Fit Recovery

Home » Injury

Category Archives: Injury

Pardoned and Paroled – My Friend the Secondrate Cyclist Needs Your Support and Friendship…

https://wp.me/p4733E-28d

The so called Secondrate Cyclist, a longtime blog friend of mine from the UK from all the way back to my beginning in blogging, had a crash. An epic, horrific, very bad, terrible crash.

The link above is to his newest post but there are two that precede it. The first, after his last post in October of last year about his ride with Jens Voigt, is (here).

He’s an excellent writer, far better than I, so please, pay him a visit and follow his journey back. It won’t be a short one.

Jim

The Importance of the Easy, Active Recovery Ride to an Avid Enthusiast Cyclist.

I normally have an effort problem whenever I clip into my pedals. I find it difficult to take it easy… I just like to go fast. Unfortunately, an utter inability to slow up now and again can, without proper rest, have terrible consequences.

I’ve ridden every day for the last twenty days. 818 glorious miles without a day of rest. I have, however, managed a few slow days to spin my legs and look around a little bit. This keeps me going.

If you’re so afflicted, you feel like you’re missing an opportunity to get stronger if you don’t hammer the pedals, there’s hope. I employ two*** different strategies to relax a bit. Taking the time to enjoy a true active recovery ride can take your legs from tired and tight, to loose and raring to get after it again.

Nope, not this bike for the recovery ride…

First, I never take the good bike out for an active recovery ride. I too easily get lost in the “race” part of the race bike. If I’m out on the Trek, for whatever reason, I can disconnect that part of my brain. I justify it by repeating, “this will help me ride strong tomorrow, take the speed down, spin easy”… and before long, my head is on a swivel and I’m noticing things I’ve never seen, riding the same route I have for years.

This bike.

Second, when I’m really in a bad way for an easy ride and we don’t have rain in the forecast for days, I’ll take the gravel or mountain bike out for a spin. Especially on dirt roads, because they’re slower by nature, anyway, I find it a little easier to chill for a ride.

I can tell you with utter certainty, without a strategy to ride easy now and again, I’d be forced into taking days off because I injured myself. That’s just how I roll.

And so it was last night. A perfect night if ever there was one. Sunny, 82°, a mild southeasterly breeze… oh, how I wanted to hammer. I was truly smoked, though, and tonight is going to be a tough, hot, windy mess.

I needed to fix my legs.

So I wheeled out the Trek and suited up. The first mile was a little quick with a tailwind, but I fought myself off and took it down three notches on the second mile, and every mile thereafter.

I pulled into the driveway with 23 miles and some change, and a much better tan. The average was in the upper 16-mph range and I felt fantastic – even better this morning.

The only way I know to stay happy, healthy and riding every day is to take an active recovery day or two during the week. That’s the only thing that keeps the T-Rex legs from being T-Wrecked.

Ride hard, my friends. Until you need to ride easy. And then, enjoy what you’ve worked for and smell the fresh air.

***Actually, I thought about this a minute and I employ a third strategy.  I ride with my wife on easy days, too.  There’s nothing better than riding with my wife for an easy day.

Tuesday Night Ride: Cooked Edition

I have always been resilient to heat. I don’t know why it doesn’t bother me like it does most people and I’ve never bothered to think much about it. I get hot, but am very much comfortable riding in everything up to the mid-90’s (about 115° off the asphalt) I just maintain my grateful attitude about it and watch as others suffer.

Until last night.

A friend and riding buddy of mine has been avoiding riding with friends because he has a sick relative they’ll be visiting soon. It’s one of those “worst case” scenarios so considering the current state of things, his only choice has been to ride solo. I’ve picked up that he’s been bummed about the fact that, as things open up and we’re all finding small groups to ride in, he’s been left out… so I asked if he’d like to ride the Tuesday night route, just the two of us. He cleared that with his wife and we met out at the church. As I pulled into the parking lot, the digital thermometer in my car showed a balmy 91 F (33 C). Now, if you’re keeping track, we went from the mid-40’s to ninety-freaking-one in two weeks. Not exactly any time to acclimatize in there. Still, I had every intention of having a fun, if warm and comfortable, ride.

