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Endurance frames vs back pain

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Endurance frames vs back pain

Old 06-07-20, 11:41 AM
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Islas
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Endurance frames vs back pain

Hi
I've been struggling with lower pack pain for a few years now, I'm getting a sciatica once every couple of years, trying to manage it with physio. For 4 years I've been riding Giant Propel Advanced 2, usually doing 50-100km rides, when I was getting close to the 100 I was feeling a bit of pain but nothing really bad. Since last year however I'm struggling to reach 40km without having serious lower back pain, stiffness around the spine joints. I've had a bike fitting done 2 years ago so its seems fitted to me.

My question is, if the endurance or at least not-race'y type of frames likes Propel are REALLY worth it and I could expect my problems to go away (well I'm aware it won't fully go away but at least I'd be able to do 50km without that pain)?

If so, which ones I should be paying particular attention to? I have an eye on a brand new Scott CR1 from 2015 for a very good price (around 900 euro for full carbon), but not sure if endurance was a thing back in 2015?

I'd appreciate some advice on how to overcome my lower back issues

Kind regards, Simon
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Old 06-07-20, 12:10 PM
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I rather doubt it's possible to buy relief from back pain. IME back therapy works. If you're interested in how I've been doing it, reply, otherwise it's otherwise. I have lumbar stenosis, arthritic facets, thin discs, and one fractured vertebra. I can ride pretty much forever if I'm in shape. 75 and ride a race frame, slammed stem and clip-ons.
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Old 06-07-20, 12:44 PM
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Depends on the mechanics of your back pain. Rent an endurance bike for a few days and see how it treats you. Or put a +17* stem on yours for a while.

Also try doing exercises to strengthen your core muscles, like squats and deadlifts, but definitely not sit ups. Core muscles are there to protect your spine.
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Old 06-07-20, 01:03 PM
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Carbonfiberboy is right. Many new riders think that a more upright position is easier on the back, but the opposite is true. The more upright the position, the greater the compression forces on the spine from road shock. Think of riding with clip-on aero bars as the equivalent of doing a back-stretching exercise for hours on end.
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Old 06-07-20, 01:24 PM
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Moving to an endurance frame, helped to get a little pressure off my wrists and keep my neck less bent. It does put more pressure on my lower back but it is manageable. No frame geometry is going to treat sciatica. That needs to happen off the bike. Yoga Flow has really helped some sciatica I was experiencing. My wife and I did a lot of Amazon Prime Yoga vids during lockdown. I am definitely feeling the benefits on the bike and in my other hobbies.
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Old 06-07-20, 02:09 PM
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Thanks for hints, bit surprising to me and counter-intuitive that more relaxed posture puts more pressure on the back? So it is really a marketing catch with "endurance bikes"? I have a narrowed space between L4 and L5 I think and my physio told me that I can stop this getting worse, but it's irreversible. And I've been doing a bit of exercises which helped me not getting lower-back pain while working (sitting in front of PC).
Unfortunetely I don't have a road bike rental to try them out, I remember riding a Giant TCR on Mallorca and it felt great, but this was holidays and probably I "forgot to feel any pain" because I was too excited about riding there
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Old 06-07-20, 03:34 PM
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I think if the geometry of the bike was a problem the pain would be evident earlier on. I take an Alleve before each ride and another if the ride goes over 80 miles. Hard foam roller for the hamstrings because that seems to be the origin of my back pain. Lots of things you can try first but a new bike is always fun!
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Old 06-07-20, 05:06 PM
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People tend to focus way to much on geometry as the way to alleviate pain. It plays a role, but riding a bike long distance requires off-the-bike cross training. When I experience lower back pain, its because my core is weak and I havent been diligent about active stretching and mobility. Strengthen your body and many of these pain problems will be resolved.

