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Newbie questions

Old 09-02-19, 11:27 PM
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chuckschreiner
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Newbie questions

Hi everyone, I am 67 - I have a reasonably nice Specialized road bike that is maybe 15 years old. But the drop down handle bars and overall geometry make my neck ache and my hands and nether regions get numb (I have gloves and padded shorts). I used to ride 1-3 hours and do some modest hill riding. But I pretty much have stopped because I just don't like the misery. I have been trying to figure out how to fix/replace this bike. The only thing I feel certain about is a flat bar.

So what I'd like is a bike I can sit on for at least 2-3 hours without undue misery, gear ratios and light weight that lets me go up hills. My budget is under $2k.

Can you help guide my thinking ... I've been pouring thru google searches and am not making much progress. What kinds of things should I be paying attention to when I start talking seriously at bike stores?

Thanks a lot, Chuck
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Old 09-03-19, 03:11 AM
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Have you thought about checking your fit and changing your handlebars?
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Old 09-03-19, 04:49 AM
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Agree with the advice on getting a bike fit. Even if you decide to get a new bike, it's a good idea. Several years ago, as I started increasing my mileage and ride difficulty, I was getting to the place where I was getting sore in a number of places ... had knee pain, elbow pain, back and butt were sore. I got a bike fit and they did a few things ... swapped out the handlebar to a narrower size (which resolved my elbow pain) and adjusted the saddle position and the cleats on the shoes, and adjusted the handlebar height/reach to a more comfortable position. Then, I had a habit of inflating the tires close to the max psi so I reduced that some to make the ride less harsh. I also experimented with a few different saddles and settled on a Brooks leather saddle, which for me, provided a great deal of comfort. I did end up getting a new bike (Trek Domane) that felt like a less harsh ride than the old bike, and carried over all the above changes to the build-out. I'm 66 now, so a similar age as the OP.

Good luck
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Old 09-03-19, 09:54 AM
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So... what is key to pay attention to on fitting? Ideally Id use the nice light carbon frame on my specialized and swap out handle bars and seat. But I have no idea if the frame size is right or close to right. I just bought it sort with limited input from the sales guy.

So... how do you measure a frame size and its fit? Im about 56 (and shrinking!)
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Old 09-03-19, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
So... what is key to pay attention to on fitting? Ideally Id use the nice light carbon frame on my specialized and swap out handle bars and seat. But I have no idea if the frame size is right or close to right. I just bought it sort with limited input from the sales guy.

So... how do you measure a frame size and its fit? Im about 56 (and shrinking!)
Everything on a bicycle works together. You can never replace just one part without it affecting something else. Now think about what you just posted.

You want to take a bicycle that was designed from the ground up with a dropped handlebar and replace that bar with a flat handlebar. You want to do that so you won't have to lean over so far. When you rotate your torso more vertical your shoulders are going to move back so now your bike frame's top tube is going to be too long. Shorten the top tube and the head tube will probably feel too short. See what I'm getting at?

While it's obviously possible to chase around replacement parts and adjustments, the "A" answer, if you are that significantly dissatisfied with the bike that you have, is to acquire a bike that was designed from the ground up to suit your needs.
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Old 09-03-19, 11:53 AM
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If you're fairly committed to keeping your existing bike, you could bring it into a trusted LBS for a full service fit. I'm not an expert on this so I'll just relay the experience I had. They would want to know what issues you're having (e.g. sore neck, numbness in left pinkie finger, outside of right knee has pain, that kind of thing). They then would take a whole series of measurements on you and probably assess your flexibility. Then, they'd match up your profile to your current bike (and shoe/cleat) setup and make adjustments. Some things don't need any new purchases ... they may raise the seat, slide the saddle back at bit, etc. Other things may require swapping out parts, as in the handlebars in my case. The thing is to find a bike shop that does full-service fits (I think most have someone on staff that does) that you trust and tell them what you're experiencing. If it turns out you've shrunk so much from when the bike was first purchased :-) maybe it's not worth/possible to make the adjustments.

If you end up buying a new bike, they should be selling you a bike with a frame size that fits your size and - my experience - do a limited fitting vs. a full-on fit service, which can take a couple hours. So, even with a new bike, I'd recommend a fit service and they'll go through the process of measuring you, the bike, etc. You may still need to swap out parts to get the right fit but if your LBS is like mine, they only charge the delta between the stock part and what you want. For example, if the stock handlebars are valued at $100 but I swapped in one that costs $120, they just charged the $20.

