Back Pain in longer rides

Hi all,

I’ve been riding for about 10 years. About a year ago I started to have back pain if I ride was hilly or if I was riding above my threshold. I started to use k-tape to help which it does. Now I can’t go in rides longer than 2hrs without it.
I went to the Md. had x-rays done. MRI of my lower back and nada. everything looks fine. Had a very through fit. Still the same pain. The doctor recommended strengthening my core which I have to admit I don’t work on it very often. Could this be the only solution to this problem? Has anyone else had this type of pain?
BTW i went to a chiro doc for about 2 months… still same thing.
Thank you for your help.!

I’ve had the same issue for quite sometime.
In my case, it is caused by tight hip flexors.

Look up tight hip flexors stretches on google and then stay on top of them religiously.


do you stretch every week? you also need to do the strength training exercises to counter the posture cycling causes.

I had similar issues when i neglected my strength training and increased my weekly cycling hours. A pt diagnosed my problem due to muscle imbalances (weak left gluteus medius). Unless you work out these imbalances, this well lead to tightness in your muscles.

I’d suggest stretching / foam rolling your quads, hamstrings and calves to see if it helps. Definitely spend some time doing deadlifts and squats to strengthen the back.

do you also have desk job on the weekdays? those adds to tightness in the hip flexors as mentioned above as does cycling so do spend some time stretching your hip flexors.

hope it helps.

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My understanding (gleaned by reading stuff mostly on the internet, so take it with a grain of salt) is that the back ends up as sort of a dumping ground for weaknesses in other areas. (Same thing with knees.) Tight hip flexors, weak hip flexors, weak core, etc. can all end pushing the work they should be doing to the back muscles, which try to pick up the slack and get overloaded and sore.

Coach Chad said something in a recent podcast about how the overwhelming majority of bike “fit” issues he sees are really weaknesses in the supporting muscle groups. When he gives his athletes a strength training regimen, the fit issues disappear.

If your doc recommended strengthening your core, that seems like a good place to start!

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Where are you using the K tape?

One of my issues with back pain relates to a herniated disc that led to a weak spot on my back. I’ve found that a few basic stretches and activation exercises can totally eliminate any real discomfort.
Don’t get me wrong. Several hours in the saddle sees me stretching my back on a regular basis, but I can handle 1 or 2 hours well if I ‘activate’ prior to a ride.

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My experience is my back pain on longer rides is due to a weak core.


I use the tape across my lower back. That really helps.

It seems the general consensus is that my core is weak. Which it might be. Another thing is that I sit on a desk all day 5 days a week. I’ve been riding for about 10 years. about 6 hrs a week…(not every week) but longer rides are 4-6 hrs.
Thank you for your answers. I will start working on my core again more diligently to get rid of this pain!

I’ve started doing 5hr rides this summer, for the first time in my life, and it’s literally painfully obvious how flabby and weak my core is. That, and as @SomeCallMeTim mentioned, I also suffer from tight hip flexors (right side mostly, due to old injury).

Prescription: stretch & plank. :+1:

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I can highly recommend using a swiss ball and building up to more dynamic core excersises. 5 minutes can be enough for me if my back’s not feeling right.
Once I activate the more obscure core muscles, everything tends stay active during longer rides. I find the effects immediately noticable.

The other saying my physio taught me is a little crude, but it works well for me. ‘Nuts to guts’ when activating the core muscles.
For me, deliberately activating the pelvic area during core exercises, or riding, can really help with my lower back.

Good luck with everything. It sounds like you’re lucky enough to have a good back that simply needs a little tune up.

PS. I’d be happy to pass on some of the exercises my physio prescribed.

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I haven’t experienced back pain in a while until this past Saturday, when I was carrying a camelback mule that was full of 3 liters of fluid for the first time during a 150mile gravel ride. About 60-75 miles into it my back was just feeling awful. Just back pain affect ability to sustain power/cadence? Because I definitely experienced a drop off in performance after that point. I’ve done a century and a smattering of 70-85 mile rides this summer, at good power, and never experienced back pain. I guess in the future I should ride with a camelback to condition myself.

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That would be awesome!!! Please do.!

That’s a whole lot of weight to be carrying on your back. I’m not sure how well it measures up, but I was advised by a trainer for my kayaking endurance events that I should never carry more than 1.5L in my vest. I’ve been doing the same thing on the MTB and have found 1-1.5L to be the sweet spot on long rides (with 2.5 hrs between refills).
I’m in the 70-75kg range and I’m sure it would vary depending on size and strength. AKA, YMMV.

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Interesting to know! I’m in the same weight range myself. I was hoping to get by with one water refill stop for my bottles but I may have to look into bigger bottles and taking less water if I ever do an event like that again

only between shoulder blades, and that went away after I started doing cable pulls at the gym. That said, I just walked across Europe for two weeks and today found myself back at work, sitting at desk… and my lower back started cramping up! Move it or lose it!

I’d love to post a picture of my notes, but it would breach quite a few copyright laws.

For starters, I tend to foam roll my legs and upper back. Then I do a few stretches/Yoga poses:

  • Hip flexors. Coach chad has some next level versions of these on the blog somewhere.
  • Child pose (yoga).
  • Cobra/Baby Cobra (Yoga).
  • Eccentric calf raises, or simply stretches.
  • Hamstrings.
  • Abductors.

For the swiss ball there are heaps. Here are some basics to try holding for 30 secs to a minute:

  • Bridge.
  • Front bridge. ( It’s like a plank, but you have to balance).
  • Back extension.
  • Glute bridge.

10 minutes tops if I’m in a hurry.

Once you feel comfortable doing the basics, there are heaps of dynamic exercises on the swiss ball that are more advanced. They’re easily accessible online if you do a search.

Please note that I’m not a trained professional. I’m simply someone with back problems that is used to dealing with them on a daily basis. Please consult a physio for tailored advice. Once you get a good one the cost is negligible.

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I’ve been practicing with 1.2L in the Camelbak Chase vest and using a double strength energy mix in a bottle. It’s been working well for me over the 2.5 hr range.
No major issues with my back due to the pack.

McGill’s big 3 are always a go to for low back strength

  1. Bird dog (include cat cow)
  2. Side plank
  3. McGill curl up

McGill was my university professor for biomechanics, one thing that stuck and something I have herd him repeat in many different interviews is if something hurts don’t do it, in that way. Find a new strategy to do the same task. If you don’t know who Stewart McGill is look hm up.

So while biking you may need to find some core strength from your pelvic floor or obliques, or add in your lats as they are a great core stabilization muscle as well.

The other thing I have observed with with every training client I work with is learning the difference between bending through your waist and bending through the hips (a hip hinge) it comes back to good movement patterns.

Thank you!!!

This is one thing I’ve no idea about, particularly while riding.