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  1. #1
    rhm
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    pain in the neck?

    I'm just back from a three day tour, but it's really more of a long distance ride than a tour since aside from food and water and tools I carried only a change of clothes; no camping gear etc.

    Anyway, first day I couldn't leave until the afternoon so I only did about 75 miles (mostly nice but I got thoroughly drenched in a downpour that lasted from mile 25 to 50 or so); the second about 92 (very nice); and on the third day I rode about 121 miles across Lancaster County, Chester County, and back to NJ. This was a spectacular ride, almost all of it under heavy rain, some of it torrential.

    Now, on account of the weather, I can't say it was a particularly delightful ride; but I saw stuff I've never seen before. The many flooding fields, streams and rivers were amazing, and the rain soaked Pennsylvania farmland was truly beautiful in its way. Not to mention the excitement of repairing my chain with my bike leaned up against a cornfield with lightning striking less than a mile away. I think I did okay. By the time I crossed the Delaware a few miles from home, I could have swum it without getting any wetter. I was tired all over, and I was starting to get some soreness in my legs, feet, seat, chest, and so on, all pretty even, so I figure that's par for the course. I wasn't bonking or dehydrated or anything like that.

    Except for my neck. My neck was starting to get sore the first day, and it just kept getting worse. By the third day I was riding no-hands every opportunity I had, so I could straighten my back out and hold my head up as high as possible. Long descents, in which I had to hold on for safety, were painful. Long ascents, in which I had to hold on for leverage, were worse. I took ibuprofen every six hours, not that it helped much.

    So, question is: is this normal, and if not, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to prevent this next time? Are there exercises to prepare your neck for ten hours in the saddle? Do you have a technique to keep your neck from getting sore while riding?
    Last edited by rhm; 08-06-09 at 09:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    I have found that my neck gets sore when I have a tight grip on the handlebars. I will grip tighter in wet road conditions because they make me a bit nervous. I also grip tighter when descending because I am in the drops and like to keep two fingers on the brakes.
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  3. #3
    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
    I have found that my neck gets sore when I have a tight grip on the handlebars. I will grip tighter in wet road conditions because they make me a bit nervous. I also grip tighter when descending because I am in the drops and like to keep two fingers on the brakes.
    Interesting. I know I grip the wheel too tight when I drive a car, and I grip the handlebar of my recumbent too tight because it feels like I'm driving a car, but I really don't have that problem on a conventional bike.

  4. #4
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Core strength. It sounds silly, but it's the main thing which helped me get past the 8 - 10 hour hump. If you don't have the core strength to support yourself, they you end up resting a lot of weight on your hands/arms. Even if you're not feeling it at the wrists, many people end up slouching their weight against their shoulders; this puts further strain on the neck to try and keep your head in position. You end up with a stiff soreness at the back of the neck.
    You work on core strength and you slouch into your shoulders less (assuming proper bike fit in the first place), and you alleviate that neck pain.

    At least that was the solution in my case.
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    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    Core strength. It sounds silly, but it's the main thing which helped me get past the 8 - 10 hour hump. If you don't have the core strength to support yourself, they you end up resting a lot of weight on your hands/arms. Even if you're not feeling it at the wrists, many people end up slouching their weight against their shoulders; this puts further strain on the neck to try and keep your head in position. You end up with a stiff soreness at the back of the neck.
    You work on core strength and you slouch into your shoulders less (assuming proper bike fit in the first place), and you alleviate that neck pain.

    At least that was the solution in my case.
    Well, that could definitely be my problem. What did you do to build up your core strength? Which muscles are you talking about: abdomen, I guess?

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    You might also want to raise the handlebars, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as that will relieve the strain on your neck.

    Doing some neck and shoulder stretches during the rides can also help.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    So, question is: is this normal, and if not, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to prevent this next time?
    No. You could expect some soreness if you were doing all your riding on the drops. And this assumes you use a racing geometry bike and fit.



    Are there exercises to prepare your neck for ten hours in the saddle?
    Not really, but you can always try. Remember, some of your soreness may be from muscle tension due to the poor riding conditions - you have to relax.



    Do you have a technique to keep your neck from getting sore while riding?
    Make sure you use your entire vision field. Once in a while use your eyes to look upward and outward. I some cases, you will find that your helmet is adding to your neck strain by forcing even more strain for up the road views.

  8. #8
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    Well, that could definitely be my problem. What did you do to build up your core strength? Which muscles are you talking about: abdomen, I guess?
    Crunches, planks, side planks, dive bomber push ups (works abdomen, lower back, shoulders and arms), and you can't ignore those back exercises or you'll end up very unbalanced to the front which isn't any good either. Back extensions (essentially a backwards sit up, over the edge of a bench) and to a lesser extent, upper back work which strengthens the shoulders and muscles up through the neck can help, too. Just remember that the goal is to strengthen, not build freaky mass.
    Take into account all the other suggestions too: Play with your handlebar/stem adjustments, concentrate on relaxing the muscles, etc.

    Even though I went for a very extensive fitting session for my bike, as I changed my weight and the distance I was riding I needed to continue to fine-tune my riding position. Don't assume that just because the bike was comfortable once that it will always be comfortable. Things change.
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    It may sound crazy, but I've added weight to my helmet for long training rides. That builds up the neck muscles over time, so that when you're out on a 'real' ride, your neck muscles will have less-than-normal stress and will respond accordingly.

  10. #10
    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanielGereux View Post
    It may sound crazy, but I've added weight to my helmet for long training rides. That builds up the neck muscles over time, so that when you're out on a 'real' ride, your neck muscles will have less-than-normal stress and will respond accordingly.
    Isn't that dangerous?

  11. #11
    Senior Member lonesomesteve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    Are there exercises to prepare your neck for ten hours in the saddle?
    Yes, I recommend bicycling.

    Seriously, many of the issues I was having with my hands, neck, back and shoulders early in my riding career just eventually went away with time in the saddle. Of course, that's assuming you don't have major bike fit issues.

  12. #12
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    Isn't that dangerous?
    Not if it's just a wee little bit of weight. I notice a difference if I take the headlamp off my helmet and it only weighs 3.4 ounces.
    I'm sure he's not talking about strapping a 1 pound Olympic plate to it.
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    Yes! Just a few grams - or ounces, depending on where you are - are enough to help strengthen your neck. Maybe training with a headlamp would do it!

  14. #14
    rhm
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    Okay, I will try the weighted helmet trick. I don't "train" though. I commute: 16 miles daily but that's four separate rides, 5.5 and 2.5 separated by an hour on the train, and the reverse in the evening.

    The problem with 16 miles daily is that it keeps you in shape for riding ... well, about 16 miles daily! I guess if I want to ride centuries without pain, I'll have to ride a century every weekend... such a hardship.*




    *for my wife

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