Gearing up to Cycle. 8 Tips to prevent injuries.
Spring is finally here! With the snow and ice mostly gone, and roads mostly clear (aside from some gravel on the sides of streets), cycling season is here!
Before you get out on the road, here are a few tips to ensure the most comfortable and safe ride.
1. Buy a proper fitting bike. Find a reputable bike shop in town (in Calgary, Bow Cycle in Bowness is excellent). A good bike shop is able to help you find a bike that fits you perfectly. A bike that fits properly is less likely to cause you pain down the road. This includes taking the bike for a test ride before you leave the shop before buying or after a bike fitting, to ensure it works for you!
2. Look at the Seat. Not every seat (saddle) is the same, so if possible you should test drive before buying to make sure you get one that will be the most comfortable long term. Typically, opting for a narrower saddle with less padding is more comfortable for longer rides (yes, this does sound counterintuitive!)
3. Ease into it! It has likely been several months since your last outdoor ride (and, even if you have been riding inside, the muscle memory doesn't always translate directly). Start out the season with a low mileage goal (say 8-10km/ride), then increase this gradually each week by adding on a few km each week (~5km/week depending on how you feel!) Initially, try to avoid particularly hilly routes, as this will be much more challenging. Trying to do too much too soon, before your body is ready is a good way to lead to injury.
4. Pick your route wisely. It may be a good idea to drive your route ahead of time, to determine if there is excess gravel or potholes that could impede you. Gravel doesn't provide as much traction as pavement and can easily lead to falls. Potholes, well that should be self explanatory. Perhaps try to stick to a route that is clear of these obstructions to prevent injury.
5. Allow recovery days. You are probably just itching to get out riding, but it is important to build in rest days to your training schedule. Again, too much too soon can lead to repetitive overuse injuries instead of leading to gains. Be smart, and give yourself some rest!
6. Posture. Try to keep your upper body as relaxed as possible, trying to keep tension out of the upper shoulders. This is best done by having a slight bend in the elbows and maintaining a neutral spine position. Think of keeping your core engaged to maintain a neutral spine. Also think of keeping your knees in line with your foot (avoiding any bowing inward/outward of the knee) to prevent knee pain.
7. Wear a helmet! Protect that noggin! Make sure your most pivotal real estate is protected with a proper fitting helmet. Your local bike shop has people trained in selecting a properly fitted helmet. Check out my blog here on finding an appropriate bike helmet.
8. Find a Friend! Finding a friend or cycling group to ride with not only makes the experience more enjoyable, but also safer. Should something happen to either one of you (whether it be a fall, a flat tire, or something more serious) it is helpful to have someone that can help you get the help you need.