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  1. #1
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    Sore lower back halfway through the ride... muscle or bone?

    Didn't know where to post this but since it likely has to do with my being out-of-shape as well as tall (6'3"), I thought maybe some fellow clydes may be able to help me out.

    I've never really experienced back pain even though my dad and his father both have discs that are herniated and pushed out and whatever else you can do.

    My issue comes about halfway through our 5-mile XC trail, usually around the point I'm required to climb a lot. It's happened on both my Trek 6000 and Specialized Camber Expert, which both fit me differently so I doubt it's a fitment issue although I can't rule it out entirely.

    I can feel two areas in my lower back just above my hips, one left and one right of my spine it feels like, which start progressively hurting more and more until I have to stop and rest, standing for a few minutes. Once the pain is gone, I'm good for another 2 miles or so and have to stop. It seems to be pretty consistent where it happens and standing on the pedals vs. sitting down seems to do nothing. Straightening my back or even sitting as upright as I can (fingertips on the grips) doesn't seem to do any good. The only thing that makes it go away is standing or walking off of the bike.

    Any suggestions on what might help? I've already tried some high-rise bars which didn't help at all. It's only a couple inches higher but I noticed literally no change at all.

    Other ideas? I'm not sure where to start looking for info otherwise lol. Kinda a n00b on this stuff.

    -Eric

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by rccardude04 View Post
    I can feel two areas in my lower back just above my hips, one left and one right of my spine it feels like, which start progressively hurting more and more until I have to stop and rest, standing for a few minutes. Once the pain is gone, I'm good for another 2 miles or so and have to stop.

    -Eric
    sounds like you are hunched over which is definitely a fitment issue that can be adjusted at both your handlebar position and/or seat angle/height.

    just throwing that out there. i had the same issue when i started riding (albeit a much milder case, i could keep riding) and had to adjust my seat height which promptly fixed it.
    Gary Fisher HiFi Deluxe 29er

  3. #3
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    In addition to fit issues, pushing to large a gear can result in lower back pain, lower gear, higher cadence efforts are easier on the back. It may also simply be a fitness issue and once it improves the pain may simply go away.

  4. #4
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    Good replies!

    I try to keep my back straight but it doesn't seem to matter. I get the same pain regardless.

    What seat angles/heights can contribute to this? My seat may be just slightly low and possibly tilted forwards a little bit, although I don't really feel like I'm falling off the front of it. Perhaps raising the nose could help a bit?

    The large gear may be part of it. I tend to tractor a bit on the trail. I will try going down a gear from what feels comfortable from a pedalling standpoint. We'll see how it goes.

    Thanks guys! This is exactly the kind of advice I am looking for. Anyone else have any other suggestions?

    -Eric

  5. #5
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    im a n00b to all of this but ill try to explain a bit more

    are your legs ALMOST fully extended at full downstroke for each side? this ended up being my problem and simply raising the seat up about an inch allowed my legs to extend more and make more natural and complete pedal strokes. before that i was only extending my legs about 85-90% on each downstroke so i was "hunching" a bit. not being able to have a more complete and natural stroke put pressure on my back, i assume.

    if you go sit on your bike while its up against a wall or something for stability, put one crank arm all the way down, while sitting on the seat your leg should be ALMOST fully extended to reach. your knee should be bent very slightly, if your knee is locked....you're too high. if your knee is bent quite a bit, you're too low.

    once i got my seat height corrected everything else fell into place and ive done 15miles no problemo. before that my back would tighten up.
    Gary Fisher HiFi Deluxe 29er

  6. #6
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    Try to keep your back more straight as you ride, do consistent riding to build up your back muscles. If you have some extra pounds like many of us, lose it. An extra 5-10+ pounds lost really makes a difference. Don't be afraid to take a break and rest your back, you don't want to do any permanent damage.

  7. #7
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    I find that stretching my hamstrings before I ride helps out, if I don't stretch I usually end up with a bit of low back pain.

  8. #8
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    my back hurts when saddle is not comfortable or is angled up: Bicycling and Pain

  9. #9
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    Lower back pain

    This can be several of the things that have been suggested. A propper fit can make a huge difference.
    a few cm's can change alot. I herniated a disk in october of last year. It started alot like you describe. The last straw was a 18 mile out and back that started with a 1 mile climb. I felt a little tight in my lower back, but chalked it up to being right out of the car after a 90 minute car ride. On the way back up some of the climbs my back was so tight standing didn't make it any better. It never hurt or felt sore just tight. After the ride everything seemed normal 2 days later I could hardly walk. I am still doing strengthening exercises for my glutes. My extensor muscles in my lower back were trying to do the work my glutes weren't until I asked for too much.
    I was fitted in which my saddle was raise around 3 cm and we flipped the stem to lower the bars to flatten out my back. These changes have helped,but I'm alot more intune with how my back feels when climbing. Raising your bars seem logical to sit more upright, but doesn't mean it the best position for you top be in. As you raise your bars you also change your weight distribution and will lighten your front end which may cause the front end to washout.

