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I’m really feeling these miles, would a full suspention bike help?

Saturday, July 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

July
23
2011
Trek Fuel EX 9. Drool.

Trek Fuel EX 9. Drool.

For quite a few months now I’ve had a weird sort of pulled muscle feeling on the right side of my back. The pain is not in my lower back (which, by the way, has given me absolutely no trouble since I stopped deadlifts and squats); it’s sort of in the middle-right of my back. It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly where the pain is because it’s so deep. Like I said, it’s been bothering me for many months now, but the weird thing is that it gives me no trouble when I’m actually lifting or mountain biking. I mainly notice it in the background when I’m not doing anything strenuous.

The pain has been more noticeable lately, and I wonder if it’s due to how many miles I’ve been mountain biking recently? The terrain is really rough where I ride, and I’m constantly riding over very large roots and rocks, pulling up on the handlebars to bunny hop over obstacles and jumping off of small kickers. I’m sure all the hours spent jarring my nearly 43 year-old body takes its toll.

Right now I’m riding a hardtail (the Trek 4300 Disc), so there is no rear suspension. Something that I think might help with my back issues is a full suspension bike, which would really smooth out the trail. Of course when I’m riding over rough stuff I lift off the saddle and use my legs to help cushion the blows, but my body is still absorbing quite a bit of the shock.

My question is to those of you who have moved from a hardtail to a full squish: how much did the change help with regards to smoothing things out on the trail? Did you notice less pain after long rides? I’m riding between 60-90 miles per week, and it’s almost all on very rough trails. Do you think a full-suspension bike would help?

No matter what kind of condition I keep myself in, my body is still aging and I have to accept that. I don’t want to create issues down the road by subjecting myself to constant forces that I simply can’t handle at this age. Thoughts?

John Stone Fitness Comments

5 Responses to “I’m really feeling these miles, would a full suspention bike help?”
  1. Full suspension is the way to go for the long haul. Not sure if the Trek is your best bet as the Fuel is geared more toward a race bike. You might look at a Giant Trance as I believe has more travel and a superior suspension design. The Trek is basically a single pivot which will stiffen up under braking and acceleration where the Giant will remain active. Others to look at are the Specialized Stumpjumper line. One thing I notice about your riding John, is everytime I see a picture of your bike your seat is way too low, I’m not sure if it is always at that height? But if you are pedaling long distances without getting full extension out of your legs then it will take its toll on your lower back and hips. You probably keep your seat low to have better control in the techy stuff which is good but maybe you should consider an adjustable seatpost so you can raise and lower your seat from a handlebar remote.

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    • Thanks for the input, Craig.

      I think you might be thinking of the Trek’s “Top Fuel” line of bikes, not the Fuel EX bikes. The Fuel EX bikes are definitely more singletrack bikes than a race bikes. Also, the Fuel EX line of bikes don’t stiffen under braking thanks to Active Braking Pivot (ABP)–that’s a huge selling point of the EX bikes. 🙂

      My seat used to be set waaaaay too low. I raised it way up a while back, and I’m getting very close to full extension now. I’m not sure if you’ve seen any of my more recent pictures? I do have to keep it slightly lower than what would give me just shy of knee lockout because (as you mentioned) I can’t have it that high and lean the bike enough through the tech.

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  2. You are right about the Fuel EX being a trail bike, my bad. But ABP is pure advertising. For the rear to be active under braking and power the pivot needs to be in front of the rear axle. In the Giant suspension it is in front of the axle as it is actually in the link at the bottom bracket. I have ridden both at Interbike and trust me it stiffens under braking, not as bad as some other single pivot designs but it still does. Not a trait you would desire when hitting the brakes on a rooty section. I am a Horst link (or 4 bar or FSR) suspension guy, all my bikes have this, its the best, proven active system there is. Giant with their Maestro, SantaCruz with VPP,& DW link bikes all are a good design but not as active as Horst Link. Horst bikes are more expensive due to they have to pay for use of the patent Specialized has on it which has spurred all these new designs. My advice, see if you can find a shop that will let you demo the Trek on the trail and also demo a giant & specialized. I think you will notice a difference but what matters most is that you like the bike and feel comfortable no matter what suspension design it has. One final note, look into an remote adjustable seatpost. Its the best MTB invention in the last 10 years. Nothing beats being able to drop your post an inch or two to hit a technical section then extend it fully for a fast climb.
    http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/trance.x2/7321/44096/

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    • Thanks for the great advice, Craig. I think the subject of Trek’s ABP is one of those things that people will never agree on. Some people say it’s awesome, and some people are in your camp. What’s nice is that my LBS will allow me to return any bike within 30 days for a 100% refund (assuming I don’t trash the bike, of course).

      The adjustable seatpost is definitely an upgrade that would be useful to me.

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  3. Hey Craig, I just rode the EX 8 (along with quite a few other bikes), and I’m afraid I don’t at all agree with your assessment of ABP as “pure advertising”. I rode the bike over some pretty rough stuff: once with no brakes applied and once while applying the brakes heavily. The suspension was fully active both times, and I felt no stiffening while breaking. Do you think you may have ridden a bum bike at Interbike, or a previous year’s model (I rode a 2011)?

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