A tale of two stems

Shearwater Missile

Über Member
Location
Heart of Suffolk
Firstly I will start saying that I had been riding quite happily with 100mm stems on both of my bikes until about a year ago. I started to get a lot of lower back problems which may not have been due to cycling I hasten to add. It just seemed to get worse after each ride and then the ache would subside until the next ride or perhaps after bending gardening. I decided to measure my height wondering if I had altered due to age (59 at the time) I had ! measuring 5`8. I`d always been 5`9 or so I thought. Anyway I decided to buy a new stem, 90mm. Low and behold the bike felt better and the lower back pain seemed to be addressed. I bought another 90mm stem for the other bike. All seemed well from last April.
Fast forward to about two weeks ago when suddenly I started getting neck and shoulder pain after about 15 miles and on both bikes. When I was on the bike if I moved my hands forward on the hoods the neck and shoulder pain eased. I tried the same thing holding the sink in the bathroom and moving my body into a similar position as to that on the bike (don`t laugh). The neck and shoulder pain was induced. So, I have now gone back to the 100mm stem and guess what ? Harmony has been restored. The 90mm may have been good at the time in as far as the back was concerned but felt too cramped for the neck. The moral of the tale is 1, Don`t disgard anything that you may want to use again later and 2, The body and a bike are not a permanent fixture. Hope this may be of use to others.
 

ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
I spent years gradually raising my bars and bringing them closer to me, thinking that it would help with my sore back. Then I borrowed my cousin's bike on a holiday in Scotland. It is the same size and frame type as mine but the setup was different - he had his bars lower and further away than I did mine. I found his position much more comfortable so I switched to that when I got home. I now have a 140 mm stem and have moved several spacers to above the stem to get a lower position. I find it a big improvement.
 
OP
Shearwater Missile

Shearwater Missile

Über Member
Location
Heart of Suffolk
I spent years gradually raising my bars and bringing them closer to me, thinking that it would help with my sore back. Then I borrowed my cousin's bike on a holiday in Scotland. It is the same size and frame type as mine but the setup was different - he had his bars lower and further away than I did mine. I found his position much more comfortable so I switched to that when I got home. I now have a 140 mm stem and have moved several spacers to above the stem to get a lower position. I find it a big improvement.
Bike fit is an oddity as sometimes logic goes out of the window. I have never had a bike fit but have always been OK perhaps just lucky. The back is a complex part of the body and easy to injure and hard to repair / get back to normal again. Incidentally, I usually ride on the drops but only because I prefer the feel of the drops. If I have a tail wind or feel leisurely I will go the the hoods.
 
OP
Shearwater Missile

Shearwater Missile

Über Member
Location
Heart of Suffolk
I'm currently experimenting: It looks like I have a whole world of discovery ahead of me...
I have read countless articles on bike fit etc, most are very good but don`t take anything for gospel. For instance. One adage about not being able to see the front axle is not always true. When I had the 90mm stem on I could`nt when holding the tops, now I can see the axle behind the bars. This would imply that the 100mm is too long. But as said in my OP, the sore neck and shoulders have gone and the back is OK. We shall see what some gardening will do to it tomorrow. Good Luck Andy, get comfortable.
 

dave r

Dunking Diddy Dave Pedalling Pensioner
I have read countless articles on bike fit etc, most are very good but don`t take anything for gospel. For instance. One adage about not being able to see the front axle is not always true. When I had the 90mm stem on I could`nt when holding the tops, now I can see the axle behind the bars. This would imply that the 100mm is too long. But as said in my OP, the sore neck and shoulders have gone and the back is OK. We shall see what some gardening will do to it tomorrow. Good Luck Andy, get comfortable.
Bike fit is more a Black Art than a science.
 
Well you’ve found that out for yourself. You’re quite right, bodies change, the bike dimensions you have right now, won’t always be right, this is what I like about modern bikes, they tend to be far more adjustable than bikes in days of yore.
 

12boy

Veteran
Location
Casper WY USA
There are so many variables....
Hands palm down or the handshake position
Saddle level or tilted up or down
Knees over BB, or behind
Bars lower or higher than saddle
Grips behind, at, or in front of the stem.
Bar width
Grip shape and amount of padding
Those are a few that come to mind
For myself, I have been using moustache bars or flipped North Roads a la pathracers to ease hand numbness, shoulder and neck strain. I set saddle height so as to barely be able to reach the pedal at max downstroke to spare my knees. Oh, and daily stretching for legs, hips and back. As we age, recover (hopefully) from injuries or encounter different types of riding we can go back to the drawing board and try new things. It's worth the effort, though. Hard to beat a bike that feels just right in terms of bringing a smile to your face when you hop on board.
 
OP
Shearwater Missile

Shearwater Missile

Über Member
Location
Heart of Suffolk
There are so many variables....
Hands palm down or the handshake position
Saddle level or tilted up or down
Knees over BB, or behind
Bars lower or higher than saddle
Grips behind, at, or in front of the stem.
Bar width
Grip shape and amount of padding
Those are a few that come to mind
For myself, I have been using moustache bars or flipped North Roads a la pathracers to ease hand numbness, shoulder and neck strain. I set saddle height so as to barely be able to reach the pedal at max downstroke to spare my knees. Oh, and daily stretching for legs, hips and back. As we age, recover (hopefully) from injuries or encounter different types of riding we can go back to the drawing board and try new things. It's worth the effort, though. Hard to beat a bike that feels just right in terms of bringing a smile to your face when you hop on board.
Being on a bike that fits well on a warm sunny day in the countryside is like heaven on earth, IMO.
 
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