PT Weekly: How to Ensure Your Bike is Properly Fit

Cycling in all of its various forms has become more popular in Nigeria in recent years. We have seen patients in our clinic who ride mountain bikes off-road on the weekends, those who participate in spin classes at a gym and those who ride road bikes in groups like Cycology in Lagos. However, cycling is a very repetitive sport, and therefore any small issues with the bike fit become compounded over time into various injuries.

On the blog this week we have discussed these injuries commonly caused by cycling and how physiotherapy can help. However, although many of the problems are physical (i.e. muscle imbalance or poor core strength), sometimes the problem is simply in adjustments that need to be made to the bike fit. Below are some examples of how the bike fit alone could be causing an injury:

  • Pain in the front of the knee: This can also be due to a saddle that is too low or a misaligned foot placement (if the pedals don’t have clips).
  • Low back pain: Could be caused by handlebars that are too low.
  • Neck Pain: Could be caused by handlebars that are too far or too close, handlebars that are too low or a saddle that it tilted down.
  • Foot numbness/pain: Might be due to a misaligned foot.
  • Hand numbness/pain: May be caused by handlebars that are too close, a saddle that is tilted downward or poor placement of the handbrake.
  • Hamstring or IT band tendinitis: Could be due to a seat that is too high or misaligned foot placement.

How can you determine if your pain is a bike problem or a body problem? Bike fit-related problems only occur during or after riding and can be completely resolved with a proper bike fitting. Body-related problems would not be completely resolved with proper bike fitting and occur during other activities as well, not only while riding.

How can you prevent injuries while you’re riding? First of all, it’s important to keep fit in other ways. You should have a strong core as well as hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. Maintaining flexibility is also very important, especially in the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. Lastly, the bike should be fit properly. Some guidelines to follow in doing this are:

  • Keep the saddle level (not tilting forward or backwards).
  • Keep the saddle at a proper height, at the most extended position the knee should be only slightly bent. At the “3 o’clock” position the front of the knee should be directly above the pedal.
  • Handlebars should be set so the rider does not have to reach too far or too low. The back should be fairly upright and the wrists should only be slightly bent.
  • The ball of the foot should be positioned over the pedal.
  • Ideally, choose a gear that allows 80-90 RPM in order to prevent overuse injuries.

One important thing to note is that everybody is different, and cycling should not be a painful activity. There are many adaptive devices and additional tools that can be used to make cycling more comfortable and they should be used if needed. If you find you are having any pain or discomfort from cycling or any activity, come and see a physiotherapist.

At PCA we can help determine what specifically is causing the problem so you can return to your sport pain-free! Call us on 0813 028 0496!

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