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Is 'flipping the stem' an option ?

prandoprando Posts: 47
edited December 2013 in Road beginners
I have a 2013 Defy 1 and have been messing around with saddle and handlebar positions. I 'suffer' from the pins and needles / carpel tunnel syndrome. Not life threatening, but just very irritating to continually 'shake out my hands'!

I wish to raise my handlebars but currently have them on the highest setting-most spacers. I have read about an option of flipping the stem to achieve a higher handlebar position. What exactly is it, and is it a sensible option ?

I have an old carrerra virtuosa wherein I fitted an adjustable angle stem extension thingmy, which achieved a raised handlebar position. I am considering swapping that onto my defy, but a little nervous about messing/ replacing quality Giant parts with this cheapy part.

Any advice on these points please ? Thanks

Posts

  • sungodsungod Posts: 12,679
    if the stem on the giant angles downwards wrt to the axis of the steerer tube, flipping it will raise the bars (also move them a bit closer)

    you flip by removing the stem completely, then putting it back on the steerer 'upside down', it's perfectly ok to do this

    if you've not done it before, the only slightly fiddly bit is setting the preload on the headset, it's not complicated though

    but...

    before changing anything, are you sure it's not simply due to 'bad habits', or setup? if you're gripping the bars too tight, or leaning on them, it can cause the problem you're having

    aside from bars too low/forward, leaning on the bars might be due to habit, or incorrect saddle position, or a lack of flexibility, it's worth taking a bit of time to figure out what the root cause, flipping the stem may not be the best solution
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • diamonddogdiamonddog Posts: 3,368
    sungod wrote:
    if the stem on the giant angles downwards wrt to the axis of the steerer tube, flipping it will raise the bars (also move them a bit closer)

    you flip by removing the stem completely, then putting it back on the steerer 'upside down', it's perfectly ok to do this

    if you've not done it before, the only slightly fiddly bit is setting the preload on the headset, it's not complicated though

    but...

    before changing anything, are you sure it's not simply due to 'bad habits', or setup? if you're gripping the bars too tight, or leaning on them, it can cause the problem you're having

    aside from bars too low/forward, leaning on the bars might be due to habit, or incorrect saddle position, or a lack of flexibility, it's worth taking a bit of time to figure out what the root cause, flipping the stem may not be the best solution
    ^^+1 for this .
  • what do you guys mean by 'leaning on bars'? are you suggesting that riders should not put weight on bars? would this not effect steering by making it light?

    coming from mtb I put a lot of weight on the bars, and do so on the road bike too. counter steering to lean into turns is done by leaning on the bars, braking forces your weight onto the bars.

    can you explain further please?
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    You definitely don't want lots of weight on your wrists - it'll have impact on shoulders, neck etc. on longer rides. Handling a road bike is not like riding down a trail with constant changes in direction - you simply do not need a tight grip on the bars or a lot of weight on them.

    Sungod has it all about right - flipping the stem is the quick and easy solution, but it's only 1 part of the story.

    Saddle position has a lot of impact on the distribution of weight between censored and hands, and you need to have that right as well.

    What sort of distances are you riding and suffering numbness on?

    Do you wear gloves at all?
  • sungodsungod Posts: 12,679
    what do you guys mean by 'leaning on bars'? are you suggesting that riders should not put weight on bars? would this not effect steering by making it light?

    coming from mtb I put a lot of weight on the bars, and do so on the road bike too. counter steering to lean into turns is done by leaning on the bars, braking forces your weight onto the bars.

    can you explain further please?

    road cycling often has long stretches in the same position, most of the time i'd just lightly rest hands on the bars/drops, yes, the load will go up when braking hard, or a bit when cornering, but usually only a light touch is needed, your weight is balanced on the saddle, core strength stabilises your upper body

    try this...
    put the bike next to a wall, or in a doorway, so that you can get on and rest gently against the side to keep upright

    get into riding position, now lift your hands off the bars, if you can't lift them without falling forward, it may be that the saddle is too far forward
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • prandoprando Posts: 47
    marcusjb wrote:
    You definitely don't want lots of weight on your wrists - it'll have impact on shoulders, neck etc. on longer rides. Handling a road bike is not like riding down a trail with constant changes in direction - you simply do not need a tight grip on the bars or a lot of weight on them.

    Sungod has it all about right - flipping the stem is the quick and easy solution, but it's only 1 part of the story.

