Cycling is a great way to spend time outdoors, breathe in the fresh air, and feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.
This low-impact activity can also help you target different muscle groups, strengthen your joints, and get in some cardiovascular exercise—all without putting much stress on your body.
But along with the benefits of cycling come the potential injuries, especially if you’re not careful when on the road.
We will walk you through seven common injuries you may encounter and how can you prevent injury while cycling. This will help you stay in the saddle for years and keep fit with no issues.
Let’s dive in!
7 Common Cycling Injuries
Cycling knee pain is a very common ailment that affects cyclists due to overexertion.
Pain in the joints can also develop due to poor bike posture or bike fit. Cycling in high gear for long periods can also put stress on your knees.
To keep knee pain at bay, follow these tips:
- Build your cycling routine slowly to reduce strain on your knees and avoid pain or injuries. Take it slow, and do not take on heavy training or mountain biking too quickly or too often.
- Stick to lower cycling gears whenever possible.
- Adjust the height of your saddle so that your knee remains almost straight and the ball of your foot lies over the pedal axle at its lowest position. Seek a professional bike fitter’s advice to ensure the right height for your saddle.
- Each bike frame is different and may not always suit the cyclist’s height. Go to a local bike shop to ensure that the seat, handles, and pedals are positioned right to fit your riding style.
Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is another common cycling injury.
Riders build strong leg muscles through cycling, but their torsos do not develop the strength needed to support and resist the ensuing force. This results in overworked back muscles and back pain.
If you ride for hours on end with poor posture, your body maintains unpleasant positions that can lead to back pain. Riding on bumpy roads can also cause fatigue, pain, and injury.
Follow these tips to prevent back pain:
- Maintain good posture while riding. Tighten your abs, lengthen your torso, relax your shoulders, and lift your chest.
- Make sure your bike fits your body. Adjust the height of the handlebars and stem length accordingly. Again, you can enlist the help of professionals for this.
- If your back feels tired while you’re cycling, pause your ride and rest.
- Keep your back muscles flexible by targeting them in your regular stretching routine.
- Keep your back straight at all times, whether you’re riding or simply sitting or standing. This will alleviate back pain and improve your overall posture.
Cycling neck pain can also stem from fatigue or a poor bike fit or posture. A tense stance and tight grip are two of the most common causes of neck pain.
If you feel pain or inflammation in the sides of your neck that runs down to your shoulders, it could result from tensing your shoulders while cycling.
This kind of pain also arises from holding your head in an uncomfortable pose for long periods while in the saddle.
Here are the tips you need to follow to alleviate and prevent neck pain:
- Maintain a proper form by tucking your chin slightly and keeping your body upright and relaxed and your neck in a neutral position. A relaxed posture and grip are great ways to ward off any pain or fatigue while riding.
- Look forward with your eyes as you cycle. Do not tilt your head fully up to see the road ahead or look down at your bike.
- Ensure a proper bike fit to improve your posture and ensure a safe and comfortable riding experience. You can lower your bike saddle and bring it slightly forward, so your body remains straight while cycling. If you don’t know how to adjust your seat position, enlist the help of knowledgeable professionals.
- If you feel pain or fatigue in your neck while riding, take a short break and stretch it out.
- Stretch your neck regularly to keep your muscles flexible and pain-free. Look up exercises that focus on the neck and upper back.
Saddle sores are inflamed, red, and painful skin lesions that appear on the parts of the body that rub against the bike saddle. Ulcerations, chafing, folliculitis, and furuncles are some of the most common types of this condition.
To nip saddle sores in the bud, follow these simple tips:
- Make sure your saddle fits properly.
- Apply chamois cream to reduce friction and treat and prevent saddle sores.
- Wear lycra cycle shorts or a padded lycra baselayer under your regular shorts. This will provide an additional layer of padding between the bike saddle and your skin.
- Change your shorts immediately after a ride.
- If your sores look infected or don’t heal quickly, seek medical attention.
Many cyclists experience carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel, located in the palm, is home to the medial nerve that travels from the thumb to the ring finger.
Putting excessive weight or pressure on this area while cycling can lead to pain while moving the wrists, as well as tingling, weakness, and numbness in the fingers.
To fend off wrist pain, follow these tips:
- Adjust the height of your handlebars so that your wrists remain flexible throughout the ride.
- Ensure proper stacking of your head and spine.
- Wear gel gloves while riding to provide cushioning to your hands and wrists. These gloves will also add an extra layer of protection to your hands in the event of a crash or fall.
Two of the most common broken bones for cyclists are the clavicle or collarbone and the scaphoid, which is the thumb bone. They absorb the most shock in the event of a fall.
Other common broken bones are the wrist, hand, humerus or upper arm, femur or thigh bone, and ribs.
While you cannot avoid crashing altogether, you can at least learn how to fall off a bike properly to minimize injury.
How you should fall depends on the kind of crash that occurs, which means you must maintain focus even during a dire situation.
For example, if the momentum of the crash is going to make you flip over the handlebars, extend your hands and bend your elbows to soften the impact. Tuck your head in and twist your body to roll over the shoulder and on your back.
If you turn a corner too sharply and your bike begins to slide, twist in the direction you are falling to let the back of your shoulder take most of the impact.
In all situations, tuck your head to your chest and twist your body so you will roll to the ground and minimize the impact.
You can get a concussion if you hit your head as you fall from your bike. It is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can become very serious.
Most concussions take a few weeks to a few months to resolve.
Wearing a helmet is the best way to prevent a concussion. The Cleveland Clinic supports this, saying that it reduces the risk of head injuries by 85%.
Even if a helmet cannot always save you from a concussion, it will prevent more severe head injuries like skull fractures and brain bleeds.
Make sure you buy a Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) helmet. CPSC helmets undergo rigorous testing and provide guaranteed protection against TBIs.
Paying attention to your surroundings while riding will help you avoid crashes. Keep an eye out for vehicles, pedestrians, other cyclists, and hurdles like trees and rocks.
Limit distractions while you cycle, and make sure you are entirely present throughout your ride.
Other Injury Prevention Tips
Here are some other handy tips to prevent injuries while cycling:
- Ride on the right side of the road—as far to the right as possible—along with the traffic. Use proper hand signals to indicate changes in direction.
- Obey traffic signals and give way to pedestrians and larger vehicles.
- If you like to ride in low-visibility conditions such as foggy mornings or at night, install reflectors and lights all over your bike.
- Wear biking gear with reflective materials to make yourself more visible to motorists.
- Give yourself sufficient time for recovery after each cycling session. Recovery is especially important after long and challenging rides over rough terrain.
Crashes and falls are part and parcel of cycling. But with the help of our simple tips, you should be able to prevent some of the common injuries that affect cyclists.
We hope that you enjoyed reading our article on how can you prevent injury while cycling and found it helpful. Check out our website for similar blog posts and guides on safe and fun cycling.
Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic