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Measuring Handlebars?(14 posts)

Measuring Handlebars?Kristin
Jul 16, 2001 7:41 AM
How does one measure myself for handlebar width. (I searched online, but got no relavant hits.) I tried the recommendation in "Zinn"--which is basically holding the bars up to you shoulder--but that was awkward and I'm not convinced its accurate. Plus, I get no numbers from that so then what size would I order? Also, I'm chaning my stem soon and thinking about swapping my bars at the same time. When adjusting things on the bike, which is better? A) Change a few things at once, thus creating less removal/adding of parts. B) Changing one thing at a time so you can experience the differences in fit individually
As quoted from Colorado Cyclist...Cima Coppi
Jul 16, 2001 8:02 AM
Most cyclists select a bar that is just as wide as their shoulders, measured as the distance between the shoulder joints. A wider bar opens the chest for better breathing and more leverage, but is less aerodynamic. You'll need to find your own balance between the two.

Have someone take the measurement for you. Stand tall and straight with your arms relaxed when you take the measurement. Hope this helps...
proper bar measurement is somewhat personal -- justbill
Jul 16, 2001 9:04 AM
recognize that the wider the bar is, the more room your chest will have to open up but the less aero you'll be, and vice versa. They say to measure from shoulder prominence to shoulder prominence. I went about 2 cm wider, and I'm very happy.
Certain related dimensions I would suggest to do one at a time, and I'm not sure that stem length/bar width qualifies (the dimensions are in different planes). But, I guess it could matter a little. If your stem is going to be open face, so that you can remove the bar without having to slip it off the stem, I'd say do it one at a time -- you've got nothing to lose. If you have the more conventional closed face quill stem, I'd say do it all at once, because re-doing it all is a little bit of a hassle (not too much, but you may need new bar tape and all).
Are you going to do it yourself?
Breathing RoomKristin
Jul 16, 2001 9:50 AM
I've heard about this idea of "opening your chest up," but I don't understand the logic. Athletes and singers should not (based on the coaching I've had) be taking in air to the upper lungs. Filling should be limited to the lower portion of your torso. Even if you hug yourself, you should be able to take in the same amount of air, because bringing your shoulders in does not change the shape of the esophogus (sp?). So then, I don't understand how handlebar size would affect ones breathing if done correctly. I can see how reach can affect breathing though, by being to scruched up or too stretched out. Is there a book or something where this information is coming from? I'd like to review it and get my vocal coaches opinion. Also, I'd love to hear Made In Tiawan's opinion about this too.
Breathing RoomJofa
Jul 16, 2001 10:31 AM
I think that the 'opening chest up' idea is popular because it 'sort of feels right', but I don't see any basis in fact either. The lungs can reach maximum capacity irrespective of the position or orientation of the shoulders, or virtually anything else. I remember Chris Boardman putting paid to this myth when he was developing his superb aero position with Peter Keen... his oxygen throughput was unaffected by the position he was in.

I'm sure that the advice given by singing coaches of 'breathing with the abdomen' is simply an analogy, presumably because it encourages greater control over exhalation; we certainly don't have any control over which parts of our lungs fill with air. Athletes in any case need to use their lungs to maximum capacity, (though I don't know about singers). If we needed education in breathing methods in order to do strenuous exercise, than we really would be a poorly evolved species...
Breathing RoomMel Erickson
Jul 16, 2001 11:41 AM
Yes, we do have to learn to breathe properly to maximize efficiency. Breathing by expanding the chest is not as efficient as breathing by expanding the belly. You can take in more air, and expel more carbon dioxide, by breathing with the diaphragm (belly breathing). Singers and racers use their breath differently but the pricipal is the same, take in the max and put it to best use. Years ago I remember seeing a top cyclist on TV and thinking "man, look at the pot belly on that guy, how can he be a great cyclist?" He was belly breathing. Some can expand their gut (and draw down their diaphragm) to extraordinary extents. By belly breathing one doesn't control what parts of the lungs fill with air, but how much air is drawn in. Even normal breathing takes in more oxygen than we can use but that's not the reason for breathing deeply. The reason is to expel the maximum amount of waste (primarily carbon dioxide).
Breathing RoomJofa
Jul 16, 2001 1:42 PM
I don't believe it. I remember marvelling at the same thing of top cyclists but the reason is simply that they have disproportionately large lungs which predispose them to endurance sports: this limits the visceral space for the other organs, and the only way is out. Indurain is famous for this with his oddly lumpy body, as is Merckx, and I understand Axel has inherited the same. Carbon Dioxide in the lung isn't just waste... it also serves as the impetus to breathe; Free-divers used to hyper-ventilate, which expelled the latent CO2 from the lungs and reduced their compulsion to breathe, to their benefit regarding the sport but their detriment regarding their health: the practice was sensibly frowned-upon and, I believe, outlawed and strictly monitored.