My LBS also kept the stats on the fit they did on my old bike and, when I bought a new bike from them, they built it out according to those measurements. Of course, our bodies can change over a period of years so the fit may still need some tweaking.
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Old 09-03-19, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
So... what is key to pay attention to on fitting? Ideally Id use the nice light carbon frame on my specialized and swap out handle bars and seat. But I have no idea if the frame size is right or close to right. I just bought it sort with limited input from the sales guy.

So... how do you measure a frame size and its fit? Im about 56 (and shrinking!)
Why don't you post a couple of photos of your bike as it is currently configured to your Album/Gallery page?

https://www.bikeforums.net/g/user/505303

That will give us more or less an idea of what to go with.

Are there any size notes on your bike? Perhaps a number between 52 and 58?

Measure in centimeters the length of the frame from the center of the seat tube (seat post) to the center of the head tube, following more or less a horizontal line.
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Old 09-03-19, 12:08 PM
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For seat pain, I'm one to point the nose of the seat at the top of the handlebars. In some cases with a bit of a tilt down. That means more active holding yourself on the seat. But, it may help.

There is a class of bikes called "Flat Bar Road Bikes", some of which are very nice.

Also, if you have an REI nearby, perhaps have a gander at some of their "adventure" bikes. You can get smooth tires.
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Old 09-03-19, 12:12 PM
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chuckschreiner
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Thanks, guys. Heres my core question. I bought my bike initially at lbs and almost immediately (after doing decent amount of homework) thought oops I goofed. So I am a little spooked having screwed up last time.

Im an avid golfer and know a lot about golf, getting fitted for golf clubs, etc. I know from this experience that the more I understand going into a buying process the better the result will be - and Id really like to ride 3-4 times a week for 2-3-4 hours.

I have budget for a decent new bike, but also dont mind spending less.

So lets just assume a new bike. And I take the point that its the overall mesh of the bike and the rider that matters. For the kinds of rides I want (mainly this is about fitness - some hilly bike path riding locally and some lite trail rides) whats critical vs nice to have? Spend money on lighter frame/lesser components or the opposite? Or
modest on bike and get better accessories (shoes, pedals, etc).

Finally how do you test the fit? What do you pay attention to in a brief ride? How can you predict numbness, etc?

I really am a newbie. But I want to ride and love it again.
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Old 09-03-19, 12:21 PM
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When the LBS does the fit service, they'll make changes to the stock bike based on your size, flexibility etc. Then, it's not like they'll send you off and tell you never to come back if there's issues. They should give you a window of time to come back with feedback and make additional refinements. So, after the fit, you'll take the bike home and go for some rides. If you find something's not feeling right, you can go back with the specific issue (assuming there's not just a problem with your body!) and they should make additional refinements until the problems that can be addressed by the bike fit have been addressed. YMMV but that's my experience.
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Old 09-03-19, 02:08 PM
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Since Retro Grouch didn't bring it up, I will. It's the dreaded word recumbent. I went through the same scenario 19 years ago. The older I got, the less a diamond frame bike worked for me. My main ride for years was a top-of-the-line Motobecane Le Champion road bike. It fit me perfectly when I was much younger but became torture on long rides more recently. I tried a suspended MTB and even added a stem raiser to reduce the pressure on my hands. It was a waste of time. I finally bought a used Linear long wheelbase recumbent bike for $500. It was a tough transition at first but I managed 3K miles on it in the first 11 months.

There is another thing to consider. It is cyclists palsy, a version of carpal tunnel syndrome that cyclists get from compressing the nerve that crosses the palm when holding on to the handlebars. Mine was so bad in 2000 that my hands would go numb after riding as little as 15 miles. It was a major reason for switching to recumbents where there is little pressure on your hands. Unfortunately by the time I switched I had done too much damage and recently had to undergo carpal tunnel release. It is a good reason to not continue to do something that may be harmful in the long run.
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Old 09-03-19, 02:43 PM
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Recumbents for road riding (some of what I do is on roads) scare me... awfully low for visibility to cars.. but they look like they would be great for riding...
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Old 09-03-19, 03:00 PM
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Did you just get this bike, or did you ride it years ago and are just getting back to it?

