Bike Posture (and 'bicycle neck')

← Back to Forums


gsinn
Participant
#

I’ve been focusing a lot on posture during long rides/commutes, as well as experimenting with different setups of my bike, to reduce strain on my back. My posture feels really good, except for my neck: with almost any bike I’ve ridden lately, even if my back is aligned, my neck is arched back so that my line of vision is straight ahead (very unnatural and stressful posture.) If I straighten my neck, then I’m basically looking at the ground 5′ in front of me (obviously not practical.)

One setup that does seem to allow good posture is the ‘comfort bike,’ where the handlebars are higher than the seat. This lets you sit upright and keep your neck aligned, and still see where you are going – but the ‘comfort bike’ just doesn’t seem practical for commuting in PGH.

I’m just throwing this out there to see if anyone has similar problems or solutions.


reddan
Keymaster
#

@gsinn: I’d suggest that, for a commuting bike, anything that carries you and your stuff in comfort is perfectly practical. Nothing wrong with a comfort bike, if it works for you.

That said, there are ways to address neck problems whilst cycling.


dmtroyer
Participant
#

You could always get a bike fit at UPMC sports medicine.

I haven’t had a fit with them (been meaning to), but my understanding is they can help you find a good fit taking all of your priorities (comfort, efficiency, speed (or not), long term health) into account.


Marko82
Participant
#

I don’t have any specific advice other than for me I actually have less neck strain using drop-bars than either straight or upright bars. I don’t know if it’s the angle of my spine or the fact that you have multiple hand positions, but I would experiment with different bars and fit first. Besides, new bars are probably cheaper than a new bike. +1 on a bike fit regardless of whether you get a new bike/ bars or keep your current setup.


wsh6232
Participant
#

I do my share of long-distance stuff, and neck/shoulder soreness is a problem I experience for a few weeks at the start of each season.

Handlebar height has at least something to do with it. I’ve had best luck with bars set very slightly below the saddle…no more than 1 cm. This is a balancing act, really. Bars too low means neck soreness and more pressure placed on hands. Bars too high means no neck soreness, but extra pressure on the sit-bones. Of course, this all depends on how long your torso and arms are.

At times I suspect that I should switch to glasses with larger lenses. Glasses slide down, even a little bit, and I find myself craning my neck to compensate.

At times I also find myself trying to correct poor posture. I tend to ride with my shoulders tensed up, which I think contributes to neck issues.

I also believe that drop bars are the way to go. Switch up the hand positions now and then. If your neck gets sore, you can switch from riding on the hoods/drops to riding on the flats by the stem.


brian j
Participant
#

As someone who is dealing with neck issues right now, the core of your issue may not be the position on the bike, but rather, that position exacerbates another issue (this is my problem).

And, Dan is correct–the bike that works best for you is probably the best bike for you.


Anonymous #

I agree with the bike fit

But if you have a forward posture (on a bike or just poor sitting posture) and also look ahead the cervical curve is exaggerated. Do that for a while, combined with looking side to side=pain. For management, I would suggest finding a physical therapist friend who knows how to do a suboccipital release and some manual traction. There may also be some other areas of concern but this technique is a heavenly feeling after a long ride.


Mick
Participant
#

@gsinn One setup that does seem to allow good posture is the ‘comfort bike,’ where the handlebars are higher than the seat. This lets you sit upright and keep your neck aligned, and still see where you are going – but the ‘comfort bike’ just doesn’t seem practical for commuting in PGH.

I do all my around town stuff with a bike, commute, whatever. I use the high handlebars approach.

Very early on in my cycling I gave up drops. It’s one thing to have your legs or your lungs hurt whenever you’re done with a climb. It’s another if after every moderate climb, your neck hurts.

At this point, I’m sliding towards crank forward bikes.

Maybe I’ll cross over to the ‘bent side.

I’m thinking that when I gave up drops, if I had a good fitting, it might have changed my mind about them.

Also, neck stretches are good.

These seem good:

http://ptclinic.com/medlibrary/pdf/178.pdf

(I’ve been told people should be very careful about lateral neck stretch. At the time I talked with docs and PTs about this, lateral flexions were not recommended – but that was last century and all the sites seem to have a lateral flexion exercise or two, now)

The rotation exercises are particularly good for being able to look behind yo while riding.

Edmonds recommended (rightly, IMO)practicing panic stops in a safe place. The otehr thiung is to do roation neck stretches, then practice looking behind you while riding in a straight line. I think that’s and important skill, even if you have mirrors.


rice rocket
Participant
#

It’s all fitness.

Do you think the pros who ride 1000+ miles/week do it on a cruiser bike and then only ride with a big saddle-to-bar drop when they race?

Slam that stem, and don’t whine. :)


Mick
Participant
#

I’ve wondered about how many aspiring pro’s have had to drop out because of neck problems.

