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Bike fit ... I can't get comfortable ...(15 posts)

Bike fit ... I can't get comfortable ...Ransak
Jul 11, 2002 3:42 PM
I've been riding my (first) road bike for just over two months now (probably just over 1000kms) and I just can't get comfortable.

My back, neck, legs, butt, and knees all great feel. But my elbows, wrists and hands scream in pain (I'm a wimp). I've tried messing with the position of the bars, but no improvement. When I sit in riding position and look down over my bars, I can see ALL of the front hub and a little crack of light in FRONT of it.

Not sure if this helps, but I ride a GIANT OCR 2 (one of the GIANT's 'three-sizes-fits-all' compact geometry set ups ... hope that isn't part of the problem)! I'm about 6'1" and the bike is a 'large'.

Any tips, suggestions, personal experiences and solutions whould be much appreciated!



PS - I did have the bike professionally fitted on a trainer at the shop and I have left most of those original adjustments unchanged.
bar height & stem length, ab strength...C-40
Jul 11, 2002 4:29 PM
Measure the distance from the top of the saddle to the top of the bars. It's simple if you measure the height of each from the floor and subtract one from the other. For instance, my saddle is 96cm from the floor to the top and the bars are 87cm to the top. The difference is 9cm.

Preferences for bar height vary widely. Larger riders may have the bars up to 12cm lower than the saddle. Others prefer as little as 4cm.

If your bars are a lot lower than your saddle you must have the abdominal and back strength to keep your weight off your hands. You should be able to ride with the arms relaxed, slightly bent and carrying only a few pounds of weight. The pains that you describe are probably from riding with your arms held stiffly to support your upper body.

The stem length that you describe may be a bit on the short side, but that won't cause the discomfort that you describe. I consider the minimum stem length to be the length that keeps my knees and elbows from touching when I ride with my hands on the drops, with my fingers in reach of the brake levers and my upper back in a horizontal position. Additional length is entirely optional.

Saddle position can also affect weight balance. If your bike shop didn't set your knee over the pedal spindle with a plumb bob when you had the bike fitted, you should check this relationship. Placing the knee directly over the pedal is a decent starting point, but you should try moving the saddle back 1-2cm to see if it improves your pedaling and reduces the weight on you hands. Moving the saddle back will increase you ability to apply torque to the cranks, but may reduce your comfortable cadence. You should be able to maintain at least 80 and preferably 90-100 rpm. If you move the saddle too far back, you can end up with a low cadence that's hard on the knees and reduces power, so don't over do it. Moving the saddle back will also increase the reach to the bars, the same as installing a longer stem. Don't change stem length until you are certain that you have established an effective saddle position.

Another source of hand and wrist pain is improperly installed brake/shift levers. Be sure that the portion of the brake hood where your palm rests is at least horizontal or preferably angled upward a few degrees.
bar height & stem length, ab strength...Ransak
Jul 11, 2002 4:35 PM
Wow ... thanks ... that gives me plenty to think about and adjust. My fitting included a the knee/spingle plumb bob process ... but I should check this again since I have made many minor adjustments back and forth since.

Ultimately, I think that I'm set up with too much weight on my hands (that's the part of your post that really struck home).

Thanks again.
re: Bike fit ... I can't get comfortable ...legs
Jul 11, 2002 6:16 PM
is your saddle level.. ?.
put a small level centered along the entire length of your saddle.. until the bubbles are level ...

is it possible that you are not streched out enough? ( to be figured after pedal over spindle).. is there too much weight being forced forward ....?

can you take a picture of you and post it here (profile)
Get a pro fit.... trust meDrPete
Jul 11, 2002 7:28 PM
It's very important, especially on your first road bike, to get a good fit. I've had pain in almost every part of my body until I got my bike re-fitted by a pro. They're hard to find, but they're out there. One great shop if you're in VT is Fit Werx in Waitsfield, 2 hours at that shop saved my back, feet, hands, and elbows.

Also, for the cheaper version, check out the custom bike fit guide on All kinds of good info for getting the perfect fit. Much easier to go to a shop with the right tools, though, or to have a buddy help.

