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Old 02-20-08, 11:08 PM   #1
Yen
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Getting accustomed to the road bike position

I stopped at an LBS on my way home from work and sat on a couple of bikes. I couldn't ride them (due to the rain at the time), but as I sat on them I wondered -- how will I know if I am too stretched out, or if I just need to get used to that position again? It's been many years since I rode a road bike, so long I can't remember how I felt. I was much younger then and my back and neck were more flexible.

Where is the line between "too much lean", vs. "ideal and my body just needs to adjust"? If I feel like I'm reaching too far, am I really? Or am I just not comfortable with that position yet?
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Old 02-20-08, 11:22 PM   #2
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fit on bike

A GOOD bike shop will be able to provide a GOOD fit. My LBS is 90 miles away, and worth every minute and every gallon of gas it takes to obtain their services------keep in mind that I live in the sticks-----yes, there are trees in north central Texas.
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Old 02-20-08, 11:23 PM   #3
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Great question, Yen. I found a bike that feels better than the rest, but like stapfam said earlier, it won't feel normal to us for a while. So how does one know when shopping for that first road bike?
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Old 02-20-08, 11:25 PM   #4
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I don't know how, but somehow that's a circular question Yen and the answer could be "yes" to both. I know that when I was off my road bike (and bikes in general) for almost five years straight, I just set up my first "re-birth" bike exactly how I had my last bike set-up. It wasn't all bad, but my shoulders and neck were killing me for a while, but yeah, I did get used to it again. After a bit I was ok, but I wouldn't recommend that to everyone. With today's ease of swapping a stem with one allen wrench, and the myriad of stem lengths and angles available, IMHO I would get a set-up that your comfortable with, maybe with a little more "lean" to ease you back into a more aerodynamic and "aggressive" position. Nothing is more frustrating than getting all excited about a new bike, only to not want to ride it again after your first couple of painful rides. Then, once comfy, swap for a bit more drop and if desired extension. If you use some inexpensive stems, once you get to a point where your really comfy, and satisfied, you can indulge in a nicer one, if ya want.
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Old 02-20-08, 11:28 PM   #5
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Hey Card!! I've been wondering where you were!

Yeh, TruF... how does one know? If I tell the sales guy that I feel too stretched out, and he says I'll have to get used to it, will I? When? Or, is there a position that I'll find while being fitted where I'll just KNOW? I want to love every minute on the bike, not dread riding it because of the way I feel on it.

So far, two shops have told me that they'll put me on a bike (or trainer) and make all the adjustments, like a fitting, if I buy the bike there. One of them also offers 2 years free maintenance.

More questions to come.....
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Old 02-21-08, 05:34 AM   #6
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Some people, like Mrs. Road Fan, don't get acclimated.

Do you see the concern as holding your body in a leaned position without excessive hand pressure and arm fatigue?

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Old 02-21-08, 06:15 AM   #7
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The general rule (and always be cautious of general rules...) is don't hyperextend. However, over time I've raised my seat post, moved my saddle back a tad south, and changed stems to ones with lower angles. The more I do, the better I feel (less neck/shoulder pain) and the more comfortable (and efficient) a semi-aero position is. As the Datsun folks say, enjoy the ride!

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Old 02-21-08, 06:15 AM   #8
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It does feel a little stretched out at first. Ideally you should still be able to rest comfortably on your sit bones while your torso is angled towards the bars-as much as 45 degrees. You should be able to reach the hoods with your elbows bent slightly-avoid arms being straight (hoods can be brought up closer to the top of the bars to help with this as well). A general test is when you're clipped in and hands are on the hoods, when you look down at the front wheel, the bars should "block" your view of the front hub. That means you're probably pretty close to the correct top tube and stem length.
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Old 02-21-08, 06:21 AM   #9
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Just when you think you have it all figured out, here's a twist - the "right" position will change as your body adjusts to the new bike, riding position and riding style. You will become more limber. You will develop more muscle tone. These will change the position that is most comfortable/most efficient on the bike.

