Advice on bike fit for neck comfort?

Any input from those cycling with a dodgy neck would be welcome!

A while ago I slipped a disc in my neck, which took a fair while to fix. Ever since though, my neck has been a bit sensitive in general. Getting back on the bike, I could only do 90 minutes before my neck was tired and sore. Streching and strength training have upped that to 4 hours, but I’d really like to get to the point of all day riding.

Lately I have been experimenting with reach and handlebar position on the bike in an attempt to get a more upright position, with mixed results.

I have this bike in the small size (reach 373, stack 546): Geometry Details: Merckx Mourenx 69 2017

I’d ended up running a 17 degree, 70mm stem bringing the bars closer and lifting them a little.

Today I went in to a bike store to see about getting a different bike altogether. They were super helpful, putting me on their jig and running through multiple different options.

They ended up recommending a 52 Trek Domane SL 5. This has a reach of 371 and a stack of of 561, different but pretty close to my current bike: Geometry Details: Trek Domane SL 5 2021

At this point, I’m entirely unsure of what to do. For $4k, would the Domane SL 5 be better than my current bike?

It looks so close I’m unsure :person_shrugging:

Is there something else I should try on my current bike first? Compact reach bars (I currently have the Deda Zero2 Zero2 handlebar) ?

Am I doing the right things? Would a standard 6 degree stem actually be better? Should I be looking at different numbers in the geometry to get a better sense of fit?

Any suggestions beyond changing the bike?

I’m 170cm tall with an inseam of 79cm if it helps.

What did the fitter say / do about bar width?

I apparently have been riding a bike that was too big and didn’t find out until I get a professional bike fit. The bike is effectively a 59 in today’s geometry and I should be on a 56. With a bike that big, the stem was too long and the bars were too wide for my shoulder width. While I did not experience shoulder pain, the fitter said this is a common side effect and was a bit surprised.

As a fix for me, until I can get a bike that is properly sized, we shortened the cranks, stem, AND bar width. My shoulders are 41.6cm wide but we went for bars with 40cm width. Also, the latest AACC podcast has a discussion about upper back pain and Nate mentioned bar width at around the 54 minute point.

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I’m pretty sure they just fitted a compact bar to the jig - it was the smallest bar on the wall.

I may try a narrower bar first before buying a new bike :+1:

Hopefully they gave you a report from your fit. If so they should have recorded the bar width they used.

Specialized do a short reach bar also hood position can make a difference.

A proper bike fit ended up fixing most of my cervical radiculopathy problems. Part of this meant getting a different bike, as just screwing around with stems was inadequate.

The key seemed to be getting in a position that was not just more upright, but also allowed me to keep my shoulder down/retracted and neck straighter. This meant a reach that was just right. Too long, and I’m stretched out with my shoulder up by my ears and neck hyperextended. Too short though, and I hunch my thoracic spine and also hyperextend my neck.

As part of this, I am permanently unable to ride a bike with a negative drop for much more than an hour at time however. Too much strain on neck. I use +1-2cm of “drop” on most of my bikes now. It’s not a big aero issue as using this set up allows me to stay on the drops/aerobars/whatever for hours at a time without having to sit up to rest my neck… whereas using a bike with a negative drop means more aero when I am in the drops… but I can only stay there for short periods of time.

Other things that have helped the most (in order) were:

  1. Sleeping with a thinner pillow (probably the biggest difference).
  2. Regular massage, including neck/shoulder massage the day before long (>10h) events.
  3. Doing things to fix anterior head tilt - stretching my pecs daily with exercise-band shoulder dislocations, doing face pulls.
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