I had a difficult time with my wrists and hands on our 7-day tour of Argyllshire as reported earlier. My wrists ached and after three days I suffered from pins and needles in my hands.
This all seemed to be down to the rather unusual handlebar setup on the Pino which gives little chance to vary your grip, badly angled hand grips which force my wrists into an over-extended position and a less upright riding position than I have on other bikes which puts more weight on my wrists. Plus the rather basic hand grips cannot be replaced with more ergonomic ones because they rotate with the gear shift.
There is not much that can be done with the basic Pino handlebar arrangement so the question was whether I could modify the detail to solve this problem. Having looked around and thought about the various ways I might adapt it I came up with this prescription as reported in the previous post:
- Buy a pair of the (expensive) Hase Ergo Riserbars designed to give a second, more upright position on the Pino. I had not really understood how these might work before but we met another Pino rider with these bars in Scotland, just when my wrists were really aching, and the penny dropped. A side-benefit is that having a higher position allows me to move the normal bars forward into a lower position which will give a more natural wrist angle – removing the over-extension problem
- Rotate the Rohloff Gear shifter so the shifter mechanism is at the end of the bars, by my fingertips, rather than under the heel of my palm
- Replace the Hase special long Rohloff shifter (which has a full-length rotating handgrip) with a normal short Rohloff Shifter, so the main part of the handgrip stays in one position
- Buy a pair of Ergon grips, the special Rohloff version which has a short right-hand grip to allow space for the shifter. Ergon grips are really designed for flat bars so in theory they would not help with the Pino bars, which are more like giant bar-ends at 90 deg to the normal position. However some experiments on my Brompton Ergons showed that putting them in the Pino position gave similar support to the hand as the conventional setup so I felt it was worth a try.
All this cost as much as a half-decent new bike so I was worried whether it would pay me back. However I was also very worried that, if I did not solve this problem, the Pino would not do the job we bought it for (ie change our lives!). So I felt it was worth the risk.
Luckily all the parts arrived in time for our second one-week trip, in Snowdonia (Thanks to JD Cycles for help getting the Hase bars and SJSCycles for their excellent online Rohloff Shop). I was not sure whether swapping the Rohloff shifter would be complicated and require refitting cables but it proved very simple to swap, I just had to carry over the two small cable entry units from the old shifter as the cable was threaded through these.
Hase told me it was not possible to alter their shifter to the shorter length. When I took it apart I found this was not true – they had done quite a lot of engineering to modify it (misguided effort in my view) but actually it would be possible to take a hacksaw to their expensively added extension tube and end up with a more complicated but perfectly functional shifter that would look externally just like the proper one. So in theory I didn’t need the new standard Rohloff shifter.
Everything else fitted very neatly although I had to shorten the already short right hand Ergon to make it all fit. I rode it around locally to fine tune the positions and it all felt very encouraging. I moved the main handlebars forward making them lower but with a better wrist position, while the riserbars gave a much more upright position with a completely different position for the wrists. In both positions the wrist was in a “natural” unstrained position The Ergons felt right despite their “wrong” orientation. The “shortie” shifter worked fine, twisting with my fingers rather then the wrist with the bonus that I could at last see what gear I was in, especially once I had picked out the moulded rubber numbers with a little silver paint (gold to show where the 7-8 change was)
But the proof of the pudding was whether the setup would work for several day’s cycling. On the Snowdonia Beano we cycled for several hours a day for 5 days. After a couple of days I had slight pins and needles in my right hand but I noticed that the right hand Ergon was at a slightly different angle from the left. Once I had adjusted that I had no more buzzing. One of the nice things about Ergons is the way you can fit, adjust and remove them at any time by undoing the clamping screw. Quite different from traditional grips that usually must be destroyed to remove them and can’t be moved once in place.
The riserbars give a very comfortable, completely different position with less weight on the wrists. No brakes to hand so only usable on uphills and very clear roads (or a fast stretch of tarmac cycle track we used a couple of times) but that was enough to make the difference I needed. There was a bonus that I seemed to have more power available in the upright position, the bars being quite close to the body seemed to allow me to pull up in opposition to the downstroke and often sitting up and changing bars led to an increase in uphill speed.
So a successful, if expensive, experiment. The cost is worth it if it means we can continue to ride long distances in comfort.
One of the questions raised by all this is why Hase go to all that trouble to fit an expensively modified Rohloff changer in an ergonomically unsatisfactory way. The standard setup is not only uncomfortable but it prevents you from seeing the gear indicator, which can be crucial when selecting a gear for a hill start or knowing when you are approaching the tricky 7-8 shift.
Having seen the custom modifications that they have done to the shifter: reducing the external diameter of the main tube to become the inner tube of a new setup, reducing the internal diameter of part of the new long outer tube to fit over it and glueing the grip/winder unit onto the new tube, I can begin to see why Hase charge a lot more than the cost of a basic Rohloff unit for the gear upgrade, despite saving the cost of the original Shimano gears.
Hase say that it is not possible to fit the Rohloff in the way I have done. Clearly they are wrong in general terms, it all fits and works perfectly well without changing the cables, but they are probably taking a very conservative approach to having control cables waving about in mid-air rather than nicely controlled and close to the bars. However in taking that perfectionist engineering approach they are ignoring serious ergonomic problems as my experience indicates. Rotating the Rohloff is the starting point for a lot of beneficial changes as well as saving the high cost of the custom gear shifter.
Finally, you may be wondering whether this success is a result of the combination of effects from the different changes or is one particular improvement the main one? I could not say although my instinct is that it is a whole solution and all parts are worthwhile. Certainly both the Ergons and the Riserbars feel good in use. I also bought a more expensive pair of gloves with anatomical support designed to keep pressure away from the ulnar nerve so I expect that helped too.
I’m not prepared to subject myself to some sort of clinical trial to find out more precisely and I don’t have a lot of faith in the clinical trial as a method for solving complex questions, I’m inclined to the view that they create as many practical and ethical problems as they solve, even if they are conducted with proper rigour which is not always the case.
In any event each of us is an individual and your problems will be different from mine so a solution that is just right for me, or an average solution that gives the best results across a population, will not be the ideal for you. You have to work out your own answer.
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