I’m guessing the number isn’t trivial – that is one seriously unatural posture there.


brian j
Participant
#

I would suspect that many PROs have regular chiropractic treatment to keep things functioning, too.

Of course, it also goes back to dmtroyer’s suggestion: get a proper bike fit. And get a bike that fits.


rice rocket
Participant
#

I think the most telling statement made (that I find to be true as well) is that it hurts in the beginning of the season but doesn’t a month or two into it.

You can’t reasonably expect the most comfortable position when starting out to be the most optimal position in the end. If that were the case, laying on the couch would be the most optimal and we’d all be blobs with no muscles. :)

Your body needs time to adapt. Keep at it.


wsh6232
Participant
#

It all depends on the kind of riding. Look at the photo at the start of this article about Race Across America:

No slammed stem there.

(Or just google image search RAAM if the pay-wall is keeping you out)


rice rocket
Participant
#

Let me know the next time you attempt a 3000 mile ride.


brian j
Participant
#

There’s a larger point here: sure, you can get used to two feet of drop between your saddle and bars, particularly if you were fitted professionally. But…do you really need two feet (or even one foot) of drop for your style of riding?


Mick
Participant
#

from wsh5232 article Goldstein completed the race in just over 11 days despite dealing with Shermer’s Neck, a painful condition that afflicts many ultracyclists who spend upwards of 22 hours a day hunched over their bikes and makes it difficult to keep their head up.

@ brian j you can get used to two feet of drop between your saddle and bars,

Maybe some people could, I guess. I couldn’t. I believe some of the people that “get used to it” would eventually end up with irreversable and painful neck conditions. (“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”) Sorry, brian, I know you weren’t defending that kind of drop, but I felt the need to mention this.

Remember – true love comes and goes, spine injuries are forever.


rice rocket
Participant
#

I don’t know of any cyclists that have quit due to neck complications, do you? Lower back, yes, knee, yes, hip, yes, neck? That’s stretching.


Mick
Participant
#

I quit for a decade because of neck problems.

But to be honest, no, other than me, I dont’ know of anyone.

[Edit to add] a quick goggle search yeilds this (for mountain biking):

http://www.roag.co.za/tips-and-info/common-overuse-injuries-1.aspx

Recent research lists the most common anatomical sites for overuse injuries associated with cycling as; neck (48.8%), knee (41.7 %), buttock (36.1%), hands (31.1%) and lower back (30.3%).


wsh6232
Participant
#

I’m not claiming to have any authority on ultra-cycling (my best accomplish is CtC in 34 hours, so that’s far from RAAM level), but if you look at the photos and videos, RAAM riders appear to ride with handlebars set at a higher level than you’d see in other shorter, faster events where speed and aerodynamics are more important than comfort. Even then they still battle with neck issues. So I think the take-away is to set up your bike in whatever way is comfortable for you and lets you succeed in your cycling goals.


reddan
Keymaster
#

I know of quite a few people who went recumbent due to neck problems.

In most cases, it coincided with advancing age; the common story is “I’d been riding my road bike for 20+ years, but just couldn’t deal with the pain on long rides anymore.”

[ETA:]So I think the take-away is to set up your bike in whatever way is comfortable for you and lets you succeed in your cycling goals. That.


rice rocket
Participant
#

There’s a larger point here: sure, you can get used to two feet of drop between your saddle and bars, particularly if you were fitted professionally. But…do you really need two feet (or even one foot) of drop for your style of riding?

Most everyone can benefit from a position with a fair bit of drop in it. Better hamstring engagement, lower center of gravity, better aerodynamics. Unless you need to be on your bike for more than 14 hours at a time, what’s not to like?

If you truly have physical disabilities that make achieving a lower position impossible, that’s rather unfortunate. But for 99.9% of the riders out there, there is a tangible benefit within their grasp. Whether you choose to get there is up to you.


Mick
Participant
#

@Rice rocket .. 99.9% of the riders out there…

I’m calling bullshit, dude. You are just pulling all your stuff out of a very bad-smelling dark place.

what’s not to like?

Neck problems.


rice rocket
Participant
#

You’re right.

It’s 99.9995%. ;)


reddan
Keymaster
#

Better hamstring engagement, lower center of gravity, better aerodynamics

I’m convinced. 99.9995% of cyclists need to optimize said factors. ;-)


rice rocket
Participant
#

Idunno Dan, that neck position looks uncomfortable… ;)


reddan
Keymaster
#

Try it, you’ll like it. :-)


Mick
Participant
#

@ rice rocket It’s 99.9995%.

The farther you go up there, the bigger the numbers get. I’m a statistician, I know how these things work. ;)


brian j
Participant
#

The whole stem-slamming thing is a relatively new phenomenon. Did people not know how to fit bikes back in the olden days? Clearly, Roger de Vlaeminck had it all wrong:

Where's the drop


reddan
Keymaster
#

The correct height of one’s stem is directly proportional to the length of one’s sideburns. This is Bike Fit 101 stuff, people.

