How to Stop Getting Injured Cycling!

Getting Injured Cycling Salt Lake UT Jun23rd 2020

Let’s face it, riding a bike is awesome. Aside from being a great low-impact form of exercise, biking is just an amazing way to spend our time. Whether you’re road biking, mountain biking, racing cyclocross, riding gravel grinders, hucking gaps on your dirt jumper, sending your local skate bowl on a BMX, or just commuting around town, there’s nothing quite like spending time on two wheels.

I’ve loved being on a bike since I was a kid. Growing up in Salt Lake, some of my favorite memories are of going way too fast on my mountain bike. As I’ve gotten older, many of my favorite trips, races, and memories have been spent on the saddle of my road or mountain bike. Like many two-wheel devotees, I’ve squandered a ridiculous amount money on expensive bikes and components, and spend hours of my hard-earned weekend spinning the cranks somewhere far away from the comforts of home.

Let’s face it though, riding a bike can cause some aches and pains. Although it’s low impact, spending hours in a cramped cockpit putting out watts can do a number on your knees, back, neck, and hands. Several studies place the rate of overuse injuries amongst cyclists anywhere from 42.8%-62%. ***Talk to anyone who rides a bike frequently enough, and chances are most will tell you that they have suffered from injury and pain at one point or another.

How can we prevent this? Is there a way to enjoy a lifetime of healthy biking without beating up our bodies? Read on:

Make your equipment work for you

The first step is to make sure your bike fits you correctly. Of course, the first step is to get a bike that is the correct size. Too small, and you will feel cramped in the cockpit. Too large, and you’ll be stretched out.

Beyond this, it’s crucial to dial in your setup to fit your body. While there are plenty of YouTube videos available to show you how to do this on your own, it’s worth spending more to seek out a professional who knows how to get everything just right. If your bike doesn’t fit, everything else will be an uphill battle.

Technique

What makes the pros look so smooth while they ride? Practice and years on the bike of course. But if you break down their technique, you’ll see some things they all have in common. Technique really deserves its own post, but these are a couple of big changes you can make to minimize stress on your joints and soft tissues:

-Elbow position: keep your elbows slightly bent. Riding with straight elbows rounds your upper back, causing your lower back to round and forcing you to overextend your neck. Bending your elbows also helps with absorbing shock and reducing jarring to your body.

-Knee alignment: Don’t let your knees bend inward toward or outward away from the bike during your down stroke. This places too much stress on your knees, especially when you’re laying down a lot of watts or doing a difficult climb. Try keeping your knee cap lined up right over your second toe as your pedal.

-Excessive side-to-side body movement: It’s best to keep your core tight and your spine straight, focusing on driving your power from your hips rather than throwing your body or the bike side to side while pedaling. Try imagining you’re balancing a glass of water on your head while you ride, and you don’t want to spill the glass.

Flexibility

If you don’t have good flexibility of your hips, hamstrings, or calves, your body will need to find some kind of compensation strategy to allow you to complete the pedal stroke.

For example, tight hamstrings will force your pelvis backward when you’re sitting in the cockpit, causing your spine to round and placing your lower back soft tissues in a stressful positions.

Not having enough flexibility in your psoas muscle, which is one of your most important hip flexors located in the front of your hip, will make it difficulty to correctly extend your hip in line with your torso, and you will be forced to rotate your spine to compensate for this lack of movement.

Finally, poor calf flexibility forces the rider to pedal with the foot and ankle slightly pointed, making it difficult for the knee to fully straighten and line up over the toe correctly. This places excessive stress on the knee joint resulting in pain and injury.

Working on your general flexibility is key, especially if you have tightness in some of these areas. A general flexibility program, performed consistently, can be helpful for this.

Core strength

Imagine you’re firing a cannon. Now take that cannon, and drop it into a canoe floating in the open ocean. The cannon could be the most accurate, fine-tuned machine in the world, but if you’re trying to fire it from an unstable place, there is no way you’re going to be accurate.

Now imagine your legs are the cannons. You spend a lot of time on your legs, take a lot of pride in your cycling quads. But if your core is weak (which it is in many, many cyclists), you will waste energy and valuable watts every time you use those python legs to spin the cranks. Not to mention place increased stress on your lower and upper back. If your core can’t hold your spine stable when you apply power, you will struggle to transfer energy to the pedals and will lose watts to excessive spinal movement.

If you’re a mountain biker or freestyle rider, you need an even stronger core to stabilize the quick, high-power bursts produced to negotiate technical terrain, jumps, drops, etc.

Posture is king


When you ride, focus on keeping your spine straight and hinging from the hips rather than your lower back. Here’s a good side-by-side of correct vs. incorrect:

Hinging at the hips correctly is crucial. It allows your hip muscles to be in their ideal length and position to fire. Your gluts are the biggest, most efficient muscles in your body, so wouldn’t you want to put them in a position to do their best work?

Work all of these factors into your rides and pre-ride prep, and you will build your body into a more resilient cycling machine. Happy riding!

Hinging at the hips correctly is crucial. It allows your hip muscles to be in their ideal length and position to fire. Your gluts are the biggest, most efficient muscles in your body, so wouldn’t you want to put them in a position to do their best work?

Work all of these factors into your rides and pre-ride prep, and you will build your body into a more resilient cycling machine. For more information contact us today. Happy riding!

Cycling #BikePhysicalTherapy #bikePT #LowBackPain #MountainBikingInjury #RoadBikingInjury #InjuryPrevention

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