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Back pain on longer rides.

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Back pain on longer rides.

Old 08-10-22, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
I initially made the same visual error that (I think) you are making: that thing sticking out from under her bum is a saddle bag, not the saddle itself. I think she is seated in the photo.
I think you are right! Yes that saddle needs to come down some.
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Old 08-10-22, 02:09 PM
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When I hit cycling again pretty hard after giving up mountain biking, my lower back and shoulders started to kill me on 25-30 mile rides. It got so bad I went to a PT. the prescription was lower back and shoulder strengthening exercises. I also shortened the length of the stem to decrease reach. Doing all of the above helped me greatly. You will find all sorts of cycling specific exercises to do on YouTube. Good luck because pain is zero fun.
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Old 08-10-22, 03:05 PM
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IME position is relatively unimportant w/r to back pain. What matters is back conditioning. Cycling does work the back, a lot. Your posterior chain goes up all the way to your shoulder blades. What to do? Well, back work in the gym is my first choice. My favorite thing is barbell squats 3 X 12, last set at max. Otherwise, walking for 3-5 miles at maximum sustainable pace is really good a couple times a week. Also pushups and planks. I think the most important thing is to get relaxed in the cockpit. Everything should be comfortable. If something isn't, work it off the bike, hard. I've seen people ride double centuries on balloon tired coaster brake bikes, flat pedals. It's not bike fit, it's cyclist fitness.

Au contraire to the "round your back more" advice, read this: Riding Position Discovery
Your upper arms should make a right angle with your torso centerline.

I would definitely not shorten reach. If anything, I'd lengthen your reach and straighten your back for ordinary road riding. But for TTing, move your saddle all the way forward, move your spacers to above your stem, and slightly raise your saddle. Then think about where your elbows should be. That'll put a lot more weight on your forearms, but it'll flatten your back.

My wife and I in "winter trim." We comfortably rode a couple of double centuries with this setup in our late 60s. My position is very similar to yours. You really don't want to ride like a 25 y.o. racer boy who uses a too-small bike because it's lighter and stiffer.
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Old 08-10-22, 03:56 PM
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And this is what a TT rider looks like these days. Note the upper arm angle and how stretched out he is in terms of elbow to knee distance, even though his butt is quite far forward. Also notice his knee angle. Seems like he's doing it right.
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Old 08-10-22, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by prj71
Trying doing some planks during the week and some lower back exercises. Your back pain will disappear. Lack of core muscle strength is showing up in your back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWmGArQBtFI
Will check out.
Originally Posted by terrymorse
I don't see anything glaringly bad with the bike position. The hip and shoulder angles look fairly close to optimal for a triathlon position.



I suspect it's core weakness in a cyclist who hasn't had enough bike time to develop strength on the bike.

Here's an article with some exercises that should improve core strength.
I don't do a lot of core exercise, I guess I should incorporate more into my routine. Generally the exercises I do that involve the core is I swim twice a week and once a week I'll do 100-150 crunches. I guess where I'm coming up short on my training is that I tend to only do one exercise a day. So the days that I ride, I only ride and the days I swim, I only swim. Guess I need to mix things up a little bit.

The exception to that is about once a month I'll do a ride/run to stay in shape for my triathlons. Can't really do the swimming so much just because swimming options out here are a bit limited.

Originally Posted by koala logs
Except for the lower back posture / arch.

Jen's lower back posture doesn't compare favorably to a posture that minimizes core workload, hence, the lower back muscle pain.

The purpose of reducing reach is to make it easier to assume a posture that reduces core workload which basically a lower back with higher degree of convex arch. It also moves upper body weight closer to the "fulcrum" or the pivot point (the hips), further reducing work load for the core muscles.

A lower back pain can be symptom of weak core muscles but can also be due to poor fit / poor back posture causing increased workload for the core muscles.
I set the bike up because I thought my back should be flatter. I'll see what I can do to bring things a bit closer.
Originally Posted by 79pmooney
My thought is that your seat looks a lot higher than I would want Your leg is going near straight at max extension. I like to keep a lot of knee bend. I rode seat heights like yours before racing. The vets in my club immediately had me lower it and it kept going down over the next couple of years. I now have a very simple test that dials in that seat height exactly. I sit on the bike next to a hallway wall barefoot, pedal down and heel on the spindle of the upside down pedal. There is exactly one height where I can either bent my knee or lock it straight without rocking my hips. (Others like seats a little higher than I do and do the same test with low heeled house slippers or cycling shoes. Once you have "the height' keep those shoes! Makes setting up new bikes for set height brain dead easy.)

