Cycling is an economical method of transportation. Similarly, it is an intense cardio exercise that enables you to stay in shape and healthy as well. However, it also entails different kinds of injuries that can ruin your cycling experience. In this article, we are going to explain how can you prevent injury while cycling.
We have also divided the information into the following segments for your convenience.
- Risks of Cycling Injuries
- Causes of most cycling injuries when you are on the road
- Common cycling injuries and how to avoid them
- Cycling safety tips
- Road rules to abide by while cycling
Cycling has been one of the best yet cheapest type of transports since the late 19th century. In fact, you can buy a good multipurpose hybrid bicycle for less than 300 dollars. On top of that, it leaves little to no carbon imprint on the environment. Similarly, it has scientifically been proven that cycling boosts your metabolism and helps you maintain weight. Cycling can also improve your mental health in addition to refining your overall living style.
Cycling is great but it is not devoid of injuries, unfortunately. You will find yourself on the ground sooner or later no matter how many cycling safety tips you follow. However, prevention is always better than cure and the same is the case when it comes to cycling injuries.
Risk of Cycling Injuries
Before we talk about how can you prevent injury while cycling, it is appropriate to discuss some of the most common cycling injury risks. There are, in fact, two types of cycling risks, intrinsic risks, and extrinsic risks. The intrinsic risks include everything from muscle weakness to skeletal immaturity. These risks are directly related to your musculoskeletal issues. The extrinsic risks, on the other hand, are a result of the environment in which you ride your bicycle. They can include the type of terrain, how long you ride, and weather conditions.
Some of the most common cycling risk factors are as below.
- Poor cycling conditions such as rain or wet terrain.
- Poor warm-up. Yes, a brief warm-up is necessary before long rides.
- Poor-fitting cycling equipment including shoes and the bike itself.
- Poor cycling technique.
- Not wearing a helmet while riding.
- Riding too fast or too slow.
- Not abiding by traffic rules and regulations.
- Inexperience riders with professional grade bikes.
One of the best ways to avoid injury while biking is to minimize these risk factors as much as possible. For instance, you should always wear a helmet while riding. Similarly, only ride the bike which fits your size and weight. Furthermore, avoid biking during rainy weather on hilly terrains. Always use proper bicycling equipment ranging from your clothes to shoes. Not to mention, you must always obey the traffic rules when you are on your bicycle.
Read more: Is Riding A Bike Good Exercise?
Causes of most Road Cycling Injuries?
Apart from the above-mentioned risks, there are certain other factors which can put cyclist under greater risk when they are on the road. We think it is necessary to include them in our guide abut how can you prevent injury while cycling. These are the most common locations where you are likely to meet an accident. We have also outlined some suggestions to enjoy riding your bicycle while staying safe on the road.
Roundabouts are generally considered very safe. However, a lot of cycling accidents happen on roundabouts. Big roundabouts with multiple exits are the real culprits. The biggest reason for accidents at the roundabouts is that motorists do not give way to cyclists while emerging from a side road onto a roundabout. Most often, they simply fail to spot a cyclist.
Similarly, some motorists leave cyclists with a limited room when the turn off the roundabout after overtaking the cyclist. Consequently, the end up hitting the cyclist before or while leaving the roundabout.
Most of the accidents on roundabouts are caused by negligent motor drivers. Nothing you can do about them. However, careless driving by cyclists is also responsible for accidents on some occasions.
T-Junctions are also a common location for bicycle fall injuries. Most of the time, motorists collide with cyclists traveling past the junction while emerging onto the main road. Conversely, motorists fail to give way to cyclists coming from the main road while trying to turn across the oncoming traffic. The obvious conclusion is the collision between a motorist and cyclist.
One of the best ways to avoid injury while biking is to beware of potholes all the time. They can appear at any time on the road. Therefore, you should be extra vigilant while biking, especially if you are riding in a new or unknown area. The road surface poses the greatest dangers for cyclists apart from the motorists. Sometimes, potholes are simply unavoidable. You need to look ahead while riding to spot them in time.
Another solution to the problem is to ride assertively. For example, take a more central position if the entire road is in a dilapidated state. Always remember that most dangerous potholes are on the edge of the road.
