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  1. #1
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Pain in the neck

    How do you roadie riders with your low handlebars avoid neck pain? I've got a hybrid that I'm slowly turning into a road bike: I started with thinner tires, and am now gradually lowering my bars, but am finding it painful in my neck at times looking up at the road ahead.

    How do you deal with this?
    Last edited by rousseau; 02-23-08 at 08:11 PM.

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    05 Roubaix Comp Double
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    Make sure your elbows stay bent. Crap happens when you try to make a silver into gold.
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

  3. #3
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Don't lower your bars below the saddle. If they are drop bars the drops can be below, but the tops should be level. Keep in mind as you do this conversion process, that the geometry is different, with different assumptions of reach from saddle to handlebars involved.

    Another thing...bar width. As your bars go lower, if they are wider than your skeletal shoulder then it can cause you to "scrunch" your shoulders up as you support more of your weight on your arms. With your shoulders scrunched up, it makes you strain your neck more to tilt your head back/up in order to look at the road, because your shoulders are all bunched up right at the base of your neck, impeding free head movement.
    Good night...and good luck

  4. #4
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    The posture on a road bike hurts everyone at first.

    Maintaining a regular routine of stretching and flexibility (not just neck but abs, back, etc.) will help, in addition to some of the tips mentioned above.
    Can you pass the test?
    Yield to Life.

  5. #5
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 'nother
    The posture on a road bike hurts everyone at first.
    I disagree.

    The posture on a RACING bike hurts everyone at first. A road bike can be set up sensibly with the handlebars level with the saddle, and without everything geometrically designed and geared towards sprinting and racing.
    Good night...and good luck

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    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by banzai_f16
    I disagree.

    The posture on a RACING bike hurts everyone at first. A road bike can be set up sensibly with the handlebars level with the saddle, and without everything geometrically designed and geared towards sprinting and racing.
    Fair enough. However I think that kind of negates the idea of "converting" a hybrid to road bike. Simply slapping on drop bars and skinny tires does not a road bike make.
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  7. #7
    Skin-Pounder Bikes-N-Drums's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau
    I've got a hybrid that I'm slowing turning into a road bike:
    I tried this and no matter what I did, the hybrid never had the performance of a "real" road bike. I would have been better off selling the hybrid and going with a road bike, which is what I ultimately did.
    We are the musicmakers and we are the dreamers of dreams...

  8. #8
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 'nother
    Fair enough. However I think that kind of negates the idea of "converting" a hybrid to road bike. Simply slapping on drop bars and skinny tires does not a road bike make.
    True. And of course we don't know just what kind of a "road" bike this "hybrid" is turning into. It will never be a racing bike, because there are some fundamental frame geometry issues that cannot be changed. Turning a hybrid into a "road friendly" bike can be as simple as a slight lowering of the handlebars, swapping the knobbies for semi-slicks or invert treads, and slapping a different handlebar on.

    However, I still believe the neck pain is being caused by the fact that as the OPs handlebars get lower, he hasn't changed the width yet, or maybe bought a bar in an inappropriate width. The bars are too wide, and that's the root of the problem.

    Oh, and to the OP, I don't even know if it's possible on a hybrid convert, but don't put those handlebars lower than the saddle. The geometry should not be right for that anyway.
    Good night...and good luck

  9. #9
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by banzai_f16
    True. And of course we don't know just what kind of a "road" bike this "hybrid" is turning into. It will never be a racing bike, because there are some fundamental frame geometry issues that cannot be changed. Turning a hybrid into a "road friendly" bike can be as simple as a slight lowering of the handlebars, swapping the knobbies for semi-slicks or invert treads, and slapping a different handlebar on.
    However, I still believe the neck pain is being caused by the fact that as the OPs handlebars get lower, he hasn't changed the width yet, or maybe bought a bar in an inappropriate width. The bars are too wide, and that's the root of the problem.

    Oh, and to the OP, I don't even know if it's possible on a hybrid convert, but don't put those handlebars lower than the saddle. The geometry should not be right for that anyway.
    Interesting, I'd never considered handlebar width. I'll have to look into that. What I've done so far is simply to put on thinner tires (700 x 25) with invert treads and lower the bars. My bars are now even with my seat. But I'll be sure not to put them too low, though, thanks for the tip.