  10. #10
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    Wow, great replies!

    Sounds like I need to try raising the seat, stretching hamstrings (never a bad idea anyway), stop as soon as it starts to hurt, try to straighten my back a little more, and possibly even try lowering the bars. I like how the new bars feel in terms of handling, but I may try lowering the stem a bit to see if it helps. It'll be somewhere in between factory and where it is now.

    codename47, I saw that article and I'll try the suggestions also. My saddle seems OK. The butt doesn't hurt any more but I may try dropping the nose I guess. Is there any benefit to moving the seat forward/back?? I'll try to do one thing at a time and be sure to stop at the first signs of pain from now on. The last thing I need is a herniated/ruptured disc at 26 years old. hah.

    Thanks guys. I knew I could count on this place for some great ideas.

    Test plan:

    ** STOP at first signs of pain regardless of what I'm trying **

    1. Raise seat more. I feel like I'm pretty close on height but I'll try it anyway.
    2. Work on posture (will be applied all the time, since I've been trying to do better anyway it'll just be a continuation of what I've been doing already)
    3. Stretch before ride
    4. Lower the stem and possibly even put the original bars back on if it seems to help a little.
    5. Lower the nose of the seat a bit.
    6. Come back here for more suggestions!

    Also, it'll take me a while to test this all since I only get to ride out there 2-3 times a week. Hopefully I can try everything before the end of the week. We'll see... lol

    -Eric

  11. #11
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    I think that in Shewdonbrown site "arc spine" is mentioned about road bikes.
    From my experience the most important is the saddle - if it's not than the rider starts to twisting around like snake and lower back starts to carry pressure. Handlebar must be almost level with the saddle. If you're with full suspension bike check levels/offsets when you're on the bike and it makes it's sag.
    Health: Protect Yourself From Back Pain - BikeRadar
    Saddle angle causing lower back pain?
    saddle tilt vs discomfort ???
    back pain...saddle level?
    suggestions to clear up lower back pain
    http://forums.mtbr.com/endurance-rac...in-467831.html
    Lower back ache when riding 3 hrs+
    Last edited by codename47; 09-15-2011 at 03:58 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS View Post
    In addition to fit issues, pushing to large a gear can result in lower back pain, lower gear, higher cadence efforts are easier on the back. It may also simply be a fitness issue and once it improves the pain may simply go away.
    +1

    1) Fit really matters. A bike shop can help with that...

    2) My riders beginning out push way to high a gear. S pining a lower gear at a higher cadence will lower the strain on your knees and back. Additionally it engages different muscle fibers which are more for endurance than strength. So higher cadence will allow longer rides...

    3) Lastly, since you are on the clyde forum I'm guessing your a heavier guy. If you drop some weight it should help your back out a lot and allow much more fun riding.

  13. #13
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    If you happen to use a Camelback another thing to try is to use a waterbottle on the frame instead and a tool pouch under the seat. By not using the Camelback you are taking a bit of weight off your back and redistributing it somewhere else.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossluzz View Post
    If you happen to use a Camelback another thing to try is to use a waterbottle on the frame instead and a tool pouch under the seat. By not using the Camelback you are taking a bit of weight off your back and redistributing it somewhere else.
    Great point. This made the difference for me, on days I decide to peddle. I switched to a ERGON bd2 pack. It has an skeletal frame, which redistributes the weight of the pack, OFF your lower back and onto your waist. This made a HUGE difference for me.

    Oh yeah, I go 6'4"

  15. #15
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    Agree with everyone is saying as I have the same issues (not quite a clyde though at 6' 200#) however my brother is an avid cyclist (both road and mtn) and a Physical Therapist as well. The bike fit is a big portion of the pain and a few mm here and there can make a large difference. One thing that I find that helps me is that climbing and mtbing in general uses a lot of core muscle, by engaging your core you will help with this pain. When my back starts to ache a bit I will make sure that my core is really engaged as I find that if it is not I start to sag a bit in the mid section which then pulls down your lower back and inverts your posture (giving your low back a slight convex look from the side, i.e. you back bowing in towards your belly).

    By tigthening the core this pulls everything back in alignment and also forces your body to be more stable. Just something we have to get used to doing.
    Inbred 29r (Purple People Eater)
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  16. #16
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    I rode about 7 miles today (singletrack) and this thread got me thinking... so I moved my seat all the way back, dropped the pressure in my front tire to 30 and my back to 35 (I weigh about 230) and it made a WORLD of difference... back felt fine even carrying my camelbak. Hope to try it on a longer ride when I get time. I think it's a fitment issue with me.

