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Do I need a bike fit? Or do I just have a weak core? (Weight on hands/wrists)

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Do I need a bike fit? Or do I just have a weak core? (Weight on hands/wrists)

Old 08-14-23, 08:17 PM
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Do I need a bike fit? Or do I just have a weak core? (Weight on hands/wrists)

TLDR: Brand new to cycling and dealing with weight on hands no matter what fit changes I make (saddle height, fore/aft, stem height/length, bar tilt, hood position, etc etc). Do I need to see a professional or should I just start working on my core?

Hello all,

I picked up cycling back in April, and I've been having a really hard time finding a bike that I'm comfortable on. Over those 4 months I've gone through 5 different bikes trying to find something that fits me, mostly cheap vintage bikes from FB/Craigslist because that's all I can really afford for something decent.

I've never had a bike fit done, but have tried to buy frame sizes based on pretty much every frame size calculator you can imagine, along with advice from a few bike shops. I'm 5'9" with an 80cm inseam, most guides have put me in the 54-55cm range. I also test rode a $2000 bike at my LBS that had a 54.5cm top tube, and the fit felt perfect. So I've been chasing that feeling at a more affordable cost.

My favorite bike to date was a 90s Trek hybrid that I fixed up, it's definitely too small for me but it rides pretty nicely. The main issue is that I have trouble with putting too much weight on my hands. It's not bad enough that it keeps me from riding, but once I pass the hour mark on a ride I start getting really uncomfortable. I figured that part of the issue is because the frame is too small, so my stack height/bar height is too short. I tried getting a taller stem to raise the bars up, but alas the head tube is too short to get it to minimum insertion lol. On to the next bike.

I recently picked up a late 80s Bridgestone road bike. The drop bars appealed to me because I'm wanting to go longer distances, and the singular hand position of flat bars feels pretty limiting once I'm reaching 20+ miles. This bike measures 54cm seat tube c-t, and 54.5cm top tube c-c, so it lands within my recommended range. It felt good on the test ride, but now it seems no matter what I do I cannot get comfortable on the bike. I've tried various stem lengths/heights, various saddle positions (both height and fore/aft), moving the hoods, tilting the bars up and down, focusing on keeping elbows bent, etc. etc. No matter what I do, I cannot relieve the pressure from my hands. My current setup actually has the bars a little bit higher than the saddle, and I'm still dealing with the weight balance problems. I have history with carpal tunnel issues, so maybe I'm particularly sensitive to it, but I can't ride for more than 10-15 minutes on drop bars without feeling pretty miserable. It was a similar case with a previous road bike that I purchased--and I made various changes to no avail. (NOTE: one thing that I've noticed with both this bike and the trek is that the pressure on my hands isn't nearly as bad when I'm climbing. Is this anything to go on?)

At this point, I'm feeling really frustrated and discouraged, and the discomfort is getting in the way of my cycling goals. I'd love to do some distance touring next summer, but if I can't sort this out then that will never happen. I've been considering seeing a bike fitter, but I'm hesitant because they're just as, if not more expensive than most of the bikes I've purchased (don't worry, I've sold them on too lol). But I really want to get this sorted out.

Alternatively, I've read in various places that core strength is vital for cycling comfort. Admittedly, I've been pretty sedentary for the better part of a decade, and cycling over the last few months is the only notable vigorous exercise that I've done over that time with any kind of consistency. I'm 220 lbs, if that's relevant at all.

Is it possible that my bike fit is actually not terrible, but the whole problem is just my lack of core strength? Or is this amount of discomfort out of the ordinary? Should I bite the bullet and see a bike fitter for better assistance, or start hitting planks? Maybe all of the above? Lol.

