Cycling is a sport that you can enjoy for your whole life. It’s low-impact, great for your heart and muscles, and a fantastic way to work out – whether you’re on an indoor cycle, or biking in the great outdoors.
But a cycling injury can derail your training program, and affect your ability to enjoy riding your bicycle. In a worst-case scenario, you may even have to stop cycling altogether while you recover.
So in this article, we’ll go over some of the most common cycling injuries, and give you some tips on how to recognize them – and avoid them. By doing so, you’ll be able to ensure that you stay healthy and active on your bicycle for years to come. Let’s get started!
Knee Pain And Damage
Knee injuries are one of the most common injuries in the sport, due to the high amount of strain put on the knees while pedaling. Partly, this is due to the usage of clipless pedals – when you fasten your feet directly to the pedals, you cannot adjust your position easily, and you could end up injuring your knees if you are not positioning your knees properly.
The result is a sharp knee pain that will not go away. If you start to experience knee pain, chances are that your pedals and cleats are not properly positioned – so here are a few tips on how to position your legs when cycling.
- Align the angle of your cleats properly. If your feet tend to point outward or slightly inward when you stand, you should mimic this angle when you pedal. This helps minimize knee strain, and prevent injuries.
- Adjust your saddle to the proper height. Ideally, you want a 90-degree bend in your knee when you are at the top of your pedal stroke, and you want your leg to remain slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
- Adjust your fore-and-aft position so that the widest part of your foot is over the pedal axle. This will ensure that you’re not too far forward or too far back when pedaling, which can cause knee strain.
Take the time to make sure that you are pedaling properly, and that you are not experiencing any tightness or pain in your knee. Trust us – it’s worth taking the time to nail down the proper cycling position. You’ll avoid both pain and injury.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is another common injury that is caused by improper biking position. When you’re cycling, a lot of strain is placed on your back, and your back muscles must support your spine, often for multiple hours, without a break.
To avoid this, it’s important to adjust your position and find a bike frame that allows you to sit with your back straight. Your back muscles are the most effective when they are flexed and straight, and supporting the spine.
If your back is rounded, they will not support your abdomen and your spine properly. Over time, this can result in lower back pain, which can be quite debilitating and difficult to treat.
Another way you can avoid back pain when cycling is to focus on strengthening both your abs and your lower back when cross-training. The abdominal muscles and the back muscles work together to protect your spine, so make sure that you stretch them and do your best to build them up with proper exercises. This will help prevent lower back pain.
Achilles Tendonitis is an overuse of the Achilles tendon, which causes inflammation. The Achilles tendon is one of the most important tendons used when cycling, because it helps you position your feet properly, and provides power during the downstroke while you’re on the bike.
You’ll usually notice a bit of pain and throbbing in the tendon, which is located at the rear of your foot, above the heel. As soon as you notice any kind of pain or irritation, stop riding.
You should rest, and stop cycling for at least a few days. If there is any swelling, you can ice the tendon, and take an anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen to reduce pain and discomfort.
To prevent Achilles tendonitis, you need to make sure that your saddle is positioned properly. If it’s too high, or your foot position is wrong, your toes may be perpetually pointing downwards. This results in a constant contraction and engagement of the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon, which can cause strain and discomfort.
Strains And Sprains Due To Muscle Tightness
Stretching is one of the most important things that you can do as a cyclist. Many cyclists have tight hamstrings and calves – and you may not even notice this, because your body has adapted to the motion of cycling.
But if you try another exercise – such as running or using an elliptical – and you notice that your calves and hamstrings feel tight and uncomfortable, you could be at risk of an injury.
Tightness leads to tearing, strains, and sprains, which can put you out of commission for days or weeks. This becomes even more of a concern on longer rides, because tired muscles are less able to compensate for muscle tightness.
So, what should you do to avoid these injuries? Simple – make sure to always warm up before you ride, and cool down afterward. It’s a good idea to do some basic stretches before hopping on your exercise bike in your home gym, or heading outside on your bicycle.
You may even want to start with a different exercise, such as a short, brisk walk, to make sure your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are ready for your ride. You’ll also want to take the first 5-10 minutes of your ride slow, to warm yourself up.
Then, at the end of your workout, do a 5-10 minute cooldown, and use a foam roller and do some stretches to keep your muscles from tightening up.
Prevention is the best medicine – so don’t skip these steps!
Cyclists don’t like to talk about it – but saddle sores are a real concern, particularly if you cycle regularly, or are training for a long race and are spending a lot of time in the saddle.
The friction between your skin, your bike shorts, and your saddle can lead to rashes and skin irritation, particularly if you have sensitive skin. There are a few ways you can prevent saddle sores.
- Wear the right kind of cycling shorts. You want shorts that are padded, but breathable. Moisture and dampness can contribute to skin irritation and saddle sores.
- Make sure your saddle isn’t too high. If your saddle is too high, the amount of friction will increase, because your legs are constantly dropping slightly to reach the pedals on either side. More skin movement and friction means a higher risk of saddle sores.
- Take things slow if you’re a beginner. If you’re a newer cyclist, you may be tempted to immediately launch into multi-hour sessions on your exercise bike, especially if you’re already in shape. However, this is not always a good idea. It takes time for the skin to become tougher and adjust to riding a bicycle regularly – and overdoing it means that your tender skin may develop a rash, saddle sores, or even tear.
- Consider using a cream or lubricant when riding. There are a number of different cycling-specific options available. Using a small amount of cycling cream on your skin helps prevent excessive friction from building up, and protects your skin from damage and rashes.
Neck And Shoulder Pain And Tightness
Neck and shoulder pain are quite common in cyclists, for many of the same reasons that back pain often becomes an issue. If your head is being supported by your neck and shoulders the entire time you are riding, the muscles will become tight and strained.
To combat this, you need to make sure that your head is not in “extension” for the entire time you’re riding. You want it to remain in a more neutral position, so that its weight is more evenly distributed among your neck and shoulder muscles.
The best way to do this is to adjust your bike stem so that you are in a more upright position when you are riding. This helps you keep your head in a more upright position, reducing strain.
You may also want to loosen your grip on the handlebars. If you tend to clutch the handlebars tightly, this usually leads to more engagement of the shoulder muscles, which can contribute to neck tightness.
Also, you may want to take another look at your posture while riding. You should be relatively upright while riding, your handlebars should be within easy reach while keeping your back straight, and your neck should be in a neutral position.
Avoid Cycling Injuries With These Tips!
Cycling is a great hobby. And whether you’re biking outside on a gorgeous day, or training on an exercise bike in your home gym, these tips will help you avoid common chronic pains and injuries – and keep you cycling for years to come.