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Tech Advice on Upgrades for Comfort

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
I’m looking for some advice on changes I can make to my bike to make it a more comfortable ride. This is the Dahon Dash P8 (20“ wheel folding bike) that members helped me choose last November (thanks to you all).

The bike is modified from stock with bullhorn bars and fat tyres, and a Fabric brand flat saddle. At 173cm tall, I’m at the limit of recommended height for the frame. My main ride is a 12km commute several times a week, and I’m only comfortable when it’s safe enough to let my head drop, regardless of how stretched out I am.

Most of the time I’m pitched too far forward for comfort, needing to lift my head for visibility which is extremely tiring on the upper back and neck. I’m in my late fifties, and do have a very stiff upper back, but am otherwise reasonably fit and quite agile.

06243BA3-860B-485F-B3B1-CA940062CE2C.jpeg

So I’ve changed the angle of the bars from the photo and lowered the seat a little below optimum which helped with the back/neck strain a little. I find the stretched-out head-down position quite comfortable as long as there’s nothing on the roads, and the difference in speed for effort is really quite noticeable. This beingTokyo riding however, so there are only brief moments when I can push hard like that without worrying what’s ahead.

Because that feels comfortable, I’ve wondered about tri-athlon style elbow rests, but I foresee issues with a single set of leversvp and positioning them for the V brakes. Overall, my sense is that the bike is really too small for me and I’d probably do better with something a little larger. Still, I do love riding it and for the time being at least, want to try some tweaks to see if I can get comfortable.

What suggestions to members have for me to consider please?
 
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jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,847
1,163
That's nice looking bike.

Others here are more expert than I am, but I'd think to add a stem that raised your bars up more, and/or bars that themselves have some 'rise' built into them.
 

Buckaroo Banzai

Cruising
Feb 5, 2017
20
14
I'm guessing that you'd like a more upright position.

1) Flip the stem, like in this pic: 1596365345231.png

2) 30 or 40 degree stem:

1596365495880.png
3) stem extender - BBB or Satori (Make sure you have enough cable slack.)

1596365760424.png
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
3,373
1,479
I’m only comfortable when it’s safe enough to let my head drop, regardless of how stretched out I am.
what do you mean stretched out? how do you do this?

what is your seat to bar drop in cms?
that pic is not your bike right?

are you short limbs long torso or vice versa? the drop will tell us that anyway but just as another consideration.
 

luka

Maximum Pace
Jan 13, 2015
2,010
1,742
looks like the bike size is optimized for flat bars. by putting in bullhorns the reach has been lengthened by a huge amount (anywhere between 8 to 15 cm or so). that's my first impression and what stood out for me. put in some flat bars and see how that does it. aero bars on that thing would look ridiculous in my opinion, and would not solve your problem at all
 

kruucks

Speeding Up
Feb 3, 2019
51
89
looks like the bike size is optimized for flat bars. by putting in bullhorns the reach has been lengthened by a huge amount (anywhere between 8 to 15 cm or so). that's my first impression and what stood out for me. put in some flat bars and see how that does it. aero bars on that thing would look ridiculous in my opinion, and would not solve your problem at all
Risers might be another option.
 

Cactaur

Maximum Pace
Feb 3, 2014
207
144
Or touring bars if you want an option to go low aero.
1596376657484.png
Orient them like the brompton p-type. However humpert doesn't seem to make 31.8 bars of this type.
1596376520021.png
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
Or touring bars if you want an option to go low aero.
View attachment 20653
Orient them like the brompton p-type. However humpert doesn't seem to make 31.8 bars of this type.
View attachment 20652
I did have these ‘butterfly’ type bars on my last bike, an old steel frame tourer, and quite liked them. I think being able to continually move your hands around small amounts is very important.
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
I'm guessing that you'd like a more upright position.

1) Flip the stem, like in this pic: View attachment 20648

2) 30 or 40 degree stem:

View attachment 20649
3) stem extender - BBB or Satori (Make sure you have enough cable slack.)

View attachment 20650
Yes, I’m presuming I have to go more upright, but that was really the crux of the question - that maybe there are others things I could consider instead of sitting up at the handlebars like a traditional French onion seller. I guess I could get myself a stripy jersey and beret?

1) I did actually flip the stem for the first few months, and it was a little better. I flipped it back because there was a lot of very worrying creaking from around the stem. (I took a look at the bearings, could see nothing obvious, and think it may have been the plastic riser rings making the noise).

2) Yeah, I‘m thinking that’s the most obvious route - perhaps with an adjustable or quick release stem. I think the QR might be necessary if I fold the bike.

3) That does look worryingly unsound, but I guess they work.

