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  1. #1
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    Sore lower back in MTB rides over 1hr

    I'm 5'10" and 162 lbs with no history of lower back issues, low body fat and excellent condition. However, I noticed with rides longer than 1hr my lower back feels strained, which never occured in long rode bike rides (4+hrs). My legs, body and endurance feels excellent but my lower back is slowing me down. Yesterday, I rode a hard 90 min and the last 15 min my back was getting sore. Stopped at my truck, got off my bike, walked around and did some bent overs and side twists... resting appx 3-5 min. Jump on my bike again and did another 1hr ride...felt great for about 45 min, then lower back got stiff again. Seems worst on coming out of turns into a hard uphills. I am thinking that maybe my body position is flawed or not repostioning my self enough. Rides of an hour or less, its virtually a non-factor and I can pretty much ride (90%+ effort the entire ride) Is there something I can do in my positioning or bike set up to relieve this? Or even some stretching while riding like every 15-20m. I have a couple 4hr races coming up and I can't waste time getting off my bike to stretch every hr. Thanks!!

    PS- I did notice it gets worst if I ride in a harder lower gear and lower cadence than if i am in a higher gear with a higher cadence. However, I feel I'm faster in a lower gear and come out of my saddle coming out of turns into a hill and grind in out untill I get my momentum up again.

  2. #2
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    I have this issue. I'm even nearly identical in your height/weight. I will add that i've only been riding for about 2yrs with 1 ride per week. So, i'm still a noob by most definitions. That said, here are my theories-

    First, a bike fit would probably help. I seem comfortable enough with my bike setup, but, i really should get fitted. I will get this aching whether on my gears or SS. I don't seem to get the ache on casual group rides (more on that).

    Second and probably my biggest factor, weak core muscles. When working harder, i will pull on my bars to dig the rear into the ground generally while climbing. Standing and spinning, i do the same pull motion, with my lower back as the lever. Again, relaxed rides, i don't have this issue as i give my back more breaks. I could certainly benefit from yoga or some other back strengthening and stretching work.
    Last edited by jetboy23; 12-29-2012 at 02:17 PM.

  3. #3
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    3 things to consider

    Fitting
    Strength work for the core and lower back
    Are You using a heavy camel bag?

  4. #4
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    Get a bike fit. If you we're in UT I would refer you to the best fitter here...It's amazing what a few minor (and I mean minor- a few millimeters here and there) adjustments can do.

  5. #5
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    Bike fit first. Work on your core strength and learn how to stretch while you are aboard the bike. Don't give up!!!

  6. #6
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    I had this issue and I got a bike fitting. Among several issues, my saddle was too narrow causing my hips to rock back and forth too much while pedaling. This put undue strain on my lower back. After I matched my saddle to my sit bones, it solved the issue.
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  7. #7
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    I had this problem several years ago.

    In fact, I couldn't go 20 minutes without LBP. I tried PT several times, and epidural injections as well.

    Finally I looked at my overall sitting posture in the car and at my desk. I began using a lumbar roll for both. I also limited my sitting at home, and tried to either stand, lay on the floor, or use the lumbar roll if I couldn't avoid sitting. I also began regularly (2-3x/day) doing plank exercises for core strength. Lastly I switched to a more upright posture on my MTB and road bike.

    I am now pain free and have raced several 100 mile MTB races the last 2 years.
    Last edited by coyotegulch; 01-02-2013 at 04:18 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the advance...I will consider all your suggestions...
    Plse response to the following for discussion ...

    Many of you said "bike fit" and core muscles...
    I have consider bike fit, but if can ride for an hour without issue and really genuine comfort, how is some professional going to identify a minor adjustment if it takes over ab hr to show up? I have been riding for years and just recently decided to race longer distances... Even when I raced Xtrerra, they were generally less than 20 mi. Which was never an issue.
    Core can always improve, but I workout core a lot and since my core is above avg and I have a 6-PAC, I would think there is some technique I'm doing that's causing excess stress to core and LB....?

    Camelback heavy... Interesting, have not thought of that...

    Saddle... Don't think that's an issue because, like I said saying in my saddle at higher cadence doesn't bother my LB at all ... Out of saddle, low cadence hard pedaling (race pace) makes it worst...

    AZ- not giving up... Haha. It's not that bad, it's not like I'm in a lot of pain and when i let up on race pace, I am comfortable... When i get off the bike, i have immediate relief and with a few stretches, i can jump on and ride again for 45 min or so. But I don't ride to be comfortable, I ride to "ride hard" and practice "race pace".... Getting off my bike in a race is not an option... However, I think what I need is... you meationed stretching while riding... Thats what i need! suggestions on stretches during riding....before the LBP arrives. It's like when your hands start getting a little numb, I release one arm at a time and simply shake it off and it goes away.... If I never "shook it off" my hands would no function after a few hours... Need a way to "shake off my LB" ... Currently doing nothing ....

