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Old 07-13-08, 05:16 AM   #1
Tony (Michigan)
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Bicycling is a real pain in the neck

First of all, thanks to everyone that has helped me in all the issues of my bicycling.

When I go on long bike rides, after about 15 miles my neck starts to hurt really badly.
I find I have to look down at the road under my pedals in order to get relief.
Is this normal for most of you?
If so, what do you do so that the pain doesn't come in the first place?
It is rather painful.

My job in life is proofreading which means sitting down and looking down. On a bike it is awkward to lift the head up in order to see the road ahead of me. Will this go away in time as the neck muscles strengthen?
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Old 07-13-08, 05:28 AM   #2
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I suffer the same problem when I ride my DF's. I now do my recreational
riding (non-commutes) on a recumbent and find I can ride pain-free all
day long. That does not however mean you need to change to a recumbent
yourself, as many folks on this forum who are wiser about these things than I
have successfully beat the neck pain thing with stem changes and bike
adjustments and such. I just didn't have the patience to deal with all that, and I
had always thought recumbents were Cool, so that's the route that I took
to aleiviate the pains associated with cycling.

I'm confident the folks here will steer you in the right direction.
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Old 07-13-08, 05:37 AM   #3
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Instead of craning and twisting neck back, tuck your chin in and pull whole neck back.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 07-13-08 at 05:53 AM.
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Old 07-13-08, 05:46 AM   #4
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Where are your handlebars in relation to your seat? Are you stretched out on the bike? If you put your elbow on the nose of the saddle and point your forearm and fingers to the stem, does the handlebar fall within an inch of your outstretched fingers?

If the answers are (a) lower, then get a stem that will raise your handlebars to at least seat level; (b) yes, then your bike might be too big for you, but you might be able to fudge a bit by moving the seat forward as well as shortening the stem; and (c) no, then a shorter (and higher) replacement stem might help overcome these basic fit issues.

Neck exercises off the bike might also be in order. If you use a computer at work, your posture may need looking at (mine is lousy, and I have issues on the right side of my neck as a result).

Shermer's Neck is not uncommon among long-distance cyclists, and was given the name by Mike Shermer who suffered badly from collapse of neck muscles on a Race Across America.

Proofreader? Magazine, newspaper or... ?
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Old 07-13-08, 05:53 AM   #5
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I use a stem that I can adjust to where I ride more up right.
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Old 07-13-08, 06:06 AM   #6
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It sure sounds to me like you have fit issues. I know in our "knee" thread you indicated you were fitted at a shop. I'm begining to wonder if they had a clue about what you were doing. All too many (based on limted direct experience and stories of others I trust) shops have folks who want to fit everyone as if they were going to be racing.

Neck pain is normal if your neck muscles are not used to holding your head up for prolonged periods of time, and or have hunched shoulders. There are really two ways to deal with it (as illustrated in part by some of the recommendations above): Work on developing stronger neck muscles or change your riding position so that you are in a more upright position. Tony, did you ever post any photos of you in your riding position? I'm more than confident that many folks here could make more specific suggestions if they could see your riding position.
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Old 07-13-08, 06:13 AM   #7
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Try different hand positions on the bar...........hoods, flats, curves, etc.

Or justify a new bike purchase to the significant other like a Specialized Tarmac SL with full campy record and every body geometry tid bit they have. Expalin how the $7000.00+ purchase will dramatically improve the horrendous pain in your neck.

I tried and failed miserably
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Old 07-13-08, 06:21 AM   #8
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On my Tarmac the seat-bar height is slightly larger than on my Simoncini - this makes it harder to stay looking forward on the Tarmac over a long ride particularly if I spend a lot of time in the drops. For me it just doesn't get better - it never bothered me when I was younger. I shop will typically fit you to the angle in your back and maybe (if you lucky) your flexability - not how well you can see, go figure. You may need to raise the bars and not use the drops.
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Old 07-13-08, 07:34 AM   #9
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Are you taking breaks by riding on the tops? You may need to do that to relieve the muscles that hold your head up when you're on the hoods or drops.

Are you trying to go too far too fast? If so, you have to realize that riding a road bike setup as a road bike requires some gradual adaptation, because with the more forward position, there is more work for the muscles that hold your head up. People should not expect to buy a road bike, hop on it and ride long distances right off the bat.

Is your helmet too low on your forehead? This forces you to lift your head up more in order to see where you're going. It's very hard on the neck. Similarly, if you happen to wear glasses, these always tend to fall too low on the nose, and like the too low helmet, it forces you to lift your head more than you would have to if you were not wearing glasses.