Thanks for your suggestions.
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
what do you mean stretched out? how do you do this?
Just the same as any feisty commuter after a bit of extra speed, no doubt. I strip naked, grease myself up, put on swimming togs, and go for a ride. When the bike’s up to speed, I lie with my belly on the saddle, stretched out like Superman. ... How else would you do it? ;)
BD8F8318-A259-417B-9EE6-F2BCB732AF58.jpeg

I mean I reach forward to the ends of the bull horn bars, which as mentioned is significantly faster for less effort.

what is your seat to bar drop in cms?
are you short limbs long torso or vice versa? the drop will tell us that anyway but just as another consideration.
that pic is not your bike right?
Drop is maybe a couple of cms; I’ll have to measure.
I’m about equal proportioned, torso to limbs (though this pic makes me look a bit longer in the body).
It is indeed my bike.

78653D7B-5A3F-4553-8A6E-11BBD83881AC.jpeg

The chubby tyres were recommended by this forum, so I asked around, found an ex-BMX racer at SEO Cycles, and following his advice, put a pair of 1.8” Tioga Fastr X on. It feels like a couple of joyful angels, still full of enthusiasm before getting worn down by a hard day‘s work encouraging sinners, are towing you along. I highly recommend them to other foldy owners. :)
 
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Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
looks like the bike size is optimized for flat bars. by putting in bullhorns the reach has been lengthened by a huge amount (anywhere between 8 to 15 cm or so). that's my first impression and what stood out for me. put in some flat bars and see how that does it.
Yeah, they ship with flat-but-raised-up bars, and - much to my chagrin, I think I’m going to have to put something like that back on.

But I was trying different positions body angles today, and found the position I wanted set my hands at least 10cm away from the bars. Some i think that even with flat bars with a rise I want more.

I suspect maybe dropped bars set higher up would be to my liking, but I think there’s an issue with cable length and V brakes?
 
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pedalist

Maximum Pace
Jan 24, 2015
393
491
I recently converted a flat bar to a cruiser for various reasons by simply swoping the handle bars. For the cost of 5€ it made me feel like riding a different bike.
That saying, I'd start with the simple and cheap (yet reasonable) changes first and see how the bike feels: 1. stem with steeper angle or even a vario stem (maybe that's all you need) and 2. different bars (I've got no experience with butterfly bars, but they seem to give a lot of positions - and I think I've even seen a raiser version before)
Basically what @Buckaroo Banzai and @Cactaur wrote (so, actually no new input, only encouragement for trying out those two things as a first and second step.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
3,373
1,479
Just the same as any feisty commuter after a bit of extra speed, no doubt. I strip naked, grease myself up, put on swimming togs, and go for a ride. When the bike’s up to speed, I lie with my belly on the saddle, stretched out like Superman. ... How else would you do it? ;)
View attachment 20657

I mean I reach forward to the ends of the bull horn bars, which as mentioned is significantly faster for less effort.


Drop is maybe a couple of cms; I’ll have to measure.
I’m about equal proportioned, torso to limbs (though this pic makes me look a bit longer in the body).
It is indeed my bike.

View attachment 20656

The chubby tyres were recommended by this forum, so I asked around, found an ex-BMX racer at SEO Cycles, and following his advice, put a pair of 1.8” Tioga Fastr X on. It feels like a couple of joyful angels, still full of enthusiasm before getting worn down by a hard day‘s work encouraging sinners, are towing you along. I highly recommend them to other foldy owners. :)

I love the superman position myself.

Forget raising the stem or bars, that won't lengthen the frame which is what the original problem was.

Okay you are somewhat long torso and as the frame is very short, this is your issue.

The bullhorn bars give you that extra reach you are seeking but you need to lengthen the space between the seat and the bars.
(1) Go back to the shop and switch the stem to a 130~140mm . They should do this for nearly free. They did after all not exactly check your postion on the bike, they may have suggested the bullhorn bars as a way to get more reach.

(2) Slam the saddle as far back as it will go on the rails, again stretching the cockpit. I suspect you will eventually need a long setback seatpost. Probably something near 40mm set back

1596408935430.png

And that should solve your issues. Nice bike BTW. Looks like a heap of fun.
 

stu_kawagoe

Maximum Pace
Jun 23, 2018
899
945
Coming at the from a different angle, you could try pilates. It should strengthen the muscles you need to hold that aero postion while helping keep you flexible.
I’d add that it might be worth doing this PNF stretch. It’s not a quick fix but longer term it will help you find more length in your back.


Also, if you want to make it easier to look up when you’re putting the hammer down, you should do some back bends. The cobra and sphinx pose are good for that.