Thanks everyone.
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Old 08-14-23, 10:00 PM
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It does sound like you are circling in on a good frame size. I'm 5'10", with an 82 cm inseam, and I like the fit of 55 cm frames. I weigh 160-165 lbs.
I believe a fitting is a good idea, but what is more important is simply riding and making adjustments along the way.
Don't start out expecting to ride 30 - 50 miles or more without the training to get there. Take 5 - 7 mile rides a few days a week for a few weeks.
Then work up to 12 - 15 mile rides, a few of them per week, for several weeks. Soon enough you'll be able to do more.
Along the way you'll figure out moving the seat fore and aft, adjusting the tilt and height too. And raising the bar height, changing stem lengths and bar tilt, etc.
You can do it, and even have fun along the way. But just start out trying to ride for 4 - 6 miles comfortably.
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Old 08-15-23, 11:13 AM
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If you are letting your wrists bend and bearing your weight on the palm of your hands, then that will always be a problem no matter what bars you have.
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Old 08-15-23, 12:58 PM
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A slightly too large a frame is better than one that is too small and results in being scrunched up when riding. The 54-55cm frame is a good size for you and a 56-58cm should be OK as well.

You are carrying an extra 50 lbs on your body and if someone put a 50 lb weight on a bike rack and you had to deal with it you would be unhappy. That added weight is particularly hard on the knees and it is important to use a lower gear to compensate and protect them.

For core strength planks and wall sits are helpful and not going to cause added stress on the muscles.

For the hands bike gloves with gel help a great deal and it is important to change hand position from the top of the handlebar to the top of the brake levers and even to periodically stand in the saddle to take all the weight off your hands. If your bike setup forces you to put you weigh on your hands when riding then it is a problem. Small adjustments can be made with different stems to change the distance from the middle of your saddle to the center of the handlebars. There are stems that provide for changing the position of the handlebars in increments.
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Old 08-18-23, 08:02 PM
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I don't see you mention saddle angle in your experiments, but it's one more thing that can make a significant difference in weight on your hands. You can post a picture of your bike from the side and it'll give us an idea as to the saddle orientation given its shape. A lot of people have them tilted down based on the overall look of the saddle, but that will generally push your weight forward. Most saddles when set up "neutral" will actually appear to be tilted back slightly, which will keep the weight in the right place.
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Old 08-18-23, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by tblake
I can't ride for more than 10-15 minutes on drop bars without feeling pretty miserable.
The good thing about drop bars is the multiple hand positions that you can switch between. I spend most of my time on the hoods, climb on the tops, and descend and push the big ring in the drops.

I can't remember the last time I spent 15 minutes solely in the drops.
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Old 08-19-23, 09:01 PM
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Your center of gravity should be roughly over or slightly behind the foot that's pushing down on the crank. With a trainer, try the no-hands center-of-gravity test. Remove your hands from the hoods and put them on your hips or fold them behind your back, without changing your back angle. You should be able to hold this position for a couple minutes without strain. If you can't help but fall forward, move the saddle back a few mm, lower it a whisker, and try again.

And just as a point of information, here's my experience with a bar position that's too high. My back automatically slips into a certain angle when I put the power on. Demoing "endurance bikes" with longer head tubes, I found my back angle in conflict with my wrists, arms, and shoulders, resulting in fatigue from my wrists through the shoulders and back of my neck. Returning to a more aggressive hand position brought relief. Your results might be different.

You might also look into the Soma Highway One handlebar. It's a modern compact bend with a 26.0 clamping diameter that fits most Italian and some Japanese quill stems. Some hand positions of the traditional bends are lost, but the most important one is heavenly. https://www.performancebike.com/soma...27526/p1151147
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Old 08-19-23, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by tblake
TLDR: Brand new to cycling and dealing with weight on hands no matter what fit changes I make (saddle height, fore/aft, stem height/length, bar tilt, hood position, etc etc). Do I need to see a professional or should I just start working on my core?

Hello all,

I picked up cycling back in April, and I've been having a really hard time finding a bike that I'm comfortable on. Over those 4 months I've gone through 5 different bikes trying to find something that fits me, mostly cheap vintage bikes from FB/Craigslist because that's all I can really afford for something decent.

