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Upright riding position for touring - Comfort

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Upright riding position for touring - Comfort

Old 08-10-15, 07:59 PM
  #1  
rawklobster
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Upright riding position for touring - Comfort

In all the searching, and reading, and even talking to people, I haven't found much evidence that many people tour in an upright position. And when I look at pictures of people's touring bike, they aren't often on it for me to see how hunched over or how upright they are. If you have such pics, I'd love to see them!!!

But my real question is, and I understand this might be pointless for many, but it's important to me to understand...

If efficiency and wind are not variables, is there anything wrong with building a custom touring bike with geometry that leads to a more upright position? And I don't mean more upright than a road bike, but more upright than maybe a standard tour bike. I was much slower on my Tadpole Trike (now sold) but it was extremely comfortable for 100km/day for a month straight. Hoping to build a tour bike that comes as close to as comfortable, even at the expense of efficiency and poopoo headwind battling.

I found this on Peter White Cycles... "You should not feel like you're about to fall forward when you lift off the handlebar. If it makes no difference to your back muscles whether you have your hands on the bars or not, you know that you aren't using your arms to support your upper body. If you are, your arms and shoulders will surely get tired on a long ride."

Thanks in advance!

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Old 08-10-15, 08:10 PM
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Old 08-10-15, 08:21 PM
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It is interesting that you brought that up. It is an issue that I have been playing with. I was experimenting with my adventure bike (haven't selected a touring bike yet) and raised the handlebar up 4.5" over the saddle height. It put me in a very comfortable position, but I felt that I had lost some of the handling ability of the bike as I was now sitting up more but still using the drop bars but riding on the shifter handles. I lowered the HB down to only 2" and it seems to handle a lot better. I think I would like to try either a Jones Bar or a Butterfly Bar on my touring bike... and go with a little more sit up and live with the fact that in a head wind I will either have to work harder or ride slower...but then a touring bike isn't about riding at road bike speeds. Let us know what you decide to do and how it turns out.
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Old 08-10-15, 08:45 PM
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It is called a hybrid bike
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Old 08-10-15, 10:12 PM
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On local bike path most of the tourists I see are riding drop-bars w/moderate handlebar height. More upright position could be a bit easier on hands/arms/shoulders but then more weight on the butt. Plus leaning forward helps the core do some of the pedaling work. Riding upright bikes I instinctively lean forward when pedaling harder but it's not comfy for arms to be folded up. Even with no wind & moderate 20 kph pace I think an upright position is going to cause significant aero drag. Drop/aero bar combo works great: aero bars not only give a little speed boost but give shoulders/arms a nice rest.
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Old 08-10-15, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Thanks for the video... But the riding position doesn't seem to be upright to me. Or is it? I'll have it investigate my "upright" position.

Last edited by rawklobster; 08-21-15 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 08-10-15, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
I think I would like to try either a Jones Bar or a Butterfly Bar on my touring bike... and go with a little more sit up and live with the fact that in a head wind I will either have to work harder or ride slower...but then a touring bike isn't about riding at road bike speeds. Let us know what you decide to do and how it turns out.
This is the bar I'm planning. Nitto Bosco! And yes, I would sacrifice speed in a heartbeat for comfort.

I will definitely report back, but hoping to find others who have successfully ridden upright for tours. I forgot to note that I don't plan on wearing padded shorts. Just regular shorts and undies.
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Old 08-10-15, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
It is called a hybrid bike
My understanding was it's called a Dutch bike. I thought hybrids are not as upright a position.
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Old 08-10-15, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
On local bike path most of the tourists I see are riding drop-bars w/moderate handlebar height. More upright position could be a bit easier on hands/arms/shoulders but then more weight on the butt. Plus leaning forward helps the core do some of the pedaling work. Riding upright bikes I instinctively lean forward when pedaling harder but it's not comfy for arms to be folded up. Even with no wind & moderate 20 kph pace I think an upright position is going to cause significant aero drag. Drop/aero bar combo works great: aero bars not only give a little speed boost but give shoulders/arms a nice rest.
I've never been comfortable with drop bars. If you have tried upright riding with less pressure on hands/arms/shoulders, what was the experience with more weight on your butt? I know it's less efficient, and I'm not against significant aero drag. Thanks for the Aero Bar suggestion, but I'm really just looking for anecdotal experience with upright riding. I'm willing to sacrifice efficient riding for comfort and avoid leaning forward. I'm hoping comfy tires (Big Bens) and a wide sprung Brooks with more surface area will help with the more-weight-on-butt.

