Author Topic: Change in bike fit as you age.  (Read 859 times)

mickeg

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Change in bike fit as you age.
« on: January 23, 2022, 01:41:21 PM »
I try to look at Lennard Zinn's weekly column.  Most weeks I get nothing out of it, he mostly writes about racing bikes and the latest hardware for that which I have no interest in.  But occasionally a tidbit shows up that I find interesting and on rare occasion I find something that is very pertinent.

I found the column this week to be quite pertinent, as it briefly touches on adjusting bike fit for age.  Does not say much, but it discusses changing your bike fit as your spine gets shorter.  And he has aged, so he mentioned how he changed his bike fit over time.
https://www.velonews.com/gear/technical-faq-adapting-bike-fit-as-you-age/

For those of you that do not know the name, he used to race, he builds and sells bikes (titanium frames), has written several books about bike repair and maintenance, etc.  Over the years I have mentioned on this forum a few tidbits that I picked up from his columns.

I have not reduced stem lengths on any of my bikes, but my handlebars are a bit higher than they used to be. 

martinf

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2022, 02:54:36 PM »
I don't need to yet, but I have already got the parts needed to convert one of my shallow-drop bar Thorns to a more upright position with swept-back flat bars and a wider, sprung Brooks B67 saddle. In the meantime I have repeater brake levers on the straight bit of the drop bars on my bikes that have drops, so when I no longer use the "normal" drop bar brake levers I should know that it is time to change the bars.

If I have a problem getting my leg over a diamond frame I can use one of my Bromptons until I find some sort of step-through frame.

And if I need to have electric assistance I can fit a front motor kit to one of my Thorns.


mickeg

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2022, 08:38:17 PM »
...
If I have a problem getting my leg over a diamond frame I can use one of my Bromptons until I find some sort of step-through frame.
...

Swinging my leg over the back of a bike with a rack, panniers, dry bag on top of that, it can be uncomfortable, at best.

Instead I stand very close to my handlebars.  Hold one or two brakes on so the bike does not roll, it is stable and adds extra support when I have weight only on one foot if I can use the bike for support.  Bend your knee sharply and swing it over the top tube in front of the saddle.  First time you try this, do it very slowly so you think about what you are doing.  And first time, watch to make sure that your knee is in front of the saddle because if it is not, you did not stand far enough forward.

You can lean the bike towards you to get the top of the bike lower too.

The key here is that you do not have to get your knee over the saddle that is way up there in elevation, you only have to clear the top tube that is much lower.

I have suggested this to a lot of people that try it once, in a hurry, and fall over.  So, if you try it, do it slowly while you are thinking about what you are doing.

I did this for the photo with my bike that has a fairly high (horizontal) top tube.  Sloped top tubes make it even easier.  Thus, I picked the bike that it is hardest to do this for the photo, and you can see that it still is pretty easy.

I do not bother to hang onto a brake lever now, I am so used to doing it, that I do not need to worry about the bike moving.  But first few times having the bike fixed in position helps until you get the hang of it.

If you do not have good knee flexibility, maybe this will not work?  But I would expect that anyone that has enough knee flexibility to pedal a bike would be able to do this. 

martinf

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2022, 09:34:56 AM »
Swinging my leg over the back of a bike with a rack, panniers, dry bag on top of that, it can be uncomfortable, at best.

Yes, impossible with the tall cardboard box I recently fetched from the post office bungeed onto the rack on my old utility bike.

Instead I stand very close to my handlebars.  Hold one or two brakes on so the bike does not roll, it is stable and adds extra support when I have weight only on one foot if I can use the bike for support.  Bend your knee sharply and swing it over the top tube in front of the saddle.  First time you try this, do it very slowly so you think about what you are doing.  And first time, watch to make sure that your knee is in front of the saddle because if it is not, you did not stand far enough forward.

With the aforementioned cardboard box I did something similar, but much more clumsy!

I would need to practise your method, several decades of cycling means that I automatically do "left foot on pedal, push down to start moving, swing leg over saddle" unless I think about it.

Except when riding a Brompton, I have done enough distance on these bikes to automatically step over the relatively low frame, oddly, unless I think about it, I don't do that for test rides on my wife's bikes or the visitor bikes with step through frames.


Mike Ayling

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2022, 09:22:00 PM »
Mickeg wrote:

Instead I stand very close to my handlebars.  Hold one or two brakes on so the bike does not roll, it is stable and adds extra support when I have weight only on one foot if I can use the bike for support.  Bend your knee sharply and swing it over the top tube in front of the saddle.

