I keep frequently getting out of the saddle and experience lower back pain

I noticed that I frequently keep getting out of the saddle relative to other riders in my group rides and experience lower back pain on long rides. While everyone does get out of the saddle at some point, the frequency for me is relatively higher.

Background: I am 20 years old and strength train twice a week with an FTP of 4.1w/kg. For strength training, I do core work, military presses, and squats twice a week. I did get a professional bike fit last year and I was told by the bike fit expert that my hip flexors are tight and I need to foam roll them regularly as my flexibility was poor. I never started working on my core until 2 weeks ago as I realized that could be the reason why I am frequently getting out of the saddle and cannot stay properly seated for a while. I tried that and it didn’t make a huge difference. I also noticed that my lower back would start hurting on long rides despite working on my core.

Is this because of tight hip flexors? If yes, how often do I need to foam roll?

I have no idea, but wonder exactly why you are getting up so frequently.

  • What is the reason (cause and/or relief) that you are standing so often?

  • Exactly how frequently are you standing?

My sit bones hurt despite placing them on the wings of the saddle. I find it difficult to fix (or anchor) my sit bones on the saddle as they start hurting in addition to the pelvic bone right behind my testicles. I am not sure if it is due to my hips excessively rocking side to side but I think it is. It usually happens at high cadences (82+ rpm). For your information, my average cadence for a zone 2 ride is around 76-80 RPM. I find it difficult to hold higher than 80+ RPMs without ERG mode as my sit bones start to hurt.

I think why I can hold high cadences while on ERG mode is because I have my trainer control the resistance for me so all I need to do is spin. I am still unable to give a proper reason as to why I am able to hold higher RPMs while on ERG mode.

Very infrequently at the start of a long ride. From today’s Zwift endurance group ride on RGV (France), the total duration of this ride was 2 hours and 17 minutes. My first out of the saddle (OOS) was 34 minutes in. 2nd was 55 minutes in (approx. 20 minutes later). However, as the ride progressed I found myself getting OOS more frequently to deal with the pain on my sit bones. OOS was around 5 to 10 minutes past the 2-hour mark.

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OK, great info there, and I have some thoughts. Riding now and may not have time to write it tonight, so will reply in the morning, if not sooner.

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I am Yaj Suresh R3R on Zwift. You are following me so you should be able to access my rides if you need to. Just letting you know.

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Also, I want to make it clear that I have this issue outdoors as well so I don’t think that the trainer is causing it.

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Also very good info.

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You have a medical condition. This forum is not the place for advice. Foam rolling and hip flexors stretching (as commonly reported here) are not solutions to lower back pain. A Non invasive approach in physical therapy is researched as the first and best option. Find a McKenzie credentialed physical therapist and this issue will be resolved quickly.

First guess: saddle is way too high.

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Do you constantly stay in a high gear. Standing up may be more powerful but there comes a point though where despite being more powerful you are less aerodynamic and slower. Pedaling in too high a gear constantly will tighten things up in your body leading to things like back pain. I have to tell my self sometimes (less so these days) to sit down and spin on long hills I’ll be less powerful but faster.

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Firstly, sharp pain or dull ache?

Not necessarily the issue, but you can’t expect to turn it round that quickly! Also, your professional bike fit raises eyebrows - one would hope that you back pain and saddle issues would have been considered.

A few things worth considering:

  1. You might just be getting tired? If you have been doing a lot of training your back muscles might just be experiencing fatigue.
  2. Cadence - if you are pushing hard on the gears at a low cadence this can bring on back pain. I know that when I get tired in a ride and am still trying to push hard I have a tendency to mash the gears. Your cadence seems quite low - I would not describe 82 rpm as high cadence.
  3. Work on your flexibility, you are only young and better to do it now than try to remedy it when you are older.
  4. Is you back pain caused by being out of the saddle because it is not comfortable, or is it that the back pain leads you to get out of the saddle.
  5. The rocking on the saddle could suggest it is too high. (Professional bike fit, hmm?)

