Bike Aches and Pains
Correct bike set up is important not only for ultimate performance but to avoid injury.
The majority or recreational cyclist are over stretched or with saddles too high or too low.
Many saddles that are the right height, are not level making the whole ride uncomfortable.
Comfort is key.
For most of us apart form very short time trials, Sportives & Triathlons etc a comfortable bike fit is very important for correct weight distribution.
In order to understand correct bike set up the following needs to be considered.
A complete pedal movement starts from the power phase. Forward movement from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, during this phase force comes form the calf (from the ankle) glut max, hamstrings and quadriceps.
The foot should roll inwards (pronates) in the power phase creating stress on the inside of the knee.
At the bottom of the power phase the shoe should be parallel to the ground.
Then that leg recovers from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock including upward pull from the cleat/shoe using the hamstring, hip flexor and calf working with the knee.
Pain during cycling is caused by usually a combination of things.
We have 3 contact points – Hands Feet and bottom.
Aim to spread your weight evenly on the handlebars pedals and saddle.
Bike Position – Making changes.
Incorrect position causes aches and pains.
However bike position may need to change to accommodate tight muscles or other injuries such as neck and shoulder injuries.
You may need to reduce the distance between the tip of the saddle and the handlebar stem until neck injury has improved.
Being too stretched out places a strain on the core once this fatigues it can cause back ache.
Our lower & mid back have to cope with prolonged periods of bending forwards.
The upper part of our spine is in a prolonged period of extension.
A weak back will soon fatigue from being in the wrong position
Back ache can also be caused by pushing too big a gear up hills. Use an easier rear gear, if this is not possible change your cassette with a wider ratio.
Tight back will often occur towards the end of a weekend of riding and often during at the end of a training camp by more than 20%.
Often it’s not the volume but the increase in the total amount of climbing that can cause a tight back muscles.
Tight hamstrings can also cause back ache and a tight back can cause tight hamstrings because they are connected.
SADDLE-HANDLEBAR DIFFERENCE IN HEIGHT.
Most of us do not have the strength flexibility and core strength to ride in an extreme position that a professional cyclist can.
Their position may have taken them more than 10 years of constant cycling to adjust to.
These are my recommendations
This is based on past experience with cyclists I have talked and worked with.
Things to consider:-
Age of athlete, years of cycling strength, core. If you have longer than average arms and are very flexible you may be able to have a greater drop from saddle height and handlebar stem.
Height of rider Difference in vertical Saddle height & handlebar height
150cm -160cm 0-2cm
160cm -165cm 2-5cm
165cm -170cm 4-6cm
170cm – 175cm 5-7cm
175cm – 185cm 5-8cm
185cm – 195cm 7-10cm
There are no hard and fast rules we are all individual and race at different distances on different terrain and then we have our own preferences!
May have dropped/slipped down.
Symptoms – thighs aching more than normal.
HAND & WRIST ACHE
This can be caused by a bent wrist. Something as simple as your saddle moving slightly left or right can make your over reach to one of the brake hoods.
Any knee pain should be treated straight away as the knee can take many months or years to heal.
Can be caused by the saddle too high or the saddle not being level.
CORRECT SADDLE HEIGHT
Distance from axle of pedal to where you sit on the saddle should be 108% of the distance from crutch /your inside leg standing bear foot with feet 6 inches apart.
For example if the distance is 30 inches (76.2cm) then your saddle height should be from axle to part of saddle you sit on 30 inches should be 32.4 inches (76.2 cm x 108% = 82.29 cm)
Allow for give in saddle, some saddles may give up to 1.5cm with the riders weight. If this happens raise the saddle to take into consideration.
It’s the length of your whole leg not your trouser length.
IT bands (illotibial band) tight from sudden increase in volume/intensity can then cause knee to move out of alignment.
Cycling at 84 revolutions per minute for an hour will result in over 5,000 movements every hour so an in-correct position will soon cause ache then pain and injury to the complicated knee joint.
Knee problem remedies
Quadriceps used mostly in cycling – Use easier gear and increase cadence
Improve regular stretching routine.
