After long hours in the bike saddle, it's not uncommon for aches and pains to creep up. Pain at the base of the neck may be the result of poor posture or a badly fitting bike. Fortunately, once you identify the source of the pain, most neck discomfort caused by biking is easily remedied.
One of the most common causes of neck pain from cycling is a poorly fitting bike. When the handlebars are too low or too far away from you, you are forced to strain your neck to see in front of you. When muscles are in a constant state of contraction, they are more likely to develop trigger points because they are deprived of nutrients and oxygen, which leads to pain. If in doubt, have a professional check your bike fit. Most bike shops will perform a bike fitting or refer you to a shop that does.
When you purchase a helmet, think of how it will be used. For example, road riders stay in a low position on the bike, so having a visor necessitates straining the neck to see underneath the visor, which can cause pain at the base of the neck. For mountain bikers, who sit upright, a visor doesn't cause this problem. If you're experiencing neck pain, check that your helmet doesn't tilt too far forward on your head, which can increase strain to the back of the neck.
Since cycling places your body in one position for hours on end, move around as much as possible and stretch. Roll your shoulders and perform shoulder shrugs on the bike. Bring your elbows up to your sides and squeeze them in toward your upper back muscles. Also, move your neck to the side for a gentle stretch. While you're riding, watch that your shoulders are relaxed and don't reach up to hug your ears. This can cause pain at the base of the neck.
Treat neck pain by taking an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. After you ride, apply ice to the sore points on the neck. If the pain is radiating from the shoulder, roll a tennis ball underneath it to work out the trigger points and perform self massage on the neck. If the problem persists, have your bike fit checked and see your doctor.