I also agree that having a very upright geometry is not necessarily more comfortable/better for back pain.
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Old 06-07-20, 06:53 PM
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Islas, I have had chronic back/spinal issues since the early 90's. I have 4 surgeries, from partial discectomies to complete disc replacement with a mechanical disc, and spinal fusion. I went the hybrid/comfort bike route for a couple years in the early 2000's. I never really got comfortable with longer rides and had issues with my shoulders, neck, back and hands. I went back to a road bike in 2006. It took a little while and some trial and error, but I finally found a set up that works for me. The following is a summary of set up: steel frames, wider. cushier tires, saddle on the firm side, stem from to 80-100 depending on bike geometry, handlebars to 44cm with short reach and drop, 2.5-5cm drop from saddle to handlebar. I am soon to be 68 and this will be the 6th year in a row that I rode more miles than when younger, with 2017 at 6000 miles. It is looking like I am likely to top that this year.

I have found that when my back is sore, going for a casual, slow paced ride helps alleviate that. Not true if the back is really hurting. Then my recliner and ice packs are my best friends.
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Old 06-08-20, 02:36 PM
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What are the widest tires you've ridden on the road? If you're not running 25's or 28's I'd start there. The lower pressure helps with shock absorption and may help some of the stress.

Otherwise, you need to work on your core strength like woah in order to stay comfortable.

Better frame geometry can certainly help too though, but I'd atleast test ride a few bikes before committing to that to see if it helps things. Most endurance geometry bikes these days take atleast 28's if not wider tires so that should help as well.

There's honestly a huge difference in comfort between 23's and 28's.
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Old 06-08-20, 04:12 PM
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OP... Do you have a desk job?
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Old 06-09-20, 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
OP... Do you have a desk job?
Yes I do

The problem with wider tires is that with 25 I have now the braking wire is rubbing on the wheel and gets torn to pieces every couple of months. This is caused by the tight aero fit of the brakes and rear fork.

One observation I made is that when I ride lightly (still in the same position) I can ride longer without such big of a pain.
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Old 06-09-20, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Islas View Post
Yes I do
The problem with wider tires is that with 25 I have now the braking wire is rubbing on the wheel and gets torn to pieces every couple of months. This is caused by the tight aero fit of the brakes and rear fork.
I asked about your back because lower back pain among office workers like you and me is almost a given these days and sitting too much is a major contributor. Combine sitting with cycling, and it's a recipe for a lower back disaster and it'll get worse as you age if you don't take action now. While changing your bike may or may not help alleviate a little pain, if the bike isn't the cause, it's also not the solution.

For me, I finally gave-in to doing stretching, core exercises, and upper-body exercises several times a week along with cycling to balance out my muscles and increase flexibility. You mentioned you're "trying to manage it with physio".. while I'm not totally sure what that means, I have learned that some kind of strength training and stretching off the bike on a daily basis will eventually help reduce or eliminate your back problems. One also ought to consider your posture and ergonomics while at work and make sure you get up and move around frequently at work instead of staying in a chair for hours at a time (assuming you do). Once again, prolonged sitting promotes back. I recently put an app on my computer that reminds me to get away from the computer frequently.

That aside, as mentioned already, larger tires are probably the single most important thing one can do to increase ride comfort. I used to be a hard-core 23mm tire rider, but my latest bike has 32mm tires and I love 'em! Granted, my new bike also has wide rims, disk brakes and plenty of clearance for the wider tires. As you've already found out, your bike just might not support anything above 25mm as many rim brake bikes don't.
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Old 06-09-20, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Carbonfiberboy is right. Many new riders think that a more upright position is easier on the back, but the opposite is true. The more upright the position, the greater the compression forces on the spine from road shock. Think of riding with clip-on aero bars as the equivalent of doing a back-stretching exercise for hours on end.
Yeah that's just not true at all. Maybe if you're only thinking about road shock but you ignore pedaling dynamics that way. I blew up my back in 2010 riding a bike with too much drop. Wound up in surgery and got all new bikes in the end. 10 years later I now ride a Defy Advacned and can do 100 miles plus with no back issues.

The reality is that a proper fit is essential and if riding is giving you back pain the fit is probably wrong for your body and fitness level...not matter how cool it looks.
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Old 06-09-20, 04:29 PM
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Make sure to keep your back flat while you ride, don't arch it.
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Old 06-09-20, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Grasschopper View Post
Yeah that's just not true at all. Maybe if you're only thinking about road shock but you ignore pedaling dynamics that way. I blew up my back in 2010 riding a bike with too much drop. Wound up in surgery and got all new bikes in the end. 10 years later I now ride a Defy Advacned and can do 100 miles plus with no back issues.