I always do this when riding our tandem because the stoker mounts first then balances the bike with one foot on the ground!

Mike

PH

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2022, 12:13:14 PM »
Re getting your leg over  :o
A couple of people I know who were finding it increasingly difficult have fitted MTB dropper posts, though the usefulness depends how much seatpost you have to start with.

Interesting Zinn article mickeg, I've just had a glance, I'll go back for a proper read when I have some time.

JohnR

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2022, 04:15:00 PM »
I'm a put foot on pedal and swing leg over person. It's probably made easier because the governing criterion for saddle height is being able, when the bike is stopped, to put the front part of the foot on the ground while sitting on the saddle although a higher saddle may be better for pedalling efficiency.

On the overall question issue of bike fit I've only got back to cycling in recent years. I quickly concluded that a Dawes Galaxy with drop bars wasn't the right fit as being down in the drops hurt my neck so, since then I've been using flat bars (currently favouring the Ergotec AHS bars) but I am still making small adjustments to the bar height in order to establish how low I can get the bars while remaining comfortable.

Danneaux

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2022, 05:34:38 PM »
Quote
It's probably made easier because the governing criterion for saddle height is being able, when the bike is stopped, to put the front part of the foot on the ground while sitting on the saddle although a higher saddle may be better for pedalling efficiency.

As a hobbyist framebuilder (meaning I design and build for myself, not for others), I can say there's many factors in frame design that help determine saddle height above the ground for a given pedal-to-saddle-top distance. One is bottom bracket "drop" -- how far the centerline of the bottom bracket is below the centerline (axles) of the wheels. Another is tire size/profile on a given size wheel. Yet another is wheel diameter on a given frame and any combination of these plus several other factors including seat tube angle. I have several bikes with identical or nearly identical geometry/bb drop varying only in tire size and this makes a real difference in effective standover and ease when mounting the bikes -- particularly in 26in wheel sizes where the increments between sizes are much larger than typically seen in 700C road tires.

One of my preferred methods for mounting a loaded tourer is the high forward kick. I typically use a Click-Stand to support my bike and this requires locking one or both brake levers (depending on weight and slope) so the bike doesn't roll. When mounting I remove and store the Click-Stand, place one hand on my saddle, tilt the bike slightly towards me and then high-kick one leg over the handlebars and handlebar bag before unlocking the brakes. It sounds awkward, is certainly unusual, and works a treat. On my tandem, I mount first and dismount last so I can steady the bike flat-footed while my (typically smaller) stoker gets on/off using their down pedal as a step-stool to ease swinging a leg over their saddle. At traffic signals and such, I place one toe or both feet flat on the ground while my stoker stays clipped-in, ready to aid a speedy takeoff.

As my late father grew older and less flexible he reverted to the running mount he enjoyed in childhood, where he placed his left foot on the near pedal, pushed down, and then swung his leg over the saddle from the higher perch provided by the pedal as the bike moved forward. He was able to ride nearly till he died of non-cycling related causes just a month short of his 98th birthday.

A friend from Japan preferred sizing his bikes on the large side with minimal seatpost and (quill) stem showing. The bike was effectively too large to stand over, so he would come to rest with one foot on the ground and his other leg's thigh draped over the top tube and himself dropped to one side. Mounting required the running start. He always said any frame he could easily straddle felt "too small". Japanese randonneur bikes tend to be fitted large, but I think his preferences were set early on when he rode hand-me-down bikes he inherited from the bigger kids in the family and this was a way to "grow into" them.

If it works and you like it...  :)

Best,

Dan.

mickeg

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2022, 05:52:32 PM »
...
On the overall question issue of bike fit I've only got back to cycling in recent years. I quickly concluded that a Dawes Galaxy with drop bars wasn't the right fit as being down in the drops hurt my neck so, since then I've been using flat bars (currently favouring the Ergotec AHS bars) but I am still making small adjustments to the bar height in order to establish how low I can get the bars while remaining comfortable.

I consider handlebar type personal preference.  Thorn strongly discouraged using drop bars on the Nomad Mk II, but that is my preference.  I have used upright bar positions in strong headwinds and felt that the handlebar position was adding to the effort necessary to move forward against the wind.  Thus, my preference for drop bars on most of my bikes.

