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  1. #1
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    Bike for a bad back?

    My dad is in his 60s and is still riding an early 70's Raleigh Grand Prix that he bought before I was born and has ridden since. He's an avid commuter (RT 14 miles up a big hill) but he's getting arthritis in his back and no surprise, he can't reach the drops anymore.

    [He won't like the suggestion that he give up his old racer but I think the time has come. I want to build him a bike that will be comfortable and reasonably fast, with more commuter-friendly components. Budget is an issue but I have tools and can do all the labor.]

    Edit: thought the better of this.

    What do you all suggest? Anybody in this situation? What works, what doesn't?
    Last edited by anastrophe; 03-08-11 at 01:43 PM. Reason: ethical reconsiderations
    \

  2. #2
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    I am probably older than your dad and ride an 82 Gianni Motta steel race bike I built. I never ride in/on the drops,
    Much easier on top of the bars,above the brakes..(yes can still use the brakes..)are you sure it fits him? might be able to change seat position and bar offset (f/b)..
    Bud

  3. #3
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    68 years old, ride an aluminum road bike.
    A large group of 50+ riders believe that the forward lean of a road bike is good for their backs
    Works for me.

    If your Dad is good to go, let him ride what he wants.
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    Hybrids aren't bad for somebody with back problems. One of my neighbours has had 4 back surgeries in the last couple of years and he swears by it. There are plenty of inexpensive ones out there.

    The trouble is, it's hard to go to another type of bike when you've been a roadie all your life, that I can identify with.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    My suggestion is that he consider getting a set of bars with shorter reach and a more shallow drop. If I remember correctly the Raleigh Grand Prix cam equipped with bars that had a pretty deep drop. Maybe considering getting him a pair of Easton EA 70 bars. They might be a better fit for him, and they'll cost a lot less than a full build.
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  6. #6
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    Lots of people of our age have problem backs and the biggest surprise, which includes me, is that drop bars are not a problem for everyone. If your dad is having a problem in the drops, there is the possibility that a different stem may solve the problem. MY advice is to engage your dad in the process of that change. I suspect he loves his old bike and is loath to abandon it. If he can't find comfort with a new stem it will become evident to him a new bike may be in order.

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    I ride a 70's Raliegh road bike. I find the drop bars stretch out my lower back and increase the range of motion bring my knees higher up to my chest. But I also spend a lot of time on top of the bars. You can change the angel of the bars or switch them out all together. You may find his back gets stiffer if you go changing his bike though.

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    Changing the bars and the stem might do the trick if it can reduce the reach. On the other hand, it may change some other things and introduce another problem. A bike fitter should be able to help you and at least steer you in the right direction.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I'll say it: "Recumbent" is not a four letter word. Whether he's having low back or upper back pain a recumbent may be an answer.

    On the other hand, I don't know how bad your father's back hurts or what he thinks he can tolerate.

  10. #10
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    Well, he complains of pain so I will change something--my worry was that changing the handlebar height, given the frame geometry, might just cause other ergonomic or handling problems.

    Maybe his handlebars aren't stock (but everything else must be, it's got a Huret derailler), they're more shallow randonneuring-style bars with a flare. I know he loves those bars so think maybe I will just try an adjustable stem and see if that helps before I suggest anything more drastic.

    A recumbent would probably be perfect but we can't afford one. Not to mention he thinks he would look silly.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Timtruro's Avatar
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    Raising ith handlebar height would be a good start, give him a slightly more upright position. But as others have said, leaning forward actually stretches out the back and helps in many cases. Also the the leaning forward allows the the butt to absorb most of the bumps and vibrations, a position that is too upright causes the back to take most of the punishment.....not good. A flat bar would be another consideration.
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    Why not just show Dad this forum and have him join, then he can ask his own questions and work on the solution to his problem. Plus we are a fine bunch of people here and he would fit in nicely. We always open to having quality people join us in discussing all the problems of the world and coming up with the solutions, not that young whippersnappers listen to us.

  13. #13
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Why not just show Dad this forum and have him join.

    DAD has many a mile under his butt and knows bikes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by overthehillmedi View Post
    Why not just show Dad this forum and have him join, then he can ask his own questions and work on the solution to his problem. Plus we are a fine bunch of people here and he would fit in nicely. We always open to having quality people join us in discussing all the problems of the world and coming up with the solutions, not that young whippersnappers listen to us.
    *laughs* You are a fine bunch and I agree. But my dad isn't really internet literate, he probably couldn't figure out how to use the forums if he even saw the point of it. I will suggest it though
    \

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by overthehillmedi View Post
    Why not just show Dad this forum and have him join, then he can ask his own questions and work on the solution to his problem. Plus we are a fine bunch of people here and he would fit in nicely. We always open to having quality people join us in discussing all the problems of the world and coming up with the solutions, not that young whippersnappers listen to us.
    That's what I was thinking. We'll show dad how he can enjoy spending his kids inheritance.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by anastrophe View Post
    *laughs* You are a fine bunch and I agree. But my dad isn't really internet literate, he probably couldn't figure out how to use the forums if he even saw the point of it. I will suggest it though
    The Old Man is smarter than you think after all he is your Dad, show him how to access this forum, sign him up and let him have at it.

