Cycling & Thigh Pain

In many cases, feeling thigh pain while cycling is not related to major medical problems. Chafing, cramps and general tiredness in the muscles can all trigger thigh pain. However, you may be able to both prevent future symptoms and find out if your pain is cause for concern. If your thigh pain persists long after your bike ride finishes or causes you excruciating pain, visit a physician immediately.

If your shorts are too loose, you may experience thigh chafing.
Credit: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images


Expert cyclist Sheldon Brown suggests that chafing is one of the most common reasons for thigh pain when cycling. Chafing is when your skin becomes irritated from the friction of rubbing against your clothes or the saddle. On hot, long rides when you're sweating a great deal, chafing tends to get a lot worse. In many cases, chafing results from sitting on a saddle that's too wide or made from padded material, according to Brown. Using Vaseline or a similar petroleum jelly on the thigh can help avoid serious chafing.


The thigh is one of the most frequent areas to suffer a muscle cramp when cycling. Cramping is a form of muscle spasm that can cause extreme pain. According to the Cycling Performance Tips website, if you experience a thigh cramp when cycling you should dismount straightaway. Massaging the thigh may be enough to relieve tightness. However, if the cramp is more painful, stretch the area between your hips and upper thighs by doing a lunge stretch. You can stretch light leg cramps while riding, though it's not recommended for beginners.

Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

Cycling very quickly can trigger iliotibial band friction syndrome, according to the Langone Medical Center at New York University. Your iliotobial band stretches along the outer portion of your thigh. The syndrome is a result of overuse, and in some cases related to riding a bike that's not suited to your frame. The pain symptoms may start in the knee, but often spread up the outer thigh. You may feel a burning or sharp pain when cycling. Treatment includes rest and ice to reduce the damage, often followed by some home-based rehabilitation exercises.


Before any cycle ride that's more than just a trip to the local store, make sure to warm up your thigh muscles properly. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests lifting your foot behind your back toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in your quadriceps muscles at the front of your thigh. Keep your knee pointing direct to the ground and hold your thigh in place for 10 to 20 seconds. To help prevent cramping, drink plenty of water and avoid cycling in very hot conditions.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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