Start by setting the seat height, your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom. How far is the drop from the top of the saddle to the top of the handlebar?
Your weight should be on your sit bones, not on the soft tissue, your elbows should be bent, not locked.
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Old 09-03-19, 03:49 PM
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Ive had it for 15 years but stopped riding it regularly about a year ago... but the issues of comfort were there from the outset. I just dealt with it until I got tired of it.
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Old 09-03-19, 04:12 PM
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Some of us have tried multiple saddles to find one that was comfortable. Shorts, too. And getting the position sorted out can be a process. How much drop from the saddle to the bar?
You can set the top of drop bars to be in the same place as a flat bar.
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Old 09-04-19, 10:06 AM
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Thanks...I got a max 5 posts in one day message...and could not reply until today. Also, I can't post pics until 10 posts. To top things off, after I deleted pics from reply to CliffordK, I still get msg I can't post with pics until 10 posts. I'm not only a bike newbie, but a newbie to this forum's rules... Current bike is Specialize Robaix Elite. 54.8 cm horizontal bar, 54 cm seat post.

I went to a bike store recommended to me by a senior triathlete (world class at age 78!). The guy there was great - knew his stuff, or so it seemed to me. Very high end, small shop. He started me out by talking about a $2800 Trek Domane SL 5. More than I had in mind, but not a 100% deal killer. (maybe 90% deal killer!)

The most interesting thing he said was he thinks the flat bar isn't the best solution - but that the overall frame geometry is. He likes drop down that fit overall because of more hand positions and more natural hand/wrist position. (While I am guessing I get a new bike, I was wondering if a longer handle bar stem -raise the handle bar, keep the drop down - would solve anything?) The other point he made was you need to use the core more to hold your posture and take pressure off the hands. As to the saddle, like others are saying, some trial and error, but that seats are now make to fit body/butt shapes.

The main takeway was I left completely energized for a great bike. $3K is more than I really want to spend (unless it just blows me flat-out away above something half that price) but still it was total fun. Later at a REI (went there for totally different reason) a guy was leaving with a new bike for his 10 year old. His excitement for his son, and mine for the boy, too - a bike is freedom - this is also how I felt. Excited.
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Old 09-04-19, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
Thanks...I got a max 5 posts in one day message...and could not reply until today. Also, I can't post pics until 10 posts. To top things off, after I deleted pics from reply to CliffordK, I still get msg I can't post with pics until 10 posts. I'm not only a bike newbie, but a newbie to this forum's rules... Current bike is Specialize Robaix Elite. 54.8 cm horizontal bar, 54 cm seat post.


I went to a bike store recommended to me by a senior triathlete (world class at age 78!). The guy there was great - knew his stuff, or so it seemed to me. Very high end, small shop. He started me out by talking about a $2800 Trek Domane SL 5. More than I had in mind, but not a 100% deal killer. (maybe 90% deal killer!)


The most interesting thing he said was he thinks the flat bar isn't the best solution - but that the overall frame geometry is. He likes drop down that fit overall because of more hand positions and more natural hand/wrist position. (While I am guessing I get a new bike, I was wondering if a longer handle bar stem -raise the handle bar, keep the drop down - would solve anything?) The other point he made was you need to use the core more to hold your posture and take pressure off the hands. As to the saddle, like others are saying, some trial and error, but that seats are now make to fit body/butt shapes.


The main takeway was I left completely energized for a great bike. $3K is more than I really want to spend (unless it just blows me flat-out away above something half that price) but still it was total fun. Later at a REI (went there for totally different reason) a guy was leaving with a new bike for his 10 year old. His excitement for his son, and mine for the boy, too - a bike is freedom - this is also how I felt. Excited.

Domane is a great bike.


Basically, if you bike is 15 years old, the frame geometry is probably not set up for "endurance" riding. Not new but this category was added to the road biking community some time ago. It is not race fit geometry but the frame is designed for a more upright position hence the term endurance which translates into more than an hour ride. Older riders fit into that category mostly as I found this out after a long absence from riding. I bought a Secteur Elite Compact from Specialized 6 years ago and the frame was designed for the endurance fit. Cost me 900. Still have it but now ride Carbon. They have a Roubaix that is around 1900 that would work fine too. Not quite as old as you but in my 60's and this just puts you in a more upright position. Since us older guys are not as flexible as we once were, this endurance fit is about halfway between race fit and beach cruiser. Still a road bike though with dropped bars. Don't get a T bar unless all you plan to do is noodle around. Any real road riding and you will regret that. Also, as you get back into shape, your profile will change a bit and the T bar will now feel like training wheels.


If you had these problems with your old bike then you probably were not fit correctly on that bike.


Can't go wrong with a Domane but there are plenty of endurance style bikes out there. You don't have to spend 3k to get a good bike. Do spend the extra few dollars for a quality fit though. Mine cost like 250 dollars but it has been well worth it since I ride pretty painlessly even at my age.


john
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Old 09-04-19, 01:49 PM
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John, thx.