There is tons of information on why drops/hunched are better, etc. Aero drag is better, efficiency is better, climbing is better... But what if the rider doesn't care about any of those things? Why would they still choose to ride that way if there's a more comfortable alternative? Perhaps because the alternative is also uncomfortable, but that's the question I'm looking to answer. I may find that nobody has managed comfortable long distance tour riding this way, but I'm hopeful.

Also consider that I will be pedalling relatively slowly. I don't like to ride too fast. Being in a hunched position doesn't sound very appealing at a slow pace.
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Old 08-10-15, 11:30 PM
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I've got my butterfly bars angled down towards the front. So the rear bar position is the upright-ish generally cruising along braking changing gears position. The front position I can stretch out and rest my wrists on the rear bar like an aero bar to get down out of headwinds. Mostly I ride on the rear position. Most people seem to angle them up, which ends up with almost the same body position. I don't have them angled down so much that the side position is unusable as an alternative hand placement. The main issue with doing this is the cable position on your brakes and shifters. Some simply foul the headstem when the bars are angled down and the levers are in a rational position.
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Old 08-11-15, 06:34 AM
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Can you send a picture of your butterfly bar set up? I have seen them set up with the bars angled up towards the front and even test rode a bike at REI that was set up that way. It seemed to be a good compromise in that the shifters and brakes were MTB equipment and the bar had plenty of places to put your hands. I typically ride with my drop bars about 2 inches above my saddle and don't have much discomfort in my hands, perennial area or butt. I am not sure I want to sit as upright as a cruiser though.
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Old 08-11-15, 09:51 AM
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I have an upright tourer, Randonee w/Bosco Bars and a Drop Bar tourer, actually 2, AWOL and Vaya 2. The Randonee w/Bosco Bars is an absolute pleasure to tour on. I tend to sit upright and soak up the scenery while riding but can go flat bar if I choose but for the most part don't. My avg speed is 10-13 mph touring on the Randonee. I tend to do 13 to 15 loaded on the AWOL and it's not nearly as comfortable as the Randonee. After about 50 mi my wrists are sore on the AWOL while I almost never have wrist issues on the Randonee. The downside is that the cockpit on the Randonee is a little cramped when doing tight turns but I rarely notice it now.

Sorry, I don't have pictures of me riding but below are the 3 different bikes I ride.





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Old 08-11-15, 09:55 AM
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But my real question is, and I understand this might be pointless for many, but it's important to me to understand...

If efficiency and wind are not variables, is there anything wrong with building a custom touring bike with geometry that leads to a more upright position? And I don't mean more upright than a road bike, but more upright than maybe a standard tour bike. I was much slower on my Tadpole Trike (now sold) but it was extremely comfortable for 100km/day for a month straight. Hoping to build a tour bike that comes as close to as comfortable, even at the expense of efficiency and poopoo headwind battling.


"Building a custom touring bike..." I hope you're not refering to a custom frame, that seems toally unnecessary to ride at a slow pace sitting upright, there must be a million frames out there to serve your needs. Nothing at all wrong with doing what makes you comfortable. Bicycle Touring is different things to different people.
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Old 08-11-15, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by rawklobster View Post
If efficiency and wind are not variables, is there anything wrong with building a custom touring bike with geometry that leads to a more upright position?


^^^ this is my current touring bike and riding position. I can put in 10-12hr days pretty comfortably like this.

When it comes to your touring riding position you have to support your body weight via 3 points of contact - hands, feet and butt. Those are the 3 only options if we exclude aerobars and recumbents]. So it's a bit of a zero sum game.

You can sit bolt upright which takes all the weight off your hands and puts your neck vertical, but that leads to all the weight shifting to your butt. I find that isn't very comfortable for me for more than 1hr.

If you go the opposite way and lean far forward you take a lot of the weight off your butt and move it to your hands and feet. I find that leads to hand pressure/numbness issues and a sore neck after 4hrs+.

