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More Upright - Managing Cramped Cockpit

Old 01-14-23, 09:28 AM
  #1  
Noonievut
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More Upright - Managing Cramped Cockpit

I thought the touring community would be a good place to post this...

I have a Surly Cross Check that I use for mixed surface rides, including credit card tours. Generally with any bike Iíve had, something related to comfort is less than ideal. On this bike, my back to my neck and arms are very comfortable, with the bar drop 3cm below the saddle and average reach, but the Selle Italia saddle was never comfortable. I recently put a Brooks Professional saddle on the bike, and when I was dialing in saddle height, fore and aft (and tilt) I ended up changing my stem to shorter and more upright, and now Iím very comfortable on the saddle. However, the cockpit feels cramped. Initially the bike feels so comfortable, but after 45 minutes I get some discomfort in my neck and arms. When I put a longer and lower stem on the bike the saddle is less comfortable and I can feel some pressure down below.

So I want to ride more upright but want to dial in reach and bar height.

Thoughts on reach vs. Bar height and where to make adjustments? Whatís your experience with feeling cramped and did you resolve it.

Thanks!
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Old 01-14-23, 10:53 AM
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If you "recently" started riding the Brooks I would give it a couple of months to break in. So set your cockpit position to be comfortable and see if the saddle discomfort decreases with a bit of time as you wear it in.
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Old 01-14-23, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by nun
If you "recently" started riding the Brooks I would give it a couple of months to break in. So set your cockpit position to be comfortable and see if the saddle discomfort decreases with a bit of time as you wear it in.
Just to clarify, the saddle feels very comfortable. Itís my neck and shoulders that donít feel great.
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Old 01-14-23, 12:06 PM
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Raise your bars. Just a little at a time. I did see a recent touring bike come through that had an adjustable stem for bar hight. He told me he makes small adjustments throughout the day when ridding...
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Old 01-14-23, 01:21 PM
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A fitter would be perfect for you! Get a nice dynamic fit and you will thank yourself!
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Old 01-14-23, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval
Raise your bars. Just a little at a time. I did see a recent touring bike come through that had an adjustable stem for bar hight. He told me he makes small adjustments throughout the day when ridding...
I have an adjustable quill stem on a couple of my bikes along with a drop handlebar. I like t hat I can raise or lower the stem for different conditions although if the change in height is a fair bit i also rotate the handlebar so that the brake levers are in the optimal position.

Example.




Cheers
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Old 01-14-23, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut
I ended up changing my stem to shorter and more upright, and now Iím very comfortable on the saddle. However, the cockpit feels cramped. Initially the bike feels so comfortable, but after 45 minutes I get some discomfort in my neck and arms. When I put a longer and lower stem on the bike the saddle is less comfortable and I can feel some pressure down below.

So I want to ride more upright but want to dial in reach and bar height.
Are you locking your elbows when you ride? That's a sure way to get neck and shoulder pain. Keep 'em loose!
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Old 01-15-23, 03:15 AM
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Are there situations where an adjustable stem is not safe?
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Old 01-15-23, 03:55 AM
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As a general rule, setting a bike up so that it has too little reach is really difficult to achieve. Too much happens almost automatically to most people.

But typically when facing any sort of neck, arm, or hand pain the issue isn't really with reach or drop but rather with saddle height. Most people have their saddle too high, which causes pelvic instability which then transfers issues to the upper body as it has to take the slack the pelvis isn't supporting.

Mentioning saddle discomfort with the earlier saddle (which is also most times caused by too high a saddle height) and going to feeling cramped but still having upper body discomfort really kinda hints at the issue not being at the cockpit area at all.

As a second general rule, your saddle can't really be too low unless we're talking something comically low. And even if it is, it doesn't really cause any issues. Knee issues from too low saddles etc. is largely a myth unless we're discussing a powerful rider with a saddle height thats too low to the extreme (several cm below the low threshold). All the injuries come from too high a saddle height.

So lowering the saddle is something I'd try
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Old 01-15-23, 07:42 AM
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Thanks for the responses and ideas. Iíll mention some things below that touch on questions and suggestions.

- Iíve had professional fittings on both my bikes (both bikes in the same visit) but with previous Selle Italia Flight saddle. Resulting fitting on the Surly was a longer reach and lower bar than I now have on after going to the Brooks. As mentioned, that position was good for arms and neck, but uncomfortable saddle. My bars are now higher and closer, I donít think moving them even higher and closer when I feel cramped will work?

- I think the saddle height is dialed. I feel so comfortable on the saddle, no knee pain, very balanced feeling

- my arms and shoulders initially feel very relaxed when riding. I can tell though that bars are closer and higher than Iím used to, and itís only after riding a while that my neck and arms start to hurt a bit

- Iím going to try a stem that is 10mm longer and will see how that goes. My reach to the hoods from where my sit bones are on the saddle is Ďnowí 2cm shorter than it was with the other saddle.

