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Over the handlebars(30 posts)

Over the handlebarsErika
Jun 28, 2001 9:24 AM
I bought my first road bike 2 months ago, a Cannondale R500 Triple Feminine. I'm about 5'3 and 110 lbs so I needed something small. I hit a pot hole and went over the handlebars going about 30 mph 3 weeks ago. It was pretty bad but I got back on the bike last week and feel extremely uneasy now. Actually I never felt comfortable going over even small bumps. The bike seems very stiff and my hands come off the handlebars when hitting bumps. I'm not sure what is normal for a road bike and what may be some weaknesses of this particular bike or maybe it's just that I'm so light. I would appreciate any tips on how I can make the bike feel less stiff or any info from someone with more experience than myself...
Thanks for your help!!
re: Over the handlebarsMeDotOrg
Jun 28, 2001 9:50 AM
I don't specifically know this bike, but a small aluminum frame carrying 110 pounds is going to be fairly rigid. Taking a header at 30 and then getting back on certainly shows your commitment.

Expensive fixes might be a carbon fiber seatpost and handlebars. The cheapest thing I can think off the top of my head would be going to a wider tire, maybe a 28cm. You might also look at getting some padding under your handlebar tape, and make sure you are wearing gel gloves.

But my gut feeling is that you would be happier on a steel frame, assuming you're on a tight budget. Before I get flamed about putting the knock on aluminum, I just think that in your case it might be too much of a good thing: Too rigid for your weight.
re: Over the handlebarsJim Burton
Jun 28, 2001 9:50 AM
Do you have a carbon or aluminum fork on that Cannondale?
re: Over the handlebarsLardog
Jun 28, 2001 10:05 AM
My only suggestion is you keep a tight or tighter grip on your bars at all times. I all too often find myself just resting on the bars leaving myself open for trouble like you mentioned. Just a couple weeks ago I was just resting on the bars and hit a bump. Bad bad news. I didn't go down but I was bouncing along on the top tube, seat ramming me repeatedly in my lower back, feet had flown out of the pedals and were now cement skiis and I was over so far that I was steering with my arm pits......

Yep, you've got a rigid ride, me too. I love it.
re: Over the handlebarsErika
Jun 28, 2001 10:46 AM
Ooh, that sounds like it hurt! I actually feel worse the more pressure I put on the handlebars. When going downhill the position forces me to put more pressure forward which makes me feel the worst over bumps. When flat and I don't have to put too much weight on the handlebars I feel more confident. I wonder if the bike is actually *too* small for me. I think if the bars were up higher I would feel better(not so bent over). Ugh, I don't know... :-/
Do NOT grip tightly! You will be more apt to losing control!(nmJim Burton
Jun 28, 2001 1:30 PM
re: Over the handlebarsErika
Jun 28, 2001 10:38 AM
I have a carbon fork which I thought was supposed to be better.
re: Over the handlebarsMrCelloBoy
Jun 28, 2001 10:59 AM
I personally HATE aluminum road bikes.
If It were me I'd sell the C-dale and replace it with a Ti, Steel or Carbon frame. The fatter tires recommended by another guy will help too, Spox wheels with vectran spokes will help absorb shock as well.
It's pretty normal to need some recovery time as far as feeling nervous after a fall. I'd encourage you to keep riding but not to feel like you have to "battle" that feeling to get through it.
re: Over the handlebarsdante
Jun 28, 2001 11:33 AM
If it were me, I'd sell it and buy a mtn. bike!! :) (just kidding!)

