It only took six years, but I finally did something I've been meaning to do since I purchased Madeleine: I adjusted her handlebars. When I got her in 2007, I'd never ridden a bike with drop handlebars before, so I didn't really know anything about how they should feel. I just kept the Terry factory setting and rode her without any problems, but I always wondered if she'd be more comfortable if I rotated the handlebars up a bit.
My shoulder issues this spring have had me contemplating buying a new bike with straight handlebars, but I didn't really want to. Not only is there the expense, but I love Madeleine and don't want to have to give her up.
It finally dawned on me the other day that perhaps, just perhaps, if I rotated the top of the handlebars toward me a bit I wouldn't have to lean so far forward when I ride with my hands on the hoods, my normal position. Maybe that would ease some of the pressure on my shoulders.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus! After my ride on Monday I rotated the handlebars up about 1/4 inch. Twenty-four hours of eager anticipation later, I took Madeleine out for another ride over the same 10-mile route. Blessed relief! I was so much more comfortable. Yesterday, I rode 14 miles with no shoulder cramping or pain.
Oddly enough, I think my speed might have improved a bit, too. Aerodynamically that doesn't make any sense as I'm sitting slightly more upright now, but I wasn't all that aerodynamic to begin with. There could be any number of factors involved, but all I know is that on Monday I averaged 12.1 mph, Tuesday 12.6, and Wednesday, after fully inflating my rear tire which was likely nearly flat on Tuesday, I was up to 13.3 mph. Yes, I know, these aren't speeds to brag about - there's a reason I'm not a racer, but I'm pleased nonetheless.
Why am I telling you all this? Because, if you ride a bike and find yourself at all uncomfortable, there's a good chance that a simple adjustment can make your ride immeasurably more pleasant. Okay, if your butt hurts you just need to ride more - get over it. However, pain in your knees, hips, shoulders, arms, back, and more may be helped or alleviated by ensuring your bike fits you properly. Adjustments to handlebars and seats can fix myriad problems.
A couple of years ago I wrote nearly 100 cycling articles for BellaOnline, including a number on bicycle fit and adjustments. I think they're all still available on their site, if you care to look them up. I've been thinking about rewriting many of them, adding more information and touring tales, and compiling it all into a book about cycling for real women, not racers or uberathletes. I envision a go-to book for women who need the basics to get started and motivation to keep going. I'd love to hear what you think of this idea.
With summer upon us, I hope you all take advantage of the opportunity to ride and ride often. If you need help making sure your bike is as comfortable as it can be, ask a knowledgeable friend for help or take it to a local bike shop. It's well worth the effort.