The Chainlink

Hi,

 

I've commuted by bike off and on over the years, and I've loved it when I did, except for what it does to my back.  Between getting hit by cars and falling out of trees, working on a loading dock, etc., my back is at least 4 kinds of messed up and I really feel it when I ride a bike.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I've ever had a bike that really fit me.  I'm over 6' and all my adult life my bikes have been used and I just took what I could get.  So...

What's the best way to get a used bike that will actually fit me?  Can I adjust it myself or should I go to a shop and get a pro to do it.  And, what kind of bike would be best?  Am I better off on something more upright?  Maybe something will a little give to it?  What do you think?

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Without knowing your specific back problems it's hard to say, but I think key for you is going to be not planted firmly in the saddle, i.e. standing frequently-- thus I'd say don't bother with any "professional fittings" and such, but find a bike that's a hair on the compact side for you that lets you pedal in standing without hitting your knees on the bar. Straight bars, as on a mountain bike or hybrid, will work better that road-style bars.

What exactly are you riding now?

I'd be interested in people's opinions on this, too.  I've been looking at some hyrbid types on sale at Performance and elsewhere in the 4-500 dollar range, with disc brakes and front shocks.

Any thoughts on these?

http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1102107_-1...

http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1102113_-1...

 

Or if you have a similar specific model in mind that I'd be able to find used somewhere, that'd be sweet as well. 

 

I can see where that may seem like an obvious idea, but recumbents are exactly the wrong thing for people with back problems, unfortunately.

Your spine needs to be in motion, not locked in one position with static pressure on your lower back. Additionally, building abdominal  and trunk muscles can be helpful if one has spinal problems, and a recumbent pretty much short-circuits that process.

I'd recommend a recumbent and one with a Euromesh seat as opposed to Reflex seat that has two sections meeting at a 90 degree angle.  If you're in Chicago, you can take some test rides on models at Rapid Transit.  I've got worn disks, and after longer rides feel fine on a recumbent.  While it's true that you work your core more on a diamond frame brake, which is a good thing, but the best way to strengthen your back is not on a bike, but to just do core exercises and stretch.  If you're uncomfortable with the idea of recumbent, then a bike in which you keep your back straight without drop down handlebars is another option.

The best thing to figure out is where your saddle should be first. Taller cyclists, by and large, tend to run saddle heights way too low. This adds to stress on the lower back. Also, the more bolt upright that you sit, the more you are unable to fire your glutes, our strongest muscles. The glutes do not fire and you fry your quads and stress the low back.

I would be happy to show you proper cycling posture on a flat bar, riser bar, or drop bar bike. You can easliy be comfortable on all types. Do not be afraid of drop bars! Bike fitting is not just for racers.

Do not hesitate to give me a buzz at the shop and I would be happy to help. 773-427-4747.

Which shop do you work at?

I'm struggling with seat height and also it's position in relation to the front bars.  The higher I put it, the more unnatural the down stroke feels.  Maybe I'm not giving it enough time, though.  I've heard people recommend that the seat should be an inch or two higher than the front bars, so I've experimented with that.  Nothing I've tried yet feels completely "right", even after briefly talking to a couple different people at shops.  Maybe that's just the rub of owning only a road bike. 


Adam Kaplan said:

The best thing to figure out is where your saddle should be first. Taller cyclists, by and large, tend to run saddle heights way too low. This adds to stress on the lower back. Also, the more bolt upright that you sit, the more you are unable to fire your glutes, our strongest muscles. The glutes do not fire and you fry your quads and stress the low back.

I would be happy to show you proper cycling posture on a flat bar, riser bar, or drop bar bike. You can easliy be comfortable on all types. Do not be afraid of drop bars! Bike fitting is not just for racers.

Do not hesitate to give me a buzz at the shop and I would be happy to help. 773-427-4747.

The average seatpost is too short for many tall people.  I have long legs, and I have to get an extra long seatpost for most bikes.  If you are tall and you're having back and/or knee problems, it's possible that your seat is too low.

