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  1. #1
    Road Runner DougG's Avatar
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    Age & riding position

    As I mentioned in another recent thread, I'm thinking of getting a road bike (as an additional bike) after several years of riding mountain and comfort bikes. I last rode a low-bar bike 20+ years ago (a Schwinn Letour 10-speed). I haven't ridden all that much in the years since, but have ramped up in the last couple of years as an empty-nester (I'm 59 right now).

    So on Saturday I test-rode a Specialized Sequoia, which is promoted as having a "relaxed" riding position for a drop-bar road bike. Riding it with my hands on the straight part of the bar, I felt fairly upright, but reaching out for the hoods I could feel my back stretching and it was a bit uncomfortable. However, after riding some laps around a large parking lot near the dealer the discomfort eased up and I really liked the ride and the bike. But I told the dealer I'd still "sleep on it" and get back with him later this week.

    Well, I woke up this morning with a bit of a sore back . I do not have any chronic back problems, but OTOH I am pretty protective of my back since I know a lot of guys my age with problems. My first reaction was that I was glad that I hadn't bought the bike, but after considering it for a while, maybe it'll still be OK. I'm thinking that my back pain is more of a "stretching" soreness just due to not using those muscles for a while. Not uncommon -- sort of like each winter the first time I go XC skiiing and my groin muscles are aching the next day.

    So what do you guys think? Is it pretty normal to be a bit stiff in the back if you haven't ridden one of these bikes for a long time? The Sequoia does have a relatively upright position, but after riding comfort bikes for a couple of years it really made me feel stretched out, or at least on my first ride.

  2. #2
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougG
    Age & riding position
    Oh - this is about bicycling!

    Well, then.

    I find that the road position stretches out my back. When I have a "back problem," sometimes taking a ride on the roadie will help a lot.

    I have never had any back problems caused by the roadie position.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 06-18-06 at 07:25 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    When I first started with drop bars, my lower back was not as flexible as it is now. I took it slow with the rides being of fairly short duration (less than an hour) until I got used to the new position. Now, I find the same thing that DnvrFox describes... a ride on the drops actually helps stretch out my back.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright
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  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Seriously. Buy a Recumbent.

    No pain in arms, neck, back or legs.
    A nice variety of bikes to choose from
    and they are light and competitive with
    road bikes. What's not to like...

    Give up the pain and find the
    bliss of riding a recumbent.

    Seriously.
    Ned Goudy, Glendora, CA USA
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  5. #5
    Berry Pie..the Holy Grail GrannyGear's Avatar
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    There's a happy balance between being stretched out so much you hyperextend your lower back and having your bars so low you crook your neck ...and being so upright with your hands pulled in that you feel cramped and find riding grows uncomfortable after 10 miles or so.

    That medium area, unique to us all, is what keeps us still smiling around mile 40, mile 60, etc.

    Do some reading on bike fit, explain your questions to your LBS, visit another LBS (always a good idea before purchasing a mate second only to your wife), ride some different configurations of bike, play with the seat height, etc. Note that many of us 50Plussers like drop bars up near seat level. Mine feel good around 1 to 1.5 inches below the bottom of the saddle nose. When younger, I rode about 3 inches below but years and injuries (from skiing not biking) have brought those bars up.

    And, quite honestly, some stretching exercises (a good idea anyway) and some miles may well make those drop bars more natural, more comfortable.
    ..... "I renewed my youth, to outward appearance, by mounting a bicycle for the first time." Mark Twain, Speeches
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  6. #6
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nedgoudy
    Seriously. Buy a Recumbent.

    No pain in arms, neck, back or legs.
    A nice variety of bikes to choose from
    and they are light and competitive with
    road bikes. What's not to like...

    Give up the pain and find the
    bliss of riding a recumbent.

    Seriously.
    I own a Volae Century Recumbent, great bike, fun to ride, and yes it is fitted to me perfectly.... it does bother my lower back some. On long rides I actually prefer one of my roadies...
    Carpe who?

  7. #7
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nedgoudy
    Seriously. Buy a Recumbent.

    No pain in arms, neck, back or legs.
    A nice variety of bikes to choose from
    and they are light and competitive with
    road bikes. What's not to like...

    Give up the pain and find the
    bliss of riding a recumbent.

    Seriously.
    I own a Volae Century Recumbent, great bike, fun to ride, and yes it is fitted to me perfectly.... it does bother my lower back some. On long rides I actually prefer one of my roadies...
    Carpe who?

  8. #8
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampy™
    I own a Volae Century Recumbent, great bike, fun to ride, and yes it is fitted to me perfectly.... it does bother my lower back some. On long rides I actually prefer one of my roadies...
    The recumbent police are on their way. You are going to be drummed out of the 'bent corp.

