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Old 04-23-07, 01:44 AM   #1
Ekdog
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Stiff neck, sore back...

Fellow cyclists,

I have been commuting by bike all of my life, and I have recently started taking longer rides into the Spanish countryside at weekends. Yesterday was my longest yet: a 38-mile jaunt through rolling hills. I'm happy to say my 50-year-old legs feel fine. My neck is rather stiff, however, and my lower back is a little sore. Nothing serious, but I should like to nip this in the bud before I start increasing the distance.

I ride a mountain bike with regular flat handlebars that cause me to hunch over, with my head lifted in order to see. I suppose this is a good position in terms of aerodynamics, but I believe it is the source of my troubles. I wonder if any of you other old-timers have experienced similar problems and, if so, how you have dealt with them. I have considered raising the bars or perhaps changing over to another style. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Ekdog

Last edited by Ekdog; 04-23-07 at 06:28 AM.
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Old 04-23-07, 03:31 AM   #2
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Seems unusual that you have now started getting aches- even though you have done more milage. Look to see if anything has changed on the Seating or bar position. You have said you have flat bars so a riser bar will help. These will raise the hand positition and bring it back and depending on the "Sweep" can be just a bit or as much as 5 cms. Then there are the Bar ends. they will give you alternative riding position to help ease the one position ride and the aches that will bring.

OR it could be that you need more practice in the longer rides- and the pain will go after a few more rides.
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Old 04-23-07, 04:13 AM   #3
gcl8a
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Raise the bars.

Get 'used to' riding longer distances.

It you want to worry about aerodynamics, lower the bars little by little.
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Old 04-23-07, 05:20 AM   #4
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Do you stretch your back immediately after riding? I get lower back pain (for the last couple of months anyway) but I find stretching gets rid of most of it before it starts.
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Old 04-23-07, 05:36 AM   #5
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I gave up riding long distances on a mountain bike for exactly the same reason. The mountain bike position is very bad for the neck. About 5 years ago a physical therapist showed me models of the neck in the varying cycling positions.

I ride only my road bike now for 50 mile distances, without any problems, even though I have arthritis in a couple of the vertebrae of my neck.

Stretching is a must as well. The book "Stretching" by bob anderson shows cycling specific stretching exercises as well as any other sport you could think of.
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Old 04-23-07, 06:08 AM   #6
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My experience leads me to believe that the combination of stiff neck and lower back pain is most likely the result of a too bent over position for your current flexibility. The stiff neck is, as you describe, most often due to having to use your neck muscles to hold you head up high enough to see, and the weight of a helmet adds to this (please note that I'm not suggesting you don't wear a helmet). I'd try a more upright riding position and see if that helps. Stretching and strength building can't hurt, but it could be a while before you'd see results from that. A more upright positon should give much more immediate relief.
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Old 04-23-07, 06:14 AM   #7
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I specifically changed my riding eyeglasses this year back to bifocals instead of progressive lenses. The sweet spot in the progressives was nearer to the center of the lens and I was forced to tip my head up too far. Now I can peek out of the tops of the lenses and the head does not have to come up as far to see. Much less tired/pain in the neck.
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Old 04-23-07, 06:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny_Monkey
Do you stretch your back immediately after riding? I get lower back pain (for the last couple of months anyway) but I find stretching gets rid of most of it before it starts.
Actually, I stretch it a bit while I'm riding, sitting up straight once in a while to get some relief. I'll try doing some exercises once I get off the bike. I feel great today, by the way. I think that with a slightly more upright riding position, stretching, and more time in the saddle I should be okay. Thanks to you and the others for your sage advice.
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Old 04-23-07, 06:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BSLeVan
My experience leads me to believe that the combination of stiff neck and lower back pain is most likely the result of a too bent over position for your current flexibility. The stiff neck is, as you describe, most often due to having to use your neck muscles to hold you head up high enough to see, and the weight of a helmet adds to this (please note that I'm not suggesting you don't wear a helmet). I'd try a more upright riding position and see if that helps. Stretching and strength building can't hurt, but it could be a while before you'd see results from that. A more upright positon should give much more immediate relief.
I'm surprised the helmet would be a factor, considering how light it is. I'm definitely going to try a more upright riding posture.
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Old 04-23-07, 08:14 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ekdog
I'm surprised the helmet would be a factor, considering how light it is. I'm definitely going to try a more upright riding posture.
Many bicycle helmets top the 500 gram mark, and while this seems light in our hands, it's something completely different on our heads. Keep in mind that many of us have virtually no training in strengthing our necks via weight or resistance training. When your neck is not used to it, even 500 grams (17+ ounces) can put a strain on our necks. I was skeptical about this until I tried an experiment on my stationary trainer. I rode 30 minutes in the drops (with the drops lower than usual by about a half inch) with and without a helmet on different days. The difference was quite remarkable. Without the helmet there was very little stress in keeping my head up and eyes forward. With the helmet, it got tough after about 8 to 10 minutes.
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Old 04-23-07, 07:08 PM   #11
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I agree that sitting up once in a while is the thing. I do it for maybe 5 seconds and am ready for a few more miles. I also think it will get better. Work it out.
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