Author Topic: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?  (Read 5237 times)

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Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« on: May 04, 2010, 10:18:39 pm »
Hi everyone,
I have a question on bike fit. I wish to buy a light weight touring bike* & use it for long distance excursions.  I have tried out a few different models (e.g., Novarra Safari,* Novarra Randonee, Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker) but am having trouble finding a bike that fits & would be comfortable for a long ride. I have two orthopedic issues that are hampering my search. First, I have rotator cuff problems so the traditional hunched over riding posture of handlebars with drops is uncomfortable. Second, I have a bad knee that becomes inflamed if I ride with a conventional seat post position. Of course, I can raise the seat post, but that seems to irritate my low back & different parts of my knees.

My best ideas to resolve the problem are to 1) buy a bike 2) remove the drop handlebars 3) install mountain bike style handlebars 4) remove the existing crank set 5) install a new crank set with short 165 mm crank arms.  I am hoping that members of the list may have additional ideas (other than buying a recumbent!). If you do, please provide them. Also is there a ready made "out of the box" touring bike model that provides the design I want?
Thanks,
Neil

*The Safari is too heavy for me, though the handlebars are the best I have yet encountered in my search. The Bianchi Volpe is the size and weight that I am seeking.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2010, 01:15:17 am by NEIL FROM BROOKLINE »

Offline whittierider

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2010, 02:06:54 am »

I don't know if you mentioned 165mm crank arms because that's really what you want, or because it's very difficult to find any that are shorter.  T.A. makes gorgous, very durable cranksets down to 150mm.  DaVinci Designs has them down to 130mm.  Peter White Cycles is one of the T.A. distributors.

Note that the height of the bars does not increase when you replace them with flat ones.  The height is set by the length of the fork's steering tube and the angle on the stem.  Drop bars are most often ridden with hands on the tops of the brake lever hoods, but offer a lot of other positions to rotate among to avoid fatigue, unlike flat bars.  Some people like trekking bars too, which give lots of positions, all of them rather high.  I find however that aerobars offer a lot of relief to my wrists, elbows, shoulders, and other parts, even though I'm lower and more aerodynamic.  I won't do any long rides with the aerobars anymore.  I and our sons like the Syntace C2 because the arm pads are somewhat behind the bars rather than directly over them, and the ends curve up so our wrists are nearly straight instead of curved down in an unnatural position that can't be held comfortably for long periods.  I don't like Syntace's size recommendations though.  Although I'm 6' tall and they recommend a large for me, even the medium puts me a little too stretched out.  I use smalls, and put bar-end shifters on the ends since that's where my hands are almost all the time.

I recommend moving the seat way forward too.  The farther back it is, the more your lower back has to curve.  I, my wife, and both sons all use reversible Bontrager seat posts to get the seat much farther forward.  The knee-cap-over-pedal-spindle doctrine was a mistake from the beginning, and now it's nice to finally see some big people in the industry saying so, like Keith Bontrager and a lot of Ph.D.'s.  (This last article linked addresses a lot of things regarding injuries on the bike).  Doing it the way I'm proposing (and the way we do it), our backs are definitely not hunched, in fact, in spite of being nearly horizontal, they're rather straight.  My wife doesn't ride in such a low position like I and our boys (college-age now) do, but when she was having some discomfort and I watched her ride, I stopped and moved her seat way forward.  Immediately her back looked straighter, she looked more natural, obviously had better command of the bike, and she said it was much more comfortable.

Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2010, 08:03:50 am »
Hi whittierider,
Your ideas are great! Thanks you very much!!
Best,
Neil

Offline vanvalks

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2010, 12:39:37 pm »
Another source for short cranks is Mark Stonich of BikeSmith Designs.  He is set up to shorten some models of existing cranks (He takes 175 Ultegra to 153 for example) and sells other models that have been shortened.  He has some that go down to the 120 range as I recall (but I haven't looked at his website in a couple of years).  A good guy to deal with, BTW.

And I hate to say this given your statement, but the real cure for your problem is to get a recumbent.  I also have a bad back and bad knees.  After trying a recumbent, you literally could not pay me enough to go back to riding a diamond frame bike.  Agreed that they are "geek bikes" (as a friend calls them--and a recent poll on bentrideronline.com found that 2/3 of the respondents were in engineering, IT or hard science).  Agreed that they are somewhat slower uphill because you can't weight shift or stand on the pedals.  Agreed that the high bottom bracket types are more difficult to handle in traffic (the low bottom bracket types like the Tour Easy are easier than a DF).   But once you try one for a few miles and get past the initial learning curve, I predict that you will ask yourself why you delayed so long.  I did.

