For cyclists, the most commonly reported injuries come from overtraining, improper bike fit and overuse. Scott Taylor, physical therapist at NEBH, avid cyclist, and program designer for the Cycling Performance Improvement Program, has the following tips to cycle safely this season.
General Safety Tips
- Always wear a properly fitting helmet.
- Visibility is important- wear bright clothing. Make sure to have a red blinking light in the rear and white in the front.
- Ride predictably: try to avoid sudden swerving motions and stay as steady as possible.
- Keep your head up, eyes open, use your peripheral vision and anticipate problems before they occur.
Preventing Overuse Injuries
- Make sure to change your riding position often. Slight variations in your position can reduce stress on pressure points on your body and avoid overstressing muscles. Stand up on the occasional rise in the road, and move your hands into and out of the drops.
- Stretch before and/or after riding. Allow for sufficient time to warm up before diving into harder efforts. As the age of the athlete advances, a proper warm up and stretch become more important.
Adjusting your Bike to 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. Improper fit to the machine will eventually catch up to you if you increase your riding time or frequency.
Muscle Cramps and Fatigue
Staying topped off with water and nutrients can help avoid muscle cramps, as well as fatigue which can lead to bad decision making or lack of attention.
- A good rule of thumb is to drink a full water bottle each hour you spend on the bike. An electrolyte drink with carbohydrates can help reduce fatigue in the muscles as well as cramps.
- If you are going for a long ride, don’t forget to pack some food. 300 calories per hour is often recommended in a moderate, sustained effort. As we tire, our head and eyes drop resulting in loss of focus and awareness of our surroundings. We become reactive instead of proactive in avoiding incidents.
Biking is a fun, challenging and social form of exercise that can be tailored to the fitness level you desire. If you experience any type of persistent pain, consult an orthopedic expert.