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Upper back pain/long reach to bars

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Upper back pain/long reach to bars

Old 03-18-19, 06:05 PM
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Upper back pain/long reach to bars

Hey all,

I have a Trek FX3 flat bar hybrid that I commute on. It's a L/55cm and I'm 6' tall, maybe a touch more in shoes. Lately I've been getting a sore upper back and neck when riding, and I figure I probably need to tinker with my fit. My seat height seems okay, but I feel like I'm in too forward/aggressive a position. The only way for me to ride is with my arms at full lock or very close to it, which makes me think maybe my bars need to come up...but I'm an amateur in this regard so I'd rather ask more experienced folks. I'm quite flexible in most regards so I don't think that's the main problem.

Ideas? Should I bring the bars up, or tinker with the seat, or what? I don't have a trainer/stand so getting a picture is hard but I can maybe try to do it with the kickstand and photo timer if it'll be helpful.
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Old 03-18-19, 06:51 PM
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Generally you adjust the saddle first to get the right position over the pedals, then work on handlebar placement.

To the the handlebars higher you can use a high rise stem:

and/or high rise handlebars:

You can also get swept back handlebars to get an upright position:

I'd start with the high rise stem first because that's a cheap and easy operation.
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Old 03-18-19, 07:24 PM
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Thanks. I ordered an adjustable stem so I can fiddle with the position more.
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Old 03-19-19, 10:04 AM
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Try lowering the bars first. Get them as low as possible and try that out. Flip your stem and remove all spacers. Lowering the bars will reduce the fatiguing jackhammer effect that travels up your arms into your shoulders, neck, and upper back. The lower the bars are the better it will feel to have your saddle in a slightly forward and your reach long. If you do the opposite and raise your bars you'll have to use a much shorter stem and move your saddle backwards. Doing that will very likely have no positive effect on your back fatigue. I know that sounds counter intuitive but that's how it is. Experiment and see for yourself. Your spine is like a suspension bridge that will support your weight if you can get the bars low enough. At some point, if you keep lowering the bars, most of the weight will come off your arms and your hands will rest lightly on the bars. That's ideal. Having more weight on the front wheel also makes the bike handle much better.

Last edited by Clem von Jones; 03-19-19 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 03-19-19, 10:35 AM
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Sore upper back (between the shoulder blades) and neck for me was trying to hold my head up enough to see further down the trail when in the drops and aero. Removing the visor from my helmet greatly improved my forward vision with my head down and that pain went away.
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Old 03-20-19, 09:54 AM
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Naw, you just need to bend your elbows! Bend them a lot, keeping your elbows close to your body. If that makes your arms tired, do pushups. You could also post a photo of you on your bike. The pain in your upper back is from rounding your lower back. Roll your hips forward until your back is straight (look in a mirror) from the top of your shorts to your neck. That'll fix you right up. Riding Position Discovery

Your reach is correct if, while seated with your forearms and cranks horizontal, your elbows are just in front of your knees.
Results matter
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Old 03-22-19, 08:18 AM
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Saddle fore/aft position is important. I've always found the old idea of dropping a plumb bob from the front of the knee to the pedal spindle, with the crankarm at 3 o'clock is too far forward. On a road bike with drop bars, you'll get too much weight on your hands, if the saddle is too far forward. I use a large 10cm saddle to bar drop but have no problems, with the saddle set back far enough. I got back on my bike after almost 8 years off, at age 65 and had no problems with the same position I'd been using at age 57.
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Old 03-25-19, 06:27 PM
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I had the same upper back aches when I experimented with a longer reach. If the reach is too long and/or the bar is too low for you, your body will subconsciously react by getting as close as it can to its preferred position by straightening your arms and locking your elbows. And your shoulders may be poking up. (That also happened to me.) If you can't consistently ride comfortably with a 10-15 degree bend in your arms, then the reach is too long, and/or the bar is too low for your current fitness/flexibility level (or body proportions), simple as that. Pay A LOT more attention to your body than to people on this forum or your cycling buddies! If you put in more miles, increase flexibility, and, maybe, work on upper body strength, you may be able to get more aggressive later on. But, if you're not comfortable now, you probably won't want to ride enough now to get to that point. It sounds more like the reach is too long in your case, rather than the bar being too low. If you feel a lot of weight on your hands, the saddle may need to go back a bit.
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Old 03-26-19, 03:22 PM
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You may have some luck by getting stronger. Try a routine of push-ups.
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Old 03-28-19, 01:38 PM
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Sounds like its too long. You can easily get a replacement stem for it 1 or 2 cm shorter.
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Old 03-29-19, 08:48 AM
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@noglider 10 years in the military means I'm decent at pushups already. I've had rotator cuff issues in the past, but nothing ongoing or nagging. Core strength, on the other hand....

@pakossa This sounds exactly like me. Locked elbows, and I constantly catch my shoulders hiking upward. I do tend to feel a lot of weight on my hands. I installed the adjustable stem and have it set at +15 degrees (from +6 on the old stem) at the same length, and while it's an improvement for my back, it's not perfect and I still have a lot of weight on my hands. I can try moving the seat back some.

@Clem von Jones Now that I have an adjustable stem, I can lower the bars considerable if I'm so inclined. How much do you think I should try? My stock stem was +6. Maybe I can try 0 or a slight negative and see, perhaps in combination with moving the seat back a bit? This is a flat bar, though, so I'm not sure how low I can go.

I feel like it would be silly to spend $200 on a fitting for a $600 bike, but maybe that's where I'm at.
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