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  1. #1
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    Question hand pain anywhere but the tops. WTF. Any other way to relieve pressure?

    Here's my set up. I ride a 56cm Surly Cross Check. It's little long in the top tube but I switched out the stock stem (100mm 97 degree) for a 90mm stem with a 117 degree rise. The 90mm stem effectively shortened the reach from the saddle to to the handlebars, similar to a smaller 54cm Cross Check. The handlebars are pretty high up already, almost level with the saddle. Perhaps 1cm lower. The stand over is fine, even with fattish tires. All good, right?

    Here's my problem. I can't ride anything but the the tops for very long. The drops and hoods are pretty uncomfortable, so my default position for 90% of my riding is on the tops. I even installed interrupter brake levers to have easier access to the brakes. According to Lovely Bicycle blog's guide to drop handlebar positions, the tops should be the least used position, but it's just about the only position I use, so something is not right. Some people say HTFU. Some people say I need thicker bar tape or bar pillows. Some people say I need thinner gloves with less padding or gel gloves with more padding. However, I think these are all smaller band-aids on a larger problem. My handlebars have never been comfortable in the 3 years I've owned my bike and I've tried many adjustments. I'm thinking about buying a compact bar with a shallow drop and a flat ramp up to the hoods. I'd really love to optimize the randonneuring and touring capabilities of this bike since my flat bar fixie takes care of all my in town needs.

    [FWIW, my handle bars are Salsa Moto Ace Bell Laps. (144mm drop, 82mm reach, 44cm width)Their intended purpose is "cyclocross." Perhaps that's part of the problem. Cyclocross races require aggressive riding for no more than an hour, right?]

    Maybe it's not completely necessary to buy a new compact handlebar. Is there any adjustment I haven't thought of yet that I can try to relieve pressure on my hands?? My knee caps are directly over the pedal axles, so I can move it forward a bit. I adjusted the fore/aft position using Jim Langley's online guide to bike fitting, but it's only a guide line.

  2. #2
    Senior Member elcruxio's Avatar
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    Your seat might be too forward. As your bike isn't a hardcore racing machine, I'm assuming you are not a racer either.
    In that case it's ok to have the bar level with the saddle and the seat pushed a bit backwards.

    Seat fore aft position is a complicated issue, and affects many things on the rider.
    Firstly for many it's a muscle recruitment issue. Too far forward and the quads do all the work. Too far back and the hamstrings get too much work. An ideal position is in the dead center, where a balance is found. Can the center position be found with some simple test? Well, no. It's about experimentation. Some have it dead center of kops, some have it behind kops (knee over pedal spindle)
    Muscle recruitment is more important for racers than tourers.

    Secondly fore aft is postural, which I feel is your problem.
    A proper balance on a bike consists of three contact points, the saddle, the pedals and the handlebar. Now Imagine your seat is right on top of the pedals, that will put a lot of pressure on your hands right? The opposite happens when your saddle is pushed all the way back. There is almost no weight on your hands because your back mucles and balance is keeping you from tippimg over. You can try this by crouching in front of a mirror. When you start crouching your butt starts to move backwards so you can maintain your balance.
    So basically if your seat is too forward, you are going to get more pressure on your hands. The same happens when you lower the bar, but is not your problem at the moment.
    There is a secondary point to this, which is more relevant to racers. As your power on the bike increases, the more power you put on the pedals unweighs your upper body, so the seat can be pushed forward, if desired. Bike fit is never a static thing and it develops with the rider.

    With keeping these two things in mind, start fiddling with your saddle fore aft setting, maybe pushing the saddle back a little bit at first and if that doesn't work do the opposite. If something starts to hurt, go back to where you started. I think that your seat is too forward.
    Also, reach should never be adjusted with saddle fore aft, so if you move your seat back 1cm, you should also get a stem which is 1cm shorter

  3. #3
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    did you happen to ghost write this article by Steve Hoggs on the topic of seat set back for road bikes? If you or anybody can, tl;dr this article for me, that would be great. I've read it 3x and I'm about to read it again but it seems a little bit complicated. I know the answer is in there somewhere.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    Your seat might be too forward. As your bike isn't a hardcore racing machine, I'm assuming you are not a racer either.
    In that case it's ok to have the bar level with the saddle and the seat pushed a bit backwards.

    Seat fore aft position is a complicated issue, and affects many things on the rider.
    Firstly for many it's a muscle recruitment issue. Too far forward and the quads do all the work. Too far back and the hamstrings get too much work. An ideal position is in the dead center, where a balance is found. Can the center position be found with some simple test? Well, no. It's about experimentation. Some have it dead center of kops, some have it behind kops (knee over pedal spindle)
    Muscle recruitment is more important for racers than tourers.

