Longer commutes over the past few months have given me the opportunity to ride a variety of upright bikes over varying distances. And while achieving a particular fit is less important to me on upright bikes than it is on roadbikes, I still have preferences. For instance, my ideal handlebar height is on the low side. I began to notice that fairly early on, lowering the bars on my city bikes further with each passing year. I'd assumed this growing preference had to do with performance: That maybe as I picked up handling skills and began to ride faster, lower handlebars just made more sense. And in part that's probably true. But lately I've realised that it's also a matter of physical comfort.
Riding several bikes with the bars set higher than I prefer, I notice that my back starts to hurt after some miles. It's a distinct kind of dull, gnawing pain, somewhere around the shoulder blade area. On bikes where the bars are set lower, I don't experience the pain. And having moved the handlebars on one of the "painful" bikes down an inch, the pain disappeared. I've tried this a few times now over the past couple of months with the same result: When the bars are too high, my back aches.
The downside to having a city bike set up the way I like, is that other women who try it usually tell me the handlebars feel too low. In the end, it's about finding our personal optimal position. And too upright can be just as achy as too leaned forward.