I pulled my bike from the trunk, got kitted up and went for a four mile warmup. Yeah, warmup, 91°… I know. I felt fantastic and fast, too. Surprisingly so, considering I hadn’t had a day off the bike in more than a week.  I didn’t bother with the full seven mile warmup as that would have been excessive.  Four-and-a-half was good enough.  Jonathan was prepping his bike when I pulled into the parking lot.  There was only one other car besides ours, a E/D Group woman we see regularly under normal circumstances.

Jonathan and I rolled out early as we didn’t want to ride with anyone else.  We started out side by side with tailwind for the first six miles.  We had a 20 average when we hit headwind and I dropped behind Jonathan.  We traded places regularly and were still sitting at a 19-1/2 average when the wheels fell off for me, about 17 miles in.  I was breathing hard from what should have been a fairly small effort.  The heat and 300 miles from the last week caught up to me.  Fortunately, I think Jonathan was struggling in the heat as well.

With just nine miles to go, just maintaining 22-mph with a tailwind was difficult.  I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around how I felt because I’ve never felt that way because of the heat.  My power to the pedals was just ugly.  I got the pedals around but it wasn’t pretty.  With four miles left, I was sitting up, tongue dangling down by the spokes, beat.  I was just happy to pull into the parking lot and climb off my bike.  We’d dropped our average from 20-mph (which should have been easy to maintain), all the way down to 18.8.

I grabbed some dinner at the local Burger King.  Firing that down only helped minimally.  I’d say it was two hours after the ride before I started to feel… less loopy.  I ended up falling asleep on the couch around 9 pm and crawled into bed around 11.

I slept like a baby till it was time to get up.  Tonight it’ll be “no rest for the weary”, though I’m going to aim for an average, on the Trek, closer to 16-mph.  I think it’s time for some active recovery miles because I cooked myself last night.

The Noob’s Guide to Road Cycling Saddles; The Fat, Bad and the Ugly. Seven Reasons Your Saddle Hurts to Ride On

How Can A Good Cycling Saddle Feel So Bad?

If you think a minimally padded $400 bicycle saddle looks more like a torture device than a bicycle saddle, and I’m speaking from experience, that says more about you than the saddle.  Contrary to popular belief, manufacturers won’t charge more for a saddle than most people will pay for a complete bike, whilst trying make a torture device out of it.  Even those super tiny, ultra-thin, almost no padding saddles are meant to be comfortable.  If yours isn’t, the problem is likely the setup, not the saddle (although there is room for the saddle being at fault – or more to the point, you picked the wrong one – but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Let’s begin.

Saddle is too high.  The easiest, by far, reason your saddle will feel like it has barbed wire embedded in what little padding there is that you’ve got the saddle too high.  This means your hips will have to rock to stay connected to the pedals on the downstroke, where you’re weakest anyway.  Put your bike on an indoor trainer and put your heels on the pedals.  Spin them backwards.  Your legs should straighten without rocking your hips.  This can be done, carefully, in a doorway by bracing yourself with one or both hands on the jamb(s).

Saddle is too far forward or back – so you end up riding on the wrong part of your butt.  If you are riding with most of the pressure on the area between your genitals and your sphincter, well, you’ve got problems.  The rubbing/hurting kind of problems.  You want to be riding on your sit bones, as the saddle starts to widen out – not on the very back of the saddle and definitely not on the nose (though there is precedent for scooting up a little bit when time trialing).  If you look at the profile of a contoured saddle, you’re looking for the area that just starts to rise toward the middle/back of the saddle to cradle you… your sit bones should be just to the back side of that rise.  In road cycling, you’re looking for position 2 or 3:

Level is off.  This one is simple.  For me, for the style of riding I’m used to, I’m a position 2 up above, but the profile photo of the saddle, as it is in the photo, would be a little too “nose down” for me.  Not much, but a little.  The key is that you don’t want the nose to dig into you, but you don’t want to feel like you’re sliding to the front of the saddle, either.  The key is to find the happy spot right in the middle.  This can take some saddle time and several adjustments to perfect.