    Secondly fore aft is postural, which I feel is your problem.
    A proper balance on a bike consists of three contact points, the saddle, the pedals and the handlebar. Now Imagine your seat is right on top of the pedals, that will put a lot of pressure on your hands right? The opposite happens when your saddle is pushed all the way back. There is almost no weight on your hands because your back mucles and balance is keeping you from tippimg over. You can try this by crouching in front of a mirror. When you start crouching your butt starts to move backwards so you can maintain your balance.
    So basically if your seat is too forward, you are going to get more pressure on your hands. The same happens when you lower the bar, but is not your problem at the moment.
    There is a secondary point to this, which is more relevant to racers. As your power on the bike increases, the more power you put on the pedals unweighs your upper body, so the seat can be pushed forward, if desired. Bike fit is never a static thing and it develops with the rider.

    With keeping these two things in mind, start fiddling with your saddle fore aft setting, maybe pushing the saddle back a little bit at first and if that doesn't work do the opposite. If something starts to hurt, go back to where you started. I think that your seat is too forward.
    Also, reach should never be adjusted with saddle fore aft, so if you move your seat back 1cm, you should also get a stem which is 1cm shorter
    You're right. I used the Jim Langley guide and have a perfect Knee Over Pedal Spindle (axle) position, but I don't think that's working for me. So I can try to move the seat back a bit to see if that relieves pressure on my hands, but not forward? Is that right?

    Can you explain that crouching experiment a little clearer? Is the mirror just so I can see myself? By crouching, do you mean a resting Asian on a subway position with just the knees bent and the back kept straight up? Or should my hands be touching the ground as well?
    Last edited by SurlyLaika; 07-10-13 at 02:06 AM.

  5. #5
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    My seat post won't allow the saddle to slide back anymore. It's maxed out. What kind of seat post do I need to give me some adjustability?

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    What kind of hand pain are you having? Is the pain the same, and in the same area, whether you ride drops or hoods?

    How tall are you?

    Why did you take off the 100mm stem?

    Can you post a sideview pic of you on the bike, hands on hoods?

    Absent additional info, I'd suggest rotating your handlebars forward and backward, so the hoods are lower or higher, and trying that out before messing around with the seat post. Again, without additional detail it's impossible to do more than wild-assed guessing, but it's not uncommon for odd wrist angles to cause hand pain. You'll be looking for a neutral wrist position, where you're not at the extreme of flexion or extension.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    I'm 5'11, 32inch inseam. The pain tends to cut across the center of my palm on the tops and on the drops. The hoods have some of the same discomfort but it's more on the side of my hand, pinky side.

    I tried to move my saddle forward but I was able to move it only a few mm and the rails didn't fit squarely in the clamps. I'm gonna take it out for a ride in a bit to see if it's any help. I'll take a picture before I go.

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    First, I'd say stop messing with the saddle. If you set it up right and it feels like you're positioned where you want to be on the bike and over the pedals, leave it be. I get Elcruxio's approach to this, and he may be right, but think it's best to adjust one thing at a time, so that you can understand what does what. Since the pain is in your hands, let's start there.

    What you've described sounds like muscle pain, as opposed to typical, pressure induced numbness, even with the new bit of info you just introduced, that you get pain on the tops, too.

    Is the pain instant or gradual onset? Does changing your grip alleviate the pain? Are you an experienced rider? Could you simply be gripping the bars too tightly? A conscious effort to relax your grip and a little conditioning may take care of things, but if you've been riding for years that explanation goes out the window.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    First, I'd say stop messing with the saddle. If you set it up right and it feels like you're positioned where you want to be on the bike and over the pedals, leave it be. I get Elcruxio's approach to this, and he may be right, but think it's best to adjust one thing at a time, so that you can understand what does what. Since the pain is in your hands, let's start there.

    What you've described sounds like muscle pain, as opposed to typical, pressure induced numbness, even with the new bit of info you just introduced, that you get pain on the tops, too.

    Is the pain instant or gradual onset? Does changing your grip alleviate the pain? Are you an experienced rider? Could you simply be gripping the bars too tightly? A conscious effort to relax your grip and a little conditioning may take care of things, but if you've been riding for years that explanation goes out the window.
    Well, no worries...the saddle didn't move anywhere. And I don't know where the saddle fore/aft adjustment feels good. I just put it in KOPS position. I read that sliding it forward will result in more weight on the hands. I'm inclined to believe Excrucio's advice, based on his screen name and that his advice confirms Steve Hogg's opinion who seems like a very knowledgeable guy. In any case, the saddle didn't move anywhere and getting a seat post here in Korea would be a mission and a half.

