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Back pain on longer rides.

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Back pain on longer rides.

Old 08-09-22, 08:31 PM
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VegasJen
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Back pain on longer rides.

First off, by "longer rides" I'm saying 20+ miles. I don't ride centuries, or even halfs. A really long ride for me is pretty much anything greater than 30 miles.

I did a 27 mile ride today and about the time I got around 18-20 miles in my back was absolutely screaming. It's all lower back pain and I've noticed that this pain limits my rides far more than energy or endurance. Any pointers as to what I can do to relieve this pain?

For the record, I'm 52, 5'4" and ride either a 49 or 50cm bike.

Quick pic of my basic bike fit.

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Old 08-09-22, 10:29 PM
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Jen - Nice set up. I also suffer with back pain from injuries. I was able to resolve back pain from ridding by raising my Bars 3cm and lowering my seat about 2cm. Now that is after several years of making very slight adjustments. Do not do it all at once. Every few years I have had to adjust them just a little. Bit I am not getting old... Ha

You may need to go to another Stem...
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Old 08-09-22, 10:52 PM
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Did you happen to do the whole ride on the saddle? That can tire out your back muscles, especially on uphill sections.

If you get out of the saddle every few minutes, that will rest the muscles in your lower back.

It also helps to click up a gear or two when you pedal out of the saddle.
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Old 08-09-22, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Did you happen to do the whole ride on the saddle? That can tire out your back muscles, especially on uphill sections.

If you get out of the saddle every few minutes, that will rest the muscles in your lower back.

It also helps to click up a gear or two when you pedal out of the saddle.
Yes, I do this often. Especially when it really starts to twinge up on me. I'll stand up and arch my back just to try and relax the muscles. And I think that's the problem. I know I'm arthritic in my hips and knees, but I think this back pain is muscle tightness.
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Old 08-10-22, 12:27 AM
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I used to get back pains say on a two hour ride on the flat, during the second hour I would feel it. The stronger I got the less that became, but it essentially went away with a fit and a new saddle. Now I just get sore when I do a lot of climbing, pain only when I climb and do too much so that I am tired and the body just cramps up. So I would assume that something about your fit/saddle is not 100% so that it puts your back muscles to more work than they should.
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Old 08-10-22, 12:31 AM
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This is likely the problem. I had the same lower back pain when I used to have the same back posture as you did and the problem went away with training in improved back posture. I did not have to do any core strength exercises. Just reducing the reach and getting into the right back posture fixed the problem. Basically, you need to rotate your lower back in a more upright posture and in consistently convex curve. Such back posture reduces the workload on your core muscles which eliminates pain and potential injury. Reducing reach is the key.

To get the same back posture as the pro rider in the picture, you'll have to reduce your reach. First by trying to move the aerobar closer. If you can't adjust the aerobar closer, then get a shorter stem. Try to switch to 20 to 30 mm shorter stem. You don't have to get that close knee to elbow position as the pro in the picture. It seems you have relatively longer torso so you don't have to get that close but you do need to reduce reach based on your back posture.

You'll feel cramped at first but do try to get used to it and consciously make an effort to try to assume a back posture as the pro rider. Check your posture beside a big mirror so you can see your back. Even better if you can do indoor training beside a big mirror to train yourself in the new posture. That's what I did.

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Old 08-10-22, 12:52 AM
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I used to suffer from lower back pain around the 35-40 mile mark, I shortened my stem by 10mm and fixed it, never had an issue since!
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Old 08-10-22, 03:36 AM
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I am in agreement with the adjustment of the reach and saddle height. I have been making small changes when necessary over the last number of years. Positioning is all important. For me, aero bars are absolutely a no go! I have 2 bikes that I have switched to Velo-Orange Porteur bars and they have been a huge help, not just with my spinal issues. They have also allowed for much relief from hand numbness and tingling, and the biggest improvement is the relief of stress on my arthritic thumbs.
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Old 08-10-22, 04:13 AM
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Repeating my comment on your fit thread......your cockpit aka reach to the bars is excessive, contributing to your back pain

Your upper body and head is high and you are really reaching on the aero bars.

Your saddle is slightly high (by looking at your foot and knee bend)

I would move your saddle forward as much as possible. This will effectively lower your saddle and bring the aero bars closer. I would experiment with reducing the spacers to lower the bar more. Closing the gap from your arms to your torso might also improve aerodynamics. Lowering your head just a little will make you faster.

Shoulder and back pain? If so, getting the bars closer would help.
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Old 08-10-22, 05:14 AM
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while I agree that your reach is a bit too much, I would take note of foot position too. The more "center" I had the pedals, the quicker the discomfort set in. Moving to have the pedal be more towards the frontish-center, right before the arch ended, gave me positive results right out of the gate & for those longer rides.
Note* For some reason, the change in foot placement effectiveness was applicable to the road bicycle. I didn't feel much if any positives for the MTB.
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Old 08-10-22, 07:06 AM
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I did not even notice the foot placement. I agree with Troul regarding getting the pedals centered on the backside of the ball of the foot. That alone will change the positioning of the lower half of the body. I see a whole of people riding with the pedals at the instep or the heel. I am not being critical, I just do not get it. Especially the heel position, which seems to me like it causes the foot to be significantly angled to prevent toe lap. Ball of the foot, I believe, is much more efficient, and puts less strain on the rest of the leg, which maybe reduces stress on the lower back.
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Old 08-10-22, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by delbiker1 View Post
I did not even notice the foot placement. I agree with Troul regarding getting the pedals centered on the backside of the ball of the foot. That alone will change the positioning of the lower half of the body. I see a whole of people riding with the pedals at the instep or the heel. I am not being critical, I just do not get it. Especially the heel position, which seems to me like it causes the foot to be significantly angled to prevent toe lap. Ball of the foot, I believe, is much more efficient, and puts less strain on the rest of the leg, which maybe reduces stress on the lower back.
Midsole cleat placement relieves the calf, helping to do the run better. There are other clear advantages for ultradistance events like Ironmen. Midsole relieves stress to the knee rather significantly. If you want to learn something......here you go....