Frame size and other thingsCima Coppi
Jun 28, 2001 10:57 AM
First, check to make certain the frame is correctly sized for you (also the stem length and seat height). Frame size (c-c): .65xinseam (in cm). Seat height(center of BB to top of seat): .883xinseam (in cm)

Second, DO NOT ride stiff on the bike. Relax, grip the bars lightly. You'll have greater control of the bike this way. You'll be able to react quicker when you hit bumps, or have to swerve to avoid and obsticle in the road.
Frame size and other thingsDreamPlus
Jun 28, 2001 11:23 AM
Cima's correct. Relax and make sure the bike fits. Get help with this if you need to. A stem that's too long will place your weight too far forward - Do you feel too "stretched out"? If not, maybe your seat need to be moved back. If you move your seat back, then are you too stretched out? It's a little trial and error. You mention raising your handlebars - it's worth trying. You may need a new stem that has more "rise" if it's not a quill stem. Experiment a little. If you feel like your in trouble move your weight back on the seat and by extending your arms some(remaining relaxed). Hope this helps, don't give up.
Absolutely keep the upper body loose and balanced. One ofbill
Jun 28, 2001 12:04 PM
the amazing things about bikes is that they want to go forward, straight and true. It's when we try to manhandle them into doing something else that we get into trouble. Gotta trust the bike; the bike'll get you through.
Here, Here. LIGHT GRIP!!!Jim Burton
Jun 28, 2001 1:27 PM
Absolutely. I was a tad disturbed by the post suggesting to grip tighter. You will tire fast and make yourself actually more likely to losing your grip. In addition, the tight grip will tire the rest of your body and make an already super stiff bike feel even stiffer. RELAX!!!!

I too have a Cannondale, until the upcoming weekend that is, and the ride is VERY harsh. I pick up my Steel Serotta on Sunday. Hurray for steel!
Here, Here. LIGHT GRIP!!!Lardog
Jun 28, 2001 2:01 PM
Well, it seems tight, light, loose are all subjective to individuals. I didn't suggest creating a death grip on the bar. After my experience with hands flying off over a bump and seeing, oh, I forget his name at the Giro do the same thing when he hit a bump and completely crash, well, I've learned to grip the bar a bit more. I make sure that I don't just rest my hands on the bar which would allow my hands to fly off over any bump I miss in the road. Here here, a light grip indeed, but perhaps a little heavier!
re: Over the handlebarsLazy
Jun 28, 2001 12:35 PM
Sounds to me like your position might be putting too much of your weight on the front wheel. Check to see that the weight distribution is close to 55% on the rear and 45% on the front. Also sounds like you have your handlebars lower than you are comfortable with, and possibly too long a stem too. I think you're a prime candidate for a professional fitting on your bike.

Some technics that may help:

Learn to un-weight your bike as you go over bumps, and progress to hopping over obstructions that are unavoidable. This can be scary at first, but I've avoided many a scary situation by doing so.

Good luck, and stick with it.
re: Over the handlebarsLC
Jun 28, 2001 12:35 PM
Make sure you a looking well ahead. After a bad crash I was all tense and kept looking down at the ground in front of me, which makes it even worst because you can't see what is coming and you have even a greater chance of hiting another hole.

What really helped me was some Mt. Bike training that helped me to anticipate and plan for what is coming up instead of reacting to what you a doing at the moment. See if you can barrow or rent a Mt. Bike and go out with the local club on a couple of begining rides. You would be amazed how different you will feel next time you are on the road bike and happen to hit a pot hole...your body will remember how to react and relax, and you will naturally unweight that front tire by instinct.
Feeling Uneasy is Expected...PsyDoc
Jun 28, 2001 12:38 PM
...I had a bad run in with a dog that left me with a broken collar bone and fractured pelvis. When I got back on the bike 5 weeks later, I was pretty much scared sh!tless anytime I saw a dog running toward the road or heard any rustling in the brush/trees next to the road. But, after awhile, those feelings went away.
re: Over the handlebarsJofa
Jun 28, 2001 12:47 PM
What kind of bike had you been riding previously. The difference between low-pressure balloon tyres and high-pressure narrow tyres is similar to the difference between having tyres and not having any at all, as regards comfort.

If the handlebars are so low that they cause discomfort in general use, then their position should be changed. As I think somebody has written, the accident you had is attributable to riding style more than anything else; except of course tle lack of road maintenance. I hope you weren't badly hurt. I know what it is like when deep potholes catch you unawares...

