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  1. #1
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    pain from riding singletrack

    I will start off by saying I ride my cyclocross bike on the road, gravel, sand, singletrack, and pretty much wherever I please. I do not want to argue over how I should be on a different style of bike or riding different terrain I am simply looking for help to improve my body and riding issue physically.

    So, riding the local single track today which is fairly smooth with a few roots, ruts, rock gardens, I was feeling a lot of cramping in my hands. I tried to switch between the hoods and the top of my bars for comfort and stress relief but it didn't help. I could be over gripping or I may just need some more time on rough terrain riding a cross bike with a carbon fork. Also, maybe gloves or different bar wrap could help. I do not have this sensation on my mountain bike though. If you have any tips or things to try I am open.

    Also, when climbing on my bike I am feeling a lot of lower back pain. I do not feel this on the road or dirt/gravel rides just on the more intense steeper singletrack trails. This may be a seat height issue, body geometry issue, riding technique, or simply I am not in the shape required to ride this type of bike on singletrack.

    I am just looking at things I can try to improve these two issues. I felt great with my cardio and leg muscles just had a few moments where I wanted to stop and rest my back and hands. Also, had to slow down on some of the downhill sections because I felt I didn't have control due to losing my grip which caused more work going back up the small inclines. Something I would like to avoid.

  2. #2
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    I don't have answers, just some thoughts/ideas:

    - do you ever feel the hand cramps while not riding singletrack, or only on singletrack? I would have said maybe the bars need to be wider, or narrower depending on your body, but if this only happens on singletrack...maybe you're spending a lot of time in the drops or hoods where as when riding on other surfaces you're balancing time more, and including the tops more often than on singletrack. Lastly, you may be gripping too tightly, as depending on your brakes you may need to feel the need (or have to) barke harder than say if you had hydraulic brakes. In any case, try sitting more upright with hands on tops, or where you don't usually have them, on flat, untechnical sections (this latter step may also help the back)

    - regarding the back, I've had the sore lower back only on long climbs. I climb a lot, love it, but the hills around me are not long...so when I find myself on a long (for me) climb I may get the sore lower back. Also, a x bike puts you more forward (if in the drops especially) than a mtb, so that can be one reason. Don't forget to move your body and hand positions a lot to get the body moved around (I have to consciously do this when riding on long sections of singletrack).

    Good luck in solving these problems!

  3. #3
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    noonievut, you have the same theorys as I do. I only have these issues on the single track. On road, gravel, etc I feel fine for 30+ miles.

  4. #4
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    Dial it in and repeat

    Strongly suggest getting a pro bike fit to dial in seat height, etc. Then, it's still going to be rough because of tire volume, geometry, etc. Use the whole bar, but stay out of the drops unless descending. Found it getting easier with practice; I'm riding more 'loose' than I do on my (rigid) mountain bike. Accept the punishment of CX on singletrack as a challenge!

  5. #5
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    I struggle to ride the drops on the descents. I feel like when crossing the jumps and the quick turns I don't have the agility as i do on the hoods or top of the bars. I am definitley going to look into a pro-fit though

  6. #6
    jrm
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    For me it was a combo of my smaller hands trying to grip the hoods while trying to brake and keep a firm hold on the hoods at the same time. On the flats or climbing i was fine but when i was descending sometimes roots or the like would jar my hands somewhat loose making it feel like i was on the verge of losing grip of the hood and hurt my ability to brake at the same time. As a result my hands would get tired and then begin to lock up to the point where id have to stop..painfully and shack my arms in order to loosen up so i proceed.

    What im experimenting with now is raising the bar without shortening the reach, rotating the bar and sti shifters counterclockwise so that theres less weight and effort needed to grab a hold of the bar while on the hoods and brake. I also switched to disc brakes and have them set up so that i can get darn near full modulation using only two fingers. Back pain wise it has a lot to do with your position over the cranks and the gearing. My swobo crosby has a long ett and steep SA so i can use a 100mm stem straight post and obtain a really comfortable reach.

    It may help if you could give us more info on the bike..and even better if you can get someone to take your pic while on the bike...good luck.
    Wreck the malls with cows on Harleys

  7. #7
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    Besides seat height check seat position. When I got my 2014 Jake the Snake it wasn't until I moved the seat back a little that comfort was achieved.
    Flotilla or Buffet.

  8. #8
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    You could approach this from the perspective that instead of a cross bike you have a drop-bar 29" mountain bike that has limited tire clearance. I have a Ragley Luxy bars on my cross bike, they are dirt drop bars. You can't find Luxys at the moment, but Salsa makes the Woodchipper and On-One makes the Midge. Dirt drops are meant to be ridden in the drops when you need control. They have a shallower drop and they have some flare in the drops so that position is more like alt bar. They are usually pretty wide which helps control. You might need a shorter, taller stem to get the drops up to the point where you can use them all of the time. Search for "dirt drop bars" to read about the thinking behind them.

    I'm in the drops whenever I'm off road, unless it's cruising up a long hill when I'm on the tops. The main thing that you lose is riding on the hoods. Since the drops are right where you want to be, which should be close to where you would be on flat bars on a mountain bike, the hoods are too high to be of much use. I still use them on occasion when I'm on the road, but 90% of the time I'm in the drops, just like 90% of the time I'm on the hoods on a road bike.

    When you are in the flared drops off road any pressure from bumps and things pushes your hands into where the bar starts to curve upward. This is the part that the hard core dirt drop guys really like, you don't have to have a death grip on the bars to keep your hands in place on the bars so you can ride with more relaxed arms which helps you absorb terrain better. I can post some pictures of my setup if you are interested.

  9. #9
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    I'm a mountainbiker who loves riding my cross bike on singletrack, gravel roads and paths. I don't ride the drops that much and prefer the position on the hoods or tops, especially on singletrack. Our trails here can be steep and rocky and I've never felt comfortable riding the drops, for this reason I run cross top brake levers and most of the time I'm on the tops unless it's smooth flat or rolling where I'm on the hoods. I've had a few core cross guys here tell me they are silly and I need to be in the drops on any descent but I have way more control on the tops while descending on singletrack.

  10. #10
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    situps for the back

    for the hands, dunno.

  11. #11
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    You already know the answers to your questions. Riding a cross bike on mtn bike trails will always be harder on your body. How many rides have you done? Maybe after a few more you will toughen up and not have these issues anymore. If that doesn't work ...

    Get fitted.
    Try different gloves/bar tape/maybe padded bar tape.
    Work on your core.

    Edit: Oh! and maybe your hands get sore because your brakes are weak. Try Kool Stop salmon pads or maybe upgrade to mini-v's like the CX8/CX9.

  12. #12
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    Quick and cheap way to keep your hands happy is to double wrap with cork bartape. Increased diameter means less hand wrap and more cork means more vibration dampening.

    Riding loose is the most important thing and maybe check your tire pressure in the front?

  13. #13
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    Thanks for all the input everyone! I decided to ride every other day and try some different approaches to this. I think the hand cramps were a combination of vibration and riding form. I wear gloves and added some new wrap and have now been able to ride without cramping up.

    As for the back, seat position, and form when climbing has improved on this but I think it is boiling down to core strength. It gets a little better with each ride but after a few tough climbs(i'm referring to climbs where it is hard to keep the front end down) my lower back is burning. I think the year of riding nothing but road and not working out my core has been the cause of this. I am now doing core workouts in the gym and at home along with working on my form when climbing. Once again thanks for the input!

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