Bike setup or body positioning?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Bike setup or body positioning?

    Hey guys, just a couple of questions here. Towards the end of my ride yesterday my wrists and the palms of my hands were getting pretty sore.
    A little background info, the trails I typically ride are pretty rocky. I would consider them fairly intermediate trails but even on the non technical sections you can expect some random rocks and bumps constantly. I also ride a bone stock Specialized Hardrock, which isn't the best setup for what we have to ride here. I've been riding for a little over 1 1/2 years, so while I can ride 95% of the trails without having to put my feet down, I am by no means an advanced level rider, and I'm sure I make plenty of mistakes not only in technique but also body positioning, which leads to my questions.
    My bike came with ergo grips that I never replaced. My wrists have a tendency to kind of dip down while riding causing the ridge on the grips to push into the palms of my hands and making them feel bruised towards the end of my rides. I constantly try to readjust to keep my wrists straight, but I feel like I put a lot of weight forward on the bars, especially since I like to have my seat pretty high.
    So here's my question. Do you guys think my body positioning issues that seem to attribute to my wrist/hand pains have anything to do with bike setup, or would you say I just need to be more mindful of my body positioning while riding and make the proper adjustments?

  2. #2
    It's too hot! SuperModerator
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    Does it hurt more when you go downhill and brake? I used to have an old bike with rim brakes and I had to squeeze harder on downhills. My palms were killing me. I've bought a brand new bike with hydraulic brakes and the problem is no longer there.

  3. #3
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    Start with bike setup. Your wrists are probably sore because you're supporting a lot of your weight on them. I suspect that your bike doesn't put you in a stretched-out XC racer position, so you're probably relatively upright but leaning on your hands. So the first thing I would look at is the angle of your saddle. Does the nose pitch down? That's a leading cause of too much weight in the hands. But if the saddle position isn't right for you, it could cause numbness in your groin. That's not good either. Personal preference varies; I like the nose of my saddle to incline about a degree or 2.

    Either way, replace the grips with comfortable ones. That's cheap.

    Remember that your weight belongs on your feet, which keeps you centered and balanced over the bottom bracket. You should have a light touch on the bars. That's a key point when you come to those rocks.

  4. #4
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    Asheville - I have mechanical disc brakes, which I realize aren't as good as hydraulic, but I don't feel like it's a grip strength issue.

    Evasive - I definitely have an issue with putting a lot of weight on the bars. I'll have to mess with the seat and see if that helps. New grips are a sure thing too. Any good recommendations there?

    Also do you guys think perhaps angling my brake levers a little more downward would help? After demoing a couple bikes I noticed their levers were angled downward much more than on my bike.

  5. #5
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Douwe View Post
    Asheville - I have mechanical disc brakes, which I realize aren't as good as hydraulic, but I don't feel like it's a grip strength issue.

    Evasive - I definitely have an issue with putting a lot of weight on the bars. I'll have to mess with the seat and see if that helps. New grips are a sure thing too. Any good recommendations there?

    Also do you guys think perhaps angling my brake levers a little more downward would help? After demoing a couple bikes I noticed their levers were angled downward much more than on my bike.
    yes to fixing brake levers. They should be more or less 45 degrees. Check some of the videos in the forum for tips on body position with feet weighted and light hands. If your seat is really high it might not be helping.

  6. #6
    The Original Suspect
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    Try and keep a straight line or only a slight bend in your wrist. When your wrist is bent for long periods it restricts the blood flow to the rest of your hand. Grips can make a difference and are cheap, experimenting with brake lever angle is free. So you have some options.

  7. #7
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    It's both. I think you're getting that from some of the other posts, but I'm procrastinating reading about fluid mechanics.

    I believe that a couple ideal riding positions exists for me. They vary depending on the kind of trails, climbing vs. descending, etc. But not a huge amount. And bicycles have been evolving for a pretty long time, to where the contact points can usually be arranged in a good compromise for all the different things I do on my bike.

    If the contact points on my bike aren't in the right places for my ideal riding position, it's harder for me to ride in that position. For example, if my saddle is at the wrong height, I pretty much can't use the right range of motion in my legs. If my handle bars are a little far or a little low, it's a little more subtle, because I can just bend my elbows less. But I'll notice stuff like I'm having to reach more, I'm putting more weight on my hands as I get tired, I have to stick my butt out more when I climb out of the saddle, that kind of thing.

    I think mountain bikers should figure this out for themselves. Sounds like you want to do that anyway.

    I don't know if you ski. I often think about skiing when I'm turning a lot on my mountain bike. If I leaned on my ski poles, nothing would happen. In a way, the stability of the handlebars on a bike is a disadvantage: they allow me to lean on them, and will support me if I do. But it's still not a good way to ride. My ideal for general riding, either seated and spinning my pedals or descending and not pedaling, is that I should have no weight on my hands. I try to get the reach and drop to where I can reach my grips without getting pulled off my balance. When I'm climbing out of the saddle, I actually want to be pulling up on the bar that goes with the foot I'm pushing down. That doesn't work if I'm off balance.

    As a starting point, try raising your grips to the same height as your saddle. You'd do that by rearranging the spacers on your fork's steer tube, flipping your stem, using a higher-angled stem, or using bars with more rise. I like to start with spacer and stem stuff, because it's free. You'll have to readjust your headset, but that's not a big deal.
    Park Tool Co. » ParkTool Blog » Threadless Headset Service

    I notice I change the angle of my forearms to my handlebars depending on what I'm doing. So ergo-type grips have always looked like a bad idea to me. Maybe I'd love them, I don't really know... Last time I wore out some grips, my mechanic suggested Renthal Kevlars. I'm really liking them. They're a round, low-profile grip, a little tacky, kind of medium hardness. I don't slip around on them and I pretty much don't notice them when I ride. In my book, that's awesome.

