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How upright for touring?

Old 04-11-22, 12:55 PM
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greatbasin
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How upright for touring?

My idea of bike touring is riding a bike through an area of interest to see it, while being dependent on the bike for transportation throughout multiple days. I've not done what I consider "bike touring," but have a mind to. I'm considerate of the fact I may not understand everything about it. If I were to tour, my focus would be on seeing the area I'm touring and not on covering a certain amount of distance so I could say I did it.

As I've begun to explore the "touring" bikes that are available, I've noticed that they often trade-off lightweight components for comfort and load-bearing ability. They're likely to have heavy high-profile tires at lower pressures with greater rolling resistance and heavier steel frames for "comfort," and to have heavy wheels, long chainstays and wheelbases for increased luggage capacity. With the added weight of the bike and cargo, they're likely to have more and a wider range of gears.

So with this focus on comfort and load-bearing ability at the cost of low weight and high speed, why do all the touring bikes put the rider in an aerodynamic crouch?



This is a Surly Long Haul Trucker -- a bike lauded for it's upright riding position. Why is the guy hunched over? He's not even in the drops and he's hunched over at 40 degrees (with 90 being vertical). I know Americans tend to prefer drop bars and straight bars might be more popular in Europe, but a straight bar isn't going to put him that much more upright than where he is on the hoods. What is the meaning of this hunched over position for touring? When I ride a bike like this, I just get the front edge of the helmet in my eyes and I can see mostly the road in front of me. My back is arched and my neck craned back and my chin is out over in front of my knees. How is this comfortable and what is the purpose of this?

I considered whether a smaller touring bike would bring the handlebars closer to the rider for a more upright position. Here is a comparison:


The larger bike is a medium-sized 56cm/700c Surly Trucker. The smaller bike is a size 46cm/650b.
I've matched the bottom brackets and what we can see clearly is a shorter seat tube and lower stand-over height. The top of the head tube, however, is much lower and only a little closer to the rider. This will result in just as much or more hunch to reach the bars. It seems like the smaller rider is better off with the biggest frame that allows a proper seat height so the bars will not be so low. They'll have to reach forward but not so far down.

I've used the Surly Trucker as an example, but I've found the same thing with most touring bikes: the top tubes tend to be substantially longer, sometimes 20 or 30mm longer than the seat tubes and so the reach is in greater proportion to the stack than one would expect for an upright riding position.

Is there a reason I should not want to have an upright position for touring, a position more like a "comfort bike" or beach cruiser? Obviously it's much less aero, but I wouldn't think that touring is often done at high speeds. When I ride, I go about 4mph up 5% grades, about 12 to 15mph on the flats, and perhaps 25mph down the grades. It never occurred to me to "tuck." Why are tourists doing it?
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Old 04-11-22, 01:10 PM
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My Reason #1: Leaning with the upper body around 45 degrees from vertical is comfortable for me. Sitting straight up gets old fast.

Reason #2: Leaning forward puts more weight on the front, so if I'm riding in a cross wind I'm more stable than I would be sitting straight up.

Reason #3: It's a lot easier for me to get down into the drops when there's a headwind.

YMMV, of course.
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Old 04-11-22, 01:34 PM
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This is an interesting topic! The lower "racing" position isn't just for aerodynamic reasons. The fact of the matter is that with a lower position you are able to engage your glutious maximus muscles/ get more power. /More upright, not so much. I am not advocating a lower/ racing position. I do believe in being upright enough that your hands do not hurt form long hours on the bike. I watch a lot of the wheels 2 wander (bike touring) videos on you tube and they are really upright, and seem happy with that position. It really comes down to your personnel preference.
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Old 04-11-22, 01:38 PM
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Ideal riding positions can vary tremendously. That being said, most cycling tourists are more upright than roadies. I personally don't see the individual above that hunched over but as a pretty typical and comfortable riding position. But if you like that Surly LHT and the bars are too low or extended out too far, often times a different stem and / or bars can solve that in a second, assuming the bike was the correct size to begin with.
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Old 04-11-22, 02:19 PM
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This guy only looks a bit hunched because the frame is a size too small. Typical for Surlys for sure. LOL.
Angled up stem and tailbone way to the back end.
I had ZERO back aches on 2 tours with swept steel bars. In Vietnam I was going northbound into a 10 mph wind half the way. I had the bar an inch low and it was miserable. Drops do NOT help much at all into a big wind IMO. I was going 3.5 mph for 25 miles one day into a 32 mph wind. Made zero difference putting my chin way down.
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Old 04-11-22, 02:22 PM
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Leaning forward low enough activates certain back muscles to better maintain a sustainable riding position.

Touring is still long distance riding so maintaining a proper posture is important for a variety of reasons. And for some that may require a more aggressive position than one would imagine.