  10. #10
    Senior Member LordOpie's Avatar
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    STOP!

    Don't turn your hybrid into a road bike... buy a road bike and keep using the hybrid on shorter rides to breakfast and cruising

  11. #11
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    I'm grateful for the replies to this thread. Can I pull a complete "newbie" here and throw a different and more, ahem, "pressing" problem out to the experts?

    I'm a 40 year-old. Six feet tall, 240 pounds, very big boned (i.e. 40 pounds overweight, not 60). I'm in good shape all around, save for the extra weight. Just got back into cycling this year after 15 years or so off a bike, and have been riding religously this spring, doing 35-km rides every day averaging 23 km/h with ease (don't laugh, I'm proud and happy about that, and want that speed to continue increasing).

    But I haven't ridden the last five days due to the pain I've been in. Here's the scoop:

    Tuesday I went out on a gloriously warm Ontario (Canada) day to do a quick 30-km ride in the afternoon. I'd just put slicks on my hybrid a few days prior and lowered my handlebars a bit, so I was going fast (for me). What I was really beginning to enjoy were the 2 to 4-km stretches into strong headwinds, because where in the past I'd find them disheartening, with the new slicks I'd just lower my head and do more "lifting" in my cadence to keep my speed up and power through them. With these new slicks I was inspired, and really riding hard. Everything seem fine on Tuesday, but halfway through my ride I went for a drink of cherry Gatorade, and...yuck! It felt like there was sand in it, and it tasted really and strangely bitter. But, silly me, at the time I figured maybe it just wasn't that sweet, so I drank half my bottle before finally giving up on it.

    By the time I got home my stomach was in pain. Excruciating pain. I spent the next day constipated, with the pain slowly shifting down my stomach, until finally by Thursday I could move my bowels a bit. By then the pain was right at the bottom, a two-pronged attack of sharpish pain just about two inches above the top of the penis, i.e. in the bladder area, combined with further pain in the area between the testicles and anus. Coughing and laughing was painful, as was bending over and even laying down. I've slept badly, being woken up by the pain. On Friday the doctor had me pee in a cup, and ruled out a number of things. Since by the time I saw him the pain had begun to subside somewhat, he said to leave it for a few days to see if it cleared up, and suggested that it could have been a muscle strain from cycling or perhaps irritable bowels, which might have explained the strange taste in my mouth.

    It's now Sunday evening. The pain has noticeably subsided, and I was able to sleep last night, but it isn't completely gone. I know that I really did something to myself, but I'm not completely sure what. I want to keep riding, but I don't want to go through what I just went through again. Which was...what? Would anyone have any ideas?

    My thoughts:

    1. When I first bought my Fuji hybrid last fall I had a regular saddle that gave me pain in the area between the testicles and anus (is there a name for that area?) and a numb penis. Ouch. I bought a split saddle, lowered the front a bit, and solved the problem. Or did I? Is my current conundrum the result of the new lowered handlebars? Does it look like my bike isn't set up properly? Do I need an expert at a bike shop to set me up on it correctly? Here's a photo:



    2. The new slicks at 115 psi are fast and soul-stirring on flat, smooth straightaways in the peaceful countryside, but they are pretty rough when the asphalt isn't in pristine condition. Did the bumps do me in? The shocks on the front forks and the seat on my hybrid don't really work.

    3. When I got home my wife washed out my water bottle and noticed a bunch of black stuff at the bottom. She got it out with a scouring pad, but up to then I'd only ever rinsed my bottle out with water, and would keep unfinished Gatorade in my bottle in the fridge over night and even over the weekend. Did I swallow a bunch of mould which did harm to my digestive system, partly plugging me up and not getting through very easily? Or was it a "bad" batch of cherry Gatorade?

    I'd be grateful for any ideas you might have. I wish I knew for sure what happened to me. At the moment I'm a bit gunshy about getting back on my bike, which is really depressing.

