Seven simple stretches for cyclists
There are many types of stretches and most are good, if done correctly. The main cycling stretches focus on the lower body.
Reading a stretching manual or following an experienced person is the best way to learn the best form.
“Even if you’re obsessed with cycling, you still do more than ride, Anderson writes. If you run, play other sports, or just sit at a desk all day, stretching helps protect you from injury and dissipates tension, says Bob Anderson in his definitive book, Stretching.
Standing with your feet pointed straight ahead, step forward with your right leg and bend your knee, keeping your left foot firmly planted on the ground behind you.
Keep your upper-body erect and drop your hips forward until you feel the stretch in your calf (dont bend over at the waist use your hips to move) Hold for 15-30 seconds, then rotate.
Standing, reach back with your right hand and grab your right foot at the top of the ankle, and pull up towards your butt.
The quads are the biggest cycling muscle, and deserve a very slow stretch, careful not to pull too hard too fast. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then rotate legs.
Quick tip: Heighten the stretch by tightening your butt muscles.
Ilio-tibial (IT) Band
The IT Band runs down the side of your leg and helps in balance and control; the section of this band that affects cyclists is between the hip and knee.
A tight or inflamed IT band can cause tendonitis or knee alignment issues.
Stretch from a sitting position: cross the left leg across the right knee and gently push down on the left knee. You should feel the stretch on the outside of your leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then rotate.
The pedaling motion develops short and powerful hamstrings. Unlike running, which lengthens hamstrings, cyclists are prone to tightness in these muscles. This is why your “hams” might ache if you’re a cyclist who runs on occasion.
This makes it very important to stretch hamstrings slowly and carefully.
Standing, bend over at the waist and let your arms dangle toward the ground, letting the knees bend slightly outward. This stretch benefits greatly from deep, steady breathing youll find that you can touch the ground after several slow, deep breaths.
The butt muscles are perhaps the most oft-overlooked muscles in cycling stretching.
From a cross-legged sitting position on the floor, angle your left leg over the right and plant left foot next to right knee, so your left leg forms a triangle.
Grasp the front of your left knee and lean forward, careful to keep your back straight. Feel the stretch along your left hamstring. This releases the piraformis, a connecting muscle that often tightens after sitting on a saddle. Perform this stretch with both legs.
Neck and Shoulders
Checking for traffic and other riders behind you is where the neck muscles come into play.
Standing, gently roll your head in a circle several times, then rotate directions. Shrug your shoulders upwards and hold for five seconds. Repeat several times.
Your trunk of abdomen and back muscles are the support system for your legs as they pedal.
The best stretch is actually doing crunches or back extensions to help strengthen these varied muscles.
You can do a simple back twist from the gluteus-stretch position, by twisting your trunk to look behind, one side and then the other. Feel the stretch in your abdomen.
Twenty-Three Tips for the Best Cycling
About 90 million American adults ride a bike at least once a year, nearly 30 million cycle regularly for recreation, and a few million even commute by bicycle, according to a recent article in American Demographics. Those numbers may rise in the next few years, thanks to federal legislation that encourages local communities to build cycling into their transit plans. That’s good not only for the environment, but also for the nation’s health, since cycling is one of the best forms of exercise around. It gives the heart and circulatory system a workout; it puts little stress on joints (except perhaps the knees); it can burn 400 to 700 calories per hour; and if you own a bike, cycling is free and can be done just about anywhere.
Here are some steps you can take to improve cycling performance, safety, comfort, and enjoyment:
Use your head
Absolutely crucial: always wear a helmet. Of the nation’s 800 annual cycling deaths, head injuries account for about 60%. If all cyclists wore helmets, perhaps half of these deaths and injuries – especially in children – could be avoided. Choose a bright color, and make sure the helmet fits properly. It should sit horizontally on your head and shouldn’t move about.
Do the right thing
Brake right. To exert optimal pressure, brake with your hands at the ends of the levers. For a quick stop, as you press the brakes firmly, slide your buttocks to the very back of the saddle. This will keep the rear of the bike down so that you don’t flip over the handlebars.
On a long downhill, don’t stay on your brakes. That may overheat the tire’s rim and could cause a blowout. It’s safest to “feather brake”-that is, tap the brakes, applying intermittent pressure. This is wise in wet weather, too.