A "relaxed" position sitting upright isn't necessarily as relaxed when the miles start piling up.
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Old 04-11-22, 02:27 PM
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Ride how you like.

“If I were to tour, my focus would be on seeing the area I'm touring and not on covering a certain amount of distance so I could say I did it.”

And those two things are not mutually exclusive.

Last edited by indyfabz; 04-11-22 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 04-11-22, 03:13 PM
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I'm a recent convert to upright riding and touring. It solves a lot of problems. You'll have a lot fewer aches and pains and will probably enjoy the ride more. But you'll be slower, guaranteed.
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Old 04-11-22, 03:39 PM
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The picture shows pretty much exactly how I ride. I ride that way because that is the position I like, which should be reason enough for anyone.

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Old 04-11-22, 03:55 PM
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Most bike tourists that I have noticed have the tops of the handlebars about the same as the top of the saddle if they use drop bars.

That is quite a few inches higher than racing setups. But if their reach is different than "average" if there is such a thing as average, they may have the bars higher or lower. For example, my folding bike has much shorter reach than my touring bikes and to compensate for that I have the bars a couple inches lower so that I lean forward about the same as I do on other bikes.

When I use the drops instead of the hoods or handlebar tops, I usually can pedal in a gear that is about 10 percent higher at the same cadence if I have a strong headwind. No or weak headwind, does not matter if I lean forward or not.

If I was sitting more upright, I would have less weight on my hands, more on my bum, and my saddle would get uncomfortable sooner.

I think that you will find most bicyclists on touring bikes have set it up so that it fits best for them for long days in the saddle. Sometimes it is best to just use what works best instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. I have a lower back injury, my saddle is turned slightly to the left because that fits me better than straight ahead. We all set up our bikes so it works best. And for touring, what works best is that you feel better day after day of long days in the saddle than if you had a different setup. What works best for a racer has nothing to do with comfort, for them a wind tunnel or stopwatch is used to measure what is best.

And things change, as people age they often will want the bars a bit higher. A bit over a decade ago I lost about 15 percent of my body weight, that shrunk my pants waist size by quite a bit, and after that I found that my bars felt better if I lowered them a bit. I also found that, using the drops was much more comfortable after the weight loss. But I have seen people with a huge beer belly that want to sit straight up if they can, leaning forward for them is not comfortable at all.

In other words, your final question, "Why are tourists doing it?", they are doing what works best for them.

Side note: That guy on the Surly in post 1 is going down a hill, thus any angles you get are not applicable to riding on flat ground. The LHT has a top tube that slopes slightly towards the rear, but the bike in the photo has a top tube sloping slightly the other way. His bike also looks like it has a longer than stock stem, I am guessing that he bought a different stem to make the bike feel more comfortable. I can't see the saddle on that bike but I am guessing that his saddle is higher than his handlebars. A lot of people wanted to buy a shorter stem, not longer after buying a LHT.
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Old 04-11-22, 04:25 PM
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Yeah. Having bought 2 LHTs, that looks like a stock Surly stem with an uncut steerer tube. I eventually swapped the stem of my second LHT for a shorter one.

And I would not call his position hunched over.
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Old 04-11-22, 05:54 PM
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First of all, the guy in the picture is clearly and undeniably "hunched over." He may not be "extremely hunched over for riding a bicycle", but he is nowhere near upright with a vertical back. My point isn't to argue, but I want to be clear what I'm talking about here because if we're on the same page, I will get better answers that help me more. If he were upright, his head would be above his pelvis and not two feet in front of it. Try walking with your head two feet in front of your pelvis and telling people you're not hunched over.

You will see that none of these gentleman nor the lady are hunched over:




None of them have their chin in front of their forward-most knee position.

Now to be clear, I'm not promoting that this is the "correct" position for touring. I've before claimed my ignorance with respect to touring and started this thread to learn something.

Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
This is an interesting topic! The lower "racing" position isn't just for aerodynamic reasons. The fact of the matter is that with a lower position you are able to engage your glutious maximus muscles/ get more power. /More upright, not so much. I am not advocating a lower/ racing position. I do believe in being upright enough that your hands do not hurt form long hours on the bike. I watch a lot of the wheels 2 wander (bike touring) videos on you tube and they are really upright, and seem happy with that position. It really comes down to your personnel preference.
Here is a good point. Certainly, a person sitting upright is not able to maximize their power on the pedals. I think most people would stand to maximize their power, but it seems reasonable that a inclined seated position could not only potentially engage the glutes, but it would probably also be necessary to balance the load between the hamstrings and the quads. I'm willing to defer to road bike style fitting as our best effort to maximize the efficiency of this physiology.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Leaning forward low enough activates certain back muscles to better maintain a sustainable riding position.

Touring is still long distance riding so maintaining a proper posture is important for a variety of reasons. And for some that may require a more aggressive position than one would imagine.

