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Avoiding injury can be as simple as staying on your bike. However, what of those nagging injuries that affect our comfort as we ride? Correct bike set up, correct cycling technique, good nutrition and a well-planned training programme are all important factors for the prevention of injury.

If you experience discomfort or numbness of a part when riding, don’t grin and bear it because it could lead to long term problems.

Nearly all these problems can he avoided though simple precautions and having yourself professionally fitted to your bike.

Comfort foundations

The four most important ingredients for comfortable cycling are:

  • the right size bike
  • being correctly fitted to your bike
  • daily stretching
  • good quality clothing.

See also Setting up your bike

Looking after your body

Hands

  • Always wear padded gloves.
  • Adjust position to balance your weight between the saddle, pedals and bars.
  • Ride with relaxed wrists and elbows.

Feet

  • Avoid long rides in soft soled sneakers.
  • Invest in clipless pedals and cycling shoes.
  • Loosen shoes and straps to allow for normal foot swelling.
  • Ensure cleats are placed so the ball of the foot is over the pedal axle and heels align naturally.
  • If you ride with toe clips, make sure they are the correct size; don’t ride with light straps for extended periods.
  • If you use bike shoes make sure they are the correct width for your foot and fit a good quality innersole to reduce pressure.

Saddle soreness

  • A bike position fit up to correctly balance your weight.
  • Set your saddle so it is level. If you ride with it nose down you slide forward placing excessive weight on your hands and you experience discomfort from sitting on the narrow nose.
  • Buy the best cycling nicks you can afford. Women need nicks cut wider at the rear and no centre seam in the liner. Reduce chaffing by applying talcum powder to yourself and a little skin cream to your nicks liner.

Neck pain

  • This is usually caused by having a too short riding position or a heavy, older style helmet.
  • Your comfort can often be improved by fitting a longer head stem to your handlebars.
  • Remember, your helmet is useless unless it fits your head well and has correctly fitted straps.

Back pain

  • Often caused by a riding position which is too long because of incorrect frame or stem length.
  • Improve flexibility by stretching your lower back and hamstrings.
  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Knees

  • Spin easy gears, don’t suddenly increase riding distance, use cycling shoes and clipless pedals, correctly position cleats. Make sure you have the correct seat position.
  • When riding focus on your pedalling style, circular action. high cadence, knees tracking correctly and flexible ankles.

Information provided by Bicycle Victoria and Kerin Ryan. Kerin Ryan is a leading cycling coach, runs cycle clinics, OffRoad Cycling Adventures and lectures at Victoria University.

Stretching

  • Stretch to avoid injury and soreness and to maximise riding fun and fitness!
  • One of the fundamentals, though, is simply making sure your muscles are ready to ride before you get on your bike. You can do that with a few, simple, pre ride stretching exercises which should be an integral part of riding. Get professional guidance from a recognised physiotherapist if you are unsure.

Remember:

  • Stretch to tightness not pain. When released, the discomfort should ease quickly.
  • Stretches should be slow and sustained, never fast or ballistic.
  • Stretching should be done pre and post cycling and included as part of a daily routine.
  • Since legs are so important in riding, we’ll start with them, and move on to your arms and back later. Get into the habit of doing these five lower limb stretches every time before you get on your bike.

‘Listen’ to pain

Remember, if you do feel a niggle of pain, ignoring it may prolong recovery. In the event of an acute injury, follow the P.R.I.C.E.D. regime: Prevention, Rest, Ice, Compression, Evaluation, Diagnosis

Information kindly provided by Emma Colson and Bicycle Victoria.

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