was it something I did wrong?



bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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I have been leading a 'car-free' cycling life for about two years now, morphing between road and recumbent bikes. This Summer I decided to, for the most part, use my road bike for work commuting (five miles to-and fro). I work with kids in the Summer, which instantly translates into 'active' living (working). About one weekafter I 1- fell down roller skating, hitting the side of my right leg, and 2- an unusually rigorous three mile walk at one trip site, I had three bouts of what seemed to be sciatica, TWO bad enough to drag me to the hospital. The first kinda came on late one night, after I discovered that Ibuprofen was NOT effective for relief. The second worked its way on me during a trip to see relatives, from simple walking. This one was SOMEWHAT allieviated with emergency 'Saturday Call' with my father's chiropractor. The treatment made me walk funny toward one side for a while, but it DID help some with the pain. The third occurred after I decided that I was 'Superman' once again, and decided to pick up a small dresser (to move it, but instead of getting close to it, I picked it up about arm's length).

Chiropractic AND PT was at my disposal (ala HMO), but the PT was quick to respond so I started there. I was given a regimen of stretch exercizes to do daily, and in two weeks, I felt better, overall. More importantly, however, might have been the changes that I made to my upright road bike: Before the incidents, I added a stem adapter to give me a more 'upright' back position on the bike. Man, the road bars were up higher than the seat (the top bar, anyway). Additionally, the seat stem was about three inches out of the seat post. While it gave a great view, in retrospect it might have been jarring my lower back at every bump. NOW, after two sources confirmed that my seat needed to be higher (one source gave a formula, the other a general idea (6 inches above the seat post hole)), I raised it. Further, I junked the handle bar 'extender' (you know, the 'Aheadset' extender), and lowered the road bar on its OWN post about half way down.

Granted, My UPPER back felt what is best described as 'discomfort' for a few days or so, but I figured that 'discomfort' was a far cry better than excrutiating pain shooting straight down to my TOES! Also, I have adopted the practice of stretching my upper back while riding the upright. The first few days seemed like constant 'cracking' in my upper back, NOW I hardly notice it!

The question NOW is, should I DITCH the recumbents (Haluzak Horizon, Lightning Thunderbolt, Rotator Pursuit) all together? I tried the Thunderbolt today and, even after shortening the tube a bit, I still 'got that feeling' a little AFTER I rode it. Even though I attribute the 'back' problem to a poor set-up on the ROAD bike, the question still remains in MY mind: Could this be the 'Dirty little secret' of recumbency, or do I need adjustments THERE as well? Or do I need to pick either (road OR recumbent), and CHUCK the other, to be relegated to one FOR EVER?:confused:

I would appreciate any comments, experiences similar to this (namely the sciatica/piriformis syndrome), and how others came through this ordeal. As for me, it presently looks like the road bike, with less time on the '52 chainring:( .
 

bentbrian

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Jul 7, 2004
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bentupright said:
I have been leading a 'car-free' cycling life for about two years now, morphing between road and recumbent bikes. This Summer I decided to, for the most part, use my road bike for work commuting (five miles to-and fro). I work with kids in the Summer, which instantly translates into 'active' living (working). About one weekafter I 1- fell down roller skating, hitting the side of my right leg, and 2- an unusually rigorous three mile walk at one trip site, I had three bouts of what seemed to be sciatica, TWO bad enough to drag me to the hospital. The first kinda came on late one night, after I discovered that Ibuprofen was NOT effective for relief. The second worked its way on me during a trip to see relatives, from simple walking. This one was SOMEWHAT allieviated with emergency 'Saturday Call' with my father's chiropractor. The treatment made me walk funny toward one side for a while, but it DID help some with the pain. The third occurred after I decided that I was 'Superman' once again, and decided to pick up a small dresser (to move it, but instead of getting close to it, I picked it up about arm's length).

