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Old 01-29-05, 06:59 PM   #1
Conundrum
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Riding & Back Problems?????

Ok - I'm a real newbie to biking and am in the process of buying my first quality bike (ie non-wally world). My intention is to ride primarily on road and gravel, but I want to ride offroad occasionally. I generally like a MTB more than a comfort bike, but I have a lower back problem and the riding position of a MTB concerns me. I'm 32 - a little more over weight than I'd like to be, but not out of shape and have relativley minor disc problems in my lower back. So my question is will the riding position of a MTB send me back to physical therapy in a knot, or with a properly fitted bike will it be ok? I can't seem to get a consistent answers from the couple of LBS so if anyone on the board has any experiance or knoweldge on this it will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
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Old 01-29-05, 07:06 PM   #2
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I'll give you a definitive answer: I dunno. Every back and every back injury is a little different. Riding a mountain bike might send you into instant spasms of agony, or it might be good therapy. What's your doctor say?
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Old 01-29-05, 07:10 PM   #3
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There must be a good LBS that has experience with this, so keep checking. Ask them about doing a pro fit. The pro fit might well cost some dough ($50+) but it is well worth it.

The upright position of comfort bikes is actually worse for your back than bending over the bike, as long as you have proper position and fit. Think about it: going over bumps in the upright position sends the bumps right up your spine. In a bent-over-the-bike position, the shocks are absorbed by your legs and arms (remember to ride with your elbows bent and supple).

Other than that, many back problems, especially lower back, are worsened by poor posture and weak abdominal muscles. Strengthen your abs (correctly--form is very important) and that will help. If you can take a yoga class, that would be very helpful, too. A supple and strong spine is a delightful thing to have.
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Old 01-29-05, 08:35 PM   #4
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Yes, I agree with Velogirl, you really need to strengthen your abs. This will help with the pressure on your lower back. Also, if you lose some of the weight this too will lessen the stress on your back. I also would talk to your doctor just to make sure you don't start something that he/she might not agree with. But your still young too and this is great!!!
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Old 01-29-05, 08:38 PM   #5
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I have had back problems since a large piece of equipment fell on me twenty years ago. My answer: Lots and lots of situps. Crunches, really, you don't need to come all the way up, just until the stomach muscles fully contract. This really helps support your back.
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Old 01-29-05, 09:08 PM   #6
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I have lower back problems, and I ride a mtb and road bike. The mtb riding position is comfortable for only about 20 minutes at a time. I can ride the road bike (changing positions every few minutes) for at least two hours. My road bike is a Trek 1000C which has a bit more upright position than most road bikes, but it works for me.
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Old 01-31-05, 09:13 AM   #7
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Thanks for the info. Anyone have any suggestions for a newbie on how to tell what "feels right" I went to two LBS this weekend and one was putting me on a 17 frame and the other a 19.5. The 17 was a Giant and the 19.5 a Trek, but I still wouldn't think they can both be right?? I probably rode 8 different bikes this weekend around the parking lots, and they all feel different, but I'm not sure if I can determine what feels better with such a short ride. I'm sure I'm stressing about this too much, but with the back probs I want to get it right. - thanks.
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Old 01-31-05, 09:26 AM   #8
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If you're looking at a Hardtail, you might also want to consider getting a suspension seatpost (perhaps a Thudbuster?) because it might help reduce fatigue/stress on your back caused by the minor shocks of riding that travel up your spine. I'm not sure, but every bit helps.
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Old 01-31-05, 09:32 AM   #9
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What is the difference between an MTB position and any other kind of bike? I see cross country racing MTBers with very aggressive positions, with 6" drop between the saddle and bars, and Sunday afternoon leisure riders with their bars set a few inches higher than the bars. The same variation can be seen in my touring club with riders setting up their high quality touring bikes just as they see fit.
Check out the fitting guide at Peter White Cycles, which has less racing bias than most other such guides.
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Old 01-31-05, 07:01 PM   #10
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I have a MTB, and it kills my back. I never got a fit for it, and I regret that. Definitely ask about getting a good fit.

