The risks associated with cycling on the road are there for all to see. Going at speed represents a hazard in itself; mixing this with traffic that too often has little consideration for cyclists, merely heightens the danger. If Bradley Wiggins can get knocked off his bike in the UK after triumphing at the Olympics and the Tour de France, what hope do the rest of us have?
Competitive cycling now requires use of a helmet at all times, except on the last mountainous stage of the Tour de France. Here in Australia any cyclist (whether it’s the postman or a professional athlete) must wear an approved one at all times or face a fine. Although head and spinal injuries are the most common results of collision with traffic, or general falling from the bicycle, repetitive muscle injuries are more common for your everyday cyclist.
Ensuring that your bike is correctly set-up will not only increase performance levels, but it will minimize the chance of injury too. One of the key components to the correct set-up is the saddle height. Too high and you’re over stretching; too low and you have no stability and are a danger to yourself.
The correct knee alignment and back position can be achieved by adjusting your saddle up and down, and forwards or backwards. The centre of the knee cap should always be lined up with the centre of the axle when in the 3 o’clock position. The length between the saddle and handlebars should allow a comfortable and relaxed position to be obtained while remaining as aerodynamic as possible. If the cyclist is racing in a specific type of event, the set up may vary. Shorter races require a more aerodynamic position, and therefore a less comfortable one. For endurance events, the exact opposite is true.
It’s important to have the right bike-specific tools in your toolbox so that when it comes time to change position, you can do it quickly and cheaply without having to go down to your local bike shop unnecessarily.
If pedaling heavy gears in cold conditions doing more miles thatn you’re used to, your knees are susceptible to all kinds of forces and therefore injuries. If your seat is too low, your joint will be too compressed in the joint area, which can result in severe pain. If it is positioned too high, your muscles will be overstretching leading to potential tears. Make sure the cleats for your pedals are square, meaning they do not make your knees point outwards or inwards.
Neck and back problems
Back problems and neck pain are both directly related to the time spent in the saddle. If a joint is subjected to compression for any extended period of time it will lead to muscle fatigue and chronic muscle pain. Eventually this can also lead to structural changes to the joint that will bring extreme pain and restriction of movement. Prevention of such difficulties can be aided by ensuring the handlebars are positioned correctly, and regular cervical flexion movements are carried out. While on the bike, shoulder shrugs and sitting upright for short periods of time are critical to prevention.
Lower back problems can be mitigated by the correct stretching routines implemented daily, which target the muscles that link the pelvis to the spine and the femur. These muscles are not often stretched, as they are not used in many daily circumstances.