Chiropractic AND PT was at my disposal (ala HMO), but the PT was quick to respond so I started there. I was given a regimen of stretch exercizes to do daily, and in two weeks, I felt better, overall. More importantly, however, might have been the changes that I made to my upright road bike: Before the incidents, I added a stem adapter to give me a more 'upright' back position on the bike. Man, the road bars were up higher than the seat (the top bar, anyway). Additionally, the seat stem was about three inches out of the seat post. While it gave a great view, in retrospect it might have been jarring my lower back at every bump. NOW, after two sources confirmed that my seat needed to be higher (one source gave a formula, the other a general idea (6 inches above the seat post hole)), I raised it. Further, I junked the handle bar 'extender' (you know, the 'Aheadset' extender), and lowered the road bar on its OWN post about half way down.

Granted, My UPPER back felt what is best described as 'discomfort' for a few days or so, but I figured that 'discomfort' was a far cry better than excrutiating pain shooting straight down to my TOES! Also, I have adopted the practice of stretching my upper back while riding the upright. The first few days seemed like constant 'cracking' in my upper back, NOW I hardly notice it!

The question NOW is, should I DITCH the recumbents (Haluzak Horizon, Lightning Thunderbolt, Rotator Pursuit) all together? I tried the Thunderbolt today and, even after shortening the tube a bit, I still 'got that feeling' a little AFTER I rode it. Even though I attribute the 'back' problem to a poor set-up on the ROAD bike, the question still remains in MY mind: Could this be the 'Dirty little secret' of recumbency, or do I need adjustments THERE as well? Or do I need to pick either (road OR recumbent), and CHUCK the other, to be relegated to one FOR EVER?:confused:

I would appreciate any comments, experiences similar to this (namely the sciatica/piriformis syndrome), and how others came through this ordeal. As for me, it presently looks like the road bike, with less time on the '52 chainring:( .
Several years ago I blew a disk out in my lower back which resulted in a severely pinched sciatic nerve. The PT after the injury was a lot of walking, as much as I could stand plus a healthy dose of anti-inflammatories. Included were some stretching exercises which I found of limited value and very painful. As time went on the doc allowed me to do some very limited riding on my road bike, smooth surfaces only. After about a year he allowed me to resume my horseback riding to a limited degree, no cantering/galloping, and I have to post the trot. This holds true even today. This spring I resumed cycling after a 6-7 year hiatus and found that the road bike was just too uncomfortable everywhere. After going over all of the fit adjustments and giving myself some time to acclimate I decided that my body just couldn't deal with it any more. I switched to a recumbent. I have no lower back pain, in fact nothing hurts any more. I'm going distances and riding like I did on my road bike when I was 30 (I'm 53 now). I've found that the reclined seat tends to put any bumps an jarring in a plane that does not bother my back even though my bike is a RANS Tailwind CLWB which has a slightly more upright position than a typical SWB bike. In your case I would not abandon the 'bent unless you are in a lot of pain riding it and/or are damaging your back farther. Get a good orthopaedic doctor and if necessary have some MRI's done so what is going on in your back can be observed.

'bent Brian
 

pwpaton

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Sep 26, 2004
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I had a similar experience. I herniated two disks in my lower back trying to put a heavy de-humidifier in my car while bending at the waste. I was in extreme pain in my lower back and down my left leg to the ankle for about 7 months and forced to sleep in a recliner as I couldn't lay in a bed. Months of PT and Chiropractic proved useless and the Chiropractor actually referred me to a pain management specialist who had MRIs done of my complete spine, then treated me with a series of cortizone-steriod injections into the spine (sounds worse than it was). He also prescribed some heavy-duty pain killers so I could finally get some sleep and suggested I loose about 40 lbs to reduce the load on my spine. After 5 visits, I was relatively pain-free and have been ever since. I'll never be completely pain-free due to some permanent nerve damage, but I can ride again with no problems. I also find recumbents are better for me and ride either my Rans Stratus XL or my new Catrike Speed (a real riot). Actually, the more I ride the better I feel so I ride as often as my job and the weather allow. I'm sure that riding hunched over on a DF bike would have the opposite effect as it would cause the disk to bulge back towards spinal cord and pinch the nerves more.

Patrick
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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Thanks for the replies, gentlemen. If I'm reading these correctly, NONE of the back injuries in question ORIGINATED from bicycle riding, correct? RATHER, regardless of the CAUSE of the pain, you both naturally gravitated to recumbents as transportation/recreation AFTER the injuries, correct?

