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Bike Fit Friday with Paulie at GO PHYSIO (1 of 4): Biking Gives Me Lower Back Pain; What Can I Do?


Today we're kicking off a 4-part series all about bike fit and getting your body more comfortable and healthy on your bike. We're joined by Paulie Glatt from GO PHYSIO who is a Physical Therapist and certified bike fitting professional.

About Paulie Glatt: As a competitive cyclist with a history of low back pain, Paulie has a great understanding of how critical a proper bike fit is to our experience on a bicycle. He rides Road, Gravel, Mountain, Bike Packs, and commutes by bicycle throughout the entire year. His longest race was The Day Across Minnesota, a 240-mile gravel race that he completed in 17 hours.


To learn more about Paulie or to schedule a professional bike fitting, visit GO PHYSIO.


Hey Paulie, I have lower back pain. Where should I start in adjusting my bike?

Paulie Glatt:

Does your back only hurt when you bike… or does it also hurt off the bike? If it only hurts when you ride your bike, then it is likely a fit issue. If it also hurts off the bike then I would recommend working with a Physical Therapist to address the root of your pain and to improve your overall quality of life. This is true for any pain on the bike, be it a knee, neck, wrist, shoulder…


Pain is complicated. Anyone who tells you what to adjust without knowing your history is simply guessing. Low back pain that only occurs on the bike can be affected by a rider’s trunk position (too aggressive vs too upright), pelvic position, poor glute activation, limited hip mobility, or even a pre-existing condition. This means that low back pain can result from incorrect saddle height, tilt, fore/aft, width; crank arm length; cleat position; the list goes on and on.


To further complicate matters, once you change one variable, others change as a consequence of the bike’s geometry. For example, if you raise your seatpost you are moving the saddle up and back due to the angle of the seat tube. Be aware of this as you make seemingly simple adjustments.


That said, if you only get pain on the bike, play around with your fit! Try a different stem length or cockpit height. Move your saddle around. Play with the tilt. See what happens. Change one variable at a time and see if your fit improves. If you don’t have any luck, try a different variable. If you feel like you aren’t making any progress, schedule a fitting.

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