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Way to get neck/shoulder relief on longer rides?

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Way to get neck/shoulder relief on longer rides?

Old 05-30-12, 10:13 AM
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Way to get neck/shoulder relief on longer rides?

I think this is my first post here - I've been pretty active on a couple of the other forums, mostly C&A, but after thinking about it, this seemed like a more appropriate place to put this.

I'm 59, used to ride a lot up until 15 years ago, and just started riding again last summer. I had gotten really obese over the years, but I've lost almost all of the excess weight now, and am attempting longer rides again. I have stenosis and arthritis in my neck, badly healed torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders, and chronic tendonitis in my right arm. I mostly don't have pain, except when I ride for more than an hour and a half at a time. The distance is irrelevant - it's the time in the saddle, and the pain is caused by having to keep my neck extended to see the road.

I recently invested in a professional fitting for my road bike, and that seems to have helped a lot - at least for the 90 minutes or less rides, which is ok - it's consistent with the way I use that bike.

The bike that's giving a problem is an otherwise really comfortable hybrid that I'd like to do longer rides and some touring with. I've realized that what I want is almost impossible. For most of the time, I like a not-too-aggressive (but not upright) position that puts the bars at or a little above seat level, with maybe also a way to get a little more aero sometimes - I don't care about going fast on this bike, but would like a way to deal with headwinds. And, for longer rides, having some alternate hand positions is good, though I don't have issues with pain in my hands or wrists. All this is pretty normal, so far - properly adjusted drops or trekking bars or even mountain bars with bar ends would do the trick.

But the thing I also need, but haven't found yet, is a good way to also have a "relief" position that's really upright - something maybe 4 or 5 inches higher than the normal position of the bar and closer to me, so that I can periodically get all of the extension out of my neck and shoulders. I know I could go with risers or North Road bars, but I don't want this upright position all the time - I don't want that much of my weight shifting back to the saddle all the time. In fact, I don't want it at all for shorter duration rides - but I need a way to let my neck and shoulders rest on longer rides.

I've got trekking bars on my grocery getter bike, and they work pretty well - but I don't ride that for more than 30 minutes or so. I've looked at all sorts of kludges involving bar ends, risers, other touring bars ... and am still playing with different ideas.

Does anyone here suffer with similar problems, and more importantly, has anyone here found a good way to deal with these sorts of arthritic/orthopedic issues, without having to just accept the limitation of 90 minute rides?

Thanks!

Has
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Old 05-30-12, 10:58 AM
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I've got a potential answer but you might not be ready to hear it. It's an "R" word.
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Old 05-30-12, 10:59 AM
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The answer to neck and shoulder pain for me was a recumbent bike and trike. Now I can ride all day long without pain.

I am not trying to start a DF/bent argument. I am just stating a fact,
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Old 05-30-12, 11:10 AM
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Old 05-30-12, 11:22 AM
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bolt on drops mounted upside down
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Old 05-30-12, 11:31 AM
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Long bar ends helped my situation by providing a higher hand position.

My Trek 7700 also has an adjustable stem; the angle can be changed easily with a few turns of an allen wrench. I could ride for a period of time in a slightly forward position, then adjust the stem for a more upright posture. I hadn't thought about this as a 'feature' that might provide mid-ride adjustability before, but your query prompted the thought. It might be worth investigating.
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Old 05-30-12, 11:57 AM
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I had considered a recumbent, but I'm not ready for it yet. I'm not ruling it out forever, though.

I love the suggestion of the drop bar ends mounted upside down. I was just looking at the ad for the Origin8 drop bar ends. I've been experimenting with other long bar ends that I had laying around, and the issue was that, if they're straight, they give a terrible point of contact with the hand (if you try to point them towards you, or even straight up). If they're bent and mounted so that they provide a grip surface that's high and closer to you than the bar, they can interfere with getting to the brakes. But they've been the winning solution so far - that's what I'm currently in the process of mounting on the bike.

The upside-down mounted drop ends would absolutely solve that problem. The only negative is that, according to the feedback they get on Amazon, they're pretty shallow, so they might not do the trick. But they're worth a shot. Wow! Bolt-on bum bars!

