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Too small mtn bike = shoulder/back issues...?

zoom-zoom2012-09-02 20:26:07 +0000 #1
Since DS has taken over my mountain bike I'm borrowing a friend's TINY Salsa Ala Carte until we can manage to invest in a bike for me (I'm really eyeballing a 14"/XS Salsa El Mariachi 29er). It's an XXS/12.5" frame. I am just shy of 5'4". She is about my height (maybe a half inch or so shorter), but tends to like really small frames.

We have the saddle maxed-out and I could still use it a hair taller. That's not the big issue. When I ride it I feel sort of like I'm on a clown bike. I assume a 14-15" frame would be ideal for me (30" inseam, average torso/arms). My Cannondale mtn bike is only an XS (I think the seatpost is just under 14") and is also small for me, but less so. We'd have our DS ride the Salsa, but it's a LOT more bike than my Cannondale. Everything about it is faster and it's a handful. The Cannondale is much more forgiving.

Anyhow...DS and I rode 11.5 miles on Sat. Most of those miles were on the paved rail trail to get out to some singletrack about 4 miles away. Ever since then my back has been p!ssed! I am not really prone to back issues. Sometimes I will sleep funny (or a cat will steal my pillow) and wake with a wonky neck or shoulders, but this has moved from the middle of my back and outwards and downwards. I'm suspecting the tiny bike is to blame, though I know my core could be stronger (I've been doing 1-2 core workouts/week for about a month, now).

tulip2012-09-02 20:41:58 +0000 #2
Sounds small. Why not take your bike back and let your son ride the small bike, assuming he's smaller than you?
zoom-zoom2012-09-02 20:46:13 +0000 #3

Originally Posted by tulip

Sounds small. Why not take your bike back and let your son ride the small bike, assuming he's smaller than you?

He is smaller than me...and from reading it appears that a lot of folks his size bought this identical bike or people bought it for kids about his age/size. It's just way too much bike (new it cost twice what my bike was full retail). Everything on it's fast, the steering and brakes are much less forgiving, and it's really light compared to my bike. It's a handful for me. But it's becoming tempting, since it's sorta breaking me.
tulip2012-09-02 20:46:42 +0000 #4
Can your son just borrow the bike that you are borrowing? I mean, if it's being used by you, and it would be better for him, why not just switch? When you are able, get yourself a new bike and then give him yours, and give the borrowed bike back.
zoom-zoom2012-09-02 21:37:24 +0000 #5
I've suggested this to my DH, but he's pretty tentative about the thought of the rugrat on this bike. It rolls MUCH faster down hills and the brakes are extremely grabby. It's a recipe for an endo (it's definitely harder for me to handle this bike with my limited skills). The steering is super sensitive, too. My bike is so perfect for a noob, since it's heavier and everything about it is more sluggish and low-end. But it may be worth a try.
Muirenn2012-09-02 22:40:40 +0000 #6
I don't know much about off-road, but couldn't you ride your Redline for now?
limewave2012-09-02 23:03:58 +0000 #7
I agree that a too small of a bike can cause back problems, having a bike that fits properly--as you already know--is very important.

Also take in consideration that mountain biking uses your muscles differently than road riding. Whenever I take newbies out for trail rides they often complain about back and shoulder pain--usually from using those muscles in a new way. Part of that is their core muscles aren't conditioned to that style of riding. It's typical for new riders to use the death grip on the handlebars—nerves causing them to tense up. That tension causes stress on the muscles (especially shoulders and back).

Another cause of back pain is a bad pedal stroke--pulling too much on the upswing. It's common for a lot of us that use clipless pedals to adapt that type of pedal stroke. How many times have I been told to pull up on the the pedal! when climbing? A million times. But that can actually be really bad for your back. Here is a good blog post on pedal stroke: .

One more common cause for back pain: tight hips and leg muscles. Here are some stretching tips: .

Welcome to the world of trail riding!!!
zoom-zoom2012-09-02 23:32:53 +0000 #8
All good things to know and think about, thanks LW! I didn't know about the pedaling thing...I'll definitely want to keep that in mind in the future. I've thought about the benefits of flat pedals off-road. I need to learn to keep my feet from flying off the pedals when I hit bumps, though.

I'm thinking it's probably the bike size, though. Last week when we went out and I was on my larger Cdale I didn't have any unreasonable pains (rode 65 miles on my road bike the following day), aside from my bruises.

Sat. was a MUCH easier ride (mostly on the rail trail, just a little bit of easy and really slow singletrack), but my back was angry for 3 days after that. That's the longest time I've been on that bike, so I suspect that that's the issue. The pain was concentrated in the middle of my back, not my lower back or arms (though it started to sort of radiate outwards after a day or so). Until Sat. I never did more than 4-5 miles on the weds. night rides, so I was never on that teeny bike long enough to really stress those mid-back/shoulderblade muscles.

I think we are going to try DS on the tiny Salsa. It will probably be a really perfect fit for him, since I think he's right around 5'.



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