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Is my back pain due to a bike that is too big?

  • 09-08-2022 2:57pm
    Registered Users Posts: 40

    I have a 2012 cyclocross mares ax 2.0. I was briefly "fitted" for it when I bought it new, but I think it might be too big. It's a size large 56 cm. I am 5'10" but I always get lower back pain if I ride the bike for more than half an hour. And I find the reach quite stretched, so I'm sitting forward on the saddle and my shoulders take my weight and so they get sore too. Any time I look up sizing though, recommendations say I should be on a bike around that size? Do I need a smaller size bike?


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,000 ✭✭✭Macy0161

    There's more to it than just height, as it can depend on proportions too (while not David O'Doherty, I've short legs compared to my body for my height). Stack and Reach is what I look for after doing a fit, rather than frame size.

    If a proper bike fit is out of the question, then is there room to move the saddle forward and/or swap for a shorter stem?

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 46,974 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    how long is the stem? and how far forward or back is the saddle sitting on the seatpost?

  • Registered Users Posts: 40 Whodanoob

    Thanks for the reply. I'm not too familiar with stack and reach but I'd imagine I'm over reaching. I've actually already replaced the stem with a shorter one and I've moved the saddle as far forward as possible. I will try getting a proper fit

  • Registered Users Posts: 40 Whodanoob

    I replaced the stem with a shorter one, but I still get pain in my back. Is it possible that it could be due to not "enough hours" in the saddle?

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 46,974 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    I was once told by a colleague that he found pilates very good for staving off aches on the bike, and asked in my LBS did he know if anyone in the area who did pilates. I explained why, and his response was 'if you're not hurting you're not trying hard enough!'

    Joking aside, how often do you get out? I think some pain might be inevitable as your back strengthens and starts to be able to bear the extra load, but obviously there's a line between strengthening up and something being amiss.

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 23,685 Mod ✭✭✭✭CramCycle

    Find someone local who is knowledgeable. Alas asking for fitting advice using just words is like walking into a room blindfolded, picking a dart and throwing it. Youll hit something, might even be useful but it's unlikely you'll hit the dart board. Where are you based?

  • Registered Users Posts: 40 Whodanoob

    I did consider trying pilates as I don't feel like the amount of pain is just lack of strengthening. I have only ever cycled for an hour straight max. Never more than that. The longer I stay on the bike, the more painful it gets.

  • Registered Users Posts: 40 Whodanoob

    I'm based in Dunlaoghaire some of the time and Ratoath the rest of the time

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,132 ✭✭✭Junior

    I would venture you should be on a 54cm Frame. Without looking at your measurements and body composition there's no real way to tell what's causing your issue. But a quick google of the Lemond method will give you a better idea of frame size, and saddle height (within reason)

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 46,974 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    the lemond sizing guide is for traditional frame sizes/shapes, but if anything, from what little experience i have, modern frames size big; i.e. a 'traditional' bike that would fit person A might be 54cm, but a modern frame to fit that person might be 52cm or 53cm.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 7,529 ✭✭✭cletus

    Couple that with companies using Small/medium/large instead of measurements, and top tubes that aren't straight, so you need to measure the nominal top tube length (read: pretend there's one😁) and sizing a bike is not an easy thing to do.

    That's before you get into individual body sizes, limb lengths etc.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,000 ✭✭✭Macy0161

    Without straying into an area I'm most definitely not qualified, but linked to pilates comments earlier it could be nothing to do with fit. It could be non-firing glutes/ overtight hamstrings, especially if you've a desk job. N=1 I can sometimes have back muscle ache towards the end of hard events where I've gone deep. I've had ITB issues with non-firing glutes/ over dominant hamstrings and glutes.

  • Registered Users Posts: 509 ✭✭✭Mr. Cats

    The other thing that hasn’t been mentioned so far is the amount of drop between saddle and handlebars - ie the height difference between the saddle and the handlebars. If the bars are too low for you, you will likely get back pain. Similarly if you ride with your hands on the brake hoods mostly and the brake levers are set up too low on the bars it can lead to issues. There’s a few ways to change things on this area but - again talking generally - making the bars higher will make it more comfortable.

    Could you post a picture of bike with a side on view? Even better if you can get someone to take it whilst you’re sitting on it with feet on pedals, eg by leaning against a wall

  • Registered Users Posts: 44 mone

    If memory serves me right, I had that model in size 56 a few years back. I am 6 foot and found it big, even though a 56 in most bikes is right size for me.

    As mentioned above, a bike fit might be worthwhile. I have used Aidan Hammond of on a few bikes and found him good.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,949 ✭✭✭dinneenp

    Call into your local store and ask them? Say you're thinking of buying a new bike and they should give you a 1 minute visual check.

    Or better still, get a bike fit service. Some charge €150 but you should be able to get a basic/non computer check one for much, much less.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,475 ✭✭✭hesker

    Make that N=2. My experience is exactly the same in every detail.

    For the OP

    1. Get a bike fit
    2. Get a few deep tissue massage sessions
    3. Start Pilates or regular stretching exercises

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,988 ✭✭✭secman

    I've suffered from lower back pain for more years than I care to remember. Latter half of 2019, twice in 2020 and April 2021 had very bad spasms which kept me off bike for up to 4 weeks each time. Had bike fit professionally done. Physio advised me in April 21 to consider Pilates, started in June 21 and have had no time off bike either back issues since starting. Highly recommended 👌 👍

    Bike fit✔️ and

    seriosly consider Pilates✔️

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,037 ✭✭✭JMcL

    A bike fit is quite possibly the best money you'll spend on a bike. You should have a good range of options since you're in the Dublin area, Aidan Hammond (I've never had a fitting by him personally, but I've heard very good things about him) is just down the road in Kilmacanogue.

    I suspect your frame may be on the big side as well, I'm 182cm - so 6' give or take - and while my previous bike was a 56cm, I had to swap the stem for a 90mm (from 110) in a bike fit after which it was grand. I've since gone with smaller frames - a 54cm Genesis, and my most recent bike was steering my towards size S on their online sizing tool, but the M (effectively a 54cm) fits perfectly. Anyway, a good fitter should be able to say whether your bike is too big or not, though I suspect it can be made fit better - having somebody who knows what they're doing looking at it is invaluable.

    Regarding pilates, there's always something to be said in favour of improving core for everyday life nevermind the bike. Kettlebells are another good option