I also love the idea of using the adjustable stem to change the angle mid-ride or even between rides, depending on what I'm expecting to do that ride - I'd never thought of that!

Thanks!
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Old 05-30-12, 12:34 PM
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Things that help me:

1. Do stretching every day, stretching the pectorals, shoulders, and do neck "retraction."

2. Periodically stretch while on the bike, before you have any pain. That is, sit up and ride no hands, try to touch your shoulder blades together (pectoral stretch), and tuck your chin in and "slide" your head back.

3. Within the bounds of safety, look down while riding, and periodically look up to see where you are going.

4. Vary the way you hold your shoulders and neck while riding.

This shows how high my handlebars are:

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Old 05-30-12, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Things that help me:

1. Do stretching every day, stretching the pectorals, shoulders, and do neck "retraction."

2. Periodically stretch while on the bike, before you have any pain. That is, sit up and ride no hands, try to touch your shoulder blades together (pectoral stretch), and tuck your chin in and "slide" your head back.

3. Within the bounds of safety, look down while riding, and periodically look up to see where you are going.

4. Vary the way you hold your shoulders and neck while riding.

This shows how high my handlebars are:

Thanks, Al. I do all of those things already, and they do help. That's what gets me through the first 90 minutes or so. That is, I do all of them other than ride with no hands. I used to be able to do that for miles when I was younger, but for some reason, none of the bikes I have now seem to want to stay balanced that way (maybe it's me...). Actually, the one that I come the closest to being able to ride no-hands is the hybrid I'm talking about in this thread.
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Old 05-30-12, 01:27 PM
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The no-hands thing is a good way to give yourself a break, and here's a trick I've found: lean back. If I just take my hands off the handlebars, it's not easy to control the bike, but if I lean back, it's much simpler. Of course every bike is different.
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Old 05-30-12, 01:41 PM
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Tony, is the pain "between" your shoulders or spread throughout the neck, shoulders and upper back? Maybe a shorter reach stem/bar combination that allowed you to be a bit more upright will possibly help you. Only thing I could think of that could offer some possible relief. I hope someone can foigure this one out so you don't loose the riding years you worked so hard to regain.

Bill
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Old 05-30-12, 01:53 PM
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I do long rides on my fixie (like double centuries and PBP), and being an ex-racer, the bars are way lower than the saddle. However, I have been able to manage neck pain by merely keeping my head in a "neutral" position in relation to the body, and by looking "up" to see the road. This was my old racing position, so it didn't involve changing anything. But if you're one of those riders who tilts his head up/back in order to look at the road with the eyes pointed straight ahead in relation to the face, this may involve some training. Basically, you ride with your head in line with the body, and minimal head tilt. It's also a more aero position. Also, I'm almost always on the tops/brake hoods, very seldom in the drops, so it's not a radical position, even with the bars set about 4" below the saddle.

You should also be turning your head to look back or to the sides every now and then. This helps stretch the neck muscles. I find this provides a nice neck stretch.

Luis
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Old 05-30-12, 01:57 PM
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I have the same symptoms and physical problems. I use a stem riser with drop bars. The tops are very high, if I just touch the tops with my extended fingers I can sit up straight. To combat wind, I have the drops and way up under the drops for a very low position. I managed over 3 hours on Sunday, a little over 40 miles. I stretch my neck, legs, shoulders etc. while rolling. The best rides are when I stretch and change position often. I stretch my neck by tipping it to one side, and the other, and also putting my chin way down. I have other arthritis and joint problems too. I make sure I take my pain pills exactly right on the days I ride. On no ride days I take less than the prescribed amount.

When the tops are very high with drop bars, there lots of ways to get low temporarily. I do fast downhills way in the drops too. There is nothing better than road drop bars to give multiple positions with a neck and back problem.

Different positions with only a small change from one to the next. But overall a big change from highest to lowest.

