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  1. #1
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    Adjusting a MTB for zero wrist pressure?

    My new Specialized Rockhopper (Size L) seems to fit well despite the foot of seatpost sticking out of the frame. I have comfy full leg extension, and can ride "no hands" without too much effort. When I'm "hands-on-the-bars," however, I seem to have a bit too much pressure on the wrists. After about 45 minutes of riding, the wrists become numb & tingley.

    In general, what adjustments do I need to make to the seat, stem, and bars to minimize wrist pressure. I understand that the "rules of road bike fit" specify that the position of seat to cranks are the primary measure of fit, and that once that position is achieved, then stem reach is modified to finalize fit. In fact, I've read a variety of online fit articles & calculators, all of which provide a slightly different "fit."

    My problem with all the conventional wisdom is that it strives for efficiency, NOT comfort! I'm willing to sacrifice efficiency to achieve comfort. The "Rivendell" solution is to raise the handlebars. I've got a "comfort" stem on order to try that, and a stem riser + longer stem if the comfort stem isn't enough. I'm not convinced that the Rivendell method is quite what is needed, though.

    The most comfortable bike I've ever ridden was my "red racer," a 58cm Outback aluminum racing frame. I could ride that bike, perched comfortably on the seat, with my hands an inch above the handlebars with only the slightest of lower back tension. The handlebars on that bike were well BELOW the seat height! It was the position of the body over the cranks, IMHO, that made the bike fit so well. Unfortunately, being ignorant, I sold the frame before measuring it, and now have no way to go back and recreate the position!

    Help!

  2. #2
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    FWIW, Your body it telling you to get off your wrist and bring them into a
    more natural position.

    That said, MTB ,to me, have terrible bars that hold the hands in a very unnatural
    positon. This twist adds pressure to the entire arm starting at the wrist. Bar ends
    are bandaid that seeks to address this problem.

    Secondly, to get the weight off you must sit much more upright to transfer all your
    weight to your sit bones. That will require a set of Albatross or Northroads bars.

    Throw an adjustable stem the mix so that you can dial in all the angles up & down
    as well as rotation and you'll soon be both comfortable and back in control.

    To me your choices are limited so why fight it??????
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    My problem with all the conventional wisdom is that it strives for efficiency, NOT comfort!
    This information worked for me...
    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

  4. #4
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Have you tried putting some bar ends on it? It moves your hands a bit away from the brakes, but allows you two more hand positions.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  5. #5
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    FH, both of my Specialized MTBs have had the stock stem replaced with a shorter, higher rise stem. I ran into the same problem you're having. The attached photo shows my XC with the new, 20 degree stem. This stem is sightly shorter than the stock stem. I liked it so much, I made the same change to my Rockhopper.
    Also, Do you think a bar with a slightly greater angle to give you more sweep, would help? I did not change my bars so I can only guess on this.
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  6. #6
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Of course, we are all guessing about what you need since we can't see you on the bike. Even if we could see you, bike fit is a black art as much as it is a science. Many good suggestions have been made and I won't repeat them. I generally try a lot of different things along the way to dialing a bike in just right. One thing that has worked for me before and for others I was helping, and I know this sounds like the opposite of what is needed, is to slide the seat back further. Sometimes this will shift the balance just right and releive pressure on the hands and wrists.
    Also, MTB flat bars with less than 10 degrees of sweep have to be the worst of all possible bar types for road riding. Anything else is likely to be an improvement.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. First try - I'm replacing the seatpost with one with finer tilt adjustment. The seat seems either too far nose-down or nose-up with no in-between using the one-bolt post that came with the bike.

    If that doesn't work, my second try will be to install the "comfort stem" on order and see if higher bars make a difference.

    If that doesn't work (but moves things in the right direction), my third try will be a stem riser with more height.

    Eventually (whether or not the previous work), I'll try some bar-end extensions that provide different hand positions and a pair of Nitto Albatross bars.

    If anything jumps out as a good fix, I'll repost with the results. By the way, the stock Specialized Body Geometry seat that came on the Rockhopper is about as good as ANYTHING I've tried so far in seats! It is exceedingly narrow (and took some getting used to), but I can pedal as hard and as long on this seat as the best of other seats that I've tried (my other faves are the Specialized Milano & the Fizik Dolomiti).