4. Filtering and Overtaking
Injury in cycling can also occur due to overtaking motorists. There are millions of cars on the road at any given moment. The volume of traffic increases in the morning and evening when people commute to and back from work respectively. Both bikers and drivers tend to be extra impatient during these hours which is a big cause for concern. Biker, in particular, try to overtake or filter through slow-moving traffic, resulting in a lot of accidents. Sometimes, accidents occur when the motorists also change their lane without giving any indication or without checking blind spots or mirrors.
5. Parked Vehicles
You may be surprised to learn that cycling injuries can happen due to parked vehicles as well. For example, someone sitting in the car can knock you off your bicycle by suddenly opening the door. How you can prevent injury while cycling through parked vehicles? The simplest answer to this question is to leave a bit more room between you and the vehicles. Adopt a more central position when you see people getting in and out of their cars. This would also give you more time to react as you have more distance between you and the cars.
8 most Common Cycling Injuries and How to Avoid Them
You can sustain any of the 8 most common cycling injuries. However, if you follow the basic cycling safety tips and obey the traffic rules, you can avoid most of these injuries. Let us discuss them one by one in the following lines.
1. Impact Injuries or Crashes
Crashes are unfortunately part and parcel of cycling.
Sometimes crashes are unavoidable. Every cyclist, no matter how experienced he is, has crashed heavily once or twice in his life. The first thing you should do when you crash heavily is to seek medical advice even if no bones are broken. You may have hit your head hard on the ground, resulting in a concussion. You should always take concussions seriously and take enough rest to fully recover.
One of the most common bones broken due to cycling crashes is the collarbone or clavicle. Fortunately, it can fully heal in about six weeks.
Less Obvious Impact Injuries
One of the least obvious impacts injuries is muscle strains. They can result in overuse injuries as they force you to overcompensate. As you don’ feel the impact of the injury, you try to get back on the cycle sooner than later. However, it is a better idea to take as much rest as possible. You can even consult your physio after the crash before getting back onto your bicycle.
The Most Annoying Cycling Injury resulting from the Crash
Road rash or bruises is the least serious but most maddening crash injuries. You can graze your skin by skidding along the tarmac or hitting the road hard. It is necessary for you to carefully clean your wounds as soon as you reach home no matter how much it stings. Afterward, use a good antiseptic to kill the germs. Similarly, try to keep the rash dry and clean for at least a week for a good recovery.
How can you prevent injury while cycling involving crashes? The best thing to do is to take safe or specified lanes for cycling in addition to cycling within your limits. However, you cannot simply avoid mishaps sometimes.
2. Knee Pain
Knee pain is one of the most common cycling injuries and the most overused as well. Cyclists normally have cleats on the bottom of their shoes to fasten their feet to the pedals. However, they can also cause immense pain in the knees if you don’t position them correctly. The pain is extremely severe and to make matters worse, it won’t go away that easily.
The incorrectly positioned cleats can displace the patella (the knee cap). The knee cap gets out of the joint and starts moving in the wrong direction, resulting in excruciating pain.
How can you prevent injury while cycling, especially to your neck. You should start treating the knee pain by using anti-inflammatories and ice. Subsequently, you can resort to foam rolling, massaging, and plenty of rest. All these remedies will offer you temporary relief from the pain. Now, it is time to find the root cause of the problem.
Apart from incorrectly positioned cleats, knee pain can also result from a bike fit problem. For example, a saddle that is too low for you will put extra pressure on the patella, causing the anterior knee pain, the pain at the front of the knee. On the other hand, the saddle that is too high will give rise to pain at the back of the knee, commonly known as posterior knee pain.
The incorrect cleat setting can also cause media and lateral pains felt at the side of the knee.
Tight IT Band
Another thing that can pull the patella in the wrong direction is a tissue running through the outer thigh. Commonly known as the IT band, it can cause incorrect tracking of the knee when it is too tight. The obvious outcome is severe pain. However, massaging and foam rolling can easily and effectively resolve the problem.
Some people also use Kinesio tape to bring the patella back in the right position. However, it only helps you alleviate the symptoms instead of addressing the cause. You still need to loosen the IT band.
