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Let me start by saying that I am 45 yrs. old and have been riding the road for less than a year. I ride at work on my lunch hour and also some club rides and don't plan on racing anytime soon..I have been fitted at the bike shop for proper fit on the bike, but was wondering what to do as far as trying to make this aluminum framed bike more forgiving on my lower back...or should i start looking for a different type (material) of frame...some questions i have ....

1. since i just ride for exercise, would it be out of the ? to put a susp.seatpost on the bike.
2.people have told me to look at steal frames...i have heard of the 853 and 631 tubing, but don't know much about them.
3.I have heard that tires.wheelsets, etc. can make a huge difference..your comments.
4.say i was to get the bug and buy a new frame and carbon fork...for 400.00 to 500.00 what would you get, if it can be done in that price range.....

I think I have alot to learn......oldnslow
 

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Try the cheap fixes first.

It's more likely to be flexibility and muscle tone, IMO, than the frame material. You might see if stretches and strengthening those muscles (front AND back, as with crunches and back extensions) help.
A friend of mine, about your age, solved most of his lower back problems with a cheap suspension post--really cheap, an $18 Nashbar clearance deal. He's bought a suspension mountain bike since and put the cheapie on his Litespeed roadie (the purists go nuts), but he said it's the only thing that kept him on the bike a couple of years ago when he thought he'd have to give it up.
If you have room between the fork blades and under the brakes (most frames don't), you might try bigger tires. I use 700x35s almost exclusively these days, at about 80 psi. With an average modern frame, though, 32 or even 28 might be as big as you can go. I doubt that a new wheelset would make much difference (you can mount the big tires on your existing wheels no prob--the trouble will be frame and fork clearance).
Another possibility is to flop your stem (if it's threadless and floppable) to raise the handlebars. If it's an old quill type, raise it to the MAX HT mark or buy a longer one. Rivendell (www.rivbike.com) has some for about $40. Many people who fit bikes fit them all the same, for 19-year-old racers, and we're not all 19 or racers. Raising the bars is the single best thing I've done in 30 years of cycling.
Rivbike also has a treatise on bike fit that might be helpful. If you do decide to buy a new frame, and set it up just like the old one, I think you'll have the same old problems.
 

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The material would be one of the LAST things I'd change

The first thing I'd check is your position on the bike. As LFR said, make sure your handlebars aren't too low. Even if someone tells you low bars are the "right" fit, you may not be flexible enough to be comfortable on them yet (or ever, for that matter - I'm 44, have been riding for years, and still like my bars within an inch or so of saddle height). Your seat position could also have something to do with it - only trial and error will tell. Finally, if it is impact related rather than position related, I'd put some fatter tires on and run 'em at a lower pressure rather than thinking about a different frame material. Most road bikes can handle at least 700x25 tires and you might even be able to squeeze some 700x28s in there. Try that and run 'em at 90 psi or so. That will smooth things out way more than any change in frame material.

Good luck,

-Ray
 

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Oh boy. You'll see a lot of discussion on this and other cycling boards about the relative merit of frame materials. There are a lot of different factors involved in the comfort of a bike, with tubing material just one. That said, aluminum *tends* to be the least forgiving. However, you can improve comfort of any frame quite a bit by adjusting things like your riding position, saddle, tires, etc. If your bike is set up with the bars down low, you might want to go to a riser stem that gives you a more upright riding position. If you are using 23c tires pumped up to 110 psi, try switching to 28c and 90 psi. A suspension seatpost might be worth a try, though most people consider them overkill on road bikes. Back pain might indicate a problem beyond just the comfort of the bike. A routine of excercises that stretch and strengthen your back might be a good idea.
 

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Position, position, position!

oldnslow said:
Let me start by saying that I am 45 yrs. old and have been riding the road for less than a year. I ride at work on my lunch hour and also some club rides and don't plan on racing anytime soon..I have been fitted at the bike shop for proper fit on the bike, but was wondering what to do as far as trying to make this aluminum framed bike more forgiving on my lower back...or should i start looking for a different type (material) of frame...some questions i have ....

1. since i just ride for exercise, would it be out of the ? to put a susp.seatpost on the bike.
2.people have told me to look at steal frames...i have heard of the 853 and 631 tubing, but don't know much about them.
3.I have heard that tires.wheelsets, etc. can make a huge difference..your comments.
4.say i was to get the bug and buy a new frame and carbon fork...for 400.00 to 500.00 what would you get, if it can be done in that price range.....

I think I have alot to learn......oldnslow
It all depends on position! I've been having some lower back issues myself lately. Lowering my saddle 3-4mm and flipping my stem allowed me to ride twice this week. I'm still tweaking the position. I'll report back when I've found the Right Position.

After position comes fitness, or lack of. Big ole guts that press your innards into your lower back aren't a good thing. The fitter you are, the longer and lower you can go setup wise. Whether you choose to or not is another story. Weak back muscles and tight hamstrings (me!) don't help either.

Frame materials are the least of your worries. I have an AL S-Works frame that rides nicer than my Bontrager steel frame. Go figure.