1) Just touching tops with fingers
2) holding the tops
3) just holding the curve before the hoods
4) on the hoods
5) on the very rear ends of the drop bars.
6) typical drop grip
7) in the drops way up where the brakes are to lower your arms more.
8) of course you can almost put your nose on the stem temporarily.
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Old 05-30-12, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
Thanks, Al. I do all of those things already, and they do help. That's what gets me through the first 90 minutes or so. That is, I do all of them other than ride with no hands. I used to be able to do that for miles when I was younger, but for some reason, none of the bikes I have now seem to want to stay balanced that way (maybe it's me...). Actually, the one that I come the closest to being able to ride no-hands is the hybrid I'm talking about in this thread.
I agreed with Al, as well.

If you have proper fit on handlebar placement (height in particular) I'd say just "ride". Your body will adjust over time. Go for the extra couple miles and minutes each week, you will see that your pain threshhold will be further down the road in a matter of a few weeks.

(I've carried Ibuprophen in the seatbag and have dosed on some of the long distance rides until conditioning kicked in)
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Old 05-30-12, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
Tony, is the pain "between" your shoulders or spread throughout the neck, shoulders and upper back? Maybe a shorter reach stem/bar combination that allowed you to be a bit more upright will possibly help you. Only thing I could think of that could offer some possible relief. I hope someone can foigure this one out so you don't loose the riding years you worked so hard to regain.

Bill
Thanks, Bill. The pain is mostly concentrated in my neck, with some of it in the shoulders where I was injured (torn rotator cuffs). I invested in a professional fit on my road bike, and the result of that was wider bars that stay nearly parallel to the ground out to the hoods, shallower drops and a stem that put the bar tops closer to me and about an inch or so higher than the seat. This made the difference between being able to ride that bike for 90 minutes and not being able to ride it for more than 15 or 20 minutes -- and that was a bike that I used to ride for hours and hours at a time 15 years ago.

A totally upright ride would eliminate the problem in my neck, even on very long rides - I did that for a while on what's now my grocery-getter bike. The issue is that it would move the problem to the perineum, and also would make riding in headwinds a real drag. Without having tried it, my thinking is that the recumbent would solve both problems - but I'm not ready to go there yet.

My problem is that I want it all - a bike that lets me get aero when I want to, lets me maintain a reasonably efficient posture most of the time, but that lets me lean back and relax when I need to, particularly on longer rides.

I'm just about to order the adjustable stem and bolt-on drops, which I'll mount bum-bar style. I'm feeling pretty optimistic that, even if it isn't a total solution, it'll make things better than they are now. And even that is saying something at my age.
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Old 05-30-12, 05:51 PM
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I'm real interested in this thread. I also suffer from stenosis and neck pain. A previous poster is right in that it does become more bearable over time when you build a certain tolerance. I try real hard to vary positions. Most helpful on long rides is to stand when I can, but standing when you're not climbing is hard to keep up for longer than a minute or so. I really wish that I could get that " hands free" position for periods and feel safe. But I can't ride no hands for long, I'm old and afraid and it stresses me more than just riding normally as I can't stand the thought of falling. If there were some sort of extender that folded out from the tops for very infrequent periods to grab onto and give you that riding with no hands sensation, it would relieve lots of the stress. I'm talking about drop bars, would not go back to uprights.
Money to be made..... Where are the inventors and capitalists when you need one? Or is there something out there now?
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Old 05-30-12, 07:44 PM
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Has anyone tried using the old triathlon/early specialized time trial bike bolt on aero-bar extension, that was so popular in the early 90's, with the extension rotated up as a means of giving an upright position mimicking the "hands-free"/ no-hands riding that some say would give them relief? Not sure if my description is clear enough and I cannot remember what the extension was actually called. It would look strange but the "Bum Bars" and MTB extensions mounted up would be a bit strange too. Just a W.A.G. for a possible solution.