Once it all settles out, I look for a position that allows me to take my hands off the hoods and clap them without sitting up or falling forward.
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Old 02-21-08, 06:37 AM   #10
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Make sure you have some adjustability in the bike. The saddle should be able to move for and aft enough to accomodate fit "changes". An adjustable stem (like the Ritchey Adjustable or even better, the Look Ergo Stem if you can afford the price "gasp") will allow you to raise or lower the bars as you perception of comfortable changes.

Chances are you will start out in the "short and high" position and gradually move toward the "long and low".

I really think that clubs or shops could provide a service by renting out the Look Ergo Stem (it adjustable in height and length because it has 2 joints so it moves like a raised snakes head) untill a rider is comfortable and then replacing it with the appropriate fixed stem.
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Old 02-21-08, 07:39 AM   #11
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Getting a bike shop to do a fit session is always good but if you've never ridden a road bike or haven't for a long while a fit session will only get you in the ball park of that "perfect position" and you may or may not invest in the correct bike. You won't know till you've ridden in that position a while to see where your body is most comfortable. Small position changes and learning what your body "likes" and doesn't like are only gained from some experience on the road bike. Then there is the change that your body goes through as it becomes acclimated to working in this new position.

I think getting a lower end road bike to ride for a season or two will help in finding the right position for you to ride in before investing in that expensive perfect road bike.
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Old 02-21-08, 08:29 AM   #12
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Some of us have fit issues that don't conform to conventional thinking. Only you will know, eventually, what works for you. Over the years I have raised my bars as my back has protested the drop of 4" from saddle to bar. I'm not going to get any more limber, and I'm not going to get more aero.
I would say a lot of women get a bike that is too big, can't really adjust for that. It might be a good idea to get a cheaper bike first or maybe rent a bike or at least get some saddle time before dropping big bucks. On the other hand, some people get fitted and are happy right away.
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Old 02-21-08, 08:33 AM   #13
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As Big John and others suggest, perfect position is a bit of a moving target. A perfect fit for my 30-something self would send a guy like me to a chiropractor. In fact it did.

When I bought a new bike, I told the young whippersnapper, "set this up like you would for your father." He did exactly that--with handlebars as high as the seat and a shorter stem so I wouldn't be stretched out as much as in the past. We agreed that I would try the bike out for a few weeks and come back for additional adjustments, if needed. That approach served me well.
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Old 02-21-08, 08:34 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastOfMidnight View Post
The general rule (and always be cautious of general rules...) is don't hyperextend. However, over time I've raised my seat post, moved my saddle back a tad south, and changed stems to ones with lower angles. The more I do, the better I feel (less neck/shoulder pain) and the more comfortable (and efficient) a semi-aero position is. As the Datsun folks say, enjoy the ride!

JH
I did just about the same thing and when I went to the road bike, there was hardly any difference.
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Old 02-21-08, 08:42 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
Make sure you have some adjustability in the bike. The saddle should be able to move for and aft enough to accomodate fit "changes".

Chances are you will start out in the "short and high" position and gradually move toward the "long and low".
As everyone said make sure the bike is configured so that you can be more upright to start with; the stem up, saddle at least in the middle of the rails, no setback and have them leave the steering tube long and add spacers. As you adjust you can make the modifications you need to go lower. I started out this way and over the last few months moved spacers to get my bars lower and just last week went ahead and had the steering tube cut. If you start out in a lower position immediately you may find that it is physically uncomfortable and assume you can't ride a road bike which is probably not true.
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Old 02-21-08, 11:30 AM   #16
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The way I did it was start with a cheap bike. I bought a seven-year-old Trek 1000 for $100. The poor thing was beat, but it served exactly the two purposes I had in mind:

First, I gave me something already ruined that I could learn how to fix.

Second, it took away all the worries I had over "What if I don't like road bikes?" and "What if my arthritic back (or wimpy stick-figure arms) can't tolerate the position?"

It worked out really well for for me. I knew that if it didn't work out, I wasn't out a ton of money and it would be easy to sell.

Fortunately, I found that, yes, I love road bikes. And it took me only a few days to become accustomed to the position, and a few weeks to get really comfortable with it.


I put 2,300 miles on Yellow Bike before dropping nearly $2K on the Portland and its accessories. (Below) By then I knew exactly what I wanted and what I needed, and was able to go into the purchase with complete confidence.

