It’s that time of year again when all the winter gear has been put away and the evenings are getting lighter extending the cycling opportunities. The months of indoor training are at an end and the summer season awaits. The spring classic races are almost over and the grand tours are nearly upon us.
We see cyclists throughout the year and from the xmas period onwards is a busy time for bike fits in preparation for the oncoming season of races, sportives or increased leisure mileage. We are now in spring and riders are coming to the clinic who have increased there mileage over the winter and some instances too soon and are therefore experiencing a variety of ‘load’ related injuries. What do I mean by this; it is basically when the body hasn’t had sufficient time to adapt to prolonged periods in the saddle and increased mileage. Muscles, tendons and joints adapt to increased loads and intensity of exercise. If progressed in a structured way with recovery periods then damage and repair can occur with positive gains in fitness, performance and enjoyment. If load increases are too sudden or steep, and this can vary from individual to individual then these structures do not have sufficient time to repair and niggles occur.
The common injury or problem areas that I mainly observe are the lower back regions and the knees. Cycling is such a repetitive endurance activity and therefore subtle irregularities with a bike fitting to the rider can also contribute or be the main cause of an injury.
Lower back pain in cyclists can occur from a variety of sources and certain postural movement patterns in positions of rest have been linked. These are the riders that tend to flex (bend) there lower lumbar (low back) regions when they sit on a chair and ultimately on a bike. Hence a bike fit is not just about observation of a rider on the bike but also there lifestyle and working postures. This is very relevant as often lower back pain isn’t from an isolated incident but from cumulative strain over prolonged periods of time. If you are a rider with a sedentary job then we would advise regular standing and moving around the office throughout the day, basically change postures/positions to decrease the amount of time the lower back structures are being passively stretched.
Saddles that are too high,low ,forward or backwards will all put the pelvis in different positions and affect the lower back posture. This is also relative to the size of a frame and it’s components. A frame that is too big or long and oversized stems as well as excessive reach on handle bars can all cause overreaching with riders often complaining of neck, shoulder and back pain. There is also evidence that tilting the saddle forward can in some instances alleviate back pain but by no means is a cure for all.
As with lower back pain, knee problems can be caused by poorly structured training, excessive mileage and intensity in conjunction with saddle and cleat positions.
Commonly riders with knee pain tend to demonstrate either excessive internal hip rotation throughout the downward pedal stroke and or excessive external rotation throughout the upward stroke. It should be noted that is is normal to have a small degree of both these movements throughout the pedalling action but not excessive.
As a general rule if the knee pain is orientated anteriorly ( in front) then the saddle may be too low or forward positioning the knee too far over the pedal spindle and increasing load through the knee. If the knee pain is posterior then the opposite positioning may be the case. As always I find this can be helpful to the rider but it is not always as simple in practice and assessing the individual is paramount with often subtle changes making significant improvements in bike position.
If you are experiencing any issues on your bike then don’t wait get a bike fit before it affects your performance and ultimately enjoyment.