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Fitting Your Bike Are you confused about how you should fit a bike to your particular body dimensions? Have you been reading, found the terms Merxx or French Fit, and don’t know what you need? Every style of riding is different- in how you fit the bike to you, and the sizing of the bike itself. It’s more than just measuring your height, reach and inseam. With the help of Bike Fitting, you’ll be able to find the right fit for your frame size, style of riding, and your particular dimensions. Here ya’ go…..the location for everything fit related.

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Old 07-27-14, 06:29 PM   #1
skycyclepilot
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Too Much Pressure On My Hands

I ride a new Giant Defy 1 which was fit to me when I bought it, and I've been trying to fine tune it ever since. Going through several saddles finally got me one I can stand, and according to the bike shop, the seat height, arm angle, arm reach, etc. are all correct. My latest issue is that my hands ache pretty early in any ride, especially at the base of the thumb, and my neck hurts at the base, when it meets the shoulders, on both sides. The two issues may be related, and then again...

Anyway, I tried a shorter stem, but it had me too upright, and made the bike a little squirrelly. I went back to the original stem, and swept the handlebar back a bit, to raise the hoods, but that didn't really help so I put it back. I've tried the saddle level, and with the nose down 2°, but really couldn't tell any difference there. Even level, it puts some pressure on my perineum, so I haven't tried tipping the nose up.I'm not sure what to try next.

Attached are three pictures of my setup. Does anyone see anything obviously wrong? Any suggestions?
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Old 07-27-14, 07:31 PM   #2
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I'm no fit expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds to me like core strength might be part of the equation. It looks like you're trying to get relatively low judging by the saddle to bar drop. Speaking from personal experience, being able to support more weight with your abdominal muscles will help take the pressure off of your hands. When I first started out, I had hand numbness/aches right at the base of the thumb where it hooked around the hoods or drops even though my position on the bike felt just right in terms of how stretched out I was. After I started doing situps, the issue gradually began to vanish. When I ride my road bike now, I have barely any weight on my hands unless I'm particularly tired and have been riding for a long time.

Seems to me like the neck ache may be related for one of two reasons. Either the weight you're supporting with your arms, or the fact that you're down pretty low and are craning your neck to look forwards. On this second point, I can also add a little bit of personal experience. I used to get neck aches when getting low on the bike riding with my cheap, bulky helmet. I realized that when it was on properly and I was on the bike, the front of the helmet was thick enough to obscure part of my vision. I upgraded my helmet to something a little less bulky, which allows me to have my head in a more natural position while still being able to look ahead when I'm low (by my standards) on the bike.

Just my .02, to be taken with a grain of salt.
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Old 07-27-14, 09:31 PM   #3
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Have you looked at these things?
Numb Hands
Riding Position Discovery
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04uoO7U_SA

But it's true that the most important ingredient to a pain-free time on the bike is fitness. Core, upper body, etc.: wherever you have pain, you should probably work that area.
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Old 07-28-14, 06:47 AM   #4
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With a zero setback seatpost clamping the middle of the saddle rails, your weight distribution is going to be pretty far forward unless you have exceptionally short femurs for your height. That means more weight on your hands and shoulders. When riding at medium power output, how much weight is on your hands? Does it feel like you could take your hands off the bars for a couple seconds without falling forward? If not, I'd suggest moving the saddle back at least 5mm and see if that improves things. See SEAT SET BACK: for road bikes » Bike Fit » Steve Hogg's Bike Fitting Website
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Old 07-28-14, 07:00 AM   #5
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With a zero setback seatpost clamping the middle of the saddle rails, your weight distribution is going to be pretty far forward unless you have exceptionally short femurs for your height. That means more weight on your hands and shoulders. When riding at medium power output, how much weight is on your hands? Does it feel like you could take your hands off the bars for a couple seconds without falling forward? If not, I'd suggest moving the saddle back at least 5mm and see if that improves things. See SEAT SET BACK: for road bikes » Bike Fit » Steve Hogg's Bike Fitting Website
Interesting article. I had to go to a zero offset post, and move the seat almost all the way forward to get KOPS. I'm 6' 1", and my Giant Defy 1 is a "Large", and 6' 1" is the shortest height they recommend for that bike. The LBS fit me to the bike, and all the lengths and angles were dead on, so I don't think the bike is too big for me, but it might be at the limit, thus the zero offset saddle post.

To answer your question, at average power, I could lift my hands, but it takes a considerable effort from my core muscles to hold me there - enough that I start sliding forward on the saddle. There is more weight on my hands than is comfortable. Everyone says to raise the handlebar to reduce the load on your arms, but there is another school of thought on that subject. It might actually help to lower them...

