At a recent indoor cycling practice in Grass Valley for our tri club, a relatively experienced cyclist sheepishly admitted to chronic neck pain during cycling that she had been dealing with for years. Though the solution can be complicated, here are several simple fixes for cycling neck pain.
Better Bike Fit Without question this is the most important factor in riding your bike without pain. But what do you do if you don’t have the time and money for a professional fit? Neck pain typically comes from tilting your head up to much and changes in your fit need to get your spine more upright or your neck more horizontal so that your back and neck are at the same angle. One option is to move your arms closer to your body. If you ride a tri bike and there is wiggle room in your bar positioning, try moving the elbow cups closer to you. Whether you ride tri or road, a shorter stem and taller headset gets you to the same place. Remember that bike fitters work in millimeters. Tiny adjustments go a long way.
Helmet Placement If your neck is compressed because you have to raise your head high to get a view past the front of the helmet, Sheldon Brown points out that moving your helmet back alleviates this problem. Assuming your helmet is already in the right place for safety, remove the sun visor first before making any adjustments that might compromise the safety of the helmet.
Rimless Sunglasses In a similar vein a poor helmet placement, some cyclists strain to look under (or over) the upper rim of their sunglasses. In the last 5 years many manufactures have catered to cyclists with these rimless shades. Simply type “rimless sunglasses cycling” in your search engine and you will have no shortage of options.
Ride The Hoods If Ironman Arizona or Florida are on your schedule there is no question that you need to get used to being in aero. But during early season training there is no need to be a hero and ride low all the time. Get up on your hoods or pursuit bars and give that neck a break.
Lower The PSI Just because all the cool kids overinflate their tires on race day doesn’t mean you need to do it now. Riding below the recommended PSI can result in a flat tire, so avoid that too. Just stay on the low end of the recommended pressure. Your tires are your biggest shock absorbers of road vibration and bumps.
Strengthen & Stretch If you have the tendency to carry stress in your neck and shoulders it will be magnified tenfold in the saddle. Work on learning how to subtly engage your mid-traps, rhomboids, and lats to “set” your shoulders in the right place out of your ears. Self-massaging with a lax ball can do wonders to relieve tight shoulders. Don’t forget posterior deltoid and upper traps (the back side of shoulders and around the neck) when you use the ball.