Years ago I detested drop bars, I found using the drops to be very uncomfortable.  But after I lost 15 percent of my body weight, much of it in the abdomen area (or beer belly), I found that drop bars were much more comfortable than they previously were.  Now use the drops maybe 30 percent of the time, mostly with headwinds or at speed on shallow downhills.

Since Zinn mostly writes about road and cyclocross bikes (he used to be a competitive cyclocross racer), it is unlikely he will cover handlebar types that are not used for racing.

Regarding age and fit, my bars are maybe a cm or two higher now than a decade ago.  But my Dr office records suggest I have lost about an inch and three quarters (~~ 40 - 45mm) in the past couple decades, I suspect all of that in the spine, I found myself agreeing with his write up on this topic.

Off topic as not age related, but a fit issue so maybe on topic, I have some spine problems.  A couple years ago when I was looking at my lower spine X ray on the computer monitor with my physical therapist, I commented that the shape of my spine was probably why I have my bike saddle rotated slightly to the left instead of directly fore and aft.  If I put a straight edge on my saddle so that the straight edge is on the saddle centerline, that straight edge would not go through the stem bolt, but instead be about 30mm to the left of that.  She said she was not surprised that I had my saddle adjusted that way.

mickeg

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2022, 06:06:39 PM »
A friend of mine that I have done a lot of bike touring with often gets on the bike by putting one foot on a pedal, using the other leg to push off to get rolling and then stands on the pedal to get his leg around to the other side.  But the thing that I notice most is that he can do that ambidextrously, from either side.

I only get on a bike from the left side.  That was how I learned and have had no reason to change.

I had a paper route as a kid.  Not sure if those of you from the UK know what that is, but decades ago in USA it was common for people to subscribe to newspapers that were delivered to their front doors.  And kids that were early teenage or a few years earlier often did that work.  I had an old single speed bike with some giant sized chromed steel baskets to haul papers.  And it was difficult to get my leg over the basket when I had a bundle of papers on top.  So, I learned how to get on a bike without swinging my leg over the back.

Maybe that is why I have never had an obsession to remove every possible gram of excess weight off my bikes, much of my bike riding in early years was hauling cargo.

steve216c

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2022, 01:23:15 PM »
...
On the overall question issue of bike fit I've only got back to cycling in recent years. I quickly concluded that a Dawes Galaxy with drop bars wasn't the right fit as being down in the drops hurt my neck so, since then I've been using flat bars (currently favouring the Ergotec AHS bars) but I am still making small adjustments to the bar height in order to establish how low I can get the bars while remaining comfortable.

...
Years ago I detested drop bars, I found using the drops to be very uncomfortable.  But after I lost 15 percent of my body weight, much of it in the abdomen area (or beer belly), I found that drop bars were much more comfortable than they previously were.  Now use the drops maybe 30 percent of the time, mostly with headwinds or at speed on shallow downhills.


My dad has a rather nice Dawes Ultra Galaxy with drops, which when trying it first a few years back was uncomfortable partly because I was carry significantly too much weight. Beer belly might have been an understatement in my case. 30+kg lost in past 2 years, I spend a few weeks caring for my elderly parents and tried to ride 10+ miles most days I was there using the Ultra Galaxy once more. This time the fit (minus belly) was now far better.

BUT, although I found wind resistance using the dropped bars was greatly reduced, allowing me to 'cruise' at a slightly higher average speed from my own bike, I did find that not only did I suffer from a stiff neck after riding, but that the controllability negotiation the great British potholes and poorly planned/maintained bike lanes of the home counties was not on par with my flat bars.

My dad has also realized this, and rides a vastly inferior mountain bike he was given, so he has more control on the rare occasions he still goes for a ride.

If I eventually acquire the Dawes from my dad, I would probably leave the drops (due to the integrated gear/brake shifting) having 3 other bikes with flat bars. I'd probably upgrade his 28-622 tyres to wide as the frame would allow- which might improve some of the comfort. And I guess I would get used to the drops eventually. But a Galaxy with flats might be an awesome bike given it's superb frame. Replace those 30 Shimano gears for a Rohloff... sorry, I am beginning to drool.
If only my bike shed were bigger on the inside...

PH

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2022, 02:11:28 PM »
...
On the overall question issue of bike fit I've only got back to cycling in recent years. I quickly concluded that a Dawes Galaxy with drop bars wasn't the right fit as being down in the drops hurt my neck so, since then I've been using flat bars (currently favouring the Ergotec AHS bars) but I am still making small adjustments to the bar height in order to establish how low I can get the bars while remaining comfortable.