https://www.triathlete.com/gear/bike...eat-placement/

https://joefrieltraining.com/more-on-cleat-position/

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...leat-position/
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Old 08-10-22, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I would move your saddle forward as much as possible.
It might solve the lower back pain by opening the hip angle

BUT the adjustment could cause increased pressure on the arms and cause shoulder pains, hand numbness. Only riders with slim build like pros can find such adjustment comfortable with their high w/kg and proportionally low torso weight.

You can also rotate the lower back to open the hip angle by reducing reach of the aero bar or both aero bar and drop bar by reducing stem length. It has the advantage of not only easing the lower back pressure but also unloading your arms even more. You need to get used to a shorter reach, it takes a bit of adjustment period. Fortunately, it's not that long. 1 to 2 weeks of getting used to shorter reach will often be enough.
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Old 08-10-22, 07:26 AM
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What are your "off-bike" workouts like? How often do you do upper body and core work? Also, and this is totally and unfounded question/observation... It would seem spending a lot of time on aero bars with your elbows supported, takes your triceps out of the equation. Triceps are a huge (!) part of our "suspension" system - supporting the weight and acting as shock absorbers.

Maybe ditch the aero bars for a while - just go with a good fit using the traditional road bike bars. In addition to eliminating the elbow support, you'll move around more - hoods, drops, center/flats.
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Old 08-10-22, 08:04 AM
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Moving the saddle forward is the last thing I would do, that pitches your weight even more forward and will make matters worse. Try a entire ride with your hands on the hoods as an experiment, allowing your weight to be more balanced over the saddle and see if that helps. I suspect it will, and if so and you still insist on those areo bars shorten that stem. Lower back pain is my nemesis as well, and even with dialed in fit I sit up in the saddle and stretch out every 15 miles or so, do core work on non-riding days, and try to remember to spin not mash. Good Luck!
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Old 08-10-22, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
It might solve the lower back pain by opening the hip angle

BUT the adjustment could cause increased pressure on the arms and cause shoulder pains, hand numbness. Only riders with slim build like pros can find such adjustment comfortable with their high w/kg and proportionally low torso weight.

You can also rotate the lower back to open the hip angle by reducing reach of the aero bar or both aero bar and drop bar by reducing stem length. It has the advantage of not only easing the lower back pressure but also unloading your arms even more. You need to get used to a shorter reach, it takes a bit of adjustment period. Fortunately, it's not that long. 1 to 2 weeks of getting used to shorter reach will often be enough.
If you read the other posts, she is a student and does not have a lot of money. Yes, there are tradeoffs. Money being one. Lowering a saddle is free. The toes pointed down and knee bend tell me her saddle is too high, which is as likely a contributor is lower back pain as any such as improper pedal technique, lack of conditioning, and excessive reach. I did not go and copy and paste all of what I wrote on her other threads. This is clearly a bandaid approach like any internet inquiry on fit.

Edit: also important to remember that Jen is a triathlete interested in speed. The big gap from her arms to torso is not helping in the aero department. In an ideal world, she would be properly fit and sitting on an aero TT bike with a steeper seat tube angle, slacker head tube angle, and an easily adjustable cockpit. Pushing the saddle forward will also effectively lower the seat, her saddle is too high and she is reaching too much. Exercise will help but a better fit will help increase speed with better comfort, better aero, and probably more power.

Last edited by GhostRider62; 08-10-22 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 08-10-22, 08:15 AM
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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.


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Old 08-10-22, 08:30 AM
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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.
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Old 08-10-22, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
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
The video is spot on. Realize that everything from your plantars up to your back and shoulders is connected. Do your best to keep it all stretched and flexible. If one part of the body/machine isn't functioning properly, it will cause problems in other areas.
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Old 08-10-22, 09:18 AM
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To me, the fit looks good. I would try, as others have noted, hands on the tops or hoods instead of the aero bars. Who cars if it is faster if it hurts.

I am also guessing that you are doing mainly flat rides. Try something a little more varied so that you change positions often. And stop every so often. Unless you are in a race, and looking to win, a little relief will do you some good.
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Old 08-10-22, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
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.
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.
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Old 08-10-22, 10:09 AM
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There are some plausible fit suggestions above, some of which might help. However, riding for long periods in a TT position is not an easy or natural thing and considerable conditioning is necessary in order to make it tolerable. Regardless of fit, I would recommend working with a knowledgable trainer to acquire the combination of strength, flexibility, and muscular skill required to perform the job.
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Old 08-10-22, 10:38 AM
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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.
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Old 08-10-22, 11:49 AM
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As for the seat height comments, it looks to me that the OP is not fully seated in that snapshot. If she were that saddle height may be about right.
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Old 08-10-22, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 55murray View Post
As for the seat height comments, it looks to me that the OP is not fully seated in that snapshot. If she were that saddle height may be about right.
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.
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