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Our Top 13 Tips To Avoid Cycle Injuries

Cycling can be enjoyed by everyone, whether you’re young or old, athletic or sedentary.   Cycling is an enjoyable and healthy way to travel and experience the outdoors. Done vigorously, it gives the heart and circulatory system a workout and can burn more than 500 calories per hour. It’s also great fun for friends and families alike.  Here are our top tips to help you enjoy cycling and avoid cycle injuries…

Have a Roadworthy Bike that Fits You.

Getting the correct size bike for you is important.

  • Straddle the bike and stand flat-footed.
    • On a road bike, there should be 3-5cm of clearance between your groin and the top bar.
    • On a mountain bike this should be at least 5 cm.
  • Buy your bike from a reputable dealer who will help find the right bike and fit.
  • Regularly check the brakes and tyre pressure, and don’t ignore any strange noises, vibrations, or jumping gears – they probably indicate a problem.
  • Be wary of mail-order/supermarket ‘bargains’ or flat-pack bikes.
  • If in doubt, take it to your local bike shop for advice.
Wear a Helmet.

Head trauma accounts for 75% of of cycling fatalities. Used properly, bike helmets are 90% effective in preventing brain injuries. Choose one that meets safety standards, is a bright colour and fits snugly.

Pick the Right Seat.

The hard, narrow seats on racing bikes can be particularly uncomfortable for women as they have a wider pelvis. You can get special anatomically designed saddles which are wider and more cushioned. Gel-filled saddles or pads can ease pressure and friction.
Position the saddle so that you knee is only slightly bent at the bottom of each rotation. If it’s bent to much, the seat is too low; if the knee lock when extended, or you have to reach for the pedal, the seat is too high.

Adjust the seat’s “fore-aft” position and make sure the seat is level, or the nose just slightly higher.

Start Slowly.

If you are out of shape, it’s best to start slowly. Pedal just 30 minutes a day on flat terrain for the first 3-4 weeks and then gradually increase your intensity and change terrain. Share the fun with others – riding in a group can make the miles zip by faster and motivate you to become a better cyclist.

Dress for Comfort.

You want to be able to move, but think about the shorts/trousers you wear as lots of material may wrinkle and bunch up and cause skin irritation. If you cycle a lot you might want to choose cycling shorts with no seams at the crotch and special lining or padding to wick away perspiration.

Avoid Riding at Night.

Most cycle deaths occur between 6-9pm. If you expect to cycle in low-light conditions, wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your helmet and bike. Ensure you have a strong headlight and a strobe-type linking red tail light.

Get in Gear.

Don’t pedal in high gear for long periods – this can increase pressure on your knees. Shift to lower gears and faster revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees. The best cadence for most cyclists is 60-80 revolutions per minutes, though bicycle racers pedal at 80-100 rpm.

Change Positions.

Vary your hand and body position frequently. That changes the angle of your back, neck and arms, so that different muscles are stressed and pressure is put on different nerves.  Avoid riding with your hands on the curved part of handlebars for a long time. This may cramp your hands, shoulders and neck. Keep your arms relaxed and don’t lock your elbows – this will help you absorb bumps better.

Have Great Bike Control Skills.

You should:

  • understand how to shift your body weight when making an emergency stop;
  • be able to swerve safely;
  • make efficient use of your gears;
  • keep good control of the bike while looking directly behind;
  • be able to confidently ride one-handed.; and
  • ride with at least two of your fingers on your brake levers. If this seems uncomfortable you need to adjust the brake lever position and/or reach adjustment.
Always use Good Road Sense.
  • Ride with traffic.
  • Give right of way to cars and pedestrians.
  • Use hand signals and obey all signs.
  • Communicate with drivers:
    • use hand signals when you turn
    • stay out of driver’s blind spots
    • make eye contact with drivers as you pull into an intersection or make a turn so they know your intentions and you know that they have seen you.
  • Don’t ride side by side with another cyclist.
  • Keep an eye our for car doors opening, potholes and other potential hazards.

If you are nervous about cycling on the road do get training. Cycling in parks and cycle paths is fine but you are missing out on the freedom to cycle, quickly and safely to wherever you want to go.

Cycling on the pavement, even considerate cycling, is against the law (although the police will show discretion to younger children cycling on the pavement).

Think Positioning and be Road-Savvy.
  • Ride away from the kerb, never in the gutter, at least a ‘door’s width’ away from parked cars.
  • Be aware that drivers tend to leave you the same room on your right as the room you leave for yourself on the left.
  • Ride in the stream of traffic when you can match its speed.
  • At times when you have to ride close to slower moving traffic or parked cars (i.e. on a narrow road) do so slowly to give yourself time to react to hazards such as an opening door.
Be HGV/large vehicle/bus aware.

You are particularly at risk if cycling on the passenger side of an HGV as it turns left because of the poor left view from the cab (many have ‘blind spots’).

  • Do not ‘hug the kerb’ to undertake a large-sided vehicle (particularly when on approach to traffic lights/junctions).
  • Ensure that you are positioned with enough space behind or in front of any large vehicle so the driver in the cabin can see you.
  • Make sure you can see the vehicle’s mirrors. If you can’t see the mirror the driver probably can’t see you.
Get some Cycle Training.

Even the most experienced rider can become more effective and learn new skills and many local authorities offer subsidised or even free training.

Low back pain, shoulder, leg, knee and foot pain are all common cycling injuries – usually as a result of the position on the bike and the repetitive use of the legs.
Here at Shefford Osteopathic Clinic we will assess you and give appropriate treatment and advice so that you can carry on enjoying cycling.
Useful links:

(Each link will open in a new window)

More information on cycling with families can be found at: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-you-can-do/children-and-families/cycling-kids

Local cycle routes can be found at:https://www.cycle-route.com/routes/Bedfordshire-Routes-61.html and https://www.cycle-route.com/routes/Hertfordshire-Routes-81.html

Your can improve your skills at: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cycletraining

There are some great local clubs that you can join:  http://www.cyclebedford.org.uk/cycleclubscb.htm

  • Stevenage and Norths Herts CTC is a local club organising weekly rides. Whether you are new and looking to start with a few leisurely rides or a keen cyclist looking for a challenge, they will be able to help you.
  • Forty Plus Cycling Club is a very sociable club with sections in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and further afield.  They organise up to 3 rides a week, usually mid-week, suitable for all levels and have a wide variety of members from retired, through to shift workers and full time mums.
  • Bedfordshire Road Cycling club have their clubhouse in Cardington and was established in 1923.  They support mountain biking, audax, track racing, road racing, time trialling and triathlon.