If your bike has been collecting dust lately, UC Irvine Health family and sports medicine physician Dr. Christopher Kroner offers some tips to help ensure you and your riding companions have a fun, injury-free day.
“It’s important to make sure your bike has a seat height and a handlebar height that are correct for you,” says Kroner.
Back and neck pain can be caused by a misadjusted seat, which can put your head and shoulders in an ergonomically incorrect position. Leg strains or groin strains along the inside part of your thighs can also be seat related, especially on long rides.
Visit your local bike shop for a bike fitting. This is also a fine time to ensure your bike’s drivetrain, tires and brakes are all in good working order.
Wear a helmet. Studies show that a helmet reduces your risk of serious head injury in a crash. Worn properly, a bike helmet should sit level on your head with the straps fastened securely.
While helmets are helpful, good riding skills are actually far more valuable since they can help you avoid collisions in the first place.
Know and follow the rules of the road, especially:
- Always ride with traffic, not against it
- Avoid riding on sidewalks or hugging the curb – you want to be visible to drivers
- Be predictable and consistent in your actions
- Stay alert (no earbuds!) and ride defensively
- Ride single file on roads
Benefits of cycling
“Cycling can give you a very good cardiovascular workout,” says Kroner. “When you ride with some speed and you’re getting resistance from your pedals, you really develop strength in your quadriceps. This helps you to build knee stability, which can be useful for other activities.”
Best of all, he notes, cycling puts relatively low impact on your joints. This is particularly true when you’re riding a properly sized and fitted bike.
Where to train
Kroner notes that while car-dependent Orange County may not be the top-ranked place for cycling in the country, there are still plenty of bike paths and trails you can ride, especially if you’re riding for training and exercise rather than daily commuting.
“Seek out the more open roads or well-marked bike paths. It’s worth the little extra time and distance it might take to find them.” Download the OC Bicycle Map (PDF) ›
Keep it fun
Be familiar with your own level of fitness and comfort. As Kroner advises, “Know your preferred riding speed. Don’t push yourself harder than you should, since that will greatly increase your fatigue later in the day, and more fatigue increases your risk of accidents and injury.”