The new bike and how it fits is still being worked out. The more aggressive position is great for aerodynamics. However, I’m wondering how it’s going to work with my neck. The more horizontal you get on a road bike, the more risk there is for neck problems.
Because the neck can be a fragile thing…
Years ago I was driving in Paoli, Pennsylvania on a rainy night. Cresting a hill west of town, I noticed some commotion on the road ahead. There had been an accident, and a car was crushed, and a man was stumbling across the road.
I rolled to a stop in my Plymouth Arrow, trying to discern whether it was safe to pass the scene of the accident, or whether I should get out and try to help. And them BAM! A guy driving a Mustang came barreling over the hill and slammed into my rear bumper.
Perhaps I blacked out for a moment. Then I got out of the car and he was sitting behind the wheel of his vehicle just staring. I helped him out. We exchanged information.
Before we left I glanced over to see the people hurt in the other accident. There was a man collapsed on the ground with his head laid open. Not being a true witness to that accident, I left the scene.
The next day my neck got sore from the impact of the driver hitting my vehicle from behind. I had heard of the condition known as whiplash, but did not put it together with my own neck soreness. Besides, I had a 10-mile race in two days. I was going no matter what.
The neck got worse the next day. And by race day it was really stiff. So I tied a bandanna around my throat and tucked it into the shirt I was wearing in the cool March air, and ran a 53:35 10-mile, wincing all the way.
A few years after that, during a visit to a chiropractor, the x-rays he showed me demonstrated that I’d come out of that accident without much curve in my neck. The human neck normally as a bit of an arch to it. Mine didn’t.
Perhaps it was always that way. But likely not. That whiplash had created long-term effects.
For years, I cracked my neck out of habit. Bad habit. The vertebrae sometimes hissed when I rolled my neck. So I stopped cracking my neck. The only time that happens now is when I visit the chiropractor. It’s a matter of great trust to put your head in the hands of a chiropractor for a neck adjustment. She gets me to relax and then turns the head just right to get a good adjustment.
Right now I’m out of that loop. My insurance changed thanks to the free-market vagaries of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, who elected to dump the relatively good plans they had offered those of us in Illinois. So now I’m (back) in an HMO. And my chiro can’t accept HMO insurance. That’s how so many things in life are like. You turn your head for a moment and they’re gone.
There’s another aspect to the issue of turning my head, and in which I have neck concerns going forward. That is swimming. It is crucial not to develop a habit of raising your head out of the water in order to avoid neck problems. Initially, when you’re learning to swim, anything that works to keep you breathing is acceptable. But as the intervals have grown longer, from 100 to 200 to 400 to 800, it has become obvious that head and neck position while breathing is important.
So I’ve changed that aspect of my freestyle stroke. I’m careful to rotate my torso as you’re supposed to do rather than resorting to a crank or lift of the neck. Otherwise, it does get tired.
That makes sense. But I’m neck and neck with these two issues on the bike and in the pool. That long lost damage to my neck may yet be there to haunt me. So form is crucial, position is vital.
But I won’t stop necking with my girlfriend even if it means a sore neck the next day. Some things are just worth it. Hands down.