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I'm looking for some advice with regards to altering the gear on a road bike. I used to ride a Specialized Allez to commute 13km to and from work everyday - did this for about 10 months before a previously unknown degenerated L5-S1 spinal disc took objection to this and ended my road biking days (severe sciatica and muscle cramps). I haven't cycled now for around 9 months but miss it badly and would love to get back in the saddle. However, due to my disc, drop handle bars are out of the question so I've been looking at alternatives. Flat bars dont give me an upright-enough posture so I've been looking at Dutch bikes. Whilst these look pretty awesome, I don't want something as sluggish after riding my speedy roadster so I was toying with the idea of putting some open handlebars on my boyfriend's now-abandoned Giant road bike (as I sold my Specialized), maybe with an adjustable angle stem? I did this years ago with a bog-standard mountain bike and it worked well. I guess I just wanted to know whether anyone has had any experience in altering this aspect of a road bike, or if anyone can recommend a road bike that would be more upright? I appreciate that I'm never going to zip along like before, but I love the lightness of road bikes and don't want to lose that just because I can no longer use drop handlebars.
I'd love to hear any thoughts,
^ What he said.
Any upright bike is going to put pressure on your core, regardless. Sciatica is a nasty condition and I'd be taking all precautions to avoid provoking it.
In mechanical terms, you can do anything you like to any type of bike. There's a bloke around here who has a fairly new carbon racer with BMX handlebars and a rack on it. Of course, it hurts people's eyes... but hey, to each their own.
You could do like the "oldies" used to do and flip the drop handlebars up, so that the drops are pointing upwards. This gives a more upright position, requires little labour, no additional parts, and, I'd argue, is less ugly than a stem riser.
I don't have any experience with doing this, but i'd imagine you could bring yourself quite upright by using a short, but adjustable stem, with plenty of spacers - similar to http://www.wiggle.com.au/ritchey-adjustable-road-stem/. The adjustable stem method should let you play around with whatever angle is the most comfortable.
Thanks for all your contributions! You're probably right that a recumbent would be more suitable but I'm not ready to go there! Direct pressure through a straight spine is not be a problem as there's no impact such as there would be with running - it's the convex flexing of the spine when riding drop handlebars and then added strain of pedalling which caused my disc bulge. I think I'll have a tinker around with it and see what I can do - Yep, I'll probably get some sour looks from certain road bike snobs, but as long as I can get back on the bike, that's all that matters to me! Thanks again
I guess you understand then that it's not just a matter of changing the bars - you will have to change all the controls as well...
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Yep - the Giant bike has a flat bar anyway so has standard ratchet shifters. I would have tried it on the Specialized but didn't for that very reason.
Bumps aren't a massive issue as I will only be riding it on the roads - I know my commute route very well so know where to avoid certain parts of the road. Riding over a train line, catseye or even just a road scar is unpleasant enough on a road bike anyway without having a back injury on top!
I had an L5/S1 microdiscectomy back in 2001. I have no sciatica problems at all on the bike. I have a reasonably flat back on my tt bike and without measuring, an ~9cm saddle - bar top drop on the roadies.
Have you had an MRI and more than one specialist opinion?
Not every condition is the same of course, however if the cause is a herniated disc, then there may be surgical options.
Just out of curiosity, how is riding on the hoods or tops? Just all this talk of riding in the drops causing issues, I ride about 0.01% of the time in the drops, so if just a more upright position, a shorter high rise stem and just go from there...
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