    Definitely experiment with your brake lever angle. For me, that's about as important as where my grips are in the first place.

    You can experiment with different length stems to play with your reach. That costs some money. I like cheap stems for that because I don't really know if I'll like the change. Ask your shop about takeoffs, get the Nashbar-branded ones from Performance, or go to your local bike co-op or used bike shop. You need to get the right clamp diameters for your steer tube and bars. Steer tubes are usually 1-1/8" at the upper race, stem, etc. Handlebars vary.

    If you feel like getting more in-depth, here are a couple articles I like.
    How to Fit a Bicycle
    The Myth of K.O.P.S.

    They both read like they're road-oriented, but they apply well to any kind of mountain biking that's not shuttled. (Add a dropper post if you want/can afford it/want to get more rad. I haven't.)
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    Great info so far! I come from a motocross background so while some things carry over, but body positioning is definitely different in that on a mx bike you are being pulled away from the bars upon acceleration and pushed into the bars a lot harder when braking, but you can squeeze the bike with your knees to stay more neutral. It's been a fun transition but I sure do have a lot to learn and a lot of bad habits to drop. All of the advice given so far is a lot of help and any more y'all have to offer is greatly appreciated!
    I'm excited for my next ride so I can try out some of these changes!

  9. #9
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    Your bike is not spec'ed for constantly rocky terrain.
    You may want to look into the Suntour upgrade program and check out a Raidon air fork.
    Next thing I'd check is the position of your grips. Rotate them until the heel of your hand is taking more of your weight.
    Fitness impacts your riding position when going through rocky sections. You can physically take weight off your hands using your core muscles.
    The more you do it the stronger you get in your core. This involves being off the saddle also.

  10. #10
    It's too hot! SuperModerator
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    Also, my stem was too long on my old bike, and I was always stretching more. Most of my upper body weight was put on the wrists when going downhill. That would make it hurt too.

  11. #11
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    Eb1888 - Ya I'd definitely like to have a better bike too, but my bike was my first purchase to get myself into the sport. I didn't want to drop big bucks if I didn't know if I'd stick with it and also I wouldn't have known what would have been a good purchase for me. I plan on a new purchase this summer so I don't want to invest too much into my current ride. I believe you are correct about the fitness aspect too.

  12. #12
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    Lots of good advice here so I will just add 1 little tip that I read years ago. When you are braking you move your weight back and this is the position where you want to set the angle of the levers. For me they are more angled more verticaly than 45 degrees because as I lean back my arms extend, flattening the angle of my for arms. When beaking I like the levers, extended fingers, and for arms to form a straight line. Changes to saddle position, and angle make big differences. Good luck.
    Formerly Travis Bickle

    Team Robot. "modulation is code for “I suck at brake control.” Here’s a free tip: get better."

  13. #13
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    Alright guys, so I lowered the angle of my brake levers. I have a habit of riding with a finger on the lever at all times and now that I rotated their position it blows my mind how high up I had them before and it's no wonder my wrists were rolled back too much. I have them to where just my finger tip on my index finger rests on them and as I squeeze the levers and my weight shifts forward, I get a nice grip while holding my wrists straight with my forearms. I also lowered the seat post slightly like a 1/4" and changed the angle of the seat. It was indeed angled downward somewhat. I haven't gotten to give it a real test ride beyond just in the driveway yet so I know that tomorrow and over time in general, depending in ride distance, I'll have to play around with the seat angle and how far back/forward it needs to be. I'm looking forward to playing around with that though.
    I plan on buying a Salsa El Mar this summer so learning how to fine tune the bike fitment on a lesser bike will surely help me set up a new bike to my liking even better and really enjoy the ride that much more.
    Thanks again, and feel free to keep the advice coming. Even if it's not pertaining to wrist/hand pain. I'd love to hear about some of your learning experiences in setting up your ride, and I'm sure there are others here that could learn a lot from it too!

  14. #14
    The Original Suspect
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    Very good. Cycling is an ever evolving learning curve. As the industry changes so does our knowledge base for learning new things about this seemingly simple machine we ride.

  15. #15
    Hi There!
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    I didn't read all of the other posts, but basically your brake levers should be positioned so that when you are in your normal riding position your hand and finger should go straight to the brake lever. In other words, you shouldn't have to twist your wrist in any direction to get your finger or fingers on the lever and squeeze.
    NTFTC

  16. #16
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I think it's totally worth dialing in fit on this bike. If you blew it on size or something like that, you'll figure it out in the next few weeks. That'll help you nail the sizing on the new bike this summer.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  17. #17
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    Well I got a nice 8.5 mile ride in today with the adjustments made, and let me tell you, it was a night and day difference. Even though it wasn't a super long ride, it was so much more comfortable.
    One of my goals is to enter a XC race eventually, and I feel comfortable enough right now to enter a Cat 3 class without totally embarrassing myself. I'm in between jobs at the moment so I don't want to spend the money right now, but hopefully soon! With that said I was pretty proud of my ride today. Even with the slick conditions (wet rocks and muddy tires are a bad combo, haha) I was able to average 9.5 mph, which is on the upper end of what I typically do on dry days. I like to think part of the reason is that I've really been working on improving my fitness, but the help I received from you guys sure made my ride easier and more comfortable, which obviously helps a ton. So thank y'all very much for your help! It has also helped me see what other kinds of adjustments I'll eventually like to make, like a shorter stem for example, and I still need to fine tune my seat position a bit.
    Anyways, just thought I'd give y'all an update so that you know your advice didn't land on deaf ears!

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