The lower seat allows me to rotate my hips forward without needing to rock side to side over the saddle, therefore allowing real weight on my soft parts. (Yes, men and women are different, but if you look at the women pros, they do exactly the same thing on almost identical saddles.) Being able to comfortably rotate your hips forward means straightening out your lower back. Right away, this should give you some relief.

I also find relief when I set up bikes for more reach. Sounds totally backwards but hear me out. More reach means I can be pulling slightly on the bars, stretching my back, pulling those vertebra apart, not compressing them. It also feels like I get better blood flow and more oxygen throughout my torso muscles so everything feels better, especially on long climbs and hard efforts. So after lowering your seat, you may find you can remove a spacer of two from below your stem and maybe even go a touch longer with a new one.
I'm going to have to read this a couple times to get everything you're talking about. As far as seat height, I really don't think I can lower it much more. The main concern is the bend of my knees. I have some long term knee damage and putting much more flex into my knees results in a lot of knee pain and fatigue. It may be a better position, but that limitation prevents me from lowering.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
And this is what a TT rider looks like these days. Note the upper arm angle and how stretched out he is in terms of elbow to knee distance, even though his butt is quite far forward. Also notice his knee angle. Seems like he's doing it right.
At least so far as the upper body, this is what I thought I wanted to get. That's why I had my bike set up the way I do.
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Old 08-10-22, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by VegasJen
Will check out.

I don't do a lot of core exercise, I guess I should incorporate more into my routine. Generally the exercises I do that involve the core is I swim twice a week and once a week I'll do 100-150 crunches.<snip>
Too many people think "core" means abs. I never heard of a cyclist with sore abs, but back pain is almost universal at some point. Stiff legged deadlifts are also wonderful for back and hams. Look up on youtube. Do them very smoothly. It doesn't take a lot of weight. 50-100 lbs. is plenty for most folks.
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Old 08-10-22, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Too many people think "core" means abs. I never heard of a cyclist with sore abs, but back pain is almost universal at some point. Stiff legged deadlifts are also wonderful for back and hams. Look up on youtube. Do them very smoothly. It doesn't take a lot of weight. 50-100 lbs. is plenty for most folks.
Agree.

Deadlifts strengthen the glutes, which support the back muscles and are notoriously weak in cyclists. They also teach hinging at the hip which protects the back and allows a rider to get lower with less strain. Form is critical.
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Old 08-10-22, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Too many people think "core" means abs. I never heard of a cyclist with sore abs, but back pain is almost universal at some point. Stiff legged deadlifts are also wonderful for back and hams. Look up on youtube. Do them very smoothly. It doesn't take a lot of weight. 50-100 lbs. is plenty for most folks.
I'll have to keep my eyes open on Craigslist for some weights to use. I'm sure I can find something in a garage sale for not a lot of money.
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Old 08-10-22, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
And this is what a TT rider looks like these days. Note the upper arm angle and how stretched out he is in terms of elbow to knee distance, even though his butt is quite far forward. Also notice his knee angle. Seems like he's doing it right.
Take notice of the rider's back. The convex arch is quite pronounced and the posture helps to reduce core workload. This is common to pros because of their power output to avoid overworking the core.

However, if you recruit the glutes and hamstrings on the downstroke, that too will cause additional load on the core muscles even if you don't make a lot of power and I think Jens does it due to knee issues as an adaptive response and made evident by her unusually big hamstrings (or she probably does deadlifts, etc and might be the cause of her back pains, not due to cycling).

I too recruit the hamstrings and glutes on the downstroke to help distribute the load among my leg muscles to avoid over working the quads. I found the technique quite effective at reducing RPE (perceived effort) on the legs during z4 - z5 efforts. When I first trained on the technique, I too experienced lower back pains. I did core strengthening exercises during that time as well (dead lifts and box steps with weight). It helped to some degree but did not fully fixed the problem until I changed my back posture similar to the pro rider above, aided by reducing reach.

Last edited by koala logs; 08-10-22 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 08-10-22, 09:06 PM
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Based on the recommendations above, I changed the set up on two of my bikes today (my K2 and my Spec Roubiax). I brought my aero bars back about 2" and moved the seat forward ~0.5", per everybody's suggestion to get more arch in my back. On the Spec, I restacked the spacers above the stem to drop it about 0.5". I did similar changes to both bikes, now they are set up nearly identical. I'm going to do about a 25 mile ride on the K2 tomorrow and see how the changes feel.
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Old 08-10-22, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by koala logs
Take notice of the rider's back. The convex arch is quite pronounced and the posture helps to reduce core workload. This is common to pros because of their power output to avoid overworking the core.

However, if you recruit the glutes and hamstrings on the downstroke, that too will cause additional load on the core muscles even if you don't make a lot of power and I think Jens does it due to knee issues as an adaptive response and made evident by her unusually big hamstrings (or she probably does deadlifts, etc and might be the cause of her back pains, not due to cycling).

I too recruit the hamstrings and glutes on the downstroke to help distribute the load among my leg muscles to avoid over working the quads. I found the technique quite effective at reducing RPE (perceived effort) on the legs during z4 - z5 efforts. When I first trained on the technique, I too experienced lower back pains. I did core strengthening exercises during that time as well (dead lifts and box steps with weight). It helped to some degree but did not fully fixed the problem until I changed my back posture similar to the pro rider above, aided by reducing reach.
Well, everyone's different. Here's some various Filippo Ganna footage:

Everyone wants to get their back as flat as they can, just that their ability to do so varies. Our backs are designed to be flat, not rounded. And, the flatter the back, the lower the CDA. All of these TT artists however do one thing the same - round the upper back so that they can drop the top of their head down even with their back level, called "turtling the head." Not many people can manage that as well as these folks at whom we're looking. Note that none of these champions use a reduced reach, nor do these champions:

Their knees clear their elbows by about 2". Those road champs have an even larger clearance there, maybe because the above women were racing 11 years ago? Also note the knee angle at max extension. That's a smaller angle than most of us roadies use, because this fit is designed to maximize the amount of back drop possible, meaning that the knee must be kept low, i.e. saddle must be high. This video does a decent job of explaining the elements of TT fit. Look at how far forward Lis K's butt gets w/r to BB, starting at about 5:35.

Obviously we can't move our BBs back on our road bikes, but we can do about the same thing by moving our cockpit elements forward: saddle and bars.
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Old 08-11-22, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Well, everyone's different. Here's some various Filippo Ganna footage:

Everyone wants to get their back as flat as they can, just that their ability to do so varies. Our backs are designed to be flat, not rounded. And, the flatter the back, the lower the CDA. All of these TT artists however do one thing the same - round the upper back so that they can drop the top of their head down even with their back level, called "turtling the head." Not many people can manage that as well as these folks at whom we're looking. Note that none of these champions use a reduced reach, nor do these champions:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSXyg6dn0Kk
If that's how you define "flat back", I'm perfectly OK with it. Their lower back is still arched into a convex nicely with the pelvis rotated in a more upright angle. If you read my previous posts, the lower back curve and pelvic angle is my only concern, doesn't really matter if the rest of your back is flat.

Both you and your wife have excellent lower back form. That's why I didn't comment about your posture. It's good to me.

If you think it doesn't matter, I can only assume, you've always had excellent lower back flexibility and just taking things for granted. But among many cyclists with below average lower back flexibility, including myself, core workouts alone doesn't solve the problem. I also had to train myself to assume a convex lower back form until it became 2nd nature to me. I had to reduce reach to make it easier for me to get my lower back into the convex form.
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Old 08-11-22, 05:29 AM
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"Yes, cyclist for whom a 20 mile ride is long, just assume the position of a professional time trialist and you will be fine" Are you guys for real?
Clearly, the fit is way off, and the aero bars (not to mention the death grip on them) isn't helping. The too high seat and overextension combined causes the inability to support the rider properly, causing the core to be called upon to maintain the position that rider shouldn't be in to begin with, thus the back pain.
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Old 08-11-22, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by wheelreason
"Yes, cyclist for whom a 20 mile ride is long, just assume the position of a professional time trialist and you will be fine" Are you guys for real?
Clearly, the fit is way off, and the aero bars (not to mention the death grip on them) isn't helping. The too high seat and overextension combined causes the inability to support the rider properly, causing the core to be called upon to maintain the position that rider shouldn't be in to begin with, thus the back pain.
I disagree. Good bike position, whether road, MTB, or TT is that way because it works. The OP's position is fine, but she wants to ride further and get faster. To do that, she simply needs to do the work and assume the position.

My standard advice is to ride away from home until you are tired, then ride back. Repeat every Sunday with a few shorter rides during the week until you can ride a century. Takes a while, a year or two depending on the person. Bro science says it takes 7 years of steady training to achieve one's aerobic potential. During that process, the person will home in on their fit. The most important thing is to gain experience, which begins when one starts. IMO too many people think, oh we can solve this with bike fit. IME one solves problems oneself with hard work. The issue then becomes how to target that work, a much more fruitful discussion. As a poster here said long ago, "If you want to learn how to ride 30 mph, ride 30 mph." The number is irrelevant, it's the method that counts. Oh - and get toe clips or clipless. It'll make a huge difference. Post 18 is correct. You go, Jen.
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Old 08-11-22, 01:39 PM
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OP has 150-155 degree bend in leg with toe down, it should be more like 140 degrees with foot level at the bottom. She is reaching to the bars.