"Dr. Mike's" prescription: go get another fit done somewhere else. There are good people to go to, and then there's the hacks. I've got friends that work at shops that THINK they're good at fitting people. If you're as off as a lot of people I have seen riding, it'll be a relief for your back. If you've done that, I dunno, more back extensions?

No, I don't think a suspension seatpost is going to do much more than lowering your saddle a bit. Lower back pain usually isn't from jarring, but from bio-mechanical issues.
That help?

Mike
 

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I would venture to say that I am the resident expert on back problems on this board, and while I ride only steel, there are things you can at least try with aluminum.

A suspension post is a good idea. I put one on my Trek 5200 after an L5-S1 laminectomy, and it took the bite out of the stiffest frame material there is. After several fits and starts, I found the RockShox road post to be the best and most tuneable. Of course, it's heavy, but if you're not racing or Alping, no big deal. (I've since sold the Trek, BTW, post another surgery. Too stiff.)

Try 700x25 tires at roughly 10 pounds below your current pressure, too. Even 700x28 if you can fit them. If you want, also, you could go with a high-thread-count 700x23 (like a top of the line Vittoria) that rides like a tubular, a/k/a more comfortably.

If you do look for a new bike, I'd suggest steel frame with a steel fork. Nothing more forgiving.

Good luck from another old fart.
 

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Frame Material

Frame material? Nah.

I'm 49 and ride aluminun frames with aluminum forks. Not a recipe for comfort. Its all about fit. The bike shop fit may make sense for someone of you body size who is younger and more flexible, but you are not that person. You are you.

Try a shorter stem or higher bars. Also, a few pounds less air in those tires will soften the ride (but watch those pinch flats).

It takes time to build the base miles and find the right position.
 

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I have a detached 5th lumbar vertabrae that is tilted 30 degrees. This is a result of playing football. There are days when I literally can't even get out of bed. Other times the scar tissue will put pressure on the nerves and my right leg will go limp when I'm walking and I sometimes trip on things. (At least that's my excuse for looking like a big dufus ;) )

As you can imagine, bike riding can be quite painful at times, especially when I'm in the saddle for more than 50 miles. I used to ride a steel lugged (Columbus SLX tubing) Italian framed bike that was actually custom built. The ride was jarring to my lower back and I constantly had to stand up to stretch my back. This was something I accepted since I love to ride.

About two years ago I bought a Colnago CT-1 with carbon B-stay. If you aren't familiar with the bike, it is 6/4 Ti frame with a carbon fiber rear triangle. This has been the smoothest, most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. I can ride this bike all day long without the slightest discomfort in my lower back. I frequently do 80 mile rides and I never even have to think about stretching my back. This dispite the fact that the stem/bar position has put me lower than my other bike.

People can say what they want about materials but until you've actually experienced the difference like I have you just can't understand. I'd recommend that you look into a either a full Ti bike or a Ti/carbon combo. In my experience they are well worth it.
 

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Softride

Lots of good advice above, regarding the stretching and strengthening of the muscles. I'd do that first, plus raise the bars to a more comfortable position. If that doesn't work, check out the Softride line of bikes.

I'm same age as you, with lots of low back issues. I got a Softride Solo at the beginning of the bike season in 2001, and couldn't be happier. The beam takes the beating, the frame (aluminum) is stiff as can be. I've ridden about 7500 miles on it. I ride regularly with a group of guys who have aluminum frames. By the end of a 40-50 mile ride, they're hurting, and I'm still comfortable.

Hope you find some way to resolve your discomfort.
 

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To sum it all up, in order of importance and effectiveness:

Fit (the bike, get those bars up and out)

Fit (your back, stretch the hamstrings)

Tires (25mm and 90 psi max)

Frame material (last place).
 

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2nd

Your seat position could also have something to do with it - only trial and error will tell. Finally, if it is impact related rather than position related, I'd put some fatter tires on and run 'em at a lower pressure rather than thinking about a different frame material.

The point about impact is important and bigger tires certainly help. It may also help to bend forward more at the hips, which can protect the lower back from shock. My wife has had corrective surgery to fuse 2 vertabrae and finds a road bike more comfortable for her back than either mountain bikes or hybrids with more upright postions.

I'd lower the seat a few mm first and then try rotating the handlebars to raise the hoods a bit. These are free and easy and it's good to try free and easy first.
 

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something to try -- move saddle forward. If you move

forward, you are cantilevering your body less, creating less stress on your lower back. It also will make your reach to the pedals a little less, which may help with cadence, hamstring extension, and stuff, which, although I doubt that it is your problem, may make you more comfortable for other reasons.
Moving your saddle forward will cause you to end up with more weight on your hands, which may result in its set of problems. So, what you really may need is more core/back strength and flexibility. I'm also 45, btw, and I don't tend to think that your back hurts because the frame is beating you up. Suspension this and suspension that may ease the impact a little on the parts of the body supported by the suspended part, but I'll bet that it's not impact that's ending up focussed in your lower back.
 
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