The measurable compliance of a bike frame, wheels and components in the vertical plane (as may affect comfort) is so little, as to be arguably non-existent. Please don't go and buy a new bike because of this accident, it will be no different. Wider tyres run at lower pressure and maybe foam under the bar tape or padded gloves, will have more effect on 'road shock' than anything else. Riding as others have described, with relaxed arms, an eye up the road, and in a comfortable position, will be the most help of all.
re: Over the handlebarsErika
Jun 28, 2001 1:51 PM
But how can you relax your arms on downhills?? The downhill position puts most of your weight on your arms. This is where I am having the most trouble. I am okay when it is flat and loosen my arms over bumps but what about downhill? Am I riding incorrectly? What part of the bars would you suggest your hands should be on downhills? Also I cannot get wider tires because my wheels are smaller than normal since it is the feminine version. I was told that I only had one option, tires that can allow a lower pressure, which I got and it's not helping.
Thanks for all the helpful info!
Try scooting back in the saddle a little to get more ofbill
Jun 28, 2001 2:37 PM
your weight over the rear. The rearward position also will get you lower. Keep arms flexed and natural (pushups are great for the triceps!).
The more I do this, the more I realize the importance of balance and shifting around the bike to maintain balance. Moving around also promotes mastery of the bike/body problem.
re: Over the handlebarsJofa
Jun 28, 2001 2:58 PM
The key is to keep your elbows bent as much as possible. You can put your hands on any part f the bars that you like: most people spend most of the time on the hoods- that is, with their fingers wrapped around the black rubber covers over the brakes. If you can't do this comfortably then the handlebars are to far away and your position will need to be reviewed. Even when riding downhill, you shouldn't ever feel that your arms are taking the majority of your weight; road inclines are rarely steep enough to cause this imbalance, although some off road paths will. Don't worry about riding 'incorrectly'- there are no absolute rules- but try to keep your grip on the bars relaxed, and your elbows slightly bent. If you are concerned that your position on the bike is restricting you from doing this then have somebody with experience from a bike shop watch you ride, even around the car park.

I take it that you bike has 650c wheels. You are correct, this does limit your tyre choices, but I'm sure somebody makes 25 or even 28mm (if they will fit in your frame) tyres in this size. If you have 23mm tyres currently, larger ones will make a difference.

I suspect then that your problem is twofold:

1. Your position on the bike, particularly that your handlebars are too low. This is often a complaint from riders new to cycling who are then told erroneously that they must conform with the nose-down position that the pro's ride. There is no substitute here but to discuss the problem with a live person, who preferably is equipped with experience and tolerance. Remember that it isn't you who must conform to the bike, but the bike that must be made to fit you.

2. You've discovered that riding skinny-tyred road bikes on bumpy roads is quite unpleasant. I haven't worked out how to solve this one yet...
A couple of things, Erika.boy nigel
Jun 28, 2001 3:08 PM
Regarding the "downhill position": Sure going downhill can put more weight on one's arms/shoulders, but one needs to learn to relax their arms and shoulders (and even grip) for better steering, weight distribution, balance, and greater confidence on the bike, particularly on downhills.

Don't ride with your arms fully extended to the bar tops (next to your bike computer if you have one--or where they're mounted) or to the brake hoods (rubber part on the top of the brake levers). Stiffening your arms will send bumps through your upper body (Ouch!) and will cause you to lose control of the bike when hitting bumps. Try this: Sit in a chair with your arms flat at your side. Now, bend your arms 90 degrees up, so that they're parallel to the floor. Keep your palms down (knuckles facing the ceiling). Now, extend your arms forward until you've reached your (imaginary) bars. They shouldn't be extended fully, but a bit more (maybe) than halfway extended. This should be the extension when you're on the handlebar tops, approximately. You may want to either raise your bars slightly, move your seat forward slightly (unless it's at the right position now), or change to a shorter stem to facilitate safer and more comfortable reach.

Gripping the bars firmly (not tightly, but FIRMLY--almost lightly) will allow you to relax a bit more and steer more confidently, especially if you hit a bump.