Since we are all different the optimal solution I come up with may not suit you and vice versa. What I would not assume is that a bolt upright posture is comfortable for touring unless you have some experience that leads you to believe your body likes that. Before you commit to a custom touring bike you need to experiment with the options you are considering and validate what really works for you in practice.
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Old 08-11-15, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by rawklobster View Post
If efficiency and wind are not variables, is there anything wrong with building a custom touring bike with geometry that leads to a more upright position?
For me, it's all about comfort, efficiency and wind. In the real world, of course, one cannot ignore either basic efficiency or wind. Particularly with injuries, limitations, heavy loads, and so on.

That said, I've always tended toward the comfort end of the spectrum, in terms of position. I've been willing to take the "hit" with respect to loss of aerodynamics, and so long as my basic efficiency wasn't impacted then that's a trade I've been comfortable with.

I've never cared, much, for how others believed it looked.

But particularly longer and harder rides, I've found the mix of pros/cons to be better served, overall, with greater comfort as opposed to comfort playing second fiddle to both efficiency and aerodynamics. Have had some bad, windy days, to be sure. And on those days, I certainly grumbled a bit. (Of course, that's where a good drop bar comes in handy.)


Originally Posted by rawklobster View Post
I found this on Peter White Cycles... "You should not feel like you're about to fall forward when you lift off the handlebar. If it makes no difference to your back muscles whether you have your hands on the bars or not, you know that you aren't using your arms to support your upper body. If you are, your arms and shoulders will surely get tired on a long ride."
First I've seen that, but that's basically how I've approached saddle position over the years. Tried to keep the shoulders and arms relaxed; tried to keep the weight off the hands, at the given fitness level I had at the time; and tried to ensure I wasn't fatigued due to position at the end of each ride. So long as it wasn't too upright to blow things with respect to the wind or efficiency, it's always been my preference to lean that direction (so to speak).

Am currently at a bit more "cab-forward" than I prefer. Am about to install a more-relaxed bar this afternoon, actually. Ought to get me back to a more-relaxed position. And I'm sure my back, arms and general disposition will thank me for it.
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Old 08-11-15, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Trevtassie View Post
I've got my butterfly bars angled down towards the front. So the rear bar position is the upright-ish generally cruising along braking changing gears position. The front position I can stretch out and rest my wrists on the rear bar like an aero bar to get down out of headwinds. Mostly I ride on the rear position. Most people seem to angle them up, which ends up with almost the same body position. I don't have them angled down so much that the side position is unusable as an alternative hand placement. The main issue with doing this is the cable position on your brakes and shifters. Some simply foul the headstem when the bars are angled down and the levers are in a rational position.
Butterflies are cool, and I was looking at those first, but the Nitto Bosco is what I've been leaning towards. They allow for stretching as well.

How upright would you say you are when riding?
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Old 08-11-15, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by edthesped View Post
I have an upright tourer, Randonee w/Bosco Bars and a Drop Bar tourer, actually 2, AWOL and Vaya 2. The Randonee w/Bosco Bars is an absolute pleasure to tour on. I tend to sit upright and soak up the scenery while riding but can go flat bar if I choose but for the most part don't. My avg speed is 10-13 mph touring on the Randonee. I tend to do 13 to 15 loaded on the AWOL and it's not nearly as comfortable as the Randonee. After about 50 mi my wrists are sore on the AWOL while I almost never have wrist issues on the Randonee. The downside is that the cockpit on the Randonee is a little cramped when doing tight turns but I rarely notice it now.

Sorry, I don't have pictures of me riding but below are the 3 different bikes I ride.


Your Randonee looks JUST like what I'm interested in building! Sprung Brooks seat, the SAME Nitto Bosco bars I'm interested in (what is the size you chose?) and of course, the upright position I'm looking for. 10-13 MPH is *perfect* and likely the same speed I'll be doing as well. Wrist/hand/upper body issues is what I'm trying too avoid, while also avoiding perineal pain and sitting bone bruise-like pain. Any issues with either of those? Also, at 10-13MPH, how many miles do you manage in a day. I'm likely looking at an average of 50-60 or so.

