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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A quick summary:

I have been off of the bike for two months in order to treat a bulging disk issue in my back. :madmax: The physical therapy has gone well and this week I should get the ok to start slowly riding again.:thumbsup: From the doctors and other riders they suggest a bike with more of an upright position. In my mind that meant a cruiser bike that would not climb well.:skep: After receiving an education (from some custom builders) I found out that I could have a bike that climbed well and had all of the other qualities that I wanted out of a bike.:) I love SS’ing but wonder if a geared bike would be a better choice.

So is a SS easier on the back than a geared bike or vise versa? On a SS you (at least me) are out of the saddle more and not bent forward as much. However you are pushing harder and that may put additional strain on the lower back.

On a geared bike you are bent forward more however having a choice of gears to allow you (at least me) to spin vs. mash.

Thanks!

Ps. Please no over zealous responses about how great SS is vs. geared. I get enough of that type of gibberish on the 29’er board.;)
 

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Expert Pushing SSer
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DeeZee said:
A quick summary:

I have been off of the bike for two months in order to treat a bulging disk issue in my back. :madmax: The physical therapy has gone well and this week I should get the ok to start slowly riding again.:thumbsup: From the doctors and other riders they suggest a bike with more of an upright position. In my mind that meant a cruiser bike that would not climb well.:skep: After receiving an education (from some custom builders) I found out that I could have a bike that climbed well and had all of the other qualities that I wanted out of a bike.:) I love SS'ing but wonder if a geared bike would be a better choice.

So is a SS easier on the back than a geared bike or vise versa? On a SS you (at least me) are out of the saddle more and not bent forward as much. However you are pushing harder and that may put additional strain on the lower back.

On a geared bike you are bent forward more however having a choice of gears to allow you (at least me) to spin vs. mash.

Thanks!

Ps. Please no over zealous responses about how great SS is vs. geared. I get enough of that type of gibberish on the 29'er board.;)
Your analogy is spot on with what I was thinking, gears = leaning, ss = standing. Now go figure out how you could claim a custom frame as a medical expense covered by insurance :) :devil:
 

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French for "Suck"
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When I started riding SS, I had a lot of soreness in my lower back. I believe that this was largely muscular soreness, due to the mashing nature of the ride, and the shifting of my COG from maintaining traction as my torque changed through the pedal stroke. After a few weeks, it went away. I don't know whether that helps or hurts your position, but that's been my only experience with SS'ing and lower back pain.
 

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law talkin' guy
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Use some suspension

I have some compressed/bulging discs in my lower back and the only way that I can ride a bike (even on the road) is with some sort of suspension. I have a full suspension bike and I also ride a non-suspended single speed with a thudbuster seatpost.
 

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I have some lower back issues myself, nothing as serious as you but I tended to feel it a lot after riding bikes, however after going over to SS I haven't had any problems touch wood! I'm on a steel frame which I would recommend, but I've also gone rigid at the front and still now issues so I'd seriously give it a go, it's all I ride now! :)
 

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My lower back started bothering me out of the blue about a month ago. The only change that correlates with the pain is that I have been riding in the saddle more. It doesn't hurt when I stand and mash, wrench the bars around etc. But after a long ride with lots of seated climbing or spinning through flat sections I have about two days of pain.
 

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Space for rent...
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I am new to SS and built my first project this year. After about 2 months of riding I too developed lower back pain. All the x-rays checked ok, and it appears to be soft tissue related.

I ride a rigid aluminum frame, and have made the following changes:-

2.0 tires changed to 2.25
Flat bar changed to Mary bar
No-name (skinny grips) changed to thicker ODI Rogue grips.

Also been working on trying to relax my body/grip when I go through the rough stuff. All of these changes appear to make a big difference.
 

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I like wheelies
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I ride rigid/SS and FS/geared, and I feel that I put more strain on my back riding the single speed, mainly on steep, steppy, loose climbs which require a lot of standing body english to be cleaned. On my FS, I can gear down and spin on these climbs, putting no extra strain on my back. No doubt that the suspension helps reduce fatigue in general any time it allows me to stay in the saddle, climbing or otherwise.
 

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lotto baby
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i experience muscle ache on my SS. i actually just took my FS (5 inches of travel front and back) out for a ride yesterday for the first time in a long time. the ride was much easier on me, both as far as impact goes and as far as back ache goes - in fact, i had no ache at all.
 

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Don't sit...

Stand up.

Honestly, the only times I have pain in the back is when I ride geared. Sitting and pedalling .... unless you have everything exactly correct for your body, can give you problems.

