Whether you are a recreational bicyclist or competitive cyclist it is critical that you and your bike fit well together. A proper fit maximizes comfort and minimizes injury. Last week we discussed how to position handlebars, pedals, seat, at proper angles for the shoulders, trunk, hips and knees. This week, I would like to discuss the benefits of cardiovascular exercise and common problems that develop from biking on an improperly fitted bike.
Biking, like all aerobic exercise, provides all of the following benefits without the added stress of joint compression, and wear and tear associated with many other full weight bearing exercises such as running:
Prevention is the best management of musculoskeletal problems associated with biking. First, as previously discussed in Part I, prevent many of the above problems through proper fitting. Furthermore, it is important that your equipment is in good working order such as tires, chain, brakes and pedals. Next, be sure to maintain a fairly good fitness level in order to bike safely. If you are a beginner, start slowly. Warm up and slowly bike for 10 to 15 minutes and build up over time. Practice the coordination of stopping, starting, shifting and braking. Work on good strength and flexibility of the hamstrings, quadriceps, calfs and gluteal muscles. All of these muscles are necessary to generate pedal force. Balance is also important to safety and can be practiced on and off the bike. Be aware that adaptive equipment can modify your bike for added comfort and safety such as soft handlebar tape, seat post and front fork shock absorbers, cut-out and gel pad saddle seats, and wider tires. Remember, WEAR A HELMET!
Be careful not to progress too quickly because inactivity to over activity in a short period of time can create problems. Overuse injuries such as tendonitis, can be avoided by cross training. Bike every other day and walk, run or swim on off days. Consider sports such as tennis, golf, racquetball on off days. Make sure to take time off to recover after a long ride. Use ice and massage to sore muscles and joints after riding.
Remember, cycling should be fun! Pain from improper fitted and poorly maintained equipment is preventable. Excessive workouts and training rides should be kept to a minimum.
SOURCES: American Physical Therapy Association
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.