    So muscle pain differs from pressure pain by not being caused by unequal weight distribution? The pain sets on gradually, not instantly, but the drops feel bad after a minute. I can handle the hoods for a bit longer before the discomfort sets it. Maybe 5 minutes. I can move around on the tops like a flat bar and in the rounded corners for up to an hour, but I am changing positions to relieve pressure. A friend told me to HTFU and just work out my weak hand muscles, that they're just not used to it but that they can be trained.

    I've been riding for 3 years 9000km. I've completed a 2,000 mile tour and been a bike commuter since 2010 but this has always, as long as I've had this bike, been a problem for me. I think it might be that the bars are wrong for me, the seat is too forward, or the frame is too big. I've done small fixes, like a riser stem, that seem to temporarily solve the problem but it's persistent. I just want to be able to use all the positions on my handlebar without this discomfort over long distances.

  11. #11
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Puzzling to me. The bike does not look too big for you. You seem to have a shorter torso/longer legs, but with the shorter stem, the handlebars do not look too far forward. The bars are, as you said, about level with the saddle, and they are not angled in any peculiar way. The seat does not look too far forward (in fact, your knee looks to be aft of the pedal spindle, it could just be how you are sitting on the saddle and I don't pay much attention to KOPS anyway).

    I am wondering if your hands just don't like being in the "palms-in" position for some reason. You seem okay with the "palms-down" position. If you rotate the brake levers inward quite a bit, say 30 degrees, does that make any difference to your comfort on the hoods?

    You could also try rotating the bars upward (raising the hoods). Even though the existing position doesn't seem too low or too too far forward, who knows.

    Finally, padded gloves are always worth a try. If that helps then you can pad under the bar tape. I am sort of doubtful that is the issue, though.

    Have you tried riding other bikes? Other drop-bar bikes but also bikes with North Road bars, mustache bars, etc? Since your hand discomfort shows up so quickly, it might not take a long ride to see if a different bar shape is worth trying.
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  12. #12
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    On my ride, I was thinking about the three suspects I've got lined up.

    I decided it can't be the frame size because a 54 frame would actually bring the bars closer to me, the opposite of what I want to by pushing the saddle backward on my imaginary rail. It would also lower the handle bars as the head tube would shrink and raise the height of the seat. All three effects would exasperate my problem, so it is definitely not the frame size.

    Next in line is the CX handlebars. I think the reach to the hoods is fine since as you can see in the picture my elbows do not lock up. Perhaps the drop is a little steeper than I would like, but I'm not even considering the drops right now. I just want to know why riding in the hoods causes me so much pain. Although, I think the bars may not be suited to my saddle to handlebar orientation. A racing type saddle might compliment the bars better. Notice the drop off where the tops round off in the corners and drop to the hood attachment point. It's a dip. (if that doesn't make sense, I can take a picture) I think a compact bar with easier to reach hoods and a flat ramp up to the hoods and shallow drop might help out. So the handlebar model is still on my list of possible culprits.

    Finally, the saddle being too far forward. I definitely noticed that the pain and discomfort set in quicker than I realized. I couldn't listen to a 3 minute song without it starting to hurt between 1:00 and 2:00 of the song. I tried to mind over matter it but at around 5 minutes, I absolutely had to reposition my hands or ride hands-free to relieve the pressure. Also, I noticed that the pain was bad when I was mashing higher gears, maybe between 65 and 70 RPM (that's a guesstimate). It was worse when I was spinning, between 90 and 95, but it was THE WORST when I was coasting. I'm positive my hands and arms are supporting my upper body weight which is...significant.

  13. #13
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Good observations.

    But it still seems odd that the pain comes on so quickly. And why your hands seem fine when on the bar tops, where they are still supporting your upper body.

    Do you ever ride with your hands on the hoods, but pointed knuckles forward, palm down, heel of hand on the hoods and fingers loosely curled over the pointy hood top? I do sometimes. Try that and see if they still hurt as quickly or as much.

    I'm still curious if it is the orientation of your hands that is the issue.

    As far as seatpost goes, aren't other seatposts available where you are?
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  14. #14
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    I skimmed this. So accept my apology if I missed it. Have you tried a little tilt the nose of the saddle up a bit? That can allow you to sit back and relieve some hand/arm/shoulder pressure...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jyl View Post
    Good observations.

    But it still seems odd that the pain comes on so quickly. And why your hands seem fine when on the bar tops, where they are still supporting your upper body.

    Do you ever ride with your hands on the hoods, but pointed knuckles forward, palm down, heel of hand on the hoods and fingers loosely curled over the pointy hood top? I do sometimes. Try that and see if they still hurt as quickly or as much.

    I'm still curious if it is the orientation of your hands that is the issue.