  12. #12
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    Assuming that your bike is the correct size, and the the saddle is level, and at the correct height, pain in the neck, crotch, wrists or hands is caused by having the bars too low. The correct height for the bars is with the highest part of the bars (next to the stem) about level with the highest part of the saddle.

    Pro cyclist keep their bars lower, because at 35 mph, a lower position is slightly faster. They get a neck and back massage at the end of the afternoon, and a fat paycheck to endure the pain. You are not getting paid to ride, and you are unlikely to get a neck massage after you ride. Raise your bars.

  13. #13
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Your problem sounds digestive in nature. At least the acute one does. Wash that bottle!

    Looking at the pic of your bike...

    You may be approaching the point where the bars are too low for you to use the bar ends. Reference earlier comments about width and scrunched shoulders. Options are: cut your handlbar down. Raise the bar. Get a different kind of bar. Beware! There are very real mechanical issues involved in converting to a drop bar, and if you were going to do that, I would just buy a roadie.

    I'm not a pro, but I don't like that forward saddle tilt. That will cause you to slide forward, placing pressure from the horn on your soft bits. The sliding forward will cause you to strain more with your arms trying to stay on the saddle, which could be amplifying the neck issues. As you prop on you arms, once fatigue sets in you lock your elbows and LEAN into your raised up scrunched shoulders.

    Your saddle SHOULD be mostly level, with the aft end where your bum goes ever so slightly higher than the front in that level position. Some people place the aft level with the horn, giving it the appearance of an upward tilt. That kind of tilt will cause you to "fall" back on your saddle rather than forward, easing arm pressure, but impeding your ability to "crouch" without genital issues.

    Check your saddle adjustment before moving your bars more. A forward falling moment on your saddle may actually be exacerbating this issue. If you find that leveling your saddle places you just a bit forward, then slide your saddle forward on the rails, moving you closer to the handlebars.
    Good night...and good luck

  14. #14
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    P.S. Nice looking bike.
    Good night...and good luck

  15. #15
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Many thanks for the replies. You'd think I'd be at my local bike shop asking all these questions, but I honestly don't think they'd know what to tell me. They're nice guys, and I love the shop, but they're all 20-something mountain biker types who tend to answer with "yeah, sure, I guess" whenever I ask them anything. Problem is, they're the only game in town--the "serious" bike shops in the big city are a half-hour drive away. And I don't have a bike rack on my car.

    Your comprehensive replies have got me thinking...I'm noticing that I tend to slide my butt backwards on my saddle sometimes. It happens when I want to pedal a bit differently, i.e. when I feel like putting more forward/horizontal power into my cadence for a change of pace (Does this make any sense? I hope I'm explaining myself well enough here). I'll go like that for ten minutes or so, and then slide forward again. I wonder if I'm not defeating the purpose of the split-seat saddle when I do that, in that the soft stretch between the genitals and the sit bones are bearing my weight?

    Might this be an indication that my bike is too small for me? I do have my saddle up as high on the post is it can possibly go (way beyond the factory recommended height), with only an inch or two to spare. Which is how I rode out of the shop on it last fall. Hmm....

  16. #16
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    When you are putting more power into the pedals, you are probably crouching or leaning forward a bit too, to grip your bars and use your gluts. The change in posture will cause you to slide your butt back a bit. That's natural. Fore/aft saddle positioning will find a good medium between all your riding postures with comfort and support for you with all of them.

    I do believe though that the forward tilt is causing you to use your arms to stay on your saddle; i.e. without your arms holding you there you would slide right off.

    That seat post doesn't look like it's beyond specs, unless it's just a really short seatpost. Without the ability to do a full up fit, one easy question should take care of some of that: How much clearance is there between the top tube and your crotch when you stand over the bike with your feet placed about 1 foot apart? For a "hybrid" bike, that number should be about 2-3 inches, I believe. A general rule is 1+" for a road bike or one that will never leave a prepared surface, 2"-3" for a bike that may see some trails and/or very light "off road" duty, and 3+" for a bike that will see serious off road duty. There are also some more technical geometry issues to cover, but since a "hybrid" bike is more or less based off of a MTB type frame, and similar geometry, 2"-3" should get you "in the ballpark".

