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Old 05-19-07, 02:36 PM   #1
danham
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Back/neck-friendly riding position?

As mentioned in the intro section, I'm newly returned to road riding after lots of years off-road.

The nice GT Edge I picked up used has Campy Veloce hardware and in the upper position is very comfortable and surprisingly easy to shift that way. But I'm still experimenting with seat and stem heights to see if I can reduce the strain of keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead while down in the lower position.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

-dan
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Old 05-19-07, 02:46 PM   #2
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An adjustable stem, so you can raise the height of the handlebars without using too many spacers, comes immediately to mind. As I have gotten less aerodynamic over the years, I have started using one. I note with interest the number of people in my club the same age who have also gone the adjustable stem route.
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Old 05-19-07, 02:56 PM   #3
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How high is your handlebar relative to your saddle?

A lot of road bikes seem to be designed to place the handlebar 3" to 5" lower than the saddle. I like 1" or 2". I can handle 3" but, when I ride with my hands in the drops, I have to look down at my front wheel and pop my head up periodically to see down the road. 5" is way too low for me.
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Old 05-19-07, 03:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by MillCreek
An adjustable stem, so you can raise the height of the handlebars without using too many spacers, comes immediately to mind. As I have gotten less aerodynamic over the years, I have started using one. I note with interest the number of people in my club the same age who have also gone the adjustable stem route.
Many thanks for the reply. Mine is adjustable but is limited in travel by all the wiring and cables needed for the Campy ErgoBrain hardware.

-dan
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Old 05-19-07, 03:05 PM   #5
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Raise Dat Stem!

by Bob Gordon

A flat back is one of the hallmarks of an experienced cyclist, particularly a racer, and over the years I have seen the prevailing attitudes towards rider positioning devolve to the point where if you don't cycle with your back parallel to the ground, you're cast off as a beginner.

But like many other concepts recreational riders adopt, the low back originated in the professional ranks after extensive research in aerodynamics proved this would help the fast go faster. Competitive athletes routinely sacrifice both their short and long term health for the express purpose of winning, but you may have a different agenda.

Lower back disc problems peak the ages of 30 and 50. There are many causes, but if your back pain is exacerbated by riding, it's a good bet the cause is bouncing around on your bike while your lower spine is extensively flexed (loss of lower back arch). A low, forward torso causes the inner portion of the disc (the nucleus purposes) to press back against the outer restraining fibers (the annulus fibroses). This pressure eventually causes the disc to bulge or herniate. The nearby nerves get squeezed, and the next thing you know, someone like me is telling you you have sciatica.

Cycling mitigates some of the problems of a habitually flexed lumbar spine because of the "bridge effect" that's created by resting some of your weight on your hands. But the lumbar region and its soft tissues are still at risk just by being continuously hyper flexed, and if you sit all day at your job, the danger is compounded.

On the flip side, cycling entirely upright does not solve the problem either. True, the inter-vertebral discs and spinal ligaments are in a more neutral position and absorb shock better, but the load is now transmitted axially, which is fatiguing and jarring. Also, in a bolt-upright position you can't use your gluteus or hamstrings to great advantage, which means your thighs (quadriceps) get overworked, you lose a lot of power, the unused hamstrings and gluteal muscles go flabby, and you catch all that wind. It's hard to be happy about all that, racer or no.

There is, however, a position that allows good performance while minimizing risk of lower back injury. I like a stem height and length that puts your back about 50 degrees from horizontal, while your arms and legs bend slightly at the elbows, as shown in figure 2 up there. To achieve this, you'll probably have to raise your bars, and assuming you want to keep the same bar style (as opposed to riding with stingray bars or something), that usually means getting another stem, one with a taller quill or a steep rise to it. If you hit the sweet spot, a photo of you from the side will reveal a nice pyramid composed of top tube, torso and arms.'

Hardware can be dealt with. Repairing backs is more expensive, takes longer, and hurts.
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Old 05-19-07, 03:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
How high is your handlebar relative to your saddle?

A lot of road bikes seem to be designed to place the handlebar 3" to 5" lower than the saddle. I like 1" or 2". I can handle 3" but, when I ride with my hands in the drops, I have to look down at my front wheel and pop my head up periodically to see down the road. 5" is way too low for me.
Thanks for the info. The surface of my seat is 8" above the middle of the top tube and the top of the stem is 5.5" from that same spot, so figuring butt sag plus the bars being a "tidge" lower than the top of the stem, we are in the 2-3" range. As noted above, I'm limited by cables/wires and of course proper seat position vs. the pedals.

-dan
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Old 05-19-07, 03:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danham
Thanks for the info. The surface of my seat is 8" above the middle of the top tube and the top of the stem is 5.5" from that same spot,
I measure the distance from both to the floor. It holds still so it's easier to measure to than other methods that I've tried.

The Grant Petersen believers will tell you that your handlebar top should be level with the saddle and I think that they have a point. If you find that you never use your drops, what's the point in having them? Raise your handlebars until you can use all of the hand positions with reasonable comfort.
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Old 05-19-07, 03:11 PM   #8
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Yeah,
try getting the bars level with the saddle. You may need to replace some wires,
but that would be slightly cheaper than replacing your back...
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Old 05-19-07, 03:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by late
Yeah,
try getting the bars level with the saddle. You may need to replace some wires,
but that would be slightly cheaper than replacing your back...
And a lot less painful.
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Old 05-19-07, 05:56 PM   #10
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Nitto Technomico (quill stem) has worked wonder for my neck and shoulders.
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Old 05-19-07, 10:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danham
As noted above, I'm limited by cables/wires
-dan
Replacing cables and housing is not such a big deal that it should keep you from placing your handlebars in the right position.
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Old 05-21-07, 12:03 PM   #12
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The obvious solution to these problems is simple. Ride recumbent, or ride in pain.

Bob Westgate
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Old 05-21-07, 03:00 PM   #13
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The obvious solution to these problems is simple. Ride recumbent, or ride in pain.

Bob Westgate
True. That is one solution (I guess). But it is a false dichotomy. There are other options.
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Old 05-21-07, 03:46 PM   #14
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I have cervical spongeulitis, my spine is getting soft in my neck area, I returned to road bikes two years ago and have very little pain. I think road biking has actually helped me. Try it and see what happens, thats what I did before I jumped whole hog into road bikes.
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