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  1. #1
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    1st Long ride of season - question

    The wife and I did our first long ride of the season...some 5.5 hours yesterday to visit a friend's piece of land outside our city. Nice weather on the way there but terrible headwind ALL THE WAY BACK (3 hours). It was a real killer.

    The question is from my wife. She's finding that while riding she is always leaning forward (obviously to reach the handlebars)...but feels like she's having to keep her shoulders tensed in order to support her back. So, after awhile of this tensing she gets pain in her upper back between the shoulders.

    A bit of info:
    We're using modified hybrids. We have the stock handlebars but with extenders. There is a bit of room for her saddle to be moved forward (closer to the handlebars)...maybe this would help? I'm not sure what other info would be helpful.

    Is this just a question of addressing her posture (she says she feels like she can't support her body w/o having her shoulder up and tensed). Maybe this is a question of modifying saddle position or changing position of handlebars??

    Sorry that I don't have more info but I'm hoping that this will sound familiar to some of you and that you might have some ideas.

    Thanks much!!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mshattuck
    The wife and I did our first long ride of the season...some 5.5 hours yesterday to visit a friend's piece of land outside our city. Nice weather on the way there but terrible headwind ALL THE WAY BACK (3 hours). It was a real killer.

    The question is from my wife. She's finding that while riding she is always leaning forward (obviously to reach the handlebars)...but feels like she's having to keep her shoulders tensed in order to support her back. So, after awhile of this tensing she gets pain in her upper back between the shoulders.

    A bit of info:
    We're using modified hybrids. We have the stock handlebars but with extenders. There is a bit of room for her saddle to be moved forward (closer to the handlebars)...maybe this would help? I'm not sure what other info would be helpful.

    Is this just a question of addressing her posture (she says she feels like she can't support her body w/o having her shoulder up and tensed). Maybe this is a question of modifying saddle position or changing position of handlebars??

    Sorry that I don't have more info but I'm hoping that this will sound familiar to some of you and that you might have some ideas.

    Thanks much!!
    There is a school of thought that you should move the seat BACK on the rails if she is having this sort of problem.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    Interesting...that seems strange. How does that work out?

  4. #4
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Hi, check out this site. It has all the information you need on bike sizes, saddle possitions, handlebar possitions, and much more.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/home.html
    Hope it helps.

  5. #5
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    I had a similar problem when riding my new touring bike. I compared the bar height of my old bike as well as the distance from the saddle to the bars. My new bike measurement was just more than 2 cm more than the old. When I made the adjustments the pain went away.

    I used a tape measure and measured from the ground to the top of the bars. The second measurement was horizontal from the tip of the saddle to the bars.

    I hope that helps.

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    You can also correct the angle of the saddle...

    But there's one more thing, women saddles tend to be a bit larger and when pedaling, some women are pushing themselves forward with their legs. My GF had this problem and she changed her saddle for a slightly narrower one. I think it was also pushed back a little too.

    Good luck

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    Quote Originally Posted by mshattuck
    Interesting...that seems strange. How does that work out?
    OK. Here's a starting point.

    Get your wife to put her right elbow hard up against the nose of the saddle and reach forward with her forearm, hand and fingers. With her left hand, place three fingers at right angles against the extended middle finger of her right hand. The handlebars, where they go through the stem clamp, should be about where all those fingers end. You may need to take into account any back-sweep of the bars if it is a hybrid.

    You can adjust the seat on its rails back or forth as needed. HOWEVER, this may upset another measurement and if you really want to know about that one, PM me.

  8. #8
    Senior Member marmotte's Avatar
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    Changing hand position is also helpful. I change hand position (racing bike):
    1) where the brakes are
    2) low position (racing position)
    3) high position (while riding slower)
    4) triathlon position (flat passages)
    5) the elbow support of the triathlon handle (sometimes for long climbs)

    ... and some recreation rests
    marmotte

  9. #9
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    Interesting thoughts...especially the link from xilios provided a ton of reading about positioning of handlebars and saddle. I think we'll try some things...probably starting from Rowan's suggestion about length of saddle to stem (I'm guessing the second part that wasn't mentioned has something to do with anatomy?).

    We did take some breaks along the way so I really think it's either a question of her posture or setup. We'll take a look at Rowan's suggestion and go from there.

    Any thoughts on adding a more "touring-centric" handlebar like the one attached? (1) would that help and (2) would it work on all bikes??

    Thanks y'all

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    The beauty of these bars is the number of various hand positions they provide. But if you acquire these and fit them, take note of the position your wife uses most often. I could *almost* guarantee she will be on the forward-most part judging from your posts so far.

    You are now delving into one of the fun parts of bicycle touring -- finding out what works and what doesn't. If you've the cash and suppliers... keep us posted. Because the only way you'll find out is by experimenting!

  11. #11
    Old enough to know better Spudmeister's Avatar
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    Sounds like she's sliding forward off the saddle. Try raising the nose of the saddle a wee bit & scooting it a little farther back. Make changes in small increments until more comfortable. Also, handlebars may be too high - don't be afraid to lean over a bit.

  12. #12
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    I could *almost* guarantee she will be on the forward-most part judging from your posts so far.
    Just curious what makes you say that AND why she would do that AND why that is a good or bad thing. 3 questions in 1...gotta love it!

    Thanks

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    Because from your previous posts, I'd say she probably needs to lean forward -- that means moving the seat back or moving the bars forward. For more comfortable riding, and that would be a good thing.

    One of the more important comments from Sheldon Brown's advice is ensuring a curve to the back when riding, rather than sitting up straight or having a sway back. The curved back assists with absorbing vibration. The trade-off might be a need to build core strength a bit.

