Handlebar Conversion might remedy bike fit problems

Thumbies by Paul Component Engineering, mounts for bar end shifters

Thumbies by Paul Component Engineering, mounts for bar end shifters

  • I can’t find my center of gravity

  • My neck hurts

  • My hands go numb

  • My back aches

There is a euphoria that occurs with a new bicycle purchase. Who doesn’t succumb to the excitement of a shiny new machine that holds promises for new adventures ahead? Sometimes after the initial excitement of the purchase has worn off, maybe after a few rides you might find that the fit is a tad off. Hints like a sore back or numb hands could be indicators that your bike fit may need to be adjusted. Pain and discomfort should not be part of your cycling experience.

The first step to adjusting your bicycle for comfort is to double check your seat position. Make sure that your bike seat height and angle are adjusted correctly. Your legs should fully extend on the downstroke as you pedal and your sit bones should be located on the widest part of the saddle. Adjust the seat height and/or it’s placement on the rails to achieve the optimal seating position.

Then ride your new bicycle for 2 weeks. It takes about 14 rides to get your bike legs back if you haven’t been cycling for awhile. If you aren’t enjoying yourself by this time then we need to check your stance on the bike.

The three most common changes made to a bike to make it more comfortable are the:

  1. saddle

  2. stem

  3. handlebar style

Bicycle manufacturers choose components for their factory builds based on price, availability, and what might fit the majority of consumers. It is not surprising that these components sometimes need to be changed out in order to fit your unique anatomy.

Recently our neighbor, Carol, brought her brand new Surly Cross Check to us for a fit assessment. Carol purchased a Surly as a sporty upgrade to the clunky hybrid that she previously rode around town. Yet her new hip bike was causing such discomfort that she was avoiding cycling altogether.

We talked to Carol about her riding goals and looked at her stance on the Surly. The shop where she purchased the bike sold her the correct size frame but the style of the handlebars were causing her to feel unsteady. After considering several of our handlebar recommendations Carol chose a NITTO flat bar which sports an ergonomic bend at the grip area. This led to a new slightly longer stem as well. These two changes made all the difference for Carol. Her bike maintains a sportiness that she desired and with new handlebars sized to her body type she handles the bike with panache.

NITTO straight bars

NITTO straight bars

New stem, handlebars, brake levers, shifter mounts.

New stem, handlebars, brake levers, shifter mounts.

Incorrect Bicycle Fit Symptoms:

  • Neck Pain

  • Hand Numbness

  • Lower back pain

  • Groin pain

  • Knee pain

First Tier Solutions to Bicycle Fit Problems

  • Saddle

  • Posture

  • Cockpit adjustments; handlebars, stem

Brooks Professional Leather Saddle with copper rivets

Brooks Professional Leather Saddle with copper rivets


Your saddle should be level and your sit bones should be placed directly on its widest part. If your saddle is still causing discomfort it is time to shop for a new style. An improper saddle adjustment can cause groin, back, or knee pain. We recommend leather saddles because the natural material conforms to your anatomy.

Poor posture

Perhaps the hardest part of the bicycle fit is being conscious of how we hold our bodies. Core and tricep strength as well as your flexibility will greatly aid your riding style. Think about improving your posture throughout the day. Develop good habits with repetition and work. As you engage your core and your posture improves you will alleviate neck, hand, and lower back pain, especially on those longer bike rides.

Handlebar style

A new pair of bars will change your ride experience more than any other change made to your bicycle. Handlebar choice is based on your body size and your riding goals. A proper handlebar and stem combination will address neck, hand, wrist, and shoulder pain.

NITTO quill stem

NITTO quill stem

Jones H-Bars replaced straight bars

Jones H-Bars replaced straight bars

Sometimes a few millimeters of adjustments make the difference from an agonizing bicycle fit to a comfortable one, other times a few component changes need to be made. Bring your bicycle by if it’s causing you discomfort and we’ll gladly offer recommendations. Bicycling season is upon us, time for you to get ready.