Preventing Common Cycling Injuries

young man cycling on the road

It’s a commonly heard saying that the best cure is prevention. If you want to keep your body in good working condition to continue cycling for as long as possible, cycling injury prevention is an essential first step before you get on your bike.

In this article, we’ll look at how to prevent the most common cycling injuries. If you’re here because it’s too late to prevent an injury, take a look at our article on treating common cycling injuries.

The Best Ways to Prevent Cycling Injury

woman biker putting on cycling helmet outdoors in forest in autumn day

How can you prevent injury while cycling? It’s important to identify all the potential hazards and find suitable equipment and methods to ensure you keep yourself safe.

Falls and Collisions

Bicycle crash on the road

The spontaneity of falls and collisions makes them difficult to prevent, but knowing how to protect yourself as you fall can help you control the damage in those critical seconds. Here are some of the best things to do when you realise you’re going to crash.

  1. When going over your handlebars, tuck in your chin to protect your face and jaw and put your arms up to cover your face and break your fall. Try to roll using your shoulder when you hit the floor.
  2. When being thrown from the side of your bike, try to separate yourself from the bike as fast as possible and be wary of hazards like the curb and any walls at the side of you. Tuck your head in and try to ‘go limp’ to allow your joints to absorb the impact.
  3. If you come off your bike sliding, you’ll need to reduce the sliding friction as much as possible. As you come down, try to rotate your body in the direction you’re sliding in. allow your shoulder to take the brunt of the impact.

Head Injury

Doctor examining x ray of the skull

Preventing head and brain injury should be your top priority as a cyclist. Even a minor head injury can have a major impact and result in long-lasting damage, such as skull fractures, brain bleeds, and concussions. Head injuries can be complicated to treat, so prevention is the best measure you can take.

Prevent head injuries with a good-quality helmet. In a 2016 study on over 64,000 cyclists, the use of a helmet reduced the risk of serious head injury by 69% and fatal head injury by 65%. See many other studies and statistics about the benefits of using helmets when cycling collected by Headway, the brain injury association.

Ensure your helmet fits correctly. You can check the fit by doing the following tests:

  • Place two fingers together against your forehead just above your eyebrows. The helmet should touch at least one of your fingers to ensure it covers enough of your forehead. 
  • Twist the adjuster at the back of the helmet to check it can be made snug but not too tight.
  • Adjust and feel the chin strap. Is it pressing into your chin? Ensure you can get a close fit without it being too tight.
  • Check your ears. The V in each strap should sit comfortably around your ears without sitting on top of them.

Knee Pain

Male bycyclist fell off bike and hit his knee

Knee pain is very common in cycling because of the strain put on the knee joint when pedalling. Patellofemoral syndrome (or ‘cyclist’s knee’) is usually caused by anterior knee pain experienced on the front of the knee. Cyclists may also experience lateral knee pain as a result of Iliotibial Band (ITB) Friction Syndrome.

A sudden increase in the volume of the intensity of training, as well as poor form when cycling, can result in knee strain and pain.

The best way to prevent strains of the knee tendons and joints, and the pain associated with them, is through correct saddle height and stirrup positioning. Here is a detailed guide to positioning your saddle and stirrups correctly.

Lower Back Pain

Fitness sports injury and back pain by man cyclist feel uncomfortable while cycling along mountain

The flexed position cyclists need to hold whilst riding a bike (often compounded by day jobs spent bent over at a desk) can put an undue strain on the lower back, causing aches and pains. Joint traction and intervertebral disc compression can result from cycling with incorrect posture, so there are some steps you’ll want to take to ensure your back is protected. 

  1. Adjust your bike correctly. Stirrups, saddle height, and handlebar drop should all help you maintain the optimal posture for cycling that doesn’t cause your back to over-extend and hold an awkward position. 
  2. Core strength exercises can help you build those essential muscles that support your spine and hips. Regular core strength exercises like planks, crunches, and bridges will help to keep your lower back protected.
Scan with image of hip bone in doctors hands.

Hip pain is common in cycling due to the stress put on the hips and pelvis through pedalling. Sitting in one posture for long periods combined with reduced flexibility can cause the fluid-filled sacks at the fronts of the hips (bursa) to become inflamed. Just some of the ailments that affect the hips due to cycling are:

  • Hip bursitis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Labral Tears
  • Impingement syndrome

Correct posture is the first place to start when preventing hip problems during cycling. Changing the seat or handlebar height to allow for a more upright posture will place less stress on your hips and reduce hip flexion.

Some exercises also build strength and flexibility in your hips, helping them tolerate more use through cycling. Try the following:

  • Straight leg raises: lie on your side and lift your top leg up, keeping it in line with your hip and body. Hold the raise for a few seconds, and then bring your leg back down. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions each before switching to the other side.
  • Bent leg raises: the same process as above but with knees bent at a 90° angle.
  • Glute bridges: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor at hip-width apart with knees bent. Pushing down through your feet, lift your pelvis off the group until your upper legs align with your torso. Hold the position for several seconds and bring your pelvis back down. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions each.

Groin and Buttock Pain

Back view of cyclist in sport clothes riding bike outdoors

The pressure of sitting on a narrow, hard saddle for long periods of time or impact with sensitive areas while cycling can result in a number of urogenital issues and pain in the groin and buttocks. 

There are several ways to protect yourself from groin and buttock pain and complications while cycling:

  • Use an anatomically designed saddle for either male or female use.
  • Use a saddle with extra padding or apply attachable padding to the top.
  • Use padded shorts and clean them regularly.
  • Adust the height of the saddle to manage the impact.

Kinesiology Tape for Injury Prevention

Kinesiology tape is an intelligently designed type of sports tape that helps athletes support healthy joints and recover from injury. K tape is highly flexible. When applied to the skin, it recoils, resulting in a directional pull depending on where and how it is applied. This offers some excellent benefits, including:

  • Creating space between tissue layers to improve circulation of blood and lymph.
  • Creating space to ease swelling and promote healing.
  • Offering mild protection and support of joints without impeding mobility or flexibility.
  • Gently encouraging movement in certain directions thanks to its mild pull.

The support and directional encouragement offered by K tape mean it could help cyclists ensure their joints and muscles are being used correctly. Speak to your physiotherapist or doctor about how to correctly apply K tape. We offer premium grade, latex-free K tape used by professionals in numerous sports teams, physio clinics, and first aid rooms.

red kinesiology tape

Find out all about kinesiology tape from our Steroplast Healthcare sister brand.

Being Prepared for an Accident

Some accidents and injuries are inevitable. Sometimes you simply can’t control what happens to you on your bike. What you can control, though, is what happens after. 

Common cycling injuries management and prevention is made easier with a cycling first aid kit. Having a first aid kit to hand means you can clean a wound, stop bleeding, prevent infection, protect from exposure, immobilise a broken limb, give CPR, and potentially save a life.

We make cycling first aid kits so light and compact that you’ll completely forget they’re there until you need them. You’ll never regret carrying a first aid kit. 

Use this table to check which cycling first aid kit would be best for you.

First Aid Kit Commuter Cycling Road Biking Cycle Touring Mountain Biking Cycle Medic

Alternatively, send us a message or call 0800 978 8301, and one of our advisors will help you determine which kit you need. Partnering with us is free for anyone, even individual cyclists. Through a partnership, you can get access to premium deals, a dedicated account manager, and access to the Injury Rehab Network.  

In our knowledge base, we cover what needs to go in a cycling first aid kit in more detail in case you want to put your own together. 

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