Neck Pain, Handlebar Height and Core....
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Old 07-28-14, 07:00 AM   #6
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Are you new to this game? If so, then I think your body just needs time to adjust to the position. My arms and neck killed me the first few times I went out, but I just needed more time to strengthen those muscles and work on my flexibility. I've been riding less than 2 years, but it wasn't until recently that I feel comfortable in any biking position.

So don't push yourself to get into the drops. Ride on the tops and occasionally go into the hoods until it becomes more comfortable to ride in the hoods (it will eventually, but it will take time). Until you've developed more flexibility and core strength, the drops are going to be awkward and place strain on your neck and hands. All you have to do is keep riding, but build up your miles slowly.

If you are an experienced cyclist, then forget everything I said because I have no idea what else could be wrong.
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Old 07-28-14, 07:08 AM   #7
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Are you new to this game? If so, then I think your body just needs time to adjust to the position. My arms and neck killed me the first few times I went out, but I just needed more time to strengthen those muscles and work on my flexibility. I've been riding less than 2 years, but it wasn't until recently that I feel comfortable in any biking position.

So don't push yourself to get into the drops. Ride on the tops and occasionally go into the hoods until it becomes more comfortable to ride in the hoods (it will eventually, but it will take time). Until you've developed more flexibility and core strength, the drops are going to be awkward and place strain on your neck and hands. All you have to do is keep riding, but build up your miles slowly.

If you are an experienced cyclist, then forget everything I said because I have no idea what else could be wrong.
It's been many years since I've ridden seriously. I've 52, and I was in my mid-30s the last time I had a serious road bike, but I never experienced any real discomfort back then. Maybe age is a factor, and I have only been riding the new bike for less than a month - 160 miles. I'm sure I do need more time to acclimate, but I still feel that the fit isn't quite right.
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Old 07-28-14, 08:33 AM   #8
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Old 07-28-14, 09:06 AM   #9
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I'm not a fit aficionado either and to be honest I don't have high regard for the exquisitely small adjustments solving big problems. But I'm pretty confident that the neck thing is from having to crane your head up in a position that you're not used to. It should subside as your neck muscles strengthen. Also if you're tensed up and shoulders hunched it tends to exacerbate that.

There's always pressure on the hands if you have a more aggressive forward lean regardless of fit. That a shorter stem feels squirrelly is a clue - the stem doesn't mechanically affect the handling much, but it would if you're still putting a lot of pressure on it. The core - back muscles between arms and legs - take up the weight, and moving the seat back might engage them more. Mainly as they strengthen, there is less weight on your hands. Mechanically speaking, if we were an inert object, moving the rear back does not reduce weight on the hands; it increases weight there due to the lower angle. Unless the person also straightens his arms which I suspect is often the case.

Sometimes we just need to raise the handlebar and have a more upright position, and work down to more saddle to bar drop.

The other issue is sometimes it's not the weight on the hands, it's where the pressure is. If our hand is situated such that the nerve down in the heel of the hand is pressed against, the hand and fingers will go numb. It is a function of how we're grasping the hoods and wrist angle. I'd study a chart of the ulna nerve and avoid pressing on it at all.
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Old 07-28-14, 10:16 AM   #10
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It's been many years since I've ridden seriously. I've 52, and I was in my mid-30s the last time I had a serious road bike, but I never experienced any real discomfort back then. Maybe age is a factor, and I have only been riding the new bike for less than a month - 160 miles. I'm sure I do need more time to acclimate, but I still feel that the fit isn't quite right.
Maybe? No maybe about it. I can say that. I am 55. I cannot adopt the same fit parameters as when I was 32. Maybe your stem is too long and maybe it isn't but I do think if you are 52 and having issues with hands then you could do worse than get a stem extender and raise your bars to just under saddle height, assuming that is set correctly. You can always remove it once your fitness improves and you want more stretch. I think your bars are still rotated overmuch. You said you returned them to normal. Erm... no. normal would be with the ends of the drops making at most a 10* or 12* angle with horizontal. You can then move your brifters higher on the bars so the ramps are slightly tilted up. I get my brake levers perfectly vertical and let the angle of the ramps follow that. Look at some other bikes and see how they are set up. I know it isn't a scientific measurement technique, but, humor me. When you have your elbow against the nose of the saddle, do your fingers reach the bars? They should. Just reaching is good. A little bit of overlap isn't terrible at your age. Again, I can say that because I am older than you. FWIW

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Old 07-28-14, 10:48 AM   #11
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I had to go to a zero offset post, and move the seat almost all the way forward to get KOPS.
The M/L and L Defy both have a 73 deg STA, so frame size really isn't affecting set-back. KOPS is ok as a starting point for set-back (you gotta start somewhere), but there is no basis for treating it as a goal. Even a fit system like Retul (that uses a variation on KOPS) considers anything in the range of 0 to -10mm to be appropriate fit for a road bike. In my experience, if you're near the critical balance point, just a few mm change in setback can have a pretty significant effect on weight distribution. The best part is it's insanely easy (and zero cost) to test.