Don’t pedal in high gear for long periods. This can increase the pressure on your knees and lead to overuse injuries such as biker’s knee. Shift to lower gears and faster revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees. The best cadence for most cyclists is 60 to 80 revolutions per minute (rpm), though racers pedal in the range of 80 to 100 rpm.
Going uphill, shift gears to maintain normal cadence. On a long hill, conserve energy by staying in your seat.
When cycling at night or when visibility is poor, wear brightly colored, reflective clothing, and use your headlight. In fact, wearing bright colors is a good idea at any hour. Also consider a rear strobe-type light (attached to the bike or your belt) to enhance visibility at night.
Make sure your bike fits. Handlebars, saddle, wheels, gears, and brakes can all be adjusted to match your size and riding ability, but the frame has to fit from the start. To find the right frame size, straddle the bike and stand flatfooted: on a road bike, there should be one to two inches of clearance between your groin and the top tube. On a mountain bike, the clearance should be two to three inches or even more.
Position the saddle right to protect your knees. At the bottom of the stroke, your knee should be only slightly bent. If your knee is bent too much, the seat is too low, and you will lose stroking power and strain your knees. If the knee locks when extended, or if you have to reach for the pedal, the seat is too high, which can also stress the knee. The saddle should be level.
Position the handlebars correctly-one inch lower than the top of the seat. Drop handlebars (preferable because they allow you to change your riding position) should be about as wide as your shoulders or slightly narrower. Some cyclists who suffer from neck or back discomfort may prefer upright handlebars.
To avoid saddle soreness, get the right seat. The hard narrow seats on racing bikes can be particularly uncomfortable for women, who tend to have widely spaced “sit bones.” Special anatomically designed saddles-wider and more cushioned at the back-are easy to install. Gel-filled saddles or pads or sheepskin pads can ease the pressure and friction.
Change your hand and body position frequently. That will change the angle of your back, neck, and arms, so that different muscles are stressed and pressure is put on different nerves.
Don’t ride in the racing “drop” position (with your hands on the curved part of the handlebars) for a long time. This may cramp your hands, shoulders, and neck.
Unless you’re an experienced cyclist, don’t use those special aerodynamic handlebars-shaped like an upside-down “V”-which let you lean forward on your forearms and thus reduce wind drag and increase your speed. These increase the risk of injury.
After a long uphill, don’t coast downhill without pedaling. As you climb up the hill, lactic acid builds up in your muscles and can contribute to muscle soreness. By pedaling lightly but constantly while coasting downhill (even if there’s little resistance) you can help remove the lactic acid.
Keep your arms relaxed and don’t lock your elbows. This technique helps you absorb bumps from the road better.
Wear the right shorts if you cycle a lot. Sleek cycling shorts have less fabric to wrinkle or bunch up, so there’s less chance of skin irritation. For extra protection, choose cycling shorts with special lining or padding to wick away perspiration and no seams at the crotch.
Don’t wear headphones. They can block out the street sounds you need to hear in order to ride defensively. Cycling with headphones is a misdemeanor in some areas.
Good road sense
Ride with traffic, obey all signs, and give right of way to cars.
Use hand signals to alert drivers to your intentions.
Try to make eye contact with drivers as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, so they know your intentions and you know that they’ve seen you.
Don’t ride side by side with another cyclist.
Watch out for storm drains, cattle guards, and rail-road tracks. They’re all slippery when wet. And if you don’t cross them at a right angle, your front tire may get caught.
When cycling in heavy traffic, on a narrow road, or on winding downhill roads, ride in the lane with the cars, not to the side, where you’re not as visible and may get pushed off to the side. Of course, if a car wants to pass, move out of the way.
Cycling is a great form of exercise, and it’s fun. There are lots of health benefits associated with regular cycling. Your cardiovascular fitness will improve and this means you’ll lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Pedalling is low impact, so you can improve muscle tone without stressing your knee and ankle joints.
Cycling is also a practical mode of transport. You could ride to work and not only reap the health benefits, but also save on petrol costs, public transport tickets and parking fees.
You might prefer to cycle for pleasure, by yourself or with family or friends, along some of Melbourne’s 1,300 kilometres of bike paths. You could even take a bike-riding holiday.
If you’re very serious about cycling, you could join one of the Victorian bike clubs and compete with other riders. The health and safety tips below will help you get the most out of your cycling and reduce your risk of injury.
