Road cyclists with bad backs

by Widge34   May 10, 2014  

I'm a Mountain biker who has dodgy back. I've been told by my Osteopath that in the long run I maybe better off riding a road bike. Anyone here ride a road bike and has a bad back? Are you ok riding?

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I've suffered with back problems due to work for years. I find the road bike more predictable but I guess it depends on the state of your local roads.

With drop bars I can reposition myself, even get under the headwind a little. You do need to make sure the bike is set up right with the saddle height, stem extension and bar height though.

Fat mountain bike tyres will still work on the road though.

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posted by downfader [204 posts]
10th May 2014 - 16:32

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Although im 18 I have multiple crushed vertebrae in my back which has given me a bad back.

the transition from an mtb onto a road bike was quite uncomfortable for the first month but after that it was the same level of discomfort I had on my mountain bike and having changed bikes for one that is a better fitting for me it's very comfortable although on 50+ rides I still notice my back

My advice would be to make sure to get a great fit bike for you and tell the people in the shop you have a bad back they can adjust it to be more comfortable for you but as I tell everyone who buys a bike from me the transition is a little uncomfortable to start with but you'll quickly settle into it

If someone's faster than you there obviously not going as far

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posted by Charliegr555 [16 posts]
11th May 2014 - 17:35

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I can understand the Osteopath telling me this, with all the moving about I do on a mountain bike and the jumps and drops, but surly a road bike can be quite unforgiving on bad roads (and let's face it, most roads are).

posted by Widge34 [9 posts]
11th May 2014 - 18:37

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I used to have a bad back. I practised martial arts to improve my core strength etc, but I still had to do about 5 hours a week of stretching, plus have a custom lumbar support made for the car. Then I got back on a bike after several years away... And it stopped. Seriously, my back is miles better. The Physio reckoned it was related to being just slightly stretched out, but for prolonged periods. A decent bike fitting is essential.

As for the shocks etc from the road surface, well you're aiming to avoid them anyway, as much to protect the bike as anything else. Even when I don't get chance to avoid or bunnyhop them, I usually get chance to lift up and "unweight" the bike.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3329 posts]
11th May 2014 - 19:30

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A stronger core will undoubtedly help and all the above plus pilates are worth a go. Pilates in particular helped me but my back injury was predominantly muscular. If it is a skeletal issue then how you are "sat" on the bike will be critical hence a fit. I would imagine if your back is suffering from jarring, this is far less of a problem for road bikes than mountain biking so you should be fine on the road - give it a go.

posted by arfa [513 posts]
11th May 2014 - 21:07

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Garmin rider Tom Danielson suffered from a bad back and so undertook a programme of exercises to strengthen his core. His book 'Tom Danielsons Core Advantage' is a great book for cyclists, even if you don't have a bad back.

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posted by stenmeister [62 posts]
12th May 2014 - 11:26

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stenmeister wrote:
Garmin rider Tom Danielson suffered from a bad back and so undertook a programme of exercises to strengthen his core. His book 'Tom Danielsons Core Advantage' is a great book for cyclists, even if you don't have a bad back.

Got that book, highly recommended - although I'd recommend a quick chat with a physio before undertaking it as a regime, the other half got the book on a whim to try and fix some ongoing back problems and actually ended up doing a bit more damage.

Also worth cross checking (with youtube or the like) that you're doing the exercises from the book in the right way as some of the pics don't quite cover it.

On the bad back front, I've actually a bit of a misplaced pelvis and if you're not already; regular (VERY regular) stretching helps no end, keep the muscles around your spine and hips supple, makes a world of difference Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
12th May 2014 - 11:54

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My back has been loads better since I took up road cycling......

But, moderation in everything.

D.

cheers m'dears

2011 Rose Pro-SL 3000 Road
2006 Lemond Alpe d'Huez Broken
1997 Marin Sausaulito Urban bimbling/shopper
1980 Orbea project

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posted by daviddb [123 posts]
12th May 2014 - 13:04

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Might be worth checking out this fairly extensive blog by Nick Hussey on bike fit and problems that can arise.

http://www.vulpine.cc/Blog/health/how-to-make-your-bike-fit

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [269 posts]
12th May 2014 - 13:42

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You need to know why you have a dodgy back...? Before you can fix it.
Muscular? Skeletal? imbalance in anterior / posterior chain? Or just plain old weak? Being told, in the long run etc doesn't really help you fix it. Everyone who rides road bikes over a certain distance will suffer some kind of back discomfort during a ride. You need to find the cause of the problem first.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [178 posts]
12th May 2014 - 22:46

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I have scoliosis and have been having it reset by Osteos for past 11 months..

I agree with others here, core strength is a must to support... i can truly recommend pilates... if done correctly at a proper class, not a gentle one it is great for the core and has helped me no end!

posted by amole29 [3 posts]
13th May 2014 - 18:10

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Get a bike that will take 28mm tyres too, there really is a noticeable reduction in jarring compared to 23mm tyres. Having recently swapped to wide (24mm) rims I'd strongly recommend those too.

Ride in Oxford? Come and join the Cowley Road Condors cycling club, Oxford's friendliest cycling club!

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posted by tom_w [107 posts]
13th May 2014 - 18:26

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Thanks for all your advise and comments Guys. Appreciated.

posted by Widge34 [9 posts]
13th May 2014 - 18:47

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Planks Planks Planks Planks.... Side Planks Side Planks Side Planks everyday.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [178 posts]
13th May 2014 - 19:28

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I screwed my back due to a combination of wearing socks, a ringing phone, a run down the stairs and a sister that though furniture polish was a good idea on a laminate floor.