Question: what is the value of components? For example Domane 5sl vs 4sl - only difference is the component set - $500. (Shimano 105 vs Tiagra - 10 vs 11 speed)

Are better components more about the aesthetic pleasure vs performance - eg, most of my riding will be pretty flat - some hills but not real killer ones. Will I notice a significant improvement with $500 better components?
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Old 09-04-19, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
John, thx.

Question: what is the value of components? For example Domane 5sl vs 4sl - only difference is the component set - $500. (Shimano 105 vs Tiagra - 10 vs 11 speed)

Are better components more about the aesthetic pleasure vs performance - eg, most of my riding will be pretty flat - some hills but not real killer ones. Will I notice a significant improvement with $500 better components?
You ride the frame and the wheels, you don't ride the components.
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Old 09-04-19, 02:37 PM
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Especially if you have someone who will help with the measurements, I recommend trying out this: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/S...ulatorBike.jsp. I suggest that because maybe a 54 cm bike is a touch too big. I'm an inch taller than you, and I'd like a 52, having come down on the top tube recently in an emergency stop.

You can get a higher handlebar than the marketing photos show by using angled stems and/or by having the fork kept longer/higher than usual.

Hand pain could be something like carpal tunnel syndrome, but it could also be too much weight on your hands. I think you'll find this thread very informative: Numb Hands.

Numbness in the groin is most likely to be saddle or saddle setup. I know that as I aged, the saddle that worked for 20 years stopped working, and I used 4 more saddles until I found one that worked.

If you've gained or lost weight, what worked 2 years ago may not work now. For shorts, I like thinner pads, which is not the current style. If you use thicker pads, I recommend considering thin ones, or perhaps vice versa - anything to avoid an endless search for the right seat....

I'm not convinced by the large number of categories of bikes that are sold, because one manufacturer's 'endurance' bike might be different from that same manufacturer's 'race' bike, but it might be pretty close to a different manufacturer's race bike. Millimeters may count, but I don't think you'll know which variation you like better except by trying bikes out. (Some sellers may have wide enough knowledge of the market to predict what bike a customer will like, but I doubt it.) Test riding bikes will also give you some insight into which levels of parts feel best to you.

Last edited by philbob57; 09-04-19 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 09-04-19, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
Recumbents for road riding (some of what I do is on roads) scare me... awfully low for visibility to cars.. but they look like they would be great for riding...
They don't come much lower than what I ride. Contrary to scaremongers who usually have an opinion but no experience, cars give bents a wider berth than regular bikes. Although I admit that if I rode in more urban environments I'd ride my taller bent (second photo.)



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Old 09-04-19, 11:46 PM
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Thx everyone for the input. I have learned a lot... here's what I understand.

The geometry and fit are the first priority, so that I am not bent so forward as to always stress my neck. Dropdown handle bars that support this are better than flat bar because of varied hand position/less wrist, elbow ache. The design of the handbars and how my hands fit whatever it's called where the gear/brake levers are is also important. Limited pressure on the wrists is important, which also has to do with using my core better.

The next thing is the size of the rear cassette - how many gears there are, mainly so that there are really easy ratios for uphill after a long ride. I don't know if I want a single or double chainring, but at least I know to ask and explore. Going back home on my bike after a long ride on beach route is all uphill and I want to expand into more hill riding. But my base ride is along the beach and is flat.

Seat will take some experimenting. So will fit, maybe - buy the bike at a place where I can really test it (eg, the shop I went to yesterday let's you rent a bike for the weekend and apply the price to purchase.

I am not sure how much I really want carbon and the best components. A lot of what I read about more expensive frames and components is they are for performance at speed and I am more interested in being able to ride for extended time. That said, really snazzy bikes are cool. (But what I learned in golf, after playing a lot of the 'best' clubs is I enjoy older, classic designs that are 1/4 the price).

So, now I feel like I am informed enough to have a fighting chance at getting something I will ride and enjoy. So I really appreciate you guys all sharing your insights.

PS: what's the deal with 5 posts in a 24-hour period? Is that just because I am new (which makes some sense) or is that the way it always is?
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Old 09-04-19, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
They don't come much lower than what I ride. Contrary to scaremongers who usually have an opinion but no experience, cars give bents a wider berth than regular bikes. Although I admit that if I rode in more urban environments I'd ride my taller bent (second photo.)


