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I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :(13 posts)

I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :floatch
Apr 21, 2002 3:36 PM
On my new roadbike, my seat is currently about 4 inches higher than my bars. I'm new to road biking, but I am not a newbie, having cycled in general for about 10 years (MTB & touring). I'm having some pretty nasty neck and shoulder pains when riding anything more than about 20 miles, so I'm wondering if this is just spring pains, or if I need a higher stem. I have a 80mm 7 degree rise stem right now, but I might go to an 80mm 17 degree.
Is this variance in saddle/bar height too much for someone unused to the aero position inherent in road bike design? My MTB's seat is no more than 2 inches higher than it's bars.
Can someone give me some input here? How high are your saddles versus your bars?
P.S. -I used a long straightedge on my saddle, and then measured down to the bars to get the 4 inch measurement.
re: I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :jtolleson
Apr 21, 2002 4:46 PM
That's a pretty hefty drop... and already using a riser stem? No offense, but what LBS sold this to you? Did you get any fit help? I'm also curious how much seat post you have showing, because it sounds like the frame is pretty darn small.

People will say saddle/bar differential is a personal preference, which it is, but to the average hobbyist I think you'll typically see a drop of 1-2 inches, and if you monitor your power output on a Serotta size-cycle fitting, you'll see that many riders actually start to LOSE power when the drop goes beyond 3 inches. Comfort aside, of course.

Sounds like you definitely need to bring those bars up to get comfortable. Talk to your LBS. Depending on your setup, you may be able to gain some with spacers, too.
re: I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :DINOSAUR
Apr 21, 2002 4:51 PM
Neck and shoulder pain are common ailments for people new to road biking. Cycling is a mainly from the waist down type sport in regards to the muscles you use, however it does require a certain amount of upper body strength in order to maintain position.

That being said, 4" (10.16cm) is a big seat-to-bar-drop for someone who hasn't ridden a road bike that much. However it can get complicated as it depends on flexibility and body anatomy. When you change the rise of your stem to a higher rise you are also shorting it. Probably you best bet would to drag your bike down to your LBS (local bike shop) and tell them what your problem is and they can have you try a couple of different stems. That way you wouldn't be experimenting and buying different stems until you found one that feels comfortable.

The common rule of thumb for people beginning at road cycling is to start with a high road riding position and gradually lower them as they gain flexibility.

I'm kind of curious also as to how you were sized for your bike. For fun, click on the Wrench Science fit page, and with someone helping you take measurements you can ball-park-figure your bar drop. Then go to the Colorado Cyclist website and do the same thing under "Other Resources". Or find someone who can fit you on your bike. It doesn't sound like you were properly fitted.
re: I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :guido
Apr 21, 2002 7:02 PM
Alot of riders would have neck pains with their stems 4 inches lower than their saddles. The 2 inch drop from your mountainbike sounds about right. Why not try to duplicate that?

Also, if the frame is on the small side, as the other posters have mentioned, you probably don't have enough reach, either. Neck problems caused by too much drop are always made worse by not enough reach. Think about a longer stem about 2 inches lower than the saddle, probably close to what your mountainbike is.
re: I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :mwood
Apr 21, 2002 7:24 PM
I'm not sure anyone could be comfortable with that type of drop. It is about twice what my bike has.
Has the seat height and fore/back been fit correctly to your crank location/throw?
I agree with the others, something sounds out of whack.
Bars even with the saddle--best cycling move I ever madecory
Apr 21, 2002 10:51 PM
Sneer all you want; I see plenty of it. But I can ride ALL DAMN DAY with no neck or back pain.
Bars even with the saddle--best cycling move I ever madeRay Sachs
Apr 22, 2002 4:16 AM
My bikes range from having the bars about 1 inch below saddle height to even with saddle height. There are some really fit young fools (probably even some really fit old fools) who are comfortable with a four inch drop to the bars, but most of us recreational riders aren't. Start at about one or two inches below the saddle (if that's what your mtb is) and don't be afraid to try an even higher bar setup if it feels right. You should have it so the drops are about as low as you can comfortably ride - if you can't comfortably stay in the drops for a few minutes at a time, I'd say they're too low. That way, the hoods should always be comfortable and the tops downright relaxing. It they're too low to ride the drops, what's the point of drop bars?

