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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 12-16-10, 10:55 AM   #1
MulliganAl
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Specialized Tarmac, is there a way to make this bike easier on my back?

I have a 2007 Tarmac which I love but now that I'm in my 50s it takes a toll on my back after a few days of commuting. Is there a way to set this bike up to ease the stress on my back?
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Old 12-16-10, 11:14 AM   #2
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You could get a stem with more angle, to bring your handlebars up and a little closer to the seat.
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Old 12-16-10, 11:18 AM   #3
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Or an adjustable stem even. But if you need it even higher you might need a new fork with uncut steering tube to bring the handlebars higher or a new bike altogether with more relaxed geometry. I've seen steering tube extenders but I wouldn't trust that really.

Adam
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Old 12-16-10, 12:39 PM   #4
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An adjustable stem is the ticket. A Nitto Technomic Stem or Dirt Drop Stem is ideal. If your back is no longer as flexible as it was when you were younger, this can make a bike much more comfortable.
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Old 12-16-10, 12:45 PM   #5
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Or an adjustable stem even. But if you need it even higher you might need a new fork with uncut steering tube to bring the handlebars higher or a new bike altogether with more relaxed geometry. I've seen steering tube extenders but I wouldn't trust that really.

Adam
Adam, I think this may do the trick. I found this Ritchey Adjustable Angle Road Stem online for about $35 but I don't know much about these stems; I guess I'll be doing some research. I currently have a 100mm stem on my Tarmac but I'm wondering if I should go with the same length of get their 80mm adjustable stem and bring the bars a bit closer to me and more upright? I hear the shorter stems can make the front end a bit twitchy.


Last edited by MulliganAl; 12-17-10 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 12-16-10, 04:20 PM   #6
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You could get a stem with more angle, to bring your handlebars up and a little closer to the seat.
Maybe...

But then again, for me, and on one of my bikes, having the bars too close just killed my back. Putting them farther away helped me extend my rides from 20 minutes to 3-4 hours.

OP, an adjustable stem can help, certainly. I would also say to try riding with your hands wherever they land naturally, even if it means that you can't reach the controls properly. You'd do this when you don't have to brake, of course, but it's a step towards adjusting the bike to fit you instead of adjusting your body to fit the bike (even if it's unintentional). If you find that you want your hands at the closest bends, you probably need a shorter stem, or at least less reach; if you're palming the shifters instead, you'll need more reach.

Also, since you've posted this in Commuting, I'm wondering if you're carrying anything and how you're carrying it. Not too many Tarmacs out there with a rack & panniers, but you never know...
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Old 12-16-10, 04:22 PM   #7
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I hear the shorter stems can make the front end a bit twitchy.
They'll feet twitchier than longer stems, but you'll get used to it. I went from a 110 to a 90 (this bike, two sizes up from the one in my previous post, was too big for me anyway) and it felt twitchy for the first couple rides. After that, I'd call it "telepathic".

FWIW, smaller bikes usually come with shorter stems. You'd see a 50 cm road bike with a 60 mm stem, for example.
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Old 12-16-10, 04:43 PM   #8
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I have a ferrari testarossa which has the suspension bottom out when I try hauling bags of cement from Home Depot to my jobsite - is there a way to set this car up to make it better at hauling construction materials?

MulliganAl I too am in my 50s, and I commute daily. The Tarmac was designed as a racing machine, the priorities were to make it light weight and to provide a geometry that would allow the maximum possible speed. The targeted rider was someone half our age who was more concerned with going fast than being able to work once he got to where he was going - his going fast was his work! If I were you, I would seriously consider using a different bike for commuting - you can probably get a nicely set up commuter for less than the cost of the wheelset on your tarmac, and save the carbon bike for weekends when you want to ride fast and feel like you are young again! I have a bike which is set up as a dedicated commuter - racks, fenders, lights, comfort geometry etc, and another bike which I ride on the weekends -
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Old 12-16-10, 04:55 PM   #9
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My primary commuter, mainly because it has a rack and generator lighting:


The alternate commuter for when I don't have to carry much (if anything):


They're both "comfortable" for me, and although my back has issues of its own, I've got another decade before I turn 50...
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Old 12-16-10, 07:40 PM   #10
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You might want to check the regional forums for a recommendation on a bike shop in your area that really knows how to do bike fittings. The road forum is also pretty active so you could ask there (for local shop recommendations). Spend the $50 or whatever to have it done. Might be the best $50 you ever spent.

It's not a problem that can be reliably solved over the Internet.
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Old 12-16-10, 08:12 PM   #11
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You might want to check the regional forums for a recommendation on a bike shop in your area that really knows how to do bike fittings.
First thing I thought.
I'm 54 and frequently ride a full race geometry carbon bike to work, with no discomfort issues. But it was also fitted to me by a Serotta trained fitter. Spent a lot more than $50 though, but it was also a three hour fitting.
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Old 12-17-10, 08:16 AM   #12
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Also, since you've posted this in Commuting, I'm wondering if you're carrying anything and how you're carrying it. Not too many Tarmacs out there with a rack & panniers, but you never know...
You know BarracksSi, this may be part of the problem. I've been using this bike to commute during the summer months for a while now, but just recently since it got cold I used a larger messenger bag to carry my change of cloths. I'm thinking now that the additional weight of winter cloths in this bag is adding stress to my back.

I may check out a stem that I can adjust also, but this messenger bag may have to go.

Anyone want to buy an almost new Bailey Works messenger bag? I paid almost $200 for this thing and used it about 5 times.