The reality is that a proper fit is essential and if riding is giving you back pain the fit is probably wrong for your body and fitness level...not matter how cool it looks.
I rode with a slammed -17 stem for 20 years, no problems at all, but I worked on back fitness by stretching and at the gym. The usual road fit isn't about looks, it's about long distance comfort, much more than it's about being aero.

My back did start to hurt as I got older - off the bike that is. MRI said lumber stenosis, arthritic facets, thin discs. On the bike, it never hurt, I think because I was fit and kept a flat back. If your back's flat there's no problem. See: Riding Position Discovery

Last year I got the first bike fitting of my life. The fitter said I had too much hip angle and moved me up to a 6 stem. He also had me put on a lower set of clip-ons to make up for it. My thighs almost touch my ribs when I'm on them. I don't really notice the difference of the smaller hip angle. I rode a 15 hour 400k with the lower stem, no back pain, in my early 60s though. I've stopped doing anything over a double at 74. I'm not unusual. Other riders in my group have had back pain helped by increasing drop. There's a good article on hip angle here: https://coachendurancesports.com/bik...nt-is-useless/
The author stresses hamstring flexibility. I can put my knuckles on the floor, but not my palms. I think you're correct about back pain and fitness level, but rather than change bike fit, it's better in the long run to increase fitness and keep the comfortable fit. Getting older doesn't suck as much if one tries to stay fit.

It's kinda like this: you hear old folks grumble about how it's become uncomfortable to bend over and pick stuff up or to get down on their knees. But does that mean they shouldn't do these things? No, on the contrary it means they need to do a lot more of that or pretty soon they won't be able to do it at all.
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Old 06-10-20, 03:00 AM
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Kinda jaw-dropping that some of you with prior back problems are able to do long rides at ~twice my age (I'm 31) without problems, kudos to you, I'm kinda worried I'd be a vegetable quite soon, because the second "activity" that brings much discomfort to my back is... standing. After 20mins of standing still (like recently due to pandemic in front of the church lol) I have growing discomfort and then pain and I must do some micro-stretching.

With the aggressive posture on a aerobike indeed the back is stretched but I don't think it's the stretching good for your back, still the lower back is significantly bent and the joints are adjusting to unnatural position and compressed roughly around lower-back, probably especially where I do have the narrowed space between L4 & L5. Same happens when I'm sitting. I notice after the night, when I usually end up sleeping on my stomach where my back is bent the other way, that I have stiffness there and I need a couple of minutes of standing/walking to "wash-off" the stiffness.

I've had a couple of sessions with physiotherapist, some just massage, some showing me the types of exercises I should do daily to stop the progress of the dysfunction and I'm doing my best to keep the daily schedule. I think thanks to that I usually don't have a regular lower back pain (independent of cycling) after work and I didn't have sciatica for 2 years now.