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    My police bike is set up for a very upright position, since we spend a lot of time looking around. I have a fairly short riser stem, and bars with a 1.5" rise and a slight pullback as well. The only problem with this setup is that you have to remember to move your knee to the outside when making very tight turns!

    Essentially, to reduce hand/wrist pressure, you want as upright a position as possible. The downside of this is that it will place far more stress on your posterior, and you may have to go to a different saddle.

    Have you considered "going bent?" Recumbent designs feature essentially no hand pressure.

  9. #9
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    If you look at Roccobike's Bike, and the attachment of mine below- You will see that our bars are higher than the saddle. I know that when I was younger- I used to reverse the stem for road use on my Mountain bikes and this put the saddle 2" at least above the bars. How I did not finish up with permanent back and hand problems, I still wonder, but for comfort and controllability- I now have the bars higher and closer to me.
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    My wife has narrow wrists. She is subject to tingling.

    When she rides her mtn bike, she shakes each arm out on a regular basis which gives her relief.

    I use bar ends with a regular mtn bike bar and change my hand position to the bar end when I feel that "tingly" feeling, which is not often. I think it is more the position and angle of the hands on the bars, rather than having too much weight on the hands and wrists. I would hate to put more pressure on my bottom by moving the bars higher.

    I think "zero wrist pressure" would bring other problems.

    Incidentally, when I use the bar ends, I get quite a different "feel" to the bike.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-09-06 at 05:44 AM.
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  11. #11
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    If you're riding your MTB on the road, then the solution is to get a road bike.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

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  12. #12
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon
    The most comfortable bike I've ever ridden was my "red racer," a 58cm Outback aluminum racing frame. I could ride that bike, perched comfortably on the seat, with my hands an inch above the handlebars with only the slightest of lower back tension. The handlebars on that bike were well BELOW the seat height! It was the position of the body over the cranks, IMHO, that made the bike fit so well. Unfortunately, being ignorant, I sold the frame before measuring it, and now have no way to go back and recreate the position!

    Help!
    Just raise the bars until they are comfortable. One reason your seat is so comfortable is that you have a lot of weight on your wrists. As you raise the bars a little more weight will go on the seat. This may change your opinion of the seat.
    If the bars are a little too high for climing put some barends on and have them angled low to shift your weigh well forward for climbing.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  13. #13
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    2-angle adj. bar ends: found some in a Bonn, DE bike shop. So not only will they rotate around the flat bar axis, they can rotate on a tangential axis from the flat bar. Curved gently with comfortable hand positions on both straight sections. Work great on the eurocross bike.

    On an older '02 steel MTB, I added a stem riser, bar ends, wrapped them to nearly a 1 1/4" thickness to pad the wrist vibration. That bike has taken me 56 miles in 4 hours (once) efficiently & relatively comfortably.

    IMHO (at least for me) to achieve the best fit, any MTB's geometry is going to be turned into some Frankenbike version if it is really to be made comfortable. Your wrist problem is a familiar example of the successive equipment contortions that can & probably should be made to an MTB frame for road/trail rides longer than an hour.

    BTW, I LIKE Frankenbikes...ride 'em muhsef
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  14. #14
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad
    FWIW, Your body it telling you to get off your wrist and bring them into a
    more natural position.

    That said, MTB ,to me, have terrible bars that hold the hands in a very unnatural
    positon. This twist adds pressure to the entire arm starting at the wrist. Bar ends
    are bandaid that seeks to address this problem.

    Secondly, to get the weight off you must sit much more upright to transfer all your
    weight to your sit bones. That will require a set of Albatross or Northroads bars.

    Throw an adjustable stem the mix so that you can dial in all the angles up & down
    as well as rotation and you'll soon be both comfortable and back in control.

    To me your choices are limited so why fight it??????
    Herein lies wisdom.
    And don't forget to change to a proper weightbearing saddle - preferably sprung.

    EDIT: The Rivendell owners that I know (four) are all long-time riders that have come to a place of balance between what their bodies can do for them and what they need in a bike. My attempts to emulate that design is why I have gone to North Roads and sprung Brooks saddles - even on my old rigid MTB.

  15. #15
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    I know that some of the purist will disagree but this is what I did after several months of uncomfortable riding.

    http://www.day6bicycles.com/

  16. #16
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldCop
    I know that some of the purist will disagree but this is what I did after several months of uncomfortable riding.

    http://www.day6bicycles.com/
    You're right, some purists would disagree, but I don't. I think those are just the ticket for that market. Very nice.