Wrong kind of saddle for a rider’s flexibility.  If you’ve got the wrong saddle for your flexibility, you’ll likely have huge problems trying to get comfortable on the saddle.  I prefer a contoured saddle because I’m not very flexible – I’m actually in the middle range.  A contoured saddle will help a less than bendy human’s torso to rotate forward slightly to aid in an aggressive posture on the bike.  Those who bend at the hips well won’t need that help and will be fore comfortable on a flat saddle.  Fizik has a really neat app that’ll help you understand your place in the contour food chain.  There’s also this:

bontrager-biodynamic-saddle-posture-profile

Too wide. Folks, I’ll make this very simple.  If you’re on a saddle that’s too wide for your sit bones, the pain – and I’m speaking from experience again – will be immense.  Increasing as your mileage and time in the saddle will only increase the intensity and severity.  Left long enough and this pain will radiate down the legs into the hamstrings.  It is quite excruciating.  If you have a question about the saddle size you should be riding, this is a perfect issue to get sorted at the local bike shop (I’m about 140 mm… I can fit on a 143 but I like 138 a little more for the slimmer saddle nose).  They’ll have you sit on a board with memory foam on it which will leave indentations from your sit bones.  They’ll measure the distance between the indentations and come up with your saddle width.  Women tend to be a little wider than men, for obvious reasons.  I think Mrs. Bgddy rides a 155.

Too much padding.  I have a friend who rides a cruiser around town.  He’s got one of those big, fat, ugly padded saddles.  Over the top of it, he’s got one of those shag padded seat covers.  Over the top of that, he’s got a gel cover.  And he asked me if I though he could add another cover.  I’m not kidding.  He had so much padding on that saddle, I think it actually cut off the supply of blood to his brain whilst riding.  Padding on the saddle cuts off blood to areas that really, really need blood.  When that blood flow is cut off, the affected area hurts.  It’s the body’s way of telling you, hey, somethin’ ain’t right down here!  I’ll tell you what ain’t right.  It’s all that padding.  Additional padding is not the answer, though a reasonable amount is a good thing, this can easily be overdone.  The answer is a good pair of cycling shorts and the proper setup of the right saddle for your body.

Finally, and this one will be surprising (it was for me – and I just figured this out a short while back), if your saddle is too low.  That’s right, too low.  I was trying out one of those aforementioned $400 saddles and I had a nagging pain, like the edge of the saddle was digging into my left hip bone.  I’d set the fore and aft properly (through a series of measurements), set the level properly (2 degrees nose down, then fit to feel for that cradled balance described above), and I thought I’d set the height properly.  After my second ride and the saddle just not feeling right, I checked the height.  Sure enough, it was about two millimeters low.  I raised the saddle and the pain went the way of the dodo, immediately.  The clouds parted and the sun shone (and the wind died down) and all was well.

My friends, good saddles are a dime a dozen if you know what you’re looking for and how to set one up on your bike so it feels like it should.  Don’t settle for feeling like you’re riding on barbed wire after 20 miles (once you’ve got your requisite saddle time in – new cyclists will experience some pain while they acquire their cycling legs).  The answer is fixing the saddle’s position, width, or height, not adding another layer of padding.

Why Road Cyclists Wear Helmets: Part 1,274,321,167

My wife, on the fifth anniversary of her last Mother’s Day crash, went down yesterday. Before we go any further, she’s fine though a bit concussed – I went through the protocol last night with her – and very sore. She went down at speed, too.  20+ mph and if not for her helmet, God only knows what her condition would be today.  Interestingly, her helmet, a Kask Mojito, shows signs of sliding on the pavement but there were zero torsional injuries (a favorite reason the anti-helmet crowd sites to suggest they shouldn’t be worn – ask a neural surgeon, ER doc, nurse, ambulance tech, firefighter, or Sheriff’s deputy and they’ll have a different opinion, having spent time investigating, shoveling brain off the ground, or trying to put it back in someone’s melon).

There are a couple of competing theories as to what happened – I was up the road 50 yards, sprinting for a City Limits sign – but the important thing is, my wife wasn’t doing anything she hadn’t done several hundred times. When you’re riding at speed, shit just happens that you can’t avoid and can’t brace against. This is why we wear helmets.

