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  1. #1
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    road bike adjustments

    i have been doing quite a bit of cycling as the weather has warmed in my area. i am on a new road bike (cannondale) and during long rides, i am getting alot of lower back pain. the bike has me leaning forward in a very aggressive position. when i relax my position, it relieves the pain. i dont know much about cycle construction, but can i have the stem/headset switch out to bring the handlebars a little higher to solve this problem? any feedback would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    What you need is to be "fitted" to your bike (presuming you're on the proper size frame).

    It's a service offered by many LBS's, and things like stem length, cleat adjustment, saddle position, etc., are ordinarily among the variables tweaked.

    Well worth the money ... IF you find somebody who knows their stuff. Maybe, if you post your geographic location, you can get a reco or two....

  3. #3
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    Everyone always assumes that they need higher handlebars. This is very often not the case. You just can't have a proper position with the right balance on a road bike unless the bars are at least a little lower than the saddle. Otherwise, you're really just riding a hybrid with narrower tires. The lower back pain may well be more of a saddle positioning problem, or it might be the reach to the handlebars rather than the handlebar height. Yes, you can usually get a taller stem, but it may not really help that much unless you're handlebars are really low, like many inches below the saddle.

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    If u have a particularly stiff back (any previous condition?) raising the handlebar would be a band-aid. For normal ppl with no particular existing pre-condition, you are suppose to be able to lean pretty good wo pain. Do u get pain by doing "touch the toes" if so, u gotta health prob.

    If no health prob, yup, get a fit.

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    thanks for replying.

    yes, i did get fitted for this bike, but it was mostly to adjust the seat post height so that my legs would be at the correct length on each rotation of the crank arms. when i lean over into an aggressive riding position, my hands are between 8 and 9 below the saddle. when i stand up completely and ride hands-free for about 20 seconds, the pain goes away. my thinking is this would be some mechanical issue that i can address as fitness is certainly not the issue. any thoughts?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aloof View Post
    thanks for replying.

    yes, i did get fitted for this bike, but it was mostly to adjust the seat post height so that my legs would be at the correct length on each rotation of the crank arms. when i lean over into an aggressive riding position, my hands are between 8 and 9 below the saddle. when i stand up completely and ride hands-free for about 20 seconds, the pain goes away. my thinking is this would be some mechanical issue that i can address as fitness is certainly not the issue. any thoughts?
    You did not get fitted. You simply got your seat post height adjusted.

    Did they adjust the forward/rearward adjustment of the seat to get your knee to the proper position over pedals (or at least at a good starting point for future adjustment)?

    Did they look at the length of the stem and height of the handlebars to see if, when you're on the hoods, the angle of your back and arms is correct (or at least at a good starting point for future adjustment)?

    If someone adjusted your saddle height and called it adjusting the fit, you need to find a new person or shop to help you. You can find out a lot on the internet, but there is no substitute for having a knowledgable person look at you on the bike and advise and/or fit you. You need to find a credible shop to do that for you.

    What do you mean when you say: " when i lean over into an aggressive riding position, my hands are between 8 and 9 below the saddle "?

    8 and 9 what?

    What position exactly - in the drops or on the hoods?

    What is the drop from the seat to the handlebars?

  7. #7
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aloof View Post
    i have been doing quite a bit of cycling as the weather has warmed in my area. i am on a new road bike (cannondale) and during long rides, i am getting alot of lower back pain. the bike has me leaning forward in a very aggressive position. when i relax my position, it relieves the pain. i dont know much about cycle construction, but can i have the stem/headset switch out to bring the handlebars a little higher to solve this problem? any feedback would be appreciated.
    For a quick test, flip the stem upsidedown. This will raise the bars by a couple of inches. If you are more comfortable this way you will be much more effective riding the bike.

    Its a 0$ test, try it.

  8. #8
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    thanks for responding.

    when i am down in the drops (bottom segment of handlebars below the brake levers), my hands are literally 8 to 9 inches below my saddle. is this a fitting issue? i assume from your helpful response it is.

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    thanks!

  10. #10
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    The height of the handlebars is generally measured as the vertical distance from the top of the bars (where the stem connects) to the top of the saddle. You measure that by putting your bike on a level surface, held upright (leaning upright against a wall, for instance). You measure down to the ground from the top of the handlebars, and do the same from the top of the saddle. Difference is called "drop".

    Most road bikes, for recreational riders have a drop of 0 (i.e. even) to 2-3 inches. Racers have more of a drop.

    But that's just one factor, and they're all part of a puzzle.

    The factors are:

    Position of saddle over pedal spindle.
    Height of Saddle
    Length of stem
    height of handlebars
    Position of handlebars and shifters.

    Way too much to just talk about without body measurements and you trying the bike and adjusting it. That's why it's best if you find a competent shop and have them do a fitting. It is usually done by the shop that sells you a new bike, as part of the purchase. If your shop adjusted your saddle height and called it "fitting", you should go back and talk to them and explain your problem.

    If you don't think your shop is worth while, call around and find a shop that sounds like they're competent. Fitting can cost from $45 to $200 depending on how involved it is. I had a local shop put me and my bike on a trainer and take a look at the factors I listed above, and they put on a "fitting stem" which could be adjusted in length and height. They changed length and height within what's commonly available, and I definitely felt a "sweet spot". They normally charged about $50 for that, but did it gratis because I bought a new stem, new seat post and some other parts I needed.

    To get yourself started though, take a look at competativecyclist. com and wrenchscience.com. They have online fitting programs that can give you an idea of how this all goes together. You need to take some very specific and accurate body measurements thought, might need assistance.

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