Yellow Bike was the best $100 (plus another couple of hundred on parts, tools and how-to books) that I ever spent. It's a completely different ride and position from the Portland and I like them both for their intended purposes. The Portland is my daily ride, and even this winter, when the snow melts and road is dry, I've been taking Yellow Bike out for a spin.


Yellow Bike prepared me for the Portland, which is my daily ride.
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Old 02-21-08, 11:59 AM   #17
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Having only got a road bike 18 months ago- And having been riding mountain bikes before- I set the first bike up so that I was comfortable on top of the brake levers. Not stretched or cramped- just right. This equates to being on the end of the bar ends on the MTB. Then if I want to sit upright a bit more- I could go onto the flat bit up by the stem. Then there was the height of the bars. My MTB bars are about 1" above the saddle- And intitially I had the road bars about 1" below the saddle. Wasn't long before a new stem with a steeper rise to get the bars level with the saddle was bought.

Then there are the drops. I did not use them. The only place I did was downhill where I wanted to be able to reach the brakes fully. Aerodynamic position did not come into it. I just wanted to ride in a comfortable position and in the drops it was not long before the back ached. After about 6 months I started to train myself to use the drops. On a flat bit of road and I would get down. Not for long- only about 20 seconds before it got painfull- but kept practicing and eventually was riding in the drops into headwinds. Still a bit of back ache but not much.

Then it all went wierd. I got a racing spec frame. It was longer in the top tube- same length of stem and saddle to pedal position set up the same. BUT these bars are 3" below the saddle. No more backache and I was riding in the drops a lot more frequently and for longer. I had found an alternative position to cure the back ache and that was to stretch out and get lower. Rode the Boreas for most of that summer and when I went back to the first bike-The OCR- It was not comfortable. It was also not as good so the TCR came along then. This has the bars abit higher than Boreas and it is not quite such a good fit but I have not changed the bar height yet due to a bit more testing I want to do.

I know you have seen them before but attachments of the 3 bikes up against the garage door and you can see the Bar height. All 3 bikes have the saddle at the same height.

Initially the bike will feel awkward- but I reckon that as you are younger than me- You will adapt to the "New" ride position quicker than the 6 months it took me. But watch out-You may be changing things within a year to get more comfortable and to get more power out of thge thing
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Old 02-21-08, 01:19 PM   #18
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Well the main problem would be the bike. If the bike has too long of a top tube for you, than there is not much you can do. On the other hand, on a bike of about the right size, you can push the handle bars out a bit with a longer stem. It will cost a bit, but not that much. You might find yourself wanting a more aerodynamic position vs an upright style once you get used to the bike.

By all means, get a bike fit. From your posts, you are buying a pretty pricey bike and most shops that I know give a free & pretty comphrehensive fit session with a bike of that type. It is in their best interest because if the bike does not fit, you will not want to ride it. As a result, you will not spend money on the sport. Bike shops make most of their money from accessories and bike maintenance and not selling bikes.
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Old 02-21-08, 01:20 PM   #19
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Lots of good advice here. One thing really concerned me, however. Yen, you said, "If I tell the sales guy that I feel too stretched out, and he says I'll have to get used to it, will I?" I hope this was just free association worrying on your part. DO NOT allow any sales person to get away with a comment like that. There is little doubt that your body will have to slowly adjust to some changes, but a sales person who treats you this way is not the person you want helping to fit your ride. I would echo the sentiments of those that say your fit right now will not be your fit later. I'd also whole heartedly agree with BluesDawg in terms of his "balance" suggestion. I find that as my core muscles and flexibility both got better, my balance point shifted.
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Old 02-21-08, 01:43 PM   #20
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Include a stretching session to your workout schedule, you will be amazed how much will it affect your ride position and overall long rides.
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Old 02-21-08, 01:47 PM   #21
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I have found that, especially for someone who has not ever (or not recently) ridden on a road bike that the concept of "good fit" is a moving target. I think that your initial fit will be just that, and you will need to think in terms of changing the fit as you 1)get used to riding in a less upright position (that's a mental thing), 2)your muscles get stronger and 3)you get more flexible. For example, riding in an aerodynamic racing position would initially put 'way too much pressure on your hands, your lungs would feel compressed and your neck would get sore from holding your head up. There would be other aches and pains as well. I would recommend that you start with a relatively upright position and set your bike up so that riding on the hoods is reasonably comfortable. Pay attention to the comfort of your saddle, so you don't ride with a hunched back. What happens after that is a matter of getting used to the bike, riding more miles, getting stronger and more flexible. You will know when it is time to change your bike fit because you will find that you go faster when you tuck down further and it doesn't hurt when you do that. I love road bikes, always have. When I got back on my custom road bike after 12 years of not riding, I found it a little uncomfortable because I'd lost flexibility. After a couple of months, it was perfect again because I'd regained most of my flexibility and I'd gotten stronger overall.