Now, I wouldn’t want to piss off the anti-helmet nutters, so I’ll leave this carve out; as helmets go, you do what you want. If you want to ride like my grandma, by all means, feel free and enjoy yourself. If, however, you want to ride like we avid enthusiast roadies do, folks, there’s a reason we wear brain buckets.

They save lives and families.

Pay special attention to the cracks… my wife’s head didn’t split like that because she was wearing that helmet.

CoVengeCation-2020; Cycling Like It’s Mid-Season (With A Sad Caveat)

As cycling mileage goes, with my big months in the heat of the season (June through September), I’m lucky to hit 1,000 miles in a month.  If I can hit 1,100 miles, I’m really happy.  My best month ever is 1,174 miles.

Last year, I managed two 1,000+ mile months.  Two years ago, it was five (and four were 1,100+).  The year before that, three.  My first ever 1,000 mile month was in 2016 and I managed just that one that year (I remember being pretty stoked about that, too).

Entering our second week off work by order of our governor, just five days into April, I’m on pace for a 1,200 mile month.  Not only do I believe I won’t hit that, I hope I don’t.  See, I have a problem; I don’t have an off button.  If it’s nice out, or at least close, I’m going to ride.  I have to hope for rain days so I can take a day off the bike.  Normally, this isn’t a problem because I’ve got time to work up to consecutive days on the bike during the dry season.  With COVIDcation, I’ve already got a 240 mile and a 260 mile week… and I haven’t had a chance to build up to it.

So here’s the sad caveat:  I’m over-trained, without an off button, no work, and no rain in sight.

My only chance for salvation is Thursday.  It’ll be too windy to ride (20-30-mph with gusts to 40) and I’ll be looking for an excuse to take a day off, anyway.  I know what you’re thinking… well just take a day off, ya knucklehead!  No off switch.  Can’t do it unless it’s gnarly outside.

In a normal year, I wouldn’t have this problem because I’m balancing work, home life, yard work and cycling.  I’d be pulling 20-mile weekday rides with longer days on the weekend, weather permitting.  Those short weekday rides allow me to build up my fitness and give me a little breather between weekends.  With time off and decent weather, I’ve gone absolutely nuts.  I’m averaging better than 45 miles a day so far this month…

What I have to be careful of is over-cooking myself to the point I develop an injury, which would suck.  Up until now, I haven’t been working on hard days or easy days.  They’ve all been moderate “base” miles (at least since COVID).  It very well could be that I should start worrying about throwing an active recovery day in every couple of days and then start adding some hard effort days as well.

Whatever the case, it’s going to be an adventure – and an adventure I’m looking forward to.

 

Road and Gravel Bikes; How I Set My Bike Saddles So I Get the Correct Height, Offset, and Tilt… EVERY Time.

A virtual cycling friend of mine, Matty, over at MattyandAnnika.life and I were recently commenting about a reader of his blog who had a saddle issue that caused pain after a mere 20 miles.  Of course, because I was just lucky enough to see the comment, I sprung into action.  There are three things and a possible fourth that will cause the saddle pain where there’s no broken skin, but rather it’s like a butt bone, or worse, the inside of your thigh bone feels bruised.

Now, before I get into this fairly technical post, if you’re wearing normal gym shorts (running, basketball, etc.) on a bicycle, that’s the problem.  You need cycling shorts.  You can wear those funky shorts and ride happy, or limit yourself to 15 miles at a crack… choose.  Click on this post to get an idea of what you want (here) and buy a few pair.  Modern saddles don’t work right without padded shorts – and those bulky, heavily padded monstrous saddles will have you hurting worse than you are now…

I suffered through this exact issue back in 2012 after buying my first real road bike, a Trek 5200 T from the local shop, used.  It came with a rather bulky 155 mm saddle… and I was just a year into riding a bicycle.  I didn’t know that saddles even came in different widths back then.  After thinking the severe pain I was feeling was due to a running issue, I had a few days off the bike before going for a run (it was too cold to ride, sometime in the winter).  Much to my surprise, that “running injury” didn’t hurt.  It didn’t take long to take three away from five to come up with a saddle problem.  I took my bike to the shop where they promptly measured my sit bones, then the saddle, and informed me it was no wonder I was in so much pain.  My bike went from:

