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Hi all! I'm putting together a new road bike for my girlfriend. Her shoulders are 30cm wide, and her current small Trek 1200 has 40cm bars. She gets an achy neck while riding, and I have read this could be down to bars being too wide. I have already specced a frame that has a shorter reach as she has long legs and a short back, but want to get the bars right too.

The basic rule of thumb for choosing bars is get them to match the width of your shoulders. 36cm is about the most narrow I've ever seen drop bars, and I also wonder whether any narrower might affect the twitchiness of bike control.

Does anyone have any thoughts/experience/suggestions here?

Thanks in advance,
Nick.
 

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Isla Bikes makes bikes with special drop-bars for children. She doesn't sell the bars separately, but you could contact her and ask. (Say please. :)).

http://www.islabikes.co.uk/bike_pages/pdfs/product_specs/Luath24.pdf

These are 34's, she may have some others.

If she can't help, Salsa makes a bar in a 36 that is a little smaller overall than the typical 36 cm bar. (Hand and drop areas). It would be better than some others. Can't remember the name, offhand. But it's billed as a niche bar for petite women, and I've know a few who were very happy on them. (Not me, I use a 42. :D).
 

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My small daughter and wife both use the Bontrager women's bars they made a few years ago.... I don't know if they still marked them that way. I like those bars and almost bought a set, but a little larger, for myself.

Aside from looking around online and locally for the smallest bars you can, encourage her to actively and consciously think about unhunching her shoulders, shrugging and then relaxing her shoulders, loosening up her neck, etc. when riding. It's pretty common for people to have their shoulders up by their ears when riding (exaggeration, of course, but you get the idea). It's important to actually learn to relax the shoulders and neck. Many people really do hunch and strain their necks unnecessarily, but just thinking of it and moving/stretching/relaxing while riding can solve the problem.

Another thing that might help is to just bring the bars up so she doesn't have to lift her head so much. The idea of handlebars even with the saddle has a lot of merit for comfort and if "aerodynamics" is a concern (why should it be? comfort and enthusiasm for riding makes most of us much faster than a racy position), that's why the elbows bend and the handlebars have drops.

My wife (who has narrow shoulders, and is about 5-1 rides whatever the smallest size of stock "women's specific" handlebars are, but I got her handlebars up even with the saddle and she rides much happier and faster because of it. To that end, when you think of frame size, try to maximize the head tube length for whatever size will give you a reasonable reach. I kind of over-sized my wife's bike to get that. The "standover" is a little tight, but she's easily learned to simply tip the bike when straddling it. The reach is OK with an 80 mm stem, and all this is well worth getting the bars up. Can do this with a riser stem too.


Finally encourage her to keep her head in more of a neutral position - again people need to think of this and "practice it", like we practice other good body mechanics.. She doesn't have to have her face vertical to the road to see, that puts a lot of strain on the neck. Neutral head where eyes naturally would be looking at the pavement a little ways ahead, but use the eyeballs rather than the neck to look up the road further.

Hope some of that makes sense, but my guess is that the handlebars might be too wide, but it's body mechanics and tension that are doing a lot of it.
 
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