Bill
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Old 05-30-12, 07:50 PM
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Why all the wedgudice? Give in to the Dark Side of the Force and we will complete your training and suppress this insignifican pitiful little rebellion.
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Old 05-30-12, 08:05 PM
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Old 05-30-12, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
Why all the wedgudice? Give in to the Dark Side of the Force and we will complete your training and suppress this insignifican pitiful little rebellion.
+1, ditch the upwrong !
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Old 05-31-12, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
I have the same symptoms and physical problems. I use a stem riser with drop bars. The tops are very high, if I just touch the tops with my extended fingers I can sit up straight. To combat wind, I have the drops and way up under the drops for a very low position. I managed over 3 hours on Sunday, a little over 40 miles. I stretch my neck, legs, shoulders etc. while rolling. The best rides are when I stretch and change position often. I stretch my neck by tipping it to one side, and the other, and also putting my chin way down. I have other arthritis and joint problems too. I make sure I take my pain pills exactly right on the days I ride. On no ride days I take less than the prescribed amount.

When the tops are very high with drop bars, there lots of ways to get low temporarily. I do fast downhills way in the drops too. There is nothing better than road drop bars to give multiple positions with a neck and back problem.

Different positions with only a small change from one to the next. But overall a big change from highest to lowest.

1) Just touching tops with fingers
2) holding the tops
3) just holding the curve before the hoods
4) on the hoods
5) on the very rear ends of the drop bars.
6) typical drop grip
7) in the drops way up where the brakes are to lower your arms more.
8) of course you can almost put your nose on the stem temporarily.
This is pretty much the way I have my road bike set up, after a professional fit. The bars tops are 1-2 inches above the seat, and closer to me than they used to be, so I can do the fingertip thing when I need to. Maybe the answer is to bite the bullet, accept that I'll have to replace the brake levers and shifters, and go with drops. I might go with the adjustable stem and the drop ends first, though, to see if that does the trick...)
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Old 05-31-12, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
Has anyone tried using the old triathlon/early specialized time trial bike bolt on aero-bar extension, that was so popular in the early 90's, with the extension rotated up as a means of giving an upright position mimicking the "hands-free"/ no-hands riding that some say would give them relief? Not sure if my description is clear enough and I cannot remember what the extension was actually called. It would look strange but the "Bum Bars" and MTB extensions mounted up would be a bit strange too. Just a W.A.G. for a possible solution.

Bill
Totally clear, and one solution that I've considered. I actually have an old set of Scott Aero bars from the early 90s. I'd have to do some fiddling to get them to mount on these handlebars (they've got a slight rise, and start to bend just where I'd need to mount these. But maybe with some judicious bending...and the right size hammer...
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Old 05-31-12, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Champlaincycler View Post
I'm real interested in this thread. I also suffer from stenosis and neck pain. A previous poster is right in that it does become more bearable over time when you build a certain tolerance. I try real hard to vary positions. Most helpful on long rides is to stand when I can, but standing when you're not climbing is hard to keep up for longer than a minute or so. I really wish that I could get that " hands free" position for periods and feel safe. But I can't ride no hands for long, I'm old and afraid and it stresses me more than just riding normally as I can't stand the thought of falling. If there were some sort of extender that folded out from the tops for very infrequent periods to grab onto and give you that riding with no hands sensation, it would relieve lots of the stress. I'm talking about drop bars, would not go back to uprights.
Money to be made..... Where are the inventors and capitalists when you need one? Or is there something out there now?
I'll bet there's a market for bars that address this need. There are a lot of us old boomers out there, and not all of us are content to just accept our limitations and become couch potatoes.
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Old 05-31-12, 08:21 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
Totally clear, and one solution that I've considered. I actually have an old set of Scott Aero bars from the early 90s. I'd have to do some fiddling to get them to mount on these handlebars (they've got a slight rise, and start to bend just where I'd need to mount these. But maybe with some judicious bending...and the right size hammer...
Tony, If you need to bend the bars to modify them for your specific needs find an electrician and get them to use their conduit bender to do the work. These guys learn how to cleanly bend different types of conduit without any ripples or lumps in the metal. You could use one yourself but bending tubing without wrinkling it is an art. Then again you may be an electician for all I know!

Bill
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Old 05-31-12, 08:29 AM
  #25  
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A couple of tricks that have been useful on my Giant Cypress hybrid is to narrow the bars ie shorten (try for ~shoulder width) and add bar ends. I'll attach a photo later.
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Last edited by browngw; 05-31-12 at 10:53 AM. Reason: add photo!
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