3. Hot or Numb Foot
How can you prevent injury while cycling involving a numb or hoot foot? Unsurprisingly, foot pain is one of the most common cycling injuries. Our toes have to put a lot of effort to drive a bicycle. On top of that, you have to wear those stiff-soled shoes for a long, long time as well.
Most casual riders only have one pair of cycling shoes for the entire summer. Some of them don’t have any. You may pack your feet with socks in winter as well. Similarly, they may swell in the summer because of all that sweat and moisture.
The most common cycling foot injury is pain on the underside of the foot, numbness or a burning sensation referred to as ‘Hot Foot.’ It mostly occurs because of the added pressure on the nerves that run from the ball of the foot right to the toes. It is essential to redistribute or soften the pressure to resolve the problem.
Swelling feet are the biggest reason for Hot Foot in the summer. The easiest solution is to soften your feet a little. Alternatively, buy cycling shoes which do offer your feet some breathing air.
On the other hand, you may be wearing too many or too tight socks, blocking the blood supply to your feet if the problem arises in winter. In this case, you must consider buying a wider pair of shoes or wearing socks that are thick but warm.
Plantar Fasciitis is another foot problem that can plague your life as a cyclist. The plantar fascia is a tissue that equally distributes the power throughout the foot sole. It runs all through the underside of the foot and tightens as we take a step. The undue stress can damage or overly tighten the tissue. You can relieve tightness by doing exercises like rolling the foot over a bottle of water or a tennis ball.
4. Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common cyclist injuries and for a good reason. You have to spend hours in a curved position, holding those handlebars. The problem only aggravates if your job requires sitting in front of your computer for a long time.
The continuous back pain can also change your posture for good, making it important for you to address the issue at the earliest as well. Besides, back pain can also affect other parts of your body such as pain in the lower leg or hip pain.
You must take some break from cycling and rest if you suffer from back pain. Similarly, regularly use a foam roller and stretch your back and hip frequently. However, it is advisable to consult a professional such as an osteopath if the back pain persists.
You can also prevent back pain from recurring by implementing the following tips.
- Work on enhancing your core strength. Your lower back will be unable to tackle the biking pressure if you have weak core muscles.
- You need to think about your posture if you work on the desk. We recommend buying a medicated pillow that helps in maintaining your posture. Besides, ensure your chair is comfortable and does not encourage awkward twisting.
- Considering adopting an upright sitting position on your bike by raising your seat and handlebars.
5. Neck and Wrist Pain
How can you prevent injury while cycling involving your neck? The cycling neck pain occurs when your upper body applies or transmits too much pressure on the neck.
Ideally, you should position 40 percent of your body weight at the front and 60 percent at the back. Your arms and wrists will take a hammering if exert more pressure on the handlebars. The first thing to ensure here is that your handlebar is not too low. Similarly, your reach should not be too long as well.
A very low handlebar can result in severe neck pain. This is because you have to look ahead while in a hyperextended position which is not only difficult but very painful as well.
Similarly, the unnatural angle of your body due to the low handlebar can also cause excruciating wrist pain. Once again, increasing the height of your handlebars will not only reduce your reach but will also decrease some pressure on your arms and wrists.
Similarly, invest in quality gloves or cycling mitts if you also have problems like tingling in fingers or thumb. Tingling is normally caused by compression of the ulnar nerve and median nerve. Both the mitts and gloves have padded areas to give more room to your fingers, thus preventing the compression of nerves as well.
6. Saddle Sores
How can you prevent injury while cycling involving saddle sores? Cycling, especially the saddles can wreak havoc on your undercarriage. It has forced some of the best cyclists out of the arena for quite a long time.
It is not only about discomfort or pain caused to the actual area. Saddle sores can lead to other problems if a cyclist tries to reduce pressure on the skin by sitting lop-sided. In most cases, these maladies become very difficult to treat.
Saddle sores are a raised area of skin caused by continuous pressure on the skin. They vary in type and size but they include any soreness on undercarriage or buttocks caused by the saddle.
The first thing you should do to treat a saddle sore is to wash the area using an un-perfumed soap and let it dry. You might as well take a break from cycling if it is painful to sit on the saddle. It will give enough time to the sored skin to heal.
