When it comes to fashion, women know all about alterations. Hemming pants, letting out a seam, or taking in a little at the waist or hips. Gathering, ruching, stitching are all part of tailoring an outfit to certain measurements and specifications.
Why wouldn’t we do something similar with a bike? Last week I met with a frame builder. I will talk more about that experience in an upcoming post. While meeting with him I asked what I could do right now with my current bike to make it more comfortable. I have been riding this bike, the Kona Roundabout, since 2012 and I always experience some measure of neck and shoulder pain. My instinct was to correct the saddle, but in a moment he said the handlebar stem looked too low, my suspicions were confirmed.
Too low? I have always wondered about that but frankly I didn’t want to spend the time or money on a full blown fitting. I suspected as much, but lacked the confidence to say, “Hey, I need a different stem.” My frame builder suggested we go next door to the bike shop and see if they had a stem a little shorter and higher. A slight rise might help alleviate the problem.
The floppy handlebars was one sign I should have paid attention to. Another was that I couldn’t balance without both hands. I kick myself for not talking about it, but there’s always the danger of being upsold something I didn’t need. I did not need new handlebars. I suspected something was amiss, but I lacked the confidence to talk about it and I didn’t think it was significant. For three years I haven’t had the alterations.
This elusive detail might escape the local bike shop.But for the most part it could be that one little adjustment to make the difference between someone riding and someone saying their bike isn’t comfortable. Something may look good, it may look close, but it still may not be the right fit. Does a millimeter make a difference? Short answer is a resounding Yes. This one adjustment means I can ride my bike like it was made for me.
Wish you were riding more? One step is to think about what hurts when you ride? Where and why? Talk with someone about what bugs you about your bike. Maybe you really do need a new one, but maybe there are some alternations to be made to help you and your bike fit together better. The stem change on my Kona was $35. Less than hemming a pair of pants. Probably not, but close. Like the flower? Someone actually left than on the road. It has a home now on my basket!