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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    SOS - Is it my saddle, my stem or (shock, horror) my bike?!

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    Bit of a saga here... I realise that this topic has been discussed before, but I have some specific questions so please bear with me.

    First, a bit of background...

    I'm a total newbie. My bike is a 15" Trek 7.2 FX 2015 Hybrid. Even though I'm 5' 3", I preferred the unisex version because the reach felt too close on the WSD. My bike shop didn't do a proper bike fit as such, but they flipped the stem on the bike I got when I test rode it. That definitely felt more comfortable than the WSD and other bikes I'd tried and I've kept it that way.

    The saddle that came with it is the stock Bontrager unisex saddle. It has a slight bump at the front, so the bike shop tilted it down slightly as it was hitting off the front of my crotch uncomfortably. Now that the saddle's tilted down, I don't have the front of crotch issue. I'm still breaking the saddle in, so I'm not sure yet if it's the right saddle in general. I'm aware that most people on here seem to loathe Bontrager saddles and get rid of them.

    I've just started cycling again. At the moment, I'm only using my trainer. However, I've noticed that I'm getting pains in my thump / wrist / numbness (particularly my right hand). I also feel a little bit stretched out on my bike. My arms aren't totally locked, but I think that they could be slightly more bent (just my opinion, not sure if this is how they should be). I also think that maybe the handlebars could be higher (but I'm a newbie, so again I'm not sure if this is right). I'm not sure if this is because I'm sliding down the saddle because it's tilted (I can't tell if I am or not because I'm getting a numb bum from breaking in the saddle) or if it's because my reach to the handlebars isn't quite right. I sometimes think my handlebars are too wide, but I think this is just me getting used to a bike.

    I expect some physical issues because I'm so new to this and need to get in shape and find out what suits my body on my bike, but the thumb / wrist pain isn't normal. Even I know that. I want to ensure I nip any potential problem in the bud.

    I've just measured from the tip of my elbow on the front of my saddle to the tip of my middle finger placed on the centre of the handlebars. It's pretty much the same distance as when I measured the distance from the front of my saddle to the centre of the handlebars. Maybe slightly off. But very close. I heard that this is an indication that the fit for reach is correct. My legs are slightly bent when I'm on the saddle pedalling and feel fine.

    From doing some research, I've done the following which has helped:

    - Placed a riser under my front wheel on the trainer.
    - Stopped 'death grip'.
    - Relaxed my hands and moved them around frequently and shaking them. I'm going to start doing wrist exercises every day.
    - Stopped having my wrists so bent. I have them almost straight now.
    - I've moved my handlebar grips slightly so that I sort of lean on the wide bit a bit more. Am thinking about getting Ergon grips. If I'm at work, I use a mouse support pad (this is before I took up cycling, so not a new thing). I've also heard that you can get bar ends. Not really sure what these are all about except that they allow you to change up your grip more easily.
    - Relaxed my shoulders and used my core better. Already started doing weights and core work to build myself up.
    - Got gloves, but thinking about getting better ones. Mine are just bog standard ones, not very padded.

    So basically, my problem now is that I'm not sure what to do next. I don't really want to fork out for a bike fit. I wouldn't mind doing one later when I'm more into cycling, but not now when I haven't even figured out what to do about cycling shorts!

    If I were to look at other options besides a bike fit first, please can you suggest what I should do? I've listed some below:

    - Put the saddle back to neutral (or neutral and then a lesser tilt downwards)?
    - Ask the bike shop to move my saddle forwards? I heard that this isn't recommended for wrist issues and my legs seem okay so far, so I'd prefer not to do this. But I feel that I'd like to be slightly nearer the handlebars.
    - Get a new saddle? Don't know where to begin with this. I know that the Specialised store offer the ***-o-meter test for a fee.
    - Get a shorter fixed stem / adjustable stem? I've read that this is preferable to moving the saddle forwards. Don't know what the issues here are. Does a shorter stem really make the handlebars nearer or just more raised?

    Bit worried now. I hope I haven't chosen the wrong bike. Putting the waste of money aside, I love it too much! Please help me rescue my bike...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Boise Idaho
    Always a challenge to get dialed in on a new bike (IMO) Sounds like you are doing quite a few things at once. Things I would consider 1. have someone look at you riding, maybe do a video so you can watch it.
    2. Look at the handlebar to saddle height, Personally I ride with my handlebars level with my saddle height but also have friends who ride with their handlebars slightly higher than their saddle. When someone is just getting back into riding a bike we'll often suggest that position as they work on strengthening their core. Plus you aren't racing, the goal is to be comfortable and enjoy riding.
    3. If you are too stretched out that is going to bug your hands as you put more weight on the arms and hands than on your saddle. While on the trainer, try closing your eyes and moving your arms/hands to where you feel most comfortable - if you find yourself just touching your handlebars with your fingers consider a shorter stem, they aren't that expensive and easy to switch.
    4. Saddle - if you are sliding forward on your saddle you'll be putting pressure on your arms and hands. Prior to changing out saddles (although I wouldn't rule that out) try tilting the nose up or at least level. I ride a leather saddle and mine is neutral (level) but my DH's saddle has an upward tilt which keeps his sit bones resting comfortably on the saddle. Yes it sounds counter intuitive but give it a shot.
    5. Saddle height, I rode my Surly ECR yesterday after spending a month on my touring bike and realized my saddle is a smidge higher on the ECR but I didn't change it. After 14 miles I noticed my right hand was have some numbness and I think it happened because my saddle was just a little to high, shifting my weight forward just enough to bug my hand.