A lot to think about…

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No personal experience, but was listening to a podcast about this yesterday:
https://secretsaddle.com/

They have done work with lots of riders, including those at the top of the sport, including Alberto Contador.

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My first thought with rocking hips and sitbone pain was also saddle height, as nycebo and danielrsharp mentioned. Post up a video from the side and from the back while you’re on the trainer?

I know everyone is different regarding cadence, but to me, anything below 85rpm is low for normal riding. I’ll get down in the 60-70 range on a long, steady climb (like 1-2 hour climbs in the Alps), but for normal rides, I’ll typically average 95-100rpm. Outside cadence is about 5rpm higher than trainer cadence for me, too.

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A dull ache as the ride progresses. I am unable to ride with my hands on the drops due to my poor flexibility. I have started stretching and foam rolling my hip flexors and nearby muscles and my back is sore as a result i.e I got my back sore without even foam rolling it. My cadence really depends on the intensity. If I am pushing sweet spot I mostly keep it over 85RPM.

I primarily get out of the saddle to deal with pain in my sit bones and to relieve that tension and not because of back pain. The back pain is a result of just riding and felt towards the end of a long ride.

The bike shop pointed out that my flexibility is poor and I have to foam roll as a result of knee pain which I experienced a year ago. I am using an endurance bike (trek emonda alr 2019) FYI.

It looks like you need to crack the flexibility and the saddle comfort. Don’t want to come across as blunt, but this is what your bike fit should have sorted for you. Not good enough for them to tell you you are not flexible enough and then put you in a position you cannot sustain for any length of time. What were you looking for when you had your bike fit, and did you communicate issues you were having? If you have only experienced the issues since the bike fit, then I would be tempted to go back and ask for further advice. Either that, or name and shame and go somewhere better.

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Still short on time, but I totally agree. 2 schools of thought in fitting:

  1. Fit the rider that is directly in front of you.
  2. Fit the rider that you or they hope to become.

IMO, #2 is destined for problems. Choose #1, fit and improve, and refit as needed.

Overall, I totally agree that the fit sounds questionable. Saddle size, selection, position (to include height as covered) is key here. You should not be experiencing the issues you mention with a decent fit. If they are “stretching” you with a “hopeful” fit, that is a mistake, IMO. Even if you ever hit their ideal, suffering between now and then is no fun and not something I think is appropriate for most riders.

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You will ride a comfier bike further and faster than any bike that makes you hurt.
Bike fits can be very hit and miss because if you don’t communicate with then they try to fit you to an ideal and +2 or 3 from me that the shop should not be pointing out that you’re not flexible enough. Enough for what exactly.?..? :thinking:

First set your saddle height - the fitter may have said try this but it could be too high. Sit on your saddle with the pedal at the bottom and with your heel on the pedal your leg should be straight. There’s lodds of videos out there on this.

If you had a bike before - what did you have and was it comfy? If this is your first road bike… Different story.

Then after setting height I’d check the sadlle is horizontal and spend a few minutes by yourself riding up and down a stretch of road or street. Try tweaking it a little if necessary and consider lay back but with a fit that should be more or less on.

Can you go back to the fitter - you should be able to without paying again…

I once had a bike fit and the lady insisted my saddle needed to be way higher than it was. I tried for about a week and it nearly broke me.

Next I’d suggest looking at the saddle design - if your getting pain or numbness around the boys downstairs maybe a cut out saddle is needed or another - such a hugely personal issue one man’s comfy sofa is like a razor blade to others. :joy:

You could also be reaching too far forward or down but start with one thing at once

See how each goes - there are loads of great people on here who are far better versed in bike fit such as @mcneese.chad who will give stellar advice.

And if I’ve said anything wrong I’m sure they’ll point it out.

Back pain could be caused by all sorts of things not just lack of core stability.

Also - are you comfy on the hoods? :thinking:

Edit - you mentioned you ride with a group, try talking to sone of them - if you trust any of them. Rise above ego and vanity and get comfy first then work on getting lower/aero or looking more pro if that’s what you were after etc…

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