I don't follow what you mean by right turns being cramped.
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Old 08-11-15, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by venturi95 View Post
But my real question is, and I understand this might be pointless for many, but it's important to me to understand...

If efficiency and wind are not variables, is there anything wrong with building a custom touring bike with geometry that leads to a more upright position? And I don't mean more upright than a road bike, but more upright than maybe a standard tour bike. I was much slower on my Tadpole Trike (now sold) but it was extremely comfortable for 100km/day for a month straight. Hoping to build a tour bike that comes as close to as comfortable, even at the expense of efficiency and poopoo headwind battling.


"Building a custom touring bike..." I hope you're not refering to a custom frame, that seems toally unnecessary to ride at a slow pace sitting upright, there must be a million frames out there to serve your needs. Nothing at all wrong with doing what makes you comfortable. Bicycle Touring is different things to different people.
You're probably right that it's not necessary, but since I have lots of different components, and desires (Son28 SL with direct fork connection, stainless steel drop-outs) a custom frame makes sense for me. Plus, aesthetics are important to me, and so I'm getting the colour I want with a custom paint job. Not nesessary from a practical standpoint, but something I decided I wanted early on. Also, I've never found a frame that was comfortable for me, and had lots of bikes I suffered with, but never knew about "bike fit" and was likely buying the wrong kind of bike for the wrong application.

I recently rented a Linus and it was awful, too, even though it looks comfy. I thought perhaps it was upright enough to do some testing, but it was bad. I'm short, at just a little over 5'7", and one thing I like about a custom bike (at least the company I am getting my frame from) is they ask lots of questions and want to build the bike to my style of riding and application. They seem to consider a lot of factors which I think will result in a bike that will fit me perfectly. I might be over-compensating, but after my steep geometry mountain bike, and perineal pain and sitting bone pain, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to avoid this.

I tried a Surly LHT which might have been too big for me, but the bike guy said it would fit, and I hated it. I felt lots of pressure from having a large cockpit. I might go and try the next size down, but the drop handlebars are an immediate turnoff for me. I spoke to them about changing the handlebars, but in the end, there were so many components would want to swap out it didn't make sense to buy a complete bike.
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Old 08-11-15, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by vik View Post


^^^ this is my current touring bike and riding position. I can put in 10-12hr days pretty comfortably like this.

When it comes to your touring riding position you have to support your body weight via 3 points of contact - hands, feet and butt. Those are the 3 only options if we exclude aerobars and recumbents]. So it's a bit of a zero sum game.

You can sit bolt upright which takes all the weight off your hands and puts your neck vertical, but that leads to all the weight shifting to your butt. I find that isn't very comfortable for me for more than 1hr.

If you go the opposite way and lean far forward you take a lot of the weight off your butt and move it to your hands and feet. I find that leads to hand pressure/numbness issues and a sore neck after 4hrs+.

Since we are all different the optimal solution I come up with may not suit you and vice versa. What I would not assume is that a bolt upright posture is comfortable for touring unless you have some experience that leads you to believe your body likes that. Before you commit to a custom touring bike you need to experiment with the options you are considering and validate what really works for you in practice.
All great advice! I do not think I will be bolt upright like I am with my Pashley, and I do plan on trying her for 100km just to see, but already predict sitting bone pain. I think a slightly down from upright is what I'm going for, but still very little pressure on the hands. Almost imperceptible. Unsure if the frame builders will have any insight and perhaps set things up so that the feet take more pressure off the butt while maintaining little-no hand pressure. I don't mind hand pressure if it's low enough that I don't experience any pain, but even the moderate hand pressure on my Brompton forced me to get Ergon grips and even then, it's only alleviated it for maybe 30 minutes from 5-8 minutes.

I think with the wide sprung saddle, as well as big comfy Big Ben tires, my mileage may vary from your experiences, although your tires look quite plush.

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Old 08-11-15, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by rawklobster View Post
Your Randonee looks JUST like what I'm interested in building! Sprung Brooks seat, the SAME Nitto Bosco bars I'm interested in (what is the size you chose?) and of course, the upright position I'm looking for. 10-13 MPH is *perfect* and likely the same speed I'll be doing as well. Wrist/hand/upper body issues is what I'm trying too avoid, while also avoiding perineal pain and sitting bone bruise-like pain. Any issues with either of those? Also, at 10-13MPH, how many miles do you manage in a day. I'm likely looking at an average of 50-60 or so.