Both cleats symmetrical.
Chondromalacia (inflammation under the knee cap) or Patellofemoral pain,
Check cleats are both in the same position pointing forward and neither one has moved or is loos as this can bring on knee pain.
Most people have one leg longer. Lower your saddle to accommodate the shorter leg or use orthotics or a wedge under the cleat to even out leg length differences. Some elite cyclists have been very successful once they have started using both orthotics and a wedge.
Specific orthotics can be ordered from specialist sports injury clinics.
This can be caused by the brake/gear lever not level with the other lever.
Avoid gripping too tightly to the handlebars.
Correct positioning of the brake hoods on the handlebars also reduces hand pain & wrist pain.
Usually caused by over stretching and is probably the most common discomfort caused during cycling.
If you increase volume dull ache may occur after 60 minutes compared to 90+ minutes in the past.
Accumulation of tightness will result in symptoms occurring early.
Remedy – make your you have bent elbows, they act as shock absorbers over bumps in the road.
Check the following. Place elbow at tip of saddle with hands outstretched towards the handlebars.
You should only have 2 finger tip gap between your out stretched hand and the clamp of the handlebar stem, any more and you are likely to be over stretched.
FEMALE SPECIFIC Females are more likely to suffer from neck ache usually from being over stretched because they have longer legs in relation to their bodies so choose a bike that fits their legs size but is too long in the top tube.
Neck pain can also occur from long periods in the extended position, shoulders in a low position (handlebars set too low) will increase neural tension.
Being stretched out aggravates the nerves resulting in pain down the neck and arms.
See guide below on handlebar and saddle height differences based on cyclist height.
Aim to keep your elbows slightly bent (shock absorbers) at all times.
Shoulder shrugs on and off the bike to reduce tension.
Improve flexibility of the back and hips and work on twice a week improving your back strength.
Use correct size padded cycling shorts and chamois cream or Vaseline to prevent rubbing.
Avoid wearing cycling shorts once you finish training, shower and change as soon as possible.
Never wear pants under cycling shorts because they will cut into your crutch.
Change cycling shorts daily to prevent boils and infections occurring.
Building up volume and hills often leads to back ache due to being in a static position for long periods of time.
Plan gradual small amounts of increases, this allows the body to adapt rather big spikes of 20-40% increases in time in the saddle.
These sudden increases to your body nearly always results in long term problems and then missing work outs close to your planned event.
If you need to complete a longer ride to build up endurance reduce distance/time before and after.
Aim for good hip flexibility, still hips while riding reduces strain on the knees and lower spine.
Abdominal, back exercises and improved hip flexibility will help prevent and cure future aches and pains.
A loose bottom (Gluteus) relaxed hamstrings allows us to sit still without falling forward into a back pelvic tilt.
Cycling is low impact but aches and pains can occur from an incorrect fitted bike.
Comfort is key
Efficiency and comfort is important whatever the distance.
Aerodynamic is less important for distances over 25 miles (40km)
Correct position and sitting on the saddle is vital to avoid numbness or pain in the genitals.
Possible side effects include erection problems and infertility.
The above problems are caused by excessive compression (pressure) on the pudendal nerve against the public bone.
It is wise to try more padded shorts, if this fails then consider to a saddle with more padding. Ask friends or other cyclist when out training for what they have found comfortable.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
If you make any changes to your bike position you need 5 rides not miles or hours to adapt before you go at RACE PACE.
It takes many days to adjust not a 15 minute warm up!
Never change position before or during a ride unless your current position is causing you discomfort or pain.
Changes to position or equipment should be made when your training and intensity volume is low.
Make single changes not saddle height and stem height at the same time.
If you establish your saddle is 5 cm too low make gradual incremental subtle changes rather than changing it 5cm in one go.
Adaption takes many weeks and months to get use to. You may even find your performance declines as your muscles take time to adjust to the new position.
Always consult an expert or bike shop with qualified bike fit equipment modality if the discomfort immediately you riding or your experience numbness or sharp pains.
If you are over 40 and have been riding for many years you may need to change your position due to a loss in flexibility and strength.