Neck Pain While Riding a Road Bike

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couple cycling on road bikes (Image: Warren Goldswain/iStock/Getty Images)

Neck pain is an extremely common complaint for new cyclists. Though it's usually caused by improper posture, the way you wear your helmet or sunglasses could also influence neck pain. Making specific corrections will allow you to ride longer or more frequently without discomfort. In addition, better posture and positioning can improve your efficiency and aerodynamics, thereby boosting your performance.

Sizing Up Your Frame

The first step for correcting neck pain is making sure your bike is a good fit for your body. Otherwise, getting in the proper position can prove impossible. Bike frames are sized based on a measurement called your pubic bone height or inseam. Measure the distance from the firm pubic bone between your legs to the base of your heel along the inside of your leg; look this number up on a bicycle manufacturer's size chart, which will tell you which frame size is most appropriate according to your measurement. It's better to size down if you're in between two frame sizes, since you can adjust your seat and handlebar stem.

Sitting Pretty

Eliminating neck pain requires you to distribute your weight between your rear end and your arms while you're riding, so being in the right position is key. To find the correct seat height, place the bike up against a wall so you can mount it without falling over. Drop one of your cranks so it's pointing straight down, and adjust the seat until your leg is just slightly bent at the knee. This is the ideal height for your seat, and you shouldn't have to strain at all to reach the pedals during your stroke. Next, lean forwards and grasp the bars. Your position should feel natural; if you're too far forwards and need to crane your neck to see, you need a shorter stem.

Check Your Head

Your neck pain could be caused by something as simple as your headgear. If your helmet is too far forward on your head, it can obscure your vision and require you to tilt your head backwards to see. Correct this by adjusting the fit of your helmet so that it's far enough forward to protect your face in the event of a head-on collision, but is not so far down your brow that it interferes with your sight. Having your sunglasses too far down your nose can also make you tilt your head and strain your neck as a result. Making proper adjustments so that your head position is level and natural can eliminate your neck pain entirely.

Seek Professional Help

Bike fitting is a science and an art, and it can be difficult to get your posture and positioning exactly right on your own. It's difficult enough that most bike shops require employees to complete a certification in bicycle fitting so they can fit different riders to different kinds of bicycles. A professional bike fitter can help you determine the right stem length, seat height and frame size for your ideal riding position, thus eliminating neck pain and improving your efficiency dramatically. It's worth your time if you cycle frequently or if you're just getting into the sport and want the best cycling experience.

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