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Jul 15, 2012

Is your bike setup a cause for injury?

Last week, in an attempt to mix up my exercise regime I went to my first spin class for a very long time.  45 minutes of gruelling hills and sprint tracks and I walked out acutely aware of my aching quads, sore stiff upper back and tender buttocks!

Cycling is promoted as a great low impact knee-sparing form of exercise and when compared to pounding the pavement this may stand true. However given its repetitive nature, with riders averaging 5000 revolutions per hour, you open yourself up to a spectrum of overuse injuries particularly affecting the knees.

Whether you’re riding to the local store, in your week spin class or in the Tour de France your bike needs to fit you! Not only can this help prevent overuse injuries from occurring it can make you a more efficient and faster rider.

Here are a few things every rider should check about their bike setup

  1. Size of the bike: picking the right frame is the first step. If the frame is too big you won’t be able to correctly adjust the other features!
  2. The seat/saddle height. When sitting on your seat your heel should rest on the pedal at the lowest position with the in a knee slightly bent position. Having the saddle too low places extreme pressure on the knees and predisposes you to pain at the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain)
  3. Saddle tilt: the seat should be set at a level position. Tilted down and you will feel like you are constantly sliding forward, tilted back and you will decrease your ability to generate power through your pedal strokes.
  4. Find the right saddle... and wear padded pants! There are many shapes and sizes, male and female, gel or leather. Find one that’s comfortable for you, a couple of hours on the wrong seat could leave you with a very sore behind!
  5. Handlebars:  this is a little bit of trial and error. They should be positioned to allow for comfortable use of all controls and handlebar positions whilst minimising the strain on your back, shoulders and wrists. Having the handlebars too low or too close places excessive pressure through your upper body and can predispose you to injury.

If you are a regular ‘spinner’ some of these settings obviously can’t be changed. You can however adjust the seat height and handlebar height to suit your specific needs and to ensure you have the best possible riding posture.

So remember we all have different body shapes, biomechanics and preferences so everyone’s bike set-up needs to be unique. Try making these adjustments to avoid the recipe for injury; riding too far, too fast or too soon and on the wrong bike.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for my blog on the common injuries in cycling.


Categories General Issues Tags cycling bike bike setup EastSports Physiotherapy exercise