  17. #17
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    codename: Thanks for the links! That really helps. I didn't really look around a lot because it seems like issues like this end up dealt with individually for the most part. Everyone seems to have a different 'fix.' lol

    I tried to reach my toes and that's definitely a problem. I've been pretty inactive for the last 3-4 years and have decided that's a bad idea, so I started riding again. Maybe I should try doing some stretches and see if I can't make myself more flexible also.

    Unfortunately, the trail is MUDDY right now and the maintenance people don't like us out there in the mud. I don't really like riding in the mud since it's enough of a challenge just to get around it without stopping (out of breath and tired aside from the sore back). LOL

    I'll try moving some stuff around on the bike and see if it helps any on the street even though I never really had trouble on pavement.

    Thanks again guys! I'll update after I get a chance to do some trail riding again.

    -Eric

  18. #18
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    Alright, rode on the trail last night. Although it was exceptionally slow due to a friend's illumination malfunction, it seemed like I still got sore in the same spot.

    I rode in a lower gear (2/5-3/8 instead of 3/5-3/8), raised the seat an inch or so, tried to work on posture, and even stretched beforehand.

    I haven't lowered the nose of the saddle yet other than just a couple degrees. I am going to tilt it forward slightly again before we go back but I don't see it making a huge difference.

    I'm wondering if it's more just weak muscles that aren't good at being used yet. Hopefully it'll get better eventually. lol.

    -Eric

  19. #19
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    Get an exercise ball. Put it on the floor, lay flat on the floor and put your feet on the ball. Now, lift your butt and lower back off the floor so you make a bridge from your shoulder blades on the floor to your feet on the ball. This will strengthen the crap out of your lower back. I've been doing this and have cut trips to the chiropractor to less than half.
    Try a riser bar and move your seat forward.
    I like turtles

  20. #20
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    Could you post a pic of your bike from the side?

  21. #21
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    NYrr496: That's not a bad idea! Does it have to be a ball or can I just use a couch? lol

    jeffj: I'll try to post a photo sometime after work tonight. Don't have any with the current bars and seat height/angle. I assume that's what you're going to be looking at.

    Thanks guys

    -Eric

  22. #22
    turtles make me hot
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    It can be a couch or anything but the ball is the best because you have to use balance and other small muscles to keep your feet on the ball.
    I like turtles

  23. #23
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    Here goes...

    Kinda crummy phone pictures but you get the idea... lol

    -Eric
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Sore lower back halfway through the ride... muscle or bone?-img_20110929_200625.jpg  

    Sore lower back halfway through the ride... muscle or bone?-img_20110929_200631.jpg  


  24. #24
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    You've got a ton of spacers underneath your stem, you could try lowering your stem a little bit at a time.

    Very upright posture on a bike puts a lot of stress on your bike as your weight distribution is shifted rearward. Put a little more weight on your hands. I see this a lot at the shop, people with really squishy saddles and high rise bars complaining about back pain, then you lower their bars a little bit and it goes away.

    I have to ask, despite riding a duallie, are you sitting down a lot or do you stand over bumps? Rear suspension is good but will not absorb every bump enough. I guess a lot of newer riders start on FS bikes and never learn good technique for standing up and letting the bike flow under them over all sizes of trail obstacles.

    Basic fitment, get your saddle as high as you want it, then adjust it front to rear to keep your knees happy. Once your pedalling fit is dialled, get your stem length set for optimal reach in and out of the saddle, then set the height and roll angle of the bars.

    You generally cannot isolate one item in bike fitment. Saddle front to rear adjustment will adjust how high your saddle is, saddle angle adjustment will affect how high or low you want your stem. Saddle front to rear position will affect how long you want your stem.

  25. #25
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    Thanks! I actually went to the higher-rise bars and raised the stem a bit to try and help my back. It didn't seem to get any worse but it sure didn't really get any better either.

    My stem's angle is adjustable between a high and low position and I did move a spacer below the stem instead of above it how it was from the factory. Maybe my next step is to put the stem back how it was and see how it goes. After the adjustments and the new bars, I liked how the bike felt on the trail. It felt more nimble for some reason. I can't really explain it.

    As far as sitting down, I do tend to stay in the saddle because my legs aren't up to the task quite yet. I went to this Camber from an '08 Trek 6000 which has 1,200 miles (only about 100 of which are trail miles). I was standing a lot more on the Trek and still had about the same issues with the back pain in the same places on the trail. That bike fits me completely different though. I'm a lot less stretched out forward (bars feel like they're closer to me).

    When you say "to keep your knees happy" referring to seat forward/back position, what do you mean exactly? My knees seem to be pretty happy as far as soreness and all of my leg muscles seem to get tired at the same time, but the seat is back almost all the way on the rails.

    Thanks!!!

    -Eric

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