Shoulder Pain on Long Rides

By Peg Labiuk | 03/22/13

Photo: mikecpeck "The itch is about....there" via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a November 2010 question submitted by Voler E-Mail List member Sandy S., and was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

Shoulder Pain on Long Rides


Can you tell me how to avoid shoulder pain while riding, especially longer rides?  The pain is normally between my shoulder blades and sometimes really burns.  I've been fitted for my bike and have been told I have a good riding posture/form.  I'm relaxed and don't seem to be tensed.  Thank you.


Dear Sandy,

Sounds like you did your homework and took all the precautions to get a good bike and have it fitted.  However, your body is sending pain signals that something still isn't right.  You are correct to listen to it and to seek more help.

Sandy, I could guess that your seat is too far forward, your stem too low and you should do upper body strength and stretching exercises, use a kettleball, etc.  but I really wouldn't do you justice without seeing you in action.  So, here's what I'd do:


Have the position looked at again.  I recommend finding someone trained in Paul Swift's Bike Fit Systems (   Even if you send me photos or we used a webcam and Skype, I'd still want to see you moving, pedaling the bike in person, so finding someone local is best.

Physical Assessment

Get checked for muscle imbalances.  That means strength as well as tightness.  A physiotherapist or a good personal trainer knows how to do this.  They should then be able to suggest exercises to strengthen, stretch, and rebalance you.


A good massage therapist will also be able to help you assess what is tight and what is related to that physical manifestation.  And why wouldn't you want a good massage?

Practice Bike Handling

It never hurts to get better at pack riding skills so you can be efficient and relaxed.  Save your energy for efforts and conserve the rest of the time.

Your pain between the shoulder blades could still be caused by incorrect bikefit.  Because the pain usually manifests on long rides, I also think it is muscle fatigue.  A recurring theme in my responses to athletes' V-Club questions is that everything is interrelated.  So while this could be bikefit, it could also be the type of work you do, having weaker back muscles, and imbalances.  Maybe your helmet even needs adjusting.  As with any problem, make one change at a time, record it, and thoroughly test that theory before moving on.  Please continue to seek out hands-on help but fire anyone who says you have a good position and good form and shouldn't be having pain.  You are listening to your body and so should they.  Keep at it until you find a solution that works for you.

Coach Peg

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