Cyclist back

Cyclist back

Back pain in cyclists is relatively common, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, along with bike fit, training background, personal health conditions, riding technique, and what you do in your everyday life off the bike. Back pain is common among cyclists. Cycling has a low injury rate when compared to other sports, but riders should always take care of their backs. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise, and most cyclists with low back discomfort can overcome it if the source of their problem is identified.

Considering how difficult your legs work on the bike, it’s reasonable to believe that your knees would be the most prone to an overuse injury. Surprisingly, the study contradicts this. The most common cause of knee discomfort in cyclists appears to be lower back pain.

A Norwegian study (Clarsen et al., 2010) shows:

  • Lower back problems accounted for 45% of all injuries.
  • Knee injuries accounted for 23% of all injuries.
  • In the past 12 months, 58% of all bikers had suffered lower-back pain.
  • Back pain had caused 41% of all bikers to seek medical help.

These findings are surprising since cycling is a low-impact sport that is frequently suggested for back pain sufferers. So, why is lower-back pain so widespread among long-distance cyclists?


Bike setup is critical for back health. However, since the professional cyclists in the previous research were monitored by national trainers with accessibility to advanced facilities, poor bike geometry was unlikely to be a concern. What else could it be? Muscle fatigue, according to certain studies, may play a role.

As bikers pedaled to exhaustion, their hamstrings and calf muscles become increasingly exhausted. Surprisingly, this tiredness appeared to cause unfavorable alterations in muscle activity patterns, which eventually had an impact on the back. Specifically, how the riders’ knees were spread out and how far their lumbar area was bent forward. In a word, when these riders’ legs became tired, their spinal posture worsened.

Focusing on the transverse abdominis (muscles that wrap around your belly horizontally like a corset) and multifidus (the muscles running vertically along your spine). These muscles act as guy wires to stabilize you in the saddle.

Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation released a research in 2015 investigated the strength of these muscles was compared in a group of mountain cyclists who had and didn’t have lower back pain. It shows the cyclists with pain had less developed transverse abdominals and lumbar multifidus spinae, resulting in poorer back endurance.

The pelvis, rather than the back, is frequently to blame. You should be able to sit comfortably in the saddle with your pelvis in the correct position (slight forward tilt position). So that you can keep your spine in a neutral, non-overly bent position. Many bikers are inflexible and suffer from significant muscular imbalances in general (dominant quadriceps, tight psoas, weak glutes). All of these can lead to improper pelvic alignment and discomfort in the lower back.

Do you experience any back discomfort or tightness in the lower limb during your ride?

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Clarsen, B., Krosshaug, T., & Bahr, R. (2010, December). Overuse injuries in professional road cyclists. The American journal of sports medicine. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from