Handlebar and Brake Position Advice on a Road Bike

jwadham Posts: 14
edited August 2007 in Road beginners
It probably boils down to trying different positions, which I have, but could anyone give me some basic advice on a starting position for my handlebars and brake/STI gear leavers on my road bike please?

I've tried different angles etc and although I've found a fairly comfortable position I still feel as though I am making a compromise between comfort on riding on the hoods and in the drops.

Also when riding on the hoods my thumbs ache! Does anyone ever angle the brake levers in or out slightly?

I’m very new to road bikes (bought bike 2 weeks ago and clocked up 90miles) so any advice would be appreciated.



  • Bronzie
    Bronzie Posts: 4,927
    Very much down to personal preference and trying a few positions as you say.

    I tend to have my bars so that the drops (the bottom part of the bars) are slightly angled down - sort of towards the rear wheel axle.

    I tend to have my shifters quite low, but other guys in my club prefer the "six shooter" approach with the levers mounted just where the bars start to curve down - the levers poke up quite a way - almost like a pistol grip (hence "six shooter"). Start with them set up so that the brake lever is nearly vertical when looked at from the side with the bike on level ground - and try moving up or down the bars from there.

    You can angle the levers in a little or have them dead straight.

    When I set up a new bike, I never put the bar tape on until I've had a few rides to test the bar and lever positions first.
  • pieinthesky
    pieinthesky Posts: 417
    We can give you ideas but nobody can really tell you what will suit you.

    I would suggest setting it up as you think best after reading suggestions on the forum and then after a few months (including some long rides) review the situation. You will then have more idea how you want it.
  • jwadham
    jwadham Posts: 14
    Thanks very much for the suggestions. I'll keep makeing minor adjustments but making sure I keep a note of the original positions.


  • nmcgann
    nmcgann Posts: 1,780
    Also note that not all bar designs are easy to get good positions on, especially if you like the bars flat behind the hoods. Often this results in the drops being too angled downward to be comfortable.

    "Because the cycling is pain. The cycling is soul crushing pain."
  • ricadus
    ricadus Posts: 2,379
    jwadham wrote:
    I’m very new to road bikes (bought bike 2 weeks ago and clocked up 90miles) …

    Good quality mits make a difference to comfort, if you haven't got them already. It might simply be your hands aren't accustomed to the work they are doing and any tenderness will disappear as they/you toughen up.
  • JWSurrey
    JWSurrey Posts: 1,173
    Echoing all the above really.
    In 2 weeks, your muscle groups are probably still getting used to the position.
    If all else fails, get in to a bike shop with a jig that you can play around on, and get set up by the staff - Cyclefit in London do this sort of service - I gather Mosquito in London also offer this service.
    I have 2 bikes that are set up slightly differently... I notice the shop sets up the Campag. levered bikes with the levers flatter / more horizontal, and as if they are a horizontal extension of the flat top of the bars - It rides very comfortably.

    The shimano levered bike has them set perhaps 1 cm lower, and angled up much more - I note the Shimano levers are longer and more padded.

    I always ride with a trusty pair of trek string-backed padded leather gloves.... and cork tape.

    If you're still getting pain in your hands, try a shorter stem, or one with a slight rise.
    It's not advisable, but to get an idea of what that would be like, you could pull your saddle forward a bit - Although of course, the saddle fore-aft adjustment should only be used to change the position of your knees over the cranks, to eliminate knee pain / improve cycling efficiency.... measure the horizontal distance from saddle tip to centre of stem bolt to ensure you have a point of reference when reverting.
  • wildmoustache
    wildmoustache Posts: 4,010
    if it helps i had soreness in my hands when i first started using STIs (shimano levers). went away after a few hundred miles. your hands will be getting used to the new excisting experience!
  • My thumbs hurt the first few rides but it went away, along with neck pains etc. I think its just muscles that are not used much complaining. They get stronger and stop complaining. Pins and needles continue though but mits help.

    My theory is something will start to hurt at some point over an infinite distance and at a further point along that infinite distance everything will hurt. The setup will just move those points further away.

    I found it is a compromise between riding on the drops and hoods, as is the saddle tilt. I found if I tilted the bar down I could get a completely comfortable drop position but the hoods were completely uncomfortable and I could not reach the break levers from the drops! I moved the levers about and tilted the bar so the hood and bar form a horizontal and I found this a good compromise.

    Yes I angle the levers out slightly. I felt I could find the lever more immediately on the drops.
  • jwadham
    jwadham Posts: 14
    Thanks, really appreciate the advice. i'll keep making small adjustments and hopefully get used to it. I'll get some better gloves etc.

  • Rich Hcp
    Rich Hcp Posts: 1,355
    I think it is partly just getting used to a road bike.

    I had stomach ache after just 10 miles! Raised the saddle and rode on the hoods or the top for the next few rides.

    Now I'm used to it and everything is fine.

    Don't fine adjust too much, you'll confuse yourself!

    I also managed to convince myself that the saddle was working down, but a little cellotape arount the post proved it wasn't.

    Just getting used to it

    Giving it Large
  • sbullett
    sbullett Posts: 139
    I'm in a simliar position to you Jwadham, had my first road bike for 25 years for about 6 weeks and done approx 200 miles so far..

    Best tip I had was to force yourself to relax your hands, whatever position they are in on the bars - I find myself tensing up and getting aches in both hands, but just relaxing makes a big difference and the pain goes away almost instantly.

    I am increasingly finding ridings on the drops more comfortable and efficient, although my slightly over-ample girth can make it uncomfortable at times - hopefully that particular problem will decrease as I do more riding :wink:

    Second the advice on mitts though, I've got a pair of Altura 'gel cell' mitts - they are excellent and really helpcushion the impact