Now, going by the common novice thinking, the saddle on the left, with its vast padding advantage, should have been far superior to that little svelte number on the right.  That thinking is wrong.  The svelte saddle is butter because it fits my butt.  I even went one better after I got the bike painted and refurbished and put a sexy, light carbon fiber number on it:

20190917_094745172923434638329655.jpg

The Specialized Romin saddle on my Venge is 143 mm while the Bontrager saddle on the Trek is 138.  After a year on the Bontrager and eight on the Specialized, I like the 138 a little better.  Without getting too deep into the woods on this, saddle width is a big deal.

Next, you’ve got your saddle height and the fore/aft position.  Now this gets a little tricky to dial in because all of the little tips and tricks for pulling a number out of thin air are great, but they’re not perfect.  They get you close.  So, we’re going to do a general saddle height set first.  With your bike hooked up to an indoor trainer, put your heels on the pedals and pedal backward… your legs should straighten at the bottom, without rocking your hips.  That’ll get you close enough for government work.  Next, we’re tackling the fore/aft position of the saddle.  For that, warm up for a few minutes on that trainer.  Get comfortable… and then stop pedaling so the crank arms are parallel to the ground.  Take a 4′ level and set the edge of the level against the end of your leading crank arm and against your knee.  The bubble should be between the black lines.  Adjust your saddle until it is.  Finally, we get to the tilt.  If you’ve got a contoured saddle, you level the nose.  If you have a flat saddle, you level the entire saddle.  A level app on a tablet works fantastically for this.  Now, what you’re looking for is a perfect “cradling” effect from your saddle.  If the nose is down, you’ll feel like you’re sliding down the front of the saddle.  If the nose is too far up, it’ll feel like the nose is digging into your crotch (and let me tell you, that sucks).  Raise or lower the nose of the saddle until it perfectly cradles you with your hands on the hoods.  Once you’re set, place your hands in the drops.  Does the nose dig into your nether regions?  If so, drop the nose just ever so slightly.  If not, you’re almost done.

At that point, once everything is dialed in close, I like to raise the saddle slightly.  I want to make sure I’ve got the saddle as high as I can comfortably get it because this improves power to the pedal as long as you don’t go too far.  If you’re too high, oh, it’s gonna hurt.  Too low… well, if you did the heel thing right, it won’t be too low.  Raise your saddle a millimeter at a time until you can feel the saddle digging in a little bit.  Once you get there, lower it a millimeter.  Then go for a 30 minute ride… uncomfortable at all – and I mean at all?  If the saddle is still digging in a little, you’ll lower it another millimeter.  That’s exactly how I get my saddle into the perfect position on my bikes.  Now, this can take months to get perfect.  Months.  Be patient.  If you’re feeling discomfort, address it with saddle tilt or raising/lowering the saddle.  Don’t change the fore/aft position (you change the stem to fix reach issues).

Now, after you’ve done all of this, if your saddle still bugs you, you need a different saddle.  The one you’ve got doesn’t suit you.  Not all saddles agree with a cyclist.  They’re very personal that way.  I like a deeply contoured saddle.  Others like their saddle as flat as a board.  In the diagram below, I’m a Position 2 cyclist:

My friends, it is very important to be finicky when it comes to saddles.  Antin, the poor fellow I started this post off about, could only ride 20 miles before his posterior started firing up.   First, you need miles to build up heinie tolerance.  If, after several dozen rides, you still feel like one of those red-assed baboons after you get off your bike, something needs adjusting.

The best advice I can give is to pay attention to what your butt is telling you.  If you break the feeling down, you’ll probably be able to tell what the problem is so you don’t have to use a shotgun approach.

And one last point that will throw a monkey wrench into everything…  The saddle heights aren’t exactly the same on my two road and gravel bikes.  The gavel bike is a sixteenth (1.5 mm) of an inch lower than my Venge (36-3/8″) and my Trek’s saddle height is a 32nd (0.8 mm) lower than the Venge.  I truly believe that setup, headset stack and frame geometry require subtle differences in the saddle height… and this is why I go to all of the trouble I do.  I can tell you, without question or hesitation, I can’t raise the Trek’s saddle that 1/32″ and ride comfortably.  I tried it.  That 0.8 mm makes a difference.