    For shame.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 06-18-06 at 07:45 PM.

  9. #9
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    I had exactly this when I started again after a 35 year break. It went away - probably as a result of good advice from this forum on position (saddle up, bars up), regular spinal mobility exercises, doing some lower back weight machines at the gym and finally persevering with the cycling.

    Good Luck

    Al

  10. #10
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    I started with the bar height the same as the nose of the saddle as others have suggested. Over the past few years I've been able to work it down to where the bars are now 3-4 inches below the saddle. It's important that the reach be very comfortable for you and doesn't feel overextended regardless of the height of the bars.

    I don't ever recall having any back pains but I've always been on the flexible side.

  11. #11
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88
    When I first started with drop bars, my lower back was not as flexible as it is now...
    ... Now, I find the same thing that DnvrFox describes... a ride on the drops actually helps stretch out my back.
    +1 on the comfort of a road position
    doing a forum search on back problems will also come up with some great posts on how those of us with back problems have adapted to cycling. In my case, my spine issues are mostly aided by cycling - as long as I pay atention to the other needed flexiblity and strenghtening elements.
    It should be emphasized that cycling is not an overall panacea. It is a powerful way to make major improvements in your physical and mental being, but can't be the only thing relied upon.
    If you bring personal structural or psych problems to cycling, they won't disappear. An honest personal assessment is always the 1st best step to deciding how to approach issues.
    I'd guess this isn;t news to anyone, but it surprising how many 'knowledgeable' riders ignore one or the other. Its easy to do when all you really need to do is climb on the saddle and off you go, until you hit that point where your back (or neck or wrists or hammies or knees...) starts hurting and you're still 30 minutes riding time away from your destination.
    Its sensible to do the sensible things in setting up your bike, make small gradual changes as you tune, add length and intensity as comfort level increases. Balance the Yin and Yang of body strength and flexibility.
    Top with a heaping dollop of good posture.

    As for 'bike' - don't feel restricted to 'comfort' or similar models. What they achieve can be done with most any sensibly sized road machine. The current 'roadie' fashion to go to 'micro' sized frames like the razors, is just that, fashion. Do get a reasonably sized road machine which will allow proper fit and adjustment. With the modern design, stem and seatpost selections allow just about all the possible adjustment 99% of us need. If you think you are within that special 1% that might truly need special things, you'd already know that long before this purchase.

    Is 'soreness' common and to be expected? certainly. Many riders (who are not also runners) are fit enough to run a marathon. Should they run a marathon without prior 'adaptation' and training? Only if they wish to incur serious injury. Be patient and 'break' yourself in gently.
    And an adjustable stem will go a long way to finding a good position and changing it as your bike time on a roadie increases.

  12. #12
    Pinstriper SemperFi's Avatar
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    Several months ago I was in the exact same position that you currently find yourself. I wanted to get back into cycling after not riding for many years and was undecided about the type of bike to get...comfort, hybrid, straight bars, drop bars?
    I spent several weekends test riding at the LBS and picked the brains of the good people on this forum. I should mention at this point that I do have a chronic back condition so I really thought that I would end up with a straight bar bike (test rode and really liked the Trek 7.5 FX and the Specialized Sirrus Comp) but decided to test some road bikes to see if they aggravated my back problem. I tried the Trek Pilot 1.0 and the Specialized Sequoia Elite and just loved the Sequoia.
    As luck would have it my back was barking loudly on the days I tested the Pilot and the Sequoia and I was stunned to discover that, while on these two bikes, the pain in my back eased and I was in absolutely no discomfort at all.
    I eventually bought the Sequoia because the components were better and I got the 2005 model (basically the same bike as the 2006 except for the color) for about $100 less than the Pilot.
    I have not regretted my decision for a second. It's a very comfortable ride and the bike has some giddy up to it if you're so inclined. And of more importance to me, it eases my back soreness rather than contributing to it.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    I vary my riding position and hardly use the drop position for long. Also I think that the more you ride on a road bike, the more your core muscles begin to gain strength. I do some Pilates and I think it helps.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Wildwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougG
    Well, I woke up this morning with a bit of a sore back . I do not have any chronic back problems, but OTOH I am pretty protective of my back since I know a lot of guys my age with problems. My first reaction was that I was glad that I hadn't bought the bike, but after considering it for a while, maybe it'll still be OK. I'm thinking that my back pain is more of a "stretching" soreness just due to not using those muscles for a while. Not uncommon -- sort of like each winter the first time I go XC skiiing and my groin muscles are aching the next day.

    So what do you guys think? Is it pretty normal to be a bit stiff in the back if you haven't ridden one of these bikes for a long time?
    I think you are right on with the skiing analogy. First few rides in a road position might use muscles that aren't used on other types of bikes. Other folk's comments about good fit, not being too stretched out, etc are valid. Without having back problems you should be OK, but you are right to be cautious. I'm with Dnvr - a nice ride will help a tight back.

