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Help with bike setup - pain in neck

sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
Hi all,

I've been training hard for my first 190km sportive in June, but I'm getting a slight ache in my neck after about 50 miles and wondered how best to fix it. I've had my seat position set up by my local shop and had a shorter stem fitted and I think it's about as good as I'm going to get it tbh. And whilst I have a feeling I might be able to alleviate the ache a bit by changing the seat position, I don't want to go mucking up the position before asking advice. Maybe one of you have fixed a similar problem?

I do try and change my riding position throughout my rides but it's still a little annoying. It's not that painful, just irritating. Other than that my fitness is pretty good and I seem to be able ride quite hard for long without much discomfort.

Do you think a slight movement of the saddle forwards would help?

thanks

Posts

  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    only ride for 49 miles or less.
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    Infamous wrote:
    only ride for 49 miles or less.

    that's useful..;-)
  • guillianoguilliano Posts: 5,495
    It's always useful to stretch whilst on the bike as keeping your arms, neck and back static will always leave a dull ache after a while. If you can, put a heat rub in your jersey pockets and apply it after an hour or so of riding so that you are stimulating the area that aches.
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    guilliano wrote:
    It's always useful to stretch whilst on the bike as keeping your arms, neck and back static will always leave a dull ache after a while. If you can, put a heat rub in your jersey pockets and apply it after an hour or so of riding so that you are stimulating the area that aches.

    Thanks and I could try that, but i have a feeling that a slight tweak with the saddle will help more, I just wasn't sure which direction to move it. I do try and change by position every so often and for the most part it's fine, it's just the neck. It's so annoying because the rest of me feels great after 50 miles, including after climbing rides such as Box Hill.
  • petejukpetejuk Posts: 235
    Sounds to me like your handlebars are too low in comparison to your saddle height.. Shortening the stem may have worstened the problem slightly as you may be forcing your head down. Does your stem point down or up or is it perfectly straight?
    If you are bending down too far too the bars you need a steeper angled stem . Alternatively, if you have any room on the fork steerer, you could raise the stem.
    A simple test- if you have a turbo trainer, stick your bike in it and start pedalling to a steady speed and spin. Now take your hands off the handlebars and hover them over the hoods while looking forward. You should be able to do this fairly comfortably.
    If you can't or struggle for more than 20 seconds, you are likely to be placing too much strain on your shoulders and upper body. This could be causing your neck pain.
  • guillianoguilliano Posts: 5,495
    If the saddle position was wrong you'd more than likely notice the ache somewhere else too.... that would normally affect lower back or knees first in my experience. On a road bike you have your head turned upwards most of the time so you are contracting muscles for a long period of time which are simply not used to it. Obviously I could be completely wrong.... and will probably be proven so in about 20 mins
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    petejuk wrote:
    Sounds to me like your handlebars are too low in comparison to your saddle height.. Shortening the stem may have worstened the problem slightly as you may be forcing your head down. Does your stem point down or up or is it perfectly straight?
    If you are bending down too far too the bars you need a steeper angled stem . Alternatively, if you have any room on the fork steerer, you could raise the stem.
    A simple test- if you have a turbo trainer, stick your bike in it and start pedalling to a steady speed and spin. Now take your hands off the handlebars and hover them over the hoods while looking forward. You should be able to do this fairly comfortably.
    If you can't or struggle for more than 20 seconds, you are likely to be placing too much strain on your shoulders and upper body. This could be causing your neck pain.

    Thanks for the reply Pete, and that all sounds quite plausible. I'll try the turbo technique and see what happens.
  • GeorgeShawGeorgeShaw Posts: 764
    guilliano wrote:
    If the saddle position was wrong you'd more than likely notice the ache somewhere else too.... that would normally affect lower back or knees first in my experience. On a road bike you have your head turned upwards most of the time so you are contracting muscles for a long period of time which are simply not used to it. Obviously I could be completely wrong.... and will probably be proven so in about 20 mins

    Well I'd agree with you. :D

    Adding to that, on longer rides, you will be getting more tired, and there is a tendency when you get tired to stiffen up your riding position. You see a lot of riders in in the second half of sportives riding with very stiff locked arms. All this adds strain on your arm, shoulder and neck muscles - which makes you stiffen up even more, etc., etc. So try to ride with relaxed arms and shoulders. Check that you are relaxed regularly. If you are relaxed and comfortable, you should be able to bend your arms, lighten your grip, roll your shoulders, etc. without any major change in riding position, cadence or cycling rhythm.