I don't follow what you mean by right turns being cramped.
I'm 5-9 and have a M. Seat pain is minimal and I experience no perineal pain. I can easily do 50-60 mi/day on the bike and have done up to 95 miles at which point I was pretty much fatigued all over and generally just tired of riding. As noted in another post, I don't get near the power riding upright as compared to drop bars, the difference is very noticeable when I switch between this and drop bars and riding into a headwind blows, no pun intended. For long enjoyable days in the saddle the Randonee is my go to bike. One of the things I like most about riding more upright is just how much of my surroundings I'm able to take in while I ride which is just as big of a reason I like riding it as comfort. To be fair my daughter loves the AWOL and absolutely despises riding the Randonee so riding upright definitely isn't for everyone.

As for cramped, making tight turns at very low speeds, ie walking speed, is difficult because the handlebars hit my legs. Once rolling the issue is gone though.
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Old 08-11-15, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
For me, it's all about comfort, efficiency and wind. In the real world, of course, one cannot ignore either basic efficiency or wind. Particularly with injuries, limitations, heavy loads, and so on.

That said, I've always tended toward the comfort end of the spectrum, in terms of position. I've been willing to take the "hit" with respect to loss of aerodynamics, and so long as my basic efficiency wasn't impacted then that's a trade I've been comfortable with.

I've never cared, much, for how others believed it looked.

But particularly longer and harder rides, I've found the mix of pros/cons to be better served, overall, with greater comfort as opposed to comfort playing second fiddle to both efficiency and aerodynamics. Have had some bad, windy days, to be sure. And on those days, I certainly grumbled a bit. (Of course, that's where a good drop bar comes in handy.)

First I've seen that, but that's basically how I've approached saddle position over the years. Tried to keep the shoulders and arms relaxed; tried to keep the weight off the hands, at the given fitness level I had at the time; and tried to ensure I wasn't fatigued due to position at the end of each ride. So long as it wasn't too upright to blow things with respect to the wind or efficiency, it's always been my preference to lean that direction (so to speak).

Am currently at a bit more "cab-forward" than I prefer. Am about to install a more-relaxed bar this afternoon, actually. Ought to get me back to a more-relaxed position. And I'm sure my back, arms and general disposition will thank me for it.
You're definitely talking my language! I think I'm aiming to compromise if need be, but if I don't have to, I won't insist. As for looks, everyone seems to like the majestic look of my Pashley. I had one comment along the lines of, "That's how I imagine a King would arrive on a bike. Chest out, high on the "horse" and elegant." when I arrived at a park with friends picnicking.

Although I'm sure I will struggle effort-wise on windy days, I'm pretty impervious to bad situations, and usually smile and giggle when challenged. I would probably shake my fist at the bike tour gods, with a big grin on my face, so they'd know I wasn't serious.

The reason I decided to discount wind and efficiency is to see at what point it's impossible to ignore those factors. What's the most comfortable position possible, without considering those variables? And it seems that in order to distribute and be comfortable on all fronts, some efficiency comes into play, and with the Nitto Bosco bars, there is a low position that will lend itself to wind reduction, if at the expense of perineal pain. At that point, I'd have to decide which is worse. Since perineal pain is likely quick to heal, and wind is hopefully just temporary, I think I'll still have the options needed to figure it out.
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Old 08-11-15, 02:03 PM
  #22  
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There is no reason you can't tour anywhere from bolt upright to full race position. I have seen a few riders mostly Europeans that rode bolt upright. I prefer to use the exact same setup I use on my road bike (bars 3-4" below the saddle) and find it supremely comfortable. Go with what you find comfortable.
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Old 08-11-15, 02:06 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by edthesped View Post
I'm 5-9 and have a M. Seat pain is minimal and I experience no perineal pain. I can easily do 50-60 mi/day on the bike and have done up to 95 miles at which point I was pretty much fatigued all over and generally just tired of riding. As noted in another post, I don't get near the power riding upright as compared to drop bars, the difference is very noticeable when I switch between this and drop bars and riding into a headwind blows, no pun intended. For long enjoyable days in the saddle the Randonee is my go to bike. One of the things I like most about riding more upright is just how much of my surroundings I'm able to take in while I ride which is just as big of a reason I like riding it as comfort. To be fair my daughter loves the AWOL and absolutely despises riding the Randonee so riding upright definitely isn't for everyone.

