1) Making sure your bike fits your body. 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. Otherwise this can cause back, knee and neck soreness, saddle sores and numbness in your hands. To find the right frame size and to make sure your bike is set up to suit your needs seek guidance from a professional.
2) Staying hydrated prevents cramping while cycling. Water is sufficient for shorter rides, and sports drinks that replace electrolytes are recommended for rides longer than 90minutes.
3) Stretch. This prevents cramps and over use injuries. The main focus should be on the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and lower back.
4) Make some minor adjustments if you start to suffer from any problems. Adjust the saddle height and make sure you are cycling efficiently, using your muscles correctly. Read my article on ‘Cycling Biomechanics’ to get more out of your cycling technique. Make sure you get your bike serviced regularly by a professional to avoid these problems and any accidents that may happen as a result of bike malfunction.
5) 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 that are wider and more cushioned at the back are easy to install. Gel-filled saddles or pads can also ease the pressure and friction. This is completely individualised and more often than not you won’t know what you need until you get out on the roads. Expect to be sore the first few times you ride and expect that to ease off as your cycling becomes more frequent.
6) Make sure you have those essential items of kit that will make your cycling experience much safer and more enjoyable. See my article on ‘Bike Kit Essentials’ for some guidance.
7) 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.
8) Unless you’re an experienced cyclist, don’t use those special aerodynamic handlebars which let you lean forward on your forearms and thus reduce wind drag and increase your speed. These increase the risk of injury.
9) Keep your arms relaxed and don’t lock your elbows. This technique helps you absorb bumps from the road better.
10) Don’t wear headphones. These compromise your awareness of other vehicles, pedestrians and animals and changes in environment. It also prevents you from monitoring the smooth running of your bike. If your gears aren’t working properly or your chain is beginning to come loose you may not notice until it’s too late.