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Quite often if I'm riding for longer than about an hour I get a sore neck. I assume that I can make some adjustment to my mountain bike to help prevent or reduce the soreness, but I don't know what. Can anyone help?

EDIT

I think my riding position is more upright than leaned forward, but I couldn't say how much because I don't have a feel for it.

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Can you describe your riding position a bit? Are you sitting fairly upright or really leaned forward in a more aggressive position? –  darkcanuck Jan 30 '11 at 19:31
1  
Get someone to take a picture of you riding by, in profile. –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 31 '11 at 1:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I can think of a few possible explanations:

  1. If you're sitting too upright, vibrations from the road/trail (anything from pavement quality to serious potholes) will travel straight up your spine, causing your the gaps between your vertebrae to expand and contract. This can add up on a long ride. Ideally you want to be leaning forward enough that your back has at least a slight arch to it so that your muscles absorb the impact instead of your spine. Suspension (either rear or a sprung saddle/seatpost) can help here too.

  2. If you're riding with your elbows locked, or letting your shoulders sag then again you're letting your inflexible skeleton take the shocks instead of letting your muscles do the work.

  3. If you're leaned too far forward, then you'll constantly be craning your neck upwards to see the road ahead. The solution here is to raise your handlebars and/or shorten the stem length.

  4. Finally, long rides require stretching out muscles that tend to get stay in the same position all the time. This is especially true for your upper body and neck. Either stop to stretch or learn how to some basic stretches while riding. If I didn't stretch my neck periodically, I'd be a mess after a 10+ hour ride!

Sheldon Brown also has some excellent tips on neck pain & riding posture.

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That's really useful thanks! From reading your answer and the Sheldon Brown info I suspect that raising my handlebars or shortening the stem will help –  Phil Hale Jan 31 '11 at 9:08

When you ride a motorcycle or bicycle you have your neck in a chin up posture. When most people walk which is most of the time or sit and work at a desk (the rest of the time), either walking or sitting you are in a chin down posture. Try riding in a chin down using the top of your eyes or focusing up a little with your chin down. I learned this riding a motorcycle cross country 7-8 hours a day for 2 weeks. Your body will learn over time that your neck muscles can re-train themselves.
Don't try going (if your a guy) to Home Depot for 2 hours and walking around looking up and not have a sore neck. Some people with bad posture look at their feet when walking, they will suffer when riding the most!

Just my 2 cents. Pm

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I have a similar problem, and there's one thing that oddly affects it: Whether I wear prescription glasses or contact lenses. With my glasses, I have to bend my neck a little more to see the road ahead, and this has an effect on rides longer than an hour. With contacts, I normally also don sports sun shades, which have a wider field of view and don't make me bend the neck so much. Something to consider.

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