    Saddle position has a lot of impact on the distribution of weight between ars* and hands, and you need to have that right as well.

    What sort of distances are you riding and suffering numbness on?

    Do you wear gloves at all?

    Thanks for advice Marcus buddy. Typically, I ride 40 miles. I wear 'extra padded' gloves. My pins and needles kick in after 20 minutes. Sporadically thereafter.

    Is using my 'adjustable stem' a sensible option ? I was a little worried that I may be replacing quality parts (Giant) with a £20 Halfords item.

    I have been tinkering with saddle position / height to achieve the most comfortable set up.
  • sungod wrote:
    what do you guys mean by 'leaning on bars'? are you suggesting that riders should not put weight on bars? would this not effect steering by making it light?

    coming from mtb I put a lot of weight on the bars, and do so on the road bike too. counter steering to lean into turns is done by leaning on the bars, braking forces your weight onto the bars.

    can you explain further please?

    road cycling often has long stretches in the same position, most of the time i'd just lightly rest hands on the bars/drops, yes, the load will go up when braking hard, or a bit when cornering, but usually only a light touch is needed, your weight is balanced on the saddle, core strength stabilises your upper body

    try this...
    put the bike next to a wall, or in a doorway, so that you can get on and rest gently against the side to keep upright

    get into riding position, now lift your hands off the bars, if you can't lift them without falling forward, it may be that the saddle is too far forward

    thanks, but I'm happy with my bike setup and don't have any issues. I was just concerned that saying putting weight on bars causes problems, when some weight is necessary for proper control.

    lots of weight on the bars, along with too tight a grip can certainly cause problems, but too little can also have a negative effect with people feeling they have to grip tightly to feel in control. rigid arms and shoulders then start to make themselves felt.

    I have read of several people improving their comfort on the bike by lowering the stem. I have done the same, dropped the stem by one spacer has improved long 4hr plus rides considerably.

    I would recommend the OP try flipping the stem, moving it down etc. to experiment with best position.
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • sungodsungod Posts: 12,679
    <...>
    I have read of several people improving their comfort on the bike by lowering the stem. I have done the same, dropped the stem by one spacer has improved long 4hr plus rides considerably.

    I would recommend the OP try flipping the stem, moving it down etc. to experiment with best position.

    you seem not to have read what the op said, they're talking about raising the bars
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    prando wrote:
    marcusjb wrote:
    You definitely don't want lots of weight on your wrists - it'll have impact on shoulders, neck etc. on longer rides. Handling a road bike is not like riding down a trail with constant changes in direction - you simply do not need a tight grip on the bars or a lot of weight on them.

    Sungod has it all about right - flipping the stem is the quick and easy solution, but it's only 1 part of the story.

    Saddle position has a lot of impact on the distribution of weight between ars* and hands, and you need to have that right as well.

    What sort of distances are you riding and suffering numbness on?

    Do you wear gloves at all?

    Thanks for advice Marcus buddy. Typically, I ride 40 miles. I wear 'extra padded' gloves. My pins and needles kick in after 20 minutes. Sporadically thereafter.

    Is using my 'adjustable stem' a sensible option ? I was a little worried that I may be replacing quality parts (Giant) with a £20 Halfords item.

    I have been tinkering with saddle position / height to achieve the most comfortable set up.

    I know of a number of people who have used adjustable stems with some success - some of them used it to experiment with what worked for them, before buying a rigid stem of the best length/angle for them (and selling on the adjustable stem).

    That really is a very short time for pins and needles to kick in - do you get pins and needles much in other activities? I know lots of people (myself included) who have suffered from numb fingers - but this is in long-distance cycling, so everything gets stressed.

    But 20 minutes isn't long at all.

    It may, or may not, help - but trying some gel pads under the bartape (assuming your on drop bars) may make a difference. But you need to work on getting that weight off the hands.

    There's things you can do on the bike to reduce the stress on your hands - moving them around on the bars regularly will help (use the top, the hoods etc. and just move your hands about a lot). You're already shaking your hands out.

    I'm not a medic at all - but that really is a short time to be suffering numbness - you may want to see the doctor about it if you are suffering doing other things as well.
  • sungod wrote:
    <...>
    I have read of several people improving their comfort on the bike by lowering the stem. I have done the same, dropped the stem by one spacer has improved long 4hr plus rides considerably.