A "relaxed" position sitting upright isn't necessarily as relaxed when the miles start piling up.
I strongly suspect the same, and that's why I started this thread. In my limited experience, I'm tempted to seek a more upright position. I have my doubts about whether I will feel the same after many, many miles. On the other hand, I could regret the wrong choice for myself either way.

Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
I'm a recent convert to upright riding and touring. It solves a lot of problems. You'll have a lot fewer aches and pains and will probably enjoy the ride more. But you'll be slower, guaranteed.
Tell me more about that. What kind of upright position have you converted to?

I've watched two or three Paul Sucheki videos. It sounds like he was speedy in the drop bars 40 years ago, but at some point later in life, he converted to these:

I don't think he advocates them for everybody, but says it works for him.

Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
.........If I was sitting more upright, I would have less weight on my hands, more on my bum, and my saddle would get uncomfortable sooner.

I think that you will find most bicyclists on touring bikes have set it up so that it fits best for them for long days in the saddle. Sometimes it is best to just use what works best instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. I have a lower back injury, my saddle is turned slightly to the left because that fits me better than straight ahead. We all set up our bikes so it works best. And for touring, what works best is that you feel better day after day of long days in the saddle than if you had a different setup. What works best for a racer has nothing to do with comfort, for them a wind tunnel or stopwatch is used to measure what is best.

And things change, as people age they often will want the bars a bit higher. A bit over a decade ago I lost about 15 percent of my body weight, that shrunk my pants waist size by quite a bit, and after that I found that my bars felt better if I lowered them a bit. I also found that, using the drops was much more comfortable after the weight loss. But I have seen people with a huge beer belly that want to sit straight up if they can, leaning forward for them is not comfortable at all.

In other words, your final question, "Why are tourists doing it?", they are doing what works best for them.
.........
I definitely appreciate that people are going to make adaptations to their individual needs. I'm as flat as a rail in front, built like a "stick boy." I'm not young anymore, but not yet elderly either. Hence my dilemma. I'd probably get more power, speed and efficiency from a conventional drop-bar touring-bike position and I've no special needs that require adaption, but I might enjoy a more upright position even if I was slower.

I presently ride a bike with "North Road" style bars. I've had in mind to get something like a Surly Trucker, Kona Sutra, Cinelli Hobootleg, Fuji Touring, bike with the intention of swapping out the drop bar for something with sweep like porteur bars or my north road style bars. What I've found is that if I did that, I'd still be leaned pretty far forward and down. All these bikes have higher reach-to-stack ratios than what I had been imagining and these handlebars and stem change alone won't change that.

Cruisers and comfort bikes often provide for an upright riding position, but are unlikely to have the gearing and other accommodations for touring. There may be some comfort or hybrid bikes that provide an upright position and a wide range of gearing as well as front and rear rack mount points.


A bike like this with backswept handlebars would provide a very upright position. I'm sure it will not be as fast as having your chin out in front of your knees, but I wonder if I would regret a bike like this after three days and a couple hundred miles or enjoy it more than anything else.
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Old 04-11-22, 06:11 PM
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His head is virtually straight up. He’s certainly looking straight ahead, not down and his shoulders are not drawn forward. He’s not sitting straight up like an arrow, but I would not call that position hunched over.

Ultimately you’ll have to find out what works for you through trial. I crossed the U.S. with a guy who sat very upright due to neck issues. His drop bars were actually rotated up like some kids do. He crashed a couple of times. Once due to being blown over by a strong wind gust crossing a floating bridge in Oregon. Another time the front of his bike lifted up going up a short steep rise despite him having front panniers. Lost his balance and fell.

BTW…Three days and a couple of hundred miles is over 63 miles/day.

Last edited by indyfabz; 04-11-22 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 04-11-22, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by greatbasin View Post
...
...
A bike like this with backswept handlebars would provide a very upright position. I'm sure it will not be as fast as having your chin out in front of your knees, but I wonder if I would regret a bike like this after three days and a couple hundred miles or enjoy it more than anything else.
People have toured on Penny Farthing cycles, unicycles, you name it. If what works for you is out of the norm, go for it.

Let us know how that works out for you.
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Old 04-11-22, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
My Reason #1: Leaning with the upper body around 45 degrees from vertical is comfortable for me. Sitting straight up gets old fast.

Reason #2: Leaning forward puts more weight on the front, so if I'm riding in a cross wind I'm more stable than I would be sitting straight up.

Reason #3: It's a lot easier for me to get down into the drops when there's a headwind.

YMMV, of course.
Reason #4 sitting bolt upright means any road shock from bumps or vibration goes right up the spine.