  15. #15
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    I had a similar problem. After being away from cycling for years, and being plagued with lower back problems, I bought a road bike (Giant OCR C3) and replaced the bars with a carbon cross country mountain bike bar. It solved the problem. I feel great and love to ride.

  16. #16
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    I had a custom frame made by Seven cycles, fits like a glove. My back doesn't bother me at all and this is pretty amazing for someone who has had back surgery three times. I do try and keep my stomach muscles strong as they will compensate for a weak back.

  17. #17
    Junior Member tvme's Avatar
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    Doug,

    I was going to start a thread like this.

    I've been riding on the tops of the bars since I started riding again after about a 25 year break (and yes, I've been using the extra "suicide" brake levers- heck they worked in the '70's). I've only gotten down in the drops a few times and not for very long.

    Yesterday I rode in the drop position for about 30 minutes out of my 90 minute ride (do you guys really use odometers??). My thread was to be a "keep trying the drops" thing. It really helps vary your riding position. But it did cause a bit of stiffness - nothing terrible.

    If I had a "comfort bike" I don't think I'd buy a new bike with drop bars because in my area used 70's and 80's ish "10 speeds" with drops are very common. I might still convert a used bike to upright style bars, but I'm not in a hurry.

    Hey, traffic is still scary in the drops though! But at least you're more visible than on a recumbent ! I was just wondering... does the box they come in have 6 handles so it can double as a coffin???? Just teasing guys... more or less .

    Bob

  18. #18
    King of the molehills bcoppola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezen
    ...As for 'bike' - don't feel restricted to 'comfort' or similar models. What they achieve can be done with most any sensibly sized road machine...
    Thanks -- that answered the question I've been meaning to ask. I had been wondering if the more upright position claimed as a feature of many compact road frames like the Pilot and Sequoia couldn't be just as easily achieved on a level top tube frame by adjusting the stem height.

  19. #19
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    I set my bars nearly 4 inches below the saddle when I was in my 30s, now they are less than 2 inches and I'm thinking about making them even higher on my next bike. I fell off a motorcycle years ago and have had back pain from that, but I did an 11 hour ride a few weeks ago and back problems were not part of it. I don't stay in the drops a lot but if there's a headwind or I'm trying to keep up with someone they really help.

  20. #20
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcoppola
    Thanks -- that answered the question I've been meaning to ask. I had been wondering if the more upright position claimed as a feature of many compact road frames like the Pilot and Sequoia couldn't be just as easily achieved on a level top tube frame by adjusting the stem height.
    I will start riding a road bike for the first time in almost 30 years as soon as I get a few more items installed (Kelly Take Offs and wrap the bars).

    The typical quill road stems won't get your bars very high, but you can try adjusting to the minimum insertion point. I decided to use a Nitto Technomic stem to get the bars high enough. My big issue isn't my back, it is my gut. However, when that resolves itself (as it will if I keep in the saddle) I might move down a little on the stem height. I don't think I'll ever even want 3" below the saddle, but I will go as low as I can while retaining comfort.

    In my case I obviously use a quill stem on my old bike.

    From the bikes I have seen in the stores with threadless headsets, they trim off the steerers pretty short, so you can only get a minimal amount of extra height with the stem by getting a stem with a sharper rise or you're stuck getting a riser to extend the height of the steering tube.
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  21. #21
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    I have a Pilot and while I like the geometry on long rides I am thinking about getting a new bike with standard geometry for my group rides. I spend a lot of time in the drops on those rides, and I may be able to ride on the hoods with standard. I feel more in control of the bike on the hoods than in the drops. As for aches and pains, for me they come and go so I don't mess with anything until I find things are still hurting over a couple of weeks time. I know a few months ago I had a very stiff and sore neck. This was primarily due to winter changing over to spring and stronger wind making me ride in the drops more. After a while my neck muscles got stronger and the pain went away. I find that when I think I am tweaking my setup to make things better I end up just making it worse, so I try to leave things alone as much as possible.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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  22. #22
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    I am back into road riding after about a 10-12 yr switch to casual mtn biking. For about the past 10 weeks I have been riding a Marin Indian Fire Trail (non-suspension, lightweight aluminum frame) equiped w/ 90 psi baldies. Pretty good ride on the road but limited road performance. I test road many road bikes including Cannondale R800, Felt F4C, Felt F65, Fuji Team Pro, etc before finally settling on a left over Specialized Roubaix elite. Bicycling described it as a "plush" frame and they hit the nail on the head. It is smooth,predictable comfortable and light. As an added plus, I bumped my average speed from 13.8 to 15.1 on my first ride ( a hilly charity ride!). My suggestion is ,if you can spend the $, go for one ofthe carbon fiber frames.Keep in mind, that they can vary considerably in their ride quality also. I never was comfortable w/ the Fujis that I rode. I loved the Cannondale handling but i asked myself, "Would I want to ride this 75-100 miles?" No.
    YMMMV, good luck w/ the hunt.
    Craig

