Preventing injury and Boosting Performace as you cycle

Riding a bike is fun and it is a great way to get regular exercise too, especially if you need to avoid other types of workouts that involve weight-bearing movement. To improve your comfort and your performance and to reduce the chance of injuries it is a good idea to have a proper road bike fitting.

Seat position fore and aft

Make sure the seat is at the correct distance to the handlebars by hanging a string with a weight on the end from a kneecap and it should touch the crank arm’s end. If you climb, are taller than 6 feet, pedal around 90 rpm or for long distances then you may want to be a good 1 to 2 cm behind the crank arm’s end. Otherwise, you will want to over it.

Seat height

Using something to support the bike upright like a door have someone behind you like your cycle coach as you pedal backwards, watching your hips. If your hips are rocking then the set could be too high. If there is more than about a 15-degree angle bend in the knees when the pedal stroke is at the bottom the seat is likely too low.

Adjusting leg angles

Your knee should be right over the pedal and the angle should not be more than 90 degrees when you are at 3 o’clock of the pedal stroke. At 6 o’clock with your knee, there should be just a small bend of 15 degrees. When cycling just for fun you want a knee pedal angle of 35 to 35 degrees, when you are a road cyclist it should be closer to 30 to 35 degrees.

Width of the hands

Again it depends on whether you are a recreational cyclist or other. The hand width for the former should just be a little more than your shoulders, but road cyclists should have their hands around 2 cm wider than shoulder-width apart.

Height of the handlebar

When riding recreationally your trunk should be 40 to 80 degrees from being horizontal. From the shoulder to the trunk that angle should be 80 to 90 degrees. For a road rider, the trunk should be 30 to 40 degrees from being horizontal and the shoulder to trunk angle 90 to 100 degrees. The handlebar should be between 1 and 2 inches lowers than the top of the seat on roads and off-road closer to 4 inches.

Common pain experienced and solutions

Knees

There are a few types of knee pain you might experience if you do not have a good road bike fitting. The back of the knee or the thigh and the seat could be too high or back too far. At the front then the seat could be too far down or the feet forwards too much on the pedal. Other pains might also mean your feet are too wide, the toes are pointing out too much, the cleat is too narrow, the toes point in too much and so on. Too much use of high gears can also cause knee pain.

Feet

A toe clip that is too tight could cause numbness, shoes that are tightened too much or have a soft sole can also be a problem.

Hands

A cycle coach can help prevent hand pain and numbness by offering advice on things like the type of gloves to wear and keeping your elbows bent slightly.

Neck

When you have been riding a long time you can get neck pain but it can also happen if the handlebars are too low.

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By Cary Grant

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