May is national bike month. The days are getting longer, and it is the time of the year when people spend more time outside. Recreational and commuter bikers alike start to increase mileage enjoying the fresh air filling their lungs and the sun shining on their face. It is also when riders tend to ride too much too soon. Most cycling injuries are due to overuse, rather than traumatic.
It is no fun to be sidelined by an injury especially when it can be prevented. Here are a few tips to avoid injury and make the bike ride more comfortable and enjoyable. Think about biking as a form of play. Play it safe! Play is where…
“P” stands for POSITIONING, tip #1
“L” stands for LEG strength, tip #2
“A” stands for ARM strength and core, tip #3
“Y” stands for YOU, tip #4
Tip #1: Positioning. Think of the bike as a fine piece of clothing. The clothing should fit perfectly so it is comfortable. This goes for the bike as well! If the bike fit is off it makes pedaling unnatural and inefficient. You can adjust your own bike or take it to a trained professional. To find someone who can help you with fit, ask the staff at a bike shop for reference. Many experts disagree about adjustment rules, so you don’t have to be wedded to the fit. Feel free to experiment to customize your bike to the perfect fit. A good fit should not cause any knee, back, neck or shoulder pain.
Tip#2: Legs. The distance from your saddle to pedal will depend on your leg length. If the seat is too high, your bottom will shift side to side and may end up with the back of your knee hurting. If your seat is too low, you will lose a lot of power, not to mention the risk of causing pain over the front of your knee. The saddle should be set so there is a slight amount of knee bend at the bottom of each pedal stroke. Stand occasionally to stretch and also develop a consistent ride schedule to decrease soreness.
Tip#3: Arms. While your legs have to deal with fatigue due to producing the power to pedal, your arms and core have to stabilize the bike, and provide a base for the legs to work from. Keep your arms and grip relaxed, not tense, to avoid arm fatigue and absorb road shock. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Avoid hunching your shoulders up to your ears. Occasionally you may need to loosen the upper body by placing one hand behind your back for short periods of time. If your neck gets tired, try getting a light weight helmet and tilt your head side to side. This will also reduce arm and shoulder soreness.
Tip #4: YOU. Ultimately only you can determine what feels most comfortable! So go outside and P.L.A.Y.!!
Authored by Becky McClure, Sports Physical Therapist at LMH South Therapy Services