What does almost everyone in Fernie do in April? Pull their bikes out of the basement and head somewhere dry such as the South Country, Cranbrook, or Moab. Lots of people have new bikes they are itching to get out on, while others are just over the snow and want to see some dirt. It is normal to have a few sore muscles your first two or three days out on a bike, especially if you haven’t been on one since October. However, once you get past those first few rides you should have zero pain while riding your bike! If you do, time to listen up!
When a patient comes to see me regarding low back, neck, knee or whatever pain they experience when biking I break down the assessment into two parts; their body and their bike. Do they have any physical limitations in mobility or strength that is the issue? And how is their bike set up for them?
Below are a few Key Points for bike fit and a handful of exercises to keep you “balanced” off the bike.
Disclaimer: If you have pre-existing medical conditions/injuries, pain with these exercises and/or uncertainty on how to do them, please seek help from your Physiotherapist.
Bike Fit Tips:
- You MUST start with the correct frame size, from here everything is adjustable.
- Your knee bend should be approximately 30 degrees at the bottom of the pedal stroke (3-5 degrees either side of this is okay depending on you and your knees).
- Your ankle bend should be 95-100 degree at bottom of the stroke (pointing your toes at the bottom of the stroke usually means your seat is too high, this can end up causing hot feet and a loss of force transferred into pedals).
- Your hip and spine angle will vary depending on the type of riding you do, the main point here is you are in a relaxed neutral position, not too compressed or stretched.
- Break lever for MTB’s should be in a straight line with your forearms while in descending stance, thus keeping your wrists straight when going downhill.
Download a free app such as the “Hudl Technique” to film yourself and measure your own angles.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Your hip flexors do a lot of work in a shortened position while pedalling. Chronically shortened hip flexors can affect your spinal posture resulting in low back and neck pain. To perform this exercise stand in a split stance with both heels on the ground reach as tall as you can and then lean away from the side of your back foot. Hold for 30 seconds per side, repeat three times.
Pigeon pose is a great stretch on the front and back of your hips. Lack of mobility in these areas can result in low back and knee pain. This stretch usually takes some time to relax into. Aim for two minutes per side.
Plank to Side Planks
A strong core is vital for transferring power to the pedals while biking as well as controlling the forces placed on your low back and neck. Start in a front plank, then move directly into the left side, then front again and finally right side. Begin with 30 seconds of each for a two-minutes total and work your way up. If you’re wondering, the world plank record is currently 8 hours 15 minutes set by a 62-year-old man. So, ya…get to work!
Hours and hours in a pedalling position puts your upper back in a rounded forward posture which can lead to neck pain and numb hands. Combat this with some banded Y’s. Fix a resistance band to an object, with your thumbs facing up move your arms into a Y position. This can be done in kneeling like shown or in standing. Aim for three sets, 15-25 reps depending on the band resistance.