It sounds like you may want to really keep an eye on the road in front of you a bit better. No offense meant, but a big bump like that likely could've been avoided if you'd spotted it in advance. At the very least, you would've been prepared to raise yourself off the saddle and relax your arms, rather than keeping them stiff. Try to relax more on the bike. Kudos, by the way, for "getting back on the horse."

I'm 5'5" (though I weigh a good bit more than 110), and I've a small aluminum bike with a carbon fork as well. I wouldn't think that the frame materials or sizing caused you to pitch the way you did; don't change the bike, since you've a perfectly nice bike. Relaxing is the key, along with keeping those peepers alert for "hazards" on the road like bumps and whatnot.

Safe riding, and look into bike fit; this can HUGELY affect the way you feel on a bike and how tense or relaxed you are. If it fits well in all aspects of bike fit (besides just stand-over-the-top-tube clearance), you'll feel comfortable and relaxed, even if you're not particularly strong (musclewise). A proper-fitting bike makes you comfortable from the start, pretty much. Consult books in a bookstore and take notes on bike fit; you may spot the problem quickly and easily.

Careful out there,
Nige :)
Jun 28, 2001 3:18 PM
You mentioned "downhill position." I'm guessing that you flatten your back and get your face down close to handlebar level. I'm not sure where you live or how big your hills are, but I don't think you need to be in an agressive aero position unless you want to go down the hill very fast.

As a new rider, I only get low on a hill if 1) I just finished climbing and want to get my speed back up, 2) There's another climb just ahead, 3) I just feel like going fast. Otherwise, I just remain upright, and let the elements control my speed.

Measure three things on your bike:
Distance from floor to top of seat
Distance from floor to top of handlebars
Distance from floor to top of hoods

I went thru this a while back on the board and it turns out that the drop from my seat to my bars (4-5") was way too agressive. A lot of people recommend a 0-2" drop to the bars for new riders.

Here's a link to that thread:
Go with the flow (more)lonefrontranger
Jun 28, 2001 3:45 PM
Ouch! I'm 5'4" and female. Your experience sounds like my first few months of serious riding. The first crash is the absolute worst, especially on the road where it really hurts. The aluminum Cannondale might be too rigid, adding to an already squirrelly situation because you're riding tense out of apprehension. I really hated my aluminum Trek 2300 (it was given to me nearly free by a sponsor, so I tried desperately to like it), and got rid of it after 2 seasons of angst, saddle soreness and bad fit.

As someone else posted, locking out your elbows is a big no-no, ESPECIALLY on downhills. On downhills, ride in the drops to lower your center of gravity and give you more security. Keep your elbows bent (consciously sticking them out slightly helps). Relax your whole upper body - neck, shoulders, back, etc... You steer and/or control a road bike 95% from your hips, and 5% with your arms. Proper balance is a "triangle" of weight roughly equivalent between your pedals, feet and saddle. If you feel too low in the front, definitely raise the stem.

Try these drills riding on a smooth, flat parking lot or smooth grass field. The goal is to become familiar/at ease with how the bike handles, and also teach you not to depend on your hands/arms so much for control:

Slowly ride a large (30 foot diameter) circle, taking your outside hand off the bars - stretch your hand up and outward, keeping your eyes up and on where you're going. Stay relaxed, and when you can do this without wobbling or braking, switch directions and use the other hand.

Take 3-4 markers (sticks, rocks, soccer cones, cans, whatever) and set them in a line about 10 feet apart, or use the ends of parking lot lines as "spots". Slowly ride a serpentine (S) between them, do a full circle at the end and ride back. Repeat, riding on the tops, the drops and the hoods. When you're comfortable, and can keep a fairly steady speed, put one hand on the tops near the stem, take the other off the bars (free hand relaxed, working elbow bent), and do it again. Switch hands, and repeat.

