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  1. #1
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    How to shop for a bike that won't cause back pain?

    Hi,

    I rented a demo trek ex8 29er for the weekend, and tested it on my local trails. I liked the bike, but it caused me lower back pain after about an hour into each ride. No matter how much I got shook up on my current trek 3500 hardtail, I've never had back pain before.

    I want a full suspension XC/trail 29er...the fuel ex, the giant anthem, giant trance or the like.

    Not all of my local bike shops stock a supply of rental demo bikes, so I can't test all of these on the local trails.

    So other than waiting for a demo day from the manufacturesr, and hoping I get enough time on a bike to see how it effects my back (which I might not), how am I supposed to tell before dropping 3 grand whether the thing i'm buying will kill my back?

  2. #2
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    Re: How to shop for a bike that won't cause back pain?

    A lot of ur issue may simply be ur hardtail is set up for you specifically. Where as the demo bike is just a production bike no fitting done really. Best to take measurements from ur hardtail and see if lbs will make adjustments (bars, stem, seat height) to demo bikes so u can ride one that's more fitted to you. Chances are more likely that its the bike fit not the bike is causing us pain cause fs is much easier on the beatings ur body gets.

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  3. #3
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    I find that one of the most important things is the angle of your saddle. When my lower back hurt, I rotated it a degree or two forward, and it fixed the problem completely. Bar height can also come into play, if your bars are too low. But I'd start with the saddle, then check bar height for proper fit
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  4. #4
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    is there a way to easily adjust handle bar/stem height yourself?

  5. #5
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    And then there's core strength, which is a bit of a misnomer because it's not about crazy strength. Do you do any exercises/strengthening besides riding? This can make a huge difference in your body's ability to deal with bumps, riding position and pedaling, even though it doesn't give you like the ability to lift 200lbs or anything like that.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  6. #6
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    it's not core strength...like i said my 500 dollar hardtail never caused me back problems on the same trails

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrmojorising8 View Post
    it's not core strength...like i said my 500 dollar hardtail never caused me back problems on the same trails
    You likely stood the entire time on the hardtail, whereas the FS bike lets you sit. Your muscles are doing different things, based on your different riding position and the forces input. I'd suggest trying other bikes and setups, but realize that an FS bike is very different and it's not as simple to just go from one to the other IMO.

    What kind of pack are you using, any?

    One of the newer things is to go with a short stem and wide bars, like around 740-800mm with decent sweep. This gives you a few advantages, as it works like bar-ends to give you leverage when out of the saddle, opens up your chest and relaxes your muscles some, and gives you more steering leverage/resistance to being thrown off line. Your back muscles kind of tie everything together, arms, legs, etc, so this could have a positive effect.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  8. #8
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  9. #9
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    It's probably a combination of fit, riding style and (I know you insist its not) core strength. I have serious chronic low back pain, so I have some cred in this area, although everyone is obviously very different.

    First, making sure the saddle is in the same place (height and fore-aft position) relative to the pedals on the new bike and the old bike is a great starting point - this helped me enormously.

    I just switched from primarily riding a single speed (standing on all climbs) to a geared hardtail, and found my back pain got worse at first! I figured out that it flared up during extended seated climbs. Until my body adjusted and built new strength in the right places, I started standing on some more hills and descents, which again had a positive impact on the back pain.

    Finally, core strength. I was doing what I felt was a rigorous set of core exercises several times a week. Went to a sports medicine doc, got some advice on new exercises and was told to do even more core. Once again - improvement.

    Hope my experience with this provides at least one useful thing for you - and good luck with the back pain!

  10. #10
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    I'd echo what others have said. For me, a 1cm adjustment in saddle fore/aft position (sliding along it's rails) made a huge difference in back pain. What looked right and what ultimately felt right were two different things. I slid my saddle forward a bit on its rails, and no more back pain.

    The other thing to work on is just overall level of riding fitness. As you get tired, you are more likely to sit down and pedal through bumpy sections that your f/s can handle, but that still transmit more shock to your spine than standing up would. Whenever I find my back starting to tense, I remind myself to get out of the saddle and absorb more with my legs--something that's usually better for your overall riding anyway, and that makes you stronger in the long run.

  11. #11
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    Re: How to shop for a bike that won't cause back pain?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmojorising8 View Post
    is there a way to easily adjust handle bar/stem height yourself?
    If there are any spacers on top of them stem, you can move them to the bottom. Also make sure the stem is angled up, not sure if it comes flipped or not.

    Bar height is most likely your issue, because your old bike had more of an upright fit that is typical with entry level bikes. Raise the bars an inch or so and that will probably help

  12. #12
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    i rode the bike again tonight and i think i figured out what was causing the pain.

    it seemed to flair up when going downhill, and i think that's because the seat was far enough back that i had to lean too much to get my ass behind the seat. With the seat moved more forward the pain seems to mostly have gone away, although i'd like to try it again to ascertain.

    oh, and i discovered something else. with a nice bike you can go downhill fast...if going downhill fast you might want ankle protection in case anything strikes you there.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrmojorising8 View Post
    i rode the bike again tonight and i think i figured out what was causing the pain.

    it seemed to flair up when going downhill, and i think that's because the seat was far enough back that i had to lean too much to get my ass behind the seat. With the seat moved more forward the pain seems to mostly have gone away, although i'd like to try it again to ascertain.

    oh, and i discovered something else. with a nice bike you can go downhill fast...if going downhill fast you might want ankle protection in case anything strikes you there.
    sounds like a job for a dropper seatpost

  14. #14
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    Are you riding with a hydration pack? When I get back pain on my own bike (that I know fits properly) it's usually because of an overloaded or improperly sitting hydration pack. It seems like you've addressed some fit/position issues with your bike, but don't forget to properly fit and stuff your hydration pack too. Just wanted to throw that out there.
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  15. #15
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    How to shop for a bike that won't cause back pain?

    +1. I did a big alpine ride a couple weeks ago and wore my big pack for the first time in months. With extra food, tools, water and layers it was considerably heavier than I'm used to, and really made my back ache.
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  16. #16
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    +1 on the dropper seat post. I was having problems with neck pain (particularly on descents) and this helped considerably. This past winter I had a medical bike fit at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Boulder, Colorado. This was a real eye opener and also helped considerably. The fit is done by a physical therapist and kinesiologist. The surprising thing is that they bill it as some sort of physical therapy visit and it is covered by my health insurance. Too bad I couldn't charge the bike parts I needed to buy afterwards to my insurance plan .

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