Lower back soreness

Hi everyone! New to the forum, greetings from Norway!

I have been cycling on and off for around ten years, and I am currently three months into a period of structured training. During the last weeks I have felt that my saddle has been too low, and this has been “confirmed” by the various well-known guides for saddle height.

Before today’s workout (one hour easy ride, I am in a recovery week), I raised my saddle around 2 cm. Pedaling felt very nice and smooth, but after the workout - which was low intensity - my lower back is unusually sore. Not painful, but like the muscles were overworked.

Question: It is very easy to link this soreness to the increased saddle height, but do you think this is just my muscles getting used to a higher saddle, or should I lower the saddle eg. 1 cm and see how that feels?

Any thoughts are highly appreciated!

No conclusive answers, but a 2cm change in saddle height is “big”. I would not be surprised of someone had a bit of issues during initial rides after that much change. I do think splitting the difference and seeing how you feel is a good idea.

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Any stem changes?

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Agree with @mcneese.chad above. If I adjust my saddle at all it is by millimeters at a time. 2cm is a huge change and not too surprised your body struggled. I would definitely adjust it back down and try another ride and see how it feels.

No, only changed the saddle height, no other changes.

OK, but the point I think he was alluding to is this:

  • If you raise the saddle height, and change nothing else, you have effectively increased the saddle to handlebar height distance (more drop, assuming saddle is higher than the bars).

    • At 2cm increase in saddle, will be around 15-17mm more bar drop (guessing without any geometry info, but close enough to share the idea and issue).
  • Additionally, since the saddle moves backwards as it goes up, you also increased the reach to the handlebars.

    • At 2cm increase in saddle, will be around 3-7mm in longer reach (guessing without any geometry info, but close enough to share the idea and issue).

Both of those can lead to more strain on your body as you essentially dropped and pulled the bars further from you (considering your “base” as the location on the saddle). As usually, “changing one thing on a bike often impacts more than one other thing”.

So you may need to consider additional changes like saddle fore-aft and bar position via rotation, stem, or spacers to fine tune your final fit.

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Thanks! This makes a lot of sense to me. The increased saddle height did feel good in terms of pedaling movement, but perhaps the best route is to only increase like 4-5 mm first and then end up with the “new” height over a period of several months rather than overnight.

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Thanks @mcneese.chad! Exactly what I was thinking and you answered better than I would have. :blush:

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Most likely position change was too severe.

However, many cyclists, particularly road cyclists have very weak overall body strength. Commonly appearing as lower back pain.

This routine seems to be universally touted as the best solution for lower back pain in cyclists. It’s worked for everyone I’ve recommended it to. Obviously, you actually have to do it. Twice a week for a month usually fixes a rider up. Then once a week or every second week keeps you topped up.

Had back pain once, started this simple program. Never even close to having problems again.

Foundation Training original 12 minutes - YouTube

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I would say don’t go by an generic guide or calculator for saddle height, they sometimes have a tendency to go too high.

I would watch this video as Neill does a very good job at explaining everything involved and has a good method to determine saddle height. Basically start too low and then keep creeping up 3mm at a time until you feel your knee loose control at the bottom of the pedal stroke and then lower it back down 3mm. It is important to start too low so you know what it feels to be way out of range as you creep up on it. If you are already too high and adjust up or down you really won’t notice a difference.

My professional fit years ago had me 2cm too high and I would almost always end up with lower back soreness after long rides. I followed this method 3 months ago and I have had no soreness since.

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I immediately thought of Niell’s video too, best bike fitter on YouTube. If only he lives in the US, I’d be spending less money on bike fits.

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Agreed, although I have had 2 fits for 2 different and didn’t pay for either and one was substantially better than the other. The first was old school like what Neill does and the only time I needed to adjust saddle height, or anything really was when I changed saddles due to the original breaking. That person had several qualifications from several different fit schools and knew how to dial you in.

My second fit, I thought was going to be better as it was with one of the fancy Retul machines. It was actually way longer than the first and all sorts of measurements were taken but that ended up with me having a saddle too high. It started too high and I was compensating by toeing down everything “looked” normal but I started playing with saddle height within months as something just was off and it took several years until I took Neill’s advise and just started way low, working my way up gradually until it was in a range of feeling good and then once you go outside of that you know. I have read Steve Hogg for a while and knew about this method but there is something about hearing and seeing it explained that just clicked for me.

I doubt I will ever pay for a fit as at this point I think I can dial myself pretty good. The exception would be is if I can see them at work, understand their process and maybe event talk to some clients. But that is way too much work so I’ll likely go my own way, that is unless I ever travel to AU, my bike is coming with me. :wink:

Yup, fitting is all about the fitter, not the tools they use. I’ll take a salty old guy with a level and a tape measure over a new buck and laser everything any day of the week.

I love tech, but too often I’ve seen it get in the way of a good fit.

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This is the challenge. Bike fitting services seem to have grown exponentially in recent years. There is clearly money in the business, which will lead to less qualified people dipping their toes in. The questions then are how does a fitter develop the required knowledge and experience, and how does someone identify an expert beyond word of mouth? At the moment, it seems hard to balance costs with quality. Brilliant fitters may charge very little, whilst you could pay much more for the tech and be less satisfied. I am worried about how many posts on groups and forums where riders are adamant that they have had the perfect bike fit but still have problems.

Like any industry, finding the great among the good, and good among the bad is a challenge.

There are a few “certifications” that go beyond the solitary plaques we get by completing any one system training, but I don’t really know how much faith to put into them. Upon my cursory search related to my own fitter journey, the requirements are somewhat arbitrary and may still not lead to any real guarantee of quality.

So, like trying to find a worthwhile mechanic for bikes and cars, it takes some personal research which is largely word of mouth and referrals. I’d suggest a decent discussion between the fitter and any person seeking fit help. Poke and prod to ask about their training history, personal fit philosophy, and any chance they have handled a client similar to you and your needs. I suggest avoiding people with dogmatic application to fit guides. They tend to shoehorn people into what they believe or were taught. I think the best fitters do whatever they can to meet the needs of the rider right in front of them, but do it with a wide lens of experience and consider the many ways to solve any problem.

A saying I am fond of in fitting “Every rule is meant to be broken. The challenge is knowing when and how to break them” so we get the rider what they need. All a bit vague, but we are talking about our tricky bodies and the ability of a person on the other end to interpret the info we give them (on top of what the observe) to help guide us to a better experience.

I am not necessarily against tech in a general sense. I’ve used some and see it applied well in other cases. But I also see too many cases where the tech is flaky and messes up the process, as well as gets some fitters to lock into whatever they were trained without considering the real rider behind the fancy screen and what actually suits them best.

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Saddle most likely too high resulting in excessive hip rocking and now resultant LBP.

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@kjetilraknerud you can see how this :point_up_2: would require more activation and strength from your trunk versus a more upright position. The more ‘optimal’ of a bike fit you reach, the more you need to ensure you’re doing the appropriate strengthening to support it! Time to step up that core routine haha!

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That is possible, but far from the only potential issue (as I covered above). Without a video, we are all just guessing.

That can also be said for any industry IMHO. The certs just mean you can pass a test, and usually not a practical one either. I’ve interviewed many people that have alphabet soup after their name but can’t put any of it together for real world use.

Oh thats easy, I just look in the mirror. :wink: I trust few with my cars and even less, err none, with my bikes.

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I’m an example of certifications not meaning much, I’m a private chef now but was working in restaurants for a while. Anyways, I never went to school but taught people who went to school how to cook…I went to school of hard knocks as they say.

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