Physical Therapist and Owner
As the weather gets nicer, people are ready to return to the road. On wheels, that is! Whether you are riding with your children, a weekend group warrior, an Ironman Triathlete or a Cat 1 competitive rider, staying healthy is important. With aches and pains in your shoulders and spine, no riding- no matter how much or how long- is good!
Let’s go over a few things for the riding season!
- 5 ways to “spring clean” your bike
- 5 ways to stay healthy while riding
If you have been riding this winter on your trainer or in classes, good for you! It’s always good to double check these simple tips, too. If you are taking your bike out of it’s winter hibernation, follow these steps to keep your bike safe, tuned, and ready to go!
- Stopping is important. Make sure to check your brake pads, to make sure that they have not dried out. Often, people store their bikes in the garage or basement, sometimes cold and drying. They may not function properly, and therefore, not keep you safe. Taking your bike to a local bike shop/mechanic will ensure that they are checked, installed and ready to go!
- Chain, Chain, Chain. Cleaning your chain used to be a grand event! Now, you have the options of taking it to a shop or buying easy-to-do chain cleaning kits. This makes it so that the chain does not rust, lasts longer, and shifts well.
- Noggin Knocker. Keep your head safe, check your helmet. Look for dry foam spots, cracks in the plastic (Again, if you stored in a dry place) and any damage that may have occurred while in storage. Make sure the buckles can be adjusted for your head, it must be tight to be effective. Falling is no joke, and a helmet can save your life!
- It’s a Wheel Thing. Yes, wheels, not tires. Look to see if you wheel is “true,” or straight. If the spokes are bent, they are not going to absorb the shock as well through your bike, and then the force will be unevenly distributed. This leads to the wheel and rim “bending” with force, and potential accidents (and money for new ones!) Your local shop can fix this for you, too.
- Tired Tires. Your tires are your steering, grip, safety, shock absorption and efficiency. They make this thing called your bike go! Check to make sure there are no objects stuck such as nails, tacks and more. Look to see that it is not “balding” in certain places, leading to uneven wear and tear. Also, look to see that the treads are still there, and not worn away. If you are worried that they are not retaining air, either replace them or “tire fix” them to seal any small holes. When in doubt, new!
Injury Prevention in the Saddle
Staying healthy on your bike will help to make your experience more enjoyable, and also not leave you with aches and pains after your workouts. This will help you to recover and get back in the saddle as well. Here are some simple reminders to stay healthy while on your bike.
- Relaxing those shoulders. The most often posture mistake people make on the bike is keeping their shoulders stiff. The best way to handle the road is to view the combination of your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and shoulder blades as “shocks” for your entire body. Your triceps work to keep your arms straight, absorb pressure through your arms as they also allow bend in the elbow with control. Hiking your shoulders up to your ears leads to neck pain and headaches, and stress during and after the ride. Every once and a while, pull your shoulders down and back, take a load off your neck!
- The Bees Knees. Keeping your knees straight in line with your hips and toes is important, just like it is in a squat. Most people who have “lazy” legs allow their hips to “open,” riding with knees out to the side. This puts extra pressure on the IT Bands, meniscus, foot and ankle, and is not the most efficient way to ride for the hips, either.
- The Circle of Life. When riding, think of making a full circle like a clock with your feet, equally pushing down on the pedals and you pull up. Most people are more inclined just to push down, as we all learned to ride bikes with pedals and not cages as kids, thereby pushing down only. The smoother you circle, the more even the force!
- Stuck in Flexion. When we ride, we are sitting. When we work, most of us are sitting. Driving? Sitting. Sleeping? Curled up flexed. See the trend? Our hip flexors get really tight throughout the day. If we add focusing on flexors in exercise, it gets worse. Your hip flexors are powerful in “pulling up” on your clips or cages. Even if you are only pushing down, you are still not getting stretch to the hips. When you get off of your bike, let them lengthen. Stand in a lunge, stretching the back hip, reach overhead to add more to it. Lay on your stomach and pull your heel to your butt, or do this standing.
- Buns, hun. Your booty works really hard biking, especially on hills. Again, this gets tight when you are sitting as well. To take care of you back side, you can work the muscle and stretch. To work the muscle, you can sit on a tennis or lacrosse ball, relieving the tension in the muscles and around the nerve. To stretch, the standing figure 4 works the best. Simply cross one leg by placing your ankle on top of your knee, letting your knee fall out forming a “figure 4”. Hold on to something (tree, car, another person) and “sit back” into it.
We hope you have an excellent biking season getting fit, having fun, and breathing fresh air. Enjoy yourself, be safe, and see you on the road and trails!