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Should I shorten my stem? Lower back pain

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Should I shorten my stem? Lower back pain

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Old 03-08-18, 05:48 PM
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MadDog1999
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Should I shorten my stem? Lower back pain

Hey guys,
So I have a second hand 52 cm road bike which by what I went from should be right as I am 5ft 5 inches. However on very intensive rides like going up new hills etc or even longish distances I get lower back pain to the point of crippling that I have to pull over and get off the bike. The stem on it currently is 115mm and while on the hoods I can see the hub behind the bars. I also feel slightly stretched out. Weirdly, I never experience this pain on the trainer, only while out on the road. Do I need to strengthen my core? I can't afford a bike fit and also tight on money so need to decide on proper stem length before I buy!

I have included pics of my position while holding hoods and drops. I am getting quite annoyed now. And to move the saddle very far forward it goes past the max lines.

https://m.imgur.com/a/Gs6mS

Thank you!
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Old 03-09-18, 10:15 AM
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@MadDog1999
Is your saddle all the way forward to compensate for long reach?
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Old 03-09-18, 10:40 AM
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Sure, get a shorter stem- inexpensive & used available,

but look further for reasons for the back pain.

Mashing up hills, tight hamstrings, weak abs, cleat position, or other causing the body to

compensate to hold position. If you're still growing, might need some time for the muscles, etc. to catch up to the skeleton.
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Old 03-09-18, 11:10 AM
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Looking at the pictures, your drop position shows so much elbow/knee overlap I would have guessed you stem was too short. Which makes me wonder what's going on with your position over all.

I would suggest, if you haven't already, measuring your cycling inseam and setting the saddle to BB distance at .883 of the inseam, and then using KOPS to set you saddle setback. I would not be surprised if you were currently sitting too far down and forward.
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Old 03-09-18, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
Looking at the pictures, your drop position shows so much elbow/knee overlap I would have guessed you stem was too short. Which makes me wonder what's going on with your position over all.

I would suggest, if you haven't already, measuring your cycling inseam and setting the saddle to BB distance at .883 of the inseam, and then using KOPS to set you saddle setback. I would not be surprised if you were currently sitting too far down and forward.
I was thinking the same thing.
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Old 03-09-18, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Sure, get a shorter stem- inexpensive & used available,

but look further for reasons for the back pain.

Mashing up hills, tight hamstrings, weak abs, cleat position, or other causing the body to

compensate to hold position. If you're still growing, might need some time for the muscles, etc. to catch up to the skeleton.
I agree with this... slow, hard, sitting cadence can be hard on the back. Whether it is transient strengthening, or long-term, it is hard to say, but serious pain for a young rider needs to be addressed.

It is hard to tell from your photos, but the seat may be a little low too.

Please also upload a side-view photo of your seat/post without you sitting on it.

Also, how long have you been riding the bike? What did you have before you got this bike? If you've done recent major changes to the bike (MTB --> Road?), it may just take some time for the body to adjust. A few century rides?
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Old 03-09-18, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Phamilton View Post
@MadDog1999
Is your saddle all the way forward to compensate for long reach?
I want to put it all the way forward but it goes past max lines on the rails. Is that ok?

Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Sure, get a shorter stem- inexpensive & used available,

but look further for reasons for the back pain.

Mashing up hills, tight hamstrings, weak abs, cleat position, or other causing the body to

compensate to hold position. If you're still growing, might need some time for the muscles, etc. to catch up to the skeleton.
I climb seated, but use the highest gears(smallest chainring and largest sprocket). Ya, I want to check if everything else is ok before I go buying stem and spending money. I know a bike fit would be more than beneficial, but unfortunately can't afford it yet.

Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
Looking at the pictures, your drop position shows so much elbow/knee overlap I would have guessed you stem was too short. Which makes me wonder what's going on with your position over all.

I would suggest, if you haven't already, measuring your cycling inseam and setting the saddle to BB distance at .883 of the inseam, and then using KOPS to set you saddle setback. I would not be surprised if you were currently sitting too far down and forward.
Originally Posted by caloso View Post
I was thinking the same thing.
Thanks for that. I wasn't expecting that at all, so maybe a reach problem is elsewhere? And there was me thinking of going even shorter.

Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I agree with this... slow, hard, sitting cadence can be hard on the back. Whether it is transient strengthening, or long-term, it is hard to say, but serious pain for a young rider needs to be addressed.

It is hard to tell from your photos, but the seat may be a little low too.

Please also upload a side-view photo of your seat/post without you sitting on it.

Also, how long have you been riding the bike? What did you have before you got this bike? If you've done recent major changes to the bike (MTB --> Road?), it may just take some time for the body to adjust. A few century rides?
Should I be climbing more out of the saddle also rather than all seated? This is the best photo I can find right now. Also since September last year and mountain bike before that.
http://i.imgur.com/2PcPIcr.jpg

Thank you
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Old 03-09-18, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by phamilton View Post
@maddog1999
is your saddle all the way forward to compensate for long reach?

noooooo!!
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Old 03-09-18, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MadDog1999 View Post
I want to put it all the way forward but it goes past max lines on the rails. Is that ok?