  23. #23
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I have only done the occasional ride on a borrowed road bike in the last 15 years- I ride mountain bikes.
    I had a long think about a road bike (Not really - Bike Lust tookover) and just got one. I attach a picture of my mountain bike and of the road bike and you can see that in a way- they are similar bikes. Very Small frames and the bars a bit closer than most riders would have them. In fact the road bike was too short and I have had to put on a longer stem(From the original) and this has raised the bar just a bit.
    First rides on the Road bike with the Original stem meant that I was just a bit cramped and back ache did set in.I thought I had got too small a frame until I put the longer stem on. The rest of the bike fitted but that 50mm longer stem has given me a really comfortable position.
    Still have a few Changes to make but yesterday did 65 miles and it fits, goes like ar ocket compared to the mountain bike and does not feel uncomfortable- Even a day after the ride. Mind you- Those high pressure tyres don't like bumpy roads that I don't feel on the Bianchi
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  24. #24
    jcm
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    I just bought a new Sequoia Elite yesterday.

    I have back problems, arthritic shoulders, collar bones and neck. Also, fairly severe carpal tunnel. I usually ride a Trek 520 or an old 830, both steel and both with North Road bars and Brooks B-67 saddles. Quite English, eh what? Total comfort over very long rides with minimal stops. I'm talking about 60 to 100 miles day trips. Don't be fooled by my setup that I'm a fuddy-duddy. I'm a fit 225 and a fairly aggressive rider. My cruising speed on the flats in favorable conditions is 19-20mph on the 520 - fenders and all. I pass alot of roadies on a metric century and finish along with them on a 100 miler.
    That's my customer profile.

    So, this is a huge departure for me, based upon my physical issues - or so I thought.

    My observations on the Sequoia are, admittedly, still in the forming process. Going up against a Trek 520 is tough on a road bike when comparing relative comfort over distance. However, after a 20 mile pre-sale test, I liked it enough to pop for it. It was on sale so why not?

    I was definitely too stretched out at the hoods but when I actually bought it, I had them swap the 130mm stem extension for a 110mm. Then I took off for a non-stop 40 miles, then a 5 minute break to drink something, then another 35 miles home. I just got in from another 35 miles today.

    My back was a little stiff this morning before my ride but it's ok now. I think it's a conditioning thing that will take care of itself. I just stay out of the drops. More on that later...

    So far:
    1) Absolutely luxurious ride. Almost decadent. I don't know if the Zertz is a gimmick or not.
    2) The stock Milano saddle is suprisingly comfortable, though not a Brooks. A Brooks stays cooler.
    3) Fair to good speed, a little lighter than the 520, which I consider to be fairly fast as well - both have 52 top rings.
    4) The in-line brake levers are a good idea and work well. The pads will be replaced, though.
    5) Comes with a shim which is easily installed that can change the angle of the stem ext a little. I have mine set to the higher angle. Tops are even with the saddle. I wouldn't mind going another inch up, but I think this will do. I'll ride a century this week-end and decide then.
    6) I find the front shifter very stiff and, well, clunky. It's a 105 system just like my 520 but the Seq has brifters. I've never used brifters before. The rear shifts perfectly. The shop did some tweaking today and it's a little better. They say that the bar-ends on my 520 are known for smoothness and comparing the two is difficult. They will be happy to accomodate me in anyway... ok, fine.
    8) I still hate drop bars. I guess I always will. I have absolutely no use for the drops. I know it's sacrilege, but there it is. If it's windy, so what. Going down a hill fast? I just grab the hoods and duck.
    7) I'll probably go with a carbon seatpost when the cheap susp post gives out. It seems to work though.
    9) All-in-all, it's going to be a great ride. A decent buy on sale. I consider this bike to be a good road bike for a 50 yo guy like me, who nevertheless, is still a strong rider. It will be very good for distance. I'll wear out the saddle and go Brooks for the slickness. That'll keep me cooler and will eliminate any saddle soreness at about 50 miles.

  25. #25
    Love to ride! starship's Avatar
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    I won't repeat what others have said.

    I think a little time and all will be well. I don't normally ride in the drops, but will drop there is fighting a head wind. Spinning is a bit easier there also.

    AGE, I don't think that's the issue. Stretch, maybe toe touches would help also.
    2010 Jamis Allegra 2X
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