Lower back soreness

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


Certifications mean that you took a class and passed a test. That’s it.

The problem with bike fitting is that there is very little science behind it. Bike fitting a craft that is more art than science.

A few years ago I spent some time with a good fitter who was using the Retul system. After we dialed my fit I downloaded one of the iPhone apps that uses video analysis and found it was a pretty good match and would be a good tool for folks learning to fit themselves or just wanting to record position data for future reference.

Have lost track of the apps available so curious if any of our more technical folks in the forum have experience and recommendations?

On EDIT: The app I checked out was Bike Fast Fit: http://bikefastfit.com (no association, just found it useful)

Also on Edit: Turned my wife onto the Foundation workout and she loves it. Now I need to convince myself to get on it.

It’s not bike-specific, but in high school, we used the Vernier Video Physics app for easily working with angles, levels, etc via iPhone videos. It costs $5 but was super useful then and I imagine it could/would be particularly useful if you’re looking to analyze the angles and such throughout your pedaling.

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But to piggyback (pun intended?) on the back pain topic… I was having a bit of lower back soreness which seems to have escalated into some extreme tightness up the right side of the spin, largely around the scapula. A bit below it as well. I had moved the seat on the indoor trainer around a bit to try and find an ideal spot and it seemed to be going okay but somehow the back got extremely tight. What’s weird is I’ve been indoors for months now (Minnesota has a lot of snow) but it’s warmed up enough where I went out for 4 hours on Saturday and all things felt great. Back to the trainer on Sunday and sore again after.

I plan to go get massage/acupuncture as it feels like it’s just a bunch of tight muscles, but I’m curious if anyone has dealt with similar. The soreness isn’t actually in the low back anymore but rather starts about where the ribs connect to the spine and is up the spine to the medial scapula, as well as a bit across the back of the ribs below the scapula (latissimus dorsi area)

I’m unclear, are you using the same exact bike inside and out, or different bikes?

I have a bit of a theory that riding largely/exclusively on the trainer tends to demand a bit less of the postural muscles (as well as the majority of trainer sessions being shorter), so people often decondition these muscles slightly over long periods of largely indoor training. Don’t know how true that is.

I’ve just booked in for a bike fit this weekend, actually, and was asking around for recommendations. Anyway, a riding buddy of mine said (unhelpfully, in the context) that best bike fit he ever had was in a bike shop in Italy about 3-4 years back. He went in to buy a tube and the young lad in the shop (who spoke some English) was marvelling over his (then brand new) Canyon Ultimate with Di2 (shop was proper old school, apparently - 100% steel and Campag).

Mike (my buddy) said to the young lad that it was indeed ‘bellisima’ but he couldn’t get comfortable on it. The youngster, without saying a word, goes into the back of the shop, there’s a shouted conversation in Italian, and he emerges with what looks like his very grumpy grandad in an oil-stained vest. Anyway, Gramps - who speaks no English and does not smile once in the next 30 minutes - tells Mike via the youngster that he needs to see him ride up and down the road.

So Mike pedals in slow 50 yard loops in front of the shop for a couple of minutes until the gets told to stop. The old bloke then tweaks the seatpost height, gets him back on, and repeats the process. He then says something to the young lad in Italian who hops back into the shop, comes out with a new stem, fits it and adds a spacer, gets him back on. Process repeated again. Old boy shifts the saddle back in the clamp a bit, and voila! It’s perfect. Took 20 minutes, the guy didn’t speak a word of English, cost Mike 30 Euros for a stem, and he’s not touched it since. :man_shrugging: :rofl:


I’ve just tried this. Fried, 5 minutes in :exploding_head: :exploding_head: This needs work - good resource!

So true,

It’s a very simple metric. If you can’t do it, your lower back strength is low. I struggled with it when I started and I thought I was strong in the lower back. I’d done life long resistance training etc.

This simple routine really targets the lower back. It really is a must for any masters cyclist.

Most (this is obviously a huge generalization) lower back pain in cyclists is from muscle weakness. We simply need to be stronger to endure the prolonged unnatural position we force ourselves into day after day. Sadly just riding alone is not enough strengthening in the long-term.

Sorry, yeah same bike. It might just be more natural side-side, fore-aft movement allowed outside