While cycling isn’t as intense on your body as other sports such as running, it can still take its toll, especially if you cycle frequently. On the grand scale of potential sports you could do to maintain your weight and fitness level, cycling remains one of the least injury-dense activities. Apart from not being very risky, riding your bike also works out your whole body at once. In this article, we will go through some of the most common cycling injuries, the reason behind them, and how they can be prevented.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy tracker for your cycling sessions, I suggest checking out my detailed guide on the best fitness trackers for cycling. Now, let’s jump into this!
Common injuries and their prevention
There are two types of injuries when it comes to cycling – ones that occur suddenly and ones which are gradually worsening over time. While some pre-existing conditions can help with a potential injury manifest itself, most of the time that isn’t the case. Here is a list of all the injuries that we will go through, ranking them from most common to least common:
- Lower back pain
- Knee pain
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle fatigue
- Neck pain
Lower back pain
Lower back pain is one of the common issues cyclists face. It is even more common with beginners that have had a steeper training curve than their bodies could’ve handled. Even if you aren’t putting much effort into cycling, having the same position for hours at a time always reflects poorly on your back, with the lower regions being significantly more susceptible to trauma. The cycling position puts a lot of pressure on that lower region as well. This is because you need to flex your body at your waist to have maximum strength at your pedals.
To prevent this, you need to always keep your back straight in according to your bike’s frame. Also, make sure you take breaks from time to time where you sit upright on the bike and stretch your back and shoulders. Stopping to do that won’t hurt as well.
Along with the back issues, knee pain and injuries are also fairly common with cyclists. After all, your knee joint is the one moving the most during cycling and since most cyclists use pedal cleats, they risk of positioning them poorly, resulting in more strain on the knees. Quadriceps tendonitis and patella injuries are very common if you haven’t warmed up properly or have pushed too hard too early in your training.
Tightness is one of the biggest issues with people that train any sport mainly due to its hidden nature. Tight muscles are hard to detect, especially during your cycling session, mainly because your body will quickly adapt to it. The best way to identify tight muscles is to try to do a different range of motion, or in other words – a different activity. Then, you will feel your legs not being able to loosely handle the different exercise.
Tight muscles most commonly lead to muscle tears which are one of the worst roadblocks for any cyclist since they can sideline you for a few months. The best way to prevent tightness is to stretch your muscles even in days when you aren’t cycling. Using foam rollers is actually helpful in this occasion and can help muscles get loose.
Muscle fatigue is easily identifiable since it starts hurting as soon as the muscle reaches its limits. Then, lactic acid starts building up and you start feeling a burning sensation in the area. In order for a muscle to grow and be healthy, you have to give it some time to rest. This is why rest periods are essential to your growth as a cyclist.
I previously mentioned quadriceps tendinitis but there is another very common injury with cyclists – Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon connects your Soleus muscle to your calcaneus (heel bone). That is your largest muscle below the knee and is also the most powerful with cyclists. For that reason, it often gets inflamed which manifests itself with pain and sometimes swelling. If you start feeling pain in that region it is best to take a few days off instead of pushing through it. Putting ice on it every evening will also help the injury heal up faster.
One of the main reasons for this inflammation is having your saddle too high. The higher it is, the more your toes will be pointing down, ultimately putting unnecessary strain on your Achilles tendon by having your calf muscles constantly contracted.
One of the most common causes of neck pain is muscle tightness. As we discussed, the best way to prevent that is to warm up and stretch your muscles frequently. Using percussion massagers, foam rollers, saunas, or traditional massages is the best way to keep your back muscles loose and healthy. The reason why neck muscles tense up is the same reasons as to why your back starts hurting – they hold your body (in this case your head) for a prolonged period of time in the same position. This lack of movement strips them of their ability to metabolize and work properly, hence the tension and the potential injuries.
Other cycling injuries
Apart from traumatic injuries that can occur from improper posture or the lack of warm-ups, there are other injuries which are easily preventable. I am talking about falling, and more specifically falling while being out of your waters. Many cyclists often push their limits in the wrong moment or at the wrong road. Faster speeds than usual can be dangerous since you aren’t used to them. Going downhill you should always control your speed and keep things at a pace you’re comfortable with. The main reasons cyclists fall is due to not being able to take a turn. Uneven surfaces or sudden road obstacles are also a common reason. All of these reasons can be prevented if you pay attention and are smart with your speed and routes. Plan ahead and don’t try to beat your last time by speeding at the wrong sections of the course.
If you want to learn how to get faster at cycling, check out my dedicated article on the topic by clicking here!
There are a few other issues which are connected with improper workout routines, posture, and even gear. Those are the well-known foot numbness, saddle soreness, and a few less-frequent issues such as dry eyes.
Foot numbness occurs when you use cycling shoes which are tighter than your feet. This will lead to losing any feeling in your feet. Apart from cleats that don’t match your feet size, constantly riding hills is another common reason for foot numbness due to the constant pressure in your feet.
Saddle soreness can be a bit more serious since it can lead to the development of skin disorders in the area between your legs. The constant rubbing of an uncomfortable seat combined with improper clothing leads to an unnecessary amount of friction which ultimately creates painful rashes. The best thing you can do is wear the right cycling shorts and not put your saddle too high up.
Various tracking means can help you identify whether you are pushing too hard, especially if they also read your current heart rate. Most people are confused about whether to get a cycling computer or a smartphone, though. This is why I’ve made an article on the topic which covers the main differences, advantages and disadvantages of both tracking methods. Click here to learn more!
Tips For Preventing injuries
There are a few things that you should always keep in mind in order to keep a healthy routine and most importantly – keep your body intact. As you already saw, some issues might stem from your gear so make sure you invest in proper clothes and shoes that are meant for cycling and won’t tamper with your workout. Having sports tights and cycling rash guards that are too tight might limit your movement and joints range which might lead to long-term injuries.
Knowing how to properly warm-up for your cycling session is the most important thing you should learn before getting into any sport more seriously. Cycling as a whole doesn’t require a long warm-up routine similar to the one needed for running and weight-lifting. The reason for that is that cycling doesn’t require much of your body, especially when done at a slow pace. With that in mind, one of the best ways to warm up and prepare your body for what’s ahead is to just start cycling and gradually increase your speed as you feel looser and warmed up.
On top of everything, however, is being mindful of your surroundings. That is the best advice anyone can give you that might even save your life one day. if you like listening to music, make sure you get open-ended headphones that won’t block out the ambient noise. Getting in-ear earplugs with active noise enhancement is also an option, albeit a more expensive one.
Some of the common cycling injuries include lower back pain, knee pain, and joint and muscle issues. Those are typically the result of improper technique and pushing too hard too early in your cycling training. While some traumatic injuries aren’t avoidable, most others are. This is why you should always be mindful of your technique, speed, and surroundings.