As a cyclist, you rely heavily on a good body-bike (biomechanical) relationship, explains Sarah Walker. If you overuse certain joints, muscles or tendons repetitively over a period of time, you could get an overuse injury.
When physiotherapists treat injuries like this we look at possible causes of the injury. These causes can be extrinsic factors such as sport equipment, training errors or shoes. Or they can be intrinsic factors which involve the body such as muscle flexibility, muscle imbalances and joint stability.
Changing your bike set-up:
The set-up of your bike is the most important extrinsic factor relating to cycling injuries. Let’s have a look at what corrections you can make to your bike to ease the pain or injury you may be experiencing:
Neck or lower back pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too far back, too high or tilted; or your handlebars are too low.
Mid back pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too far forward, tilted up or down rather than level; or your handlebars are too low.
Hip(butt) pain or Hamstring (back of the thigh) pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too high or too far back.
Iliotibial band ITB (outer knee):
Likely causes: your saddle is too high or too far back; or your cleats are turned in.
Anterior (front) knee pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too low or too far forward; or your cleats are turned in.
Posterior (back) knee pain:
Likely causes: usually arising from the anterior knee problem or a hamstring injury, see above for likely causes.
Quadriceps (thigh) pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too low or too far forward.
Likely cause: your saddle is too high.
Calf/Achilles tendon pain:
Likely causes: your saddle is too high; or your foot is too far back on the pedal.
Likely causes: your shoes are strapped too tight; or the pedal pressure on foot is not through ball of foot.
Likely cause: you put too much weight through your hands due to saddle being too high or too far forwards.
Feeling unstable on bike:
Likely cause: your handlebars are too high.
Sus the Physio’s Advice:
Your injuries may not be due to bike set-up. There are other possible causes of overuse injuries, but bike set-up is the easiest factor to address so we try making the changes there first.
I’d suggest making small changes to your bike set-up. For example: 1mm to 5mm when shifting the saddle or handlebar position. Your cleats should be shifted to mid position.
When tweeking your set-up choose ONE factor to change at a time. For example, if you are experiencing pain in the front of your knee try shifting your saddle up by 5mm. If that does not lead to an improvement, shift saddle backwards 5mm. Then check cleat position is not rotated in or out.
If changing your bike set-up does not improve your symptoms within a few rides, consult an experienced Sports Physiotherapist.