    It's also worth noting that getting a shorter stem is not necessarily the way to reduce neck strain. The latter can be caused by having too much angle between your head and back. Having a shorter stem can make that greater if it cramps your riding position. I get less neck strain now after I lengthened my stem, so that I have the room to get my lower back lower.
  • drumsmasherdrumsmasher Posts: 241
    i agree with post about stretching on the bike. I found on my 1st sportive last week that i got the same pain as you describe but managed to keep it at bay by carrying out various stretches. On a flat section, try stretching your shoulders too as i found this helped. I think (no doubt about to be proved wrong) that once the pain has set in, then its just a case of holding it at bay. I had no pain the day after, so the streatching must have done some good.
    Another tree...another cracked rib!!
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    i agree with post about stretching on the bike. I found on my 1st sportive last week that i got the same pain as you describe but managed to keep it at bay by carrying out various stretches. On a flat section, try stretching your shoulders too as i found this helped. I think (no doubt about to be proved wrong) that once the pain has set in, then its just a case of holding it at bay. I had no pain the day after, so the streatching must have done some good.

    Cheers for the advice. It's not exactly pain, more a discomfort, and I do try and stretch and change position as I ride. The bike is a Scott CR1 Pro and I did originally get a shorter stem fitted after some tests, as I felt myself reaching just a little too far on the hoods. The new stem felt a lot more comfortable and a I said, I only notice the ache after about 40-50 miles. I've already spoken to my local shop that I always use and I'm going to get the stem raised slightly, to see if that helps.

    thanks again.
  • guillianoguilliano Posts: 5,495
    You may also find that the angle of your bars needs to be changed slightly, pointing the hoods further down or up, or they could be too narrow/wide. They should be the same width as your shoulders ideally.
  • oldwelshmanoldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    I agree with Pet. It is probably due to too short stem or too low stem forcing too much weight forward.
    As Pete suggested try reversing the stem if possible as most are angled, or try adding a spacer or two below.
    I had to revers mine on my track bike as it was so low and I got neck ache after a mile or two.
  • I too get something very similar after about the 50 mile mark and am also training for a sportive (the Dragon) at the moment. The pain for me is deep in the upper back, bottom of neck and shoulder blade. I've tried raising the bars but didn't do me much good. It could be down to my bike fit or the muscles just adapting to spending so long in the road cycling position, or a combination of both :?

    No offence, but I'm glad I'm not the only one it affects :wink:

    How long have you been cycling by the way? For me I've been a mountain biker for about five years. I've been ramping up the training on the road since xmas and have gone from 20mile rides to 100 mile rides in a few months which most probably hasn't helped.

    Also, like you say, I feel fit enough to ride 100miles but it's the comfort issue in my upper back neck that's holding me back.
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    extremepig wrote:
    I too get something very similar after about the 50 mile mark and am also training for a sportive (the Dragon) at the moment. The pain for me is deep in the upper back, bottom of neck and shoulder blade. I've tried raising the bars but didn't do me much good. It could be down to my bike fit or the muscles just adapting to spending so long in the road cycling position, or a combination of both :?

    No offence, but I'm glad I'm not the only one it affects :wink:

    How long have you been cycling by the way? For me I've been a mountain biker for about five years. I've been ramping up the training on the road since xmas and have gone from 20mile rides to 100 mile rides in a few months which most probably hasn't helped.

    Also, like you say, I feel fit enough to ride 100miles but it's the comfort issue in my upper back neck that's holding me back.

    I've been riding bikes off and on all my life, but what you would call serious riding for about a year and a half or so. i've always been heavily into fitness in general and have done all sorts in my time, particularly tennis and weight training. I've now decided to concentrate on the riding to see how far I can push it, and for the most part I'm doing well. I do tend to ride alone most of the time, or with one or 2 club riders, but when I've been out on proper club rides I've been told I'm pretty good. The Sportive is also the dragon btw. My local bike shop is going to tweak the bars for me at the weekend. They know me and the bike well and they've been very good. They are riders themselves so appreciate the amount of tweaking that needs to be done.
  • SCR PedroSCR Pedro Posts: 912
    I get this problem too. It starts after 20 minutes and feels like someone is stabbing my neck with a red-hot bread knife. I don't understand what is wrong, because I used to be fine.

    What is really strange is that the pain clears when I am on the drops.

    I think it is something to do with the shop selling me my Giant based on the seat tube length instead of the top tube. I always seem to be locking my elbows, and sitting far forward on the seat.