(BTW, to the OP: I hope we haven’t scared you away.)


rice rocket
Participant
#

Bars had deeper drops back then, and shorter head tubes.

There’s an overlay pic of Contador’s bike vs someone in the 70s, and their contact points are pretty identical.

Edit: here ya go.

http://ruedatropical.com/2010/06/bike-fit-from-coppi-to-contador/


brian j
Participant
#

That’s a good point. Bikes these days only come in a few sizes rather than every couple of centimeters.


rice rocket
Participant
#

Gotta get that stiffness to weight ratio higher! ;)


Anonymous #

“One setup that does seem to allow good posture is the ‘comfort bike,’ where the handlebars are higher than the seat. This lets you sit upright and keep your neck aligned, and still see where you are going – but the ‘comfort bike’ just doesn’t seem practical for commuting in PGH.”

I think the earlier comments about knowing the purpose of your ride were correct. Personally, if I want to ride to get a workout, I’ll hop on a bike with drop handlebars, a jacked-up ass-hatchet, and a slammed stem. But if I’m riding to work, or to get beer/groceries/etc, I’ll hop on my Schwinn cruiser with its fat saddle and rising handlebars. I think most aspiring racers would agree that a short trip to the grocery store is all “garbage miles” anyway, so why not sit up and take it slow? That said, if you have a long commute (and maybe a place to shower at the end of it), go ahead and get into the drops and crank the tempo.

Basically, it’s all a matter of personal preference. If you don’t mind a slower ride, a “comfort” bike can be a great commuter (I had to change the gearing on mine to account for the PGH terrain, but it works well). If you like to try and keep pace with the cars on the road, put some panniers and fenders on your racing bike and slam that stem! Either way, just make sure your bike fits you.


Anonymous #

chin tucks:

good exercise for tight muscles

makes you look silly while performing

I haven’t done any searching but I imagine it’s simple enough to google


rice rocket
Participant
#

I think the earlier comments about knowing the purpose of your ride were correct. Personally, if I want to ride to get a workout, I’ll hop on a bike with drop handlebars, a jacked-up ass-hatchet, and a slammed stem. But if I’m riding to work, or to get beer/groceries/etc, I’ll hop on my Schwinn cruiser with its fat saddle and rising handlebars. I think most aspiring racers would agree that a short trip to the grocery store is all “garbage miles” anyway, so why not sit up and take it slow? That said, if you have a long commute (and maybe a place to shower at the end of it), go ahead and get into the drops and crank the tempo.

Do you guys really ride in different positions depending on where you’re going and how fast you want to get there? That’s analogous to having different seating positions depending on whether you’re watching a movie or just watching the news.

I understand the resistance to building your neck muscles to the point where you can ride all day like that (yeah, it hurts for a little bit), but your optimum position on a bike doesn’t change according the to task at hand. Roads are roads are roads are roads, no?

Edit: I will say that my mountain bike is setup slightly differently (lower saddle, a little more setback), but that’s so I can avoid getting smacked in the balls and to give me more room to move my weight around. The road bike and commuter are identical in contact points in relation to the bottom bracket (or at least as close as possible with off the shelf parts, I think I’m a few mm shorter in reach on the commuter because of the seat tube angle).


reddan
Keymaster
#

Do you guys really ride in different positions depending on where you’re going and how fast you want to get there? That’s analogous to having different seating positions depending on whether you’re watching a movie or just watching the news.

Well, no. I ride different BIKES depending on where I’m going and what I’m hauling, and my different bikes mandate different positions.

It’s more analogous to using a different chair when I’m eating dinner than when I’m slouched in front of the TV…different situations are better suited to different approaches.

I’ve found that my “optimal position” is very different when, for example, I’m hauling my son’s Trail-A-Bike (narrow drop bars suck, wide flat bars give better leverage for control) than when I’m just out for a spin. And that was on the same bike, just swapping out handlebars and stem.

YMMV, of course. But I’ve not found the One True Fit that applies to all bikes and all situations, even disregarding my penchant for less-traditional velocipedes.


rice rocket
Participant
#

Well, no. I ride different BIKES depending on where I’m going and what I’m hauling, and my different bikes mandate different positions.

You mean you don’t drape yourself over the ‘bent and hand-cycle it? ;)


reddan
Keymaster
#

You mean you don’t drape yourself over the ‘bent and hand-cycle it? ;)

Not while sober, no.


Chris Mayhew
Participant
#

@ Rice Rocket I admire your dedication to slamming but it takes a lot of saddle time to reach that position. It’s not for everyone. And while you’re right that modern positions are much like older positions there are clearly a lot of people (tons of amateurs, Andy Schleck) who set up their slammed positions and can’t ever reach the drops. And the photo of the bike above is from a guy 6’7″. Pretty extreme.


chemicaldave
Participant
#

I’m not seeing a price listed on the UPMC bike fit page, and that scares me.

← Back to Forums

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.

Supported by