Make sure your bicycle is appropriate for your height and needs. Ask staff at bike shops for help when choosing a new bicycle.
Have your bicycle professionally serviced once every year.
Regularly check your bike yourself, perhaps once a week, to make sure it is in good repair. Check the tyres, bearings, gears, nuts and bolts, and lubricate the chain and cables. If you’re not sure how to do this, consult with staff at bicycle stores or bicycle repair shops.
Adjust your saddle for your leg length. Your knee should be only slightly bent when your foot is on the pedal with your leg fully extended. You risk knee strain if your knees are too bent.
Your handlebars should be positioned about five centimetres lower than your saddle height.
Narrow seats may be uncomfortable, particularly for women. Opt for a wider saddle or a gel-filled saddle. You could also pad the seat with a sheepskin cover or similar.
Always wear a helmet. Research suggests that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by up to 60 per cent.
Wearing a helmet is compulsory by law. You could be fined if you are caught riding your bike without a helmet.
Make sure your helmet is Australian Approved and fits your head correctly.
If your helmet hits the road or an object, replace it even if it still looks okay.
Look after your helmet. Keep it out of direct sunlight when not in use, and clean it strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
General health and safety suggestions
Let someone know your intended route and what time you think you’ll be back.
Wear sunscreen on skin not covered by clothing.
Take a drink with you to reduce the risk of dehydration.
Pack identification, money and your mobile phone (if you have one) in case of emergencies.
Don’t wear headphones. You need to hear what’s going on around you.
Cycling shorts reduce the risk of skin irritation because the material doesn’t bunch and rub against your buttocks.
Treat your bicycle as you would your car, and obey the road rules. Don’t ride on the wrong side of the road or coast through red lights, for example.
Flag your intention to turn by hand signalling or using your indicators if your bicycle has them.
When turning right, perform a hook turn from the left side of the road.
Ride in a predictable way, about one metre out from parked cars.
Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast, but you should ride in single file in heavy traffic.
You are permitted to overtake on the left, provided the vehicle you’re overtaking isn’t turning left or indicating an intention to turn left.
Visibility on the roads
Always wear brightly coloured clothing. It is harder for motorists to see you if you are dressed in dark or dull colours.
Fluorescent fabrics markedly increase your visibility to other road users.
Have lights fitted to your bike, front and back, for night riding.
Reflective garments, including reflectors fitted to the back of your shoes, can increase your visibility at night.
Altering your riding position from time to time reduces the risk of muscle overuse, stiffness and soreness.
Pedalling in high gear for a long time will stress your knee joints. Switch to lower gears whenever you can.
Maintain the same cycling rhythm when going uphill by changing gears.
Once you’ve crested the hill, avoid the temptation to coast down the other side. Pedal a little bit to reduce the risk of lactic acid build-up in your leg muscles.
Avoid using your brakes continuously when riding down a long hill, because you may overheat your brakes and consequently your tyres. Hot tyres are more likely to burst. Instead, apply the brakes gently and intermittently.
Ride defensively. Don’t assume that car drivers have seen you. Make eye contact with car drivers when negotiating turns or intersections.
Riding on the footpath
Generally speaking, people aged over 12 years are not permitted to cycle on the footpath. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including:
An adult who is supervising a young child on their bike is allowed to ride on the footpath with them.
Riding on the road may not be safe for some people with certain physical or intellectual disabilities. Riding on the footpath is allowed, so long as the person has a medical certificate that outlines their exemption.
Postal officers who are delivering mail are allowed to cycle on the footpath.
When riding on the footpath, you must keep to the left whenever possible, and always give way to pedestrians.
Reduce the Risk of Bicycle Theft
In Victoria, about 10,000 bikes are stolen each year.
se ‘U’ locks and flexible cables to lock up your bicycle.
Lock the bicycle to an immovable object.
About half of bicycle thefts occur from households, so make sure you lock up your bicycle when storing it at home.
Engrave your licence number on the bicycle frame.
Ask your insurance company about insuring your bicycle against theft.
Things to remember
Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by up to 60 per cent.
Treat your bicycle as you would your car, and obey the road rules.
Boost your visibility on the roads by always wearing brightly coloured clothing, and by fitting your bicycle with lights for night riding.
Walking for good health.
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