Thanks for the suggestions and links provided, I'll check them out

I'll be checking that Scott CR1 2015 today, but still would be just a ride "around the shop", so I don't think I'd be able to draw any conclusions ...
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Old 06-10-20, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by powermatt99 View Post
Moving to an endurance frame, helped to get a little pressure off my wrists and keep my neck less bent. It does put more pressure on my lower back but it is manageable. No frame geometry is going to treat sciatica. That needs to happen off the bike. Yoga Flow has really helped some sciatica I was experiencing. My wife and I did a lot of Amazon Prime Yoga vids during lockdown. I am definitely feeling the benefits on the bike and in my other hobbies.
I have two bikes, the Cannondale, which I really don't like, puts a lot of pressure on my wrists. My Bianchi, which is an Endurance bike, reduces that pressure and is far more comfortable. Both for my back and more important for my wrists. I broke my wrist 50 years ago on a Motorcycle and it has begun to bother me in the past 10 years, so that reduced pressure really increases my ability to ride longer distances.
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Old 06-10-20, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by ultrarider7 View Post
I have two bikes, the Cannondale, which I really don't like, puts a lot of pressure on my wrists.
Maybe a dumb question, but do you have both bikes setup identically? I.e., is the height of the seat relative the stem and handlebars the same on both bikes? If it is, I'd be totally confused as to how one bike puts more pressure on your wrists than the other does.
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Old 06-10-20, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
Maybe a dumb question, but do you have both bikes setup identically? I.e., is the height of the seat relative the stem and handlebars the same on both bikes? If it is, I'd be totally confused as to how one bike puts more pressure on your wrists than the other does.
The seat to pedal height is the same. The Cannondale has flat bars and a short stem. The Bianchi has drops and a 130mm stem. I've thought about changing stem length to see if that's the difference. Or selling it with only 800 miles on it and buying a 2nd similar framed bike.
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Old 06-10-20, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by ultrarider7 View Post
The Cannondale has flat bars and a short stem. The Bianchi has drops and a 130mm stem.
Perhaps the issue is that with a flat bar you're not able to change your hand and wrist position at all, causing your wrists to ache over time. I experience this when trying to ride my mountain bike for too long (which has a flat bar). As such, I make sure that if I'm riding a longer distance, I always want drop bars just for the variety of hand positions.
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Old 06-10-20, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
Perhaps the issue is that with a flat bar you're not able to change your hand and wrist position at all, causing your wrists to ache over time. I experience this when trying to ride my mountain bike for too long (which has a flat bar). As such, I make sure that if I'm riding a longer distance, I always want drop bars just for the variety of hand positions.
I have thought about that too, and if I keep the bike I will put drops and a longer stem on it. I love my Bianchi and have already put about 2,000 miles on it this spring. The Cannondale was used during March when there was still snow in spots and when the other bike was in for service.
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Old 06-10-20, 10:28 AM
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In ~2011 (at age 38) I hurt a disc in the lower back carrying a heavy bag of wet leaves, and couldn't walk for a day or two. A few years went by and things were OK, but I thought any real fitness was gone from my life. Until one day in 2013, on a whim, I just decided to ride a 20-something yr old dusty Schwinn drop bar road bike that was in my shed that someone had donated to me years before. I only made it 10 miles that day, but I was astounded how good my back felt afterwards, probably because cycling doesn't twist or bend the back much, and your arms support your upper body, and that motivated me to start commuting 9 miles to work. one-way. Fast forward 7 years (to today), since then I've averaged ~4,250 miles per year, with some years at 8,500 (including a 325 mile ride in 24 hours, and also a ride up Mt Evans from Idaho Springs, 6,500' of elevation to an altitude of 14,100'), and some years at only 1,500 miles (last year) due Stage 4 Lung, Lymph, and Bone Cancer, which I've beaten, for now. My back still hurts just carrying in groceries, or simply giving the dog a bath in the tub. I've been riding an endurance Spec Roubaix since 2016 with an upturned stem, and with clip-on aero bars which are really nice to be able to stretch and take pressure off the lower back. Exercises include "active bridges", hip flexor stuff with rubber bands, and glute strengthening, all of which seem to strengthen the lower back area. I'm now on track to hit 4,000 miles again this year, and hopefully more next year.
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Old 06-10-20, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by justonwo View Post
People tend to focus way to much on geometry as the way to alleviate pain. It plays a role, but riding a bike long distance requires off-the-bike cross training. When I experience lower back pain, its because my core is weak and I havent been diligent about active stretching and mobility. Strengthen your body and many of these pain problems will be resolved.

I also agree that having a very upright geometry is not necessarily more comfortable/better for back pain.
Preach it brother! The type of bike is not the most important part of the equation.
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Old 06-10-20, 12:55 PM
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Every time I feel an inkling of back pain, I start doing exercises that strengthen my back muscles. If you are already at the point that pain is chronic, then you need to see a medical professional and I very much recommend using a physical therapist too.

If you can try a bike before you buy, then you should try all that appeal to you no matter what they are marketed as. But keep in mind that the most comfy for short rides may not be the most comfy for long rides.
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