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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 11-02-08, 08:19 AM   #1
larry h
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back and shoulder pain

we are fairly new to a tandem we started with a t-100 regular bars and traded for a t-200 with drops ,15 years ago i had back surgery and when we switched to drops i have terrible pain between my shoulders are the drops what is doing it and exactly what do we gain or lose with the different bars--- we ride mostly rails to trails and backroads with moderate hills
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Old 11-02-08, 09:40 AM   #2
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It's probably not the drops, per say, just your riding position being a bit off exacerbated by what could be a lot of control inputs to counter stoker movement... not at all that uncommon for new teams. If things were fine with the flat bars, then it could be that you just need to adjust the position of the drops to put you back into the same position you had with the flat bars, e.g., most likely a shorter stem that's positioned a bit higher if you now find yourself riding on the brake hoods.

If you have a good bike shop nearby you might want to call and see if they have a bike fitting specialist on staff who could take a look at your riding position. Or, you could do a little experimentation on your own by adjusting your riding position one step at at time, keeping track of what you do each time so you can undo it and try something else.
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Old 11-02-08, 10:42 AM   #3
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I can really appreciate your situation and know how irritating it can be.
I had our C'dale fitted perfectly in the early '90's when we had it built. We rode it frequenty for a few years without a hint of pain of any kind. Then we did not ride it at all for 12 +/-years. When we got on it again 2+years ago the pain between the shoulder blades and lower back was ridiculous. I could barely go an hour before the pain won out partcularly in the area between the shoulders.
During the last two years (riding 4 days a week on average) I tried a million different positions with seat location, stem length, bar width, crank arm length, lever position on the bars etc...etc.
Ultimately the biggest help for me so far has been raising the bar height significantly and doing some light strength exercises for my shoulders and stomach, plus some stretching excercises for the lower back. Now I'm good for about three hours at a time before my shoulder/neck muscles start to light up but the lower back pain is gone completely. So it is not perfect yet but I'm gaining on it. FWIW I'm in my early 60's now and very active in general.

Good luck...when you find what works for you please let us know.

Bill J
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Old 11-02-08, 11:59 AM   #4
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Have you considered going recumbent? Six years ago, after riding a T200 for 11 years, we, both captain and stoker, got so fed up with lower back issues, sore neck, shoulders, carpel tunnel, and hundreds of $$$ in "adjustments", new stems, bars, moving this and that up and down and back and forth, measuring, recording, etc., we decided to try out a Rans Screamer. Best move we ever made. Today, we're riding many more kms. than ever before with no pain, anywhere! Isn't that what it's all about? Mike
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Old 11-02-08, 06:23 PM   #5
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Seems like every time drop-bar-road-bike riders stop for three months or more, and then start again, the notable pains associated with beginning again include significant neck pain and back pain between the shoulder blades. It's usually worse for captains on tandems because of the extra balance work they may do on behalf of the stokers. Your complaints don't sound significantly different from that--unless they don't completely go away after about three months of regular riding.

The upright position of a mountain bike is slower compared to the drop bars of a road bike, when ridden on the road with road-type tires at road bike speeds. I have fit friends who occasionally take out their roadified MTBs, to match their speed to their slower friends on road bikes. Perhaps the difference is 2mph or so, perhaps more. Could be you can find a study online somewhere that quantifies the difference.
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Old 11-02-08, 08:45 PM   #6
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Well, as our bodies age a bit minor adjustments can be made to alleviate whatever condition/position bothers us.
Being in our mid-70s now, we no longer have an aggressive riding position. Both pilot and stoker tend to ride more upright but still have drop bars on our tandem.
Pilot tends to spend more time riding the brake hoods whereby he was 99% of he time in the drops just a decade ago.
Stokers spends more time on top of the bars and on stoker dummy levers.
Yet drop bars are still nice to have as we do get into the drops on occasion.
So what we used to do a few years ago may not work as well today. Whether it's surgery or aging (or both), the human body and the tandem can be manipulated to make for a less painful ride. If it means going to a bent tandem and more comfort, why not?
Can hardly wait 'til we get older!
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Old 11-03-08, 02:58 PM   #7
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Zona said it all..."what we used to do a few years ago may not work as well today", and "as our bodies age a bit minor adjustments can be made to alleviate whatever condition/position bothers us."

I have also had back surgery (L4/5) and broke a couple of ribs a few years later. The back pain and neck/shoulder pain got so bad that if I rode 10 miles on flat terrain, I couldn't pick up my bike to put it away. I had to lie on the floor for 30 minutes to decrease the back pain. I asked my doc about more surgery. NO, was the answer. What came from that was a journey with a personal trainer that was also a strong rider. He focused on strengthening all of my core muscles, including abdominal, trapezoid and rhomboid muscles. I also had a bike designer help me with proper fit. He adjusted my stem so I have no less than 2" drop from the seat nose to the top of the handlebars. I am more upright than before, but have more power and no pain. That position works for me. You may have to adjust accordingly.
Talk to a Certified Personal Trainer (not a gym rat) that understands cycling, about appropriate exercises and don't stop doing them. I started five years ago with specific core strengthening exercises and have never stopped. As a result, i have no pain during, or after long rides. Don't know how old you are, but you probably need to follow the same regime. It is a slow process to rehabilitate and strengthen, but be patient. The end result is worth it. If you live in the Sacramento area, contact me and I will tell you the names of really good personal trainers.

Last edited by VaultGuru; 11-03-08 at 03:09 PM.
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