The best way for our cardio-vascular systems to work, is the most natural one. Even die-hard technological riders like Boardman have never tried to change their breathing habits, as when one's body needs oxygen, it finds it by trial and error... nobody ever consciously breathed with their diaphragm or anything else when in oxygen debt up a 25% hill.
theres always a skeptic :)Kristin
Jul 16, 2001 2:08 PM
There are some people who just get things right naturally. A given activity is seeming effortless. Athletes who can go forever. Singers who can open thier mouths and create perfect sounds. But for the other 99% of the population, these acivities take serious concentration.

All through Jr. High, I could not complete a 1 mile run. I was riddiculed by my gym teachers and called lazy. I wasn't lazy! I was breathing wrong. I didn't learn to breathe properly until I studied voice. Now I transfer that knowledge to cycling. What some take for granted is difficult for others. Many peole breathe inefficiently. Large lungs might help, but I've never seen a study on this. Even so, the tool is no good if you don't know how to use it. Even a tiny person can fill an opera house with sound if properly trained.
Jul 16, 2001 2:42 PM
... maybe skepticism, though I don't think so. I understand that people may not naturally breathe in a way perfectly suited to loud, apparently effortless singing; but I think that our breathing mechanism is ideally adapted to motivating our bodies as fast and efficiently as possible. Athletes with big lungs are no better at breathing than anybody else- they can just do more of it. I think the comparision between athletes and singers is spurious, as the objectives are so different; being given advice such as 'concentrate your breathing' is probably useul for any activity, not because of the breathing par se, but simply because concentration itself: repeating a mantra is often recommended for the infinitely tedious practice of time-trialling.
Breathing RoomKristin
Jul 16, 2001 1:47 PM
Mel, thanks for the post. If I recall, you're in the music business and probably more educated than I. As I've learned to breathe properly (not enerrant for me), I've felt this at work physically. When I breathe "high", I use muscles to fill my lungs from the top down, so I mostly expand at the top of my rib cage. Doing this causes poor breath control and, in sports, lots of side stitches. When I "belly breathe", I fill from the bottom up. Overall I have better lung capacity this way, but am not completely filling my upper cavity. That's how it was explained to me, but I'm gonna ask my coach about it again.

One thing about breathing and posture. My coach can sing Habenera perfectly while curled up in a ball; proving that if you know how to breathe & relax, posture shouldn't matter. But this takes years to master (I couldn't do it). I would assume that team coaches instruct racers on proper breathing technique.
Breathing Roomfurnace
Jul 16, 2001 5:17 PM
This is a very interesting thread. With much respect: I think the goals of an opera singer and endurance athlete are not exactly the same.

Generally speaking, endurance athletes aren't concerned with high vs. low breathing. It's probably counter-productive to spend energy relearning what should come naturally. Side-stitches are caused when someone's diaphragm is slightly out of sync with their abs and intercostal muscles...causing them to pull in opposite directions for a split-second with every breath. Most beginner athletes are familiar with side-stitches, but the stitches almost always vanish after their bodies develop a natural rhythm, through simple repeated exercise.

What's Habenera?
Interesting question, although I think that the point aboutbill
Jul 16, 2001 10:31 AM
"not taking air into the upper lungs" is more about what muscles to emphasize when drawing a breath, not about whether your upper chest doesn't expand some when you are breathing properly from your diaphragm. Also, I'm not sure that being a little more spread out laterally with your arms wouldn't allow the diaphragm to move a little more freely. After all, you're not moving your shoulders farther apart, you're just getting your elbows and upper arms away from your torso, which I would think would allow the whole thoracic area a little more room.
I believe that I noticed an increase in comfort when I went with 2 cm wider bars. But, the placebo effect is a wonderful thing.
Bicycling Mag had this adressed.....Len J
Jul 16, 2001 10:25 AM
in the last couple of months. Sorry , don't remember which month. What I do remember is that different manufacturers measure thier bars differently, some outside of bar to O/s of bar & some center to center. They had a summary by mfg. that might help you. Let me know if you can't find it & I'll look at home.

As far as changing out, I think it comes down to person preferance & time commitment.

just get 40cm (c-c)....C-40
Jul 16, 2001 2:16 PM
Unless you're on the large side, most women have fairly narrow shoulders. 40cm measured center to center or 42cm measured outside to outside should be fine. I've used this size for the last 17 years. This generally the narrowest size available in most popular models. Leave the 44 and 46 sizes to the big guys.