Fixing Bike Fit Issues: How a Long Top Tube or Stem Length Causes Discomfort and How to Adjust Your Bike Fit

Fixing Bike Fit Issues: How a Long Top Tube or Stem Length Causes Discomfort and How to Adjust Your Bike Fit

Are you experiencing discomfort in your hands, arms, neck, or shoulders when cycling?

Bike fit: Handlebars too far away

In most cases, discomfort on the bike is due to incorrect set up, particularly if your top tube or stem length is too long.

A poor bike fit can not only cause discomfort but also negatively affect your bike's handling. In this blog we are looking at the issues associated with having a top tube that is too long and / or having a stem that is too long and provide you with tips on how to fix bike fit issues caused by a long top tube or stem length.

Why does Long Top Tube or Stem Length Cause Discomfort:

A long top tube or stem length means that you have to reach excessively to reach the handlebars. This causes discomfort in the hands, arms, neck, and shoulders, as these areas are under strain when you're in this position.

Women, in particular, tend to have longer legs and shorter bodies than men, making this a more common problem for female cyclists especially if they are riding a bike with a longer top tube. Often, riders will attempt to correct this by moving the saddle forward, this can create another saddle position problem, which negatively affects your bike's handling. Thus, it is essential to fix the saddle position relative to the bottom bracket and pedals before adjusting the handlebar position.

How to Identify a Poor Bike Fit:

To identify a poor bike fit, sit on your bike with your hands on the brake hoods and look down at the handlebars. If the hub of the front wheel is obscured from view by the handlebars, your reach should be quite good. If the hub is well in front of the handlebars, you may be overly stretched, causing discomfort. Additionally, your knees should be directly above your pedals, and your hips should be level when viewed from the side.

Checking cleat position during a bike fit

The Importance of Saddle Position:

Before adjusting the handlebar position, it is important to fix the saddle position relative to the bottom bracket and pedals. This ensures that your body is in the correct position to provide efficient power transfer to the pedals. To adjust the saddle position, measure the distance between the bottom bracket and the top of your saddle. This distance should be the same for each bike you own. Adjust the saddle position by sliding it forward or backward until your knees are directly above your pedals when at 90 degrees (see below image), and your hips are level when viewed from the side.

Bike fitting - Knee Alignment

Adjusting Handlebar Position:

Once you have fixed the saddle position, you can adjust the handlebar position by either raising the handlebars or shortening the stem length.

Raising Handlebars:

Raising the handlebars is the easiest way to reduce your reach and decrease discomfort. This can be done by adjusting the headset or adding spacers under the stem. However, be aware that raising the handlebars will also raise the handlebar height, which can affect your bike's handling. So, it's essential to find a balance between comfort and bike handling.

Shortening Stem Length:

Shortening the stem length can also reduce your reach and decrease discomfort. To do this, you'll need to remove the current stem and replace it with a shorter one. However, be cautious of extremely short stems, shorter than 60mm, as they will make your steering more responsive and may make your bike feel "twitchy." So, it's best to experiment with different stem lengths to find the one that works best for you.

Get the right size of bike:

You can reduce the likelihood of the above issues by ensuring you start with the right sized bike and checking the geometry of the bike is optimal for you.  More often than not, the exact geometry of a bike frame can vary between manufacture and different models.  If you are unsure whether a particular size of frame is ideal for you, get in touch and we'd be more than happy to help you get the correct size.

Hopefully the above information can help you reduce pain and discomfort while cycling, if you need any further advice with your bike position to ensure it is optimally fitted to you, get in touch or click below to book your bike fitting appointment today.

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Total Endurance Bike fitting on a BMC