I want to share my day today and what I thought. It's kind of dorky, but I kept thinking one of you guys might pick up something you need from it.
I normally ride a Rivendell Atlantis. I think it's a great bike for a clyde. I brought it in today to get a hub generator put on, and I wanted him to look at the fit now that I've eased into a "riding style". Now, keep in mind that I have a really long torso, and the Atlantis is a touring bike, which is stretched out anyway. The conversation went like this:
Me: "I'm really happy with it, but everyone says it's too big and the bars are too high"
LBS: "Don't worry about it. It's all about how it feels to you. What kind of pains have you been having?"
Me: " Well, at first I had shoulder pain, but then I realized I was locking my arms and not rounding my shoulders down. Then I had arm pain, but I focused on pretending there were thumbtacks under my hands so I didn't lean on my arms so much. Then I had neck pain, but I started to look up with my eyes and not with my neck, and I did stretching stuff tried to look up in different ways"
Me: So, basically, whenever I felt something, I tried to improve my form and it went away, so I don't think it's the bike at all. It takes a lot of concentration when I'm riding, to remember all this, though. I clench my toes all the time, too. My feet are starting to hurt.
LBS: Don't know what to tell you about the toes, except it's another thing to think about, to keep them relaxed. Don't worry so much about keeping the ball of the foot perfectly over the pedal. Your foot will find the right place, and during long rides, moving it a bit will use different muscles and prevent fatigue. I rode 145 miles yesterday on platform pedals without any kind of clips.
So I left the bike there and tonight I have a lot of housework to do, and the sky is dark with a coming storm. I was going to take an off day, but I wanted to check out my new back-up bike now that my loop is so much longer. It's a Klein Stage Comp, a lightweight aluminum bike that's built for speed, and it's smaller than my Riv. I've had the Klein in to be fitted, but at a different shop.
I got on this bike and within 4 blocks I was having bad lower back pain. I blamed it on the bike fit, the handlebars, the seat. But then I started to go over my form with the new bike... it doesn't fit me as well as the Riv, so it took a lot more concentration to keep from putting weight on the arms and to keep my back arched. I made a point to sit upright with one hand on the bars as much as I could, and since the bars were lower I ended up looking down more than usual and really tried to just move the eyes when I looked up. I just read elsewhere to tilt your head in different directions as you look up, too.
After about 3 miles, the pain was gone. I could tell I was using different muscles, so I kept the ride shorter than usual. I think I will get a new set of bars on the Klein, but probably 70% of all my pains have been because of some bad form on my part, or going up hills in too high of gear.
Anyway, that was really long and trivial, but I thought it might be interesting to anyone just starting out. I know we're taught "no pain, no gain", but I think you have to pattern train your body before you start pushing too much for peformance, I've ridden daily now for over 3 weeks, and I'm constantly going through a mental checklist to see if I've lapsed somewhere, and the more tired I get the worse my form is.