The Science of Cycling and Injury Prevention

Bike Fit – The Science of Cycling and Injury Prevention

Often when we set ourselves goals of an athletic nature, the finest of adjustments can be the difference between success and failure.

Last week, the Symmetry team were lucky enough to have Rob Brown, Sports Physiotherapist from The Centre of Health and Human Performance in London, sharing his expertise with us on optimal bike fit for performance and injury prevention. Rob was previously Head Physio with Orica Green Edge and High-Performance Australia Cycling and therefore has worked with many of the world’s top cyclists so we are very grateful to him for joining us.

Overuse injuries make up 46% of all the injuries in cycling, with the remaining 54% coming from acute trauma in crash scenarios. These overuse injuries can sometimes be due to incorrect bike fit and hence could be avoided with professional advice.

For most riders, it will be no surprise that its knee pain and lower back that are the two most common complaints about cyclists. The stress on both of these areas can be significantly changed with even subtle changes in bike set up.

Knee Pain

There is a lot of repeated stress, or friction that occurs between the kneecap and underlying knee joint. If excessive this can cause pain and injury. Simple changes, including adjusting seat height and position may be adequate to reduce this stress. A common mistake is excessive knee flexion during the pedal stroke. On average, at the bottom of the stroke, knee bend or flexion should be between 135-145 degrees and at the top not less than 65 degrees.

Crank length is another consideration that will influence stress on the knee and a move to a shorter crank is sometimes appropriate.

Back Pain

Regarding the lower back, we suggest a hip angle between the trunk and thigh that does not drop below 55 degrees for optimal comfort, although elite riders can often get away with less! In this case, subtle changes in handlebar height, angle and head stem length are often adequate.

Developing your core strength can help reduce back pain. A quick test to see if you have sufficient core strength is to when riding, take your hands off the bars and see if you can maintain your spinal position. If you can’t this is a sign you need to work on your core strength.

More Cycling Injuries:

Neck Pain

This may be because of overactivity of the neck muscles due to constant looking up, tightness through the upper back. Again bike set can assist, checking handlebar height being too low or seat height too high.

Hand Pain

Cyclists may experience numbness and tingling in their hands due to compression of nerves. This is caused by wrist position and the pressure and vibration through the wrist when riding. You can help reduce your chance of hand pain by wearing gloves, using good handlebar tape, adjusting your handlebar position, moving your hand position frequently while riding and trying to put less body weight through your handlebars.

It is important to remember however that these are simply suggestions, and even minor adjustments can have followed on effects elsewhere so if in doubt consider advising from a professional who can provide a bike fit suitable for your individualised needs and also address any issues such as deficient core strength, and muscle imbalances that might be present.

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