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I’ve been riding a Specialized Ruby (basically a Roubaix) for over a year, but just had major back surgery (lumbar fusion of 3 disks) and my surgeon suggested I change to a more upright hybrid frame. Yesterday I used bikeinsights.com to overlay my frame with a few hybrids: a Motobecane Cafe Century, Specialized Sirrus, and Trek FX.

Ruby va Motobecane café century Ruby vs Specialized Sirrus Ruby bs Trek FX

Ignoring different wheelbases, the other differences seem so minor that I’m left wondering whether I could just swap to a flat bar and new stem on my Ruby (and of course put on the correct brakes and shifters, which I know how to do). I just figured I would do a sanity check here, to see if there is something deep and important I’m missing when comparing the hybrid upright frame to my road bike. Is it that hybrids come with more length to play with on the top fork steerer tube, for example?

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  • Have you tried to ride your existing bike post-surgery? Have you gotten a second opinion, hopefully from a medical professional with sports medicine experience? There are several doctors that I simply will not see in the medical practice group that I use because they are so utterly clueless about any athletic activities. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 13:15

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As you're capable of making the modifications yourself, it's worth costing it up. You may find a second hand bike is cheaper than a whole lot of parts.

If you do so, you should budget for a steerer tube extender and/or fancy stem(s). This might be a good time for an adjustable stem (I'd look 2nd hand). Doing this sort of thing also allows you to stick with drop bars (for familiarity and the range of hand positions) while making your back more upright. It also means that if you regain some flexibility over time you haven't changed too much. Equally, so does buying a second bike and keeping your current one available .

Fused vertebrae can be assumed to be fixed, but surgery leaves you stiff and that will ease over your recovery period; you may even gain flexibility in other parts of your back. I know road riders who have had spinal surgery including fused vertebrae, and their posture might not be quite as low as it would otherwise be, but it's definitely road bike posture.

Once everything is stable, according to your recovery physiotherapist, a bike fit might be in order. But make sure you get a bike fitter who's used to handling tricky cases.

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If you're comparing the postures available with sufficient modifications on two such bikes, the possible limiting factors you might come up with are typically going to be:

  • Saddle fore/aft. Specifically, the road bike might have a steep enough seat tube angle, especially if it's small, that even with an extra-setback post it doesn't give you the rearward adjustment range relative to the BB as the more relaxed geometry bike. Moving your seat back relative to the BB can be an important factor in getting your body weight supported how you want to avoid pain and injury. Though dogma varies on this point, the further forward you are, the more weigh will fall on your arms and upper body.
  • Whether you can use a steerer extender to get the position as high as you want. Most nicer recent road bikes have carbon steerers, which shouldn't be paired with extenders. The possibility then arises of changing the fork, which can be a major strike against the economy of the project.

However, it's dubious to view this question as solely about whether a given position can be replicated. Chainstay length and what tire widths you have access to make a real difference in the amount of shock that reaches your body. How much difference and what your needs are there is a more nuanced question and also has to do with where and how you ride.

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You're not missing anything. In some cases, the same frame is sold with both flat bars and drop bars to cater to different audiences.

Another option might be to put a steerer extender on your current bike to raise the existing bars. You might need new cabling to accommodate this.

steerer extender

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