    I would recommend the OP try flipping the stem, moving it down etc. to experiment with best position.

    you seem not to have read what the op said, they're talking about raising the bars

    yes, and if you re-read what I said, you will see I also agree with that, and also try putting it lower. the key word is experiment, it means to try different things and see what happens. :wink:
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • KajjalKajjal Posts: 3,404
    My stem is flipped upwards which gives me the riding position I prefer. The only thing to think about is once you make the change you may have to adjust your setup slightly to compensate. Just give it a go.
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,028
    @aj.. Referring to your previous point, the guy who did my bike fitting said that weight distribution between bars and seat on a road bike should ideally be around 30/70... He is also an NHS physio and seems to know what he is talking about. Every change you make will affect something else so make a careful note of what you did!
  • Core strength.

    The rest is just accommodating for this deficit.
  • Steve236Steve236 Posts: 212
    Have you tried adjusting the angle of the bars? With perfectly horizontal bars (i.e. lower part of the drops and brake hoods) I find my wrists are at an angle that can be painful. Upshifting the front mech with the left hand STI lever used to give me a horrible carpel tunnel-like pain in my wrist. Tilting the bars backwards helped with this enormously.
  • prandoprando Posts: 47
    marcusjb wrote:
    prando wrote:
    marcusjb wrote:
    You definitely don't want lots of weight on your wrists - it'll have impact on shoulders, neck etc. on longer rides. Handling a road bike is not like riding down a trail with constant changes in direction - you simply do not need a tight grip on the bars or a lot of weight on them.

    Sungod has it all about right - flipping the stem is the quick and easy solution, but it's only 1 part of the story.

    Saddle position has a lot of impact on the distribution of weight between ars* and hands, and you need to have that right as well.

    What sort of distances are you riding and suffering numbness on?

    Do you wear gloves at all?

    Thanks for advice Marcus buddy. Typically, I ride 40 miles. I wear 'extra padded' gloves. My pins and needles kick in after 20 minutes. Sporadically thereafter.

    Is using my 'adjustable stem' a sensible option ? I was a little worried that I may be replacing quality parts (Giant) with a £20 Halfords item.

    I have been tinkering with saddle position / height to achieve the most comfortable set up.

    I know of a number of people who have used adjustable stems with some success - some of them used it to experiment with what worked for them, before buying a rigid stem of the best length/angle for them (and selling on the adjustable stem).

    That really is a very short time for pins and needles to kick in - do you get pins and needles much in other activities? I know lots of people (myself included) who have suffered from numb fingers - but this is in long-distance cycling, so everything gets stressed.

    But 20 minutes isn't long at all.

    It may, or may not, help - but trying some gel pads under the bartape (assuming your on drop bars) may make a difference. But you need to work on getting that weight off the hands.

    There's things you can do on the bike to reduce the stress on your hands - moving them around on the bars regularly will help (use the top, the hoods etc. and just move your hands about a lot). You're already shaking your hands out.

    I'm not a medic at all - but that really is a short time to be suffering numbness - you may want to see the doctor about it if you are suffering doing other things as well.

    Thanks again Marcus. I've put the gel pads on my old bike. They certainly helped.

    My wife (retired ward sister) assures me it's carpel tunnel. (Left wrist only) The Doc (I have been) is not convinced, suspecting a trapped nerve in neck / shoulder ? Recommended some neck exercises ! It's not life threatening, just a bit irritating. Accordingly I am trying all sorts ,

    Just back from a 40 miler with flipped stem. Actually, it did feel a touch better.

    Now I must own up to a blunder. Removed my adjustable stem from old bike and fitted it to Defy. Whoops, the Giant handlebar radius is much greater than the old bike handlebars. The fitting won't take the Giant handlebars !! Still, the flip went OK !

    I am looking around for an adjustable stem, able to take the defy handlebars.
  • prandoprando Posts: 47
    Steve236 wrote:
    Have you tried adjusting the angle of the bars? With perfectly horizontal bars (i.e. lower part of the drops and brake hoods) I find my wrists are at an angle that can be painful. Upshifting the front mech with the left hand STI lever used to give me a horrible carpel tunnel-like pain in my wrist. Tilting the bars backwards helped with this enormously.

