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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-21-06, 08:49 PM   #1
Cheshire
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would you choose the door on your left or right?

Start with background, ending with question.
I'm in a bit of an odd predicament. I completed (woohoo!) my first long-distance commute last thursday, but the trip left me with some concerns. The trip is 35 miles one-way, and about 2/3 the way there, I was up on the flats of the road bike searching for that magic posture that would NOT amplify the pain in my shoulders. I made a point of stretching after I got to school (my last ex-girlfriend is a massage therapist...I promised I'd start stretching), and by the time I was ready to get on the bike again my back had quit complaining. 10 miles into the 35-mile return trip and my back was where it had left off with the pain creeping down my spine into my lower back. Not Fun!

At the beginning of this month, I discovered that my road bike is too small for me by a standard frame size: it's a 58cm and according to (very basic) fit calculators I should be riding at least a 60cm frame. The stem is at-a-glance noticably below my saddle. If I keep biking to school, the gas savings can get me a new frame within 2 months. ($7.50 per trip, allowing for 1 driving day/heavy cargo & supplies)

I was using this bike to commute because of the wheels/tires: 700x28's
I have a 21" mountain bike that I got rather recently, with slicks that I got with it because I couldn't shake the feeling I'd need them. The slicks are 26x1.5"

The Question: Should I keep riding the road bike and just find a way to put up with the back pain for a couple of months or should I take the mountain bike with slicks? How much slower will those 26x1.5's be compared to the 700x28's?
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Old 08-21-06, 08:54 PM   #2
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Hi,
get a long stem that sticks up at about a 45 degree angle. Get the longest one you can find, prob somewhere around 150mm. That will rasie your bars and stretch you out a bit at the same time. Worth a try.
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Old 08-21-06, 10:51 PM   #3
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Do you believe you can differenciate a muscle pain from a nerve/disk/joint pain? Were you biking constantly before the 70-mile ride? It may be that even with a perfect-fit bike your back muscles are not conditioned to stay the way they stay for that long (assuming it is a muscular pain). Riding with a backpack?

I would try the mountain bike. if the pain persist, the problem is in your back. If it is a muscular pain, excercise and streching will make you ready in 2 weeks. But if you keep doing it it may compromise you more seriously.

Let us know.

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Old 08-21-06, 11:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheshire
Start with background, ending with question.
I'm in a bit of an odd predicament. I completed (woohoo!) my first long-distance commute last thursday, but the trip left me with some concerns. The trip is 35 miles one-way, and about 2/3 the way there, I was up on the flats of the road bike searching for that magic posture that would NOT amplify the pain in my shoulders. I made a point of stretching after I got to school (my last ex-girlfriend is a massage therapist...I promised I'd start stretching), and by the time I was ready to get on the bike again my back had quit complaining. 10 miles into the 35-mile return trip and my back was where it had left off with the pain creeping down my spine into my lower back. Not Fun!

At the beginning of this month, I discovered that my road bike is too small for me by a standard frame size: it's a 58cm and according to (very basic) fit calculators I should be riding at least a 60cm frame. The stem is at-a-glance noticably below my saddle. If I keep biking to school, the gas savings can get me a new frame within 2 months. ($7.50 per trip, allowing for 1 driving day/heavy cargo & supplies)

...
So, I'm not a doctor or anything like it, but here's my experience if it helps any...

When I got my first road bike, I experienced back and shoulder pain very similar to what you're describing. I tried adjusting my body position endlessly, but it persisted. As a result, I rode that bike rarely, only a few times a month, for the next few months and the pain never went away. But then I decided to start commuting daily on the road bike, and within a couple of weeks the pain had gone away! Now I can ride any of my road bikes for 30 miles+ with no back or shoulder pain

My conclusion is that a road bike taxes back and shoulder muscles much harder than a hybrid or mountain bike. Only FREQUENT road bike riding SUSTAINED for several weeks will cause this pain to go away. Also, if you're riding with a heavy backpack, do yourself a BIG favor and switch to rack and panniers.

Furthermore, it sounds like I'm proportioned almost identically to you: I should be riding 60 cm, but I have 58 cm bikes because I bought them used and that's what was available. Don't worry about the slight frame size mismatch. Worst case, get a new stem and adjust your seatpost and brake lever position. You don't need a new frame... unless you're just looking for a reason to validate your bike lust (lord knows, we all are ).

Anyway, that's my take on this type of pain: it's just a matter of acclimation to the road bike--which can be quite painful for a week or two. No shortcut to alleviate it, I'm afraid. Good luck with your long commute! 35 miles is impressive as hell, on any kind of bike!

Last edited by moxfyre; 08-21-06 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 08-22-06, 07:58 AM   #5
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Your predicament screams "recumbent!" but your budget whimpers "later." There is a kit that lets you convert a Y-frame MTB into a recumbent, but I doubt it would match the performance of your road bike. Hmmm.
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Old 08-22-06, 12:54 PM   #6
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Obviously the "money is no question" answer is a recumbent.
However with the cost of an inexpensive new stem (< $20) you should be able to get your bars up to a position that will be more comfortable for you. Getting your bars atleast level with your seat will greatly improve your comfort.
Craig
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Old 08-23-06, 02:47 PM   #7
Cheshire
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Thanks for the replies, ya'll.

I'd never considered a recumbent...aren't those things kinda wide and low-set? Never ridden one before, and only very rarely see one....

I'm going to get my fav LBS to order a 110mm 130-degree stem and see if that fixes it. In the meantime (until this weekend, anyway) I'm going to just suck it up and leave earlier on the hardtail. I think I've decided longer commute is worth happier back.
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Old 08-23-06, 03:00 PM   #8
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There is nothing like a new fitted bike let me tell yah that. I went from a mtb to a fitted road bike no problem but it might be the muscle thing because I have a bike that is too big for me and I can ride it no problem
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