...
Years ago I detested drop bars, I found using the drops to be very uncomfortable.  But after I lost 15 percent of my body weight, much of it in the abdomen area (or beer belly), I found that drop bars were much more comfortable than they previously were.  Now use the drops maybe 30 percent of the time, mostly with headwinds or at speed on shallow downhills.


My dad has a rather nice Dawes Ultra Galaxy with drops, which when trying it first a few years back was uncomfortable partly because I was carry significantly too much weight. Beer belly might have been an understatement in my case. 30+kg lost in past 2 years, I spend a few weeks caring for my elderly parents and tried to ride 10+ miles most days I was there using the Ultra Galaxy once more. This time the fit (minus belly) was now far better.
I have bikes with both straight and drop bars, though currently that's 3 to 1 (Not including folders or E-bike)
I think it's often a case of familiarity, or another case of forming opinions based on limited experience.  There's many varieties of both types and I doubt many of us have more than scratched the surface of what's available, I certainly haven't.  I've found something I like and stopped trying anything else, in my case fairly straight bars with Ergon grips and Nitto Randonneur drop bars. There isn't a huge difference between them in my most used positions, the Ergon offer a position similar to the hoods, and the position on the grips or flats is similar.  The only difference is when looking for an aero position, in the drops or the ends of the bar ends with wrists on the grips.  Aerodynamically they're very similar, I prefer the stretched position of the latter to the hunched position in drops, but again familiarity may play a part in that. I think the idea that drops are inherently superior in this regard is a myth, for evidence look at any TT bike, or at a random selection of cyclists the majority of whom would probably be more aero if they bent their elbows, regardless of the shape of the bars! Many off the peg drop bar bikes will come with a greater drop from saddle to bars than the equivalent straight bar bike, it's fashion. There's no need for that to be the case. if a 15cm drop suits the rider it will regardless, likewise having the bars higher than the saddle.

I've now had a proper read of the Zinn article, as noted it's very much from a racing/sport perspective and the changes he's made are quite considerable. I haven't considered changing my position, I'm comfortable where it is, but it was never that sporting to begin with.  I note the position over the pedals hasn't changed, this is the only consistent between my bikes.  The reach differs between them, by up to 4cm from memory, that's been arrived at on a bike by bike basis, to some extent it differs with usage.  IMO, for me at least, if I'm comfortable over the pedals, the bar becomes somewhere comfortable to rest the hands, and that's quite a range. If that wasn't the case where would you set the bars for?  There's a greater difference between hand positions on any of my bikes than there is between bikes.

The only bike I've struggled a bit with comfort on is the E-bike I bought last year for delivery work.  It is a very stiff frame, it needs to be, I added a suspension seatpost which helped.  But I've come to the conclusion the major difference is weight displacement due to effort.  It's riding for work, not for fun, I'm trying to minimise my effort! So, I'm very much sat on rather than in the bike, extending that idea to the Zinn article, it isn't surprising that a rider putting in maximum effort would have less weight on the saddle and more forward on the bars, making their position more critical.

mickeg

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Re: Change in bike fit as you age.
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2022, 07:35:25 PM »
... Many off the peg drop bar bikes will come with a greater drop from saddle to bars than the equivalent straight bar bike, it's fashion. There's no need for that to be the case. if a 15cm drop suits the rider it will regardless, likewise having the bars higher than the saddle....

I bought a new road bike four years ago.  Bars were lower than I wanted but not too far off, first photo.  This was when I first assembled it, but the photo also has the bottle cages that were not included.  I do not remember if I had to flip the stem upside down to raise them or not, that is possble.

I bought a stem that had a 35 degree angle, that raised them up to where I wanted them.  Second photo.  I tried to buy one with 25 degrees, but was unable to find the angle and length I wanted, so the bars are actually a bit higher than I planned.

Fortunately there was 25mm of steerer tube spacers on the bike, that was enough that I could add a Thorn Accessory bar, 55mm length for my handlebar bag bracket.

I agree, it would be nice if more bike companies were more realistic about how high the bars should be on new bikes.  But, suggested manufacturer price on this bike was not cheap, perhaps they assumed that anybody that was buying this bike was young and fit and wanted to look like        (insert name of favorite Tour de France winner here)       .

But as you can see I started adding weight to it.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2022, 07:39:07 PM by mickeg »