More than two million people across the country now cycle at least once a week, an all-time high according to British Cycling, the sport’s governing body in the UK.
In the last few years, we have seen GB riders Bradley Wiggins, then Chris Froome and now Geraint Thomas winning the Tour de France.
The eight gold medals of the GB Team in the 2012 London Olympics and the Tour de France starting in London in 2007 then Yorkshire in 2014 have all contributed to the popularity of cycling in the UK.
However, the increased interest in cycling has also led to a rise in cycling related injuries.
The Science of Cycling
In technical terms, cycling is about generating forward motion via a single leg driving power through the crank of the bike. As this is a single unopposed leg action, there is a need to control this downward force against the tendency for the knee, hip, pelvis and torso to move sideways.
Imagine you were trying to stand up from a chair simply balancing on one leg. It is a challenge to control the ‘wobble’. To be a strong injury-free cyclist you need to be able to repetitively control this unwanted wobble with each pedal revolution so that you move forward with maximum efficiency and avoid stress on the joints through unwanted torsion.
You may have legs as strong as Sir Chris Hoy but if you cannot stabilise the downward pressure on the pedal, you are not going to convert the downward force efficiently into forward motion.
Cycling injuries largely come about from a failure to repeatedly control the side to side motion of the knee, hip, pelvis and torso OR simply not being able to adapt your body to the requirement of maintaining a static bent over position.
Essential Tips and Advice
If you’re suffering from a bike related injury, you have three options or tweaks open to you:
1. Change your bike set up
You can move the saddle height, saddle angle, reach forwards, or some element of the geometry of the bike.
2. Change your cycling style
You can consciously change the cadence (pedal rate) or tempo that you cycle at. Essentially, you can learn to ride in a lower gear whilst spinning the pedals. Many novice cyclists try to push the pedals down whereas more proficient cyclists will apply power evenly throughout the pedal stroke. At the same time, you can try to control the side to side OR forward and backward ‘rocking motion’
3. Improve your flexibility and strength
This will need to be cycling specific. Whilst swimming might be said to strengthen the core, it will not help you stabilise the forces of a unilateral leg action pushing down on the pedal. To be cycling specific, you need to do single leg drills in the gym or at home and one-legged drills on the bike.
Moving on to flexibility, in the forward bent bike position you tend to lose the other planes of motion in the spine. So, although you want to work on forward and backward bending, you will also need to stretch the spine into rotation and sidebending. The same is true for the neck, shoulders, hips and knees.
For more information on cycling injuries or to book an appointment in Bridgnorth or Shrewsbury, please call 01746 761050.