This is a synopsis of the talk I gave to a most excellent group of people at the Anthony Nolan offices in ‘appy ‘ampstead in London this afternoon. It was great to see you all! There are a few common cycling injuries, which include lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, wrist and hand pain (handlebar palsy), hamstring pain and knee pain.
Most of these injuries can be cured, or at least helped, by making sure the fit of your bike is as good as possible.
Our bodies are naturally left- or right-side dominant, and therefore we have a strong and a weak side, a flexible and a stiff side, and a twist that runs through our bodies clockwise or anticlockwise, determined in part to whether we are left- or right-handed.
The relevance of this is that when we’re stretching our muscles, we should always aim to stretch the tighter side for twice as long as the looser side. So if our left calf muscles is tighter than our right, we will stretch the left calf for longer than the right. This way we will end up with muscles of equal length each side, and a healthier biomechanical symmetry.
Also, if you’re someone who works out in the gym, then you need to ensure that you’re doing more reps on the side of the weaker muscle with each exercise, so as to bring the muscles into equal balance.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that everyone who’s doing any type of race should get themselves checked out by a good sports osteopath or physiotherapist, to make sure their bodies are as symmetrical as possible in terms of joints and ligaments, especially in the pelvic area.
When you’re sitting on your road bike you’ll of course be bent forward at the hips, so that you can reach the handlebars. This is often a position that can give one back pain, and can also slightly destabilise the bike at speed, as the back is not braced and can twist from side to side following the movements of the hips and legs, leading to pain and dangerous wobbling. The answer to this is to tuck your tummy in just below the navel, a feeling of bringing your navel closer to your spine. This will give you a much more stable and powerful posture, and doesn’t allow the lower back to twist or the bike to wobble with the movement of the legs.
Head and Shoulders
We usually hunch our shoulders when we ride, because it feels like this gives us more stability and strength. Sadly, it does the opposite. Muscles become weak and the cyclist can lose stability. As a rule, it’s wise to drop your shoulders down and perhaps even slightly forward, and feel as if your neck is lengthening by a few inches.
Holding the Handlebars
On a long ride I always feel it’s best to spend the majority of our time on the top of the handlebars, with the hands on top of the brake levers. This gives the most obviously comfortable position for long periods. However, it’s certain that we should vary the way we hold the handlebars, using the drop section, and also the centre of the bars near the stem. Variety helps to reduce injury.
There are a range of important stretches for cyclists, the Best Stretches for Cycling article on VeryWell offers a good selection. It’s worth doing all of these at least directly after cycling, and if possible another time during the day.