Since this is my 2nd post plugging Fit Werx in this forum, I think I should say I don't work for them and I'm not on their payroll---they really were the best shop I've ever worked with!
Thanks again ...Ransak
Jul 11, 2002 9:23 PM
I think I'll tweak a few things some more and read up on fitting tips, but I'll bet that I will end up back at the shop on their trainer for a re-fit.

Thanks again ...
Try tipping the nose of the saddle up a little bit.dzrider
Jul 12, 2002 4:33 AM
It doesn't sound like your over-stretched so it may be that your arms are holding your body from sliding forward. This was true for me for many miles until a guy in a campground on Bahia Honda Key suggested I try it. What a relief
You're too cramped. While there is no science backingbill
Jul 12, 2002 6:37 AM
up the "see the hub" test, it's still not bad, and if you can see the whole hub, you're probably too cramped.
The symptoms you describe almost certainly result from your pushing back on the bars -- they are classic. If you are too stretched out, you feel it in your triceps, because, instead of being balanced, you are holding yourself up. If you are too cramped, you feel it just as you describe, in your lower arms, wrists, etc. Move those bars out from you a little with a longer stem, and I will bet your problems will disappear.
While some people seem to have luck with changing their saddle angle to handle such problems, I have experienced nothign but unqualified disaster by moving my saddle angle the slightest bit.
I think the easiest fix is to slide the saddle back a littleelviento
Jul 12, 2002 8:51 AM
I see too many newbies having their saddle too forward (Thomson post with Flite saddle, for example, is a bad combo in that regard).

Also pedaling hard can relieve the problem a little, strange as it sounds. Whenever I ride hard, I have much less pressure on hands because pushing pedals down creates a counter force to sit up (exact reason why recumbents have a chair to lean against), but when I coast, they will need to support more weight.
I'll go along with that. The other thing I learned recently isbill
Jul 12, 2002 10:25 AM
that, if you find yourself sliding forward on the saddle, it could be because the reach is too long but it also could be (and here's the part I just learned) because your saddle is too high.
I don't think much of KOPS. I've tried to make sense out of it to me and it just doesn't.
Good advice ... tyring some this afternoon ... but what is KOPS!Ransak
Jul 12, 2002 12:33 PM
I've made some adjustments. They key (I think) is to get some weight off my bars. I've (1) tilted the nose of my seat up 'one nothch' from level, (2) moved my seat back a little bit and (3) tilted my brake hoods up just slightly from horozontal.

I know, I know, ... probably too many changes at once to be able to tell what worked and what made things worse. But I made these changes incrementally and it feels better ... booting around on my front street at least. Time to go and put 40 kms or so on it and see how it feels.

I'll let you all know (since you have all been so helpful I presumptuously guess that you might be interested)!!! :-)

It is gorgeous outside and I'm going for a ride!!!
KOP = Knee Over PedalC-40
Jul 12, 2002 1:39 PM
As I mentioned, setting the knee in relation to the pedal is very important. Setting the KOP position directly over the pedal is a starter. From there, adjustments are made to increase torque (back) or increase cadence (forward). Optimum power is found with the perfect balance of torque and cadence, since power= torque x cadence.
seat time?DougSloan
Jul 12, 2002 6:59 AM
Could be you just need more seat time to get used to being on the bike. Meanwhile, I'd recommend simply changing positions often. Just one possibility.

Stem too long?Crankist
Jul 12, 2002 7:36 AM
"When I sit in riding position and look down over my bars, I can see ALL of the front hub and a little crack of light in FRONT of it."
This description sounds like too long a stem, stretching you out too far with too much weight on the hands. A pic would sure help.
Too long? Sounds wrong.djg
Jul 12, 2002 1:47 PM
If I read him correctly, he looks down through the bars (or maybe even over the front) and he is looking at a spot BEHIND the front hub.

True, the line-up-the-hub technique is notoriously fuzzy (it's not as if your head is immobile), but the typical starting point, taking it as a rough fit guide, is to have the hub obscured by the bar. That suggests that, if anything, his stem is too short, not too long.

Think of it this way: if he had a twenty centimeter top tube and a two centimeter stem, he'd be on a circus bike, but he'd still be looking at a point behind the front hub.