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  1. #1
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    when to stop messing with the bike?

    The bike I'm taking on my tour starting May 1 was doing ok - relatively comfy for up to 60 miles.. But my hands were getting pretty numb and tingly by the end of those rides, so i swapped the moustache bars for a pair of drop bars. But these drop bars aren't really working out. Now I'm trying to decide whether to get a new pair of drops and try to work out the fit on them so that the bike is just perfect, or to just go back to the moustache bars and say that it's good enough, and stop messing with it.

    I'd also decided against getting a brooks b17, but recent lower back pain has been making me rethink that decision, but if I've only got 6 weeks to break it in I don't know if it'll happen in time.

    And lastly, I still haven't decided whether or not to switch my rear cassette (currently a 7-speed 11-28) for something that goes up to 34, or to switch my front cranks out from a 52-42-30 to something more like a 48-36-24.

    If you have any ideas about any of these specific issues I'd love to hear them, but more generally, I'm wondering at what point before a tour you just leave the bike alone as "good enough" even if there are a couple bugs, for the sake of making sure you don't mess up something worse before the tour starts? How long do you train for with the exact configuration you're going to use?

  2. #2
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    I know the excitement is building as your tour start date nears. (I get this way every year about this time!) It's gonna be a great experience for you!

    First of all, if I were you I'd definitely switch out your front and rear gears. The 52x42x30 is a road triple designed, primarily, for an unloaded road bike. Go ahead and get a 48x46x24--you'll thank yourself later. And while you're at it, get 12-34 in the rear. With that combo you'll be ready for anything.

    The aches and pains that you're noticing can come from imperfect fit, the wrong equipment (handlebars, saddle) for *you*, and can even reflect fitness level. Early in the spring most years I find that after 55-60 miles I develop a number of aches--neck, shoulders, back...But as the season goes on and I get more miles in the saddle, lift some weights, do some back exercises, etc., I can easily ride 80-100 mi. day after day. One thing about a long tour, while it's important to train and get ready, we are seldom in as good a shape at the beginning of a tour as we are at the end. Hey, by the end we usually feel invincible! So, what's the point of all of this? Consider your equipment and how it fits you, and also consider your overall fitness level.

    Just some thoughts,

    Ted Phelps
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    I'm wondering at what point before a tour you just leave the bike alone as "good enough"
    For me, it's one of two things: 1) I run out of money, or 2) I get too far away from a bike shop to buy new parts.

    IMO, the first 4 or 5 days of a long tour are by far the toughest. That's when the numb hands, sore shoulders, aching back and neck all hit at once. After that, you find the groove and you are de facto "trained".

    This may be what you're feeling now.

    Or maybe it isn't. What's wrong with the drops? An easy explanation might be that you need to raise the bars (and/or change stem length) so that you're not hunched over too far. Have someone (experienced -- such as your LBS) take a look at you when you're in the drops.

    Again IMO, drop bars would be much more comfortable than moustache bars, simply because you have more hand positions. I spend about 40% of the time with my hands on the brake hoods, 40% on the tops of the bars, the other 20% in other positions. Have you been using all the positions you can?

    Your lowest gear is 30x28 -- this wouldn't be low enough for me in the mountains with my typical load (80 lbs -- my wife makes me carry the groceries ) But we don't know where you're headed, and how much you're carrying, so it might be OK for you. Most people look for a gear range of 100" to 20"; see Sheldon's site for a gear-inch calculator.

    Don't worry, you're getting close!!!

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmmCeeBee
    IMO, the first 4 or 5 days of a long tour are by far the toughest. That's when the numb hands, sore shoulders, aching back and neck all hit at once. After that, you find the groove and you are de facto "trained".
    This may be what you're feeling now.
    i don't think it's fitness level, just because i was doing this length of rides fine before. aches and pains, sure, but serious lower back cramping and shooting pains from my back down through my legs. I'm definitely expecting some "adjustment" pain during the beginning of the tour, but I want to be certain by then that it's definitely just adjusting, and not something that will continue to be a problem throughout the tour.