    Thanks Steve. I do tilt the bars and as you say it helps.
  • deswellerdesweller Posts: 5,271
    Mikey23 wrote:
    @aj.. Referring to your previous point, the guy who did my bike fitting said that weight distribution between bars and seat on a road bike should ideally be around 30/70... He is also an NHS physio and seems to know what he is talking about. Every change you make will affect something else so make a careful note of what you did!

    Your bike-fit-NHS-superphysio reckons you should have 10 to 15kg on each hand (depending on how heavy you are).

    This seems extremely high to me. I'd say maybe a couple of kg per hand?
    - - - - - - - - - -
    On Strava.{/url}
  • andy_wrxandy_wrx Posts: 3,396
    prando wrote:
    Steve236 wrote:
    Have you tried adjusting the angle of the bars? With perfectly horizontal bars (i.e. lower part of the drops and brake hoods) I find my wrists are at an angle that can be painful. Upshifting the front mech with the left hand STI lever used to give me a horrible carpel tunnel-like pain in my wrist. Tilting the bars backwards helped with this enormously.

    Thanks Steve. I do tilt the bars and as you say it helps.

    Tilting the bars...obviously...tilts the bars, i.e. adjusts the angle of the whole things, including the angle of the drops and the curves and the corners of the tops, etc, not just the shifters.

    You can tilt the bars to move the shifters up and down as an experiment to see if it feels better or worse, but having found out, best would be to get the bars tilted so that they are at the right angle for what's comfortable for you on the drops, tops, etc - and then adjust the shifters on the bars to where they're comfy.

    (you're Shimano?) There's a groove in the plastic on the outside of the shift lever, which if you shove an allen key down will loosen the clamp holding the levers to the bars, you can then waggle them up and down the bars a bit - too much and you'll need to remove the bartape and retape it back again afterwards.

    As well as the height and angle of the bars and shifters is also reach - you can get longer or shorter stems.

    Fiddling around with all this will significantly affect how much weight you put on the bars, how much strain you put on your neck and back.

    Off the peg bikes fit Mr Average, which none of us is : an expensive bike-fit aims to make it fit perfectly.
    A decent bike shop ought to do it when they sell you the bike in the first place (though some of them seem to have no clue), and if you buy online or mail order you miss it
  • Background: I am a hand surgery doctor/expert who set his bike up all wrong and couldn't understand why he got hand problems! Which makes me a complete numpty!

    Tell me which fingers you have problems in and I will tell you about carpal tunnel, etc.

    A 30/70 split seems quite odd to me. I would think you are aiming for 90/10 saddle/bars. pros can cycle for miles hands free. There is a video of I think marcel kittel, taking his leg warmers off whilst hands free completely. that is 100:0.

    Your core is without doubt as important as your legs but we don't do core exercises like we should.

    if your saddle is even a degree out of alignment you will change your pressure on the handlebar and make life difficult for yourself.

    I would start with your bike absolutely level and make your saddle absolutely level. Then set your drops and then adjust your hoods to give an absolutely level are to lean on.

    make sure that your shoulders are relaxed, elbows 10-20degrees flexed and that the edges of your hands rather than the palms rest on the hoods. I always use to think that my windproof sections on the arms of my Assos jacket were in the wrong position until I got myself properly set.

    One good exercise is to start with your hands on the hoods and without stopping pedalling take both hands off the hoods and drop them onto the drops, then come up to the bars and then back to the hoods. If you do not feel stable doing that with both hands simultaneously without the bike wobbling your bike is not properly set up.

    All of this is courtesy of Adrian timmis at cadence sport.

    Chris
  • Mikey23Mikey23 Posts: 5,028
    You guys may well be right, I only threw the 30/70 into the mix as I think that's what he said. What I know is that since my fit I am very much lighter on the bars than previously and my impression is that I am producing power more efficiently
  • prandoprando Posts: 47
    Thanks for the expert comments. I actually visited the Doc last week. Ligaments in shoulder apparently. (over doing the gym rather than cycling related) Need to remind myself I am over 60!
    I used the visit to mention wrist/pins and needles. Carpel Tunnel diagnosed having investigated which fingers, waking me at night etc. Not life threatening though.
    I will be looking for Timmis at cadence sport. Thanks again kayak buddy.
  • alidafalidaf Posts: 147
    The Defy should have spacers on the stem. Make sure you have those as they can make a big difference.

    Sorry, I don't mean the stem. They should be just below the stem on the steerer.
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