Lower-Back Pain? Try Lowering Your Handlebars

Pardon the boringly technical post today—this just happened to be on my mind this morning.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably remember that I mentioned retooling my mountain bike position a few posts ago. Well, over the weekend, I did a little retooling with my road bike position as well—this time in between sessions on the trainer. I had an interesting lesson reiterated to me—something that may sound counterintuitive.

See, I’ve learned that if you have lower-back pain, it’s usually because you’re relying on your lower-back muscles to hold your torso up while you ride. That could be the result of having the bars too low, but usually you become uncomfortable with your scrunched position before you get to that point (because having the bars too low makes you feel like human origami). Rather, it’s possible you have your handlebars too high.

The real indicator, the thing that will help you determine which problem you’re having, is the angle of your elbows. If your elbows are too bent, that indicates you’re relying more on your lower back. If your elbows are completely straight, you might have the bars too low. Furthermore, if you have most of your weight on your handlebars, you’re probably dealing with another fit problem—your seat may be too far forward. But your knees should give you some sign of that as well.

Somewhere in between, you should have a comfortable position where your elbows are bent just enough, your legs feel powerful, and your lower back isn’t doing too much work keeping your torso up. So, if you have lower-back pain, take a look at your elbows. Are they bent too much? Do you need to lower your handlebars so your arms can support a little more weight?


4 thoughts on “Lower-Back Pain? Try Lowering Your Handlebars

  1. Sue

    No riding what so ever for me. My leg still isn\’t good after the chainsaw accident. I am spending some time in the gym lifting weights to strengthen it. Maybe next year…Botched

  2. Zed

    Hey Botched. I\’m sure if you\’re already lifting, you\’ll be riding again soon. Maybe you can get going on a stationary bike this summer and save some of your pedaling fitness.It\’s good to hear from you, by the way. I don\’t know if I mentioned it, but I might be doing a relay leg for LOTOJA this year. If I\’m not mistaken, that\’s close to your new neighborhood, isn\’t it? Perhaps I\’ll swing by.P.S. Have you looked into swimming at all?

  3. Boz

    I think a stronger core overcomes a lot of fitting errors. I\’ve been fit at shops and always ended up tinkering to help with the lower back aching that occurs on long road ride. But since I\’ve been doing more core workouts, no more pain. Get a big ball and get to work. It doesn\’t take long to get strong.

  4. Zed

    True. This will be my first year of regularly doing back extensions on the fitness ball. So far, I\’m liking the workout.The past couple of years, I\’ve had a core workout I do involving planks and plank-derived exercises. Those seem to work well, but I think the back extensions take it to another level altogether.

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