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Cervical Neck Injuries

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Cervical Neck Injuries

Old 06-06-17, 08:52 PM
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ithndr
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Cervical Neck Injuries

I am looking for advice on the bicycle types, styles that may be easiest on people who have Cervical Disc issues. I have had 3 discectomies (fusions) over the past 5 years and I am interested in riding for exercise and maybe as a sport. I talked to a local shop and they recommended a hybrid that Trek makes and I was curious whether anyone has additional input or advice on.
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Old 06-06-17, 10:27 PM
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I've had my C1-C2 fused; I tried riding a hybrid and it was not comfortable. Switched to a LWB recumbent Rans Stratus LE--much better!
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Old 06-07-17, 09:31 AM
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I feel ya. Literally.

Broke my neck and back in six places in a car wreck in 2001. C2 is still splintered -- I can feel and hear the pieces grinding when I stretch. Most of the other stuff healed okay, eventually.

In 2004 I still needed a cane even for short walks. Figured I'd never ride again so I sold all my bike stuff, tools, even my custom fitted Detto Pietro cleated shoes.

By 2014 I no longer needed the cane even for long walks. In 2015 I decided to try cycling again.

It's been a slow, gradual process and I ignored most conventional wisdom -- especially claims that "Nobody needs a suspension fork hybrid" or "Get what you'll eventually want anyway".

Yeah, sure, eventually I wanted to ride a road bike again. Who wouldn't want to go faster, especially into the wind or climbing hills?

But unless the person giving advice has experienced a broken neck or similar problems, they have no idea what they're talking about. I just ignored those folks.

I first tried an Electra Townie. Nice bike but even in my relatively feeble condition it felt too inefficient. I knew I'd have a few hill climbs that would be tough on that bike.

I thought about a recumbent but good ones were way beyond my budget, and I didn't want to waste money on junk just because I could afford it.

My first bike after a long I-hate-us from cycling was a Globe Carmel comfort hybrid. Sloping top tube compact frame, built like an old school downhill mountain bike, but dressed up for a comfortable ride. I call it my sofa bike. Still use it for short errands, grocery runs. Upright ride with riser bar and long stem. Simple but effective Suntour spring suspension fork. Looonnng wheelbase. Thickly padded saddle with springs. Even then the ride was too harsh for me some days. I replaced the original 700x38 tires with 700x40 Michelins (nominal, actually closer to 45c) that were safe to ride at 40-50 psi without pinch flats.

I rode that bike for a year, gradually increasing from a mile to 63 miles on my one-year anniversary ride. Wasn't easy, but I couldn't have made that progress with a more rigid, harsher riding, less versatile bike. I'd probably have given up sooner.

There were days when I'd have to climb off the bike, sit and stretch my back and neck every mile or so to finish a ride. I remember my first day on the local multi-use path, approaching a relatively narrow bridge. I tensed up with stress when I saw another, faster rider approaching. We had enough room to pass -- barely -- but the tension caused my neck to spasm. It always affects my right side neck muscles and shoulder, and the spasm caused me to jerk to bike rightwards where the grip snagged the fence and jolted me into the dirt just past the bridge. Embarrassing but nothing injured.

As my neck and back strength and flexibility improved I gradually lowered the stem, then flipped the riser bars, then finally substituted flat bars. The sweet spot seemed to be with the grips just an inch or two above saddle height. But I couldn't have handled that the first few months -- tried a more sporty hybrid at the LBS, no-go. Took time to get back into shape.

After that one-year anniversary 63 mile ride I decided I was ready to try something else. Tried Trek's entry level drop bar road bike at the LBS. Nice and light but it was a big nope -- couldn't get that low and still look up at the road. Tried Trek's flat bar style road bike frame hybrid. Better but too harsh -- that straight blade carbon fork transmitted every jolt to my neck.

Found a 1992 Univega Via Carisma on craigslist, a rigid fork "mountain bike" that today would be classified as a sporty hybrid. That old style curved steel fork, combined with softer riding tires, was just right. I'm still riding it and plan to keep it.

But the original flat bar on the Univega was uncomfortably low for me still, so after a week or two I swapped bars with the Globe Carmel: riser bars from the Globe to the Univega, and vice versa. Perfect swap for both bikes. The riser bar puts the grips right at or slightly above saddle height, and reduced the reach about an inch. Just enough to be comfortable yet still reasonably efficient for climbing hills.

I tried three or four sets of tires to find some that felt both cushy and quick. Continental Speed Rides did the trick. Comfortable at 40-60 psi, well below the recommended maximum pressure, yet smooth rolling and reasonably lightweight at under 500g. Highly recommended for any hybrid bike, especially for mixed terrain rides that include gravel.