If you remember Wizbit then it might make sense when I say that my legs went "ha ha this a-way" and my upper body went "ha ha that-a-way".

Since then it gets painful and uncomfortable when riding road bikes.

And when riding mountain bikes.

And when riding BMX.

And behind a drum kit.

But it's much, much, much worse when I'm sat round doing nothing. Sitting on a sofa will give me loads more grief. Keeping moving, as long as your not caning yourself, will have far more benefits. Just get comfy and enjoy it.

(I'm not a medical professional though, so feel free to ignore at will)

posted by farrell [1520 posts]
14th May 2014 - 2:58

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I am 51y old and had 2 prolapsed discs, l4 then l5, 18 months apart some 15 yrs ago. I was pretty much unable to work for over a year. I refused surgery and relied upon osteopathy and acupuncture( to deal with the pain from the former which was unusually invasive) and developing my core to recover. I was never particularly heavy but i also lost weight. Although they healed up i would get an occasional flare up. That only stopped after i took up road cycling just over 4 years ago. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but i ride fairly low, not stem slammed, on a planet x sl pro and so i am pretty stretched out. My neck occasionally gives me a little grief especially if i have not ridden much for a while but i actually find that riding a road bike has been a boon or aid to my back problems. I am long backed and apparently short legged so my experience may reflect my own physiology but riding a road bike has been an entirely positive experience for me. I just wish i could get out on the bike more!

bobinski

posted by bobinski [126 posts]
14th May 2014 - 11:58

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farrell wrote:
I screwed my back due to a combination of wearing socks, a ringing phone, a run down the stairs and a sister that though furniture polish was a good idea on a laminate floor.

If you remember Wizbit then it might make sense when I say that my legs went "ha ha this a-way" and my upper body went "ha ha that-a-way".

My oh my!

(Sorry!)

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3329 posts]
14th May 2014 - 13:05

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I've suffered from a bad back since 1986 when I attempted to pick up something that was much heavier than it looked... long story.

Anyway, when I got a road bike again about 4 years ago, typical Mamil, I had the bars up quite high, and struggled to find a comfortable saddle. One day I had the idea of lowering the bars, and then started lowering them more and more, month by month. I now can now ride with a -10º stem stammed on the headset with no spacers on a bike with a short head tube.

Meanwhile my back has hugely improved from the regular exercise, and I can go for long periods (touch wood) without a relapse. If it is hurting, I find the lower position on the bike more comfortable than walking, because there's less weight on the saddle. A side benefit is no probs with saddle comfort too.

So my advice is, try it lower, bit by bit, it may actually take some of the weight off your lower back.

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posted by drmatthewhardy [352 posts]
14th May 2014 - 21:27

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drmatthewhardy wrote:
One day I had the idea of lowering the bars, and then started lowering them more and more, month by month. I now can now ride with a -10º stem stammed on the headset with no spacers on a bike with a short head tube.

Meanwhile my back has hugely improved from the regular exercise, and I can go for long periods (touch wood) without a relapse. If it is hurting, I find the lower position on the bike more comfortable than walking, because there's less weight on the saddle. A side benefit is no probs with saddle comfort too.

So my advice is, try it lower, bit by bit, it may actually take some of the weight off your lower back.

That is certainly counter-intuitive. I won't knock it because I haven't tried that.

I would say that hip mobility and ROM will likely have a bearing on whether that works for some. If you can't raise your knee much beyond parallel when lying or standing, you're going to find it hard to do it seated….and then that puts strain on the back (your hip curves around to compensate for a lack of flexibility, which then strains the back).

I'm assuming your doctor mentioned road bikes because of the jarring involved in jumping about on mountain bikes, and not because of any other feature. Road cycling on a road bike is very smooth, and if you get carbon, it actually absorbs a certain amount of jarring. I ride my mountain bike to work, and my road bike everywhere else.

Like all the others here, a combination of core strength, and flexibility training (yoga, pilates or a good stretching regimen) are the main accoutrement for a healthier back. Try MWOD. There are plenty of free youtube videos which detail good stretches and good habits. Ideally you should consult a physio, but experiment with what works for you…..do not try the touching your toes stretch, that just tests yours back and tweaks your sciatic nerve.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1174 posts]
15th May 2014 - 0:02

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chin ups for core strength and running strangely work for me to keep my back in fine fettle. Also good footwear helps.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [379 posts]
16th May 2014 - 22:01

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I was suffering from chronic back pain from years of cycling(road/MTB/CX) and not paying enough attention to my core. Since taking up flatwater kayak racing my back has improved massively and I'm back to riding for 5+ hours without discomfort. Upside is my n+1 also includes 18ft of carbon-fibre racing kayak!

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [369 posts]
18th May 2014 - 11:02

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Without knowing the true cause of your back pain I cannot suggest anything in particular.
I would say that bike position and core strength play a major part in reducing back pain.

I wouldn't say that just moving over to a road bike is going be much difference to riding a mountain bike apart form less juddering on rough surfaces when mountain biking. Just moving over to the Road bike won't make much difference to the underlying problem with your back.

I would seek more advice from someone who knows what they are talking about. There are a lot of riders these days taking up the sport with poor core strength with conditions such as sway back etc. Without a strong flexible core cycling at the very least will be less enjoyable, and in some cases depressingly painful.

I would say don't go riding on any bike until you have identified the problem and used different exercises to correct it.

I wish you well and hope you sort this issue out soon.

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posted by Rupert [101 posts]
18th May 2014 - 11:18

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Well, first trip out on the new bike today, 25 miles and back felt good.

posted by Widge34 [9 posts]
18th May 2014 - 18:29

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