As for cramped, making tight turns at very low speeds, ie walking speed, is difficult because the handlebars hit my legs. Once rolling the issue is gone though.
I only get perennial pain from hunched over riding. Upright riding is *definitely* for me, and your positive and pain-free experience is what I have been looking for, and which is not evidenced anywhere as far as I have found, and I *have* been looking! I know upright riding isn't for everyone. In fact, it's hardly for anyone. Lots of people I met on the Pacific Coast Highway were way faster than me. I used to get to camp by sunset, and they would have been there for many hours. Sometimes as much as 4 or 5 hours before me. Then I realized. They weren't as comfortable, and probably wanted to get to camp quick, so they could relax and be comfortable. But I found they spent a lot of time doing things I didn't bother with. I ate at restaurants or sandwiches I made. They spent time cooking and cleaning. I think they were in it for the camping aspect, but for me, camping was mostly just to blog and sleep.

Ahhh... I get the right turn thing now. Makes sense! Perhaps I should go to the wider 58mm Boscos. Do you know what size you bought?
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Old 08-11-15, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
There is no reason you can't tour anywhere from bolt upright to full race position. I have seen a few riders mostly Europeans that rode bolt upright. I prefer to use the exact same setup I use on my road bike (bars 3-4" below the saddle) and find it supremely comfortable. Go with what you find comfortable.
Thanks Tallahassee!!! I have noticed and read that Europeans tend to be more upright for most types of riding aside from racing, and usually have butterfly bars on their touring rigs than drop bars. As you say, everyone should go with what they find comfortable, but I find it interesting that there seems to be different majority preferences on either side of the pond. Butterfly vs. Drop Bar depending on the continent.
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Old 08-11-15, 04:23 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by rawklobster View Post
Butterflies are cool, and I was looking at those first, but the Nitto Bosco is what I've been leaning towards. They allow for stretching as well.

How upright would you say you are when riding?
When I'm on the back position pretty upright, definitely not sit up and beg though, because that's just hard work on a loaded bike. There are a lot of variables to play with. For example, I started out with a short stem so the rear bars were behind the stem. That just felt completely wrong descending because the bars moved weird. (That seems pretty important, not to have the braking (ie descending) hand position behind the axis of the stem wherever that projects up to your hand position) Then I had the original quill stem that was long but too low. Then a quill adapter that was great with height but with the bars angled back didn't make any difference to my body position. I wanted to be more upright when cruising and flat when wind bashing. Finally worked out about angling the bars forward a bit. That ended up with the back position a bit above the seat and the front a bit below. I'm definitely convinced you need at least one position where you can get down out of the wind, and that is comfortable to stay in, because normally you get those nasty headwinds on long open flat stretches. Being able to rest on your arms in an aero position is pretty good. I don't stand up much, because you can't really with 40-50kg of bike and junk (depends if I've picked up that evenings beer and supplies), but if I do the angled down side bars still work OK as a hand position.
The butterfly bars do have the hands angled opposite to the boscos in the braking position. My bars at the back slope down and slightly back towards the outside bend which seems like a fairly natural hand position, my wrist is neutral. They do feel a little weird at first because your hands are closer together, though my bars are fairly narrow overall.

The posters talking about being upright to see stuff are dead right. You want to be able to look around without getting a sore neck, otherwise what's the point of touring? May as well ride a bike path at home. That being said you can train your neck muscles a bit. So a totally upright position may feel great from the start, whereas bending you neck back might hurt a bit for a while until the muscles get their act together. In my "upright" position my neck is fine now, it hurt a bit for the first few days. Head down bashing into the wind I can't look around much without getting a bit sore, but then it's mostly flat, open and boring anyway!

Last edited by Trevtassie; 08-11-15 at 04:29 PM.
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