I've never had a bike fit done, but have tried to buy frame sizes based on pretty much every frame size calculator you can imagine, along with advice from a few bike shops. I'm 5'9" with an 80cm inseam, most guides have put me in the 54-55cm range. I also test rode a $2000 bike at my LBS that had a 54.5cm top tube, and the fit felt perfect. So I've been chasing that feeling at a more affordable cost.

My favorite bike to date was a 90s Trek hybrid that I fixed up, it's definitely too small for me but it rides pretty nicely. ...
(read all between...)
Alternatively, I've read in various places that core strength is vital for cycling comfort. Admittedly, I've been pretty sedentary for the better part of a decade, and cycling over the last few months is the only notable vigorous exercise that I've done over that time with any kind of consistency. I'm 220 lbs, if that's relevant at all.

Is it possible that my bike fit is actually not terrible, but the whole problem is just my lack of core strength? Or is this amount of discomfort out of the ordinary? Should I bite the bullet and see a bike fitter for better assistance, or start hitting planks? Maybe all of the above? Lol.
Thanks everyone.
Hard to pin down without seeing you and how you ride...
But you seem to have done a lot of good homework.
You are carrying a lot of Torso mass, which makes core strength even more important, and hard to develop. Keep at that. The Torso mass is a hard hurtle to overcome.
The 'Hybrid' Design offers that more upright riding posture without a lot of the issues an traditional 'Road' design might add when you raise the bars and push the seat forward, to compensate.
You might want to stay with the Hybrid design for a year or so, and work on the torso mass and core strength - along the way everything will also improve, as you ride more.
If you want to stay with 'Drop bars': Stay out of the 'drops', ride with hands on the tops, near the brake hoods. Add gel pads under the bar tape, use a good quality cushion bar tape. Move hands often while riding. Bend the elbows a little - straight arms are just the worst for shock and weight force reduction.
Try to not let the bars go down the center channel of your palms, move hands slightly to get the bars on the meaty outer side of the hand, and alternate with hooking the V between thumb and forefinger at the Hoods (drape hand down side of brake hood). Try to keep straight wrists - a strong bend in the wrist is very tiresome, hurts and can cause injury.
Take riding breaks...
Saddle fit. If you're not riding for max performance - position the saddle so that when you're on the bike, riding, you feel most of your weight on the saddle, and the hands feel 'lighter'.
It's a hard thing to really 'expereince'. Mark the saddle rails with some indication of where the post clamps on at this time. Then you can make horizontal changes and always go back to where it was originally. small changes 1 cm increment at a time. You might find a point where your hands and 'grip' feels lighter - a good thing.
Without knowing how your saddle Height extension is set - dropping the saddle height just 1 cm will take some pressure off hands and transfer to your rear/saddle. Depending on your current setup this can be positive affect or not good - it depends... Maybe worth trying - again note the current saddle height extension before making changes...
Try not to scrunch your shoulders up around your ears... try to drop your shoulders, shoulder blades. That will help lighten your touch/grip.
Best of luck - keep at it, you'll find improvements...
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 08-19-23, 10:57 PM
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I'll let others address fit and core strength. I ride by choice with quite a lot of weight on my hands and have for a very long time. For me, comfort is all about getting the right handlebars, brake levers and then adjusting those to the right positions - handlebar placement (stem length and height) and rotation and brake lever placement (position on the bars and for me, angled in a bit).

I am looking for comfortable positions where my palms are, for the most part, facing each other, Like I am reaching out to shake someone's hand, then curling my fingers around the drops. (And yes, I set all my bikes up to be all day comfortable in the drops. I don't ride there all day but it's my go to on poor roads, into the wind, anytime I feel I need the best from my steering or braking and when my hands ave issues. The position on the drops, if right, is so simple, relaxing and easy for the hands)

One of the things I look at carefully is handlebar rotation and lever height. These affect my wrist angles. That handshake? My hands and wrists like it if my fingers are aimed at your mid-thigh; ie rotated down. A lot of bikes come with the levers high and the bars rotated back for easier reach. That means your handshake is aimed at the chest or higher of the person you are shaking with. Absolutely doesn't work for me (and never did).

