The Top 5 Signs You’re Cycling All Wrong
By CHRIS THORNHAM
As a cyclist, you're both the passenger and the engine of your vehicle. And like any vehicle, you have to make sure the way you operate it isn't causing any unnecessary wear and tear.
Unfortunately, the lesson you were taught as a child to stay upright on a bike doesn't cover all the necessary bases to ensure your rides aren't leaving you in pain. When I first got into cycling, I didn't bother with getting a proper bike fit and thought any old shoe would do -- whether it fit properly or not.
Save yourself the headache and don't be like me: I went through a lot of knee and foot pain before I learned the valuable lesson that pain is your body's way of telling you something is awry.
Luckily, with the proper cycling form and fit, you can get back on the road without any worries. Here are five signs that your cycling form is off and the corrections you need to make to right the ship (or bike, in this case).
1. Your neck, shoulders or hands are tight or sore. If you're no stranger to these symptoms, it's likely you're holding far too much tension in those areas. Stability is important, but tensing will only cause you pain and hinder your ability to properly handle the bicycle.
Focus on tightening up your core and using this for stability instead of using your upper body and a death grip on the handlebars. Tightening your core allows you to control the bicycle while keeping your upper body relaxed. Try to maintain a light touch on your handlebars while keeping your neck loose and ready to look around.
2. You're bouncing around on your saddle. John Wayne may have looked cool bouncing on his horse, but it just doesn't have the same visual effect on your bicycle. If your butt is bouncing around while you ride, chances are your cadence (i.e., the number of pedal strokes each leg makes in one minute) is too high. The right cadence is the key to efficiency, so try slowing it down until you can remain still.
3. You're pedaling too slowly. Don't worry. It's not you; it's the gear you're in. If it feels like your pedaling is sloth-like, try shifting to an easier gear that will allow you to move your feet with less effort and pedal with a faster cadence. Cycling with a cadence that's too low has been proven to cause injury.
Cycling is an endurance sport, so efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to your energy output. Keeping your movements rhythmical and focusing on a cadence between 75 and 100 rpm is key. If you exceed this range, you're likely working too hard and losing efficiency, especially if you're a recreational cyclist.
4. Your knees hurt. Any type of knee pain needs to be examined by a professional. However, the cyclist's general rule is that when there's pain at the front of your knee, your saddle is too low; when there's pain at the back of your knee, your saddle is too high. I recommend adjusting a half-centimeter in the respective direction to see if it makes any difference in the comfort of your ride.
5. You're feeling numb or tingly. If this is a familiar sensation, it might be time to see a certified bike-fit professional. Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet or even genitals is a strong indicator that your bike isn't properly fitted or that you need a different saddle.
In extreme cases, excessive numbness in your genital area can cause erectile dysfunction in men and decreased genital sensation in women, so it's definitely not something you want to just pedal through.
Cycling requires you to complete the same movement thousands of times. If your body isn't properly aligned, injury is almost inevitable. On top of that, an improper fit can also affect your ability to properly handle and control your bicycle, which could lead to an accident.
Cycling should be fun, not agonizing. If you're going to invest the time and money into cycling to get in shape, keeping your body pain-free and healthy should be your No. 1 priority -- so listen to your body and make the proper adjustments.
Readers -- Have you ever suffered any of the symptoms mentioned above? Have you ever just cycled "through the pain"? What are some adjustments that have worked for you? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Chris Thornham is a co-founder of FLO Cycling, which engineers aerodynamic cycling wheels. The company uses computational fluid dynamics software to develop its wheels and verifies its results in a wind tunnel. Less than three years after launching, the company has sold 10,000 wheels to customers in 51 countries. Chris enjoys learning, triathlon training, skiing, hiking with his dog and spending time with family.