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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 06-21-11, 03:11 PM   #1
BigCurly
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Is shoulder pain normal?

Hi everyone,

I am trying to work my way up to some respectable distances as I want to get into brevets and some touring but I get nagging shoulder pain in both shoulders. I am wondering if this is normal and something I just need to train my body to cope with and get stronger or is a proper bike fitting session in order.

(I've also posted in the touring forum)

I appreciate your help and feedback.
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Old 06-21-11, 03:25 PM   #2
drmweaver2
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No - shoulder pain is not normal for a fit rider with a properly fitted bike.

That having been said, are your riding "relaxed" or tense? Seriously. One of the women that I occasionally ride with is stiff as a board and has joint issues above the waist if she doesn't stretch before, during and after her rides. She also needs to adjust her hand positions every 1-3 minutes she says - but having done so, she can gut out 30 miles with no pain. As that's her distance goal, she's unwilling to look into the problem further.

If you are riding with your elbows "locked", your shoulders may follow. That's where fit and stretch come in. Check your riding position - have someone else look at it.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:14 PM   #3
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Professional fitting will go a long way toward easing pain; you may need a different position or wider bars. Regular massage therapy will also help.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:32 PM   #4
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So you're riding your bike. You're bent forward from the waist. Your arms are supporting a good bit of that cantilevered weight. Your core also supports some of it. So some of your muscles are contracted, supporting that weight. The big players are your lower back muscles, lats, and triceps. There are a lot of smaller supporting muscles involved also. These guys just stay contracted like that the whole time you ride. You can shift your position from time to time, which changes which muscles are active and their state of contraction, but basically your shoulders and back are always involved. This isn't most people's state of nature.

So it's entirely reasonable that one's shoulders, hands, arms, back, and neck get sore when the distances go up that first time. What people call "bike fit" is an empirical recipe for getting into a position that has proven over the last century or so to result in the least average painful muscle contractions. It's not a panacea. Getting a good bike fit is a good idea, but it is what it is. Beyond that, a good core and upper body workout is a really good idea, about twice a week. I like hyperextensions, planks, Roman chair, lat rows, lat pull-downs, triceps cables, pushups, dumbbell presses, shrugs. Look at www.exrx.net for other ideas. And beyond that, ride your bike more miles/week, not necessarily more at any one time. Your shoulders will stop being sore. I can get on anything where I can at least reach the bars and pedals and ride it a century, any day of the week. It comes with time. Now the saddle . . . I have to put on my own saddle. That's personal.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:18 PM   #5
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Actually, I don't think shoulder pain is common with a poorly fitted bike, either. But if something's hurting, you need to change something. You're sposed to be riding around having fun with a big smile on your face, not doing some torture.
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Old 06-22-11, 07:33 AM   #6
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Definitely not normal. I'd start by taking a look at your bar width. How long in to these rides is the shoulder pain starting? Previous shoulder injuries?
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Old 06-22-11, 08:00 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
Actually, I don't think shoulder pain is common with a poorly fitted bike, either. But if something's hurting, you need to change something. You're sposed to be riding around having fun with a big smile on your face, not doing some torture.
+1

Or, + how many RUSA kms Stephen currently has.
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The ONLY time I ever had shoulder pain was immediately after a crash. Even then, the only time the shoulder bothered was when stopping or starting, during those few moments when one might be "balancing" the bike with the strength in one's arms -- by the time I got back to the start/finish (40 miles later), my body had taught me / my brain how to better balance the machine instantly upon restarting and how to better balance until just a split-moment before putting a foot down.

Eight days later, buddy dragged me through 100+k, and the only pains in the arms / shoulders were clearly "trauma-induced".
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Pain in the shoulder(s) ---> something is wrong.

Talk to people you ride with that have been riding for awhile, ask them to bluntly tell you what they think of how you sit on the bike, how you pedal, does the bike appear to fit you, etc.. Even people that have only been riding "seriously" for a year or less often notice bad posture or form in others (even if they don't notice it in themselves).
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Old 06-22-11, 11:36 AM   #8
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When I first started riding long distances I experienced a lot of shoulder pain. Initially it started at about 50 miles, but as I rode more and my long rides got longer it would start later and later in the ride. When I rode my first double century late in that first season of serious riding, the first hundred miles were comfortable, but I almost gave up at about 175 miles because my shoulders were hurting so much. That was three years ago and I haven't really experienced any serious shoulder pain since. So for me I think it was mostly a matter of strengthening my core, back, shoulders, etc. and improving my posture on the bike. My bike fit hasn't really changed at all. I've since ridden three SR series, a 1200k and countless other longish rides without shoulder pain ever being a serious issue.

So, your problem could be bike fit related but I think there's also a good chance that you just need to spend more time riding to strengthen all those muscles that hold you up on a bike. Also, as others have suggested, work on your riding posture. Keep elbows bent, back flat, shoulders down and relaxed. If the pain begins later and later in the long rides, then you're probably on the right track. But if it starts earlier and gets worse then you may have some serious bike fit or other biomechanical issues you need to deal with.
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Old 06-22-11, 02:33 PM   #9
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I am trying to work my way up to some respectable distances as I want to get into brevets and some touring but I get nagging shoulder pain in both shoulders.
Yeah the key comment here is "work my way up."

Usually any upper body pain associated with cycling is the result of "holding" a position for long periods of time. And usually the neck and butt produce more complaints then the shoulders.

Typical advice, back off and try distances that don't produce pain. When retrying longer distances make special effort to "move around" and change grip style often.
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Old 06-23-11, 10:30 PM   #10
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the pain you're experiencing might be due to how you position yourself on the bike (independent of bike fit issues).your arms/hands should guide/stop the bike, not supporting your torso weight.. Ride so your center is in your core. It increases your power transfer btw. Doing so is easier said than done. I got in the habit of holding the bar in the center near the stem w/ both hands (which is more aero than holding the brakes or drops anyway). it keeps me from locking my elbows and leaning forward . I also have a longer, more upright stem. . The issue of shoulder/neck/hand pain has disappeared. since my posture is more central and upright, I've also noted a real reduction in upper body fatigue on long rides.

the pain might also be due to a heavy helmet. the difference may be trivial if you hold a basic and a high end helmet in your hands, but those few ounces make a real difference if you're on a 40 hr ride. I spend mucho bucks on my lightweight helmet and it's worth every penny!

I wouldn't ignore or tough out the pain btw- if technique and fit don't help get evaluated by your doctor.

Last edited by Sekhem; 06-23-11 at 10:36 PM.
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