Cycling injuries happen, but most of them can be avoided. Especially those that you could label as rookie mistakes.
That’s right—these are the most common cycling injuries that happen all the time, and if you’re proactive enough, you can stop them from happening to you.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the common cycling injuries, we got you covered:
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1. Knee Pain
We use our knees to pump on through, but despite these hinge joints being designed to move in the way that they do, humans weren’t exactly bred to use bicycles the way that we cyclists do.
That being said, you have to take it easy on your knees or they won’t be able to keep up with all the cycling that you want to do.
Knee pain is common because it’s directly affected by pedaling.
The best way to prevent knee pain is to use high-quality pedals that actually fit your feet, and allow you to shift power to your thighs and shin bones instead of putting all that pressure on your knees.
The next time you hop on your bicycle, pedal and feel where that force is coming from.
If you feel that a lot of it is coming from your knees rather than your shins, it means you’re applying more pressure and the joints will wear down faster than normal. You need to redistribute that weight.
We have a guide on the best pedals for mounting bikes, but even if you’re using a road/street racing bike, you should still consider swapping your pedals out.
To help train yourself, get pedals that not only ergonomically fit your feet, but have straps to keep your feet locked into place. This forces you to correct your leg posture.
When you apply pressure to your knees, you may notice your feet slipping to the front of the pedals.
That’s because the force connects from your heels to the pedal, but when you shift your feet, you also have to rely on your ankles to help balance that power.
It helps you tremendously.
2. Muscle Fatigue
This is something you can’t escape. You’re using your muscles, and as they say, no pain no gain.
The thing is, you absolutely can overextend your muscles, and it has dire consequences.
When you fatigue your muscles, your body leans on other muscles, or joints and bones to support your movements.
The reason that’s bad is because your bones and joints aren’t designed to handle all the pressure and stress that your muscles do. Your bones and joints do not benefit from resistance like muscles will.
In addition to applying stress to your joints and bones, you could pull a muscle. Your muscles are connected to the outside of your bones, and they are not designed to tear.
This is when you overextend and your muscles produce lactic acid, but the pressure of pedaling or whatever physical activity you are engaged in does not let up.
Ignoring muscle fatigue is common in cyclists. The idea is that you can push through, but if you don’t listen to your body, you could be out of commission and unable to use your bicycle for weeks with certain injuries.
You are also at an increased risk for hernias and dislocating discs in your back if your muscles are fatigued, but you’re carrying on anyway. Know when to call it quits, and nourish your muscles properly.
3. Lower Back Pain
This is systematic of mountain biking for sure, but being in the same position for extended periods of time regardless of what activity you’re doing can hurt your back.
If you sit in an office chair for more than about an hour, you feel the need to stretch your back when you stand up. Why is that?
Because there’s discomfort, and if you sit for even longer, eventual pain.
With cycling, you may be sitting upright for hours on end. If your seat is too high, you could be putting pressure on your lower back and relying on it to help shift your balance while you ride. That’s not a good thing.
To help, shift between sitting and standing as often as possible. Even if you’re cycling on the sidewalks, try not to sit down for more than five minutes at a time. Stand up, pedal that way, and continually shift your resting position.
Alternatively, you could invest in a high-quality saddle instead of keeping the stock bike seat.
The way that your body applies pressure to the seat will change depending on your current fatigue and how you’re sitting (leisurely ride versus a more intense mountain biking trek, for example), and these high-end bike saddles tend to help with back pain throughout your journey.
If you consider yourself a moderate or hardcore cyclist and regularly ride ten or more miles per week, consider a bi-annually visit to a licensed chiropractor so that they can monitor your spine alignment and any back problems you may develop.
It’s important for your health.
Overuse of your achilles heel can lead to tendonitis. This is something that you not only do not want to ride with, but you may be completely unable to ride as a result.
Our bodies use inflammation as a means of dealing with threats, and while inflammation has positive benefits, it comes with plenty of negative ones.
Tendonitis occurs when connective tissue becomes inflamed, and that directly restricts movement.
Your body will shoot off pain signals like fireworks that prevent you from moving. “Pushing through the pain” with tendonitis is a fool’s errand: you won’t be able to push yourself far, and then it will hurt worse and require longer recovery.
Your only choice is to lower the inflammation, and let the connective tissue heal. This process could take some time.
As a preventative measure, especially if you’re someone that likes to push the limits on their bicycle, start your cycling journey with a ten-minute foot soak in epsom salts.
These help to increase the blood circulation wherever you use them, which can help prevent pain in your feet and prevent tendonitis in the heel. Tendonitis can appear anywhere in the body that there is connective tissue, so be careful.
5. Body Numbness (Feet and Hands)
Your hands and feet can be rather sensitive. If you ride for a while and notice numbness creeping down your arms to your hands, or down your legs to your feet/ankles, don’t worry—it’s a common enough issue and there are treatments.
For your hands, you’re overextending your arms. Muscles, joints and nerves are all being quite literally stretched too thin, and it’s resulting in numbness. Bend your elbows a bit and be closer to your handlebars to fix this issue.
With feet, it can be a little more difficult. You may want to start out by adjusting your seat height.
Similarly to your hands, you might be overextending your legs and causing numbness this way.
However, if you experience this in your feet, it’s more than likely a result of your shoe fit. Your shoes are either too tight, or not supportive enough, so all the force of riding is unevenly distributed.
Consider a new pair of shoes with a better fit, as well as an insole with plenty of shock resistance.
Mountain bikers may experience this more than road cyclists because of the bumpy terrain and constant vibrations, as well as the shock when your front wheel comes down.
It’s worth noting that your suspension fork should also be inspected to make sure it’s not forcing your body to undergo unnecessary levels of shock (you can upgrade that and so much more in your bike).
6. Saddle Rashes
This is just as bad as it sounds. Saddle sores occur on any skin that rests on the saddle. Through multiple layers of clothing, your skin can rub against the fabric and the friction of the saddle, and create horrible rashes.
These take a lot of time to develop, but once they do, they’re incredibly painful. You will have to stop riding until they disappear.
They’re stingy and very irritating, and affect your life even when you’re not on the saddle. If we’re being fair here, they’re one of the most aggravating pains because it’s in an area that’s mostly fat: yoru buttocks.
It’s somewhere that we’re not used to feeling irritating or discomfort, let alone high levels of pain.
Similar to our fourth tip, you can use epsom salt baths on a regular basis to help with circulation to this area.
If your entire body is sore after a tough-as-nails ride, this could help prevent saddle rashes from occurring after your next ride.
Stay Safe, Don’t Make These Mistakes
Seriously, most of these are avoidable with a bit of diligence, paying attention to your bicycle in terms of maintenance, and being vigilant while out on the road or the bicycle trails.
You’re a smart cyclist, so put your best foot forward and be on the lookout for these common accidents.