Bob

Offline Bikearound

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2010, 01:07:50 pm »
When you look for a specific bike like the LHT for example, keep in mind that you can exchange the stem for an adjustable one that will give you additional height. My LHT is set up with an adjustable stem and MTB bars and the stem allowed me to find the exact position that suits my style of riding. my size is right between a 54cm and a 56cm frame and I went with the 54 primarily because I wanted the 26" wheels that were not available on the 56cm at the time. An additional benefit for me was that it gave me a more upright riding position which is also what I wanted in a touring bike. Also with injuries, you have somewhat of a chicken and the egg conundrum where the more you ride, the stronger you will become so at first what might seem difficult may not be such a big deal with time in the saddle.

Offline CastAStone

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2010, 02:31:06 pm »
If your not finding a bike that fits, order one! Just because the 520, LHT, etc in stock isn't sized right for you, that doesn't mean that they can't order one that is. Plus, a bike fresh from the factory will have an uncut fork, which enables you to raise up the handlebars as much as you want using spacers.

Allow me to put myself in the category of people who think you should just get really wide drops instead of a flat bar; you can use them like a flat bar but when things tense up you will probably appreciate the ability to occasionally change hand positions.

Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2010, 11:13:30 pm »

I don't know if you mentioned 165mm crank arms because that's really what you want, or because it's very difficult to find any that are shorter.  T.A. makes gorgous, very durable cranksets down to 150mm.  DaVinci Designs has them down to 130mm.  Peter White Cycles is one of the T.A. distributors.

Note that the height of the bars does not increase when you replace them with flat ones.  The height is set by the length of the fork's steering tube and the angle on the stem.  Drop bars are most often ridden with hands on the tops of the brake lever hoods, but offer a lot of other positions to rotate among to avoid fatigue, unlike flat bars.  Some people like trekking bars too, which give lots of positions, all of them rather high.  I find however that aerobars offer a lot of relief to my wrists, elbows, shoulders, and other parts, even though I'm lower and more aerodynamic.  I won't do any long rides with the aerobars anymore.  I and our sons like the Syntace C2 because the arm pads are somewhat behind the bars rather than directly over them, and the ends curve up so our wrists are nearly straight instead of curved down in an unnatural position that can't be held comfortably for long periods.  I don't like Syntace's size recommendations though.  Although I'm 6' tall and they recommend a large for me, even the medium puts me a little too stretched out.  I use smalls, and put bar-end shifters on the ends since that's where my hands are almost all the time.

I recommend moving the seat way forward too.  The farther back it is, the more your lower back has to curve.  I, my wife, and both sons all use reversible Bontrager seat posts to get the seat much farther forward.  The knee-cap-over-pedal-spindle doctrine was a mistake from the beginning, and now it's nice to finally see some big people in the industry saying so, like Keith Bontrager and a lot of Ph.D.'s.  (This last article linked addresses a lot of things regarding injuries on the bike).  Doing it the way I'm proposing (and the way we do it), our backs are definitely not hunched, in fact, in spite of being nearly horizontal, they're rather straight.  My wife doesn't ride in such a low position like I and our boys (college-age now) do, but when she was having some discomfort and I watched her ride, I stopped and moved her seat way forward.  Immediately her back looked straighter, she looked more natural, obviously had better command of the bike, and she said it was much more comfortable.

Hi whittierider,
I just want to follow-up on one point you made in your response. You asked why I opted for 165 mm crank arms. First, it took a lot of phone calls just to find a bike store that could even special order crank arms of that size. Also, the LBS stated that, if I were to install a smaller crank arm size, my legs would just spin, rendering the bike difficult to ride. Do you agree with that assessment by the LBS? Please let me know.
Thanks,
Neil

Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2010, 11:20:37 pm »
Another source for short cranks is Mark Stonich of BikeSmith Designs.  He is set up to shorten some models of existing cranks (He takes 175 Ultegra to 153 for example) and sells other models that have been shortened.  He has some that go down to the 120 range as I recall (but I haven't looked at his website in a couple of years).  A good guy to deal with, BTW.

And I hate to say this given your statement, but the real cure for your problem is to get a recumbent.  I also have a bad back and bad knees.  After trying a recumbent, you literally could not pay me enough to go back to riding a diamond frame bike.  Agreed that they are "geek bikes" (as a friend calls them--and a recent poll on bentrideronline.com found that 2/3 of the respondents were in engineering, IT or hard science).  Agreed that they are somewhat slower uphill because you can't weight shift or stand on the pedals.  Agreed that the high bottom bracket types are more difficult to handle in traffic (the low bottom bracket types like the Tour Easy are easier than a DF).   But once you try one for a few miles and get past the initial learning curve, I predict that you will ask yourself why you delayed so long.  I did.

