setups.

  7. Are the pro's riding slammed in the mountains as well? Or do they vary their position based on terrain? I've noticed it's harder to climb for me slammed, so I picked an average between my climbing and aero positions.

  8. Hi,hi i don't know for testicles but you will hurt a lot your neck to see the road ! ! you see only your tyres !
    Faster but blind ! LOL

  9. Years ago in TT club riding, I had those old cinelli add-on aero bars with the foam lined elbow cups. I found by experiment that if I tipped the old San Marco Rolls saddle forward, it became really much more comfortable when you were forward on the TT bars. I used to tip it back level to do weekend rides. These days I can't even get into that position any more.

  10. I've tilted my saddle since the '70's, easier on the taint! Plus it allows you to get more aero without it getting uncomfortable. At 15mph 85% of your energy is moving air out of the way so it helps. With carbon fibre, fairings might be good for normal long distance street travel, I wont drive an internal combustion engine any more after finding out how much crap in tons they actually put into the air each year. Shame, I love racing cars and was quite good at it. Unless I can get a hydrogen powered Datsun 510!

  11. looks like the latest fashion trend that could be quite dangerous when riding in the bunch, as in this extreme position you will naturally be looking down not up!
    i think they should let them us the mini aero bars like in Tri !

  12. I slam my 140mm stem down and my seat forward on the rails (no tilt). And I ride in the drops unless I'm climbing a 7 percent or steeper grade. The speed advantage of getting low on the flats is just massive. It's worth at least 2kph at the same power level. I really don't understand why everone else rides on the hoods–even when racing–excepting that they have a 30kph tailwind.

  13. Will the extreme end of the slammed position not increase wear on the cervical and sacral ends of the spine as the body angle will be so far from vertical? The likelihood of arthritic changes will definitely increase.

  14. My setup guy sets my seat setback at 53mm (nose of seat behind crank centre) and seat nose down 5degrees and the drop to hoods is 105mm (I have long legs and short torso). The key is bring the seat forward to rotate the pelvis and open the angle. Kind of TT ish. You do get more weight on the hands but the ability to spin is increased and the aero does help. I am 56yrs so its not just for young guys.

  15. Very interesting. I have not been competing for about 10 years now, but I used to use an aggressive saddle tilt and low drop position. All the professional bicycle fitters derided my for it, but it felt both the most comfortable and aerodynamic for me. Had I been more competitive, I would have been disqualified.

  16. It would make sense to avoid going so extreme on positioning and getting to the end (i.e. the sprint) feeling more fresh and being able to put in a really good effort. Seems these guys are more interested in looking cool before the start than anything else. Idiot sprinters. These riders never seem to answer any of the questions in these videos. "Blah blah blah lower blah blah looks pro blah blah blah just what I do." They usually have no idea why they chose certain saddles, or setups. "Me cyclist….me race hard…me clean."

  17. Unless your are very tall (because of large frame geometry), moving the saddle forward lessens power. #1 you use less thigh muscle #2 You are losing the saddle as an anchor to push forward from. On small bikes, the seat tube is stood up to 74 to 75° that places weight forward and you lose the saddle as an anchor and less thigh muscle. Weight is dumped on the bars, your hands go numb, so you sit up and now the weight is on the saddle instead of the pedals. ((You need to be bent over enough to where your core takes the weight, letting your thighs transfer the weight to the pedals)). [body physiology]. Your legs and core have to be in top pro condition to be comfortable in this position, because the weight transfer only occurs at 18+mph speeds and is done for the entire ride. You need the pedals to be able to take body weight, which means a stiffer, heavier, harder gear.

    I see riders, especially women on WSD bikes bobbing their torsos up and down trying to get the weight to transfer, because they are so far forward their position won't let them use body physiology to transfer the weight.

    If you're not pro, don't do it for aero, do it for weight transfer and power. The by-product is aero.

  18. I am cowboy cyclist and enjoy to peddle around looking at the birds in the trees, splashing through puddles ,wondering who I am . Sometimes I am having no saddle to sit on due to the thieves and saddle enthusiasts but no matter all is good the legs are willing me to keep smiling and know I am looking good. This year I am changing my angle , pleasure knows no limit.