    To measure, stand over your bike, then pull the front wheel up until it makes contact with your crotch. A good solid contact, so not as hard as you can until you've pulled through to the bone, but not at the merest touch of anything either. (you have some bits down there that can give you a "false reading", depending on the temperature, time of day, etc. you know what I mean.) Measure how far the front wheel comes off the ground. A partner is a big help with this.

    If that measurement is about right, then there may be some other issues. However, I do think that saddle needs to be level. That forward dumping ramp could be causing a bunch of problems in your arms, shoulders, and in your positioning on the saddle.
    Good night...and good luck

  17. #17
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Thanks again for the replies. I gingerly went out today, my first ride in a week. I leveled out the saddle like you said, but it just didn't feel right to me. There was too much pressure on my groin, which was what led to the scary numbness and pain I had last year (which I subsequently solved by lowering the nose of the saddle). So I compromised and tilted it halfway between level and the nosedive in the photo above. Honestly, that feels much better to me. I think I'm going to stick with it this way, for now.

    I raised the bars slightly, as well, but after last week I'm not so concerned about neck pain anymore.

    Oh, there is about 2" clearance for my bike as per your test, so I guess the bike is the right size, after all.

  18. #18
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau
    Oh, there is about 2" clearance for my bike as per your test, so I guess the bike is the right size, after all.
    There are of course a lot of technical fit issues that go along with this...but like I said, that figure will get you "in the ballpark" frame wise. It's minor fore/aft adjustments from there.

    By a level saddle, you shouldn't be able to actually set a level on it from nose to tail, and have it come up mathematically level. A "level" saddle will actually have the tail end ever so slightly higher than the nose.

    Hopefully this starts to work out for you a bit better.
    Good night...and good luck

  19. #19
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    The fact that you have tilted the nose of your saddle sharply down suggests your saddle height is too high, and your bar height is too low.

    Your saddle needs to be level, or very close to level. You could have the back 1/4th inch lower than the front, or vice versa, but the saddle needs to be level. After the saddle is level, adjust the saddle height.

    The saddle is adjusting by sitting on your bike, using a hand on a wall for support, and with both heels centered on the pedals. With both heels centered on the pedals, put one foot at 6 o'clock. That leg should now be straight, with no bend in the knee. You should be able to pedal backwards smoothly without your hips rocking from side to side.

    Next, verify the saddle height is correct by centering the balls of your feet on the pedals. With one foot at 6 o' clock you should have a small, but distinct and visible bend in your knee. And, again, you should be able to smoothly pedal backwards without your hips rocking from side to side.

    Last, adjust the bar height so that the highest part of the bars is level with the top of the saddle.

    It takes your muscles a while to get used to any new position on a bike, even a correct position on the bike. So, after setting up your bike, try to ride at least thirty minutes every day. In a week or two, you will begin to feel comfortable and relaxed in the new riding position.

    This fitting method puts the saddle lower than a "Pro" position and puts the bars higher than a "Pro" position. And, that's okay. You are riding to relax, enjoy the ride, and get fit. A Pro rider selects a position based on what is most aerodynamic at 30 mph, and accepts pain as the price of being aerodynamic. You ain't no Pro and you won't be riding at 30 mph. Set your bike up for comfort, not speed.

  20. #20
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    I used to ride with obscene amounts of drop in the bars....when I measured it before I started working on raising the bars, I had a 5.5" drop from the top of the bars to the top of the saddle. Oddly enough the geometry of the bike allowed for this, and it was fast as hell....seriously....headwinds meant nothing when that aero.

    Downside, no matter what I did, my hands hurt like hell at the end of the day...and having my head as far back as it can, while good for opening the throat for better breathing, was not all the comfortable for anything more than 30mi.

    So now, I am working on getting the bars close to level myself....it was at 3.9" last time, but that was as high as they could go...so time for a new fork so i can get them up to the 1.5" drop i desire.