Do these on grass:

Put a thin stick on the ground, and lift your front wheel over it. You have to bend your elbows and use them as "springs" to first compress (extend), then lift (pull back) the front wheel over the obstacle. When you get this down, try lifting your back wheel over - use your knees the same way as you did your elbows to lift the rear wheel. This will take a bit of doing, but you will eventually get it. Then try both (like a rocking-horse motion) at one shot. When you get that, try getting a little more speed up and hop over the stick altogether (bigger spring, knees and elbows simultaneously).

Find a shallow low spot, bump or divot, mark it, and learn to "dead-jump" it. Ride at it with a little speed, and just before you hit it, assume an "attack" position - butt off and slightly behind the saddle, weight back, elbows bent. When you hit the bump, soak it up by letting the bike rise up under you. A dead-jump is how you ride large road or bridge seams, RR tracks, and potholes that you cannot avoid. Good Luck!
re: Over the handlebarsMikeC
Jun 28, 2001 12:48 PM
If it's unrealistic to get a new bike (and it usually IS unrealistic), then wider tires are definitely the way to go. Carbon forks, posts, and bars don't make as much of a comfort difference as wider tires, where you can also run a lower psi. You can also experiment with a tire with more aggressive tread. There are a lot of 'cross bikes and hybrids that count on the tires to get their riders over some pretty serious terrain, not just bumpy streets.
That said, you'll find the pros doing Paris-Roubaix "roads" that would make the rest of us just cry, so there's a lot to be said for refining bike-handling skills, too.
Locking out your elbows?Shad
Jun 28, 2001 2:16 PM
Many people tend to ride with their elbows locked straight out because it's easier than using some tricep muscle. Try to keep some bend/flex in the elbows to absorb unexpected bumps/holes. It's quite similar to keeping your knees slightly bent and staying relaxed when skiing. If you ski stiff-legged, you will be pitched in the air when you hit the first small mogel; or wave, if on water. Human suspension.

Just don't quit.

Shad Prins
Apple Valley, MN
raise your handlebars, if possiblebianchi boy
Jun 28, 2001 2:22 PM
The trend these days, which I don't understand, is to set up bikes with the handlebars far below the height of the saddle. This is more uncomfortable for many riders and shifts your weight toward the front. If you have a threaded (quill) stem, it is a simple matter raising the stem. However, if you have a threadless fork/stem, you can add more spacers (if possible) or buy a new stem with 90-degree or +10, +17 rise to lift the bars. You might also try more padding on the handlebar by adding a second layer of tape across the top.
consider a more forgiving frame...C-40
Jun 28, 2001 2:27 PM
C'dales and most all aluminum frames are known for being very stiff. I've owned three, but I won't ever get another. Too stiff for my 135-140 lbs.

I would look at basic Ti frames like the Litespeed Arenberg, Douglas Ti, or Macalu, or standard steel frames like the Tommasini Sintesi. The ride will be much better. If you have special fitting needs, consider a custom steel frame, designed for a light rider.

Avoid oversize tubes regardless of the material.
Bar tops or brake hoods?E3
Jun 28, 2001 3:56 PM
Are you riding with your hands on the bar tops or on the brake hoods? I'm wondering about the positioning of your hoods. It seems to me that if your hoods are canted slighty upward and you are holding on reasonably well, the hoods would prevent your hands from slipping forward. Hands on the bar tops would be less secure since all you have to rely on is your grip. If you're riding the hoods and they are affixed to the bar too low on the bend, then you wouldn't have as much to hold on to.

It also might help to do a little tricep/upper body strengthening.
re: Over the handlebarsDutchy
Jun 28, 2001 10:51 PM
Regardless of which frame is used, you probably would have gone over anyway. Hitting a pot-hole tends to do this. The only thing you can do to stop this happening is look ahead and keep your focus on the road. You will rarely see "Roadies" looking out into the country side (at speed), because the consequences are obvious, if you take your eyes off the road you are going to hit something eventually. It's different with MTB's as they are more stable, due to their weight, fatter tyres, lower psi etc. A road bike needs very good attention to the road. Also as someone else mentioned, try borrowing a friends MTB and go off road, you will pick up very good riding/balancing skills doing this. Which can help in your reaction to future obstacles. CHEERS.