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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, sometimes after riding for more than 3 hours my lower back (just above my ass) starts to ache pretty bad, I also got the same sensation yesterday whilst helping trailbuilding - pushing wheelbarrows up a hill.

I ride a Specialized Enduro, 80mm stem, race face diabolus bars (.5" rise I think, 680mm width), adjustable seatpost and a charge spoon saddle. I'm about 5'10" and the bike is a medium, it seems to fit me fine as far as I know.

Are there some common culprits for this kind of back ache? Bike setup? Technique? It's usually when I'm cranking up hills that it hurts the most.

The reason I ask is because I'm going to be ordering some wider bars soon, planning on going with the Answer Pro Taper DH: http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=42512 (not sure whether to get .5" or 1" rise yet), and I thought it best to check here before purchasing just in case the rise of the bar may help.

I realise there's a lot of things involved here, maybe a picture of me sat on the bike would help?
 

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wuss
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I've usually found that training my stomach (sit ups) and back muscles (lie on stomach and pull upper body up) just a bit for a few days in a row have sorted out any back aches... I would start with that if the bike otherwise feels ok.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Interesting! Didn't see that coming, thanks. Sounds easy enough to sort rather than fiddling around with various bike setups.
 

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i've had something like that and for me it was always due to mashing too hard a gear while sitting, especially when trying to accelerate in a high gear. If you need to mash, stand up and straighten out your back Either that or gear down and spin at a higher cadence

Like granpa said, its all connected. If you are straining your hamstring from a seated position it can put a lot of stress on your lower back as well
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
d.n.s said:
try to shorten stem
The fork on my bike has an integrated upper crown and stem, which is Specialized's own, so either a) too expensive from lbs b) hard to get hold of second hand (although I keep looking). I have the 80mm and will get the 60mm version when I see one available,

granpa said:
can you touch your toes w/only a little knee bend?

stretch the hamstrings - its all connected
No I can't, I will try some stretches along with core exercises.

boomn said:
i've had something like that and for me it was always due to mashing too hard a gear while sitting, especially when trying to accelerate in a high gear. If you need to mash, stand up and straighten out your back Either that or gear down and spin at a higher cadence

Like granpa said, its all connected. If you are straining your hamstring from a seated position it can put a lot of stress on your lower back as well
I am very much a sit and spinner, I use the granny ring and lowest gears pretty much any time I'm climbing, so I don't think it's due to mashing, but I think there may be a connection to climbing technique as this is when it hurts the most. I will definitely try the hamstring stretches :)

I'll try and update this in a few months if I remember, to share if the above has worked or not.
 

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I have the same problem. I saw a chiropractor (who is also a killer mtb'r) and he found nothing wrong with my spine or muscles. He did tell me that I had incredibly stiff hip flexors. He said that was very common with mtbr's because your quads tend to develop quicker than your hamstrings causing your hip flexors and lower back to overcompensate. He recommended doing something (like running) to develop my hamstrings and to do hip flexor stretches on a daily basis. I haven't been great about doing the stretches but I have noticed that it's not as sore and it takes longer rides to get it there. I also went to a PT who also confirmed my really tight hip flexors as well as finding some weakness in my left hamstring. He recommended the same stretches (only more of them) and some things to get my leg strength more even.

Core strength building I think can help but for me it didn't make much of a difference. I come from a weight lifting background and I rock climb and run ultimate frisbee when I'm not mountain biking. So my core is quite strong. I think a combo of stretching and core building is the ticket. You might check with a Chiro or Ortho that you trust and get an x-ray to make sure you don't have any disc issues though. If you have true back issues you'll need a more focused approach so you don't really screw something up.
 