Also, sorry to say, MRIs are not an option for me, as I have had metal staples placed in my skull, and I have been told that, even OPEN MRIs (you know, the ones performed WITHOUT the need of a resonant cavity) cannot be done. Somehow, with the examinations performed by three different physicians, it all points to the same way: the 'sciatic-like' pain (sometimes radiating down to my TOE, right side ONLY) was induced by a tightening piriformis muscle, NOT a back injury in and of itself (hard to believe, considering the DEGREE of pain, but NOT hard to believe, considering the comparatively SHORT span of 'reasonable' recovery). Appearently, the PT CLAIMS that the piriformis was doing all of the 'pinching' on the psiatic nerve. Compared to your experiences, it would seem to be a different animal requiring a little 'tweaking' in efforts to PREVENT it from BECOMING a long-term, more disabling condition! While the pain WAS bad enough to warrant muscle relaxers (flexeril) and pain killers (hydrocodone), about TWO DAYS LATER and I STOPPED that dope (I also 'slowed down' a bit on the recumbent, and placed a pillow under my 'bottom' on the Haluzak recumbent, and limited myself to basic to-and-fro work-home trips)! I therefore concluded that the PT was probably correct in her analysis: No REAL back injury, as you both seem VERY familiar with!

By the way: with a five mile commute, going down to a 42/21 or 42/18 gear combination only adds between 5-10 minutes, so I figure that the 'rest' would be a small sacrifice, if not encouragement to admire the view a little more! Hey, at 33 years old, I am starting to place LESS focus on SPEED, MORE on ENDURANCE: No longer am I childishly looking at the fastest, lightest, smallest, exotic super-metal road racers: NOW I'm panting at the Trek 520s, the Bruce Gordon BLTs/Rock-n-roads, Sackitts and other road TOURING 'beasts'!;)
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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Thanks, again, pwpaton. That article confirmed my suspicion by putting to rest the question of psiatica vs. piriformis syndrome. The pain from my lower back ORIGINALLY had me looking at psiatica as the ONLY answer (and hanging up EVERY bike in my mind as the ONLY answer!:( ). Now I see that piriformis even involves the back, as well as (not only) the leg, the battle seems much less hopeless! Gotta try that 'tennis ball' exercise, along with the PT prescribed regimen that I do now (leg stretches, cat-cow stretch, prone on arms, trunk rotation, knee-to-chest, wall lean stretch, etc.)!

I came up on an intersection to work yesterday morning, WELL in advance of (an otherwise advancing) car, assumed road center (to trip the light), leaving plenty of room for those 'fools' who 'make their own' right hand turn lane. The bitty rides up beside me (AFTER honking her horn), rolls down her window, and says, "Don't you know that cars are made for that?"

I said nothing, but I'm still thinking of a good comeback. how's this: "You know, I, too, used to have that kind of anger bottled up inside of myself, but then I started weekly coffee enemas!"

I suppose adding a line like, "Try one for your head!" might be PUSHING the issue, huh?:rolleyes: ;)

Happy and safe cycling!
 

bentbrian

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Jul 7, 2004
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bentupright said:
Thanks, again, pwpaton. That article confirmed my suspicion by putting to rest the question of psiatica vs. piriformis syndrome. The pain from my lower back ORIGINALLY had me looking at psiatica as the ONLY answer (and hanging up EVERY bike in my mind as the ONLY answer!:( ). Now I see that piriformis even involves the back, as well as (not only) the leg, the battle seems much less hopeless! Gotta try that 'tennis ball' exercise, along with the PT prescribed regimen that I do now (leg stretches, cat-cow stretch, prone on arms, trunk rotation, knee-to-chest, wall lean stretch, etc.)!

I came up on an intersection to work yesterday morning, WELL in advance of (an otherwise advancing) car, assumed road center (to trip the light), leaving plenty of room for those 'fools' who 'make their own' right hand turn lane. The bitty rides up beside me (AFTER honking her horn), rolls down her window, and says, "Don't you know that cars are made for that?"

I said nothing, but I'm still thinking of a good comeback. how's this: "You know, I, too, used to have that kind of anger bottled up inside of myself, but then I started weekly coffee enemas!"

