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Back comfort & recumbents

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Back comfort & recumbents

Old 01-12-13, 07:34 AM
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Horros
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Back comfort & recumbents

I've noticed that recumbents are often liked by people with bad backs. Of course there's different kind of back damage, but often there's similarities and often it's a repercussion of the sitting and static lifestyle of modern human. Now, I don't have any experience in recumbents and they are a rare sight as well, but I'm highly interested. When I look at a recumbent rider, their body is pretty rigid from ass up, there's seems to be very little flexibility even though the position is comfortable (and supported). Analogous would be a chair that is soft, comfortable and just sucks you in, but doesn't allow for flexible, straight and more natural sitting position that a less comfortable chair would allow (wooden stool, as extreme example). The latter makes your butt sore often times though.

Then there's vibrations added and depending on what sort of recumbent, they seem (to me) to be mostly directed at the fairly horizontally positioned lower back. This is probably alleviated with some vibration reducing features some recumbents offer, or just wider tires or whatever. I don't have a realistic idea how much vibrations you feel with a recumbent. With upright bike the vibrations come more vertically in line with one's spine. Not sure if that's better, but weight can be and is regularly taken off the saddle.

That just sounds bit bad to me, having some back problems from sitting too much. Riding some uprights, there's much more possibilities to keep my whole back elastic and train back muscles. The worst thing for me is to keep it rigid and sit a lot, which I have a lot of experience in from working and nerding out on computer. Neither recumbent or upright are even near optimal for an activity, that would help keeping back in good shape in the long run, though.

I'm just curious and sharing my view, but please educate me as my view may be very limited. This is not to set up recumbent vs upright debate, but talk about back comfort on recumbent and perhaps use upright design as reference point, no unnecessary emotions relating to either one need to be involved.

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Old 01-12-13, 08:50 AM
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I'm one of those who couldn't ride a bike because of back problems. Actually, I could hardly walk for 20 minutes without feeling like I was being stabbed in the lower back.

Once I purchased my Trice QNT trike with a mesh seat, it's been nothing but improvement. 3 months later, I was able to go entire days without pain meds. 6 months later, I could bend and move as well as I'd been able to do before my back problems. I've even been able to ride it when I had a broken tail bone... with a doughnut pillow of course.

I move around a bit when I ride. Shifting my weight to lean into turns and a mesh seat has quite a bit of flexibility. I think it was that combination of support and flexibility that put me on the road to recovery.

That's just my experience. I'm not silly enough to think it's a cure-all for everyone.
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Old 01-12-13, 09:09 AM
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I also ride a trike but own two regular two-wheeled recumbents as well. My Greenspeed GTO trike has a mesh seat reclined at 45 degrees. There's nothing rigid about riding in that seat. It is comfortable and very relaxing. I don't often have significant back problems but when I do, I can ride the trike way more comfortable than I can walk. My other recumbents, a Linear LWB and Haluzak Horizon SWB are much more upright. They are still pretty relaxing to ride although I rarely do ride them. I recently picked up a 1990 Specialized Rockhopper MTB and rode it on an 11 mile group ride two weeks ago. It didn't take long to remind me why I don't ride uprights very often. Too darn uncomfortable, even for that short a ride.
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Old 01-12-13, 10:53 AM
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I have had back problems which have been successfully been treated. I don't entirely disagree with your assessment that recumbents are not therapeutic for those who have back problems. Recumbents allow you to get away with riding without using your upper body at all. When riding my high racer I'm reclined and have to do a crunch to see around corners at intersections, other than that no upper body work at all. What the recumbent platform does for back problem sufferers is allows them to ride when they otherwise wouldn't.

FYI, I started riding recumbents because they looked like fun, not because I needed to. I still ride an upright also. The different platforms use different muscle groups so there is a kind of cross training benefit.

I have never had vibration problems on any of my recumbents, even during the time when my back was most sensitive. The three different types of seats I've tried where always padded enough to prevent this. These seats varied from reclined to very upright. The narrowest tires I've used where 28mm but due to my 250lb weight are still pumped up to 100psi. There does seem to be a window between 50 degrees and 35 degrees recline where my tailbone does get sore on long rides but that's more of an issue of my physical characteristics than a design flaw. Just like an upright you still need to adjust the bike to you.
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Old 01-12-13, 12:10 PM
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That does make sense, recumbent is obvious choice for somebody with incurable back problems. I'm also wondering if for somebody with curable back would recumbent be less ideal (if keeping back better conditioned is the goal). My experience with upright is that I can stretch and move upper body pretty freely, and there's movement in lower back area in general, especially when standing which I like to do to lessen butt soreness for one. But I'm also lightweight so staying active and flexible in the saddle is probably easier for me, than for somebody heavier. On other hand, it does stress the back too. From my computer nerd perspective, I suppose it would be better for me to have the muscle training, flexibility and stress, but for somebody with spinal damage, for example, minimal stress would be better. That's what I would imagine anyway...

