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?