I suppose adding a line like, "Try one for your head!" might be PUSHING the issue, huh?:rolleyes: ;)

Happy and safe cycling!
With some lights it is necessary to allow a vehicle to trip it. In that case I slip forward enough to allow the vehicle behind/beside me to trip the lights. In this case I think she was being a bit put off because you were "in the middle of the road" with your bike where she felt you didn't belong. Unfortunately most if not all drivers' ed programs don't teach the rights and responsibilities of other vehicles that use the road and most if not all drivers are ignorant when it comes to these things. Well, then again maybe a coffee enema would help her! He, He!

'bent Brian
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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It was nothing involving the light tripper, Brian. I have been at this intersection enough to know exactly WHERE and HOW to trip it with my bike. I was wrong in being courteous enough to GIVE her the room needed to make her 'right on red' turn! Next time I'll get that single speed 50 inch:eek: dual rear wheel trike (wheels spread out about 40+ inches) from Rideable Bicycle Replicas, and REALLY show her what being rude is ALL about! And why not, considering that Florida's state animal is the dually-wheeled Hemi truck (you know, the ones that NEVER see a speck of mud in their life), with lawn mower trailer on the back!:rolleyes:
Remember, no good deed will go unpunished! Next time, I'll get quasi-centered enough to make a passing right impossible, although here in FL, everyone seems okay with making their OWN 'dedicated' right hand turn lanes. If I ever come across enough money to justify it, I might look into an Abrams Tank, 'gas 'er up', and start making my OWN right turn lanes by knocking down the traffic light systems (support poles) in the process. After they chase me for three hours or so, and I come out, I can simply explain that I was doing the same thing that every other red neck here has been doing, only with a 'better' tool. Do you think that they would buy THAT one?:D
 

bentbrian

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Jul 7, 2004
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bentupright said:
It was nothing involving the light tripper, Brian. I have been at this intersection enough to know exactly WHERE and HOW to trip it with my bike. I was wrong in being courteous enough to GIVE her the room needed to make her 'right on red' turn! Next time I'll get that single speed 50 inch:eek: dual rear wheel trike (wheels spread out about 40+ inches) from Rideable Bicycle Replicas, and REALLY show her what being rude is ALL about! And why not, considering that Florida's state animal is the dually-wheeled Hemi truck (you know, the ones that NEVER see a speck of mud in their life), with lawn mower trailer on the back!:rolleyes:
Remember, no good deed will go unpunished! Next time, I'll get quasi-centered enough to make a passing right impossible, although here in FL, everyone seems okay with making their OWN 'dedicated' right hand turn lanes. If I ever come across enough money to justify it, I might look into an Abrams Tank, 'gas 'er up', and start making my OWN right turn lanes by knocking down the traffic light systems (support poles) in the process. After they chase me for three hours or so, and I come out, I can simply explain that I was doing the same thing that every other red neck here has been doing, only with a 'better' tool. Do you think that they would buy THAT one?:D
Well she was behind you and you were in her way. No reason for her to get ****** though.

Unfortunately the last guy who got ****** and ran through town in a tank got hauled off to the pokey. However you are not the only one who has expressed those exact same sentiments! Years ago a former colleague of mine said exactly the same thing as we sat in traffic! Ever thought about getting one of those air horns for those idiots that cut you off in the bike lane? I guess they work pretty good. Idiot drivers seem to be the one constant thing on the roads.

'bent Brian
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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Fellow Cyclists,

I have now been using the upright for better than a month since my last post, for commuting to-and-fro work, and have been for the most part satisfied as far as pain avoidance is concerned. However, my gearing activities have in large part been relegated to the 42 chainring, with the 'low' end gears (18-23) favored on the rear. In fact it has only been a week ago that I really felt the desire to go for the 52 chainring up front (something like a 52/20 combination), and really pound it out ala muscle (gear mashing), albeit brief. Only once have I taken the 'long' (12 mile trip around town, two bridges to go up) to work in the morning. I feel that I've 'lost it' or have fell into a 'no man's land' of a rut that I can't seem to get out of.

