Back Problems--finally Figured It Out
Q: Asssss some of you may remember, I recently built up a Saluki with your generous help in selecting components. I have an on-and-off bad back, and thought it would be a great idea to raise the handlebars substantially above the level of the seat. Didn't solve the problem, so I ended up lowering the bars to seat level. Magically, my back pain disappeared. The lesson for me is that high bars aren't a magic solution to back problems. I think in my case, the bars when raised were just at the right height to put a lot of stress on my back. In any case, if you're suffering like I was, give it a shot. You never know. Raised bars: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36397392@N06/3357251749/ Current fit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36397392@N06/3513513651/
A: I am just realizing the exact same thing, so glad you posted about this. After a few years of riding road and track bikes where the handlebars were generally lower than the saddle, I decided to build my brevet bike for comfort: extra tall Technomic stem with Noodles. I figured this would eliminate the neck pain I would sometimes experience towards the end of longer rides and centuries. I completed a 50 mile with the new set up (about a month ago) and experienced quite a bit of back pain from that ride. I figured I was just out of shape. I did a brevet the following weekend and DNF'd after 40 miles. I was exhausted and my back was killing me (and the weather was absolutely dreadful on top of everything else). Since then, I've lowered the bars about two inches, just about even with the saddle height now and as of this morning's commute, my back pain is almost completely gone. I think I've found a height that will help eliminate neck pain as well. I really like how the Technomic offers so much range to dial in the correct handlebar height. And I love the Noodles. that is a gorgeous bike, but I'm prejudice. I have an ebisu with the same color & fenders. I concur with your back analysis. I have found that my back often feels better if I ride on the drops for 5-10 minutes. Back problems can be caused by a number of different factors. The joints might be arthritic, The disc might be bulging. The nerves might be irritated. The muscles might be tight. And all these things lead to each other. Bottom line, is that what works for one may not work for another because the main cause may be different. If the main cause is bulging disc, more upright might work, but then again, might not. If the main cause is worn joint surfaces, lower handlebars might help, then again, might not. All depends on the person because even though we all have the same basic equipment, we're all different people.