Ride On: Tips for a Pain-Free Bike Ride

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cycling, bike

cycling, bicycleWith warm weather finally here, many people look forward to mountain biking on our beautiful trails or road cycling on our open roads. To ensure you get the most out of these activities, a proper bike fit is important. We’ve got you covered with tips to help you hit the road pain-free.

If you’re hitting the road or trail for a ride, but your bike isn’t adjusted to fit your body, certain muscles, tendons or ligaments can be repetitively strained. This can lead to pain and injuries.

Renown Physical Therapist Dina Barry, PT, MPT, OCS, shares some tips from the American Physical Therapy Association to minimize bicycle-related pain and ensure a fun-filled, healthy bike ride. 

First, Bike Basics

  • Keep a controlled but relaxed grip of the handlebars.
  • Change your hand position on the handlebars frequently for upper body comfort.
  • When pedaling, your knee should be slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke, but your knee should not lock.
  • Avoid rocking your hips while pedaling.

Problems and Possible Solutions

Anterior (Front) Knee Pain

Possible causes include a saddle that is too low, pedaling at a low cadence (speed), using your quadricep muscles too much while pedaling, misaligned bicycle cleats for those who use clipless pedals, or a muscle imbalance in your legs (strong quadriceps and weak hamstrings). Tip: Pretend you are scraping mud off your heels with every upstroke to activate the hamstrings, calves and gluteal muscles. 

Neck Pain
Possible causes include poor handlebar or saddle position. A poorly placed handlebar might be too low, at too great a reach, or at too short a reach. A saddle with excessive downward tilt can also be source of neck pain. Tip: When you stop to hydrate or pause at a stoplight or fork in the trail, do a few gentle neck and shoulder rolls to release any tension.

Lower Back Pain
Possible causes include inflexible hamstrings, low cadence, using your quadriceps muscles too much while pedaling, poor back strength and too-long or too-low handlebars.

Hamstring Tendinitis
Possible causes are inflexible hamstrings, high saddle, misaligned bicycle cleats and poor hamstring strength.

Hand Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are short-reach handlebars, poorly placed brake levers and a downward tilt of the saddle. Tip: Ensure you’re not gripping those handlebars tightly and that your weight is balanced evenly over the frame when standing.

Foot Numbness or Pain
Possible causes are using quadricep muscles too much while pedaling, using low cadence, faulty foot mechanics and misaligned bicycle cleats.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Possible causes are having the saddle height too high, a personal leg length difference and misaligned bicycle cleats.

To learn more or discuss a sports-related injury, please visit Renown Physical Therapy and Rehab

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