Thanks for that. I wasn't expecting that at all, so maybe a reach problem is elsewhere? And there was me thinking of going even shorter.



Should I be climbing more out of the saddle also rather than all seated? This is the best photo I can find right now. Also since September last year and mountain bike before that.
http://i.imgur.com/2PcPIcr.jpg

Thank you
Moving your seat forward past KOPS (or there about) will cause many more problems than it will solve. Having reasonable saddle set back is important for your butt, back and hands.

If I had to guess, I think your low saddle and/or forward saddle are causing you to bunch up your lower back. You are the only one who can figure that out, though. I'm just guessing as someone about your size. Get your lower body sorted out, then figure out your reach.


Getting out of the saddle, whether for climbing or a short sprint, is good for you body. You should do it sometimes, but not all the time.
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Old 03-09-18, 12:27 PM
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I would struggle sitting as far back as you appear to be sitting and having my reach so short. See the post I just wrote at:

Weight on hands

It does mean a lot of bikes simply do not fit me, at least not until I get some ridiculous stem (driven also be super long arms), and stock bikes often leave me with less than perfect weight balance between the wheels. But going to seats far enough forward (centered on a traditional setback post on a 72.5 angle seattube) and huge stems or the rare bike or custom has me riding positions where I feel I have enough reach to stretch my back out (with my pelvis rotated more forward than you have). I feel that reach has the effect of being like a cat stretching, wonderful for my back. And yes, this is counter to everything you will ever read for bike fit vs back ache. But it works for me.

Ben
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Old 03-09-18, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I would struggle sitting as far back as you appear to be sitting and having my reach so short. See the post I just wrote at:

Weight on hands

It does mean a lot of bikes simply do not fit me, at least not until I get some ridiculous stem (driven also be super long arms), and stock bikes often leave me with less than perfect weight balance between the wheels. But going to seats far enough forward (centered on a traditional setback post on a 72.5 angle seattube) and huge stems or the rare bike or custom has me riding positions where I feel I have enough reach to stretch my back out (with my pelvis rotated more forward than you have). I feel that reach has the effect of being like a cat stretching, wonderful for my back. And yes, this is counter to everything you will ever read for bike fit vs back ache. But it works for me.

Ben
Considering how much elbow/knee overlap the OP has, why do you think his reach is short?
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Old 03-09-18, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
Considering how much elbow/knee overlap the OP has, why do you think his reach is short?
I don't understand your question. Longer reach means straighter arms, moving his elbows up and forward, hence less overlap.

Ben
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Old 03-09-18, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by MadDog1999 View Post
I want to put it all the way forward but it goes past max lines on the rails. Is that ok?
OK... Probably

Do you want to do it? NO!!!

I think the point was that you shouldn't move the seat forward to compensate for the long stem. So, if anything, move the seat back slightly.

Nothing looks too outlandish with your configuration. I would double check the seat height.

You might stop by your local bike co-op/recycler. It is quite possible they have a bin of stems to pick through. Pick out the nicest 90mm or 100mm stem that you can find and try it out if you wish. I'm not convinced it will make a big difference, but it may allow you to move the seat back a little if needed. Once you've tried it out, you can always upgrade later if you desire.

"Compact bars" might fit your needs better too, but that would depend on how much time you're spending in the drops, and how it feels.

It may also be that if you haven't ridden a lot over the winter, that just some time on the bike will help.

As others mentioned, switch it up a bit. Some standing at times (but not always standing either). The times that my back seems to bother me the most is when I'm really bogging down pulling a heavy cargo load, mostly in the saddle... Or, perhaps those 150+ mile rides
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Old 03-09-18, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by brianmcg123 View Post
noooooo!!
To clarify, I was asking if that's why he had his saddle all the way forward. Saddle should not be adjusted to accommodate reach. I realize now that my wording was ambiguous.
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Old 03-09-18, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I don't understand your question. Longer reach means straighter arms, moving his elbows up and forward, hence less overlap.

Ben
Your previous post seemed to indicate that you think the OP is stretching to reach the handlebars:

"I would struggle sitting as far back as you appear to be sitting and having my reach so short."

But this is his reach:


Do you think the OP's reach is "so short" or not? If not, what did you mean in relation to the OP's fit problem?
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Old 03-09-18, 12:56 PM
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I was so sure my saddle had the correct height, guess I was wrong. As for as KOPS goes, the plumb line stops over the pedal spindle from bony protrusion of my knee. I feel relatively stretched out already, so I feel that a linger stem to compensate for overlap would make me feel even more stretched out. I have been riding fairly regularly over the winter too so don think it's that
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Old 03-09-18, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by MadDog1999 View Post
I was so sure my saddle had the correct height, guess I was wrong. As for as KOPS goes, the plumb line stops over the pedal spindle from bony protrusion of my knee. I feel relatively stretched out already, so I feel that a linger stem to compensate for overlap would make me feel even more stretched out. I have been riding fairly regularly over the winter too so don think it's that
I don't know that your saddle is too low. I'm guessing it is a possible explanation for how cramped you look in the drops while still reach for the hoods. It also looks lowish on the picture of the bike by itself.