Also, I got a fitting back in 2007 when I purchased the bike so that shouldn't be the problem. But as my wife always tells me, I need to stretch more before my rides especially with each additional year of age.
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Old 12-17-10, 08:18 AM   #13
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I changed from 700x23 to 700x25 tires with lower air pressure to reduce shock. It definitely made my back (and hands) more comfortable with no discernible change in performance. Of course it could be fit. Would help if you posted a picture of you on the bike.
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Old 12-17-10, 09:02 AM   #14
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I have chronic back problems myself. It snap without notice and I go falling down like the Titanic. Because of that, I avoided getting a bike with a drop bar. When I did get a drop bar bike, I chose one with a inline brake on the top bar. It made a huge difference on my lower back. I can ride all day with my back more upright because my hands are closer to my stem. Then I bought my Scott CR1, my back hurts after an hour of riding on that bike unless I ride with my palm holding the bar near the stem. I'm gonna have inline brake lever added to the top bar of that bike.
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Old 12-17-10, 11:58 AM   #15
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Getting the weight off of your back will most likely help too.
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Old 12-17-10, 12:20 PM   #16
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OP, what other exercise do you do?
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Old 12-17-10, 12:54 PM   #17
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OP, what other exercise do you do?
I'm an avid golfer, inline skater for over 20 years, I belong to a local boxing club and I have a gym in my garage (heavy bag, double end bag etc.). My wife and I also walk about 5 miles 3-4 times a week. I had always done a good bit of weight work but I stopped about a year ago; this is probably something I need to start doing again with a focus on back muscle development.
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Old 12-17-10, 01:02 PM   #18
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Ibuprofen, no seriously have you talked to a Doctor about your back issues?

putting posture more upright switching to a riser or pull back upright bar..

puts more weight on your Butt, then consider a sprung wider seat and a suspension seat post.

One way to move to a more upright posture
and still not feel the front wheel is too light , is to use a front pannier rack
and carry your stuff over the front wheel, in those bags.

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-17-10 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 12-17-10, 01:46 PM   #19
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It could be age or it could be you have become more fit. When I first got drop bars I changed the stem from 100mm to a 90mm because I couldn't get comfortable. After time I went back to the original stem and it feels more comfortable.

If you can check the shop you bought the bike from and see if they will do a refit. They might let you use an adjustable stem or use one to see which one you find comfortable.
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Old 12-17-10, 01:53 PM   #20
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I'm an avid golfer, inline skater for over 20 years, I belong to a local boxing club and I have a gym in my garage (heavy bag, double end bag etc.). My wife and I also walk about 5 miles 3-4 times a week. I had always done a good bit of weight work but I stopped about a year ago; this is probably something I need to start doing again with a focus on back muscle development.
You do more than most guys, then. Maybe core-specific work would help, but you're probably doing enough already.

You say that you're using a messenger bag -- how high on your back are you carrying it? Have you tried a backpack, too?

If you decide a rack would be better, this should fit on your Tarmac:
http://www.axiomgear.com/products/ge...iner-road-dlx/
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Old 12-17-10, 06:15 PM   #21
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If you decide a rack would be better, this should fit on your Tarmac:
http://www.axiomgear.com/products/ge...iner-road-dlx/
Thanks BarracksSi, I may have to order one of these.
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Old 12-28-10, 08:09 PM   #22
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+1 to consider core strengthening exercises vs. bike adjustments.

I'm 43 and had back pain since my 20s (muscular, not disc problem). I'm sure different exercises work for different people but the "plank" (forearms on ground, hold body parallel to ground for ~1 minute for 2-3 reps) has done it for me.

Since I started doing planks 2-3 times per week about 6 months ago, my back pain has all but disappeared. And I LOWERED my stem- talk about a win-win. More aggressive position on the bike and less/no pain.
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Old 12-29-10, 06:57 PM   #23
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I have a 2007 Tarmac which I love but now that I'm in my 50s it takes a toll on my back after a few days of commuting. Is there a way to set this bike up to ease the stress on my back?
I hate to be the one to say this. Don't try to turn an apple into an orange. Turning a Tarmac into a comfort bike would be a travesty. Please don't install and erection stem as some have suggested. It's your bike. But have you ever seen a formula one race car with a bench seat, giant mud tires, and a couple of child seats in the back seat (if there was a back seat)? Or a low rider Hummer with profile tires and mag rims? Do what you want, but expect some snickers (not candy bars) and sideways glances.
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Old 12-29-10, 07:28 PM   #24
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I find comments like the one above...well. The uniform is putting on skintight clothing, wear flourescent colors, and bike on the street where everyone is staring at your rear end.

What I liked about this was the "I don't give a crap what you think about how I look, this clothing all has a technical purpose" approach to the whole thing.

I don't even disagree that there's a whole "attitude" about making a "race" category bike useful by putting a rack on it...I just think it's ****ing annoying.
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Old 12-29-10, 07:57 PM   #25
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Also, I got a fitting back in 2007 when I purchased the bike so that shouldn't be the problem. But as my wife always tells me, I need to stretch more before my rides especially with each additional year of age.
Don't know exactly how old you are, but from some of your statements I gather you are not a kid. Since your bike fitting was three years ago, you may have lost flexiblity and require a slightly different set up. My bike fitter has me lie on a table and then pushes my leg up as far as it will go and measures the angle it makes with the horizontal with this big protractor thing. This apparently tells him something about my flexibility and he uses that info when setting up the bike. He also records it so we can see if it changes over time.
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