Today I ressurected the Lightning Thunderbolt from the 'ash heap', and tried it out for commuting 6 mi. morn/6 mi. eve commute trip, and after the morning trip to work those SAME rear muscles in my right thigh and into my bottom started flaring up a little. I brought the pedals in a little closer before riding it back home this evening, and it seems to have left a little LESS pain there so far (but compared to the DF road bike, it's MUCH easier to be tempted into doing gear mashing instead of spinning!).

I donno why: With the upright, it's all spinning and virtually no mashing, with recumbent it's virtually the opposite (if I'm not careful to watch and pace myself). Any ideas as to why?:confused: What to do?:confused:

Maybe I need to ditch it all, accept limitation and go back to some commuter- comfort-bike something-or-other? I've also wondered if toying around with the crank lengths (SHORTENING them) would make any difference (shorten crank=lessen range of motion, perhaps ENCOURAGE the focus more to faster reps and less on mashing???):confused:
 

John Riley

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May 3, 2003
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If you are going to play with adjustments on the recumbent, I would include seat back angle, possibly more laid back.

Don't worry about generalizations; just do whatever works for you.
 

LioNiNoiL

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Sep 29, 2004
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bentupright said:
Even though I attribute the 'back' problem to a poor set-up on the ROAD bike, the question still remains in MY mind: Could this be the 'Dirty little secret' of recumbency
Say what?!
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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LioNiNoiL said:
Say what?!
I know that it's been a while on this thread (re: recumbents and back pain), LioNiNoil, but what at the time seemed to be a back/psiatica injury CAUSED by recumbent bikes:eek: still seems to hold true.

For the last 2-3 months I have been doing MOSTLY upright road riding (this, after two cases of emergency room visits for extreme lower back/entire leg pain, radiating down to my right TOES:( ), and I have taken a couple of turns at three DIFFERENT recumbent bikes: Two are SWBs (Horizon, Thunderbolt), one LWB (Pursuit). Each time after anywhere from twenty minutes to twelve miles (6 morn/ 6 eve commute) I get a sense of that SAME area and type of pain in my leg! Naturally I have an aversion to inducing pain, as MOST humans do, so I STOP!

Granted, the upright road places the more common pains ( hands/wrists, neck), but I'll take discomfort over pain, ANY day!

NOW, if I associate this recurring pain to pedalling while on my 'rump' (vs. sitting on my crotch), then that PROBABLY dismisses 99% of recumbent bicycles, be they 3 wheel or two. Maybe I should look for a low-rider recumbent that places me more FLAT on my BACK (not my bottom) for support? What recumbents are those, the M5 and the 16/16 wheeled Australian-made trikes??
 

LioNiNoiL

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Sep 29, 2004
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bentupright said:
what at the time seemed to be a back/psiatica injury CAUSED by recumbent bikes:eek: still seems to hold true.
Okay, let's say that analysis is 100% correct; I've been riding recumbents since 1991, and I've never before heard of anyone developing such injury on a recumbent, so the insinuation of some "dirty little secret" still seems *way* out of line.
Maybe I should look for a low-rider recumbent that places me more FLAT on my BACK (not my bottom) for support? What recumbents are those, the M5 and the 16/16 wheeled Australian-made trikes??
I have an M5 CMPCT, and the seat is a lot more laid-back than most recumbents, but when I measured the angle, I found it was only about 35 degrees from vertical, which may not be enough to make any difference for you.
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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LioNiNoiL said:
Okay, let's say that analysis is 100% correct; I've been riding recumbents since 1991, and I've never before heard of anyone developing such injury on a recumbent, so the insinuation of some "dirty little secret" still seems *way* out of line.
I have an M5 CMPCT, and the seat is a lot more laid-back than most recumbents, but when I measured the angle, I found it was only about 35 degrees from vertical, which may not be enough to make any difference for you.
I dunno... If not psiatica alone, I'm STILL considering PERIFORMIS induced psiatica. Whatever it is, that mudda HURTS, when it's shaken up enough! Being in any of them (probably moreso those w/ small, 20 inch wheels), I feel an insatiable ability/need to 'gear crunch'. Maybe I have been overdoing it with them, considering the fact that most of my cycling on the upright has been relegated to 42 chainring spin, spin, spin... (little, if any, 52 chainring mash, mash, mash...)
 