    Or maybe it isn't. What's wrong with the drops? An easy explanation might be that you need to raise the bars (and/or change stem length) so that you're not hunched over too far. Have someone (experienced -- such as your LBS) take a look at you when you're in the drops.
    I think that a different stem would probably help - I'm using the same stem as i had the moustaches on previously, because the only other thing the lbs had was waaaay lower and longer. So if anything, the stem is probably too high (about 2 inches higher than the saddle) and short. But the other problem is that the bars are nitto randonneurs, which have exactly the wrong amount of flare to them to be able to comfortably ride on the hoods, and they're also pretty narrow (39cm) before they flare to the drops. I think i'm going to get myself a set of 44cm nitto noodle bars if I decide to stay with drops. Also the hoods themselves are really narrow, but I really can't afford to buy new ones, so I think I'll just deal with it.

    it's so discouraging to have the bike be uncomfortable with my trip approaching so fast! It makes me far more afraid of the amount of pain I *might* be in while touring, and nearly impossible to train.

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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    [...] if anything, the stem is probably too high (about 2 inches higher than the saddle) and short. But the other problem is that the bars are nitto randonneurs, which have exactly the wrong amount of flare to them to be able to comfortably ride on the hoods, and they're also pretty narrow (39cm) before they flare to the drops.
    Hmmmm... It does sound like the bars are giving you a problem. But I'm reluctant to give you specific advice (like "get narrower bars") cuz I'm typing this from 2000 miles over the horizon.

    In general, many touring bikes are set up with bars equal to or slightly above the saddle. So that might be OK. But I can't see the stem length from here, or the flares of the drops, or .... I do know that the rule of thumb for choosing bar width is to measure your shoulders (point-to-point), and use that, or a tiny bit wider. That puts your weight directly over your hands. If it's too wide, your shoulders and back have to support your weight --> pain!

    I think you might be on the right track, but you need your LBS or someone experienced and on-site to help. Don't let this part get you flussed, at least you have a known setup to fall back on!

    -- Mark

  6. #6
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    This may be completely off the beaten track but here it goes. Are you sure the bike is fitting you correctly and you are not leaning to far across the TT? I only ask because I had similiar problems due to the frame being too long on the TT and the longer I was on the bike, the worse the problem got.
    I found if I stretched before and after riding and took frequent breaks the problem was lessened. My LBS also took a second look at the frame and stem and rigged it so it would work until I could make some permanent changes.
    Which leads me to my pet peeve. Why do the large bike manufacturers (Trek etc.) put road gears on their touring frames? The first thing that people do is swap out the gears because they are too high. It shows a lack of knowledge/ understanding of this type of cycling on the big company's part or they just don't care about the specifics. OK, I'll get off my soap box and back to the issue at hand. Sorry for getting off track.

  7. #7
    Senior Member kesroberts's Avatar
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    I would definitely switch the gears if you're going self supported and this is a 700c bike. I once solved this same problem with a similar road bike by just switching to a mountain bike crankset. The 22x28 low gear was adequate for all but the steepest pitches.

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    I don't know what your problems are with the drop bars but truthfully I was NEVER able to get Moustache bars to make any sense to me. If you're getting lower back pain it is probably from fore/aft seat position rather than bars or saddles.

    You'll have ALL sorts of pains and aches on the tour for the first couple of days but then they'll all start disappearing. After you've been on the road for a week you'll know what needs to be changed and what is perfectly OK the way it is.

    As for gears - you can't have too low a gear. My touring bike has a 24-34. That's a mountain bike gear and I did a shorty tour up to the Sierra Century last year and was so beat up from the ride up to the century that I rode up just about every climb in low gear. Knock me over with a feather if I didn't get back before 70% of everyone else. It's really important to have a RIDING gear - I had a 14 mph gear and a 17 mph gear and nothing in between. The other people with me wanted to ride at 15-16 mph so I was spinning faster than I wanted to or mashing more than I wanted to.

    Mind you with a 9-speed that isn't much of a problem but super wide ratios on a 7-speed leave me with clumsy gearing. As someone suggested the 22-28 os a good idea and a 48 tooth top ring wouldn't slow you up at all. My compact cranks on my road bikes have a big ring of 50 teeth and they are GREAT! I DO run out of gears sometimes in strong tail winds or down hills but I can live with that.
    Last edited by cyclintom; 03-16-06 at 08:24 AM.

  9. #9
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    My LBS has dozens of used stems of various colors, materials and sizes - all at reasonable prices. If you think you know what you want, and can send me the specs, I'd be glad to check and report what they have and how much they want. (Used ones have typically cost me $5.00 - $10.00).
    The search for inner peace continues...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro
    My LBS has dozens of used stems of various colors, materials and sizes - all at reasonable prices. If you think you know what you want, and can send me the specs, I'd be glad to check and report what they have and how much they want. (Used ones have typically cost me $5.00 - $10.00).
    oh, if only i knew what i wanted! it's more that i need to get my new bars, then try them with a few different stems and try to get this fit issue figured out..

