Training smart and riding safe can not only improve a cyclist’s performance but protect the rider as well. The Department of Physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) gives tips on sitting right and cycling at night.
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Injuries can happen to cyclists at all levels of fitness
Many patients of Senior Physiotherapist Ms Liang Zhiqi from the,Department of Physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, are men in their 40s returning to the sport or new cyclists. “Filled with enthusiasm, they are suddenly training a lot longer, faster and harder,” she said.
She also sees many recreational cyclists who might spend five to six days a week cycling, easily doing 300km in that time, but who don’t spend time – enough or at all – stretching or strengthening their backs. Merely cycling to improve endurance without working on flexibility in areas like the spine, hip and knees can lead to injury.
Likewise, weekend warriors (so-called because they sit at work for most of the day during the week but go all out and push themselves over the weekend) risk injuring themselves if they don’t build up an exercise regime. They may begin to suffer from overuse injuries in the form of neck and back pain, and tingling numbness in the hands. A problem may start with a sensation of mild discomfort which gets more and more uncomfortable. Eventually, the problem persists even when not cycling.
Although it is common for a cyclist to get aches and pains in the beginning as the body adjusts and accommodates to the bike, if such pains persist after a few weeks, the rider should seek medical help, said Ms Liang.
Triathlon bikes are among the most uncomfortable because they are designed to be aerodynamic, said Ms Liang, an avid cyclist herself. As these bicycles are all about speed and performance, they are designed for the cyclist to assume a very low and crouched position in order to cut wind drag. Not surprisingly, this position requires the cyclist to have tight muscle control, good posture, strength and endurance.
Some bicycle shops can fit a bike to a person’s body measurements with the aim of getting the cyclist into the best aerodynamic position, she said. But they don’t necessarily check posture, riding technique or whether the cyclist is strong or flexible enough to hold that position over a long time.
Train smart, Ms Liang tells cyclists. “Get your posture right, work out any problem in position or cycling technique. That way, you might see a huge improvement in your performance without additional hard work, pain or risk of injury.”
Doing some weight or power stretching exercises and posture work will also improve a cyclist’s performance on a bicycle, she added. This is because the more comfortable and more stable one is on a bicycle, the more efficiently the energy that he produces will go into pushing the bike forward.
Pointers for cycling at night
Some cyclists prefer to ride or train at night due to the lesser traffic and cooler weather. However, they should exercise greater caution:
For night riding, it is preferred to have a light at the front of the bicycle that emits white light and another at the rear to emit flickering red light.
Wear light-coloured clothes, especially with reflective panels, for high visibility. Reflective anklets, tape and stickers made of cloth or plastic that can be attached to bikes, helmets and riders are highly recommended.
Be alert and ride defensively. Watch out for joggers, pedestrians and other vehicles, and make sure they are aware of your presence.
Be wary of approaching vehicles as their headlights can dazzle.
Read the previous page to
learn why if you are a serious cyclist, it is important to have your posture and fitness level assessed.
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