re: I'm worried about my neck pain & stem height, so... POLL :Galibier
Apr 22, 2002 4:32 AM
It sure sounds like you need both a longer stem and less drop. For starters, I don't know how tall you are, but an 80mm stem is incredibly short. When combined with 4" of drop, you have likely created a cramped, hunched position. Obviously, it is hard to recommend anything over the intenet, but I would try a stem which effectively increases your reach by at least 2cm (this means that if you increase the rise of the stem, you will need to compensate by increasing the length of the stem by more than 2 cm), and I would reduce the drop to about 2-3". This should allow you to stretch out more over the bike. Give yourself time to adjust to each new position you try -- they all will feel awkward at first. Good luck.
That's kinda what I figured... My bike is a little small for me.floatch
Apr 22, 2002 4:32 AM
The handlebars DO obscure the front hub, and I feel like the reach is right. However, on this small frame, the bars are very low. I can't raise my stem much because I cut the fork a little prematurely.
I suppose my only course of action is to seek out a stem with a bit more rise, or maybe buy a new fork (ouch!). Wish me luck! Oh, and thanks for all your input! I very much appreciate it!
That's kinda what I figured... My bike is a little small for me.timfire
Apr 22, 2002 6:33 AM
Others have said this before on this board, but another option is that you can find a road handlebar with a 25.4 stem clamp size, and then use a mountain stem. That would give you more options for stems with rise.

That's what I did. I had what sounds like a similiar problem. The top tube length of my bike was the right size, but the height of the stem was low! Using a 73 degree stem angled straight out, I had a 5 inch drop from my seat! (I know, I know... I probably could have easily gone a size bigger.)

Which brings up a question for you. Do you have your stem angled down (normal way) or do you have it flipped upside down and angled up? If its angled down, then you can angle it up for around an extra .5 inch of height. If its angled down and you switch it to a 17 degree stem angled up, it will give you an extra 1.25-1.5 inches of height (given you increase the length of the stem by a cm or so to keep the same overall reach.) And if its already angled up, switching to a 17 degree stem will give you an extra .75 inches or so. (Note: these are only rough estimates.)

If you want to increase the height of your bars by 2 inches (to give you a 2 inch drop) by stem angle alone, you will probably need to switch to a stem with 20 or 25 degree rise, which firmly puts you in mountain stem territory.

Also one last thing that might help you neck pain issue, if you rotate your hips forward and flatten your back, you will actually decrease the amount you need to bend your neck to see, since it changes the angle of your shoulders. That will take a little practice, however, to get use to.

--Timothy Kleinert
More info, and a plan...floatch
Apr 22, 2002 8:27 AM
As far as buying a new road bar with a 25.4 clamp size, that's out of the question. I just bought a new Easton EC-90 carbon bar (26.0), so I'd like to avoid the MTB stem route. =) As far as which way the stem is oriented, it's a 7 degree stem, flipped so that it's at its tallest. I'm not sure at this point a 17 degree rise stem would make my bars tall enough, so this brings us to my new plan...
I checked out (a great manufacturer imo), and they have an S.U.L. stem which I can get in 115 degrees. I am assuming 90 degrees is considered no rise, and that 115 is really more like a 25 degree rise. Does this make sense? Any math folks out there that can calculate height differences/length differences in differing stem rises and lengths? I might re-post with a new topic, so please don't flame me! Thanks a bunch!
Same problem...slow process of eliminationKristin
Apr 22, 2002 1:27 PM
I started with an extreme kinda drop because I bought a bike setup for Crits and shoulda probably gone for something closer to touring...but what can I say, the bike "felt" so agressive. I liked it. But it killed me.

Now heres the cyncher. I've already reduced my seat to bar difference from 5+ inches to just 2 inches. My neck and back still bother me. Riding is no longer fun. However, I've gained a coach of sorts (a friend who has been riding brevets since 1978). She has made two suggestions:

1. Ride less and work up slowly. (Last year I went like gangbusters.) Base miles 3 times a week for 2 months. Then add intervals on one day. Eventually, I'll do a longer ride.

2. Replace my fork. This was backed up by my LBS too. My bike is fork is steel. Every little bump gets reverberated through my hands and arms. So, I purchased an agressive kinda ride that I haven't adapted to yet. Now add to that all the road vibrations, and viola! Within 6 miles I really begin to tense up. You didn't say what material your fork/frame is...though I'm assuming its carbon...otherwise, why the carbon bars?

Anybody gotta threaded CF fork laying around that they wanna sell?
Same problem...slow process of eliminationdsc
Apr 22, 2002 3:07 PM
No extra CF fork lying around for sale, but on the subject of the CF bars - they do make a difference in dampening the road vibrations (not eliminating, just dampening) transmitted back up to your arms/shoulders. I noticed a difference when replacing my aluminum bars with the CF Kestrels this past January.

Note that CF bars also change the *feel* of road feedback, as well. You may not like the slightly *dead* feeling they give. Perhaps your LBS would let you slap on a set to test ride. Easier and cheaper than a new fork!