I feel that you would benefit by going into the fitting process understanding that your initial fit may well be different from what you have in 6 months or a year from now. If the frame is sized properly, it will support all those variations in fit. You change stems, number of spacers, maybe even handlebars. Also, I can't emphasize enough, if your saddle is uncomfortable, it probably won't get less so as you ride more. I pig-headedly put on 1000 miles on a saddle that hurt every time I rode it in the hope that it would get more comfortable. I also didn't want to admit that I'd made a mistake. When I got a different saddle, it was just amazing. When my daughter got her road bike she tried valiantly to like the saddle that was on it but finally admitted defeat and tried others.

I hope this helps.

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Old 02-21-08, 02:58 PM   #22
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I stopped at an LBS on my way home from work and sat on a couple of bikes. I couldn't ride them (due to the rain at the time), but as I sat on them I wondered -- how will I know if I am too stretched out, or if I just need to get used to that position again? It's been many years since I rode a road bike, so long I can't remember how I felt. I was much younger then and my back and neck were more flexible.

Where is the line between "too much lean", vs. "ideal and my body just needs to adjust"? If I feel like I'm reaching too far, am I really? Or am I just not comfortable with that position yet?
There is a lot of good advice here. I would just say that having a competent LBS fit you into your bike is a good idea. Make sure that he doesn't "paint you into a corner" since as you continue to ride the bike your requirements for comfort may change. You may want to be able to make slight adjustments to accomodate these changes without needing to buy a bike too soon.

For example, as you continue to ride your legs will get stronger and this will take some of the load off the seat and your arms. This may change your requirements both for seat position and tilt, and stem height and angle. Try to make sure that your new bike can accomodate these changes.
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Old 02-21-08, 03:21 PM   #23
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Your concern is at least partially responsible for the popularity of recumbents, especially in 'our' age group.
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Old 02-21-08, 03:43 PM   #24
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A good place to start is with the handlebars even with the seat, or if that's too low, higher. As you become more comfortable leaning forward you can bend your elbows more, which has the added plus of shock obsorbtion, or ride in the with your hands on the hoods or down in the drops. The important thing is you'll have freedom of choice.

If you start with the handlebars too low you'll spend all your time in one position with your hands on the handlebar tops and your elbows locked and that gets old fast.

If a store is steering you towards bikes that feel uncomfortable it's because they have a stockroom full of I-Want-To-Look-Like-Lance racer-boy bikes with low handlebars and no means of adjusting them upward. Find another store.
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Old 02-21-08, 10:09 PM   #25
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Wow! I can't tell you how much I appreciate so many thoughtful replies. It never occurred to me that I could start in a higher position and gradually make changes to lower myself as I get stronger. My wrist will be a determining factor.

So far, no one has pushed any particular bike on me. They've listened to my desires and needs and said when I'm ready to make the purchase, they'll make whatever adjustments I need. Two shops will put the bike on a trainer and check the adjustments with me on the bike. The mechanic at one of those shops is, apparently, very particular about making sure the fit is right ---- I LOVE the sound of that... it makes me lean hard toward choosing only a bike sold at that store. They also offer 2 years free maintenance, the most of any store we've been to. And, I've read some very favorable comments about their mechanic from some of the folks in the SoCal forum. The store with the '07 Madone 5.2 offers 3 months free maintenance... does that seem a little short?
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