Ken-the-Troll

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Dec 18, 2004
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I had a psiatica problem simular to yours on my BikeE AT a year and a half ago. My internist sent me to PT for a month. The exercises I learned from PT helped a lot, but when I changed the angle of the seat back to the most layed out position the pain went away.

This August we bought 2 Rans V-Rexes and I love the fact that I can change the seat angle far more than I could on the old BikeEs. However, the PT also taught me that the key to lowering the chances of
psiatica pain was to stablize the lower spine and keeping the hip from excessive rotations as I peddled. In my case the bent allows me to plant my butt against the back of the seat and by keeping it there the lower spine doen't move. Keeping my backside against the seat back gives me support to use the full strength of my legs to give me a good rate of speed. You must always remember to keep a comfortable cadance and avoid the temptation to power your way up a hill or to high speed. Doing that can damage the cartillage in your knees and that hurts even more than the psiatica.
 

blazingpedals

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Oct 18, 2004
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I've been lurking on this thread for quite a while, and I have to say, I'm puzzled as to why any bent would apparently cause back problems. In fact, the opposite is the norm. Here's a list of possibilities I can come up with:
1. pedals too far from seat, causing gap between lower back and seatback?
2. lifting the thing and pulling a muscle?
3. contortions required to get on it?
4. caused by road shock transmitted up the seat?
Of the bikes you listed, none are particularly heavy, but they have fairly upright seats. The Haluzak has a little bit more 'open' pedaling position, which may make a difference one way or the other. Backs are funny things. Sometimes the thing you'd think would help, doesn't, and vice-versa. It would be counter-intuitive (and counter to most experience) to say that bents are bad for backs, but it may well be true that bents are bad for YOUR back. Check the fit of your bents, perhaps test ride other models, but in the end you've got to go with what works for you. If that means giving up bents, so be it. Check in and let us know how it's going.
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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Update from Bentupright:


As of late I 'ressurrected' the Rotator Pursuit LWB recumbent and after a week on it I did not feel PAIN:D but a certain mild discomfort that started building toward the end of the week. It might also be finnicky frustrations that I had with it: the gear shifting not as cooperative (nor versitile) as the Trek 1000, but after the week I decided to go BACK to the upright road! Looking back on things, the last 4 months or so might have been the only time which, as far as road bikes go, I placed a long stem under the drop bars (no short stem, no stem bolt elevators, no aero bars for my arms), and just used it 'au naturale'. Granted, the first couple of weeks I was cracking my back after the five mile commute (still do, sometimes), it SEEMS to be doing better now.

I myself, however, am NOT! The doctor is experimenting with other medications for my epilepsy problem, and considering the possibility of falling off, I have every reason to go to a recumbent trike. Thing is, as explained in another post, I BELIEVE that one such as the Greenspeed 16/16 or the Catrike Speed, with something to cradle more of my whole back, might prevent that fiasco that I experienced before. Problem is, no shop nearby carries all of them to examine, and other than a rather 'Plain-Jane' stat of how high the seat is above ground, that tells me little about how well I might be cradled by these contraptions (at least, I believe, not as accurately as actually being in one!). Anyway, something like one of those guys (suggestions desired), and my feet bolted to the pedals ala 'SpeedPlay' pedals should offer a respectable degree of safety during a petit/gran mal, no?:confused:
 

bentupright

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Sep 27, 2004
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Hot Mover also looks like a possibility, or greenspeed 16/16, or Catrike Speed. Anyone see any difference between this calibre of trike, and the seat arrangement on my present Haluzak Horizon and Lightning Thunderbolt? The pictures (and my limited experience) would seem to indicate two opposing designs: One that has seats with a fairly wide range of adjustment, but pedals that stay fairly low (my present bikes), the second design that makes a fairly unadjustable sling mesh seat, but pedals up relatively high (relative to the seat, perhaps placing me in more of a 'cradled' position, much like the designs followed by recumbent two-wheelers classified as 'low racers'), and this might be to my benefit. :confused:
 

kevinclimber

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Sep 7, 2005
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when building a delta style trike which axle design is the best to use for the chain management system.this is my first attempt and just curious.checking out different websites but pics not very clear and info. is not for the beginner.