Whether it’s for leisure or sport, or simply for getting from A to B, cycling is a fantastic way to keep fit. However, as with every other physical activity, it does carry a risk of injury. With the Tour de France kicking off in Yorkshire with the Grand Départ this weekend, we have some important advice to help you prevent pains when cycling and reduce the risk of injury.
Preventing Common Injuries and Pains When Cycling
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common cycling pains centre around the lower body. If the bones, muscles and joints in this region are not correctly aligned, the repetitive, circular motion of pedalling can lead to pains in the hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet.
The best way to prevent pains when cycling is to ensure that all these parts of the body are parallel to the frame of the bicycle. First, check that the saddle is the correct height by sitting in it with your feet in the pedals and extending one leg. When the crank arm is perpendicular to the ground, your leg should be completely straight. Your arms should be at about 90 degrees to your torso and the ball of your foot centred over the pedal.
An unsteady pedal stroke is the cause of many aches and pains when cycling. You want your legs to be going straight up and down in a piston-like movement, without any wobble on the knees. If you struggle with this motion or experience pain when doing so, this might be down to an underlying physical condition, in which case cycling orthotics may be required.
How Cycling Orthotics Can Help
Cycling pains often originate from biomechanical defects such as pronation, where the foot rolls outwards at the ankle. This leaves the cyclist no choice but to rotate their leg inwards in order to compensate, so that they can keep their foot on the pedal. Eventually, this can tear the knee cartilage and ligaments and cause aches and pains in the inner half of the ball of the foot, and even throughout the entire lower body.
Other common biomechanical defects that can lead to pains when cycling include bowlegs, knock knees, short leg syndrome, Achilles tendonitis and shin splints. Sports injuries such as ACL tears, as well as degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, can also limit the range of movement in the lower body, forcing cyclists to change the way they pedal and, again, placing a great deal of strain on the muscles and joints.
If you are unable to cycle in a ‘piston-like’ motion with your feet squarely on the pedals, cycling orthotics can help. Designed to compensate for weakness and abnormal rotation, they can improve the alignment of the lower body, increasing efficiency and reducing cycling pains.
A Case for Cycling Orthotics: Greg LeMond, Three-Time Tour de France Winner
Greg LeMond, the first non-European professional cyclist to win the Tour de France back in 1986, suffered an unlikely and horrific accident the following year when turkey hunting, where his brother-in-law accidentally shot him. He made a miraculous recovery and returned to his favourite activity in 1988, but unfortunately overtrained and developed tendonitis that required surgery.
Amazingly, the following year he went on to achieve what was dubbed “the most astonishing victory in Tour de France history,”1 overtaking rival Laurent Fignon in the final stage against all odds and reaching the fastest average speed ever ridden in the Tour. LeMond is believed to have said at the time that he couldn’t have done so without custom cycling orthotics2. He went on to win again the following year, making him one of just seven cyclists to have won the Tour de France three or more times.
When it comes to the dramatic benefits that cycling orthotics can bring, LeMond’s case is not unique. Many amateur and pro cyclists rely on them to keep pain to a minimum and enhance their performance. Even if you only cycle 10 minutes to and from work each day, doing so incorrectly can cause unnecessary wear and tear, leading to pain, discomfort and, potentially, degeneration of the joints. Good quality cycling orthotics can increase stability, enabling you to continue with the activities you enjoy for many more years to come.
At Technology in Motion, we provide sports injury treatment and quality orthotic solutions for cycling pains caused by biomechanical defects, degenerative diseases, tears to ligaments and cartilage, and more.
- Wilcockson, John (1989). LeMond’s dramatic Tour comeback. In VeloNews Editors. Bicycle Racing in the Modern Era: 25 Years of Velonews. Boulder, CO: VeloPress. p. 81
- Custom Orthotics, on The Cycling Blog