  11. #11
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Everything that has been said about bike fit is great advice and necessary, but for the numb fingers, it may be something as simple as the wrong gloves. Many bike gloves have padding that actually puts more pressure on the nerves of the hand than with out them. It is the same reason that a Brooks saddle does not need a cut out down the center, no padding to pressure the nerves. Simple test, do some rides without gloves and see if you are still getting numb fingers.
    Greg

  12. #12
    Senior Member kesroberts's Avatar
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    re: numb fingers - I discovered a couple of years ago that my hands hurt or go numb more often with gloves than without. Getting good, but firm, padding on the bars is much better for me than any gloves I've tried.

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    oh man, i tried riding without padded gloves and it was a mistake for me. i always wrap my bars in nice thick cork, and for rides under 20-30 miles or so i'm fine without gloves, but further than that and there's a lot of pain, numbness, and pins-and-needles in my hands and forearms. Usually it's mostly a problem in the hills, quick descents down bumpy roads on my relatively skinny tires just places too much pressure on the hands if there's no padding.

  14. #14
    Hello from Canuckistan! saanichbc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    I'd also decided against getting a brooks b17, but recent lower back pain has been making me rethink that decision, but if I've only got 6 weeks to break it in I don't know if it'll happen in time.
    Hey, my Brooks didn't need any break it period. It fit fine right out of the box for me.
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    I rode on an out of the box brooks last weekend and it felt heavenly on my back. I still won't get one though, Vegan for life.

    As for bars, I recently swapped to carbon bars to see if it would alleviate my wrist pains(years of skateboarding) and they are amazing. Pricy,(mine were 130 on sale) but performance bike usually has a pair on sale for a decent price.

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    If you're a tinkerer by nature like me, you'll never stop messing with your bike, no matter what....
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  17. #17
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    - the fit on my bikes seem to change throughout the year... i've not done some of the randonneuring of other folks here, and other more experienced folks may want to chime in...

    - but i have discovered that as i've gone through various fitness levels that my body adapts or requires adjustments to the saddle and seatpost... (my stems are all the same on the same top tube lengths)...

  18. #18
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    hm. well, i just went to the lbs, and they were not so much help - i asked if moustache bars or drops would be better, they kind of said, "eh.. either way, but we have drops we can sell you that don't have that freaky flare to them," and i asked if they could do a bike fitting to get everything perfect, and they said that they didn't think i needed it, that if i'm that concerned about it i should put new drop bars on and that'd be good enough.

    i'd hoped they'd be more helpful. maybe it was just too close to closing time.

    i'm still trying to figure out if going back to moustache bars or getting new drops will be better. i mean, what's worse, possible lower back pain (like i've always had with drops but not the moustache bars), or hand pain and numbness? would the lower back pain go away with a proper stem / saddle angle etc if i had the drops? anybody switch back and forth between these kinds of handlebars to try to get the right fit?

    i know i need to ask these questions of someone who can see me on the bike, but the lbs doesn't seem to be the place. does anyone know of a really good friendly bike shop in pittsburgh?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    <snip>
    i'm still trying to figure out if going back to moustache bars or getting new drops will be better. i mean, what's worse, possible lower back pain (like i've always had with drops but not the moustache bars), or hand pain and numbness? would the lower back pain go away with a proper stem / saddle angle etc if i had the drops? anybody switch back and forth between these kinds of handlebars to try to get the right fit?
    You must be pretty frustrated by now. I have a thought. I have nothing to urge one way or another, except that you find a solution to the pains you're experiencing--lower back and hands. As one of the minority who like moustache bars for touring, let me offer a slight variation to setting up your bars. Most people install moustache bars so that they are pretty much parallel to the ground with the stem often above the seat level. What I've done is to angle the bar ends down a bit and raise the brake levers/hoods just a little. This arrangement offers more usable hand positions and gives me my favorite hand position--that is, riding the brake hoods. I don't know if these pictures will help to illustrate what I'm trying to convey, but since you already have the moustache bars, you might play with them a little to see if you can make them work for you.

    Oh, sorry about your LBS experience.

    Ted
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  20. #20
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    About numb hands:

    Sometimes the fastest way to resolve these kinds of issues is to have an expert assess your riding postures and techniques. Someone at your local bike store may have the skills and experience to identify the source (or sources) of the problem. I once went to a kinesiologist who specializes in bicycling biomechanics to sort out some "intractable" fit problems. (Certain problems vanished almost immediately, so I felt it was money well spent.)

