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Cycling for better health

At a recent Continual Professional Development meeting, a fellow Osteopath asked me “What is the most common sports injury that you treat?” I hadn’t consciously thought about it. A few years ago I would have said golf but concluded that now it is cycling. So from an Osteopath’s perspective, I would like to outline how best to achieve pain-free cycling and the benefits of it.

The benefits of cycling

Not surprisingly, cycling is the third most popular leisure activity in the UK. As a student, I lived in London and used my cycle as a means of transport, keeping fit and saving money. Being low impact, it is a bonus for some people as it is kinder on your joints. In my twenties, I found that I was able to continue cycling with a prolapsed disc when other forms of exercise were impossible.

As mentioned in previous articles, exercise in general has other benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic illnesses, improving your mood and keeping your weight under control. Cycling is an activity that most ages can do, even those with disabilities. If this article does prompt you to start cycling, please read the information on this link before you start.

How to achieve pain free cycling

The key to pain free cycling is in your posture. It’s just as important to maintain an S-shaped spine on a bike saddle, as it is when you are standing or sitting. When you next see some cyclists, take a note of their cycling position and you will see that most of them assume a C-shaped spine by collapsing the lower lumbar curve.

Tips on achieving good posture

The first thing you need to do is be able to sit with an S-shaped spine and then know how to bend forwards from your hips. You may find it easier to try this in a chair first but it’s easier in one where your knees are lower than your hips.

  • Start by sitting upright, without the support of the back of the chair.
  • To understand how you bend from your hip, bring one knee up towards your chest.
  • Now sit on your bike saddle. The movement is the same but instead you will be bringing your chest towards your knees, while keeping the length in your spine.
  • Place the heels of your hands on the handlebars, keeping your arms straight.
  • Choosing the correct bike for you is important, as achieving a good posture can be difficult if the handlebars are set too far away and too low. Ideally the handlebars should be closer to the body and more or less level with the height of the saddle.
  • When sitting on the saddle, your legs should be almost fully extended, i.e. your legs should be virtually straight when the pedal is at the lowest point.

So keep that S-shaped spine and enjoy some pain-free exercise!