For any cyclist though, I'm sure some yoga or whatever is good idea in the long run. I like cycling, but I'm little annoyed by the staticness and one sidedness of it and wonder what could be done about it. Take something like skiing, the whole body opens up and gets pretty even stress.
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Old 01-12-13, 04:24 PM
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Stress? Very little stress of any sort while riding a recumbent bike. Kind of stressful having to pedal to keep moving forward, but that's the nature of cycling, kind of the whole object.
The seats that I use support my back and butt very nicely. Any road vibrations that reach me are spread out over a large area, as opposed to just the areas around the sit bones, as on an upright bike.
No stress on my hands, wrists or arms as I am not leaning on them --> they support no weight.
No kind of cycling builds upper body or core strength; that requires work away from the bike.

I don't ride 'bents because of back problems; I just enjoy them and very much appreciate the comfort that is inherent to most 'bent designs.
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Old 01-13-13, 02:07 AM
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I meant upright stresses back more. Would you say no form of cycling is better at helping keep back in condition? As in, the lesser "evil".
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Old 01-13-13, 07:01 AM
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Recumbent bike and trike options are limitless.
My Tour Easy has an adjustable cool back seat, just like a car seat. I can also loosen or tighten the back straps.
The lower seat padding takes the road shock and that In itself takes away most of a persons back pain. Just look at the seat.



L4 and L5 protruding disks for me,,Pain free for years now but still I had to give up DF bikes completely.
A long wheel base bent, especially the 30 year old type/design I have that Is the standard by which all
LWB bents are judged by btw,, these are very comfortable.
But a 67 Inch wheel base makes for a challenge if you need to transport the bent on a car rack.

Look Into Tadpole and delta recumbents also,,,

http://www.bentrideronline.com/messageboard/index.php

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Old 01-13-13, 07:39 AM
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I think that it's a serious mistake to lump all recumbents into a single class. There are several quite different designs and they all ride a little differently.

There is simply no substitute for spending a day at a specialty recumbent dealer. If you are seriously considering buying a recumbent it's definitely worth taking a two day road trip.
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Old 01-13-13, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Horros View Post
. . . . Now, I don't have any experience in recumbents and they are a rare sight as well, but I'm highly interested. When I look at a recumbent rider, their body is pretty rigid from ass up, there's seems to be very little flexibility even though the position is comfortable (and supported) . . . .
As already mentioned, appearances can be deceptive and there's wide variation not only in recumbents but a rider's chosen position and riding style. My particular back copes well with conventional road bikes but is downright happy with my recumbents. Put me on an ill-fitted road bike or a poorly chosen recumbent and the results would be sad.
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Old 01-13-13, 04:33 PM
  #11  
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All backs are different, all back problems are different. Recumbents may, or may not, relieve stress on a bad back, depending on the problem and the recumbent in question. As mentioned previously, they're all different, too. They have one thing in common: they all have seats with backs for support. If you have a back problem and an upright is making things worse, maybe a recumbent would help. Or not.

Do not expect any bike, upright or recumbent, to keep your core muscles in shape. Bicycles are great for cardio and leg workouts; in fact, they're not very good for building leg strength either. Toning and endurance, but not strength. They pretty much suck for any other parts of your body. For a full-body workout, I recommend swimming. For core, do calisthenics. For most people, doing sit-ups is the best way to prevent future back problems.
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Old 01-14-13, 06:07 AM
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Err ya go, Poster #11 said it well XD
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Old 01-15-13, 06:46 AM
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So I suppose my search for back bettering bike dies before it even starts. Should just accept the nature of cycling and do additional exercise to fix the back issues, but somtimes it's hard to find the time when moving from school bench or computer related work to bike saddle. In that case I'd see recumbent better choice, in the sense that I don't need to stress back unnecessarily and in less natural positions. I'm looknig at this from long distance touring perspective, and anything that would make things better in longer run would be cool. I will have to look deeper into this recumbent thing.

Thanks!

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Old 01-15-13, 07:03 AM
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Horros,,,
The Cool back seats are comfy to many. Your Cervical Injury would IMO suffer more on any DF bike.
I base this opinion of my un Injured Neck hurting like hell on any DF bike.

In your case I would go to great lengths to Try and find bents to 'RENT' for a day ride.
Again the BROL forum I mentioned in my post #8, those people are very knowledgeable in this area and they can tell
you of many dealers all over who do long test rides on various models...
There are two shops In central Florida that rent bents,
both located right on different paved MUP's longer than 40 miles each..

http://www.hamptonsedge.com/index.html
http://bicycleoutfitters.net/

Diamond Framed bikes are pretty much all the same,
with seat and bar placement adjustments of only Inches this way or that..

Not So with bents, Good Test rides are far more Important.
I learned I would never want my feet above my hips on a two wheeled bent,
And this did not apply at all on a trike, odd I know.

