Question: I’m 63 and ride 150 miles a week, often with a fast group of younger riders. I get a perverse delight in staying with the young bucks and even making them hurt on occasion. But they still haven’t accepted me completely, probably because I was riding an early ’80s steel bike with friction shifting and exposed brake cables.
So, I bought a new bike with what the shop called a “pro position” — handlebar 3 inches lower than the saddle. Now I’ve developed excruciating hand pain. A local coach suggested that I need to raise the bar, but I want to look like I know what I’m doing out there. What do you think? — Bill F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Whoa, Bill! You’ll get accepted by other cyclists because of your riding skills and friendliness, not your equipment.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a new bike. In fact, it sounds like you were overdue. But it needs to fit you properly.
A handlebar that’s too low in relation to the saddle is a leading cause of hand pain. The reason is easy to see — the lower the bar, the more you lean over, and the more weight is on your hands. The resulting pressure can injure nerves and cause pain, numbness and tingling fingers.
You should raise the bar at least halfway between where it is now and the saddle top. This won’t give you the “pro look” of guys 40 years younger, but I’ll bet you find it a lot more comfortable.
Check with your shop for a stem that will let you try this more upright position.
Once you dial in your position, you’ll probably need a new stem with more rise in order to jack up your bar. You may even need a new fork with a longer steerer tube. Consider it an investment in pain-free hands for the rest of the time you own that bike.
And don’t worry what anyone else thinks of you. If you’re keeping up with riders much younger, here’s betting they think more of you than you might imagine!