LBS/pro fit or no fit, are your handlebars very low? They don't have to be at saddle level, but there isn't much to be gained by having them much lower than an inch below the top of the saddle.

But all in all, it does take some fitness. I get neck pain after about 10 miles whenever I get on the bike after a long layoff.
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Old 07-13-08, 09:51 AM   #10
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That's exactly the problem I had. I added these handlebars and the adjustable stem. I know it looks very high, but it's quite comfortable.

I'm considering going back to a drop handlebar, but will keep it relatively high.

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Old 07-13-08, 09:56 AM   #11
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My first thought was your fit may by off.
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Old 07-13-08, 11:54 AM   #12
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This is usually never an issue on a recumbent. Just saying....
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Old 07-13-08, 12:07 PM   #13
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Yet another recumbent suggestion.

Traditional diamond frame bikes are great, no question. The rider's view of the world on a recumbent, though, is not only much more comfortable but greatly expanded.
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Old 07-13-08, 12:33 PM   #14
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Sounds like a fit issue to me, too. Like I said before, you may not be able to conform to a fit that a shop provided. Sometimes you have to try different things to find out what works.
With your hands on the tops, you should be able to lift your hands and support your upper body with your core muscles.
When riding, your elbows should be bent and your shoulders relaxed. If your upper body is tense, this may lead to neck pain. Like they say, keep your shoulders out of your ears.
Over the years I have raised my bars until the top of the bar is now about 1 inch below the saddle, up from 4 inches years ago.

Last edited by big john; 07-13-08 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 07-13-08, 02:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Recumbomatic View Post
This is usually never an issue on a recumbent. Just saying....
Nor is it a problem sitting in a La-Z-Boy recliner while watching TV. It is also not a problem on a well-fitted drop bar road bike. You don't need a sex change operation every time you have an ache or pain.
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Old 07-13-08, 02:27 PM   #16
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First road bike I got- just a couple of years ago- and I set the bars up to the same height as the saddle. The change from a mountain bike meant that I had to set it up that way to stop neck problems. Next bike and the shop set it up with the bars 3" below the saddle. I do not know if it was a year of riding with my head between my knees (That was what it felt like after 15 years on mountain biking) but my neck had got stronger- and once again- No neck pain.

Can't think of any neck exercises to help you train- but just riding the bike helped me.
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Old 07-13-08, 02:29 PM   #17
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One of the reasons Comfort bikes have become so popular is because of Back and Neck problems. Bicycle riding should be enjoyable and you shouldn’t have to suffer to enjoy it. If you neck doesn’t hurt sitting in a chair then a more upright position might be just what you need. It could be as simple as a adjustment on your bike but if you think about it the position you need to assume for a drop bar road bike is not one you typically use doing anything else. While that position my not bother many people you just might be one that needs to sit more upright.

If this problem has been with you for a while I would talk to my doctor or if you prefer a chiropractor and have them see if there is a medical reason you have this pain. Just a thought.
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Old 07-13-08, 02:33 PM   #18
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But, one of the theories of bike fitting is a 3 way balance between the weight on the butt, the weight on the legs and the weight on the hands (on the bars).

Sitting more upright puts a lot more weight on the butt - and if you do longer rides, it may be a problem.
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Old 07-13-08, 03:11 PM   #19
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Head position on a diamond frame bike is very unnatural. It's quite a strain to hold up all that weight out so far for so long.

Try shorter rides till you build up your neck muscles.
Higher handlebars so you don't strain so much.
A recumbent so you don't strain.
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Old 07-14-08, 12:13 AM   #20
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But, one of the theories of bike fitting is a 3 way balance between the weight on the butt, the weight on the legs and the weight on the hands (on the bars).

Sitting more upright puts a lot more weight on the butt - and if you do longer rides, it may be a problem.
Just look at the position you have on your Avatar. That position represents a more relaxed position for your neck and back. What ever the theory of adjusting a diamond frame might be it doesnít seem to be working for the OP. Assuming the LBS adjusted the bike for him in the first place. I think some of us may be looking for a quick fix here. So we are looking at it differently.

I canít read a book in bed while on my stomach because of neck strain. But I can read for hours on my back with a few pillows propping me up. May not be apples to apples but it seems reasonable considering we are making suggestions for a problem that already exists.
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Old 07-14-08, 12:56 AM   #21
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While struggling with neck pain last year, I read on Sheldon Brown's site that if you wear glasses (as I do) you may benefit from wearing eyeglass holders (like Croakies) that hold your glasses snug against your face. If your glasses are slipping by even a fraction of an inch while you ride, that's another incremental bit of stretching you have to do to see the road.

I know this sounds stupid. I thought it did. However, on longer rides I use Croakies now and it does make a difference.

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Old 07-14-08, 01:52 AM   #22
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Quote:
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But, one of the theories of bike fitting is a 3 way balance between the weight on the butt, the weight on the legs and the weight on the hands (on the bars).

Sitting more upright puts a lot more weight on the butt - and if you do longer rides, it may be a problem.
It might be one of the theories, but it's not really correct. You should be able to ride along with almost no weight on your hands. Supporting the body weight because of a lack of core body strength (ie, abs and back muscles) is one reason why people suffer badly from hand numbness and hunched-shoulder syndrome. It's something my and others' long-distance riding has demonstrated well.

A good saddle will always overcome butt issues, and it is reasonable that the butt takes the weight as it would any time you are sitting down. As to how the butt is conditioned to interface with the appropriate saddle is another matter altogether, and really only comes from... riding a lot.

Bike fit, however, is paramount.

I'll put it this way... I can ride a century in unpadded bike shorts and long trousers on a properly fitting fixed gear with a Brooks saddle and cowhorn bars, and have no butt, hand, neck or feet issues.

As to neck exercises, this might be a bit dramatic, but I remember a TV documentary on Nigel Mansell, former world F1 champ and Indycar driver (champ?), and his battle to keep his neck muscles in shape aftr an early-career crash broke it. He lay on the floor and arched his back so only his head and heels remained on the floor. He would hold that position for 10 seconds, then repeat, many times.

Certainly, webland has neck-strenghening exercises.
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Old 07-14-08, 05:46 AM   #23
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Quote:
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Just look at the position you have on your Avatar. That position represents a more relaxed position for your neck and back. What ever the theory of adjusting a diamond frame might be it doesnít seem to be working for the OP. Assuming the LBS adjusted the bike for him in the first place. I think some of us may be looking for a quick fix here. So we are looking at it differently.

I canít read a book in bed while on my stomach because of neck strain. But I can read for hours on my back with a few pillows propping me up. May not be apples to apples but it seems reasonable considering we are making suggestions for a problem that already exists.
My avatar is showing me riding my mountain bike! Not a road bike. Different fits, different purposes.
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Old 07-14-08, 06:09 AM   #24
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It could be fit issues, as stated. But even with a good riding position, I think most people will experience some neck strain/pain on a DF bike. In my case, I was on a ride and pinched a nerve in my neck. I finally went to the doc and he sent me to a chiropractor, who then got an MRI. Turned out I have what he describes as "3 collapsed cervical discs.) Ouch!! I was told to stay off the bike. Period. That, of course, didn't work. I stayed off for about six months, to give the injury ample time to heal. This year, so far, so good. But the chiropractor tells me that as long as I am riding, the chance for re-injury is fairly high. I do some on-bike stretching during rides, and afterwards, I use an over-the-door traction device to help stretch out the neck. It seems to help. But I'll probably end up putting the chiropractors kids through college! BTW...he said if I was going to continue riding, I should get a recumbent. At some point in the future, I probably will, once finances are a bit better. Too bad he couldn't give me a prescription for it and have the insurance company cover it!!
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Old 07-14-08, 06:34 AM   #25
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It could be fit issues, as stated. But even with a good riding position, I think most people will experience some neck strain/pain on a DF bike. In my case, I was on a ride and pinched a nerve in my neck. I finally went to the doc and he sent me to a chiropractor, who then got an MRI. Turned out I have what he describes as "3 collapsed cervical discs.) Ouch!! I was told to stay off the bike. Period. That, of course, didn't work. I stayed off for about six months, to give the injury ample time to heal. This year, so far, so good. But the chiropractor tells me that as long as I am riding, the chance for re-injury is fairly high. I do some on-bike stretching during rides, and afterwards, I use an over-the-door traction device to help stretch out the neck. It seems to help. But I'll probably end up putting the chiropractors kids through college! BTW...he said if I was going to continue riding, I should get a recumbent. At some point in the future, I probably will, once finances are a bit better. Too bad he couldn't give me a prescription for it and have the insurance company cover it!!

Seriously, look into that. My wife got a prescription from her neurologist for an
Eliptical Machine to enable her to exercise with MS. It saved us the cost of the
Sales Tax.
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