The other possibility is that your handlebars are too high, which for some people can put too much upper body weight on their lower back instead of letting their hamstrings and abdominals support their upper body weight.


You aren't going to get a fit out of this thread, just things to look at and try. You might also try moving your saddle further back, which will also require a shorter stem, but may address your back issue more directly.
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Old 03-09-18, 03:49 PM
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@Kontact

I understand that I won't get a bike fit from this but it has given me useful pointers on what to correct. I will also strengthen my core a bit!

Thanks to all!
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Old 03-09-18, 11:24 PM
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You're definitely not too stretched out. I'd say not stretched out enough. Your knees are oddly close to your stem. I'm your same height and on a 52, my knees are 8"-9" behind my stem. I think your saddle probably needs to go way back.

You have a lot of elbow/knee overlap. I'm most comfortable when my elbows are in front of my knees. Your upper arms are also not quite at a 90° angle to your torso. I think moving your saddle back a lot will help a a lot.

And of course back strengthening exercises are always a good idea. Many people think "abs" when they hear "core." It's the other way 'round for cyclists. Train your back, ignore your abs.
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Old 03-10-18, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
You're definitely not too stretched out. I'd say not stretched out enough. Your knees are oddly close to your stem. I'm your same height and on a 52, my knees are 8"-9" behind my stem. I think your saddle probably needs to go way back.

You have a lot of elbow/knee overlap. I'm most comfortable when my elbows are in front of my knees. Your upper arms are also not quite at a 90° angle to your torso. I think moving your saddle back a lot will help a a lot.

And of course back strengthening exercises are always a good idea. Many people think "abs" when they hear "core." It's the other way 'round for cyclists. Train your back, ignore your abs.
Thanks @Carbonfiberboy ,
So you think I'm not too stretched out holding the hoods either?

Ya true, I see that now and have learned being too scrunched uo could cause lower back pain too. And about back strengthening, would stuff like the plank help that?

And I will look into moving the saddle back but do I also need to raise it?

I am surprised at how much help I got and I really appreciate it! Although I did start last September, long enough ago I still consider myself a noob! Was first time doing a 10-12% avg grade climb over 4 km last ride with some back pain so may climb out of saddle more too.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-10-18, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MadDog1999 View Post
Thanks @Carbonfiberboy ,
So you think I'm not too stretched out holding the hoods either?

Ya true, I see that now and have learned being too scrunched uo could cause lower back pain too. And about back strengthening, would stuff like the plank help that?

And I will look into moving the saddle back but do I also need to raise it?

I am surprised at how much help I got and I really appreciate it! Although I did start last September, long enough ago I still consider myself a noob! Was first time doing a 10-12% avg grade climb over 4 km last ride with some back pain so may climb out of saddle more too.

Thanks again!
Back strengthening: Sure, planks help. Google "bodyweight back exercises".

No, definitely not too stretched out. When you move the saddle back, you'll also need to raise it a bit. Use the "heel on pedal" method to get it right. Google "heel on pedal saddle height".

Yes, stand more. Really helps with back stiffness. Consciously straighten and relax your back while you're up. I don't stand as much as many, but I at least try to stand for 1 minute out of 10 on long climbs. Not a bad idea on the flats, either. When pacelining, I stand on the way back to the rear.
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Old 03-10-18, 07:04 PM
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Heel on pedal generally gives lower saddle heights than other proven methods.
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Old 03-10-18, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Back strengthening: Sure, planks help. Google "bodyweight back exercises".

No, definitely not too stretched out. When you move the saddle back, you'll also need to raise it a bit. Use the "heel on pedal" method to get it right. Google "heel on pedal saddle height".
I thought when you moved the saddle rearward, you'd have to LOWER it a bit. Doesn't moving it back, in effect, increase the saddle height? (I.e., if you measure to the rear of the saddle -- from BB -- it will be a few cm "higher" than if you measure to the nose.)
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Old 03-10-18, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by pakossa View Post
I thought when you moved the saddle rearward, you'd have to LOWER it a bit. Doesn't moving it back, in effect, increase the saddle height? (I.e., if you measure to the rear of the saddle -- from BB -- it will be a few cm "higher" than if you measure to the nose.)
Yeeesh, I'm sorry. Of course you're right. Brain fade.
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Old 03-10-18, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by pakossa View Post
I thought when you moved the saddle rearward, you'd have to LOWER it a bit. Doesn't moving it back, in effect, increase the saddle height? (I.e., if you measure to the rear of the saddle -- from BB -- it will be a few cm "higher" than if you measure to the nose.)
You are correct.
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