Author Topic: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?  (Read 6283 times)

Hi - after much soul searching, I think I may need to switch to using a recumbent, at least for longer/harder rides, unless the physio work I've been doing for months ends up really making a difference (hasn't so far). I suffer from chronic lower back pain, I've not been completely pain free for about 4 years now, and in the last 6 months it's got much worse and seems to get aggravated by anything but really (non-recumbent) short bike rides.

 I regularly see a physio and and osteopath (even acupuncture sometimes). MRI scan doesn't show anything sinister, is probably a muscular issue combined with some mild disc degeneration. I'm 50 and otherwise quite fit, though core is fairly weak (one of the things physio is trying to improve).

 I currently ride either my Mercian Strada Speciale road bike (though geometry is relatively relaxed by road bike standards), a Hewitt Cheviot SE tourer or a Brompton M6RX. I've had recent bike fits for both the Mercian and Hewitt. Until recently I could ride about 30-40 miles before getting significant additional pain, but now it's much less than that. This week I've had a really bad pain flare up and not able to cycle at all.

I'm getting fed up with not being able to cycle and losing my fitness, but don't want to agreggravate my back pain. Would switching to a recumbent likely aggravate my back pain less?

Psychologically I think I would prefer something like a mid-racer two wheel recumbent, possibly a bit more sociable when riding with others and not sure I like the idea of being too low to the ground, but I understand that two-wheelers are harder to get used to, especially front wheel drive bikes, like the fantastic-looking Cruzbike S40? I'm guessing the S40 is perhaps not the best "starter" recumbent for a newbie?

Not totally opposed to the idea of trikes, the relatively sporty and foldable ICE Sprint X looks promising.

My main use case would be for 40-60 mile fast day rides/sportives, possibly shorter end of audax and light credit card touring. For shopping and my 4 mile commute (if that ever resumes, still WFH) I can probably still use my Brompton or one of my other bikes, except when pain is really bad. So I would be like looking for something fast-ish, but relatively comfortable, with a small amount of luggage carrying capability. Think audax style, rather than touring.

Any advice/tips gratefully received, assume I know next to nothing about recumbents! BTW I live in Oxford, in case not obvious from my username.

Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

RichForrest

  • T'is I, Silverback.
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2020, 12:46:00 pm »
I suffer lower back pain myself, ranging from always there to shit I can't move when it decides to seize up completely.
I know mine comes from a gym injury and bad posture/core strength etc.
Being a cyclist of many years I am strong posterior and weak anterior muscularly, in as much as my pelvis tilts forward when standing.
Standing too long will make my back ache (and spasm if too long) unless I think about tensing my lower abs and glutes to pull my hips level.

Re recumbents, I have ridden them for years with no issues with my back pain. I have upright bikes also and spent most of last year riding fixed gear all over the place including camping.
Speed on a recumbent comes with practice of course, Balance and riding one the same.

I have a range of recumbents (Ice S trike, Bacchetta Giro, M5 CHR) and have ridden audax on all of them.
Trikes will be slower than most 2 wheelers and harder uphill obviously due to the extra weight.
Bacchetta do a range but the lighter ones are faster. My Giro with 700 wheels I tend to get around a 200 in about 8hrs moving.
The CHR is a very quick bike and the ones I have done recently have been fast!
(200 in 6.40 moving, 300 in 10.40 moving, 400 in 13.40 moving)

It can be a long learning curve changing to recumbents and building the distances up (different muscles etc) but some will pick it up quickly.
A trike can be ridden by anyone as you will only fall off of it if you go mad  ;D
The Bacchetta with the adjustable seat is a good starting bike as the seat can be laid back as you get used to the balance.
The CHR took me a while to feel comfortable riding it even though I've been riding recumbents for about 14yrs.

T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 01:13:19 pm »
I'd suggest renting or borrowing one for a day to find out. When I had lower back problems a few years back it hurt to declutch in the car.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

LMT

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 01:25:02 pm »
I'd go with a S40, this will meet your needs and can be fitted with a two racks if you wanted to do some touring. It's a great bike which corners well and because of the shorter wheelbase I find more steady at lower speeds.