Good luck, and if you’ve got problems, comment below and we’ll see if we can’t get that sorted out.

Swap Meet Find of the Year; Daddy Gets a New Dome Protector!

I’m a cycling helmet wearer. I’m not above going out on a solo ride without one, on dirt roads, but when I’m riding with my friends, I wear a dome protector without fail. I also come down against helmet laws or compulsory “rules” requiring them, even if I do choose to wear one almost every time I ride.  Simply put, riding in a group, it’s wise to protect one’s melon.  And I do the vast majority of my riding in a group.

That said, I’ve had my eye on an S-Works Prevail melon cover for years. I just couldn’t justify spending a whopping $225 on a helmet when a Propero III ($140) or an Echelon II ($90), or even an Airnet ($150) would fit the bill just fine… and I was actually thinking about jumping brands for the new Bontrager Specter WaveCel ($149.99 – I like the helmets that won’t let bees into the vents as I’m slightly allergic).

Sunday was our local swap meet, though, and I managed to stumble on the exact S-Works Prevail helmet I wanted, in medium, and the guy only wanted $20 for it (it had been worn lightly, but not enough the pads, strap or shell show any wear whatsoever). Folks, that WaveCel melon cover is nice, but $20 for a Prevail simply can’t be passed up. It’s an older Prevail model with the red and white color scheme:

20200211_0611264418755873726738465.jpg

Even being an older helmet (no signs of wear or exposure to sunlight – a deal breaker in either case, no matter how cheap), it’s a bad@$$ brain bucket. Surprising, it wasn’t as light as I figured it would be. My Echelon II is only slightly heavier.

That said, the venting is vastly improved over the Echelon and Propero models, and the chin strap is much improved.

We browsed quite a bit, my wife and I, but I didn’t find much that really turned my crank. My wife walked away with a nice pair of fleece-lined tights, but a lot of the stuff on display was either junk, worn out, or overpriced.  There were two cool exceptions; a friend of mine was selling an adjustable track quill stem and handlebar from a 1939 Schwinn Paramount. It was spectacular… for only $700. Ouch! He also had a spectacularly restored 1976 Schwinn Paramount track bike for $1,500. The Schwinn was hard to walk away from, especially being a Bicentennial bike (USA Bicentennial, 1976). It was glorious, and I have the money in the bank.  Thank God Mrs. Bgddy was there with me.

Wrist Pain and Road Bike Cockpit Setup; Gravel Is Fun To Ride On… Not Much Fun in Your Wrist

In a post last week, I wrote about a wrist problem I was having. I figured it might be related to the new handlebar install I did on my Trek. My wrist was a lot worse than I let on in my post.

So, the problem was in the way I installed the hoods on the handlebar, but going by looks, it shouldn’t have been a problem. We install the hoods so they follow the line of the handlebar:

Originally, I started having trouble shaving with my right hand. I’d get to a couple of key places and my wrist would lock, causing a shooting pain up my arm. My palm hurt like hell for about a half-hour after. If I gripped my razor wrong, causing the handle to rest in my palm, the pain was intense.

Before long, the tendons in my wrist were catching so much it felt like I had gravel in my wrist. This started back in November, but I didn’t miss a day on the bike and didn’t think much of it until mid-December. I thought I might be experiencing the start of carpal tunnel syndrome.

We went on vacation over Christmas, for a week and a half. I hoped, if it was bike related, the time off the bike would help. It didn’t get better. Shaving sucked, and I was resigning myself to get in to see a doctor when I got home.

On a fluke, I tried to roll my hand forward at the wrist. Make like you’re going to shake someone’s hand, then drop your fingers to the floor, bending at the wrist. The pain was hot, intense, and excruciating.

That’s when I knew it was bike related.

I left my handlebar where it was and raised my hoods, maybe an inch, so I wasn’t rolling my wrists forward so much.

