Whether you are an elite level cyclist or a recreational cyclist, correct bike set-up is essential for reducing the risk of injury and optimising performance.
Cyclists often spend many hours on the bike while sitting in the same position and pushing a huge amount of force through the pedals. While many cycling injuries are the result of high speed falls, the majority of cycling injuries are overuse injuries and the risk of these injuries can be reduced by ensuring a proper bike set up. Ensuring that the bicycle seat (saddle), handlebars and pedals are correctly adjusted and that the bicycle is the appropriate size can be key in preventing overuse syndromes (Burke 1994). The most common overuse injuries in cycling are at the lumbar spine and knee, and efforts to prevent overuse injuries will generally focus on these areas (Claarsen 2009). Neck aches and back aches are common complaints resulting from the cyclist’s upper body position with hyperextension of the neck and flexion of the lower back (Thompson 2001). Other common overuse injuries include:
- Patellar-femoral pain syndrome (pain at the front of the knee)
- Chondromalacia (damage to the cartilage under the knee cap)
- Patellar tendinopathy
- Illiotibial band (ITB) friction syndrome
- Hamstrings tendinopathy
- Median and ulnar nerve palsy (pins and needles or numbness in hands)
The interaction between the body and the sporting equipment used in cycling is highly complex and influenced by many variables including the anthropometric measurements of the cyclist, their flexibility, cycle specific strength and neural mobility (Wisbey-Roth 2010). Other factors include riding position, pedalling technique, bike size, seat height/position and handlebar positioning. Optimising riding position within the comfort range of the cyclist is therefore very important in reducing injury and optimising performance.
Pedalling technique and activation of muscles during pedalling also impacts cycling performance. Pedalling technique is directly influenced by muscle activation patterns during cycling and therefore, assessment of these muscle activation patterns is important. The most efficient pedalling needs to maintain power at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke (Leirdal 2011). Peak power occurs at 3 o’clock on the clockface so maintaining power at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke becomes a challenge of co-ordination/activation (Wisbey-Roth 2010). Physiotherapists can assess the activation of these muscles and prescribe exercises to correct any deficiencies.
Core strength is also very important in cycling. When cyclists effectively initiate the correct muscles for power generation and stabilisation, they create a stable base while helping to protect the back and knee from injuries. Core strengthening exercises can be modified to be cycling specific which will help to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
Physiotherapists are able to perform a detailed musculoskeletal screening to assess spinal/neural mobility, hip and lower limb mobility and muscle strength prior to adjusting the bike set up. The bike can then be adjusted to provide an individualised position for each rider based on their own physical attributes.
So, regardless of whether you are a competitive cyclist, cycling commuter or weekend warrior, correct bike set-up is essential for reducing your risk of injury and improving performance.
For a comprehensive cycling assessment and bike-fitting book an appointment with Brendan online at northhavenphysio.com/online-booking or call 6559 7000.