Don't let the fact that it is a movable bottom bracket put you off, either way you'd need to learn to ride a bike again. There are some recommended drills to do which takes about an hour and more detail can be found over on their website.

The only thing going against would be the import duty and tax comes in at around £600 on top of the cost price (based on exchange rate). I don't believe there are any dealers in the UK so you wold have to buy direct from the USA. It's a shame you cannot fly over there at the moment because of Covid and fly back with the frame as luggage as this would be cheaper. Having said that shipping is fairly rapid, when I bought mine it took a week and a bit for the frame to arrive.


Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2020, 03:26:24 pm »
In theory, could you hook the S40 up to a wheel off turbo (would have to be the front wheel, obviously!)? I have an Elite Direto.
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2020, 04:42:19 pm »
I rode a few audaxes on a highracer-style recumbent, and provided it was on the flat found it pretty sociable with the uprights.  Very comfortable cruising machine.  There is no need to go for something heavy and suspended if you want to audax or credit-card tour.  Not tried a front-driven one, but would love to.  ;D

I've not had back trouble on an upright bike, but I will say I noticed on long car journeys that the typical car seat is less comfortable after 2 hours than I am after 8 hours on the recumbent hardshell seat.

LMT

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2020, 04:48:18 pm »
In theory, could you hook the S40 up to a wheel off turbo (would have to be the front wheel, obviously!)? I have an Elite Direto.

Yes you can do this.

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2020, 05:08:10 pm »
I'd go with a S40, this will meet your needs and can be fitted with a two racks if you wanted to do some touring. It's a great bike which corners well and because of the shorter wheelbase I find more steady at lower speeds.

Don't let the fact that it is a movable bottom bracket put you off, either way you'd need to learn to ride a bike again. There are some recommended drills to do which takes about an hour and more detail can be found over on their website.

The only thing going against would be the import duty and tax comes in at around £600 on top of the cost price (based on exchange rate). I don't believe there are any dealers in the UK so you wold have to buy direct from the USA. It's a shame you cannot fly over there at the moment because of Covid and fly back with the frame as luggage as this would be cheaper. Having said that shipping is fairly rapid, when I bought mine it took a week and a bit for the frame to arrive.
Thsi is what I did, had it delivered to one of our US offices when I was over there.

It was my third recumbent ICE B2 - M5 M-Racer - S40.  S40 was the easiest to learn to ride, I never felt really comfortable on the M5.  I have a StacZero Halcyon which I just move to the other end of the bike when I have the S40 on it, only issue is I need to change the wheel as I my usual Exal has steel-pinned rim which the StacZero doesn't like.

To the OP - re back pain. My rationale for recumbenting was upper back and neck pain, which is definitely alleviated. 

Since being Smidsy'd two years ago resulting in a now repaired pelvic fracture, and not yet sorted lower back pain (MRI awaited). I've been in a virtual TT league this year, and hard efforts on the S40 have aggravated that just as much as hard efforts on the roadbike.  Audax pace efforts have been OK.  I guess I'm trying to say you should be abel to expect some relief, but don't expect a miracle.  Get doing that core work - ten years of yoga and regular core weight sessions have probably helped me quite a bit.
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2020, 06:05:33 pm »
Thanks LMT and ElyDave about the info. about being able to use an S40 with a turbo, and also for the other information (ElyDave) - I'm sorely tempted by the S40 now, though would probably need to let one of my other bikes go (the Mercian would be the sensible choice to let go, but is the one I love the most...).

I'm not expecting it to make a recumbent make all my back problems go away, as I still experience some back pain these days even when not cycling, but am thinking it would at least aggravate things less and enable me to ride at a reasonable distance and speed without being in lots of pain for days afterwards. I will certainly continue with the physio (and yoga / Pilates etc., which I've also been doing).
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2020, 06:49:44 pm »
My usual advice is to buy some sort of easily obtained middle-of-the-road touringish bike second hand, and learn to ride a recumbent on it while working out what does and doesn't work for you (seats, steering, that sort of thing), then you can make a more informed decision on what you actually want, and sell it on / commit n+1.