 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
Coming at the from a different angle, you could try pilates. It should strengthen the muscles you need to hold that aero postion while helping keep you flexible.
... you’re saying I might try working hard to develop and improve myself rather than simply throwing money at the problem? ;-)

Yes, the problem is that the upper back is very stiff, and I can easily get muscular injuries in the region. I need more mobility in the spine itself, and it’s been an issue since youth. There isn’t a problem with holding a flat position, but it is if I hyper-extend the spine to lift my head to see where I’m going. Not seeing where I’m going is also problematic. ;-)
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
I love the superman position myself.

Forget raising the stem or bars, that won't lengthen the frame which is what the original problem was.

Okay you are somewhat long torso and as the frame is very short, this is your issue.

The bullhorn bars give you that extra reach you are seeking but you need to lengthen the space between the seat and the bars.
(1) Go back to the shop and switch the stem to a 130~140mm . They should do this for nearly free. They did after all not exactly check your postion on the bike, they may have suggested the bullhorn bars as a way to get more reach.

(2) Slam the saddle as far back as it will go on the rails, again stretching the cockpit. I suspect you will eventually need a long setback seatpost. Probably something near 40mm set back

View attachment 20658

And that should solve your issues. Nice bike BTW. Looks like a heap of fun.

Great reply, thanks Simon, but I’m not sure frame length is in fact the issue.

I think frame length is indeed a likely culprit, and shop owner, the venerable Ken Hashimoto of Hasirin in Kashiwa, was always pointing me at the larger framed Dash Altena. I liked that bike, but wasn’t particularly impressed with the ride, and it was much more costly.
However, I‘d tested all his bikes to death and said I felt comfortable on the P8 (which has stock flat bars, with a rise), so he took a ride, and although a few inches taller than me, agreed it was surprisingly accommodating.
To clarify, the bullhorns were a late idea of mine, and Ken wasn’t keen, though I think that was partly because of the issues with folding and relocating the levers, which was only just do-able (a fair bit gets lost in translation between us).


D87A0875-C200-4546-AE20-4BD9D6B1A1A5.jpeg

Arguing against frame length as the issue however, is that I’ve pushed the saddle as far forward as I can, which helped ease saddle discomfort. And also partly because it seems to be very much about lifting my head and straining my upper back, as mentioned above. Drop head until visibility of the road ahead is lost - no back problems at all; just dire peril!

Then riding along no-hands, just trying different body positions, it feels like I want the bars much higher up, but as I’ve mentioned, they seem to need to be very high indeed. So I’m entirely open to persuasion - can you explain how frame length and saddle/bar drop work in terms of fit and comfort and why you’re picking frame length as the culprit?
 
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kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
3,373
1,479
@Slowburner Is that Ken in the pic?

Oh boy, this could get long.
1) Saddle pain can be caused by too short a frame not allowing you to carry your weight sufficiently on your arms. Instead of (for argument sake ) a 60/40 split bum/ arms a too short frame means it's an 80/20 split. That puts a heap more stress on the soft bits, more so if the saddle doesn't match the riders bum. By moving the seat back to allow a lower angle for your back you encourage your arms to take some of the weight off your tush.
2) Neck and shoulder pain, it's all about angles and curves. With a shorter top tube the spine gets curved in order to fit into a confined space. tilting your head up with a straight spine is a lot easier than with a bent one. Stand up straight and now look at the ceiling, now bend forward 20 degrees and look at the ceiling, which is less comfortable? In any sport a straight spine is better for carrying load and keeping stress off body parts not designed for it. My idea is that a straight spine is stronger and can carry weight better. If you cannot straighten your spine for any prolonged activity you are in for discomfort, be it motorcycling, typing or cooking.

Like pushing in a rugby scrum, A player with a bent back is weak and placing stress on his neck and shoulders AND can not look straight ahead. Same with tackling. (sorry my other job kicking in)

You want a good position on the bike.

Many folding bikes are designed to have a neutral position with a very upright spine and hands high. They have extendible stems and are good for short hops. Your bike is not one of those as it has zero capacity to adjust stem height. So you need to set up just as you would a regular road bike, straight spine, core engaged and a bend in your arms. You can only get this position with a longer distance between seat and bars. BUT, I have not seen you on the bike, have SFA experience with folding bikes and have been known on many occasions to be totally wrong.

I think Ken was trying to steer you away from your intended purchase but eventually the customer is going to get what they want.

good luck.
drake-forehead-tattoo.jpg
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
21
I think Ken was trying to steer you away from your intended purchase but eventually the customer is going to get what they want.
It’s hard to know what’s in the mind of Japanese men, if indeed they even know themselves, which is kinda moot if they never tell you! I’m 1cm within the manufacturers guidelines, and it was certainly the best of the folding bikes by Dahon and Tern give or take about ¥50,000. I believe Ken would say he came around to agreeing that it was in fact fine for me. At least, with the flat bars.
 
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