Bob
Hi Bob,
Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your letting me know about Mark Stonich. I would consider a recumbent but I live in a very urban area & would use the touring bike for occasional commuting. I am wary of being low to the ground with crazed drivers. Also, my commute features some bike trails with curb stones and tight turns that might require frequent dismounts. I would consider a recumbent if I lived & worked in a rural area.
Best,
Neil

Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2010, 11:28:41 pm »
If your not finding a bike that fits, order one! Just because the 520, LHT, etc in stock isn't sized right for you, that doesn't mean that they can't order one that is. Plus, a bike fresh from the factory will have an uncut fork, which enables you to raise up the handlebars as much as you want using spacers.

Allow me to put myself in the category of people who think you should just get really wide drops instead of a flat bar; you can use them like a flat bar but when things tense up you will probably appreciate the ability to occasionally change hand positions.

Hi CastAStone,
Thanks for your reply. Your idea about getting extra wide drops sounds interesting. Can you recommend a model & manufacturer to get? I would definitely be into raising the handlebars on my bike. I have a couple questions. If I use spacers, will that make the ride less comfortable due to vibration or weaken the frame? Also are spacers the only way to raise the handlebars? Please let me know.
Best,
Neil
PS Just to clarify, my issue is not frame size (I have been able to test out frames that would fit a normal person). Rather it is the configuration of the bikes, which I wish to alter.

Offline CastAStone

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2010, 12:03:47 am »
Can you recommend a model & manufacturer to get? I would definitely be into raising the handlebars on my bike. I have a couple questions. If I use spacers, will that make the ride less comfortable due to vibration or weaken the frame? Also are spacers the only way to raise the handlebars?

WTB makes a 60cm bar (traditional drops are 40-46cm) called the "mountain road drop bar", but its a little funky shaped, I'd look it up.

You might learn a lot about your handlebar options at Sheldon Brown's page; http://www.sheldonbrown.com/deakins/handlebars.html . You might enjoy trekking bars or "mustache" bars as well; if you are unfamiliar with those you can read about them there.

Spacers I can tell you definitively will not weaken the frame if you have a decent headset on your bike. I do not know the answer to the vibration question although I believe that since the spacers go above the headset, vibration is probably minimal. Chances are pretty good that you have at least one spacer on your bike now.

Another way to raise the handle bars is a taller stem (look for higher angle numbers). Also, getting a 31.8mm width handlebar will raise the handlebars a few millimeters. Off the top of my head, they you might also be able to find taller headsets, I'm speculating on this one but well made headsets of special materials may do better to reduce vibration than the combination of spacers and your stock headset. There might be more ways to raise the bars, but I don't know them.

Offline whittierider

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2010, 01:02:51 am »
Quote
Hi whittierider,
I just want to follow-up on one point you made in your response.  You asked why I opted for 165 mm crank arms.  First, it took a lot of phone calls just to find a bike store that could even special order crank arms of that size.  Also, the LBS stated that, if I were to install a smaller crank arm size, my legs would just spin, rendering the bike difficult to ride.  Do you agree with that assessment by the LBS? Please let me know.

165 is indeed the shortest of the common crankarms.  The unfortunate part is that the range of crankarms available from most manufacturers is kind of like offering shoes from size 10 to size 11 and then trying to fit everyone into them, saying the very smallest feet should go into the size 10, normal feet into size 10½, and the very biggest into 11.  Kind of ridiculous.  Stems, frames, and even bars come in a much wider range than that, but not cranks.

I've read of three studies now where power output was measured at different crankarm lengths, to find the effect of lenth on power.  I linked to the report on one of them above.  They all found that aside from small differences in individual muscle types, there was basically no correlation between crankarm length and power.  The urban legend is that longer crankarms will give more leverage and therefore more power; but since that means a bigger circle too, you lose exactly the same amount in cadence as gain in torque at the cranks, the net effect on power being zero, and all it does is change your shift points a little.  With the shorter crankarms, your spin will natually be a little better, making you want to use slightly lower gears to go a given speed and effort.  I'm 6' tall and I'm on 165mm cranks because of one knee that has had many minor injuries starting at age six.  Going to the shorter crankarms gave a lot of relief to my knee, but definitely did not slow me down at all.

Here's a moustache bar on Rivendell's website:



Regarding bar diameter, 31.8mm versus 26mm:  the newer road standard is the larger diameter, but that's only in the clamp area at the stem.  The rest is still the same size, and the same brake levers will fit on both.

When bike shops get bikes, the fork steering tubes are already cut to the right length, minimizing the labor to assemble the bikes.  I used to work in a bike shop.  If you order a new fork, it will come uncut, but I don't know what the longest they recommend is for how far it sticks out the top of the head tube.  It might be on the fork manufacturer's website.  There are of course different stems available though.