Last edited by Noonievut; 01-15-23 at 07:45 AM.
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Old 01-15-23, 08:03 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by BikeLite
Are there situations where an adjustable stem is not safe?
I think not a safety hazard if used as intended, but mine does appear to add a bit of flex.

I have one on my folding bike. That particular one might be unsafe because I put a quick release on it, that makes it easier to store the bike when I fold it. I am quite sure that the stem manufacturer would issue me a stern warning if they saw the quick release on their stem.
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Old 01-15-23, 04:40 PM
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I am 6'3" so I can't just go with long steerers as they would be comically long so I do riser bars even my drop bars are riser (Specialized Hover and Soma Condor 2)

FYI I absolutely love my Brooks on my very upright city bike and my old touring bike but once I lean/roll forward even a little the slippery finish and just the way its built wont work for me. end up needing a little nose high but that creates pressure issues after 3 or 4 hours.
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Old 01-15-23, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by RayLee
I am 6'3" so I can't just go with long steerers as they would be comically long so I do riser bars even my drop bars are riser (Specialized Hover and Soma Condor 2)

FYI I absolutely love my Brooks on my very upright city bike and my old touring bike but once I lean/roll forward even a little the slippery finish and just the way its built wont work for me. end up needing a little nose high but that creates pressure issues after 3 or 4 hours.
Bingo! I think this is my problem. Iím compensating with my posture and somehow putting a strain on my neck and arms.
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Old 01-15-23, 09:43 PM
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As far as reach and bar height go, both of those impact how much you lean forward with your back and what your back angle is. I have tried to get all my bikes to have about the same bar height and reach, but my folding bike which has a much shorter reach, on that bike I have a much lower bar height to compensate for the shorter reach so that my back is angled about the same as on my other bikes. That works for me.
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Old 01-16-23, 10:17 PM
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Neck and arm pain? I remember a number of years ago I was getting a lot of neck and shoulder pain after riding a number of miles. I tried playibg with saddle and handlebar height and reach to no avail. It turned out that the problem was the visor on my helmet. To see under it I had to tilt my head back quite a bit and that after a bit of time riding was what caused the neck and shoulder pain. My visor on that helmet was not see through. I took that visor off on a ride and shortly after on the same ride the pain reduced substantially.

Cheers
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Old 01-17-23, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man
Neck and arm pain? I remember a number of years ago I was getting a lot of neck and shoulder pain after riding a number of miles. I tried playibg with saddle and handlebar height and reach to no avail. It turned out that the problem was the visor on my helmet. To see under it I had to tilt my head back quite a bit and that after a bit of time riding was what caused the neck and shoulder pain. My visor on that helmet was not see through. I took that visor off on a ride and shortly after on the same ride the pain reduced substantially.

Cheers
Thatís a good point and I thought about this during yesterdayís lunch time ride. My prescription sunglasses are too small and the sun comes though the top of them, sometimes making me want to tilt my head back to block it out. I was conscious about this during the ride and it was better.
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Old 01-18-23, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut
Bingo! I think this is my problem. Iím compensating with my posture and somehow putting a strain on my neck and arms.
I've got Brooks saddles on a number of bikes, and one of them has lower dropbars than the others, and I have noticed that seat angle is more critical in finding that right angle that doesnt have pressure (also of course connected to seat height) or have that sliding forward feeling.
It is nice on this bike that the seatpost is the type that you can make infinitely small angle adjustments, ie NOT the type with the notches interface. This has helped get the seat angle just right, although on one of my bikes, it seems that the notches are larger in size, so a bigger jump in angle between each notch (very likely a cheap seatpost)

but to go back, you do say that you feel you need to extend your bars out and up, so the only way to really know is to find a stem that does this so you can ride a before and after test to really know.
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Old 01-21-23, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man
Neck and arm pain? I remember a number of years ago I was getting a lot of neck and shoulder pain after riding a number of miles. I tried playibg with saddle and handlebar height and reach to no avail. It turned out that the problem was the visor on my helmet. To see under it I had to tilt my head back quite a bit and that after a bit of time riding was what caused the neck and shoulder pain. My visor on that helmet was not see through. I took that visor off on a ride and shortly after on the same ride the pain reduced substantially.

Cheers
The first thing I do when buying a helmet is get rid of the visor for this very reason.
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Old 02-05-23, 04:47 PM
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One thing I have noticed about Brooks is that, in addition to the (well-known) limitation of having a very short section of parallel rails, which limits how much fore-aft adjustment you can do, the parallel part sits a little bit further back compared to other saddles of the same length. The net result is that even when you slam the saddle all the way back, you might be further forward than your ideal position on a generic saddle. I've got a custom bike designed with a 15mm setback seatpost in mind. For the Brooks, I really ought to get a 25 mm setback post in order to position the saddle the way the frame builder originally intended.
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