  17. #17
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Most of the concensus seems to be for raising the bars to give a more upright position. So why does that not work on my road bike? Riding on the hoods is about as far as I have got on the road bike. I have still got a hand problem and I think that is down to the gloves and not anything else. However- I do get a numb hand after riding for 30 minutes or so on the hoods. Just recently I have been getting down into the full drop position. Perhaps not for too long and for a reason such as wind or downhill or trying to get speed. No more numb hands.

    In my youth- and I did have one once- I used to the occasional Race on the MTB. For this I used to put on a 10mm longer stem and reverse the Stem to lower the bars. Never had a hand problem in a 2 hour race. However if I tried this on a normal ride- I had controll problems at the slower speed on the more technical parts of the trail- had Numb bum sydrome by not getting out of the saddle quite so much and a lower back pain that used to hit me after a couple of hours. So for casual trail riding- Back to upright position and the only problem I got was trying to stay off the bar ends.
    Perhaps it is worth a try of extending the reach on the bike. The profile is lower and the back will take some of the weight off the wrists. OR- Try rotating the wrists downwards on your existing bar to get the back lower and straighter. This is the technique I use on gnarly uphills now to stop the rear wheel from losing traction as it throws the body weight rearwards- or sometime it is rotate the wrist upwards to bring my weight forward to keep the front wheel down.

    My main cure for this problem though is to hand exercise as soon as I feel the problem coming on. Then it never gets to the severe state that it used to
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  18. #18
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    My guess is that there is a recumbent in your future. Once you get to a zero wrist pressure configuration, your butt gets tired of the saddle real soon. Dial in a little wrist pressure and the pain comes right back. Recumbents get rid of the problems. bk

  19. #19
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    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is... undo the stem clamp and twist the handlebars forwards or backwards. As you do this, the angle of the bars at the grips will change quite dramatically and you will detect a change in your wrist angle as you sit on the bike. It will require a degree of experimentation to get the right angle for the grips. Of course, do the stem back up again.

    Another thing I always advised many riders taking my classes was to undo the clamps for the shifters/brakes, and move them so the levers are at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal (or vertical if you like). Generally, bikes are delivered from the factory with the levers in a near-horizontal position, and many people ride with their fingers over them, resulting in a sharply cocked wrist. Your hands should rest on the grips so that the line through your forearm and wrist is virtually straight, and yet you still have fingers over the levers.

    Seat position plays a role and I tend to agree trying to go backwards with the seat.

    As to reach, there is a quick and effective method that involves placing your elbow against the nose of your seat and stretching your forearm and hand to the stem. If your middle finger overstretches the handlebar clamp, the stem is too short (and probably the bike is too small for you). If you end up short of the clamp, the stem may be too long (or the bike too big). There are complications to this measurement, including the backward sweep on the ends of the handlebars. If you want to know more, ask.

    And, improve your core strength, and particularly your stomach muscles by doing a regular set of sit-ups/crunches.

    Much of this sort of fit issue is a process of elimination. Try one thing and one thing only at a time, and be sure to mark the original position of any components you change so you can return to that position should the problem not be solved.

  20. #20
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    I've moved the seat forward, a counterintuitive move, but one that may be successful. I can now ride without hands with my weight resting back against the swell of the saddle. I also installed a "Nashbar Comfort Stem" today which raised the bars a good bit. Today's ride was promising, but I'm reserving judgment until I've a weeks worth of rides or more. Thanks for all the feedback, I'll continue to experiment until things improve.

  21. #21
    Muscle bike design spec robtown's Avatar
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    I was having the same issues while preparing for my 184 mile C&O ride. I ended up with an adjustable 120mm stem set at 45 degrees up. I also put on a riser bar with a couple inches rise. It was topped off with ergon race grips with the built-in mini bar ends. I'd prefer (and will get) the Ergon MP1 grips and use standard bar ends. Over the 16 hours in the saddle I did suffer some hand / fingers discomfort. - but reasonable considering the duration. It would have been better but I had one of those oddball saddles that started taking a chunk out my a$$. I ended up standing for a mile at a time and putting too much pressue on feet and hands.
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