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176 Northcote Road
Battersea London SW11 6RE
United Kingdom

Battersea's first female focused bike shop on 176 Northcote Road, London. PLUS men & kids bikes, bike repairs & maintenance classes!

Pain and cycling

Blog

Pain and cycling

Hattie

Many people experience some aches and pains if they cycle. The most common areas are the lower back, knees, and wrists. With some simple exercises and adjustments to your bike, you can have a more comfortable ride. 

Hips

Exercises

It’s important to do exercises which open up your hip flexors, especially if you cycle and have a sedentary job. The hips remain closed when sitting or cycling and, in order to preserve (or achieve) full range of motion, hip extension is important. Tight hips, or indeed any major muscles, can result in pain in other areas. The ability to fully extend your hips is an integral part of functional fitness.

Try the Couch Stretch. At least two minutes each leg a few times a week.

Couch stretch. Focus on keeping your torso upright and using your glutes to push your hips down towards the floor.

Couch stretch. Focus on keeping your torso upright and using your glutes to push your hips down towards the floor.

Lower back

Most people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives but that doesn’t mean it should be a fact of life. Doing exercises which open up the hips, like the one above, is important. Midline stability, however, is a main consideration for back pain sufferers. If the muscles which stabilise your spine are weak, then they won’t do the best job they can, and it will be vulnerable to injury.

Rocking your hips from side to side as you pedal is caused by either: saddle too high or not engaging your core as you cycle. As you set off from a stationary position, try bracing your core to prevent lateral hip movement.

Exercise

Try the Hollow Rock. Gymnasts use this exercise and it doesn’t require any equipment.

Watch this video to get a full explanation of correct form.

Bike adjustments

Have a look at your saddle height; your knee should have a little bend in it at the bottom of the pedal stroke. 

Knees

Exercises

Hamstring tightness can affect your knee’s range of motion; cycling is notorious for it! Do the following exercise and spend at least two minutes on each leg to feel the benefit.

Bike adjustments

Cleat position: A common cause of knee pain in cyclists is the cleat position. Cleats need to be fixed to your shoe such that your foot is not toed in or out when you are pedalling. Film yourself or have someone watch you slowly pedal backwards to make sure your foot moves parallel with the bike. The most likely adjustment you will make will be moving the cleats backwards.

Crank length: if your cranks are too long for your leg length, this can cause knee problems. Most bikes, regardless of frame size, come with 172.5mm or 175mm cranks. These are usually suitable for riders taller than 5”9. For example, I am 5”5 and ride a 50cm frame. My bike came with 175mm cranks.

Saddle height: adjust the saddle height so that you are getting as much knee extension as possible without it being locked out at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Knee pain can be caused by the saddle being too low or too high.

Hands

Many people experience pain or numbness is their hands and wrists when cycling. 

Exercises

Buy a Powerball! Physiotherapists recommend them for rehabilitation as well as strength training for the wrists and forearms.

Bike adjustments to try

  • Move your saddle forwards or backwards on its rails so that your hands are taking less weight.
  • Ride in a position where your wrists are as straight as possible: this might involve adjusting the handlebar height or the angle of the shifters/brake levers.
  • Consider a different stem length or angle.
  • Install two sets of bar tape to cushion your hands more and help absorb more road vibrations.
  • Make sure you wear padded gloves to reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve.

 General advice

·         Try to vary the position of your hands if your handlebars allow it. For example, if you always ride on the hoods, spend some time on the drops.

·         Don’t lock out any of your joints; your elbows and knees need to be a little bent to absorb the vibrations of the road.

·         Stop sitting down! It’s no good cycling for 10 hours a week if you spend the rest of the time sitting down. Get a standing desk for work, conduct your meetings while walking, or at least take a break from sitting every half hour.