Most riders I see on the trails have their handlebars set too low. This is a carry-over from road riding, and is not needed when off-road.

Form follows function.

It doesn't matter if your handlebars are as high or higher than your seat. What does matter is that you aren't placing too much strain on your body parts...especially your back.

I believe that if you stand up a LOT on the bike, and have the bike set up so that it suits stand-up riding, then your back pains will be a thing of the past.

Set up the bike so that when you are standing on the pedals, the handlebars are high enough so that you don't have to bend over a lot at the waist to pedal/mash.

This gives you a nice straight back posture for most of your riding. A small bend at the waist is ok as long as you aren't placing strain on the back as you grind the hills.

The same goes for sitting and spinning, either geared or SS. Set up the bike so that you are more upright, with only a slight bend at the waist.

Raise the handlebars enough to get the correct position so that you are comfortably upright on the bike. Look at yourself pedalling past shop windows, etc. to see the reflection in the glass to make sure you are not riding "hunched" over.

Maintaining good form when riding is important, otherwise your body will let you know about it...:(

R.
 

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I get more back pain (muscular) on the ss especially when theres alots of steep grinding/mashing. It makes no difference if I'm sittting or standing. It seems more to be determined by the gear I'm pushing and the gradient because on the gearie I can change down and spin where I mash and grind in the ss.
 

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my .02 worth..

My back craps out on me every couple years it seems due to slight protrusions on L-2 &L-3 i think. I forget exactly which ones but according to Mri the Sciatic nerve is not involved.
The PT that worked with me on the first occurence( i have had 3 in 5 years, completly locked up,semi-quadriplegic for about 24 hrs due to spasms) said #1 STRETCH,STRETCH,STRETCH and do not stay in the same position on the bike to long. So for me SS is great because im constantly moving and not just locked in a spin forever position.
If my back is feeling a bit tired i may just walk up some of the grunt climbs instead of trying to get the last couple pedal strokes to put me over the top...
So stretch out those hamstrings and get an inversion chair and hang around regularly...
 

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It really depends on the nature of the lower back injury and where it is stemming from.

In general the brunt of lower back pain stems from the pelvic tilt being off. This is usually associated with an imbalance of the muscles controlling the pelvis' tilt. Quads, hamstrings, stomach and back all need to be in balance in terms of strength and flexibility. Typically riders build up quads disproportionately in relation to hamstrings. If you have access to a gym- and a leg extension machine--as well as a hamstring curl machine. The proper ratio of strength for the quad to hamstring is 3:2. Many bikers who sit and push too much versus spinning develop overly strong quads. In conjunction with this can be overly tight hamstrings, quads, hip flexors (very common on bikers) and glutes. IF you sit alot and push versus spin you will need to address your glutes- hamstrings quads for flexibility as well. The longer the cranks- and the more you lean over--- the more your uppperhamstring and glutes do the pushing in a seated position. Standing may help out somewhat-- but anytime you are grinding up a hill....you are still tightening up the entire chain.......so if you have imbalances in strenght -coupled with stiffness and inflexibility.....you will feel it in the back and hips.

Core strengthening is very important because the psoas muscles which run down the center of the body to the pelvis help to control the pelvic tilt as well. The more you can start to do some core strengthening- and add a ton of proper stretching of the glutes- hams, quads and hip flexors- you may start to put less stress on the lower back.

If you are on the stiff side of the Yin/Yang--- trainers typically recommend stretching twice a day plus once for every time you train or use the muscles in an activity. Even 3 times a day will take a month to really get to the good side of the flexible/stiff equation if you currently are in the stiff end and experiencing pain due to imbalance or inflexibilty. Strengthening can also take a month because any time you work to strengthen a muscle you are also shortening the fibres and must do double the work to maintain the flexibility.

stretch stretch stretch and start to do some more core strengthening with a Theraband type exercise ball.
 

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and finally- a geared bike where you are doing less pushing and more spinning would be in the short term better at keeping you from more serious injury. However...without addressing the root of the problems....it will still catch up with you in the long run. Standing more on a SS would also be better than sitting for sure and maybe choosing some flatter trails for a while as you are getting at the stretching.
 

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I battled the same problem a little over a year ago and took a short break from riding while recovering. The most important thing with either type of riding is to ensure that you are in good posture. Leaning over on a geared bike isn't bad as long as you concentrate on keeping your back straight and don't arch/hunch your back when doing so. If I concentrate on keeping my back flat when I climb I have no problems with either geared or SS riding anymore. Keep strengthening your core, stretching, and focus on correct posture be it on or off the bike. The biggest impact on my back was when I finally corrected the ergonomics of my office chair, which greatly reduced the inflamation and strain on my bulging disk.
 

