Of course, human beings were not created to ride bikes: we were designed to have our feet on the ground. So riding entirely alters weight distribution through your spine and muscles, but also bends your back and neck into an unusual position.
The neck, therefore, must compensate to ensure that you see the direction you are heading. In a poor position such as standing and staring up into space for hours on end, this can be quite extreme. And that is the main reason neck muscles get tired and irritating.
It’s no wonder neck pain topped the list of cycling aches and pains in a study that involved 518 cyclists, with roughly 44% of men and 55% of women suffering at the same point.
This isn’t surprising given that an average human melon weighs approximately as much as a bowling ball. Add some glasses and helmet to it, and that becomes very hefty for your neck to hold.
In this article, I share my personal experiences and some tips that will help you to prevent or get rid of road bike neck pain once and for All. So, let’s dig in.
I have been a professional biker for years, and in every ride, I would start with a better cycling posture. But as my back slouched and my core tired, it brought more pressure on my neck and shoulders.
Due to that, I was unable to maintain my neck at a sharp angle to see the paths on steep descents, and the problem worsened on long descents such that the pain resulted to more safety issues.
Time for radical bike changes and core work
1. Core work: I began with core workouts that comprised of two exercises, straight out of Timothy Ferriss’ book ’The 4-Hour Body,’ the Cat Heave’ and the Myotatic Crunch.’ I chose these exercises since they can be done in few minutes in a day, and they work perfectly.
Positioning: If you look at most professional road biker’s position, you can realize that the amount of drop from the top of the handlebars and the top of the saddle is huge, often roughly 12-25 cm or more.
With experience, I identified drop as a significant cause of neck pain. I also found out that although it was counter-intuitive after many years of racing, reducing that drop to 5 mm (in my case) was a critical factor in eliminating the pain.
This adjustment allowed me to decrease the forward lean. This is something that you can also do as well, although it may feel odd at first, it’s worth it.
2. Saddle tilt and profile: Various bikers tilt their saddle forward thinking that it will alleviate private part pressure, however, the truth is the opposite.
I preferred a neutral saddle position for long, yet it has been challenging to get saddles which allow for a neutral posture while not limiting my natural pedal stroke. In my case, getting the right saddle profile made a big difference.
More tips and fixes
1. Hone your bike fitness.
A neck injury taught me some things. I realized that when I stretch out for too long, that leaves my neck vulnerable to strain, stress, and pain. I had the ideal bike size, so I knew the culprits may be the long stem, bars that were too low, or the saddles.
Fix: Your neck must always naturally and comfortably align to your spine. You should also be able to reach your bars quickly and to maintain slight bends as you cycle.
To attain this, you could attempt a shorter or a raised stem, adding some spacers below your stem, or combining both.
The bar width must match your shoulders to ensure the arms stretch out straight as you hold the handlebar hooks. If you love riding in the drops, a bar with the slight drop is your best fit. Otherwise, if you are susceptible to neck pain, consider an expert fit.
2. Look up the road with your eyes but not your neck.
The spine and neck should be aligned to allow you to look up the path with your eyes, not craning your neck to raise your whole head, which can cause stress to your neck.
Fix: Again, the initial step to ideal positioning is bike fit. Make sure your helmet fits perfectly and doesn’t sit very low on your forehead. It must be positioned about at the middle of your neck.
3. Loosen up.
Have you ever sat on your chair and experience your shoulders creep up towards your ears due to stress?
Research reveals that we carry stress in trapezius muscles located on the sides of our cervical spine.
Therefore, that means that painful knots, tight muscles, or trigger parts of the bike become worse in the saddle since the muscles absorb the impact of bumps as you ride on the road.
Massage the knots by placing a tennis ball or lacrosse on the parts between the shoulder blades, and then roll your muscles sideways, as well as up and down on the side of your neck starting from your shoulders to your neck.
Also, carry out some shoulder rollbacks by trying to shrug shoulders upward to ears before drawing them down towards the floor to free up your chest.
Riding a bicycle is fun, but it is even more fun and exciting when you cycle and never experience neck pains. That is the desire of every cyclist out there, but if you suffer, don’t worry the above tips are meant to help you get rid of road bike neck pain once and for All.