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  1. #1
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    Is it supposed to be painful?

    Hey all,

    After several flirtations with the hobby (eg: looking at my expensive bike sitting in the garage and reading bikeforums, while riding about once a month), I am going to finally dedicate to cycling regularly. I "started" Saturday, and had a good ride of 50 miles. I felt significant enough pain on Sunday to keep me from riding, and today I did only 20 miles and am in the same kind of pain that I was on Saturday.

    I do not ride hard. I am interested in the leisure and adventure aspects of cycling rather than the sport of it. Eventually I'd like to become a regular century rider and maybe do some bicycle camping or touring.

    I try to spin in a low gear, high cadence, but I am not exactly good at it yet.

    I need help determining what is a fit issue, and what is just due to me being new to cycling and doing long rides. Basically, what pain will still be there when I get more used to riding?

    The pains are, in order of most painful to least painful:

    1.) Pain of the butt on the saddle. Only really a problem when I am riding, not much residual pain afterwards. Really hurts when I get out of the saddle to stretch.

    2.) Lower back pain on the left side. During and after riding. Feels like I am sitting in a broken computer chair that we used to have. Not searing pain like #1, but very uncomfortable.

    3.) Knee pain. Slightly above the knee. I am a marathon runner so I know all about ITBS, Chondromalacia, Patello-Femoral, etc. This feels more like it's acute muscle pain. Worse the day after I ride.

    4.) Numb left foot. (Area where I am clipped in).


    Here's my bike:



    I use Shimano SPD clipless pedals with the float all the way loose and the cleats in the middle of the well. The saddle height is such that I can stand on my tip toes, although my knee is at about a 30 degree angle when the peddle is fully downstroked. It seems that the higher I raise my saddle, the more my knees hurt.

    I use padded shorts. The saddle is very cushy (I don't really like this...it's just the saddle that came on the bike).

    My handlebars are like these: http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?sku=9756 And I am thinking about getting them replaced. I think that the significant shortening of the cockpit caused by the closer primary hand position is a significant cause of my back pain. I am open to handlebar suggestions, and am looking at On-One Mary bars.

    I think this bike just might be a size too small for me, but I would really like to avoid buying a new bike until I can prove to myself that I won't blow off cycling again.

    I'm 6'2", 235ish lbs. But I have short legs. And the frame on this bike is 18.5"

    What are some (hopefully free or cheap) things I can do to alleviate these issues? I signed up for a 62/100 mile ride in two weeks, and I feel like I can do the 100 if I can get the fit sorted out.

    Thanks for the help bikeforums =)
    Last edited by kponds; 10-01-07 at 07:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member c_m_shooter's Avatar
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    It sounds like you need a good fitting. To get a starting saddle height, you should be able to just barely reach your pedal at the bottom of the stroke with your heel. You may prefer it slightly higher or lower than there. You may be slightly cramped and need a longer stem so that you are leaning more forward. Try your LBS to see if they do fittings. One in my area had offered to put my bike on a trainer and spend time with me trying different saddles, adjustments and stem lengths. They may charge you for there time, but it will be well worth it, and much better than trial and error. If you want to do long rides, the trekking bars will be better than the Mary bars, they have more hand positions. Don't jump right into the longer rides, it will take time to adjust to the different sport. Even if you have the lungs to run a marathon, doesn't mean the rest of your body is ready for a century on a bike.

  3. #3
    jcm
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    By all appearances, you have a decent enough bike. I agree with the idea of getting fitted. I also think you are being a little ambitious as to distances for now. Since you aren't complaining about hand/wrist issues, I think you are ok in the reach area, but might benefit from a different saddle if you like to go on longer rides (over 50 miles). Padded saddles tend to cause hot spots or a kind of charlie-horse feeling after about 35 miles for me. I went with a Brooks saddle and all discomfort went away. A Flyer model would be perfect for that bike, or even a B67, since you are 235lbs. (like me).

    When you are at the bottom of the crank stroke, with the ball of your foot on the pedal axis, you should have an almost straight leg. Some people come down 1cm from there and call it good. The above the knee pain, I don't know about... maybe an issue relative to Knee Over Pedal? When the crank is at 3o'clock (forward/horizontal) your knee cap should be above the pedal axis. Specifically, the notch below your kneecap, that is. I use a small level and jam it in the notch, then slide the saddle forward or back to get my knee in approximate position over the pedal, and look for the bubble to be centered.

    I actually think this is a bit of overkill on your type of semi-upright bike. It's more important for racers.

    ANother thing might be that you are short-legged. This brings into play the crank length. You may be lifting your short stumps a bit too high for comfort on those 50 milers. Some shorter cranks might be in order, although you will give up a little torque.

    The back and foot pain/numbness. Left side for both...hmmm. Any disc problems? Sciatica (sp)? Is one leg signifigantly shorter? Interesting because cycling is the one thing I can do with no back pain.

  4. #4
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    Try a Brooks for the tush pain.