It is not fine. Both of those two fit faults are the #1 and #2 reasons for back pain on relatively short rides.

Jen lowered 1/2 inch and moved the saddle forward, that might be enough. GL.
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Old 08-11-22, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by carbonfiberboy
i disagree. Good bike position, whether road, mtb, or tt is that way because it works. The op's position is fine, but she wants to ride further and get faster. To do that, she simply needs to do the work and assume the position.

My standard advice is to ride away from home until you are tired, then ride back. Repeat every sunday with a few shorter rides during the week until you can ride a century. Takes a while, a year or two depending on the person. Bro science says it takes 7 years of steady training to achieve one's aerobic potential. During that process, the person will home in on their fit. The most important thing is to gain experience, which begins when one starts. Imo too many people think, oh we can solve this with bike fit. Ime one solves problems oneself with hard work. The issue then becomes how to target that work, a much more fruitful discussion. As a poster here said long ago, "if you want to learn how to ride 30 mph, ride 30 mph." the number is irrelevant, it's the method that counts. Oh - and get toe clips or clipless. It'll make a huge difference. Post 18 is correct. You go, jen.
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Old 08-11-22, 06:33 PM
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OK, guys. Some of you may have read about the adjustments I made up in post 35. Went for a 30 mile ride today. Back was still tight at the end, but I don't know if that was a matter of my position still being out of whack, or maybe residual tension from my ride on Tuesday. It felt much better through the majority of the ride though. I started to feel it coming on around 20 miles, but nothing like Tuesday. And by the time I finished the ride, I was a little sore, but nothing on the level of a couple days ago.

I know a lot of people say I need to lower my seat position but I just don't see that. There are two reasons why. First, as stated above, many years ago I did some damage to the ligaments in my knees. Something that doesn't regularly bother me, except when I load the knee with it bent past about 90*. If I put a lot of pressure on the knee (both, but the right is worse) with it bent at a pretty tight angle, it feels like it's going to come apart. Second, I grew up riding bikes that were too tall for me so I'm very comfortable with that higher seat position. I was paying attention today and my leg is never straight. Maybe as close as 170*, but it's never 180* straight.

Overall, I felt good. I didn't ride a particularly fast pace, only about 15mph (Almost exactly 2 hours for the 30 miles). But this ride has about 1000' of elevation and it was well into the 90s the entire way. I've done this ride before and ridden in under 1:50. I think the heat today is really what slowed me down.

So I may still need to tweak my position, but I think we're on the right track now. Maybe tomorrow I'll take some pictures with the revised fit so you can see what it looks like.
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Old 08-11-22, 06:41 PM
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EDIT: None of those changes will matter much until the seat extension gets some attention.

Last edited by cyclezen; 08-11-22 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 08-11-22, 07:17 PM
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I actually raised the seat yesterday. Not a lot mind you, only about 1/2". But honestly, it felt pretty good to me.

With my knees being the limiting factor, I think the only real option I have is to go to a smaller crank throw. But I'm hesitant to do that because it just feels like I would be giving up some leverage.
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Old 08-11-22, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by VegasJen
OK, guys. Some of you may have read about the adjustments I made up in post 35. Went for a 30 mile ride today. Back was still tight at the end, but I don't know if that was a matter of my position still being out of whack, or maybe residual tension from my ride on Tuesday. It felt much better through the majority of the ride though. I started to feel it coming on around 20 miles, but nothing like Tuesday. And by the time I finished the ride, I was a little sore, but nothing on the level of a couple days ago.
Definitely a step in the right direction! With the shorter reach, don't change your arm angles (elbows, shoulders). Maintain the same angles as you did before you made any changes to the fit. Only the lower back form should change / pelvis rotated backwards or more upright (more convex arch). You may feel the bike shrunk too much but after a week or two that sensation will go away.

Lower back soreness / pain may take a while to go away even if you don't do any riding for a few days.

Lower back massage can take away most of the pain almost immediately after the massage. It works! I get this type of massage from my mom. Well not exactly this one but close, she has her own technique. If you can ask someone to massage you, show them this video or if you find any style you might prefer. Self massage can be done with tennis balls or foam rollers. I never tried those before so I'm not sure how effective they can be. I have a cheap electric massager for self massage, but nowhere near as good as manual massage given by somebody else.