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Old 01-16-13, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Horros View Post
I've noticed that recumbents are often liked by people with bad backs. Of course there's different kind of back damage, but often there's similarities and often it's a repercussion of the sitting and static lifestyle of modern human. Now, I don't have any experience in recumbents and they are a rare sight as well, but I'm highly interested. When I look at a recumbent rider, their body is pretty rigid from ass up, there's seems to be very little flexibility even though the position is comfortable (and supported). Analogous would be a chair that is soft, comfortable and just sucks you in, but doesn't allow for flexible, straight and more natural sitting position that a less comfortable chair would allow (wooden stool, as extreme example). The latter makes your butt sore often times though.
I am thankful I don't have a bad back. I have a good back.
My recumbent bicycle is an LWB. That means it is smooth rider. Riding it is similar to relaxing in a chaise lounge.

You can increase your back's comfort by buying a lumbar support cushion from a chiropractor. This small pillow supports the part of your back between your coccyx and halfway up your spine. If your
recumbent bicycle seat doesn't already have builtin lumbar support, then getting this cushion will be the key to hours of comfortable pedaling. Without it, you can still pedal. You'll just have to get up onto your feet and stretch your torso every hour or so.

I recommend the lumbar support cushion for pedaling a reumbent bicycle.

The lumbar support cushion is built for use while sitting in office chairs and on bench seats in cars. So you can use the same cushion at work working on the computer.

If you absolutely must sit in a conventional office chair at work, then I recommend the lumbar support cushion while you sit in that chair.

But I suggest instead using a bar stool instead if you work on the computer a lot. This allows you to stand while using the computer. You can stretch your legs, walk in place, etc. Then sit down when you tire.

Of course, this requires you to move the monitor upward so that you can look horizontally into it while standing erect on your feet. Do it. It will be well worth the effort needed.

And if your automobile does not have lumbar support already built into the seat in which you normally sit, then I recommend getting and using the lumbar support cushion while you sit there.

Last edited by LWB_guy; 01-16-13 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 01-22-13, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Horros View Post
So I suppose my search for back bettering bike dies before it even starts. Should just accept the nature of cycling and do additional exercise to fix the back issues, but somtimes it's hard to find the time when moving from school bench or computer related work to bike saddle. In that case I'd see recumbent better choice, in the sense that I don't need to stress back unnecessarily and in less natural positions. I'm looknig at this from long distance touring perspective, and anything that would make things better in longer run would be cool. I will have to look deeper into this recumbent thing.

Thanks!
Huh?
I have 3 recumbents. All are easy on my back. I gave up diamond frames for neck and carpal tunnel reasons. In fact, I took a spill off of my Rans Stratus XP-AL a while back. I fell directly on my sit bones and got a searing pain mid spine. I lay on the ground for about 10 minutes, doing various movements, trying to assess the damage. In the end, I decided to continue my ride. I rode 30 miles with no discomfort in my back. My back started hurting after I stopped riding. I had sporadic pain in my spine for months. It was always alleviated while riding. Recumbent biking is great for someone with back issues, IMHO.
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Old 01-23-13, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post

Do not expect any bike, upright or recumbent, to keep your core muscles in shape. Bicycles are great for cardio and leg workouts; in fact, they're not very good for building leg strength either. Toning and endurance, but not strength. They pretty much suck for any other parts of your body. For a full-body workout, I recommend swimming. For core, do calisthenics. For most people, doing sit-ups is the best way to prevent future back problems.
IIRC MBB bikes (Cruzbike etc.) do require core muscle engagement to counterbalance pedal thrust. There's before and after shots of Maria Parker (somewhere on BROL I think) and the effect was noticable. But I do agree, Swimming is the best all-round workout.
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Old 01-24-13, 07:38 PM
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I went 'bent more for my arthritic hands and rebuilt shoulder than for my back. I may not be the fastest out there on the flats or uphill, but I can hold my own with the speed demons on the downhill side! Plus at the end of a long day in the saddle, the only thing I am, is TIRED! Nothing hurts. That to me, is worth more than the finest DF ever made. I love my bent.
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Old 02-11-13, 09:22 AM
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What I find amazing is that when I occasionally twist my back, riding either my recumbent bike or trike seems to cause it to get well faster. I actually seem to feel less pain while riding.
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Old 02-11-13, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
What I find amazing is that when I occasionally twist my back, riding either my recumbent bike or trike seems to cause it to get well faster. I actually seem to feel less pain while riding.
I have had the same experience.
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Old 02-26-13, 05:03 PM
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My homebuilt LWB has prevented any riding induced back/neck pain as well as groin numbness. Next on the list is a cruiser bike with the crank forward position and upright bars which has helped as well. It is easier to transport than the bent but not as comfy for long hauls.

On a different note, sleeping on an anti gravity chair also has stopped back pains I used to experience upon waking up.
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Old 02-26-13, 06:17 PM
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JGaerlan, check out my Townie on this thread (post #337):
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-Townie/page14
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