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Saddle tilt (and shape) for lower back soreness?(9 posts)

Saddle tilt (and shape) for lower back soreness?OffTheBack
Jul 18, 2002 5:46 AM
Hi everyone, I have found over the years that having my saddle angled down, fairly steeply, really reduces fatigue and soreness in my lower back. I've also raised the stem so the bars are nearly level with the seat. Does anyone else have this issue? It seems like all the other bikes I see have the saddle positioned level with the top tube. My saddle is a San Marco Concor, which has kind of a curved shape. Would a flatter saddle shape be better?

Thanks for your ideas. Good riding!
different strokes/different folksfiltersweep
Jul 18, 2002 2:00 PM
...that's odd- two days ago my saddle popped out of position when I was contorting while messing with my shoe adjustments, and it was pointing down- the ride home almost drove me nuts, and I had major back pain
out of shape...C-40
Jul 18, 2002 2:18 PM
Folks who need the bars real high usually have weak abdominal and back muscles, and/or a big gut that requires them to ride very upright.

Angling the saddle down usually places a lot of weight on the hands and should make you slide down on the saddle. Neither is desirable. That's why you don't see it done.

A strong midsection is the key to eliminating back pain.

You may also have a stem length problem.
out of shape? I resemble that! (nm)OffTheBack
Jul 18, 2002 5:59 PM
re: Saddle tilt (and shape) for lower back soreness?DINOSAUR
Jul 19, 2002 5:23 PM
I've found the opposite when solving lower back problems. I level my saddle out, then tilt it back about 2 degrees. Riding a road bike is more comfortable for me when I am faily stretched out as it relaxes the spine. Your abs play an important roll and you need a flexible back. Is your saddle too high? That can cause lower back pain. Also one overlooked thing is cleat adjustment. Make sure they are aligned and centered with the balls of your feet. You don't want your saddle tilted down it will put too much weight on your upper body. Level or a slight tilt is preferred. The new era saddles and constructed to be level and you can't always tell by looking due to seat tube angles. Use a small carpenters level to check.
re: Saddle tilt (and shape) for lower back soreness?sprockets2
Jul 20, 2002 10:51 AM
Without knowing specifically what the nature of your back problems are, we cannot provide much help. Notwithstanding that, allow me to parallel to my problems...

My back does not have spine (bone) or nerve problems, it is just soft tissue (muscle, fascia, tendon, etc.) type stuff. My pain comes from having too small of an angle between the upper body and the the thighs-putting which pre-tensions all that lower back area tissue. All of the riding dynamics just stresses the area even more.

My solution-and this is apparently employed by many others as well is to:
1. raise the stem/bar height
2. lower the saddle (note: watch the TDF on OLN a bit and notice a lot of riders these days-contrary to common past practice-seem to have a lot of bend in their legs when at "full" extension. hmmm.)
3. minimize effective reach (tt length, seat adjustment fore-aft, stem length, bar reach)

A seat angled down seems like it might help you if you slide forward, thus minimizing reach and opening the torso/thigh angle a bit, but I find that I hate the down-angled saddle because I DO keep sliding forward and it puts too much pressure on my arms and hands.

The alternative to the down-tilted saddle is the level or slight up-tilt which could create problems for some as it forces the pelvis/lower back to sit upright, and to compensate your upper and midback need to curve forward-and stretch the entire back-that much more to reach the bars. I compensate by rolling my pelvis forward a bit to take the strain off of my back. Again, look at the peloton. Some riders have a relatively smooth curve along their back down to the saddle, and some have a distinct angle, just at the lower back, where they are bending forward from an upright pelvis/lower back. I think that either position can be a problem for someone with back concerns if the reach is too far. Either can work if your back is sound and reach is within your natural range. At the limits, like you and I, we need to find a formula that works.

I would be interested to hear how you do with a flat saddle and minimized reach (using #1-4 above). The downward angle is not typical and thus is likely a solution to a problem that could probably best be corrected in some other way. Good Luck.
Thanks, and an updateOffTheBack
Jul 20, 2002 5:29 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, I appreciate everyone's help. I did the Wrench Science and Ergo Bike fit calculations today, and according to both of them I need to extend my reach by about 5cm (!) and lower my saddle. Quite a surprise, after all these years I thought I ahd my position figured out. I'll be doing some experimenting over the next few weeks and will post an update if I reach any conclusions.

Thanks again, and good riding to you.
don't believe wrench science...C-40
Jul 21, 2002 4:23 AM
Lots of folks get goofy results from calculations made at the wrench science site.

If you haven't checked your KOP position, start there and them determine a stem length. Stem length is highly subjective. A racer will want a stem length and (low) bar height that produces a horizontal back position in the drops, with very little bend in the arms and enough stem length to eliminate knee/elbow overlap in this position. Out of shape folks and beginners will fined this setup very uncomfortable.

Lengthening the stem will primarily change your arm position, not the angle of your torso. Too much length creates an extreme angle between the arm and torso, which can cause shoulder pain.
re: Saddle tilt (and shape) for lower back soreness?DINOSAUR
Jul 22, 2002 7:54 AM
Does the Concor have ti rails? A ti railed saddle can help dampen out road shock. Also~ what kind of bike do you ride? I love my Klein but I went back to steel as I found al was too unforgiving for my back for an everyday ride bike. The biggest thing that helped me with lower back pain was losing weight, which will help you gain flexibility.

But reading all the above posts, I bet it's your saddle position..