Now I'm looking at recumbents.
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Old 02-03-05, 10:11 PM   #11
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There is a thread on the over 50 group about back pain. Here is a link to it.
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Old 02-03-05, 11:43 PM   #12
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My experience, worth what you are paying for it...

My rain beater is an aging hybrid with straight bars, while the
bike I would rather be riding is a conventional drop bar road bike
affair. Since the weather has been wretched in Columbus, Ohio for
3-4 weeks now, I've been riding the hybrid almost exclusively for
my daily commute. I got the road bike out twice this week, and
noticed after 20 or so miles that I was feeling some stress in the
lower back muscles. They weren't accustomed to participating in
the pedal strokes so much after weeks of a more upright posture.
The feeling went away for the 2nd ride on it, leading me to believe
that the road bike posture is ultimately better for me, as it invites
more of my musculature to the pedaling party.
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Old 02-04-05, 12:46 AM   #13
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I use a Brooks Conquest sprung saddle on my MTB. Way comfy and kind to the lower back..........

Bike fit is even more important than ever if you have back issues....
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Old 02-04-05, 09:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rev.Chuck
I have had back problems since a large piece of equipment fell on me twenty years ago. My answer: Lots and lots of situps. Crunches, really, you don't need to come all the way up, just until the stomach muscles fully contract. This really helps support your back.

I second that. A lot of people with back problems are due to the lack of muscles in their mid-section. Remember, a strong mid-section is required to hold your top and bottom parts together. That section of your body has basically just your spinal column supporting you (if you don't have abdominal muscles), so if you're weak there, it's very easy to hurt/twist your back... Or in bicycle analogy, your rims don't hold up the weight of you and your bike alone, it's the rim and the tension of the spokes...
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Old 02-05-05, 08:04 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeezerGeek
There is a thread on the over 50 group about back pain. Here is a link to it.
Hi gang,

I started that thread awhile ago. My back is feeling significantly better. Six weeks ago, I could barely stand up. Yesterday I rode my bike fairly hard for half an hour with no pain at all. I'm not ready for a centruy or even a half century, but things are going in the right direction.

I attribute it to following the advice of a chiropractor. I never put much stock in them before, and I'm not sure the "adjustments" did all that much. But he gave me a set of very specific (but easy-to-do) stretching exercises to do several times a day. Quite simply, the ALL involved bending backward--not forward. If you don't like the idea of a chiropractor, a physical therapist would probably prescribe something very similar. He also gave me advice on improving my sitting posture, which was terrible.

Additional thoughts:

A good book is The Back Pain Book by Mike Hage (MS PT) from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Well illustrated. Lots of good tips.

Strengthening your core is important--but if crunches hurt your back, try leg lifts. I position an exercise ball between my ankles. Lying on my back and lifting the ball a bunch of times times definitely gives the abs a workout.

In addition, raising your handlebars can make a big difference. The following is from an article from Bob Gordon, an orthopedic physical therapist and exercise physiologiest, called "Raise Dat Stem" http://www.rivendellbicycles.com/html/rr_raisestem.html

"There is a position that allows good performance while minimizing risk of lower back injury. I like a stem height and length that puts your back about 50 degrees from horizontal, while your arms and legs bend slightly at the elbows. To achieve this, you'll probably have to raise your bars, and assuming you want to keep the same bar style (as opposed to riding with stingray bars or something), that usually means getting another stem, one with a taller quill or a steep rise to it. If you hit the sweet spot, a photo of you from the side will reveal a nice pyramid composed of top tube, torso and arms."
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Old 02-15-05, 02:55 PM   #16
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Just thought I'd let everyone nice enough to reply know where I ended up. I purchased a Giant MTB about two weeks ago. Since then I've put 45 miles on it, including one great day on some single track and several smaller trips through the woods. The best part is no back problems. I'm doing crunches and the back bending stretches (also recommended to me by a physical therapist) to keep things loose, but so far so good.

Thanks for the input.
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