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Drop Bars causing you back pain?

Old 06-13-23, 11:15 AM
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Drop Bars causing you back pain?

I was okay with Drop Bars until a few months ago.I'm in my 60's now. Now I think they are causing a lot of back pain. It's not bad when I'm riding, but later in the evening and the next morning my back really hurts badly. I'll stretch , do some situps and walk some and then it feels better.
It's hard to give them up. Nothing like a brisk ride on a road bike to make my day and make me feel young. And it has a lot if health benefits. Thought of switching to a normal bike is sobering.
Will lowering my seat help?

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Old 06-13-23, 11:28 AM
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What is a "normal" bike?

If your body is becoming less tolerant of being in an aggressive riding position, I would start with making an adjustment to the handlebar position with spacers or a different stem.
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Old 06-13-23, 11:37 AM
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Drop bars allow me to use my stomach and back muscles more effectively. It is my choice as I could instead not go down to the drops or could standup out of the saddle.

Best exercises for the lower back are planks which require no special equipment and can be done anywhere. I am in my 70's and my back pain is from lifting 60 lb bags of cement or 50 lb bags of bird seed or other such irregular lifting.
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Old 06-13-23, 11:45 AM
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Many, perhaps most, people begin losing height in the torso/spine around their 50's or 60's. I replaced my 115-mm stem with a 110 in my mid-60's, and then, at age 71, with a 90.

But drop bars aren't inherently harder on the spine and back. In fact, when I experience back discomfort resulting from simple compression, I make a point of using my bikes with clamp-on aero bars, enabling me to ride more or less flat-backed. I can't think of any other form of exercise that allows you to stretch your back, gently, for hours at a time the way that a bike with drop bars or aero bars or both does.
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Old 06-13-23, 11:58 AM
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I'm much more comfortable with drop bars. An upright position causes me back pain. I'm in the drops the majority of the time as I just naturally revert to that. But I may be outside the norm in that regard.
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Old 06-13-23, 12:34 PM
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I too have actually gotten more comfortable in the drops as I get older. Two things though...
  1. You have to want to and work at it. Likely involves some exercises and possibly time in a gym.
  2. As we get older we many times become more sedentary at what we do. So we start to lose muscle tone and before we know it we are griping about all sorts of aches and pains that we didn't have before and looking for a simple solution that usually just provides somewhat partial immediate but temporary relief.
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Old 06-13-23, 12:54 PM
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What happened in the last couple of months?
Was it just turning 60?
I think you should ride what feels good, drop or other bars.

Since turning 70, I lowered my saddle maybe a centimeter. When I have made modifications to the road bikes, it may include a short/shallow drop bar, or a narrower drop bar width. Shorter stems not in my future plans.......yet.

edit: When a bike ride feels differently, I usually ask the questions - What's been different in my usual routine? What's possibly different with my body? My routine and body condition change far more often than the bicycle.
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Old 06-13-23, 02:06 PM
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I still like my drops on the road bikes, although I have raised the stem at least a cm over the years. I also need a short-reach stem on a frame with a long top tube, such as the 1980 Peugeot PKN-10 I gave my elder son.

I also really like the extensions I put on my mountain bike handlebars, giving me a drops-like riding position, albeit not quite as bent over.
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Old 06-13-23, 03:34 PM
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This may or may not apply to the OP's question, but a real "game changer" for my fitness was that a person is supposed to bend at the hips, not by curving one's lower back. Many people, including myself, have spent a lifetime bending the lower back because of a lack of flexibility in the hip area (or just not thinking about how to bend properly.)

Also, the most aero position is actually to ride with your hands on the hoods and forearms parallel to the ground. Ever since I learned that I almost have no need for the actual drops on my handlebars as I rarely put my hands there.

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Old 06-13-23, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield
This may or may not apply to the OP's question, but a real "game changer" for my fitness was that a person is supposed to bend at the hips, not by curving one's lower back. Many people, including myself, have spent a lifetime bending the lower back because of a lack of flexibility in the hip area (or just not thinking about how to bend properly.)

Also, the most aero position is actually to ride with your hands on the hoods and forearms parallel to the ground. Ever since I learned that I almost have no need for the actual drops on my handlebars as I rarely put my hands there.