Three weeks later and I just shaved pain free for the first time since this whole mess started. It was bike related, I’m not getting CTS, now that I’ve fixed my hoods… just a little too aggressive.

I just adorned the Trek with new bar tape, too, so she’s feeling good and looking snazzy:

It’s hard to tell from that angle, but the hoods were raised quite a bit.

Point is, as much as I know about setting a bike up, I still managed to hurt myself. On the bright side, I also knew enough to fix what I screwed up in the first place… so it’s not all bad.

Advanced Road Bike Setup; Getting the Shift Lever Hoods Right Can Save Serious Pain Down the Road

A couple of months ago I put a new aero drop bar on my Trek. It is fantastic on that my old 5200.  It’s hard to tell it’s a classic (it’s a ’99, so a classic just this year):

Unfortunately, there was just a little too much drop from the saddle nose to the handlebar with the new bar.  I added a 5 mm spacer under the stem to bring the bar up.  When I was done, the reach wasn’t bad, though maybe a touch long, and I could handle the drop a lot better, even with my winter five pounds…. and the bike looked awesome.

Just before Christmas, we flew to Florida to stay with my wife’s sister’s family and I started noticing some problems with my right hand and wrist. It felt like the tendons in my wrist would “catch” every now and again. The associated pain wasn’t a big deal, it was unsettling, though.  I worried it might be the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome.

When we got back, after a week and a half off the bike, I rode on the trainer with regularity and the popping and pain increased.

It took a minute (three weeks…ish) for it to dawn on me, but I finally put the puzzle together and traced it back to the new handlebar installation. Or more succinctly, I narrowed it down to something in the handlebar setup.

After a lot of thought about what to do, I settled on raising the hoods… maybe the angle was off, the way I was reaching for the hoods?

Still on the right plane, but with more rise.  Just riding yesterday was a remarkable improvement in how my wrist feels.

How did I come to the conclusion I did?

I could have done a few things to set this right: A) Lower the handlebar. B) Roll the handlebar back which would naturally raise the hoods. C) Raise the individual shift levers/hoods.

Raising the handlebar by adding spacers below the stem would be exactly the wrong thing to do.  That would increase the forward wrist rotation, exacerbating the problem.  Put your hands in front of you, like you’re holding your hoods, roll your wrist forward… now raise them up two inches.  The right thing to do would be to lower the handlebar.  It might have worked, decreasing the odd angle, but the physics of it just don’t add up; with my slight winter gut in the way.  Ahem.

I could have rolled the handlebar back, bringing the hoods up, but that would have thrown off my position in the drops big time.

The hardest option, moving the shift levers themselves, was the option I chose because that would give me exactly what I needed, even if it was a lot more work contrasted against the other two options (getting the hoods in the right position, level and square to the handlebar drops takes a bit of ingenuity and attention to detail).

What went wrong initially?

In my pursuit of being perfectly stylish, I tried to set the shift levers to perfectly follow the plane created by the drop – as should be (my wife’s old bike in the foreground is all wrong, but the way they did things on sport bikes vs. race bikes twelve years ago).  It looked awesome and aggressive, but even with the decent drop from the saddle to the bar, the long reach meant I had to slightly roll my wrists forward to hold the hoods.  I was putting a lot of pressure on my wrists while they were bent in a way they shouldn’t be bent.  Over time, this aggravated the tendons in my wrist which inflamed them, thus I felt like I had gravel in my wrist.  In fact, just sitting here typing this report up, I tried to mimic that movement, rolling my wrists forward.  Without any weight on my wrists it hurt.  I got a jolt up my right arm and I could feel the pressure in my left (I’m left handed, it would make sense that, being left hand dominant, it would take a little longer for problems to show there).

The conclusion.

The causes of my trouble are many little things rolled up into an ugly ball; cockpit reach (length of the stem in this case), geometry of the bike (I don’t have this problem on my Venge – standard vs. compact frame), choice of handlebar (I didn’t have any troubles with the last handlebar – the rise and reach are different on the new bar) and the location of the hoods on the bar.  All of these things combined make for an ugly problem in my bike’s setup.

Thankfully, I’m picky enough to have caught it before any real damage was done.  I hope.