    As far as seatpost goes, aren't other seatposts available where you are?
    The top isn't fine, but it's I rest my hand loosely with the base of my palm on the bar and my fingers curled around the interrupter brakes. I shift my position from center on the top with the interrupters are on the rounded corners, but it's not fine. Just the least uncomfortable.

    I'll try that way of riding on the hoods, but shouldn't I be able to ride the hoods just like everybody else?

    I can get seat posts but it's a bit difficult. The easiest way is an online order, which may or may not be hit with a 25% customs fee depending on the inspector's mood that day. I may also be able to find it at an LBS but it's extremely unlikely since Korea is MTB crazy to the exclusion of road bikes. What I can find locally is likely to have a heavy mark-up so I may as well find exactly what I want and risk the customs fee.

  16. #16
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    a Facebook contact where I'm also discussing this suggested changing my stem for a similar effect to a setback seat post. Another friend disagreed, saying that while it is similar, it's not the same. A stem adjustment cannot replace a seat post adjustment and vice versa.

    I think I need a seat post with 30mm of setback. The current Kalloy has 20mm offset, so a 30mm setback seat post would allow me to move the saddle backward by 10mm.

    I could also go back to a longer stem, maybe a 100 or even 110mm.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianvee View Post
    I skimmed this. So accept my apology if I missed it. Have you tried a little tilt the nose of the saddle up a bit? That can allow you to sit back and relieve some hand/arm/shoulder pressure...
    Yea, the saddle is already tilted up a bit. My sit bones sit squarely on the body of the saddle while sparing my taint from the nose's upward protrusion, so it's pretty comfortable as is. I think pointing it up anymore might not be good for perineal pressure.

  18. #18
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    Yes, perplexing. Nothing strikes me as odd, out of place, or potentially troubling with how you fit on the bike, so that just leaves genetic defects.

    In all seriousness, I don't know what to say other than sorry I couldn't help, and good luck. Really, it could be anything, so I just hope you don't have to change everything to figure it out.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Yes, perplexing. Nothing strikes me as odd, out of place, or potentially troubling with how you fit on the bike, so that just leaves genetic defects.

    In all seriousness, I don't know what to say other than sorry I couldn't help, and good luck. Really, it could be anything, so I just hope you don't have to change everything to figure it out.
    Lol, thanks. I'm going to give the setback seat post a shot since I seem to loading a lot of weight forward. I was prepared to replace the frame, EXPENSIVE! so a seat post experiment will be nothing in comparison.

  20. #20
    Senior Member elcruxio's Avatar
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    But this is strange. From the pics you seem to have good setback, saddle tilt is good and your body angles don't seem that extreme. I am confused.
    It hurts even in the drops you say?

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    It hurts in every position. Bad on the tops, but tolerable. Worse on the hoods. Worst in the drops! So my suspicion is that either the handlebar isn't suited to my handlebar/saddle height ratio or the saddle needs to be pushed back. The Brooks can't slide further anymore, but I have a few other crappy saddles that probably can. I'm going to experiment with getting my knee slightly behind KOPS position and see if it helps. If it does, then I can order a seat post with more setback and get the Brooks on it. As I've read, Brooks saddles are notorious for not offering much rearward adjustability.

    Someone else told me the picture looks like my saddle is too backward and I need to slide it further. At this point, I might as well try that, too.

    If neither sliding it forward nor backward of KOPS works, then I'll start thinking more about the handlebars, but I'm through being satisfied with an uncomfortable set up. I know bikes are minimalist machines and of course, a lazy boy is more comfortable any day of the week, but something is not right with my set up.

  22. #22
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    Too far a reach can cause a lot of pressure on the hands too, especially if your core is not strong. Have you tried rotating your bars back towards you? The reach of those bars isn't short.

    Something I didn't see a picture of, and no mention of either, is handlebar width. That can make a crucial difference in hand comfort.

  23. #23
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Are you comfortable on other any bikes? If so, compare them to this one, by location/angle/reach of saddle/bar/etc, type of saddle/bar and also by how you sit on each, weight distribution (hands vs butt), etc. Might give you some clues.

    Are your hands sensitive in other situations? If you hold a pushup position, etc?
    Last edited by jyl; 07-11-13 at 08:43 AM.
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    2 other things come to mind for me- 1. I wonder if your body is not in love with your saddle. When this happens, you naturally take weight off of the saddle and place it in other areas, like your hands. Just a thought, since I've not seen you ride. 2. certainly try rotating your brake hoods in to match the natural position of your hand/wrist. Oftentimes, brake hoods are set parallel to the bike frame. This can put extra pressure on your hands/wrists. Tilting them inward a bit can relieve this pressure.

  25. #25
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Seems like that bike should at least be comfortable in the drops. Are you remembering to keep your elbows bent and loose at all times?
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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