Did the Tour de France get you interested in cycling? Cycling is one of the best low-impact activities that can help you stay fit. There’s a reason that Lance Armstrong looks so good!
As with most activities, there is always a risk for injury, but generally they can be quickly rectified. If you experience pain when cycling, it is more likely due to the wrong bike fit and improper technique. It is imperative that you have your bike adjusted specifically for your body. Everyone is different and even slight adjustments can make all the difference. See your local bike shop for specific advice.
There are several injuries you can avoid, as well as general aches and pains.
For cyclists, head injury is the most serious concern. The easy way to avoid head injury is to wear a bike helmet at all times. No matter how great of a cyclist you are, you can’t predict other factors out of your control that could cause you to take a spill. Wearing a helmet is an absolutely necessity when cycling.
It is not uncommon for cyclists to experience knee pain. Just like runners, cyclists can also experience patellofermoral pain syndrome (PFPS) where there is pain around or under the kneecap. Young athletes who have overtrained or have joint alignment issues can also suffer from chondromalacia which also causes a dull pain around or under the kneecap. Older cyclists may experience osteoarthritis of the knee as the joint cartilage gradually wears away.
A good way to prevent knee pain is to make sure you are in proper form at all times so you aren’t putting unnecessary stress on your knee. Research also shows strengthening your hips alleviate knee pain as well. See our Get Your Hips to Help Your Knee blog post for more information on how to do this.
Ride your bike long enough and you are bound to fall off. Regular cyclists are familiar with abrasions and road rash after a fall on a hard surface has scraped off the outer layer of skin. Wearing long layers to protect your skin helps prevent road rash. There are a lot of lightweight fabrics that breathe while offering comfortable protection even in the hot summer.
The constant contact between your hands on the handlebar makes an ideal environment for blisters. Biking gloves offer an easy fix. As a bonus, padded gloves relieve pressure to prevent numbness that often occurs after long rides.
When the piriformis muscles cramps or tightens, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve which causes pains in the glutes. Be sure to stretch and warm your muscles before starting. You want to prepare your muscles for the ride to come. It also helps to condition and strengthen the hip muscles, glutes and your lower back.