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woodyak said:
I have the same problem. I saw a chiropractor (who is also a killer mtb'r) and he found nothing wrong with my spine or muscles. He did tell me that I had incredibly stiff hip flexors. He said that was very common with mtbr's because your quads tend to develop quicker than your hamstrings causing your hip flexors and lower back to overcompensate. He recommended doing something (like running) to develop my hamstrings and to do hip flexor stretches on a daily basis. I haven't been great about doing the stretches but I have noticed that it's not as sore and it takes longer rides to get it there. I also went to a PT who also confirmed my really tight hip flexors as well as finding some weakness in my left hamstring. He recommended the same stretches (only more of them) and some things to get my leg strength more even.
Assuming you don't have an actual physical problem (disc issues, etc), what woodyak said is what I'd listen to. The vast majority of people have tight hip flexors/quads because we sit a lot. What happens is the tightness of the hip flexors/quads pulls your pelvis forward (anterior tilt). The tilt then causes tight hamstrings because they attach to the back of your pelvis. Stretching the hamstrings will likely exacerbate the problem. The lower back hurts because the tilt causes you to use less of your powerful glutes and more of your lower back muscles. As woodyak said, stretch your hip flexors/quads daily and work on glute and hamstring strength. Also, if you sit for your job, try standing up for it. A few minutes of stretching will be wasted if you spend hours with your hip flexors in a tight position.

A strength exercise for glutes and hamstrings that I love is the glute ham raise (GHR). Don't be surprised if you can't even do one at first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wow thanks ToBeFrank and woodyak. I've found some exercises for strengthening my glutes and stretching my quads.

I'm also going to see if I can get an appointment with a chiropractor, just to be on the same side and rule out any problems.

Unfortunately I do sit down for most of the day so I'm not sure how to get around that :(
 

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I have the same problem and a few others besides.

I've just had a pro-fit done (podiatrist, camera, angles, etc) and basically I have tight hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, glutes and some other stuff (all related). And a permanent back and neck injury; they're a nuisance/painful but don't stop me doing much. They do alter the effort I can put in on a given day.

The tight muscles have meant poor seated posture. Since the "bike fit" I can sit more upright and when I am able to do that the back pain disappears even on the steep climbs.
I can't do it for long yet but it'll be brilliant by year's end.

I have learnt how to use my lower body to ride the bike and now my hands just float on the bars. Again, not for long but it'll come with time.

Before that it was still fun but painful. I'm expecting that by the years end I'll be much more flexible and have more stamina during rides due to "using the right bits to ride the bike."

The stretches were specific to my injuries though; the generic ones I've used in the past were not targetting all the right areas.
 

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Tree Crasher
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Our abs and obliques are designed to support our upper bodies. As our pot bellied stomachs continue to sag and weaken with age, our lower backs have to kick in, hence the pain and soreness.

Changing your stem or bike setup won't alleviate your back pain when pushing that wheelbarrow! But situps and leg raises will. Actually leg raises are better, crunches focus more on your upper abs. Also consider some yoga positions, sans the meditation.

And find a good sports doc if you can.
 

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I second all the advice about building core strength. But be sure to include stretches for the lower back and quads to allow the pelvis to rotate into a better position. What I want to add is be sure to include hamstring strengthening excersises. One bikes better with balanced out hamstrings.

I want to also emphasize that some stretches can be detrimental if you actually have a developing back condition. Get it checked out so you know where you stand. You may have a disc tear or something.
 

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99% of general population rolled their eyes and mumbled something about riding for three frigging hours..

As you have an adjustable seatpost - check that you get the full extension going up. On one bike I had a similar problem - moving saddle a bit forward helped.

Or maybe it is just age. ;)
 

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Steve.E said:
Please elaborate on the 3 hours comment?
It is like that guy who was complaining that he was sold bad vodka - after five bottles he got a headache.

Dude, you can ride for 3 hours without any pain. Enjoy. ;)
 

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I forgot to mention heat....heat tends to give immediate relief. Either in the form of a heating pad or tiger balm.

Massage is also excellent but not as widely accepted in the US...while in europe every pro cyclist has a masseuse.

For massage I roll my back muscles on a regulation softball....put the ball on the floor and then just lie/roll on it w/one ankle crossed over the other knee.
 

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I've always had lower back pain that causes me to interupt sustained climbs and stretch. I got a standing desk/workstation at work about a month ago, and problem solved. It's the only variable I've changed recently, so it has to be the answer. No matter how hard I tried to watch my posture, I'd always end up slumping in my chair as the day goes on.

When I noticed that I wasn't stopping because of my back anymore, I was pretty stoked.
 
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