Good idea!
I'll get my wife to shoot a picture this weekend.
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Old 06-14-23, 05:55 PM
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Is it just your positioning? Might want to read up on the topic of back pain on a bike and things to alleviate it, like a suspension seat post. I've read dozens of reviews of men with back problems claiming a suspension seat post enables them to ride without back pain. I suffer from back pain, which is in part why I quit riding my bike a number of years ago, as riding seemed to aggravate it. I've gotten back into cycling this year and added a suspension seat post (EEsilk) as a preemptive measure. I did my first ride on my Cannondale Topstone Neo without the suspension seat post, and my second ride with the suspension seat post, and I could tell a difference in comfort with the suspension seat post added. Subtle, but definitely a difference, especially for the rough sections of road.
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Old 06-14-23, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield
This may or may not apply to the OP's question, but a real "game changer" for my fitness was that a person is supposed to bend at the hips, not by curving one's lower back. Many people, including myself, have spent a lifetime bending the lower back because of a lack of flexibility in the hip area (or just not thinking about how to bend properly.)

Also, the most aero position is actually to ride with your hands on the hoods and forearms parallel to the ground. Ever since I learned that I almost have no need for the actual drops on my handlebars as I rarely put my hands there.

This, but that rider needs about 10cm less reach.
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Old 06-14-23, 08:49 PM
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IME and opinion the better choice is to strengthen your back rather than change your fit. Back hurting on the bike is a symptom of a problem. The OP is pretty young to start giving up. I stretch, plank, and do pushups every morning plus go to the gym for an hour twice a week. And ride my bike. My morning little workout plus the gym is the minimum I can do and still be able to ride at 78. I joined my first gym in '79 and have been going ever since. Once I could do all the exercises in good form, I started increasing the weights to where I'll just barely be able to complete the 3rd set of 10 or 12 reps. Light weights don't do the same thing. Almost every exercise in the gym works my back in some way. One's back is always supporting something.
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Old 06-15-23, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
IME and opinion the better choice is to strengthen your back rather than change your fit. Back hurting on the bike is a symptom of a problem. The OP is pretty young to start giving up. I stretch, plank, and do pushups every morning plus go to the gym for an hour twice a week. And ride my bike. My morning little workout plus the gym is the minimum I can do and still be able to ride at 78. I joined my first gym in '79 and have been going ever since. Once I could do all the exercises in good form, I started increasing the weights to where I'll just barely be able to complete the 3rd set of 10 or 12 reps. Light weights don't do the same thing. Almost every exercise in the gym works my back in some way. One's back is always supporting something.
This too. Strong hip extension is what allows the rider above to cantilever her back out over the bike without overworking the back muscles or overweighting the hands. Riding a bike does zilch for the glutes.

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Old 06-15-23, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by AJW2W11E
Will lowering my seat help?
The problem with lowering your seat is that then your pedal reach will be off. Instead, maybe look at raising your handlebars. Or, maybe moving the handlebars aft a bit could also achieve the desired result.

You didnt say exactly where on your back youre experiencing the pain. But, Ive learned from my chiropractorwho I see on a monthly basisthat pain in one part of the back/spine can be caused by a misalignment in another part of the spine. Eight or so years ago when I first started going to him, the first thing he did was sit down with me and do a complete analysis of every joint in my spine, and specifically the angle of each bone. At this point, he didnt know that I am a road cyclist. But he pointed to one of the upper cervical joints and said That joint angle is off by like thirty degrees. Thats a lot! Its like you spend hours per day staring up at the ceiling. So I said Would riding a road bike, in this position (I hunched over to the position) starting down the road cause it? He said thats exactly it. And, that misalignment is probably causing the discomfort between your shoulders, and mid-back. But he didnt say stop riding. He just said that I need to take steps to keep that joint moving and not to let it become immobile. Dan
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Old 06-15-23, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by yeamac
Is it just your positioning? Might want to read up on the topic of back pain on a bike and things to alleviate it, like a suspension seat post. I've read dozens of reviews of men with back problems claiming a suspension seat post enables them to ride without back pain. I suffer from back pain, which is in part why I quit riding my bike a number of years ago, as riding seemed to aggravate it. I've gotten back into cycling this year and added a suspension seat post (EEsilk) as a preemptive measure. I did my first ride on my Cannondale Topstone Neo without the suspension seat post, and my second ride with the suspension seat post, and I could tell a difference in comfort with the suspension seat post added. Subtle, but definitely a difference, especially for the rough sections of road.
Thanks.
Know this is out there, but maybe it's not the drop bars. It could be my seat position . Maybe I will slide it forward.
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Old 06-17-23, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield

Nice back profile and angle, but she's still overreaching. She should try a shorter, lower stem, and maybe slide the saddle forward a few mm.
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Old 06-18-23, 11:16 AM
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At 63 I've accepted I'm way more comfortable with drops than in a more upright flat-bar position. I tend to get into sort of a "slouch" with more upright geo on a bike (at least on my various bikes). Then my neck gets stiff, I feel compressed, my lungs aren't open. The drops allow me to stay stretched out as others mention. And I ride primarily offroad--it's nice to not have every little bump going straight up through your spine. I "float" more over the bike with drops.
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Old 06-18-23, 02:21 PM
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I went to ape hanger bars. Looks okay on my fat tire bike.

10,000 miles purchased in April 2016. I'm 70 years old
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Old 06-29-23, 09:56 PM
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I finally figured it out. It wasn't the drop bars. What I do have is overly tight quad muscles in my legs from riding so hard. This causes the back pain because it pulls your pelvis and spine out of position. It all makes sense now, my legs feel like wood in the morning. My back hurt so much I ran the last few days. I was slow as a turtle because of the knots in my legs. Now if I can find the right exercises to fix this.
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Old 07-01-23, 08:37 AM
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I swapped out the drop bars on my bike for flat bars with bar ends. I am so much more comfortable now. The drop bars were old style which weren't very comfortable at all, and I constantly felt like I was going to fall forward. Plus it caused a bit of pain in my hands. Switching back to flat bars made riding a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
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Old 07-01-23, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by AJW2W11E
Good idea!
I'll get my wife to shoot a picture this weekend.
If you ride past storefront windows, look. There's a danger you will "pose" for a camera but those windows don't lie. (I raced many years ago and always looked to see how horizontal my back was. I am aerodynamically not a whole lot better than a leaf. That flat back was critical!) For you, it isn't how horizontal your back is but how straight it is. Now, I find bikes with longer reaches tend to stretch out my back and actually bring me relief. I think of it as being like a cat stretch. (Those stretches where they become impossibly long.)
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Old 07-01-23, 01:25 PM
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I can get brief lower back pain right after "mashing" up a steep climb in very low cadence and high pedal force.

My usual climbing is a faster spin on moderate grades (and 34 front - 32 rear low gearing). Then stand up and slow as much as practical to keep the force on the pedals reasonable.

And riding a lot: 35-50 mile rides at least a couple times a week. 3500 to 5000 miles per year.
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Old 07-01-23, 09:53 PM
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Congrats on figuring it out. I followed the same road when I relaunched back into cycling with a vengeance about 5 years ago. I had such stabbing pain, I ended up seeing a physical therapist. He prescribed core and shoulder exercises as well as stretches targeting quads and hamstrings. Between core and stretching, I am now pain free and still using my drops, but don’t ride down on the lower drops often.
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Old 07-01-23, 10:23 PM
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I have my randonneuring bike set up with bars level with saddle, with shallow drops. With that setup, I'm comfortable with my hands anywhere from the flats to the drops. I've recently added aero bars with risers, that put my body about the same angle as being in the drops. This gives me many options for long days in the saddle. If I'm solo, particularly on a long straight flat or downhill, I'll go on the aero bars. If it's fast but twisty, or has questionable pavement or other obstacles, drops. Hoods or ramps if I'm around other people or, or if I need maximum vision like in a town. Flats are good in about any situation, for hand variation. I have big hands, so braking from the hoods feels best. All this hand changing also changes saddle pressure points, which is a good thing.

I will get low back pain from a long grinding climb. A few out-of-saddle efforts helps, but sometimes I just need to stop and flex my back. I can do that on the bike, but big picture on a 300k or 400k, 30 seconds off the bike to alleviate discomfort is time well spent.
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