Alberta’s chiropractors, in partnership with City Television, are very proud to be the title sponsor for this year’s coverage of the Tour of Alberta. A resounding success in 2013, the inaugural year, the tour is back in 2014 with a route that will include Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Innisfail, Red Deer, Wetaskiwin and Strathcona County.

Whether you’re an avid cyclist or simply enjoy a leisure bike ride with your family, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get the most out of biking and reduce your risk for pain and injury.

Dr. Jamila Abdulla, a Calgary chiropractor and avid cyclist, offers tips on bike purpose, fit and positioning, training and treating injuries to help keep you riding strong.

Bike purpose

It’s important to get the right bike for the right purpose. Using a time trial bike for mountain biking is like bringing a Ferrari to a monster truck rally; except that you risk the possibility of impaling yourself with the shards of the frame when you crash!

There are many use-specific bicycles. Make sure you speak to an expert to select the right bike for your activity, ensuring your riding is more efficient and more fun.

Bike fit and positioning

A proper fitting bike will reduce the possibility of repetitive stress injury, be far more comfortable and position your body for optimal performance. Before you a buy a bike (new or used), understand the basics of sizing for the type of bike you are considering.

Your body position on the bike will vary depend on the type of biking you are doing. For example, on a road bike you will be positioned more for aerodynamics; on a mountain bike you will be positioned more for balance and stability.

Following are a few common positioning mistakes and how to correct them:

  • Hunching your shoulders. This leads to tightness in the shoulders and neck; try to keep shoulders relaxed while riding.
  • Tilting head to one side. Regularly tilt head to each side and ensure frequent head movement.
  • Holding on with a death grip. Comfortably hold on to the handles – not too tight, but tight enough to keep you on should you hit an unexpected bump or gust of wind. Switch your hand positions frequently. For example, on road bike there are several positions in which you place your hands: the top, the hoods and drops. You should know when to use each position: TOPS for climbing; DROPs for sprinting/in head wind/descending; HOODs are the most comfortable and make for easy shifting and braking. Be careful with your positions, as you may also notice numbness or tingling in your wrists if you have been in a static position for too long.
  • Seat height. New riders frequently position their seat too low, expecting they will need to put their feet flat on the ground while on the saddle. Although this may work for a commuter bike for short distances, when you are trying to generate a lot of power it can place too much force on the structures with the knee, leading to knee injury and reduced power.
  • Sitting on your seat. Biking is not a spectator sport. You want to move forward, backwards and off your seat – this utilizes different muscles allowing some rest for an upcoming climb, and also helps reduce saddle sores, numbness and tingling into the legs.
  • Knee positioning. The knees should be in alignment with your feet – splayed knees reduce power, increase risk of knee injury and decrease aerodynamics. Knee or hip issues may require a modified knee position – ensure you see a health care professional to address the issue.
  • Pedaling. New riders frequently point their toes on some part of their turnover – this will fatigue and cramp the calf muscles. Experienced riders use the entire pedal stroke to generate power. On the front end of the stroke they will push backward; on the back end of the stroke they will pull up; and at the top of the stroke they will push forward. This generates power throughout the pedal stroke and not just when the rider pushes down.

Tips for new riders or start of a new riding season

  • If you’re new to riding or even at the start of a new season, it’s important to ease into it. Gradually build strength, endurance and speed to avoid injury.
  • After winter riders often hop on their bikes as soon as the weather allows, but they’ve often been more sedentary during the winter months and being over zealous can lead to injury. Bike trainers or stationary bikes can help you remain active at home regardless of weather; spin classes are also fun way to train in the off season
  • Stay hydrated!

What can riders do if they do suffer an injury?

  • Poor posture, lack of flexibility and lack of strength can lead to injuries, stiffness, numbness, tingling and muscle spasms
  • Proper training and easing into strenuous activity can increase flexibility, decrease recovery time and help avoid injury
  • Chiropractors can mobilize joints that seize up when riding for extended periods
  • Soft tissue treatments can help increase flexibility and decrease adhesions that restrict range of motion

If you experience a sports-related injury, seek professional health care attention. Your chiropractor is specially trained to treat sprains and strains and can provide advice on sports training, nutrition and injury prevenion. More information, including where to find a chiropractor near you, is available at www.albertachiro.com.

View our Better Biking with Dr. Jamila Abdulla video series on YouTube.