I've no idea about back pain, but it's probably worth getting some hardshell *and* mesh seat experience to find out what works best.

Agree that the S40 sounds like the right sort of thing for the type of riding you're thinking of.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2020, 07:01:34 pm »
I don't know if the rans rocket is still being made but I found it a good climbing machine and very comfortable. Made in the USA and would probably have to be imported   :)
the slower you go the more you see

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2020, 07:24:14 pm »
Rans Rocket, lightning P38, were both on my list of possibles, as was the Schlitter Encore until they went stupid with both price and availability.

Try lots is always good advice
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
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Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2020, 07:55:46 pm »
I don't know if the rans rocket is still being made but I found it a good climbing machine and very comfortable. Made in the USA and would probably have to be imported   :)

Looks like RANS are out of the SWB market altogether, as their webby SCIENCE shows only LWB, tandems and those oddball crank-forward things.
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fd3

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2020, 09:04:48 pm »
http://forum.bhpc.org.uk/performer-highracer_topic7137.html

£500 gets you a highracer (more sociable for riding with others) and a tailbox.  I think Kim's advice is good, though, if you can find something budget.
Strange things are afoot at the circle K.

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2020, 09:43:18 pm »
http://forum.bhpc.org.uk/performer-highracer_topic7137.html

£500 gets you a highracer (more sociable for riding with others) and a tailbox.  I think Kim's advice is good, though, if you can find something budget.

Think I definitely want a highracer, partly for that reason, but also to be seen and to be able to see the countryside better. Would prefer something with 700c wheels ideally - there is a Performer model available with them, apparently: https://www.performercycles.com/high-racer-700c/

Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2020, 09:46:54 pm »
My usual advice is to buy some sort of easily obtained middle-of-the-road touringish bike second hand, and learn to ride a recumbent on it while working out what does and doesn't work for you (seats, steering, that sort of thing), then you can make a more informed decision on what you actually want, and sell it on / commit n+1.

I've no idea about back pain, but it's probably worth getting some hardshell *and* mesh seat experience to find out what works best.

Agree that the S40 sounds like the right sort of thing for the type of riding you're thinking of.

My only concern with the S40 is that, whilst the FWD moving bottom bracket design makes hill climbing easier (and for a much nicer chainline), I've read that they can be harder to learn than a RWD recumbent, partly because your pedaling affects the steering...

An perhaps easier to ride alternative (though with less luggage carry capability) might be the Pelso Brevet, good review here: https://recumbent-cyclist.com/bikes/pelso-brevet/ (though current supplies seem sold out)

Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2020, 09:48:30 pm »
As for my backpain, I've had an MRI, didn't really show anything significant other than some mild disc degeneration (that many people without pain my age would have). My osteopath says "The initial diagnosis in 2017 was one of Lumbosacral junction disc degeneration which has by now stabilised. This present presentation is initiated higher up at the thoracolumbar junction with seems to get restricted thus not allowing the lumbar spine to transfer it’s anterior posterior motion into rotation in the thoracic spine. This means muscles such as the quadrates lumbarum and a raft of muscles that fill the thoraco-lumbar fascia become less pliable. The result of that is that you are loading the base of the back more."

My physio has translated this to me as "basically what he's saying is that your mid back is bunged up and not moving, therefore your lower back is taking the brunt of it making the lower back and hip flexors tighter... all the things we've been working on - - QL, Psoas, Illiacus (low back and hip flexor muscles) - reducing tension, making more pliable and increasing their capacity
- Improving thoracic (mid back) mobility."

