Allan suffers from short term back pain after spending some time on the bike, could this be down to your core not being strong enough? BC coach Rob Mortlock trys to help.

Towards the end of each ride, my back tightens significantly. I wouldn’t say it hurts, but it’s enough of an ache to make me very uncomfortable. Is this just the by-product of riding for so many hours, or is there a way I can prevent this from happening?

Once I get off the bike, it starts to stiffen up, which makes things even more uncomfortable. However, it does tend to subside within a day or two.

It’s hard to say exactly what is the root cause of your particular discomfort, Allan, without more information. However, back stiffness and/or pain is extremely common in cyclists, and it’s very often found to be connected to the same source.

Cycling generally encourages the upper body to continually bend forwards, which can result in a shortening of the hip flexors. Due to poor trunk strength (often referred to as your ‘core’), many riders develop a hunched back position, increasing the chance of lower back pain and stiffness, and putting weight on the arms and hands.

Basically, the trunk isn’t providing enough support, overloading the shoulders, neck and upper back. The solution in most cases is to improve the flexibility in the hip flexor muscles and strengthen the lower abdominals.

My advice is to visit a physiotherapist who is familiar with cyclists and their traits. They will be able to provide a thorough assessment of your posture, strength and flexibility in order to recommend a course of action to improve your muscular fitness. This may be in the form of stretching exercises and massage.

You should also look into having a professional bike-fit, in case your current riding position is contributing to your discomfort. It may need to be corrected.

BC coach Rob Mortlock

This article was first published in the October 17 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

  • Mike T.

    Allan, Coach Rob is dead right – you MUST see a physiotherapist and get YOUR condition diagnosed properly. No-one on the internet can diagnose you, however well-meaning they are. My 50-year cycling back ache came on after 20 minutes on every ride. With much physiotherapy, some video recording, many exercises and a big position change (LONGER – from a 100mm stem to a 130) I did a 4hr ride last summer with zero back pain. It’s a miracle after thousands of rides with back pain. Find a good Physio – it took two before I found the best.
    Mike T. in Canada.

  • JM

    I had back pain and changed my bike. Problem solved. The bike I had been riding was too small for me. Bike fit is the best starting point.