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Cycling: Preventing Injury and Optimising Efficiency

Home » Cycling: Preventing Injury and Optimising Efficiency

In what has traditionally been seen as a European way of lifestyle and transport, Australians are increasingly embracing cycling as a great form of exercise to build general fitness, improve stress levels, and commute to work.

In Melbourne, the number of commuting cyclists has doubled over the last 5 years! Melbourne also tops the list of Australian capitals with over 30,000 people spinning the wheels daily to get to work.

Did You Know?

Over the last decade, bike sales in Australia have overtaken car sales by over 2 million units, with 1.7 million bikes sold in 2011!

As cycling continues to grow in popularity in all of these forms, so too does the number of cyclists presenting to our clinics with bike-related overuse injuries.

Being a low impact, controlled-motion activity, cycling has both its benefits and risks to the body. Despite being generally more joint-friendly than higher weight-bearing activity like running sports, and maintaining a fairly consistent movement pattern, such features can also lead to the gradual onset of overuse injuries.

Overuse strains and inflammatory conditions can be prevented by ensuring the correct bike set up.

Initial rider positioning can be crucial, and below are the most common issues seen from presenting cyclists due to incorrect bike set up:

Seat Too High:

  • Can lead to low back pain, as the cyclist will increase the rotation of the back and trunk through the pedalling motion
  • Lateral knee pain and Iliotibial Band pain (outside of thigh) is common, as friction in this area is caused with excessive knee extension on the downstroke of pedalling
  • Can also cause groin numbness and pain due to excessive pressure in reaching the pedals

Seat Too Low:

  • Can cause anterior knee pain, and pain under the patella (knee cap) due to an increased load on the thigh muscles
  • Overactive hamstrings are commonly seen, which can lead to cramping and muscle strain

Incorrect Cleat Position:

  • Often leads to Knee or hip pain from rotational force on the patella or hip joint
  • Shin and calf pain is caused if alignment places these areas in a shortened position

Seat Too Far Back:

  • Often causes neck or wrist pain, as the rider will need to stretch excessively to reach the handlebars
  • Places undue stress on structures from the upper spine down – such as vertebrae, ligaments, muscles and nerves in this area

It is important to ensure that your bike has been properly adjusted when purchased, but also continually reviewed if issues arise.

The most important aspect of having the bike fitted correctly is comfort. If this has not been achieved, it is safe to assume that the risk of overuse injury is greater, and the efficiency of pedalling is reduced.

In addition to this, core stability and flexibility can play a major part in maintaining comfortable and energy-efficient cycling, and general lower limb stretching and core control exercises are advised. For further information please contact or book an appointment with the Pinnacle bike fit team, we’d love to help!