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Everyone says to raise the handlebar to reduce the load on your arms, but there is another school of thought on that subject. It might actually help to lower them...

Neck Pain, Handlebar Height and Core....
Raising the handlebar opens up the back angle which has the effect of shifting some of your weight rearward relative to the BB. The effect on weight distribution is similar to moving the saddle back, but with the added negative side effect of hurting your aerodynamics. The idea of lowering the bars isn't improving the weight distribution, it's just leveraging tension in the posterior muscle chain to help support the weight. If your core is strong enough to do this without getting fatigued and still keep the pelvis properly rotated forward, then it may work for you. But the potential down side is that if you're using those muscles to support your weight, you're taking away some of their ability to generate power.
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Old 07-28-14, 01:32 PM   #12
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Sit in a chair, with your feet below the front edge of the seat cushion and your butt slid forward to the front edge of the seat cushion. Then lean your body forward 45 degrees or more. You will fall forward. You have to either support yourself with your hands on the table, or by tightening your core muscles pretty hard.

Now push your butt all the way the the back of the seat cushion (to the back rest) and lean forward. You won't fall forward, or at least you'll be able to support yourself with just a fingertip on the table or just small tightening of your core muscles.

Use that experience to try experimenting with your bike fit. I would try sliding your saddle rearward. If that helps but not enough, try a seatpost with some setback as well. At this point, don't worry about reach to your bars/hoods, hold the bar tops if you need to.

Note that sliding your saddle rearward will effectively raise it as well. Measure distance from pedal to the top of the center part of the saddle surface, and adjust the seatpost down a bit, if needed to keep that distance constant.

After you get saddle position right, then adjust reach to the hoods if necessary, use a shorter stem or shorter bars.

Don't worry about KOPS. In my experience, that is just a rough rule of thumb and your knee can be off KOPS without any problem.
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Old 07-28-14, 03:23 PM   #13
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Sit in a chair, with your feet below the front edge of the seat cushion and your butt slid forward to the front edge of the seat cushion. Then lean your body forward 45 degrees or more. You will fall forward. You have to either support yourself with your hands on the table, or by tightening your core muscles pretty hard.

Now push your butt all the way the the back of the seat cushion (to the back rest) and lean forward. You won't fall forward, or at least you'll be able to support yourself with just a fingertip on the table or just small tightening of your core muscles. ...
Not so! Keep the butt at the front part of the chair and then slide the chair back (like moving a bike seat, without adding the support from the chair cushion for the upper legs) and you'll find more weight on your hands, not less.

Moving the seat back sometimes helps, but that's not why. I bring it up because it can be confusing, when bike fit advice contradicts basic principles of leverage and mechanics.
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Old 07-28-14, 03:46 PM   #14
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Not so! Keep the butt at the front part of the chair and then slide the chair back (like moving a bike seat, without adding the support from the chair cushion for the upper legs) and you'll find more weight on your hands, not less.
Neither example is relevant because they both ignore the third point of contact. It's your CG (center of gravity) relative to the pedal when you're applying pedaling force that matters.
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Old 07-28-14, 03:48 PM   #15
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Neither example is relevant because they both ignore the third point of contact. It's your CG (center of gravity) relative to the pedal when you're applying pedaling force that matters.
Only if you're out of the saddle.


(whatever vertical force from pedaling subtracts from weight, the remaining weight is distributed between the saddle and handlebar.)

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Old 07-28-14, 03:49 PM   #16
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[QUOTE=jyl;16982520]Sit in a chair, with your feet below the front edge of the seat cushion and your butt slid forward to the front edge of the seat cushion. Then lean your body forward 45 degrees or more. You will fall forward. You have to either support yourself with your hands on the table, or by tightening your core muscles pretty hard.

Now push your butt all the way the the back of the seat cushion (to the back rest) and lean forward. You won't fall forward, or at least you'll be able to support yourself with just a fingertip on the table or just small tightening of your core muscles.

Use that experience to try experimenting with your bike fit. I would try sliding your saddle rearward. If that helps but not enough, try a seatpost with some setback as well. At this point, don't worry about reach to your bars/hoods, hold the bar tops if you need to.

Note that sliding your saddle rearward will effectively raise it as well. Measure distance from pedal to the top of the center part of the saddle surface, and adjust the seatpost down a bit, if needed to keep that distance constant.

After you get saddle position right, then adjust reach to the hoods if necessary, use a shorter stem or shorter bars.

Don't worry about KOPS. In my experience, that is just a rough rule of thumb and your knee can be off KOPS without any problem.[/QUOTE

Part of the blame for the persistence of this myth of rearward position to un-weight the upper body has to go to Peter White. Is that where you got it? There or someone else who drank the Kool-Aid. I've got a simpler experiment to show you how much of a FAIL it is to want to rely on fore-aft travel to balance hand and arm forces. 1. Take a tape measure or ruler and measure the front to back distance of the seat you were going to use for your experiment above. When I do that I get 16.5". For extra convincing you can also measure the seat rails of your favorite saddle... I get 4.5" for mine. KOPS is achieved with the saddle centered. That gives me a possible 2" maximum if I want to experiment with getting more rearward. If you need $16 to see the concert and you only have $2 is there any point to getting dressed up and going to the concert hall?

As kopsis (ruh?) says, KOPS is at least a starting point. I would argue it is more than that. But I don't think it is up for argument that the 2" or so afforded by most available seats does not allow anyone to really explore the possibility of using fore-aft position to unweight the hands so you may as well maintain KOPS. Why throw everything out of whack because you can't achieve the perfect equilibrioum for forces on your upper torso. I get that one can work just fine outside of KOPS but, why should we?

Some people think that cycling will make them more fit. To a point. What I think is that you should approach cycling with a reasonable baseline of body fitness if you want to enjoy it from the beginning of your involvement with it. Everyone, but especially cyclists should be able to perform 200 situps or abdominal crunches before muscular failure. Its best to build the core strength using these simple exercises rather than loads of road miles. FWIW.

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Old 07-28-14, 05:24 PM   #17
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Not so! Keep the butt at the front part of the chair and then slide the chair back (like moving a bike seat, without adding the support from the chair cushion for the upper legs) and you'll find more weight on your hands, not less.

Moving the seat back sometimes helps, but that's not why. I bring it up because it can be confusing, when bike fit advice contradicts basic principles of leverage and mechanics.
Hmm. I'm sitting doing the experiment your way - keeping my feet in the same position on the floor, and rolling the chair back and forth. The further forward the chair rolls - i.e. the closer my butt is to vertically over my feet - the more I need to support my leaned-forward torso with my hands on the desk. The further back the chair rolls - i.e. the further my butt is "behind" my feet - the less I need to support my torso with hands.

Makes sense to me. Leaning your torso forward already moves your center of gravity forward. Moving your butt forward then moves your center of gravity even farther forward, imbalancing you to the point that you will fall (forward) if your hands aren't supporting you. But moving your butt backward puts you in a more balanced position.

Here the floor is the pedals, the chair is the saddle, and the desk is the handlebars. When you are pedaling, you are pressing down with your foot on the pedal, just like you are pressing down with your foot on the floor in my chair experiment. Even when you are coasting, the pedals are available to support your feet.

I think what I have describing is related to what Steve Hogg describes here SEAT SET BACK: for road bikes » Bike Fit » Steve Hogg's Bike Fitting Website
"the longer the torso, the more weight the rider is projecting forward from the seat, which means that the further back the rider needs the seat set back to counterbalance and support the weight of the torso without requiring significant effort of the arms, shoulders and upper back"

Hogg is talking about riders with different body dimensions and differing ability to bend at the hips (flat back) as opposed to curving their spine (hump back). But the principle of counter balancing also applies to a rider who leans his body forward more (like OP is doing) as opposed to less (like the rider of an upright bike).

Take as an extreme case a time trial bike, where the saddle is very far forward (seat tube vertical) and the torso is leaned very far forward. This rider has to use arm pads to support himself. Or, take the example of a unicyclist, a rider who has no ability to support himself on his handlebars since he has none. If the unicyclist leans his torso forward (while maintaining a constant speed), he will fall forward on his face. To avoid a faceplant, he must push his butt and the saddle rearward.

Anyway, I feel the OP should try this experiment for himself, on the chair and on the bike. I say one thing, and apparently people like Peter White and Steve Hoggs say similar; you guys say a different thing; OP can find out for himself. Sliding his saddle on the rails, he has 2.5" of adjustment; going from a zero setback to a 45 mm setback post gives him another 1.8"; 4.25" is quite a lot, actually - you'll see if you mark that distance on the floor as you roll your chair back and forth.

I definitely disagree that the OP or anyone has to do a boatload of core exercise (200 abdominal crunches?) to be able to ride a road bike. I can ride a century - have ridden six of them in the past couple years - on my roadbike, with no great discomfort to my hands. I doubt I can do 40 sit ups . . . but with my saddle set well back, I can ride in the drops, back varying from 10 to 30 degrees, for hours on end. 51 y/o by the way.

Last edited by jyl; 07-28-14 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 07-28-14, 06:31 PM   #18
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Most people need to raise the stem to shorten the reach to keep pressure off the hands with a more relaxed position on the bars and a shorter reach, more upright stem helps, too.

Sitting upright comes at an aerodynamic cost but its way kinder to your hands, arms and back.
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Old 07-28-14, 07:53 PM   #19
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Hmm. I'm sitting doing the experiment your way - keeping my feet in the same position on the floor, and rolling the chair back and forth. The further forward the chair rolls - i.e. the closer my butt is to vertically over my feet - the more I need to support my leaned-forward torso with my hands on the desk. The further back the chair rolls - i.e. the further my butt is "behind" my feet - the less I need to support my torso with hands. ...
Then you are likely pressing down unconsciously, or unconsciously engaging your core. Put scales under your feet and keep the same reading both ways, and stay relaxed from the waist down.


Hoggs is just incorrect.
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Old 07-28-14, 09:20 PM   #20
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I am no expert either, but that won't stop me It can be one of two things, either your seat is too forward so your center of gravity is too forward, or your core muscles need work (or both). Nothing to do with stem IMO. If you are well balanced with a slight forward COG, the stem shouldn't matter that much. Think about it. If your COG is forward so your arms and hands must support your weight, raising the stem isn't going to help because it will not change your COG. It will probably make things worse.
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Old 07-28-14, 10:08 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Then you are likely pressing down unconsciously, or unconsciously engaging your core. Put scales under your feet and keep the same reading both ways, and stay relaxed from the waist down.


Hoggs is just incorrect.
Of course you engage your core.

In the saddle forward position, if you are trying to avoid supporting yourself with your hands, you would have to engage your core hard, really hold your trunk rigid, because you are fighting the imbalance that wants to topple you forward. Your center of gravity is too far forward, and an unbalanced object still tips over, no matter how rigid it is. In the saddle rearward position, you still engage your core, but you don't have to do it as hard, because you are not fighting an imbalanced position, you are simply doing a not-very-deep squat.

Here is another experiment you can try. You've done squats with a bar and weights, I assume. Get in the squat rack, put that loaded bar on your shoulders, keep your butt directly over your feet, and bend forward at the waist. You'll hurt yourself, fall forward, and get yelled at by all the lifters who know what they are about. One of them will get in the squat rack and show you the right way. He'll push his butt way back while bending forward at the hips. Because he is balanced, he will not fall over. Sure he is engaging his core, but so were you; you were imbalanced and he is balanced.
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Old 07-28-14, 10:15 PM   #22
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I was about to suggest that you try a military press while leaning forward ... but mainly, I've said my bit already, so I rest my case.
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Old 07-28-14, 10:18 PM   #23
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I am no expert either, but that won't stop me It can be one of two things, either your seat is too forward so your center of gravity is too forward, or your core muscles need work (or both). Nothing to do with stem IMO. If you are well balanced with a slight forward COG, the stem shouldn't matter that much. Think about it. If your COG is forward so your arms and hands must support your weight, raising the stem isn't going to help because it will not change your COG. It will probably make things worse.
raising the stem moves the center of gravity back, since you aren't leaning forward as much ...
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Old 07-28-14, 10:56 PM   #24
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raising the stem moves the center of gravity back, since you aren't leaning forward as much ...
Unless it is a very large change in the stem/bar height, I believe the shift in your COG would be negligible. Moving your seat fore or aft is a more significant change as it shifts your a$$ horizontally. Changing the handlebar height shifts some weight, but not directly because it goes as the cosine of the angle of the torso to the horizontal. To illustrate, if your torso is already horizontal, changing the bar height by a couple of inches won't change your COG significantly. It doesn't mover any weight back past your seat.
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Old 07-29-14, 05:36 AM   #25
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Unless it is a very large change in the stem/bar height, I believe the shift in your COG would be negligible. Moving your seat fore or aft is a more significant change as it shifts your a$$ horizontally. Changing the handlebar height shifts some weight, but not directly because it goes as the cosine of the angle of the torso to the horizontal. To illustrate, if your torso is already horizontal, changing the bar height by a couple of inches won't change your COG significantly. It doesn't mover any weight back past your seat.
No, your trig formulation is wrong but you're on the right track. Draw out the force vectors, use some basic trigonometry and you'll see why I'm right.
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