Something that doesn't regularly bother me, except when I load the knee with it bent past about 90*. If I put a lot of pressure on the knee (both, but the right is worse) with it bent at a pretty tight angle, it feels like it's going to come apart. Second, I grew up riding bikes that were too tall for me so I'm very comfortable with that higher seat position. I was paying attention today and my leg is never straight. Maybe as close as 170*, but it's never 180* straight.
Good solution here is get shorter crank. 15 to 20 mm shorter than the one you're currently using without changing the saddle height. That leg extension you have may give you problems later on. You may not have problems now but sooner or later you might as you get stronger on the bike and as years go by.
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Old 08-11-22, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by VegasJen
I actually raised the seat yesterday. Not a lot mind you, only about 1/2". But honestly, it felt pretty good to me.

With my knees being the limiting factor, I think the only real option I have is to go to a smaller crank throw. But I'm hesitant to do that because it just feels like I would be giving up some leverage.
That's not an issue. The standard for crank length is 5.5 X distance floor to pubic bone in socks, measured in feet. Gives result in mm. In any case, you just spin slightly faster in a slightly lower gear to generate the same power. Shorter cranks are quite popular, really. OTOH, how much shorter? Going from 170 to 165 for instance is less than 1/4" of increased quad to chest clearance. There's also the issue of cost, which will vary with your BB and crankset. You'd have to ask a bike shop what your options would be and their cost.

My wife is 5'2" with short legs. She uses 151mm cranks on our tandem, quite successfully. We had them custom made. Fixed her leg cramp issues from going hard for long periods. I have to spin faster to develop her power, but that's OK.
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Old 08-11-22, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by VegasJen
I actually raised the seat yesterday. Not a lot mind you, only about 1/2". But honestly, it felt pretty good to me.

With my knees being the limiting factor, I think the only real option I have is to go to a smaller crank throw. But I'm hesitant to do that because it just feels like I would be giving up some leverage.
15 to 20mm shorter crank to make any real difference.

Actually, the shorter crank will increase your comfortable / preferred cadence. That will allow you to use lower gear to cruise at the same speed so you don't lose any leverage. You only lose leverage if you're running out of gears on climbs but that can be fixed by using smaller chainrings.

Shorter cranks make real good improvement if you're having problems with knees and is the next best solution if saddle height options are limited.
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Old 08-11-22, 07:40 PM
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Thanks guys.

As for massage, I have one of those cheap Chinesium massagers from Amazon. Not as good as a real person, but it does work. Using it as I type.

Standard is 170mm, right? I might try 150 or 155 on one of my bikes just to see how that works. Just a matter of finding such things. I really don't know where to even look. I know of JensonUSA but that's really about it.
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Old 08-11-22, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by VegasJen
Standard is 170mm, right? I might try 150 or 155 on one of my bikes just to see how that works. Just a matter of finding such things. I really don't know where to even look. I know of JensonUSA but that's really about it.
Yup, 170 mm is the common crank fitting. But better make sure, measure it from BB to pedal bolt. In case the crank ends up being 155 mm already, then you may need even smaller.

I have 150mm crank on my BMX bike. I am 5'8". 170mm on the road bike. However, I find it significantly easier to pedal standing on the BMX bike than the road bike going up the same 10% gradient climb even though my pedal standing posture is the same on both bikes. I'm also faster climbing on the BMX bike but probably because it's lighter than my road bike.

Last edited by koala logs; 08-11-22 at 10:20 PM.
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Old 08-11-22, 10:43 PM
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Bike fitter Rick Schultz has done some interesting work on crank arm length and knee pain. Too long crank arms give too much knee flexion at the top of the stroke resulting in knee pain and related discomfort.

https://www.ucsfcme.com/2021/MMJ2100...%20-%20MOC.pdf

Cobb and DaVinci make some cranks in shorter lengths. Spa Cycles has a good selection of shorter cranks available for very reasonable prices with fast delivery from England. The Bikesmith in St Paul, MN can shorten some existing cranks. Also check recumbent shops as many 'bent riders use short cranks.

Bicycling is one of the few if not the only activity that doesn't develop the muscles necessary to perform it while actually doing it. You need a strong core but cycling does nothing to strengthen your overall core. Crunches, particularly once a week, are perhaps the WORST exercise you can do for core development and pain management. Foundation Training from Eric Goodman has given more than a few cyclists freedom from back pain.
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