An easy thing to do that may be quite enlightening (and something I do with all new to me bikes). Remove your handlebar tape. Wrap just enough electrical tape to keep you cables in place. Now ride, bring the wrenches to rotate the handlebars and move the brake levers. Rotating either forward and down will make for more reach and more weight. If your wrists/hands like the change but the additional weight is not OK, well you now know that these bars may work but your stem needs to be shorter/higher.

I don't have the answer for you. But the bare bars approach is an easy way to start the basic research of what works for you. (Bring masking tape to mark settings. With drop bars, place a yardstick along the bottom of the drop flats and put a piece of tape on the seatstay where it hits.) Also, as you do this, look at other bikes' handlebars and levers. There are a lot of very different ones. Keep an open mind. For me, the details of handlebar bend matter a lot.

That is part a) of getting the "cockpit" to work. Part b) is getting that cockpit in the right place. But until you know the details of rotation and brake lever placement, you don't know where that place is. As I see it, bar placement is all about 1) getting my "lean" right, ie how far forward I want to rotate my torso (this assumes I have already located my seat height and fore and aft location which is a separate issue and always takes precedent) and 2) arranging the distance I reach for the bars so that my elbows are never locked but have a comfortable bend. (Too much bend gets to be hard work supporting that weight on longer rides, especially as I age. 70 years old now.)

And last - shot to get stems that put spacers both above and below the stem with the cockpit where you want it. Now you can fine tune the height and effective reach as you further tweak the cockpit settings.
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Old 08-20-23, 05:14 AM
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The stronger and more flexible you can get your core abs and legs the less pressure you will be putting on your hands and seat.
This is where gym workouts can really help improve your cycling form and core / leg strength.
Good to read you did recognize this.

Last edited by joesch; 08-20-23 at 05:18 AM.
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Old 08-20-23, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen
...
Saddle fit. If you're not riding for max performance - position the saddle so that when you're on the bike, riding, you feel most of your weight on the saddle, and the hands feel 'lighter'.
It's a hard thing to really 'experience'. Mark the saddle rails with some indication of where the post clamps on at this time. Then you can make horizontal changes and always go back to where it was originally. small changes 1 cm increment at a time. You might find a point where your hands and 'grip' feels lighter - a good thing.
...
Ride On
Yuri
I need to explain/expand this, above, a little, to avoid misunderstanding...

The 'lighter' feeling happens when actually riding. It's not intended to be determined in a static fit, by just sitting on the bike.
some background - as you pedal, apply pressure to the pedals, the force of pedaling is counteracted by the 'mass' of your torso, and the inverse - your pedal force will make the torso feel 'lighter' at the hands/bars contact point.
The harder you pedal, the lighter the feel.
Intuitively, one might think that moving the saddle forward, lightens the most, because the torso is more vertical - and yes, some of that happens. BUT that effect is not a 1 to 1 relationship.
it manifests more as a curve, more lightening at greater torso angles...
so
road bikes position Always have some significant forward torso lean... more than riding a cruiser, old school 'English Racer'/Town bike/OpaFiets or other upright ride design...
depending on where the saddle is currently positioned, often getting the greater 'Lightening' effect for the hands happens when the saddle is moved BACKWARD a bit, not forward. This depends on the most usual pedal pressure a rider will exert on any ride... so, yes, that will vary.
don't be afraid to experiment with a rearward saddle reposition - always make only ONE change/adjustment, then ride for some reasonable time, to feel the result of the change - RIDE - not balanced on a trainer, on road.
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 08-21-23, 04:33 PM
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What kind of riding do you do - distance, hills/flat/in between, speed, cadence? How many miles or hours/week? How many days a week do you ride? You MUST break your body in to riding.