    Cheers
    Pedro
    Giant TCR Advanced II - Reviewed on my homepage
    Giant TCR Alliance Zero
    BMC teammachineSLR03
    The Departed
    Giant SCR2
    Canyon Roadlite
    Specialized Allez
    Some other junk...
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    SCR Pedro wrote:
    I get this problem too. It starts after 20 minutes and feels like someone is stabbing my neck with a red-hot bread knife. I don't understand what is wrong, because I used to be fine.

    What is really strange is that the pain clears when I am on the drops.

    I think it is something to do with the shop selling me my Giant based on the seat tube length instead of the top tube. I always seem to be locking my elbows, and sitting far forward on the seat.

    Cheers
    Pedro

    Yours sounds like it's a little more painful than mine..;-)

    I'd say mine is more discomfort than pain.
  • SCR PedroSCR Pedro Posts: 912
    If my new bike doesn't sort the pain, I'll give it up and learn to play tennis.

    Have you checked out this site? I've plugged in my numbers, and it has told me that my top tube range should be around 53cm with a stem of about 10cm. My Giant has an effective top tube length of 58cm (due to compact geometry) and the standard stem was 12cm. I'm now using a 7cm stem with the seat as far forward as possible.

    It could be worth giving the fit calculator a try and seeing if you get the same frustrating hindsight that I got.

    Cheers
    Pedro
    Giant TCR Advanced II - Reviewed on my homepage
    Giant TCR Alliance Zero
    BMC teammachineSLR03
    The Departed
    Giant SCR2
    Canyon Roadlite
    Specialized Allez
    Some other junk...
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    SCR Pedro wrote:
    If my new bike doesn't sort the pain, I'll give it up and learn to play tennis.

    Have you checked out this site? I've plugged in my numbers, and it has told me that my top tube range should be around 53cm with a stem of about 10cm. My Giant has an effective top tube length of 58cm (due to compact geometry) and the standard stem was 12cm. I'm now using a 7cm stem with the seat as far forward as possible.

    It could be worth giving the fit calculator a try and seeing if you get the same frustrating hindsight that I got.

    Cheers
    Pedro

    lol on the tennis comment. That's been my main sport for years and I promise you, it can open up a whole new world of injuries, especially around the shoulder and knees..;-)
  • guillianoguilliano Posts: 5,495
    Sorry to thread hijack.... but how does a compact frame end up longer? The name suggests different
  • petejukpetejuk Posts: 235
    I get this problem too. It starts after 20 minutes and feels like someone is stabbing my neck with a red-hot bread knife. I don't understand what is wrong, because I used to be fine.

    What is really strange is that the pain clears when I am on the drops.

    It could be a top tube length thats too long. If you have your arms locked straight all the vibrations will travel up your straight arms to the shoulder and neck area. Bent arms operate much better as shock absorbers and dampen vibrations much better. Similarly, if you're on the end of the saddle, you are not making the full use of the saddle's absorbent area towards the rear. Again, the vibrations will travel up the straight of your back and finish up at the base of your neck.
  • SCR PedroSCR Pedro Posts: 912
    It could be a top tube length thats too long. If you have your arms locked straight all the vibrations will travel up your straight arms to the shoulder and neck area. Bent arms operate much better as shock absorbers and dampen vibrations much better. Similarly, if you're on the end of the saddle, you are not making the full use of the saddle's absorbent area towards the rear. Again, the vibrations will travel up the straight of your back and finish up at the base of your neck.

    Well I certainly hope you are right. I've got a new bike coming with a considerably shorter top tube. I do make a conscious effort to bend my arms, but I usually end up with them straight which causes me to hunch my shoulders at the same time. I was out riding today, and it was just horrible.

    When I say that I'm forward on the seat. I'm not on the nose, but not quite sitting back on the widest part. There's about a centimetre or two at the back which I'm not using. We'll see how the new bike goes.
    Sorry to thread hijack.... but how does a compact frame end up longer? The name suggests different

    I'm not so sure that it does. Let me attempt an explanation here:
    My Giant is advertised as a Large frame at 55.5cm. That's the seat tube length. The top tube is always longer on the compact frame. I would have thought it'd make more sense to advertise the frame size using the top tube length, but there you go...

    Here, check This out. If you click on the roll over thingies, you'll see a chart which on the left shows the frame size you would usually take, and the Compact frame size equivalent is on the right. I'm not sure if the 'Rider Height' column is worth paying too much attention to. It's probably more of a rough guideline.

    Cheers
    Pedro

    PS: I might forget tennis then! Darts could be the way forward.
    Giant TCR Advanced II - Reviewed on my homepage
    Giant TCR Alliance Zero
    BMC teammachineSLR03
    The Departed
    Giant SCR2
    Canyon Roadlite
    Specialized Allez
    Some other junk...
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