I've been doing physio for months, making some progress I think, but it's slow going and also have had a number of setbacks, and riding my "normal" bikes (even my quite upright Brompton) has caused some of those.
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2020, 11:03:39 pm »
An perhaps easier to ride alternative (though with less luggage carry capability) might be the Pelso Brevet, good review here: https://recumbent-cyclist.com/bikes/pelso-brevet/ (though current supplies seem sold out)

I can vouch for my almost but not quite total inability to catch up with John Lucian on his under track racing conditions.   :D
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2020, 05:47:00 am »
That Pelso Brevet looks remarkably similar to the equally unobtainable (in europe) Schlitter encore. 

For twin 700c highlanders, check that your leg length is sufficient first, to be able to get a foot down easily
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2020, 07:18:33 am »
That Pelso Brevet looks remarkably similar to the equally unobtainable (in europe) Schlitter encore. 

For twin 700c highlanders, check that your leg length is sufficient first, to be able to get a foot down easily

Good point, I'm relatively short (172cm / 5' 8")
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2020, 09:08:03 am »
That Pelso Brevet looks remarkably similar to the equally unobtainable (in europe) Schlitter encore. 

For twin 700c highlanders, check that your leg length is sufficient first, to be able to get a foot down easily

There is a direct connection between Pelso and John Schlitter.  Think the guys behind Pelso used to manufacturer the Encore on behalf of Schlitter in Europe or something like that,

Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2020, 09:15:53 am »
Rans Rocket, lightning P38, were both on my list of possibles, as was the Schlitter Encore until they went stupid with both price and availability.

Try lots is always good advice

The P38 frameset is the same price as the S40 frameset. Like the S40 no dealers in UK so you’d have to bring back as luggage or import yourself.  Importing isn’t hard but will add approx £300 to the price. Rarely older versions come up second hand in UK.

The P38 is a good climber I’m faster uphill on it than my road bike now. At least round Hertfordshire / Essex way I am.  It’s not as aerodynamic as some of the other bikes mentioned, as you’re sat more upright, but still better than a road bike.  But a plus side of that is that it is hardly affected by strong side gusts of wind at all. It’s also good at slow speed manoeuvres, such as cycle infrastructure. Rolling through roads junctions like you would with a road bike is also good as you aren’t so laid back you need to stop and sit up to be able to see. It has fittings for two water bottle cages (under seat), mud guards, rack, and they will braze a light fitting on the derailleur post at no extra charge.

I did my first 300km audax on it last weekend in those winds, and at the end, it was just tired legs and nothing more.

As Kim says, you may want to get something cheap second hand before deciding if you want a more expensive “performance” recumbent.

Socks

  • Clennel Street on my touring bike
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2020, 09:19:15 am »
Pelso brevet is going to be available again shortly, Laid Back bikes in Edinburgh imports them and could advise on sizing and availability.  As it happens I have one on order as my N+ 1 Christmas present.

It has a relatively low seat height because of the bend in the frame, the measurements are on their website (pelsobrevet.com).  However as others have said, best to try out using a cheaper second hand recumbent before taking the plunge, it took me a few months to get used to the different riding technique involved and also decide on what sort of set up would suit me best.  There are a lot more options than with conventional diamond frame bikes.

Blodwyn Pig

  • what a nice chap
Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2020, 09:27:47 am »
Rans Rocket, lightning P38, were both on my list of possibles, as was the Schlitter Encore until they went stupid with both price and availability.

Try lots is always good advice

The P38 frameset is the same price as the S40 frameset. Like the S40 no dealers in UK so you’d have to bring back as luggage or import yourself.  Importing isn’t hard but will add approx £300 to the price. Rarely older versions come up second hand in UK.



Alternatively, I suppose, one could fly to USA with a BSO as luggage, and return with a recumbent BSO as luggage, who's going to look in the box. Just use it a bit on dusty trails with a sticker or two (UK ones taken out with you) .......More than one way to skin a wabbit!

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
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Re: Considering a recumbent due to chronic low back pain - tips/advice?
« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2020, 11:11:16 am »
To save cash you can, or could, claim to be a journalist and that the bike frame in your suitcase is a test model which BRITISH punters are desperate to read about.  This probably works better if you actually are a cycling journalist like for eg a Mr R Ballantine who, allegedly, pulled this trick more than once.
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Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses in Peacetime