For figuring out measurements,

Feed your measurements into something like Competitive Cyclist's frame sizing algorithm. If you do that, how far off the various fits are you?

** or **

Find a good book on cycling that includes fitting recommendations.

** or **

Photo of bike? Even better - photos or video of you pedaling.

How strong IS your core? Do you use your arms as springs or do you lock your elbows? How strong are your neck and shoulders? How's you sit-bone/pubic rami comfort? What clothes do you wear to ride? Vintage brake levers or brifters(STIs)?

What have you actually done to fit yourself to your bike?

My reco is to start with seat height and use one of the standard rules of thumb - 109% of 'leg length' ( pubic bone to floor with no shoes), or 0.883 from seat to center of the bottom bracket, or heels on pedals pedaling backwards without rocking hips. Then ride that for 100 miles. If knees hurt, where's the pain? Adjust per recommendations - pain in front of knee, raise saddle a bit; pain in back, lower saddle. But check that, because I could be wrong.

Then work on hand pain.

Adjust one parameter at a time, and give the new adjustment at least several hours of use, unless you feel pain immediately.

** or **

Get a bike fit.

Bike fit ranks last IMO because the right fit changes as your conditioning changes. If you do get a bike fit, make sure the fitter can adjust for your type of riding. Someone who wants to ride 20 miles in 1.5 hours 3 times a week has different needs than someone who wants to ride 100 miles in 4.5 hours or 200 miles in 24 hours.
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Old 08-22-23, 06:48 PM
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Hey all, thanks for all the great responses.

One of the odd changes that I made on the Bridgestone bike that surprisingly helped was changing the levers. When I received the bike, it had been converted to a flat bar, but I wanted to change it back to drops. The owner had some parts lying around that he gave to me, and I made the swap. The brakes were unbelievably bad (I expected them to be bad since it's an old roadie, but man! I could barely slow down!), and I thought "huh.. these have to be long pull levers or something..." Turns out they were! I believe they were some CX levers--he gave me the cross levers for the center of the handlebar as well.

I swapped them out for some old non-aero levers that I found in the parts bin at my LBS, and somehow, that made all the difference. More comfortable, better braking, AND period correct! Oddly enough, I find the non-aero hoods to be more comfortable, and I don't have to press nearly as hard on the brakes to get decent braking power (I do need some new pads though...)

I've noticed that the road bike really encourages me to push a lot harder than my hybrid does. Pedaling harder definitely balances the weight out better as well. I still need to work on the core for sure, but it is rideable! I was able to take it on a 20 mile ride last week, with no major discomfort I could've gone longer if I had another water bottle! Lol. And man, that bike makes my hybrid feel like a cruiser... lol. I think having both makes each one more enjoyable to ride N+1 is taking over already...

I've been running the bars without tape and making minor adjustments, and I'm feeling pretty comfortable with it. I'm not 100% ready to tape the bars yet, but I got some nicely cushioned tape for when the time comes. I also picked up some padded gloves, but so far those seem to hurt more than they help, somehow.

I reached out to a local bike fitter here, who does fit consultations for $100 (2 hr session). To my understanding, It's a consultation where they take your measurements, assess your cycling condition & goals, then put you up on an adjustable jig and get you situated. Then they'll give you a geo sheet to help you shop for a new bike. I thought that seemed like a pretty fair price compared to some of the other prices I've heard around the internet. The guy offered to take a look at both of my bikes to give me some suggestions too. I'm considering taking him up on the offer but I'm not sure it'll be necessary for now.

Thanks everyone for the help!
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Old 08-23-23, 09:56 AM
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Your weight's probably just too far forward due to the frame being too small for your upper body. You'll probably need a seat post with more setback There are seatposts with 30mm setback - I use one for this reason. Then set you saddle all the way back and see if you can pass the test in post 7. If you can, move the saddle forward a bit until your hands feel just right on the bars.

That said, for riding longer distances, road bikes are designed for that. You can find a good frame size calculator here: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/S...ulatorBike.jsp
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