One of the most common complaints of cyclists on the bike is pain or stiffness in the lower back due to the unnatural, hunched over, forward position. While extreme pain or injury should be addressed with a healthcare professional, there are a few changes you can make to keep this problem from persisting.
These five fixes should help you stay pain-free on the bike so you can enjoy your rides:
1. CHECK YOUR POSITION
Pain on the bike is most often due to a poor bike fit. While getting fit by a professional is recommended, here are a few common fit issues that often cause lower back pain and are relatively simple to fix:
- A saddle that’s too high will cause your hips to rock side to side when you pedal, leading to lower back pain. To determine if this is the issue, watch yourself in a mirror while pedaling on an indoor trainer. You should have a slight bend in the knee at the bottom dead center of the pedal stroke (6 o’clock). If your leg is completely straight in this position, lower the seat so you have 25–35 degrees of knee flexion.
- When your handlebar is a bit too far away, it can cause a stretched-out position that puts too much strain on your lumbar vertebrae. Shortening your stem and raising your handlebars with spacers to achieve a more upright position could help.
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2. TRY A HIGHER CADENCE
If you’re constantly mashing big gears, you could be overworking your muscles — including those in the lower back and hips. Once they become fatigued, stiffness and pain could result while you’re on the bike.
While it’ll cause you to change your riding style, using a higher cadence could solve this issue. Instead of riding in the 65–80 rpm (revolutions per minute) range, try riding at 90 rpm or higher. This will tax your cardiovascular system a bit more but allow you to keep your power output the same while placing less stress on your muscles. Try a few high-cadence drills to adapt your body to this style of cycling.
Also make sure you remember to shift whenever the gradient increases and change your position on the bike every so often from sitting to standing to keep your lower back muscles from getting stiff and tight.