  19. Been riding like this since the 90's. It's nothing new. It's a trade off of aero and breathing. Otherwise put a basket on the front and take in the sights.

  20. Except for all the aerodynamic reasons behind this "slamming", what every one should do is tilt their saddle forward.
    It will minimize genital problems in the future. Saddles will push against your perineum, and probably cause impotence, incontinence and other problems years from now. Be smart and try sitting with your buttocks!

  21. Ridden/raced like this since the 90's, it's aero / comfort trade off. If you've got a strong core it's not much weight on your hands.

  22. To calculate your watts after slamming stem use the FastFitnessTips calculator, it does the geometry calcs. Alternatively get out the tape measure!

  23. Definitely, not for the scenic rider. I would like to see some research demonstrating the advantage of the slammed position.

  24. I've had my saddled tilted fwd for a while now… due to a long term anterior pelvic tilt.. I find it helps recruit glutes and hams more and also to get low.. Q is should be correcting the APT or compensating for it?

  25. As I've got older my stem has got shorter, my bars have got higher, and my tyres have got wider and softer. My balls just won't take extreme any more.

  26. Slamming for nearly thirty years now always got slated for it in the old days, i even used to ride a 20.5 inch frame rather than a 22.5 just so I could have a super short head tube and a 135mm cinelli quill stem slammed as low as poss. If it looks and feels fast it invariably is with the exception of 18c michelin super comp hd tyres courtesy of the early 90's which felt fast until you tried cornering in the wet on them, they'd have you on the deck faster than a 20 year old Mike Tyson.

  27. Funny that this is the new trend because I've been recommending this since I started fitting in 2011. A nose down saddle allows for an anterior pelvic tilt which will place the lumbar spine in a more neutral position. This will also allow the core to naturally support the weight of the trunk, taking weight off the hands. You can even ride in an aero position without hands for a bit- that's how light it can be. The saddle can be -15° nose down before sliding occurs.

  28. if you're racing and need speed, sure, but it looks to me like this comes at a price of compromised safety during extreme (or any) braking, in that in this sort of slammed position you're pretty much on the cusp of going over the handlebars, and all you need is a nudge from your brakes; there is really no easy way to brace yourself against falling over

    so for the casual rider with a day job, may I suggest something with a bit more of a margin of error

    i ride my tarmac with about a 1.75 inch drop and manage to smoke most dudes i see on the road

    and btw, i remember something similar from my mountain biking days a long time ago when mountain bikes were modeled on road bikes and had an appreciable drop from seat to handlebars (you know, aggressive). This geometry was pretty much unworkable on the trails, but we suffered through it because we were told that was the way to set up a bike

  29. The eventual evolution will be a stretched bike with the cyclists in the" superman" position, you know, for the ultimate aero.

  30. Stop thinking in X-Y geometry. What all these riders are doing is simply. They are taking their established body position, and rotating it about the crank. All kinematics stay the same. Gravity does not matter. Any reference to level means nothing. When you rotate the entire riding position about the crank center, the seat rises, the seat moves forward. The seat tilts down. The reach gets longer. The bars drop. The entire position rotates, and the only thing that changes is your gravity vector. This means more load on the hands. It also means better aero.

  31. There are many reasons for the aggressive posture the pros adapt to. Most of them have no clue why they're put in those positions, all they want is to be more aero, faster up climbs, put out more watts, be more faster!!!! It's their fitters that really know the reasons why. Also lets keep in mind that most of these pros RETIRE at age 35 because their bodies can't take the position they're put in anymore and put out the power numbers they're used to.
    These positions are really really hard on your body, especially on the knees, back, neck, and by proxy the spine. After you get to a certain age you just can't do it anymore.

  32. It's not a question of more comfort but a question of monkey see , monkey do , by noseing your saddle down by anything approaching 9° will tirer your arms out long before the rest of your body.

  33. Always done it since my local racing days in the 90's. I remember guys with track stems, even lower than the headset top bearing race.

  34. Why use a layback seatpost if the saddle needs to be forward on the rails? The mid point on the rail is the sweet sport for shock absorption. Wouldn’t a zero setback post with a saddle in the middle of the rails be better?

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