Similarly, finding a saddle that is not only comfortable but fits your buttocks is one of the best methods to avoid saddles sores. The saddle should also be set up straight. Furthermore, your clothes need to fit well with your body. It is better to go for chamois clothes made of soft cotton that fits your body shape. You can also kill off bacteria and reduce friction by applying chamois cream.
7. Muscle Tightness
Your calves and hamstring normally get too tight while biking without you even knowing it. You don’t feel muscle tightness while cycling because your body adapts to the constant motion. You will feel the pain if you do an exercise that is not related to cycling. You must loosen your muscles because tightness can lead to muscle tearing as well. Always warm-up before every cycling session and never forget to cool down after it. Regularly stretch your muscles to make them more flexible. You can also take help from a foam roller.
8. Muscle Fatigue
Muscle fatigue is the most overlooked injury in cycling. Pro cyclists have really big and impressive quat muscles because they ride the bicycle using these muscles. It is no wonder that you need to give them some well-deserved rest from time to time. If you don’t, lactic acid can build in tired muscles and they will eventually start to hurt. You can massage the muscles to alleviate some pain. Besides, it is also a good idea to put on kinesiology tape before every ride.
Cycling Safety Tips
One of the best ways to avoid injury while biking is to follow cycling safety tips. These tips will mostly help you reduce the chances of accidental injuries such as bicycle fall injuries.
- Always make eye contact with the driver while taking turns or negotiating intersections assuming he has not seen you.
- One of the biggest reasons for cycling injuries is hard breaking. It can stop the biker in its tracks and push him over the handlebars. You need to apply brakes smoothly using the front and back brakes in tandem. It will reduce your weight over the handlebars while going forward.
- Has your bicycle serviced by a professional once in a year?
- Do not wear headphones while riding a bicycle. It is important to hear horns and everything else around you.
- Ensure your bicycle is in a good condition by checking it at least once a week. Regularly lubricate the cables and chains. Check if bearings, brakes, tires, nuts and bolts, and gears are working properly. It is better to consult your local bike shop if you cannot do everything yourself.
- Try not to wear dark-colored clothes as it makes difficult for motorists to spot you. Maximize your visibility by wearing brightly colored clothes.
- Install a light on the back and front of your bike to ride in all weather conditions.
- You can increase your visibility in the night by using reflective garments such as shoes fitted with reflectors at the back.
Road rules to abide by while cycling
By now, you have a fair idea of how can you prevent injury while cycling. However, you can further reduce the risks of cycling injuries by obeying all the traffic rules and cycling courteously.
- Do not try to break the signal or coast through red lights.
- Do not ride on the wrong side of the road.
- Give a hand signal before taking a turn.
- Take a hook turn from the left side of the road if you want to turn right.
- Maintain a distance of one meter from parked cars.
- Don’t get unpredictable while riding.
- In case of a heavy traffic, ride in a single file.
- Alert the people using your bell if you are riding on a shared path.
- Maintain a distance of no more than 1.5 meters when riding two abreast.
- Always use a bike lane if available.
- It is mostly illegal to ride on urban freeways.
Frequently Asked Question
- What care should be taken while cycling?
You should follow the cycling safety tips. It is also necessary to obey traffic rules and follow road markings. Improve your visibility when riding in the dark by wearing bright clothes. Install front and backlights and switch them on during night time. Always ride in your lane and in a single file. Keep clear of the parked vehicles and always ride on the left side of the road.
- What are some things cyclists do to reduce friction?
Cyclists normally wear chamois shorts and apply chamois creams to reduce friction between the body and the saddle.
- What are the most common injuries in cycling?
The following are the most common cycling injuries.
- Knee pain
- Lower back pain
- Wrist pain
- Neck pain
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Saddle sores
- Foot Numbness
- Muscle Tightness
- Muscle Fatigue
- Impact injuries or crashes
Riding is a brilliant hobby and a fruitful profession. However, you should ride courteously and carefully to ensure your safety and that of others. In our guide about how can you prevent injury while cycling, we have outlined some of the tips to prevent cycling injuries. Similarly, we have also provided viable treatments to the most common cycling injuries if you end up sustaining one.