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    It does sound like there could be some kind of reach problem, but if you try to tune reach with saddle position, even though this appears to be a free and easy solution, she might pay with knee pain. Adjust the saddle height/fore-aft/cleat position first, then tune the reach with stem/bar setup. Also, an uncomfortable saddle can manifest pain all different places, as the rider tries to avoid the painful positions.

    Rather than trying to guess what is wrong with her position on the bike, sight unseen, I would recommend seeking professional help! Look for the best high-end bike shop in your town, and having them evaluate her. She should be wearing all her usual bike clothes & shoes.

    It's worth some time and money to get this right - as a person who rode the wrong size bike for many years before getting it right, I can testify that it's a whole lot more fun, you can do a lot more miles, and you want to ride more if your bike doesn't hurt you.

    Good luck!
    Anna
    ...

  15. #15
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    It does sound like there could be some kind of reach problem, but if you try to tune reach with saddle position, even though this appears to be a free and easy solution, she might pay with knee pain. Adjust the saddle height/fore-aft/cleat position first, then tune the reach with stem/bar setup. Also, an uncomfortable saddle can manifest pain all different places, as the rider tries to avoid the painful positions.
    Anna
    With regard to this thought...would you say that saddle position is more related to positioning one's self correctly with pedals? I hadn't thought about that until now for whatever reason...had just been thinking that it was a way to adjust proximity to handlebars.

    I think we will head to our lbs and see if they can help out. Hmmm...wonder if I can explain all of this in Polish??!!

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    Yeah... I'm not an expert but, what I've been told is that first you adjust the saddle/pedal relationship (the lower part of your body) and then you adjust the bar height/stem length for your upper body comfort. If you try to use the saddle fore/aft to tune the reach, you may cause the relationship between your butt and knees and the pedals to be wrong. Having the saddle too far forward or backward can cause knee problems. My left knee is so messed up, that having it off just a couple of milimeters is the difference between miles of happy riding and handfuls of advil.

    I had a lot of neck and shoulder pain when my stem was too long, and ended up riding with my finger tips on the bars, instead of my palms, trying to shorten the reach.

    Here's the sequence of what I did. If things don't feel right, start over, or try very small changes to see if they are better or worse. Seriously, one or two millimeters can matter.

    1) position cleats on shoes - axel of pedal should line up with joint where big toe joins foot. foot should point straight foreward. when pedalling, the knee should move only in the plane parallel to the bike frame, not in and out as your foot goes around. I like a pedal with some lateral float, so your foot can rotate a bit if needed.

    2) saddle height & fore-aft:
    a) height - knee is very slightly bent when crank arm is in line with seat tube (farthest 'south' position).
    b) Fore-aft - pedal around a few strokes, with the bike on a trainer or someone helping hold the person upright (pedal backwards), so the person settles into her natural position on the saddle. stop pedalling with the cranks horizontal to the ground. drop a plumb line from the front of the front knee, at the top of the shin bone just below the kneecap. the bottom end of the plumb line should be at the pedal axle(=ball of foot), when the crank arm is horizontal. You might have to try a couple of tweaks to get these both working at the same time. main surface of the saddle should be essentially flat.

    Now you have your saddle position. Put a piece of tape on the seat post, so that when you pack/unpack your bike, you can find the spot again. If you are going to have to remove the saddle from the seatpost, mark the angle and fore/aft too.

    Now tweak the stem length and height. Racers like their bars an inch or more lower than the saddle. Tourists usually like them higher. Try moving the bars up and down, and try various stem lengths. A good bike shop might let you buy a stem, install it, test ride, and then swap out for another length if you aren't happy. I went through 2 stems on my road bike before I was happy. I don't know if there is a formula for this, it is very dependant on your flexibility, your saddle, your style (do you like to ride in the drops), etc.

    Good luck...

    anna
    ...

  17. #17
    Senior Member mshattuck's Avatar
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    Man this seems like it could be a long process to figure out what's best! Looks like we're going to have to play around with this for a little while and see what we can come up with. Hopefully the guys at the shop will be patient!!

    Thanks for all the info on adjustments...we'll check it out and see how things line up.

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    Try riding out INTO the headwind and getting a tailwind on the return leg.

    To the bike position, a hunched riding stance is indicative of a faulty position.
    How tall is your wife and how long are the cranks. Often you can trace the problem back to small people using extra-long cranks, which screws up everything else.
    Set the pedal-saddle position, in both hight and fore-aft.
    Set the bar position relative to the saddle in hight and reach.
    Make sure the bars are not too wide.

    Have a read of
    www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm
    and
    http://www.myra-simon.com/bike/womens-fit.html

  19. #19
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    It could be reach issues, but it could also be form issues also, which is common. Whatever adjustments she makes, have her always be mindful of good form... relaxed upper body, with shoulders down. Also, work on strengthening core with a variety of ab exercises 5- 7 days a week, 15- 30 minutes per day. It sounds like her core isn't strong enough to last her the 5.5 hour ride.

    Koffee

  20. #20
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    Riding the bike gives me all the exercise I need for my legs. If I do some gentle push-ups (on the edge of a table) to strengthen my shoulders/arms, I find the cycling becomes a lot more comfortable.

  21. #21
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mshattuck
    Man this seems like it could be a long process to figure out what's best! Looks like we're going to have to play around with this for a little while and see what we can come up with. Hopefully the guys at the shop will be patient!!

    Thanks for all the info on adjustments...we'll check it out and see how things line up.
    I would recommend getting a good fitting. Someone who is knowledgeable can really help, and it's often small tweaks that can make a big difference.

    valygrl was pretty close from what I understand: first stop is seat to pedals (saddle height), then knees over pedals (fore/aft), then reach (stem, rise).

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