    Just a few thoughts, sounds like you are on the right track.
    Sky King
    Gilles Berthoud "Bernard"
    Surly ECR "Eazi"
    Empowering the Bicycle Traveler

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Tucson, AZ
    Sky King has good advice, as always. There's a lot of text there, so if we double-up, well, then you know it's good advice. (I haven't had dinner yet, didn't eat lunch and breakfast was a long time ago, so...)

    1. Core strength. The hardest to insta-fix, obviously, but it helps loads.
    2. Make sure that your saddle isn't tilted too far down. I wouldn't move it if it's in the right place for your knees, but check the tilt. I think the rule is no more than 2-3 degrees of tilt. Try leveling it or tipping the nose up a hair and see what that does for slipping forward (if that causes pain in other areas, see step 4). Also consider dropping your saddle a smidge.
    3. The bike, as set up, is too long. With too long a reach, you end up sliding forward on the saddle and your weight rests on your hands and wrists rather than on your butt. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.) Go back to the shop. You may be able to get away with moving spacers around, although most shops set the bikes up in the least-aggressive position possible, or you might need a shorter stem. It's a pretty simple part to change out, and not very expensive. Don't move the saddle unless the current position makes your knees hurt.
    4. The saddle itself. It might be that it's too narrow, so you put more weight on your wrists rather than soft tissue, or just the wrong shape so that the pedaling motion causes you to slide forward. (Very wide or "pear-shaped" saddles with a very gradual transition between the nose and the "seating area" can cause this problem--got that T-shirt too.)
    At least I don't leave slime trails.

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
    1996(?) Giant Iguana 630|Specialized Riva

    Saving for the next one...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Saskatoon, Sask.
    A few things come to mind:
    - You can't "break in" a saddle unless it's one of those all-leather ones such as a Brooks. If the saddle doesn't work for you now, it never will. Ask the shop if they have loaner saddles that you can try for a week or so.
    - Make sure the saddle is level when you put it on. Some saddles work better with a very slight amount of downward tilt (SMPs, for example), but most should at least be level. Having the saddle tilting downward will definitely put pressure on your hands and wrists as you have to push back constantly.
    - If you can't put the stem up any higher, it may be possible to get one with a steeper upward angle.
    - A very straight handlebar can also cause wrist problems, so if finding a better saddle doesn't work, you could look for one with more backward bend. Fix the saddle problem first, though.
    Queen of the sea beasts

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Thanks very much, girls. Some very useful advice there.

    Actually, my wrists don't seem to be having the same problems after the past two workouts which were my longest so far (1.5 hours each). I had very little pain during and after my last workout. It might be because my core is definitely stronger and I'm sitting better and I'm also being extra vigilant about changing hand positions regularly. I'm also stretching my wrists before and after the workouts and every day.

    I'll definitely get my saddle adjusted anyway. And see how I get on from there. But I think I'll probably need Ergon grips and / or different handlebars because I think the flat bars don't provide enough options to change hand positions.

    @Muirenn - The handlebar options you provided are very interesting. Would these handlebars be comfortable for longer cycles (like 100km)? I know it's a matter of personal preference as well. I presume with all the handlebar options that I'd have to get the brakes rewired (not sure if that's the right technical term)? Is that a big job? My bike's a Trek 7.2 FX 2015.

    Also, why do moustache bars make you lean forward? I'd have thought that you'd be sitting more upright.

    With a hybrid bike, can you actually use the flat bit in the middle of the Jones H-Bar? Would that not be dangerous because you can't steer the bike if your hands are on the flat bar?


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Thanks, Muirenn

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Cheers, Muirenn.

    I was thinking that if I was to go with the North Road bars, then I would need to get them in black to match my bike. They would look awful in silver.

    I saw ones here with a 25.4 mm clamp, but I'd have to order them from Holland:


    Another alternative, if I wanted something from the UK, would be to go for the On One Mary Bars in black with the 25.4 mm clamp. These are meant to be similar to the North Road bars, but I'm not quite sure what the exact differences are between them.


    What do you think?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Good info - cheers.



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