Cycling is a wonderful way to maintain a good level of fitness and is considered a low-impact sport. However, care needs to be taken to avoid the most common injuries associated with cycling. The majority of cycling related injuries are caused by either poor riding techniques, poor bike fits or the wrong clothing.
- ACHILLES TENDONITIS
Achilles tendonitis is an injury common amongst cyclists and runners and is caused by overuse, which leads to inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It is a painful and debilitating injury which needs rest to aid recovery. The first rule before beginning a ride is to warm up and remember your feet are also part of your body. A poor bike fit may result in Achilles tendonitis. If you are unsure if your pedals are misaligned, go and ask an expert. You wouldn’t skimp when buying a helmet or reflective vest, so don’t skimp when it comes to footwear for cycling. Always wear properly fitting, good cycle shoes and don’t pedal high on the balls of your feet. Most people find the most comfortable position for the foot is to have the arch of the foot over the centre of the pedal.
- PATELLA TENDONITIS
Patella tendonitis creeps up on you slowly. It begins with a niggling pain just below the knee cap on the front of the knee and before you know it, you are unable to bear the pain and you have to hang up your cycling shoes, helmet and reflective cycling vest
. Rest is imperative to recovery. Ice packs will also help to reduce the inflammation and speed up the recovery time. However, prevention is better than cure, so ensure you warm up properly and include the muscle groups around the knee area. Include stretching and strengthening exercises in your training programme and wear proper footwear. Go to a bike specialist who can tell you if your bike is a good fit or not.
- LOWER BACK PAIN
Most lower back pain in cyclists is caused either by riding a bike which is too big or is just generally a poor fit. Other factors which add to the problem are the rider lacks flexibility or the rider’s core strength is weak. The first step to take is to go a bike fitting specialist and ask them to set up your bike for you. Even if your bike set up is only fractionally out of kilter, many hours in the saddle can slowly cause damage to your joints and your back. If the specialist tells you that you have bought the wrong bike, then, bite the bullet, think of your old age, sell it and buy one that fits. Cycling relies on core strength but it doesn’t develop it, so cyclists need to devote some time to exercise routines which build this strength. Pilates, Callanetics and yoga are excellent forms of exercise which rely on core strength and also promote flexibility. A strong core means your hips will not be seesawing back and forth across the saddle, which in turn saves you not only from back pain but also means you are not wasting unnecessary energy.
- SADDLE SORES
Saddle sores are caused by friction between your clothing, skin and the saddle. There are many different shapes and sizes of saddles to choose from, manufactured with different materials. Carefully look around and pick a saddle which fits your body shape. Invest in the best pair of seamless, padded shorts you can buy to help prevent this problem, and, remember, all cyclists go commando.
- NECK PAIN
Neck pain is caused by poor posture over a prolonged period, together with muscle weakness. Poor posture while riding can frequently be corrected with a good bike fit. The importance of a good bike fit cannot be overemphasised. Not only does it enhance performance but it also helps prevent long term injury. Strengthening and stretching exercises, like those found in Pilates and yoga will greatly assist the cyclist in avoiding neck pain. Exercises such as these also encourage good posture and discourage slouching, which is one of the causes of neck and back pain.
- NUMBNESS OF THE HANDS
Numbness and tingling of the hands is a common complaint among cyclists. One area which most cyclists forget to warm up is their hands and wrists. Try spending a couple of minutes doing wrist and hand stretches before starting your ride. Wearing padded cycling gloves and changing your hand position frequently helps alleviate the problem. Put some extra padding on your handlebars to absorb the bumps on the road. Avoid clutching the handlebars tightly in a locked position and keep your elbows slightly bent. Again perfect bike-fit comes into the picture. Your handlebars, seat and pedals must be adjusted to your fit. If the numbness and tingling in your hands is a constant problem then consider adjusting your bike so you are riding in a more upright position. This will prevent all your upper body weight bearing down on your wrists and hands.
Remember that safety on the road is important to the enjoyment of your ride, so don’t forget to wear a reflective belt
or a reflective cycling vest on all your rides.