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ab work is key for a bad back ie core strengthening do smooth riding and rest often and stop to stretch during your rides do what is comfortable and definitley baby your back for a while as far as shock and impact goes good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Geared and SS

Thanks for all of the input. Well I got the OK to start riding and decided to get a SS frame that I can also run with gears.:D I will run it geared for awhile and then when the time is right….. turn it into a single speed. The builder I am working with informed me that it will take at least two months to get the frame.:madman:

What I have learned about my particular issue (bulging disk in lower back).

I have done all kinds of sports over the years and m-biking is my passion. I never get burned out or sick of it (like some of the other sports). Also due to my three young boys at home my time is limited to only one sport. One weekend ride and maybe one or two rides after work at night. During lunch I would ride the stationary bike and stretch three to four times a week. All activities were focused on cycling. Plus I have a desk job that forces me to sit for long periods. This has caused muscle imbalances / bulging disks.

I am convinced that medical doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists do not completely have the back figured out yet. And the good ones will admit it. :skep:

One consistent is that over training in one particular sport can cause problems. I for one did nothing except concentrate on my cycling!:nono:

Starting next week I am going to ease back into cycling and mix in some other activities (weight training, swimming, and surfing). Thanks again for the tips!:thumbsup:
 

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My low back issues came up only since I started to SS in 3/06 (lots of standing climbs compared to how I used to ride my geared bike). Never had back issues in almost four years on my Sugar (mostly spinning climbs, rarely attacking them).

The cockpit measurements are within 3/4" between my Sugar and my SS. I'm 5-10+ with long arms and torso, shorter legs. So: is it the bike or is it the riding position (the standing climbing that goes with SSing)?

Thanks for any sound advice. Ride on, --E.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
[In regione caecorum rex est luscus.]

Desiderius Erasmus, Adagia (III, IV, 96)
Dutch author, philosopher, & scholar (1466 - 1536)
 

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SS is good for my back

I have a bad back too (bulging disc) dating from the early 80's. Modern medicine wasn't particularly helpful treatmentwise (no surgery). Swimming got my back usable again, and in the early 90's I took up MTBing and was surprised that not only did it not cause back problems, it actually helped. Even more so with singlespeeding. My back is fine these days provided that I keep riding. I find that the muscles used to stablize the upper body during standing SS climbing are exactly those core muscles that protect the lower back. A couple of months off the SS and I am ripe for a back 'incident'.
 

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This is my experience, too

OldSkoolMark said:
I have a bad back too (bulging disc) ... I took up MTBing and was surprised that not only did it not cause back problems, it actually helped. Even more so with singlespeeding. My back is fine these days provided that I keep riding. ... A couple of months off the SS and I am ripe for a back 'incident'.
All this is true for me, too.

I have a bulged L5/S1 disc, injured in 2000. At the time of the injury my doc could not tell me I would ever be able to ride an upright bicycle again. This scared the hell out of me. But I was unwilling to give cycling up, and three months after my "accident" I was back mountain biking.

I've never looked back. In '01 I won the Masters division while racing the 100 mile Cascade Cream Puff (on a 7 speed FS). In '02 I finished the Puff on a singlespeed hardtail. I don't mention these experiences out of pride; rather to prove that suffering a bulged disc does not mean one has to ease up on his cycling pursuits. I have found consistant riding to be remedial for my back, no question. SSing is almost all the riding I do anymore. It has proved to not be a problem for my bulged disc.

My advice: MAKE SURE YOUR BIKE FITS YOU CORRECTLY. (In my case, my seat was too high. So high that riding this way caused my a disc in my back to bulge. Yet until the incident actually happened, I thought my bike fit was fine.) Make sure your seat isn't too high and make sure your knee is over your forward pedal spindle when your cranks are horizontal.

I don't believe SSing is detrimental to one's back -- it isn't to mine. The worst thing for me is when I don't ride enough. I love to stand and climb for long periods. This is one of things I enjoy about SSing.

Also, I recommend you learn the cobra stretch and utilize it frequently. This was the easiest stretch my PT taught me yet the most effective for bulged disc pain relief in my case. I used to do the cobra stretch a dozen times a day. Now, only when I feel the need.

Good luck; don't give up.

--Sparty
 
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