Both indoor and outdoor cycling has increased in popularity within the fitness industry for exercise and for good reason. This form of exercise is used by people of all ages. Cycling has many benefits and is a great way to keep moving during the ongoing pandemic. Cycling is a low impact activity allowing for decreased joint impact, while improving core and leg strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance. While cycling is a great form of low impact exercise, it can still lead to injury. Cycling injuries can occur due to: overuse, improper bike set up, as well as a lack of proper warm up and cool down.
Common Cycling Injuries
Common cycling injuries can include, but are not limited to: knee pain, hip pain, neck/back pain, wrist/forearm pain and numbness, and foot numbness and tingling.1 While cycling injuries can range from mild to severe, they should always work to be prevented through proper bike set up, warming up and cooling down properly, and changing up training to prevent overuse.2 Follow the tips below to ensure you can keep riding, safely!
4 Tips to Help Prevent Cycling Related Injuries
1. Bike Set Up
- Seat Height: Proper height of the bike seat can be tricky to find when self-assessing. When standing next to your bike, place the seat at the height of your hip bone. After the seat is then locked into place, get on the bike. Once on the bike, when you drop your leg down to the pedal, you should have a very slight bend in your knee.
- DO NOT keep your knee bent more than 5 – 10 degrees
- DO NOT reach for the pedal when you are pedaling with your leg as this can cause over extension
- Seat Position: Bikes often have a feature to move the seat closer to the front or back of the bike. When sitting on the bike with both feet at the same height, you want to be able to see the tip of your toe over your knee.
- Handle Bar Height: The handle bars on the bike can really be placed wherever is most comfortable. The lower the handle bars are the more strain can be placed on the low back. A high level of core strength is required for a low handle bar position. If you struggle with low back pain or are a beginner with cycling, start with the handle bars as high as they can go.
- DO NOT push through pain to complete your workout. If your lower back begins to hurt, raise the handle bars and work on core strengthening.
- Handle Bar Position: The handle bars can also slide forward and backward on some bikes. When positioning your handle bars, you want your arms and trunk to be at a 90 degree angle when your hands are on the handlebars. This will change when you move your hands to different positions on the handle bars.
2. Warm Up
- A proper warm up is important before completing any form of exercise or recreational activity. Prior to exercise, it is important to perform some kind of a dynamic warm up, meaning a warm up with movement. Do not perform static stretches before exercising as this may cause short term strength loss and lead to injuries. When warming up on a bike, start with minimal resistance or hill and slowly increase your RPMs (revolutions per minute) over time. A good warm up should take 5 – 10 minutes.
3. Cool Down
- A cool down on the other hand, should consist of static stretching. This is especially important after cycling as the body is in a flexed position when riding a bike. Perform the list of stretches below twice after cycling and hold each stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute each time. Be sure to perform on each side of your body.
- Extend your elbow in front of you with your palm facing down, gentle push your hand so your wrist bends. This will allow for forearm stretching in both directions.
- Reaching out to the side at shoulder height can help stretch the chest muscles.
- Place one foot forward and one foot back, then lean forward while keeping your back heel on the ground. This will allow for a good calf stretch.
- While standing on one leg, grab your foot and pull it to your bottom while keeping your knees together and your hip open. This will stretch the muscles on the front of your leg, which are used a lot in cycling.
- While standing on one leg, place your ankle on your opposite knee and sit back. You will feel a stretch along the back side of the hips.
4. Cross Training
- Cross training is a program for exercise, which involves a variety of different forms of training. This is important for helping reduce the risk of injury.3 By changing the form of exercise being done regularly, you are able to continue to work on improving overall health and fitness without over-stressing certain parts of the body. Cross training that can be performed in conjunction with cycling include walking/running, strength training, swimming, elliptical, etc. By changing what exercise is being completed and using different muscles, injuries can be prevented.
Have A Cycling Injury?
Athletico offers free assessments in-clinic and virtually via telehealth to help get you on the path to recovery. If you notice abnormal soreness, aches, or pains when cycling, contact an Athletico near you. Our team will assess your pain and provide best recommendations for a treatment plan.
Request a Free Assessment
Not all cycling injuries can be prevented but Athletico’s Endurance Program can help individuals improve mobility and function to reduce the risk of these injuries. If you are interested in learning more about Athletico’s Endurance Program, including cycling injury risk assessment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Cycling injuries. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/orthopaedics/sports-medicine/cycling-injuries.cfm
2. The 10 most common cycling injuries and how to treat them. (2020, December 11). Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://bodytonicclinic.co.uk/common-cycling-injuries/
3. Matthews, J. (n.d.). What is cross training and why is it important? Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/36/what-is-cross-training-and-why-is-it-important/
4. Mellion, M. (1991). Common cycling injuries. Management and prevention. Sports Medicine.