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Sometimes I feel a little pain in my lower back after cycling (nothing too long, mainly cycling around London for general commuting...5-10Km). It could be due to a number of reasons (I have a bad back anyway), but I would like to eliminate bad cycling posture as a possible cause.

I can only find one mention of cycling posture on SE, but it refers to flat bars: Proper Posture on a flat bar road bike.

My bike is the correct size for me I believe, using the old "its just the right height for my crotch..Ouch!" measurement.

Does anyone have useful sources of information how to achieve the correct cycling posture?

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You might want to look at saddle position too - i.e. fore/aft adjustment and tilt (not everyone likes it completely horizontal) –  tdc Jan 24 '12 at 13:32

5 Answers 5

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Whatever works. The main advantage of the standard drop bar is that it offers you multiple hand positions and multiple postures. In a sprint, or driving into a headwind, riding fully on the drops cuts wind resistance, but for less intense riding one of the several hand position on the top bar or on the hoods is usually preferred. And on long rides the ability to change positions from time to time is invaluable in terms of hand/arm/back comfort.

And there is no one "right" height for your bar. If you're a real aggressive rider (and young and limber) then a lower bar position may be for you, but if you're somewhat more casual there's nothing wrong with raising the bar (so to speak). And you may also want to consider adjusting your "reach" by changing the stem -- not everyone's torso is the same length.

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+1 for "there is no one right height". Personal preference should always count. –  heltonbiker Jan 24 '12 at 13:32
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If you are a new road cyclist, look for a skilled bike fitter in your area, and have a professional fit done. Make sure you choose a fitter who is suitable for your style of riding, and one who is mentally flexible enough to understand that not every rider fits in the same box as they do. Actually, that last part pretty much defines the idea of skilled fitter for me. –  zenbike Jan 26 '12 at 5:31

Joe Friel (author of The Cyclist's Training Bible has an short article on riding posture available on his blog. A lot of back problems start with the hip position.

Also, you say your bike fits you based upon a single dimension, but there are multiple dimensions to fit. Your back may be hurting because you are reaching too far, and thus your back has to bridge a longer gap. Putting a different sized stem on your bike could fix the problem.

Also, no matter how well your bike fits, ultimately, it will take some muscle engagement to support your cycling posture. Abdominal exercises go a long way towards alleviating back pain.

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It sounds like you haven't gotten the bike fit to you yet. Most bike shops will have someone who can do that for you. The bike shop can also help you get the right bar stem combo that will hopefully help your back issues.

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As I myself did not rediscover cycling until I was past fifty, I have found that some things get easier with time in the saddle and some things don't. I have consigned myself to not ride a drop bar bike again. Trying to lift my head high enough to see through my bifocals was too uncomfortable. I talked to friends and borrowed all manner of bars and stems looking for a good comfotable fit. I settled for flat bars with barend extensions to give me some position variations. I may not be aerodynamic or stylish but I am comfortable and pain free. Don't be afraid to defy covention as long as it works. Don't forget to consider your hands in the equation. Is a small bar diameter causing your wrist to hurt making you put more load on your back and neck? Gloves have too much or to little padding?

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I've been cycling a lot longer, but I'm in my 60s with some physical challenges. But I prefer drop bars because they allow so many different hand positions. I only rarely ride on the drops. (Perhaps a flat bar with extensions would work, but I'm old and set in my ways.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 23:14
    
I don't see how flat handlebars fix this problem. In my opinion, flat handlebars are a subset of drop bars. If you position the tops of drop bars at the same position as where flat handlebars are, you have the same posture while on the flats, but have more choices of hand position for longer rides. –  Stephen Touset Jan 25 '12 at 17:25

I would suggest two "first things" to do, having had these problems myself:

  1. Try to change the lenghth of cockpit, first via saddle fore-aft then via stem length. It is important, first of all, to find the proper position of your saddle fore-aft respective to your pedals, so you are not thrown backwards or forwards when you pedal hard while seated. Sometimes even a low handlebar might be comfortable if you have enough "lever" to pull your torso up with your legs (that would be when you are not too forward in the saddle). If even this don't make you feel fine, perhaps try to bring your handlebar closer to you with a short stem (useful to correct the "superman" feeling of reaching too long) or farther away with a longer stem (useful to correct the "over the handlebar" feeling, which is not good for wrists and shoulders).
  2. Try to heighten your stem and bar. Since I started doing so, raising a bit each month, I'm still wanting more and more. It doesn't make you anti-aerodynamic at all, and the positive effect of being comfortable and restfull over a bike is much greater than the not-so-great aerodynamic difference of an ultra-low handlebar (except if you are an athlete, of course). If you are getting old (which mean over 28 :o( then you should consider to give up on those "super sporty" setups which are common on road race bikes.

Finally, perhaps your back hurts when you ride, but it "is being hurted" during other times of day, like sitting in the office, running, watching TV or even sleeping. Try to watch yourself during the day, to check if there is some bad postural habit you might eliminate.

Hope it helps

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