    The numbness may be caused by so many things: the stem height (which influences how much weight your hands bear); the angle of the brake hoods on the handlebar (your wrists may not be in as neutral a position as is possible); the fit of your cycling gloves (I only discovered last summer that I have always worn gloves that were too tight); and more.

    One can tinker endlessly to try to achieve the perfect fit, but in reality, there is no "perfect" fit. But an experienced eye can help you get close without having to engage in painful experiments.

    Another thing: there may be no easy solution. If you have some kind of pre-existing condition that involves entrapped or damaged nerves, there may be nothing you can do to eliminate the problem with a "standard" bicycle setup. I am in that category. For me, the solution was to add aero bars to my drop bars:



    I use the Air Strykes to provide a way to ride does not involve gripping the handlebars or putting weight on my hands. Obviously, I am not on my aero bars in heavy traffic, while descending winding hills, or in any situation that I need easy access to the brake levers.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    i know i need to ask these questions of someone who can see me on the bike, but the lbs doesn't seem to be the place. does anyone know of a really good friendly bike shop in pittsburgh?
    Until someone from Pittsburgh actually chimes in: there's an REI there, if you get in when they're not too busy, their knowledge and helpfulness is almost legendary.

    I echo the "sorry you're so frustrated" comment. Too bad your LBS doesn't take you seriously. If you weren't a 2-month ride from here, I'd head over and see if I could help.... Good luck.

    -- Mark

  22. #22
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    Thanks for braking the glove ice. I haven't worn gloves in years, only time I have numb hands is in the winter, haave to have them to keep from frezing. I can't explailn why ,but I think the minor unevenis of the wrap and hoods incourage regular movement of the hands.
    A child learns what the village teaches!

  23. #23
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    thanks all y'all SO MUCH for understanding my frustration.. even if it's only on the internets, it's really nice to have a place where people don't look at me and say, "why is this even an issue? it's ONLY a bike..."

    i think i'm going to switch back to my moustache bars and try to play with angle a little to make it easier on my hands. maybe i'll even try riding without gloves a couple more times. if, after a couple weeks on tour, it really is a huge problem, i can always switch out the bars for drops then. anyone think this sounds like an especially horrid idea?

    also getting new cranks tomorrow, i think that the other lbs said they had shimano rx something-or-others for $50 with any 3 chainrings i want. i think i'll go with 48-36-24, probably.

    and ordering a brooks. looked at the "anyone recommend a not-brooks saddle for touring" thread and i'm finding it harder and harder to think of reasons why not to spend the extra bit of cash on something so important. i was thinking about how very very long one minute in the saddle feels when your butt is in pain. and then realizing that over my tour i will spend around 30,000 minutes in the saddle. whoa.

    ok. i was so frustrated for a bit there that i was getting less excited about my tour.. but now that i have a plan for making stuff better, the excitement is creeping back in.. yay!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmmCeeBee
    Until someone from Pittsburgh actually chimes in: there's an REI there, if you get in when they're not too busy, their knowledge and helpfulness is almost legendary.

    I echo the "sorry you're so frustrated" comment. Too bad your LBS doesn't take you seriously. If you weren't a 2-month ride from here, I'd head over and see if I could help.... Good luck.

    -- Mark
    this was actually my plan.. i feel kind of bad, cause it seems like the smaller, more local lbs should be the best place to go - but rei has never been anything but great to me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    i think i'll go with 48-36-24, probably.
    I posted in a different thread last week, in reference to my Sugino crankset, that "46-36-26 is as close to perfect as you can get for touring gears".

    I actually think your choice is better -- you get a wider top and bottom range, plus you get the pleasure out of your mid ring which you spend most of your time in anyway.

    HOWEVER..... the shifting can get finnicky with a 48-36-24, since you're dropping 12 teeth with every shift instead of 10. This means you have to have a front derailler that can handle the jump, and can do it cleanly. I think you said you're building up from a mtn bike; if so, I'm guessing it can handle 46 OK but maybe not 48 (most mtn bikes have 42 or 44 for a large ring). You'll certainly have to move the der up on the seat tube.

    Once you do that, chances are it'll shift up and down OK. Just spend a day or two riding around shifting the front gears to make sure. If not, you have 3 choices: 1) new derailleur, 2) go to a smaller range like 46-36-26, or 3) live with it.

    Welcome to the "tweek it one more time" world

    -- Mark
    Last edited by EmmCeeBee; 03-18-06 at 05:44 PM.

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