    Thing is, a slightly lower bar is desireable if you plan on sport riding...but if you are primarily a utility cyclist, you want seat level, or possibly a tad higher.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member rousseau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    The fact that you have tilted the nose of your saddle sharply down suggests your saddle height is too high, and your bar height is too low.

    Your saddle needs to be level, or very close to level. You could have the back 1/4th inch lower than the front, or vice versa, but the saddle needs to be level. After the saddle is level, adjust the saddle height.

    The saddle is adjusting by sitting on your bike, using a hand on a wall for support, and with both heels centered on the pedals. With both heels centered on the pedals, put one foot at 6 o'clock. That leg should now be straight, with no bend in the knee. You should be able to pedal backwards smoothly without your hips rocking from side to side.

    Next, verify the saddle height is correct by centering the balls of your feet on the pedals. With one foot at 6 o' clock you should have a small, but distinct and visible bend in your knee. And, again, you should be able to smoothly pedal backwards without your hips rocking from side to side.

    Last, adjust the bar height so that the highest part of the bars is level with the top of the saddle.

    It takes your muscles a while to get used to any new position on a bike, even a correct position on the bike. So, after setting up your bike, try to ride at least thirty minutes every day. In a week or two, you will begin to feel comfortable and relaxed in the new riding position.

    This fitting method puts the saddle lower than a "Pro" position and puts the bars higher than a "Pro" position. And, that's okay. You are riding to relax, enjoy the ride, and get fit. A Pro rider selects a position based on what is most aerodynamic at 30 mph, and accepts pain as the price of being aerodynamic. You ain't no Pro and you won't be riding at 30 mph. Set your bike up for comfort, not speed.
    Thanks for the advice. I followed it, and found that my saddle height was already spot on. I've actually raised my handlebars by a few inches, back to what they were previously before I got it into my head that I ought to be bent over like a pro racer. My handlebars are now about an inch or so higher than my saddle.

    About the saddle being level, though...I'm a bit gunshy on that issue. I've experienced some intense perineum pain since taking up cycling again, and only pointing the nose down a bit has eased it for me. When the saddle is level I simply feel too much pressure on my groin. Today I wore my cycling shorts with padding for the first time since I bought them last year (they felt too tight, so I never wore them), and I guess I'm going to be wearing cycling shorts on my rides from now on.

    Are you experienced cyclists telling this neophyte that padded cycling shorts on a perfectly level saddle will not cause perineum pain? Hmmmm....I'll have to consider that, but the slight forward angle I've got it at now (less extreme than in the photo above) just feels better to me. But, again, I'm grateful for all the advice, so I have to wonder...am I kidding myself on this score?

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    If the saddle height is correct, you really need to ride with the back half of the saddle dead level. If the support platform is level, your weight on your pelvis - your sitbones. If the saddle is tilted forward, your pelvis will tilt forward, putting your weight on the soft bits. That will result in pain, numbness, or a bit of both.

    If you have crotch pain on a level saddle, it generally means the padding is too soft, and your sitbones are sinking into the padding, putting pressure on your crotch. Try a medium width Specialized Body Geometry saddle with the firmest padding you can find. A firm saddle with a cut-out in the center puts all of your weight on your sitbones.

  23. #23
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    If you are road cycling, try the specialized Avatar or Alias. The Avatar has some gel padding, but they are small pads where your sit bones should go, and has a perinnium cutout.

    The Alias is like the avatar, but has no gel cusioning, and is quite firmer.

    For mountain biking, I use a WTB SpeedV Comp. It feels like a lump of wood...but that's a good thing....it may not be divine comfort...but it also does not fatigue me after 30miles like a super cushy saddle does.

    Actually shorts are optional once you get the proper saddle. Remeber that saddle advice is purely anecdotal for the most part (aside from needing to look for a firm saddle and one with a cutout). This is mostly due to all of us having slightly different rumps for lack of a better way to say it. Just don't fall into the soft = better game....it's just an easy way to drop more cash than you need to in search of the right saddle.

    ...and the discount "pull" bin for saddles that some bike shops have sometimes has some good deals in it.
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