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  10. #10
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    Like others have suggested, some adjustment to your fit is probably in order,, may just be a small shift forward of your saddle or maybe raising the bar a bit, but my honest opinion is despite your "6 pack" your core needs work and is un-balanced, more than likely in your back where you're feeling the pain. Also probably a good idea to do a bit of a warm up and then stretch before you go out hard, do you do this on your road bike? Also, when you ride your road bike do you generally sit and spin or do you push bigger gears and out of the saddle like you describe?
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bradpreo View Post
    I have consider bike fit, but if can ride for an hour without issue and really genuine comfort, how is some professional going to identify a minor adjustment if it takes over ab hr to show up?
    Ride your bike before you go get fit. If it's possible, ride to the fitter. It will give your muscles a chance to fatigue, and you'll be sitting in a more "natural" position.

    I have been riding for years and just recently decided to race longer distances... Even when I raced Xtrerra, they were generally less than 20 mi. Which was never an issue.
    20 miles probably wasn't long enough for your posture to turn in to something that was going to start making you sore.

    Core can always improve, but I workout core a lot and since my core is above avg and I have a 6-PAC, I would think there is some technique I'm doing that's causing excess stress to core and LB....?
    There's a lot more to core stability than a strong rectus abdominus (your "six pack" muscles). Try a yoga class or two, and you'll see what I mean when the 60 year old lady next to you executes a perfect "boat" pose, and you're flopping around like a dying fish because of a lack of strength and flexibility.

    Camelback heavy... Interesting, have not thought of that...
    Definitely something to consider, but I'd go with improving bike fit and core strength first.
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  12. #12
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    and after trying everything already mentioned a seatpost that flexes might be worth a shot. The Syntace Hiflex gets great reviews.

  13. #13
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    Thx folks! This is such an excellent site....!!!!!!
    "Callyer" - thx for that info, u r right, yoga would be helpful LBP or not... Think I'm going to incorporate that. How often (per wk) and how long do u do it?
    Lynx- u r right, a warm up and stretch should occur prior to ride... I have not been doing that... Bigger gears out of saddle to quickly get momentum out of turns/hills... Then spin at higher cadence...why?
    A138- yes agree " 20mi is not long distance"....that was my point that I've been mtb for years but never long distance (over 90 min or >20 mi) so I never realized there was an issue....

  14. #14
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    I do yoga once/twice a week. I love it. You might want to take a class to check out some chicks, I mean, learn some basic moves and then you can put together your own routine. I do P90X and Bob Harper's yoga dvds. You can find a 100 videos on youtube if you just want to try it out.

  15. #15
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    So I think I'm going to do the following and let y'all know how it goes... Thx again folks for taking the time to help!!
    1. Start a yoga program (would like info on a routine to incorporate with my current trng- generally it is 3 total body/core w/o (appx 1hr ea) and 3 mtb rides (or equivalent if weather or work prevents)
    2. Increase the ht of my handlebars a little.. I think I'm leaning too much.
    3. Warm up stretch prior to every ride and like an occasional arm shake to prevent numbness in hands... I going to move/ stretch back every 15-20 min as a "preemptive strike" before I get LBP
    4. Stop using a camelback and go to two bike bottles and store emergency equipment under seat.
    5. Probably most importantly... More time in the saddle doing longer rides.... Thx folks!

  16. #16
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    I used to have this issue when I was try to "push the pace" on ride and hammering on the pedals. I found two thing helped a ton for me. After noticing that my hamstrings and hip flexars where cramping on long rides before my quads I realized I was pulling up on the pedals to much to get that little extra. Which caused my whole lower back and butt and legs to get to tight causing pain in the lower back. Another was riding a single speed for a while for training. My core got in soooooo much better " biking shape" I too thought that since I had a six pack and thin that it could not be my core. try this to see my point. sit down to watch a movie this evening sit on the edge of dining room chair and bend your body over at a 45 degree angle keeping your back straight and dont rest on your hands or anything. This will show you about the amount of time you can stay in that position with using your core muscles and not your arms on the bar. The longer you sit like this the longer your core can learn to support your upper half in a ride. Thus the stronger your core gets, the longer and harder you can ride without your back giving up. I found only my legs carried over from road riding. Mountain biking is a whole other beast with the pushing and pulling and bending and turning and so on and so on...... So work on building your core to be super strong and then thank us all that said it later.

