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Stumped by Stems

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Stumped by Stems

Old 06-17-16, 10:55 AM
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Stumped by Stems

Iíve had my road bike for 6-7 years. I finally got a fit from my bike guy for it about 3 years ago, due to some knee issues (which were caused by unrelated injury), and I think he changed the saddle position a bit but pretty much said my self-fit was pretty much right on. Iíve always had some upper back/neck discomfort with it though, but have blamed it on my fitness. Lately Iíve been ramping up the mileage and the upper back pain is too much to take, and is limiting me. A few weeks ago did an 70 mile ride, wanted to do 100, had plenty of energy in the legs left, but I was in pain by mile 20 and the pain was intense after 70. I was making efforts to use good form, not put too much weight on the hands, and my hands were not numb, which they tend to get if I lean on them.

So, visited the same bike guy, and asked him to help, just wanted the pain gone.

Looking at it again, he said maybe I could use a little more reach, but I didnít look too bad, so if I really wanted comfort he could also raise it. So, got an adjustable stem that gave me about 1.1 cm more reach and 4.4 cm more height. (90mm 6deg, to 125mm, about 24deg).

Iíve probably put 50 miles since then, and pain is totally GONE. Very happy about that.

Yet, I donít love the new setup. My quads are burning and feels like my saddle is too low, though saddle felt PERFECT before and hasnít moved. Overall the bike just doesnít feel right, and Iím slower, with less power.

Question 1: Is it normal to have to change seat when making a big stem change like that? I can see where it would change my bodyís angles, etc. But doesnít change the distance from seat to pedals, so Iím not sureÖ Is it a matter of getting used to it, using different muscles?

But I am also wondering if maybe the change is too much, and I should dial it down to something more reasonable. Itís an adjustable stem, so could dial it down to 15deg, but that would give me over another cm of reach, which is unlikely to be good, but who knows. Itís free. Or, could go down to 15 and get a 110mm stem. Or, go all the way back to 6/7 deg and get a 100mm stem, giving me the extra reach I was missing, and see if that was my main problem.

Question 2: What would you try first in this situation?

For fun, I put dots on a stem chart, below. Red are old and new stems, purple is adjustable stem change, and green and blue are others I could get.

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Old 06-17-16, 11:26 AM
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More reach is usually good. You should look at the angle between your upper arms and torso when on the hoods and in the drops. Both should give ~90į angle. If you're close to that, you're good. Set up a mirror so you can see yourself, hopefully on the trainer.

What's probably changed is that your new position denies activation to some of the muscles you've trained to use in your old position. New muscles may fill in for them as you train in the new position, or maybe not. It's possible that to use the new muscles effectively, you'll have to move your saddle. Only experimentation can tell you.

Also use the mirror to look at your back. Your pelvis should be rotated forward so that your lower back is as straight as you can get it. This will take the curvature out of your upper back, which will make it easier there and on your neck. https://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycli...discovery.html
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Old 06-17-16, 11:37 AM
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I'd give it some time. The more upright you sit, the more the quads are brought into play. That's going to feel different, and it's probably going to take some time to adapt to the new position. You may ultimately not be satisfied with the change, but I think it's too soon to tell if that will be the case.
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Old 06-17-16, 01:27 PM
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Thanks for the replies, and the link. I will check things out in the mirror and/or take video, that is a good idea. I may play with the adjustable stem a bit just to compare if a lower angle looks or feels better, it's easy to do.

Otherwise, I can just spend more time trying to get used to it. How long would you give it before making a change?
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Old 06-17-16, 03:40 PM
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If it were me, I'd give it several more rides and take notice if there is any progression toward feeling like I'm adapting to it. If things aren't improving, I'd start tinkering with my position.
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Old 06-18-16, 01:59 PM
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I went down the rabbit hole......Tilted my seat up a bit, Rode 17 miles this morning after reading almost every thread and link from here. Hands extremely numb. Got back lowered my handle bars, and rotated them back to level. went out and rode 5 more miles. Back was flattened out I could feel the stretch, no numbness in the hands, but all of a sudden terrible numbing in my right foot! S%$t!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 06-18-16, 03:00 PM
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I like this Stem Comparison Tool. You can enter two different stems and even have different spacers, and it shows a diagram and the numbers for reach and height.

I'm surprised that your hands went numb. The whole hand, or just the outer or inner half? There's different nerves that affect each half.

Okay, the foot is very odd. Hmmm.
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Old 06-18-16, 03:12 PM
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The hands might have been dietary, I noticed when I took my gloves off, the script from the gloves ws imprinted in my skin, looked weird.
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Old 06-18-16, 04:09 PM
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This didn't go how I thought it would go. I did a lot of reading of that thread, videos etc. I set up video to watch myself and didn't like the angles. I think my old setup was pretty relaxed, and the new one was just way too upright. I tried lowering the adjustable stem, and I could get closer to 90deg w the arms by lowering it and stretching out. Ultimately flipped the adjustable stem, probably at about -18 because it's straight forward. I'm about 4cm down from my original, instead of 4cm up. And now about 4cm forward from where I started.

I could have gone lower by dropping the spacers, I tried but that didn't feel good (I wanted to lean on my hands). That lower position actually looked like a 90 deg arm position. But the new one is much closer. I took a 20 mile ride to try it out, upper back felt fine. So maybe what I needed was to stretch out more, not to move up.

Still feels like I'm using different muscles and I have to get used to this position, but the bike didn't feel wrong. I probably need more time to evaluate but I think I'll do it at the lower position, not the higher one.
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Old 06-19-16, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by road1bike
I went down the rabbit hole......Tilted my seat up a bit, Rode 17 miles this morning after reading almost every thread and link from here. Hands extremely numb. Got back lowered my handle bars, and rotated them back to level. went out and rode 5 more miles. Back was flattened out I could feel the stretch, no numbness in the hands, but all of a sudden terrible numbing in my right foot! S%$t!!!!!!!!!!
Well that's an improvement. I suggest checking your cleat angles and starting a stretching regimen.
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Old 06-20-16, 08:31 PM
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So I rode 15 miles Sunday, I rotated the handles bars halfway between where they were, to where I adjusted them. Took pressure off of my hands.
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Old 06-20-16, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by slowpedaller
This didn't go how I thought it would go. I did a lot of reading of that thread, videos etc. I set up video to watch myself and didn't like the angles. I think my old setup was pretty relaxed, and the new one was just way too upright. I tried lowering the adjustable stem, and I could get closer to 90deg w the arms by lowering it and stretching out. Ultimately flipped the adjustable stem, probably at about -18 because it's straight forward. I'm about 4cm down from my original, instead of 4cm up. And now about 4cm forward from where I started.

I could have gone lower by dropping the spacers, I tried but that didn't feel good (I wanted to lean on my hands). That lower position actually looked like a 90 deg arm position. But the new one is much closer. I took a 20 mile ride to try it out, upper back felt fine. So maybe what I needed was to stretch out more, not to move up.

Still feels like I'm using different muscles and I have to get used to this position, but the bike didn't feel wrong. I probably need more time to evaluate but I think I'll do it at the lower position, not the higher one.
This is normal. Good for you. It's weird how many folks think it's the other way. It's not, as you saw for yourself. As you say, it'll take a while for that to feel completely normal but it will. Stretching helps too.
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