Getting your bike ready for spring cycling! As the warm weather comes through there is no greater way to soak up the sun and enjoy spring but on your bike. Cycling is a great way to get active for the recreational or competitive cyclist whether it be around the bay, through the park with your kids, through the bush or up and down dirt tracks on rugged terrain. But before you get started here are a couple of tips on how to pedal and set up your bike properly to minimise injury and maximise your effort! Firstly lets talk about seat height. What is the optimal seat height? Having a straight knee when the heel is resting comfortably on the pedal when you are sitting down on the bike. This means the knee will still be slightly bent on the maximum down stroke of your pedal. Studies have shown that a forward seat tilting of 10-15 degrees will reduce the incidence of low back pain. What happens if the seat is too high? Your hamstring (muscles as the back of your thigh) efficiency is reduced increasing the risk of hamstring strains. Your pelvis will tilt to the side thus causing your back to bend sideways too, causing jarring forces through your back and pelvis on that side. What happens if the seat is too low? Your knee will bend more through the cycle which will increase forces onto your knee cap causing anterior knee pain (“patellofemoral pain”). Your hip will also go through greater ranges of bending potentially causing hip pain. Also, your back will have a tendency bend forward more increasing the load through the joints. What is the ideal Handle bar position? When sitting on your bike, your spine should always be flat to reduce strain on your back the optimal trunk flexion (bend in your back) should be 20 degrees from horizontal, however, for recreational cyclists, 40-60 degrees of flexion is more comfortable and it will also reduce the strain on your back and neck as you have to look up to see the road ahead! Make sure the bend forward comes from your hips as much as possible rather than from your back. Have you got the right pedalling technique? A good pedalling technique involves your ankle being at 90 degrees on the down stroke. When you ride too much with your toes you put more forces through the knee which can result in knee pain. A good cycling revolution is: Push down using your buttock muscles, thigh, and calves pull across as you hit the bottom of the revolution then just relax on the up-phase of the revolution as the other leg starts to pedal down- do not try to pull the leg up! Its unnecessary work and will slow you down! Try to cycle without jolting when transitioning between the right and left leg; try to smooth it out. Concentrate on keeping your pelvis stable. What can cause knee pain in cycling? The seat is too low or too far forward which increases the amount knee bend. Your bottom muscles are too weak! If they are too weak your quads will have to work extra hard to compensate. What can I do if I have knee pain? tape up your knee – your local physio can show you how knee pain also commonly results from some muscles being too tight (eg your ITB) and others being too weak (eg your VMO and gluts (butt) muscles) – once again, your local physiotherapist can assess you and show you how to correct these problems Check your program! Have you : Iced it for 20 mins post ride and relative rest i.e. reduce the intensity of your ride e.g. less hills etc. Well, this has been a whirlwind tour of how to get out and start pedaling in our beautiful Sydney weather. If you would like more information about cycling then check out http://www.topbike.com.au/physio.htm for heaps of information.