Want To End Back Pain On The Bike?

Today I tried walking to places and it truly sucked, much like many people insisting on keeping their saddle level.

People used to keep their saddle level as the UCI decried that they should. This if you think about it, was an insane rule. They felt your saddle should be parallel to the ground and not your body, think about that, a piece of equipment that you were “fitted” to and one of your few contact points with the bike had a rule stipulating it had to fit the ground.

In December 2015, the UCI changed this rule and have allowed saddles to have a 9degree tilt downwards, this should have allowed everyone to adjust their saddle angle down but still, people do not. Which given that for a lot of people their anatomy demands that they should do this, just adds to the madness.

Not only that but it can make you faster. This is because it helps to allow your perineum and soft tissues to roll out the way of the saddle, this will then help with genital numbness and if you are comfortable you will be faster as you do not keep moving and fidgeting about. It will allow you to flatten your back angle, this will make you more aerodynamic by accident, again making you marginally faster. Finally, we come to the big one, your glutes will be able to develop more power. Power, as we all know, leads to Strava KOMs.

Another point for trying to drop your saddle tilt is that the NHS did some research and found that a saddle pointing down by 1-2degrees alleviated the majority of lower back pain that their cycling groups had.

You put all these points together and you have to wonder why you want a level saddle?

By the way, never, ever ride with your saddle pointing up the way. If you feel you have to do that, there is something fundamentally wrong with the size of bike you are riding.

This advice also needs to be taken with making sure you have the correct saddle height and reach.

As someone who has spent years giving bike fits, I also want to point out. Your bike fit changes, a number of people I have had come to buy a bike, clutching their 5-year-old bike fit file. Your bike fit changes during the week, so a 5-year-old file is most likely out.

Work 9-5 at an office desk and change job to one where you move around. Your bike fit has changed. Tweaked your ankle. Your bike fit has changed. Stopped doing yoga. Your bike fit has changed. Riding less/more. Your bike fit has changed. Riding on a Friday evening after a week of work but had your bike fit done on a Monday morning after a weekend of riding. Your bike fit has changed.

We will come back to these points.

7 thoughts on “Want To End Back Pain On The Bike?

  1. I’d always like to learn more about fit and fitting. I made the mistake of going to a bad fitter and it turned me into a mess. What are your thoughts in regards to knee position as it relates to feet/pedal position?


    1. Your knee position depends on your flexibility and shoe size changes it slightly as well.
      We also need to watch you ride, some people ride toe down and this again changes your knee angle. It used to be considered bad form to ride toe down but Bradley Wiggins does it so I will let you see why it is not an issue.
      KOPS, or knee over pedal spindle is the method most people know for trying to sort knee position. The problem is it is now discredited, there is now a huge amount of literature on why if. The main problems are are being that most people just can not correctly identify the anatomical landmarks (tibial tuberosity) needed to do it correctly and plumb lines move.
      Your saddle set back will also affect your angles, ideally we want a knee angle extension of 35-40 degrees. In the middle is the best.
      If you have access to an iOS send me a message through the contact form and I’ll show you an easy way to bike fit yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply. I appreciate you taking the time. The last fit I had was a mess. We would talk about the adjustment, agree on what needed to happen to make the adjustment and then the fitter would do the opposite (you should have seen my cleats). I got most of it sorted, except saddle position as it relates to knees (fore / aft). Using the balance method I’ve moved the saddle forward (knee slightly in front of spindle), but it’s been cold and crappy so not a lot of time to test it in real life (trainer only thus far). I’m always interested in other ideas, so that where the question came from. Unfortunately I’m not an iOS user, but would love hear your thoughts anyway if you feel like spending the time and there is another way. Thanks again for the answer.


      2. If you cn take a side on video when you are on the turbo and send it over I could have a look at it for you.
        I would need to know the exact measurement between your two wheel axles in a straight line and preferably in mm.


  2. Interesting…someone on twitter recently told me to tilt my saddle up to take pressure off my hands, so I did. It was tilted ever so slightly down before, and I always got numb hands. It feels weird tilted up, and I still get numb hands! And I have back pain regardless, but not usually while cycling. It’s walking and lying down that’s the problem. My lower back hates when I lie down! I think my bike is probably too big for me, or the stem is too long, but I’m getting a new bike fitted to me next week, so my problems will hopefully be solved soon!


    1. Hi,

      Generally for a lot of women it is that their bars are too wide. This causes your hands to sit a weird angle, by knowing how the numbness spreads across your hand we can diagnose that and make remedies. It is very important with numbness to get it checked quickly as it can easily lead to carpal tunnel and in bad cases you can ruin the nerves in your hand.
      The pain in your lower back on a women is slightly different from men, as despite the myth of women having longer legs and shorter torsos than men it is the other way round. This means you hold your body weight lower down then men, as such a slightly more upright position should help with both the numbness and your lower back pain. The shorter stem is an answer there.


      1. Thanks for your response! I just had my first bike fit today, and I think the biggest difference is the stem angle and reach. I had my stem flipped down and I was reaching forward and down on my old bike. That plus my saddle may not have been wide enough so I was sliding my butt back too far to get enough support under my sitz bones. I also got narrower handlebars, so hopefully that will make a difference.


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