Over the months my neck strength and flexibility improved a bit and I was gradually able to increase pressure on the front tire from 40 psi to 50-60 psi, depending on how smooth or rough the terrain was and whether I carried a handlebar bag loaded with my camera gear. Higher pressure didn't improve quickness and just felt harsher.

I planned to ride that Univega for a full year before looking at another bike. I even thought about returning the flat bar to see if I was getting closer to being ready to try a drop bar road bike again. But every time I'd ride the Univega I'd think "Nah, it's perfect as-is. Leave it alone. Get another bike. Sell it if it doesn't work out."

So yesterday I bought a good used 1989 Centurion Ironman Expert Dave Scott. Pretty far cry from what I'd anticipated getting. I'd planned on something closer to a touring style road bike -- drop bars but longer wheelbase, higher grip position, etc. But the price was right and I figured I could resell it without losing money if it didn't work out. And it weighs only 23 lbs. When I was in my teens and 20s riding a 30 lb Motobecane I'd have slobbered over a bike like this. Anything remotely close to it was way beyond my budget. Now you can pick one up for around $200.

It's gonna be a tough adjustment. I rode a couple of blocks with the stem slammed -- bar about 2-3" below saddle height -- and it was really uncomfortable. Seller raised the bar as high as it will safely go, which is still about an inch below saddle height. Better, but it's still gonna be a struggle.

I expected those skinny 700x23 tires to be painfully harsh but the classic curved fork seemed to soak up the jolts. Turned out later the tires were a bit underinflated, around 80 psi, so we'll see how it feels later today at 100-110 psi where it probably should be for my weight (165 lbs).
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Old 06-07-17, 10:33 AM
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I read somewhere that a Pedersen bicylcle is very good for people with back problems. You sit very straight and the saddle gives you a soft ride. Here is a link to a video on youtube:
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Old 06-07-17, 10:52 AM
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Try PT and see how much mobility/flexibility you have or can get back. I wouldn't make a decision on any bike until you improve to the maximum.

You may find an endurance road bike might work, especially by changing the stem. Or a hybrid is gone. Or maybe a recumbent.

I had a cervical surgery in February with C3-C5 fusion and a lapinectomy. I'm back out riding a road bike but changed the setup substantially - no more big saddle to bar drop. I'm still in PT and keep improving every day.

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Old 06-07-17, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
... I expected those skinny 700x23 tires to be painfully harsh but the classic curved fork seemed to soak up the jolts. Turned out later the tires were a bit underinflated, around 80 psi, so we'll see how it feels later today at 100-110 psi where it probably should be for my weight (165 lbs).
i would seriously consider using the 80PSI. at about the same weight, i find that it's plenty. and go to 25mm tires, or even 28mm tires if the bike can handle them. sometimes the back is more forgiving than the front WRT tire widths.
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Old 06-07-17, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
i would seriously consider using the 80PSI. at about the same weight, i find that it's plenty. and go to 25mm tires, or even 28mm tires if the bike can handle them. sometimes the back is more forgiving than the front WRT tire widths.
Yeah, I may go back a bit on the pressure. We'll see after a ride later today at 110 psi.

The tires didn't feel too soft at around 80 psi so they may be okay. But I have no basis for comparison -- never rode such skinny tires before. I just expected the entire bike to feel like steel on chip seal -- raw, painful jolting -- and was surprised that it wasn't bad a tall. Last year I test rode a couple of Trek road bikes with aluminum frames and straight forks (I think the forks were carbon), and could feel every tiny seam in the road.

The rims are older Araya CTL-370 "Super Hard", very narrow, originally with 700x18 tires. I might try up to 700x25 after these 700x23 Vittoria Zaffiro's wear out, which probably won't be soon. Reportedly they're cheap but durable. My first time on a road bike since the 1980s so I'm not going to put much money into this bike until I've ridden it awhile as-is. Mostly it'll be getting the saddle and handlebar/stem adjusted to suit me, and working on my neck strength and flexibility.

For now I'm more worried about these skinny tires being gobbled up by ruts I usually ignore. With 700x42 tires I'm accustomed to rolling over and through most stuff. Can't get lazy that way with this road bike and skinny tires.
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Old 06-07-17, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Semipedersen View Post
I read somewhere that a Pedersen bicylcle is very good for people with back problems. You sit very straight and the saddle gives you a soft ride.
The Pedersen is another bike I considered back in 2015. As it turned out the Globe Carmel as it originally came was probably very similar in riding position and comfort -- riser bar, high stem, short reach, upright position on a comfortable saddle. Remarkably comfortable even on long rides, although not fast. I averaged 10-11 mph on rides up to 60 miles per day, with a few breaks along the way. It's well suited to casual paced group rides.

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