Quote
I am wary of being low to the ground with crazed drivers.
I got hit 11 years ago by a small SUV-type vehicle turning left across my path without yielding.  Although it was not my fault legally, I could have avoided it if I hadn't let my attention lapse for a couple of seconds.  Anyway, since I was on an upright bike, it kind of scooped me up and sent me up, flying and spinning.  I was not hurt badly; in fact, I rode again the same day.  If I had been on a recumbent, I don't think I would be here to tell about it.  I might be on a recumbent though were it not for a childhood neck injury that produces headaches in that position.  (The upright bike position is actually really good for my neck which tends to curve the wrong way at four of the vertebrae.)  I am intrigued particularly by the recumbent trikes.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2010, 01:11:34 am by whittierider »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2010, 12:11:24 pm »
Hi whittierider,
I just want to follow-up on one point you made in your response. You asked why I opted for 165 mm crank arms. First, it took a lot of phone calls just to find a bike store that could even special order crank arms of that size. Also, the LBS stated that, if I were to install a smaller crank arm size, my legs would just spin, rendering the bike difficult to ride. Do you agree with that assessment by the LBS? Please let me know.
Thanks,
Neil

You bike shop is feeding you a load of bovine fecal matter.

I am of French Canadian descent.  My people have the build of a plow horse, long torso, and short stubby legs.  If my legs were proportional to my torso, I would be over 6' tall.  Since I have short stubby legs, I usually end up on a 50CM sized road bikes.  It used to be that the smaller road bike frames came with 165MM crank arms.  The bike manufacturer assume that a small frame like that is being sold to either a female or an adolescent.  The 165MM crank arm is not there because of clearance issues.  The 165MM crank arm is there to take some strain off leg bones of the still growing adolescent.

The smaller crank rides just fine.  With shorter cranks arms, you have less mechanical advantage (the correct technical term), but you also have less bone stress too.  I know at one time Colorado Cyclist carried 165MM road cranks.  There are probably other sources.

Personally, I would consider installing a compact drive mountain bike crank.  These do not come shorter than 170MM crank arms, but you will not be loading up the knees as much.  You will have to learn to spin, but that is probably not a bad idea for you either.  If I spin at a cadence lower than 70, I get knee pain, so I shoot to keep a spin cadence of 80 - 90 revolutions per second.  In my 30's, I had a spin cadence of 105, but I just can't keep that up anymore.

I cannot provide much guidance on your shoulder issues.  A professional fitting my someone you trust might be money well spent.  Perhaps a Serrotta dealer since are trained better than most dealers.
Danno

Offline Tourista829

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2010, 01:54:59 pm »
Two suggestion, have you considered a recumbent. It would help you with your shoulder and possibly with your knee. Contact Mark at www.poweroncycling.com. The second is to contact RE Cycles in Seattle, Washington they have 18 standard sizes and I know 3 people who have purchased bikes from them, ask for Smiley. www.rodcycle.com Either option will be far more expensive than a REI or Surly bike.

Offline vanvalks

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2010, 02:48:50 pm »
A little off topic, but if riding in traffic is an issue, get the Dinotte taillight and headlight.  These make you VERY visible (last week I forgot to turn mine off on the trail, and a guy who passed me while I was making a rest break said he spotted me from 2 miles away).  I now ride a recumbent trike in an urban environement--I use mirrors on both sides, Dinotte lights, and a flag.  I ride defensively, and in five years have not had anyone who failed to see me (after all,, you see a squirrel on the road, it's hard to miss a guy on a Barcalounger with his butt a couple of inches off the road.  The "what the f--- is that?" factor gets their attention, and they give me 10 times the room that they ever gave me while riding a regular bike).  There is a perennial debate in the recumbent community about the advantages/disadvantages of short cranks, but most of the people with bad knees come down on the positive side since you have to spin on a recumbent--you can't weight shift or stand on the pedals.  There are a lot of people riding recumbents with 140 and shorter cranks with bad knees who say that the short cranks keep them pain free.

Bob

Offline NEIL FROM BROOKLINE

Re: Bike Fit for Person with Bad Shoulders/Knees?
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2010, 10:55:37 pm »
Two suggestion, have you considered a recumbent. It would help you with your shoulder and possibly with your knee. Contact Mark at www.poweroncycling.com. The second is to contact RE Cycles in Seattle, Washington they have 18 standard sizes and I know 3 people who have purchased bikes from them, ask for Smiley. www.rodcycle.com Either option will be far more expensive than a REI or Surly bike.
Hi Tourista,
Please accept my belated thanks for your reply. I remain wary of getting a recumbent. Much of my riding -whether as a tourist or commuter- will be done along the densely populated East Coast. I am not convinced of my ability to avoid being hit on a recumbent.
Best,
Neil