  5. #5
    Cries on hills supton's Avatar
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    I'd try some shorter rides. It may be easier to get some shorter rides in during the week, rather than one long one on the weekends. There is a bunch of muscles that have to get built up. I'm running into the same problem too; I want to rack up the miles but if I miss a few days during the week, I tend to over-ride on the weekend, which then takes a few days to recover from.
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  6. #6
    Roadie Noobie Snacks Atomick's Avatar
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    All great advice so far. A good thing to remember is that when you start other sports, like running, the best way to stay excited about it is to try to stay pain-free...pain is a gigantic demotivator for almost anyone in any sport.

    This means, beyond proper fit on your bike, that you should find the right distance you can go without pain or serious or unusual discomfort (beyond the general discomfort of aerobic activity). Then only add 10% of that distance per week, assuming you're cycling at least 3x a week. I know you're not training for a race of any sort, but I've taken this approach for recreational and fitness trailrunning and it's worked great as a rule of thumb.
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  7. #7
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atomick View Post
    All great advice so far. A good thing to remember is that when you start other sports, like running, the best way to stay excited about it is to try to stay pain-free...pain is a gigantic demotivator for almost anyone in any sport.

    This means, beyond proper fit on your bike, that you should find the right distance you can go without pain or serious or unusual discomfort (beyond the general discomfort of aerobic activity). Then only add 10% of that distance per week, assuming you're cycling at least 3x a week. I know you're not training for a race of any sort, but I've taken this approach for recreational and fitness trailrunning and it's worked great as a rule of thumb.
    Spot-On.
    It's amazing the number of perfectly good bikes that are hanging in peoples' garages because they 'hurt.' Take it easy at first - the distance will come, comensurate with your physical comfort level.

  8. #8
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by kponds View Post
    I need help determining what is a fit issue, and what is just due to me being new to cycling and doing long rides. Basically, what pain will still be there when I get more used to riding?
    It's good that you can distinguish this. There's a saying that goes something like, "Cycling is the marriage between a machine that's slightly adjustable to a body that's slightly adaptable."

    The advice to take shorter, but more frequent rides is good. I find I begin to lose my conditioning after only two days without riding.

    As for your pains, numbers 1 and (possibly) 2 are probably due to the saddle itself. It sounds like it's too soft. Go by the rule of thumb: "If it feels cushy to your thumb, it's too cushy for your tushy". The reason is that a too soft saddle cuts of blood flow to the meaty portions of you butt. That's what causes the pain, and why there's little residual pain once blood flow resumes.

    Fitting should probably solve issues 2 through 4. And it will confirm whether or not the frame is too small. My guess is that there's an issue with saddle height and fore/aft position. 2 may be related to 4 if you have different leg lengths. Cleat shims or sole inserts can help. They helped me.

    Only a fitting can determine these.

    A bike that fits is joy ride. I went through two--one too small and the other too big--until I found one that's just right. Keep at the fitting until it becomes a pleasure simply to throw your leg over the thing.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  9. #9
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    1. Work your way up to longer distances from shorter distances. A 50-mi. ride for "starters" is guaranteed to result in discomfort.
    2. If you can't find a tolerable level of comfort on your bike, or another unright bike, look into recumbent bikes.

  10. #10
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kponds View Post
    I "started" Saturday, and had a good ride of 50 miles. I felt significant enough pain on Sunday to keep me from riding, and today I did only 20 miles and am in the same kind of pain that I was on Saturday.
    That's a lot of riding to do 'suddenly'. It's not surprising you're in some discomfort afterwards. However, some of these pains you're describing should not be happening.

    I try to spin in a low gear, high cadence, but I am not exactly good at it yet.
    Keep trying. It ends up easier on you, easier on the drivetrain and faster. What's not to like?

    1.) Pain of the butt on the saddle. Only really a problem when I am riding, not much residual pain afterwards. Really hurts when I get out of the saddle to stretch.
    Your saddle doesn't fit you. If it were the other way (i.e., no problems when you're riding, but bruised bum afterwards, I'd say that you need time to get used to the riding, but this way I suspect it's a saddle fit issue. It's a very common problem: people come in different shapes and a stock saddle supplied with the bike can't fit everyone's unique anatomy. You can try playing with tilt a bit, but if you point it down too much, you'll start sliding off it and putting weight on your arms, which will end up hurting. You might just have to get a new saddle. There are lots of options out there. Brooks is pricy but has a great reputation. Others... well, you can see if a bike shop can let you try out various saddles. If you go to a fitting service, they certainly will.

    2.) Lower back pain on the left side. During and after riding. Feels like I am sitting in a broken computer chair that we used to have. Not searing pain like #1, but very uncomfortable.
    No idea. Is there any sort of assymetry in the way the bike's set up (even if it's slight)?