  17. #17
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    I love this site and I really appreciate everyone’s feedback ! I almost rode 3 hrs today and my LBP was virtually a non-factor. So this is what I did…
    1. Set up; I noticed that my handlebars were nearly an inch lower than my seat ht and slightly further from my seat than it should be… so I increased the height of my bars(using spacers provided ¾” up) and moved up my seat slightly.
    2. Did a warm up and stretch for 10 min prior to ride
    3. Used a water bottle and didn’t use a camelback.
    4. Did a preemptive stretching on bike during flatter straight areas- simple side twists
    5. Alternated (to some degree) with “in-saddle” high cadence and “out of saddle”, grind out low cadence
    6. Made a conscious effort to ride lose and exaggerate body movement on turns and weight transfer sections like steep dips to simply move the lower back more…
    All worked and felt strong thru out ride…

  18. #18
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    A friend showed me a stretch for this a few weeks back.

    Stand with your feet together and bend ~ 90 degrees at the waist, then stick your hips out as far as comfort and balance will allow to each side. Let your arms hang loose.

    I now do this after most rides and before morning rides and the tightness/soreness I felt between later in the day and the next day after riding has gone from minimal to almost non-existent.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bradpreo View Post
    Thanks for the advance...I will consider all your suggestions...
    Plse response to the following for discussion ...

    Many of you said "bike fit" and core muscles...
    I have consider bike fit, but if can ride for an hour without issue and really genuine comfort, how is some professional going to identify a minor adjustment if it takes over ab hr to show up? ....
    FWIW, problems like these are why good bike fitters are worth it. They deal with stuff like this all the time. An hour is almost no time at all on a bike, your fit could be completely off by inches and you could ride an hour w/o problems. Once you get it dialed in, you'll notice when the fit is off by mm's, but only if you know what "right" feels like to start with.

    People ride for years and often at a pretty high level with sub-optimal bike fitting. The younger you are the easier you can adapt to a marginal bike fit. There's no perfect bike fit. All bike fits are a series of compromises between comfort, performance and control. The compromise that works on your road bike sounds like it's not working on the MTB.

  20. #20
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    What an absolutely true statement - I move my saddle height about by 3mm depending on the shorts and shoes I'm wearing, can easily feel what a difference that small increment makes.
    Quote Originally Posted by bbense View Post
    FWIW, problems like these are why good bike fitters are worth it. They deal with stuff like this all the time. An hour is almost no time at all on a bike, your fit could be completely off by inches and you could ride an hour w/o problems. Once you get it dialed in, you'll notice when the fit is off by mm's, but only if you know what "right" feels like to start with..................
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  21. #21
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    Check out Foundation Training by Dr. Eric Goodman (disregarding the ill-timed endorsement by Lance Armstrong though )

    This is one of the best stretching programs I've seen and fits especially well for technical mountain biking. The emphasis is all on the hip hinge and strengthening the posterior muscles. His philosophy is that of doing 4 exercises that work the back side of the body for every 1 that works the front.

    I've hated yoga and always came away feeling hurt and worst from it. This program gives me the best of what I'd gotten in yoga without feeling bad.
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  22. #22
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    Like others have said - get a bike fit.


    Plus (this works for me), get out of the saddle more. Looooooooooong periods of "sit-n-spin-sit-n-spin-sit-n-spin" leave the lower back sore.

    I learned this revelation as I noticed even after long, savage endurance rides/races, when I was on my singlespeed, my back hurt much less b/c I was out of the saddle more.


    Just my .02.


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  23. #23
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    I had a lot of lower back issues when I first started riding on a hardtail. I couldn't go more than 1.5hrs without popping an advil. Upgrading to a FS extended it to 2.5-3hrs. But I still had the issue from time to time and it took days to recover from when it gave out. I had a bike fit and in the end learned my saddle was too far back based on my flexibility. I began moving it forward and the pain lessened. Downside is you don't use your glutes as much moving forward, but I sit around for 40+hrs a week for work and do a daily core stretch routine which has helped. I can't see myself getting any better at this point. In the end I'd rather sacrifice a little power for comfort anyday. Although if you have a long inseam with short quads, being forward isn't a bad thing. Leg length issues could also be a factor which should get identified by a good fitter.

  24. #24
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    Yoga will help your riding regardless of your fit IMO. I also have sore lower back problems after riiding 3+ hours. Instead of twisting stretches on flat sections, you might want to consider arches and curls of your back to imitate the Cat and Cow poses of yoga. Basically you are rotating the front of your pelvis towards the ground, then pulling it up towards the sky while standing on your pedals. It feels great, and you won't lose too much time.
    If its not a bumpy ride, I'm not interested.

  25. #25
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    I have a blown disc which causes LBP pretty quickly and I just went from full suspension 26 to hardtail 29er... Most likely a jackass move! I'm going to look into a C'dale SAVE seatpost to help but they are $$$! One thing that's making my training go smoother is Tylenol before the ride which is just masking the pain but hopefully reducing some swelling too. Good luck, I literally feel your pain!!!!!
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