 

Regardless of your height, it's a good idea to have someone watch you pedal to figure out what needs adjustment.


Adam Kaplan said:

The best thing to figure out is where your saddle should be first. Taller cyclists, by and large, tend to run saddle heights way too low. This adds to stress on the lower back. Also, the more bolt upright that you sit, the more you are unable to fire your glutes, our strongest muscles. The glutes do not fire and you fry your quads and stress the low back.

I would be happy to show you proper cycling posture on a flat bar, riser bar, or drop bar bike. You can easliy be comfortable on all types. Do not be afraid of drop bars! Bike fitting is not just for racers.

Do not hesitate to give me a buzz at the shop and I would be happy to help. 773-427-4747.

If a bike is properly sized for the rider the 'average' seatpost should be sufficient for the rider unless they are of unusual proportions.  I'm 6'2" and have never had to purchase an extra long seat post.

Anne Alt said:

The average seatpost is too short for many tall people.  I have long legs, and I have to get an extra long seatpost for most bikes.  If you are tall and you're having back and/or knee problems, it's possible that your seat is too low.

 

Regardless of your height, it's a good idea to have someone watch you pedal to figure out what needs adjustment.


Adam Kaplan said:

The best thing to figure out is where your saddle should be first. Taller cyclists, by and large, tend to run saddle heights way too low. This adds to stress on the lower back. Also, the more bolt upright that you sit, the more you are unable to fire your glutes, our strongest muscles. The glutes do not fire and you fry your quads and stress the low back.

I would be happy to show you proper cycling posture on a flat bar, riser bar, or drop bar bike. You can easliy be comfortable on all types. Do not be afraid of drop bars! Bike fitting is not just for racers.

Do not hesitate to give me a buzz at the shop and I would be happy to help. 773-427-4747.

Googling Adam's phone number points to Get a Grip on W. Irving.

It's good to see bike shop folks weighing in here-- happens too seldom IMO.

Setting seat height by its relationship to handlebar height, or vice-versa, with the rider removed from the equation, is a losing proposition. 

The classic way to determine seat height is to have you sit in the saddle and put the pedals at 6 and 12 O'Clock-- the lower leg should have just a bit of flex in the knee still.


Brendan said:

Which shop do you work at?

I'm struggling with seat height and also it's position in relation to the front bars.  The higher I put it, the more unnatural the down stroke feels.  Maybe I'm not giving it enough time, though.  I've heard people recommend that the seat should be an inch or two higher than the front bars, so I've experimented with that.  Nothing I've tried yet feels completely "right", even after briefly talking to a couple different people at shops.  Maybe that's just the rub of owning only a road bike. 


Adam Kaplan said:

The best thing to figure out is where your saddle should be first. Taller cyclists, by and large, tend to run saddle heights way too low. This adds to stress on the lower back. Also, the more bolt upright that you sit, the more you are unable to fire your glutes, our strongest muscles. The glutes do not fire and you fry your quads and stress the low back.

I would be happy to show you proper cycling posture on a flat bar, riser bar, or drop bar bike. You can easliy be comfortable on all types. Do not be afraid of drop bars! Bike fitting is not just for racers.

Do not hesitate to give me a buzz at the shop and I would be happy to help. 773-427-4747.

I agree with points made by h and Adam.   I have a disc problem, and am often most comfortable riding in the drops. It helps me a lot to have my torso supported proportionally more by my arms than by my core, so leaned over is better for me.  I am more likely to have back stiffness issues riding a flat bar bike, a lack of alternate hand positions may contribute to the problem.  A more upright postition also may transmit more shock into the problem area of the spine.  Standing on climbs and rocking the bike can help loosen up the back.

It's hard to generalize, especially concerning what works when injury is involved.  Try some different positions, and see what helps.       

Hi,

 

I will be at the Irving location from 12-5pm today if you want to give me a buzz.

 

Yup. I am at Get a Grip Cycles.

 

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