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Don't let crosstraining increase your injury risk.

Crosstraining can help you avoid overuse injury from running. Cycling (indoor or Out) is an excellent way to crosstrain, but it can add to injury woes if you aren't careful. Some studies show as many as 50% to 70% of bicyclists reporting neck and back pain. Long rides can cause hand numbness and aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome. Knee pain is a risk due to high compressive forces at the patellofemoral joint. Although most bicycle injuries are the result of trauma, bike misfit misery can cause a host of problems. Proper fit can significantly reduce the incidence of pain and muscle tension.

* Check pedals and cleats. Pedals that secure the feet can be a hazard even though they are important for optimum performance. If you use pedal cleats, make sure you have the best system for you; there are several types to choose from. Cleats that aren't set up right can throw off tracking in the ankles, knees, and hips. When pedal straps are too tight, you can get numb feet, or worse, not be able to bail out safely in a bike fall.

* Seat height too low. Anterior knee pain (pain in the front of the knee) is usually the result of riding on a saddle set too low. Forcing greater knee flexion, there is increased stress on the back of the patella. Sometimes riders think lowering the seat will help with saddle-soreness, but choosing a gel seat or padded-shorts is a better choice.

* Seat height too high. This, of course, makes saddle-soreness worse and is generally uncomfortable, causing you to wobble from side to side. Even subtle distortions can add up to misery over a long ride. Overextending your legs with each pedal stroke can result in Achilles tendinitis, hamstrings problems and pain in the back of the knee, especially if your feet are fixed in cleats. Back and hip problems, as well as prostatitis can also result from having your seat too high.

* Seat too far forward. Front to back seat position determines your knee position over the pedals. In an overly forward position, the pelvis is distorted and there is excess strain in the low back. This is havoc for the crotch and buttocks as well.

* Seat too far back. This also causes overreaching for the pedals risking hamstring problems, low back pain, and Achilles tendinitis.

* Handlebars too low. This leads to excess weight bearing for your hands, arms, and shoulders, causing tingling and numbness in your hands and shoulder pain. Having your handlebars high enough is especially important if you have a history of back or neck problems or you have weak or inflexible back muscles.

* Handlebars too high. Handlebars that are too high can cause you to sit up too straight, causing too much downward pressure on the pedals rather than pedaling with a circular motion.

* Wrong shoes. Bicycle shoes are stiff for a good reason. Overly soft (normal running or street shoes) can cause arch pain and plantar fasciitis (the last thing you need from your crosstraining venue).

If you have any doubts, consult a professional at a top-notch cycle shop to check out your bike fit.

(Parts of this article were adapted from IDEA, The Health and Fitness Association, press release, April 2001.)


Frame size--Stand on the ground in your cycling shoes and straddle the bike. Lift the bike by the handlebars and seat or frame so that the top tube touches your crotch. There should be one-and-a-half to two inches of space between the tires and the ground.

Saddle height--Sit on the seat with your heel on a pedal with the pedal at its lowest point. Your knee should be only slightly bent.

Saddle angle--Viewed from the side, your saddle and the top of the bike frame should be parallel to the ground.

Handlebar height--The top of your handlebars should be about two-and-a-half inches below the top of your saddle.

Handlebar tilt-The bottom or dropped part of the handlebars (if you're choosing drop bars) should be parallel with the ground, or tilted down not more than 10 degrees.

Foot position--The ball of your foot should rest on the center of the pedals.

Knee position--Your knee should be directly over the pedal when the pedal is forward with the crank horizontal to the ground. This position is affected by seat height, crank length, and frame size.

Saddle to handlebar length--The distance from the front of your saddle to the handlebar crossbar should be about the length from your elbow to your fingertips. This distance can be adjusted by changing your handlebar extension and/or adjusting the horizontal position of the saddle.

Riding--For maximum efficiency and less stress on your knees, maintain a steady pedaling rate (cadence). When you come to a hill, shift to a lower gear to maintain the same cadence if possible. If you tend to have sore knees, ask for a lower range of gears than normal.

For more information on bike fit adjustments ,visit and type "adjust a bicycle" in the search prompt. If you're in the market for a bicycle, ask your dealer if he uses the FitKit system, considered the best method for insuring a good fit. Go to for information.)
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Running & Fitness Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Running & FitNews
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Previous Article:Crank it up with music.
Next Article:Don't let your luck run out--run defensively.

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