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Life in Motion

Tour de France: Cycling Safely this Season

Sports & Exercise

The 2014 Tour de France is underway, and several cyclists, including the 2013 defending champion Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, a 2014 favorite to win, have pulled out of the race due to injuries. This isn’t surprising as these professionals are cycling in packs of 200, for 100 miles a day, for 21 days. In this grueling competition, common injuries including bruises, minor cuts, fractures, sprains and broken collar bones, are most often caused by cyclists crashing into each other and falling off their bikes. For casual cyclists, the most commonly reported injuries come from overtraining and improper bike fit. Scott Taylor, a physical therapist at NEBH and an avid cyclist, has the following tips to cycle safely this season.

General Safety Tips to Avoid Serious Injury While Cycling

  • Always wear a properly fitting helmet.
  • Visibility is important-make sure to wear bright clothing. If you are going to be riding in low light conditions, make sure to have a small blinking light on your bike to maximize visibility. The light should be red in the rear and white in the front.
  • Ride predictably and stay in a straight line as best you can. Keep your head up and anticipate problems before they occur.

Preventing Overuse Injuries

  • Make sure to change your riding position to avoid overuse injuries. Slight variations in your position can reduce stress on pressure points on your body and avoid overstressing muscles.

Adjusting your Bike to Fit

  • One thing all riders, whether professional or casual need to keep in mind is bicycle fit. Properly sized frames, handlebar and seat heights will improve your ability to control the bike, and reduce the risk for overuse injuries.
  • If you ride regularly, consider a professional fit from a bike shop.

Muscle Cramps and Fatigue

You may notice the cyclists drinking lots of water and eating energy bars along the route in the Tour de France. Staying hydrated and nourished can help avoid muscle cramps, as well as evade fatigue, which can lead to bad decision making and lack of attention.

  • A good rule of thumb is to drink a full water bottle each hour you spend on the bike.
  • If you are going for a long ride, don’t forget to pack some food.  200-300 calories per hour is often recommended in a moderate, sustained effort.

While most cyclists will never be in the Tour de France, biking is a challenging exercise that can be tailored to the fitness level you desire. If incur any type of persistent pain, you should consult an orthopedic expert.

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