That is a really low bike! Yow... And then a really tall 2nd bike which looks wild. What do you like most about recumbants? (Are they usually called 'bent'?)
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Old 09-05-19, 03:51 AM
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Newbie questions
Originally Posted by chuckschreiner View Post
Hi everyone, I am 67 - I have a reasonably nice Specialized road bike that is maybe 15 years old. But the drop down handle bars and overall geometry make my neck ache and my hands and nether regions get numb (I have gloves and padded shorts). I used to ride 1-3 hours and do some modest hill riding. But I pretty much have stopped because I just don't like the misery.

I have been trying to figure out how to fix/replace this bike. The only thing I feel certain about is a flat bar.
I seem to have had a similar experience, but not involving the "nether regions":
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…For the past few years I have been entirely satisfied with my carbon fiber road bike, aluminum road bike as a beater that accepts 30C studded tires, and a previous moumtain bike beater, now in storage.

This year however has been a bust because this winter I developed a weakness in my neck muscles supporting my head upright (perhaps due to a two month unavoidable layoff) on my previously well-fitted bikes.

I had a subsequent fitting on both, with some handlebar adjustments. I recently got an exercise consultation for neck, shoulder and core muscles, and was given an exercise routine, that takes a big chunk of 50 minutes to perform. Exercise may fix it, but that’s a long-term solution.


All these remedies have barely allow me to ride my minimum 14 mile one-way commute with slight discomfort near the end. By this time of the year I'm doing weekly 50-60 mile rides easily, and even training for a Century. Just yesterday, I rented a hybrid style bike with flat handlebars, and was comfortable on the commute, even with a moderately heavy backpack

So now I’m giving in to the idea of a flat bar bike. I’m in a quandary if I should replace the drop bars on my aluminum beater (with endurance style geometry) with flat bars, see if I can buy this relatively cheap hybrid since it seems to work, or buy a new quality hybrid to my specifications. The Diverge is already set up as a nice all-weather commuter (see photo). I’m going to my trusted LBS on Saturday to make a decision.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Help with choosing a bike.”

Now here’s where I’m coming from. I have described myself as a decades-long, year-round lifestyle cyclist, and my favored bike is a high-end carbon fiber bike costing thousands of dollars..

I also have a aluminum beater road bike costing about $1500, and for me that was a minimal road bike, to be used in bad weather.


FWIW, I also have a Giant Escape hybrid bike that I recently bought for rehabilitation, because I was having trouble with my neck and shoulders riding the drop bars.

That bike cost about $600, and IMO was a good value as an all-round bike, certainly more amenable to off-road riding than my expensive carbon fiber road bike, and sturdy for my urban commute on the mean streets of Boston.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 09-05-19 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 09-05-19, 12:45 PM
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chuckschreiner
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
Especially if you have someone who will help with the measurements, I recommend trying out this: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/S...ulatorBike.jsp. I suggest that because maybe a 54 cm bike is a touch too big. I'm an inch taller than you, and I'd like a 52, having come down on the top tube recently in an emergency stop.

You can get a higher handlebar than the marketing photos show by using angled stems and/or by having the fork kept longer/higher than usual.

Hand pain could be something like carpal tunnel syndrome, but it could also be too much weight on your hands. I think you'll find this thread very informative: Numb Hands.

Numbness in the groin is most likely to be saddle or saddle setup. I know that as I aged, the saddle that worked for 20 years stopped working, and I used 4 more saddles until I found one that worked.

If you've gained or lost weight, what worked 2 years ago may not work now. For shorts, I like thinner pads, which is not the current style. If you use thicker pads, I recommend considering thin ones, or perhaps vice versa - anything to avoid an endless search for the right seat....

I'm not convinced by the large number of categories of bikes that are sold, because one manufacturer's 'endurance' bike might be different from that same manufacturer's 'race' bike, but it might be pretty close to a different manufacturer's race bike. Millimeters may count, but I don't think you'll know which variation you like better except by trying bikes out. (Some sellers may have wide enough knowledge of the market to predict what bike a customer will like, but I doubt it.) Test riding bikes will also give you some insight into which levels of parts feel best to you.
I have tried to reply to this several times. The learning curve for this forum ... 5 post limit, logs you out but shows you logged in... oh, well, I'll learn.

Thanks for the links. I especially liked the fitting link. Gives me a baseline to start a fitting from. And I am going to pay a little extra to go thru a process, do enough test rides to feel confident I can ride 2-3-4 hrs without undue pain.

I can see after looking at several mfgrs sites that your point about 'endurance' bikes is on target. I think I am just going to find a shop and person I trust and let them guide me.
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