I have some opions on the issues you've brought up.
But you know what they say about opinions and other
things that everyone has. (message embedded)
> I'm thinking especially of a couple of pics I've
> seen of Coppi climbing
> hills. He oddly crouched-down out there, with what
> looks like a very low
> Now, maybe I'm just not seeing this stuff
> right...and, to be fair, some pics
> of the 20s TdF I've seen show riders with larger
> frames, lower saddles,
> higher bars with shorter stem extensions, and a
> reasonably moderate body
> position...so sometimes the example Grant cites
> appears to be accurate.
I think the older style setup that Grant advocates is a, strictly speaking, a separate issue from saddle height. It is more an issue of relative seat and bar heights. His point is that having these heights set close to one-another can only be achieved if the frame size is relatively large by contemporary standards (extended headtubes and Technomic stems aside). He points out that racers' positions are incorrectly held up as the model, and that this is not a reasonable standard for recreational or "all around" riding. I think he would agree that it is better to be comfy and happy on your bike and to actually use it than to be uncomfortable and strained and be less inclined to ride. For certain, the aerodynamic concerns of ordinary competitive or performance-oriented cyclists are not the same as those of professional racers. I would like to be more aero, but given that I can't get my bike up to 30 mph anyway, aerodynamics are less imoportant, even if I were competing. As for tourists, rondenneurs (sp?) etc, the areodynamics are even less important. Comfort is king at 15 mph.
As for saddle height, I think it has been going up
among racers even in the last several years. Perhaps
this is related to the use of bigger gears. Perhaps
this is in turn related to a better understanding of
cycling phsyiology. I'm suggesting that racers are
pushing bigger gears these days partly because
concerns about stress injuries are reduced by better
shoes and pedals, better preventive measures by the
medical people, and better treatment for the injured
riders. Also, riders are just getting faster (better
training, better nutrition, better legal and illegal
drugs, better equipment) and sitting high and turning
the big gear may just be more effective at
contemporary pack speeds.
> If that example's accurate, can anyone suggest why
> more and more extreme
> body positions became the norm by the 60s? Much
> higher saddles, lower bars,
> smaller frames, and, it seems, a very uncomfortable
> body position for
> someone with less than mile-long arms ;>.. Was it
> just that a more
> aerodynamic position makes for more speed? Simple
> as that? And racers were
> willing to sacrifice their bodies?
Of course these new speeds are interconnected with other changes. Pack speeds have probably increased in part due improvements in aero equipment (wheels), training, and drugs (EPO). With the higher speeds the comfort/aero equation (trade-off?) gets shifted to the aero end. Have you noticed that handlebar heights have taken an abrupt drop in the last few years? This is in addition to the gradual drop over the past decades. So, yeah, I think it is simply the quest for aero position in the face of increased peloton speeds that has been driving the drop in bar height (of course there's feedback involved here.) What blows my mind is that where racers used to bury or nearly bury their stems in conventional forks, they now set their threadless stems right on top of the headset cup. This means that as low as stems were, they are now lower by the thickness of a locknut and spacer, about 1 full cm. If this practice was limited to the local crit' crowd, I'd say it's just ignorant riders aetting it "as low as it will go," but lots of current pros have 0.0 mm of spacers under their stems. On top of all this lowering it looks like saddles are going back and stems are getting longer. By doing both they keep weight centered over the pedals. Must be tough on the body.