Following the continued success of British cycling over the summer, both in the Le Tour de France and in the Olympic Velodrome, the sport continues to increase its popularity in the UK.
Working with professional cyclists I know the regime these unique athletes put themselves through and the rigorous attention to detail they adhere to in their exercise and preparation regimes. I employ many of these tactics and approaches in my sporting life. They have definitely allowed me to complete and win competitions I previously thought to be out of reach.
With everyone becoming inspired by the cycling events of the summer I have been asked to write a series blogs and I am going to include some top tips for cyclists to decrease injury and increase performance on the following topics based around 10 years of experience in elite sport & musculoskeletal physiotherapy as well as an academic career in sports and exercise science, physiotherapy & clinical bike fit.
- Clinical Bike-Fit
- Gym work for cyclists…(My Approach)
- Training Plans – The Principles
- Yoga for cyclists… yes even the guys!
I firmly believe in clinical bike fitting being a massive part of a successful cyclist – it will optimise your power, minimise injury and maximise efficiency. Our clients seem to agree with our service so far….
A bike fit can be used to manage a current injury on a basic commuter bike or to achieve a new PB on a TT course. As a Physiotherapist fitting bikes my first thoughts are that a bike-fit should be personalised and account for the human on the bike also as we are all different shapes and sizes, and not just ‘fit-by-numbers’.
I personally take into account functional screening of the client prior to fitting them on their bikes. A tactic I employ at Complete Physio Bike-Fit.
I will touch on how you can do this yourself in later blogs on gym regimes and yoga…
My principles of bike-fit are simple – find out what the client wants to achieve and deliver using a standard set up – then test and re-test until we are both happy and the numbers (Watts) are all improved. As anyone who does something enough – I have my own personal bug bears that I just can’t stand to see anymore ;-)… So please take notice of the brief advice below!
- The most basic fixes I come across is people with tight hamstrings and having to tilt their saddles forwards – a decent enough temporary fix (although I always advise to get stretching straight away!) and something that can instantly relive some back pain issues. UCI rules do enforce a 0® tilt of all saddles – but if you are not racing for Team Sky this year then make the most of this – Low back pain is so common in cyclists – a good quick fix of 2® tilt can really make a difference. Occasionally the culprit can also be a tight Thoracic spine, leg length discrepancy, or strength discrepancy in lower limb.
- Secondly I see people with saddles way too high!! It’s such a basic fit – I appreciate that measuring with ‘clinical’ accuracy is not always possible – however if you are unable to properly touch the ground when sat on the saddle- its too high! The guys at ‘Global Cycling Network’ (@globalcyclingnetwork) provide excellent advice on this – also fantastic to follow on Instagram for general advice. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVu5Zrktm40)
- Watch out for your ‘KDC’ position, this is the position of your knee when your crank is at the ‘3’oclock’ position. If your knee is obviously over your toes when cycling in this position you are sat too far forwards – it’s the underlying cause for so many common pathologies of the knee I see that and are so so avoidable. This is something I find myself altering on 8/10 cyclists that come through our clinic and usually the first question I ask about positioning when people are jumping on the bike after rolling up a little late to their spin classes and fail to set up the bike correctly…(its more common than you think!).
- Are you floating too much or too little… If you are unsure what float is – it’s the amount of movement you have within your pedal interface. Types of Cleat you use – firstly when changed should be the same as you have been using. I see so many people that have gone from having a large float to being almost fixed and then developing issues. Also from a performance perspective if you are looking to fix your cleats then a slow progressive approach should be taken. Again a huge amount of avoidable knee problems are owed to this overuse pattern.
- Cleat Positioning – quite simply you get most power down through the heads of your first two metatarsals. Line them up well and make sure both are equal – sounds simple – but it’s so often overlooked. It also takes me a long time to change this during a bike-fit when we could be discussing more interesting and finer details! Again the guys at GCN have some good tips and instruction on how to adjust and fit your cleats effectively and safely.
Happy to answer any questions on the above at firstname.lastname@example.org