    3.) Knee pain. Slightly above the knee. I am a marathon runner so I know all about ITBS, Chondromalacia, Patello-Femoral, etc. This feels more like it's acute muscle pain. Worse the day after I ride.
    1. Make sure that your saddle is adjusted correctly.
    2. Work on that easy high-cadence spinning.

    4.) Numb left foot. (Area where I am clipped in).
    You can try to fiddle with the cleats, to see if shifting them a little bit improves things.

    I use Shimano SPD clipless pedals with the float all the way loose and the cleats in the middle of the well. The saddle height is such that I can stand on my tip toes, although my knee is at about a 30 degree angle when the peddle is fully downstroked.
    Wow... And you rode 50 miles like this?? Amazing. This saddle position really, really can't be good for the knees or your legs in general.

    It seems that the higher I raise my saddle, the more my knees hurt.
    Weird. Try setting it where it should be (so the leg is almost straight at the downstroke, but not so high that you start bouncing around the saddle) and pedalling in an easy gear.

    I'm 6'2", 235ish lbs. But I have short legs. And the frame on this bike is 18.5"
    If you have short legs and are 6'2'', then you have long torso. So you're probably right in that you need a longer saddle-to-handlebar distance for comfort. Maybe try different handlebars and longer stems?
    Stomping as lightly as I can...

  11. #11
    Conquer Cancer rider Boudicca's Avatar
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    Fifty miles for a get-into-biking ride is not a good ride, it's asking for trouble. An example. I biked regularly a decade or so ago, and then sold my bike when I moved to a country which really wasn't bike friendly. The next summer I came back to visit friends, and borrowed my old bike for a weekend trip. We did almost 50 miles on day 1, and day 2 I loaded the bike into a bus, a train, and another train to get back home because my knee hurt too much. It wasn't the bike -- that used to fit like a charm -- it was simply the fact that it had been a year since I'd ridden anywhere and my body wasn't used to it. Take your time, get a proper fit, and the fun part will come.
    Zero gallons to the mile

  12. #12
    A guy who rides bikes Aaron_F's Avatar
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    I've been riding for 9 years, and a 50 mile ride can still leave me a little tight and sore the next day; obviously not nearly the pain it left you in, but I still know I rode the bike the day before. Going from nil to 50 miles like that is probably the biggest problem outside of proper bike fitment. I think signing up for a 100 mile ride with almost no time on a bike (in my opinion, you should wait until next spring to ride that far) may be a really bad idea.

  13. #13
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    Riding 50s and thinking about 100s when you aren't used to it is a good way to stop riding - you simply don't have enough miles to be able to do that well. It's not likely to be a fun experience.

    I also think you need to go someplace and be fit. If you've had knee issues in the past, that's not something you want to mess with - fit issues typically show up in the knees.
    Eric

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    It takes a while to get used to the stresses of cycling long distance. Reduce your rides to about 10 miles and ride little and often.
    I would suggest you ditch the clipless pedals and use some cheap plain platforms until you have sorted out your initial riding position. For low intensity leisure riding they offer little advantage (as opposed to their use by athletes).
    Check your riding position. The best guide to non-athletic bike fit is by Peter White.
    Once you get the pedals/saddle/bars in roughly the right configuration you can play about with more subtle features such as the angle of your bars in the stem and the position of your brake levers.

  15. #15
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    Alright guys I'll tone it down a notch. I just thought that since cycling was a no-impact activity, that as long as I'm riding easy, I wouldn't really need any kind of conditioning to do long rides, just the aerobic capacity (which I think I have from my running).

    I am also getting a fit done this weekend.

  16. #16
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by kponds View Post
    Alright guys I'll tone it down a notch. I just thought that since cycling was a no-impact activity, that as long as I'm riding easy, I wouldn't really need any kind of conditioning to do long rides, just the aerobic capacity (which I think I have from my running).

    I am also getting a fit done this weekend.
    It is low impact - but so is swimming. Now, if you hit the pool and did laps - even easy laps - for, say 45 minutes, you're shoulders and pecs would be screaming the next day... well, mine would.

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    Welp,

    I got my fit and then went out and rode. Went with the local club for 25 miles and then did a tour of the city.

    I know I promised I'd tone it down a notch but it just felt so good that before I knew it I had hit 75-80 miles. No knee pain, no lower back pain, no numb feet.

    Saddle issue is still there, although much less prevalent, and I've mitigated it by setting an alarm on my Garmin every mile and use that to get out of the saddle for a bit. I'm going to ask for a Brooks B67 for my birthday.

    Little bit of wrist pain (which I am still feeling this morning). Not a showstopper though. Doesn't feel like regular soreness, but it feels like something that could cause inflammation or carpal tunnel later down the road. I think that I am going to switch the bars out to risers + bar ends. I hate the trekking bars honestly. The primary hand position is such that I have to supinate my wrists to grip.

    I'm going to try the century ride next weekend. I understand that from a training and physiology standpoint it's not such a good idea, but if I get sagged then its no big deal.
    Last edited by kponds; 10-07-07 at 10:00 AM.

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