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Bicycling

Bicycling serves a variety of purposes.  It can be fun, but can also be a functional mode of exercise, transportation, or rehabilitation.  Bicycles are made for different types of activities and are available in a range of shapes and sizes.  Proper selection, fit and adjustment of the bicycle can prevent injuries and provide long term health benefits.

General Risks

The nature of bicycling can put riders at risk of repetitive strain injuries. Almost one out of every two cyclists experience discomfort or injuries when riding. The neck and shoulders, back, hips, buttocks and groin area, as well as the arms, hands, legs and feet are at risk due to repetitive motion, muscle exertion, and soft tissue compression.

Problem Area Solutions

Handlebar Position

Bicycle handlebar position

The distance and height of the handlebar are important to ensure that excessive pressure in not placed on elbows, wrists and palms.  Pressure points can result in joint pain or hand and finger numbness. Handlebars that allow for several riding positions help riders change postures to avoid weight pressure problems.    

Crank Arm Length

The crankset converts the reciprocating motion of the rider's legs into rotational motion to drive the chain to turn  the rear wheel. The standard crank arm length is 170-175mm, which is appropriate for most cyclists between 5’5” and 6’ tall. Some specialty manufacturers make crank arm lengths shorter than 165mm and longer than 180mm. While logic might indicate that the rider's leg length should dictate the size of the crank arm length, factors such type of cycling and the rider's experience have an effect. Shorter cranks are more efficient for higher cadence riding (e.g. track racing), while longer cranks are better for lower cadence riding such as mountain biking. 

Foot Position

To get maximum power, the ball of your foot should be the contact point on the pedal. Center the widest part of the foot over the pedal axle to allow a more even distribution of force.  Proper foot placement helps stabilize the foot and reduces injury to the Achilles tendon, calf and knee joint. If clip in pedals are used, adjust the cleats so that the feet are in the same position as when you are standing comfortably. The hip joint, knee and ankle should remain in the same plane when pedalling. If cleats do not have lateral movement within the clip or are in the incorrect shoe position (too far forward or backward), knee and ankle pain may result over time.   

 Knee Position

 Cycling knee position

 The "knee over pedal spindle" (KOPS) fitting guideline has traditionally been used to determine knee position when riding. While this will place a road bike rider in approximately the correct position, seatpost angle and height, femur length, and type of riding can affect final fit. The best way to determine proper knee position is to have a professional bike fit expert evaluate and adjust your bike to fit your stature and riding style.  

 Other Considerations

 

Every year, more than 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents in the US, including 3,000 fatalities or serious injuries. Safety equipment should always be part of your gear and include a helmet, padded shorts and gloves, glasses, and stiff-soled shoes. Consider knee and elbow pads if you mountain bike. 

 

 

Stay flexible and warm-up before you ride.  Bicyling Magazine provides a gauge to test your flexibility and stretches to make improvements. The more flexible you are, the faster you can ride with less effort. 

 

 Additional Resources