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Old 07-21-06, 05:36 PM   #1
jskovran
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Somthin Ain't right here....

At 51 I just returned to road biking after an extended absense. I picked up a used Gios steel frame Compact Pro from a LBS in Germany that was my size. Since this is a standard racing road bike frame I had the handlebars raised about 2 inches with some spacers, as I thought it would be more comfortable since I am now older and less flexible.

However, I am finding that after about an hour of riding my lower back start to ache with a vengence, and I'm not sure why - the LBS owner is at a loss.... The conventional wisdom seems to be that when a bike is properly fit, it can be ridden for hours without fatigue. Not so here....

I checked the overall fit using some of the basic fit calculators you can find on-line, and eveything seems to be within range for my body dimensions (i.e frame size, top tube, set height, etc).

The advice seems to run from experimenting with the small changes to the current set up (i.e. try a shorter stem/higher handlebars, move the seat forward), to the more radical of scrap the standard race frame and go to a "relaxed"/senior friendly frame like a TREK Pilot.

Any suggestions on what to try? Is is usual that getting a proper fit takes some tinkering?

JOhn
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Old 07-21-06, 06:58 PM   #2
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John: It sure is frustrating to have a nagging problem like that. I've a few questions for you to consider. How long have you been back at riding? Could it be an issue of needing to let your body adjust to something it hasn't done in quite some time? The other thing that came to mind is that many people actually find that they have more comfort with their seat back and their backs stretched out a bit. I'm no expert, but these thoughts came to mind. I'm sure you'll hear from others who may have differing ideas.
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Last edited by NOS88; 07-22-06 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 07-21-06, 08:12 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by NOS88
John: It sure is frustrating to have a nagging problem like that. I've a few questions for you to consider. How long have you been back at riding? Could it be an issue of needing to let you body adjust to something it hasn't done in quite some time? The other thing that came to mind is that many people actually find that they have more comfort with their seat back and their backs stretched out a bit. I'm no expert, but these thoughts came to mind. I'm sure you'll hear from others who may have differing ideas.
+1 The more stretched out I am, the more comfortable I am. I think the current sizing standards put people on to small a frame which makes for a smaller cockpit regardless of what one does with the seat, stem etc. I have found that about 1/2" to 1" standover clearance gets the frame about right, then fine tune the rest. I am 53, ride a pretty agressive setup with no back pain at all.
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Old 07-21-06, 09:08 PM   #4
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I just read somewhere (the Harris Bike website?) that it is common for inexperienced and/or older road bike riders to ride "swaybacked" with their spine sagging on a road bike. The result is lower back pain. The stretched position helps to hold your spine straigher but good muscular support of the spine is apparently important too. Makes sense.

The solution, if you think this could apply to you, is to strengthen your lower back and side muscles so they support your spine.

A good sports med doc, back specialist, or even a good trainer can suggest age-appropriate exercises. There are a number of floor exercises that require nothing more than a carpeted floor or gym mat.

Also, concentrate on supporting your spine while riding to both build strength and practice proper posture.

Since I just got a road bike myself I plan to keep up on my core (torso) exercises including my back. Like a lot of guys I tend to hit the gym mostly in the off season!

Last edited by bcoppola; 07-21-06 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 07-21-06, 10:23 PM   #5
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Do 25 situps every morning, and follow the advice here...

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

This is what worked for me.
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Old 07-21-06, 10:51 PM   #6
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We all have advice, John, but to answer your question....it takes time, mistakes, experimenting, etc. to come up with the "right" bike fit. And sometimes, as your fitness level changes, or other physical changes occur with time and circumstance....your "ideal" fit requires further tweaking. It's always surprizing how sometimes what seems like a small adjustment can lead to significant results. Its good to read up on all the fitting information, but, in the end, it's you trying things and seeing the results that most counts.

Consider all the dimensions of bike fit: Bar height and distance from your saddle, width and drop of bars, where you place your brake hoods, saddle height, angle, and fore/aft adjustment. Also the width and length and curve of your saddle. Your cleat placement if you have other than just plain platforms. Some of these are more significant than others. So do some reading at Sheldon Brown, Peter White, Rivendell, etc. Don't necessarily be caught up in the "racing" bike fit. And don't think it is some erudite process that you have to go to Italy for and visit some bent over little guy who looks like Gepetto. Or the Trek windtunnel either.

It is not uncommon for bikie types to have a box full of stems, bars, saddles, seatposts, etc. they've tried and discarded. Some bike shops can provide you with valuable help, others not so much.

For sure, your body may just be responding to the new stress of cycling.
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Old 07-22-06, 12:26 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by jskovran
Any suggestions on what to try? Is is usual that getting a proper fit takes some tinkering?
John,

I think you're approaching the problem from the wrong angle. A properly setup road bike can be very comfortable for extended periods of time. As Big Paulie suggested, situps are a good place to start. Do some other exercises to increase trunk strength and I bet your back pain will disappear and your biking will be much more enjoyable.

Because of a long history of back problems, I've got about a dozen core exercises that I try do at least 5 times a week, and I swear by them.

Take care,

Steve
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Old 07-22-06, 07:12 AM   #8
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Core strengthing will solve the problem I'll bet.
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Old 07-22-06, 07:34 AM   #9
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Most experts now say that traditional situps are a bad idea. I've been to 4 different physical therapy clinics in 10 years for recovery of various back problems and all told me never to do situps.

There are lots of different kinds of back problems. I used to have sciatica many years ago which was aggravated by the crouch position typical of racketball (and road bikes). I had to give up racketball. It went away with PT and chiropractic allowing me to run daily, including marathons. 10 years later another back problem arose which featured pain more localized to the lower back. Orthopod referred to it as stenosis. It forced me to give up running, but I discovered I could ride a road bike and hammer all day long. It helped to be in a somewhat aggressive racing position. I kept the handlebars slightly lower than the seat and found that dropping into the low position (on the drops) would loosen up any tightness. But I am currently back into a nasty sciatica episode which is made worse by riding a road bike.

So my oversimplication goes like this: herniations that cause sciatica are aggravated by conventional bikes. Stenosis that causes localized lower back pain is almost helped by a road bike position.

But you may want to visit a physical therapist for some good exercises to strengthen your lower back.
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Old 07-22-06, 07:39 AM   #10
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Yo, Big Paulie: that link is great. Good common sense stuff. I bookmarked it, thanks!

Cheese, if you can list or provide a link to your core exercises I and probably others would appreciate it, you betcha. Especially those that require little or no equipment. I know a few but mixing it up a bit more can only help.

I think everyone here has a "piece" of The Answer. It's a multifaceted problem and no single aspect is The Answer. Kind of like the rest of life. I too am getting back to a road frame after many years away (and a few recent years on a hybrid) and it'll take experimenting with fit, more core conditioning, and just plain old getting the bod used to it till I'm really comfortable. I think that applies to most.

Meanwhile , the heat wave has broken and my new road bike is calling...
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Old 07-22-06, 09:22 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by dbg
Most experts now say that traditional situps are a bad idea. I've been to 4 different physical therapy clinics in 10 years for recovery of various back problems and all told me never to do situps.
+1

Do crunches instead. Situps are in BIG disfavor by the fitness world.
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Old 07-22-06, 12:00 PM   #12
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+ 1:

Pilates (for core strengthening)

Yoga (for stretching everything including tight hamstrings that tend to tilt the pelvis & skew the spinal alignment)

Floor exercises: pushups, knee bends, 'plank', etc.

Before I ride, I do 4 sets of 'Sun Salutation', a yoga spine stretching & warmup. It works every time. If I DON'T do Sun Sal, then my back aches after a ride.
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