I for one do not find an upright posture comfortable for long rides or any riding really. Riders can choose what works for them. Some choose a more upright posture and are happy. I have met folks doing long tours that way. The majority were europeans.
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Old 04-11-22, 07:04 PM
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Each individual has determine their own preference as to the amount of weight on their hands vs. their butts. The more upright, of course the more weight on the derričre. I took this photo a week ago and notice the riders positioning. These are all very experienced cycling tourists and they have found over time what works best for them. None are extremely upright and none have the flat back of a racer. And yes, the fellow in the red jacket really is that tall, it's not a result from the optics. ha

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Old 04-11-22, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
People have toured on Penny Farthing cycles, unicycles, you name it. If what works for you is out of the norm, go for it.....
boys and girls, this is not rocket surgery.
it's riding a bicycle. been done by unskilled labor for centuries.
don't make it more complicated than it is, which isn't a lot.
don't worry about what other folks on the intertubes are doing, do what feels good for you.
you don't need to spend weeks or months "researching" riding posture.
you don't need to crowdsource your everything.

it's simple. really and truly it is.
go ride your dang bike.
if it's comfy, ride it some more.
if something hurts, don't do that....try something differenter.

please, sir, step away from the keyboard.....and.....


Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle (c'mon), bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

just git on yer bikes an' ride!
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Old 04-11-22, 10:12 PM
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I'm in the minority and desire to sit totally upright on tour.
Got a spring Brooks saddle and appropriate handlebars that also allow me to stand and pedal.
But most of the day I like to sit completely upright.
Fun fact. You only use half the energy going 10 mph vs 15 mph.
If you're not in a hurry it makes for a better experience.
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Old 04-12-22, 04:30 AM
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I'd suggest that you start from what you are used to and adjust from there. Make changes fairly gradually. Personally I'd advise moving toward more aggressive if comfort isn't compromised, but slowly and as you acclimate to it. Never to the point of discomfort. Whatever you do avoid the stiff armed, locked elbows posture you see on some riders. Relaxed shoulders, arms, and hands and fingers draped loosely over the bars and bent elbows are a key sign you are doing okay.

That said if bolt upright is what you want, it is your choice. Perhaps if I rode that way before I started touring I'd tour that way too. I can see it for slow relaxed riding, especially shorter distances, but some of the europeans I met rode long days at fairly fast paces and did fine. That I don't get, but it worked for them. One dutch guy we met on the ST was maybe 6'4" and sat bolt upright. He rode pretty fast even into the wind so it is possible. It was impressive, but I wouldn't want to do it.
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Old 04-12-22, 05:36 AM
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The OP will only get his true answers from the bike+miles. This internet back and forth is just procrastinating.
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Old 04-12-22, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by BTinNYC View Post
The OP will only get his true answers from the bike+miles. This internet back and forth is just procrastinating.
True.

I would suggest that he did choose a bike that makes one think he would be choosing at least a somewhat bent at the waist posture.
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Old 04-12-22, 06:02 AM
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The photo that Robow posted reminded me that a friend of mine snapped a few photos of me, one attached below. In this one I have my hands on the tops of the bars so this is my most upright posture on a bike. If my hands were on the hoods, I would probably be leaning forward at about the same angle as the guy in the photo in the first post. The photo looks like I am going uphill, but I think the camera was rotated slightly, I think the ground and road was nearly flat, thus I probably have a bit more lean than it appears.



I have my touring bikes and road bike all nearly identical for relative positions of pedals, bars and saddle (the body contact points), my rando bike is slightly different as that has about an extra inch of reach.
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Old 04-12-22, 06:06 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
...
I would suggest that he did choose a bike that makes one think he would be choosing at least a somewhat bent at the waist posture.
I think he wants one of these:



But he has not figured that out yet.
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Old 04-12-22, 07:17 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by greatbasin View Post


Tell me more about that. What kind of upright position have you converted to?

.
I have a Trek 520 that I've converted with Wald 867
bars, an adjustable stem, and a Bontrager Boulevard saddle. I'm not completely upright but I'm pretty close. I can honestly say that I've never had less saddle discomfort, probably due to the fact that you're using more front thigh which helps lift more weight off the saddle. No elbow, wrist, tricep, shoulder, neck pain at all.

Upright is simply not as powerful of a position. Look at how much most people can leg press as opposed to hack squat. Look at a couple of ten year olds racing on BMX bikes, you'll always see them crouching forward instinctively to engage larger, more powerful muscles.

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Old 04-12-22, 08:16 AM
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600km across Korea. About as upright as you can get. (And single speed!)


I've lived a life that's full,
I've traveled each and every highway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
- Frank Sinatra

Originally Posted by greatbasin View Post
If I were to tour, my focus would be on seeing the area I'm touring and not on covering a certain amount of distance so I could say I did it.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those that oversimplify by reducing things into two categories and those that don't.

Observation: There are "destination" cycletourists and "journey" cycletourists.
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