  17. #17
    Senior Member TromboneAl's Avatar
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    Why not just show Dad this forum and have him join.
    Hasn't he suffered enough?
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  18. #18
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anastrophe View Post
    My dad is in his 60s and is still riding an early 70's Raleigh Grand Prix that he bought before I was born and has ridden since. He's an avid commuter (RT 14 miles up a big hill) but he's getting arthritis in his back and no surprise, he can't reach the drops anymore.

    He won't like the suggestion that he give up his old racer but I think the time has come. I want to build him a bike that will be comfortable and reasonably fast, with more commuter-friendly components. Budget is an issue but I have tools and can do all the labor.

    What do you all suggest? Anybody in this situation? What works, what doesn't?
    Since Dad still likes his bike then help him convert it into a more upright ride. There are loads of handlebar configurations and seats to choose from so see if you can help him convert the bike to his needs today. Whatever you do don't insult Dad by insisting he get a "new" bike.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    Since Dad still likes his bike then help him convert it into a more upright ride. There are loads of handlebar configurations and seats to choose from so see if you can help him convert the bike to his needs today. Whatever you do don't insult Dad by insisting he get a "new" bike.
    A Nitto Technomic stem will yield a couple inches of handlebar height. You'll need to rewrap the bars and you'll probably need new brake cables and housings.

    I wouldn't do it without the expressed permission from the bike owner.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    Since Dad still likes his bike then help him convert it into a more upright ride. There are loads of handlebar configurations and seats to choose from so see if you can help him convert the bike to his needs today. Whatever you do don't insult Dad by insisting he get a "new" bike.
    Oh, I don't want to hurt his feelings and won't do anything without his full participation. He knows I'm a bike geek and way more mechanically inclined than he is (the man can't fix a leaky sink, he's a schoolteacher; I build bikes often and know how to use power tools) so he gave me the Raleigh and asked for my help.

    Perhaps my first post was too aggressive. I will start with minimal intervention and see if that helps...and try not to get carried away with the idea of a project...Nitto Technomic is a good suggestion, the original cable housings are cracking so I'm thinking new cables are a must anyways.

    This Raleigh is very, very well loved, the frame is worn down to bare steel in places. Like I said, he got it before I was born and has put up with downtube shifters all that time, how could I not respect that relationship?
    \

  21. #21
    Senior Member Garilia's Avatar
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    Being a teacher is not the reason he's not handy. I'm a teacher and I can work my way around a bike, use my scroll saw for woodworking projects, repair toilets, repair sink faucets and new ceiling fans, I've built wooden sheds/barns, installed tongue and groove ceiling panels, and designed and built my own wooden fence around my property. Not all teachers are helpless with a toolbox (and I don'[t teach shop or any vocational skill). I teach special education in an elementary school.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by berner View Post
    Lots of people of our age have problem backs and the biggest surprise, which includes me, is that drop bars are not a problem for everyone. If your dad is having a problem in the drops, there is the possibility that a different stem may solve the problem. MY advice is to engage your dad in the process of that change. I suspect he loves his old bike and is loath to abandon it. If he can't find comfort with a new stem it will become evident to him a new bike may be in order.
    +1

    My ortho guy said that the racing position is best, although one does not need to get into "the drops" to achieve it. Sitting upright, as on a hybrid, causes more pressure on the vertebrae, while the "racing position" stretched things out. Each person is different, however. Before my fusion, the only position comnfortable for me was stretched out.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garilia View Post
    Being a teacher is not the reason he's not handy. I'm a teacher and I can work my way around a bike, use my scroll saw for woodworking projects, repair toilets, repair sink faucets and new ceiling fans, I've built wooden sheds/barns, installed tongue and groove ceiling panels, and designed and built my own wooden fence around my property. Not all teachers are helpless with a toolbox (and I don'[t teach shop or any vocational skill). I teach special education in an elementary school.
    It's true they're not related. But he would much rather spend time on lesson plans than learning about fixin stuff--maybe it's more of a preference.

    He is also a special ed teacher, btw!

  24. #24
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    This is my husbands bike. He originally got it and changed the handlebars, the tires, the seat and stem (changed from a 15 degree to a 35 degree). This is his 'my back is bugging me' bike, It's a rolling lazy boy! He sits straight up in it- no back pain at all.



    He assumed he would never be able to ride a road bike with drop handles again, but it turned out that he actually could. Now, he rides the road bike most of the time, but this is a really comfy bike! He has gel flat handed grips even.
    Last edited by outwest5; 03-08-11 at 10:07 PM.

  25. #25
    Musashi Rider kennytb's Avatar
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    Have you considered a crank forward bike by RANS? Very comfortable.
    Peace & Long Life

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