Whether you cycle for fun or bike to work, your first concern about your own health when cycling will probably be about what happens if there’s an accident.
But have you also considered if your bike’s setup could be gradually causing a back injury?
Health experts say you need to pay attention to how low your handlebars are and how much strain this puts on your back.
”Posture on a bicycle is generally a matter of personal preference,” says orthopaedist Dr Christin Siebert, noting that what’s good for your back, legs or arms depends on various factors.
One factor is having a medical condition.
If you suffer from hip osteoarthritis, for instance, a saddle that’s too low can cause joint irritation as the greater bend in your legs will press the head of the femur or thigh bone, into the bone’s socket, she says.
This can be painful.
A slightly forward-leaning posture helps protect the spine when biking, back experts generally say.
In this position, the back muscles are slightly tense and provide the needed support when riding over rough areas.
And yet, if you have back problems, it’s best not to lean too far forward while cycling, Dr Siebert advises.
Those who ride a sit-up-and-beg frame or use high, upright handlebars do get to see more of the scenery, but they may find they are pedalling in a nearly upright position.
Dr Siebert discourages this, however, because the more upright your posture is, the straighter your outstretched arms will be.
“Your arms should ideally be at a 90° angle to your upper body,” she says.
This minimises the strain on your shoulders.
Such bikes should also have a full suspension to help reduce the resulting strain on the spine when riding over bumps, potholes and uneven terrain.
It it often possible to lower the handlebars to move the shoulders further forward to a safer position.
It is also important to pay attention to the comfort and leverage of your bike geometry by noting the range of motion and how much pressure or weight you place on the handlebars.
If you’re a faster cyclist, you’ll probably prefer to lean forward.
Two common types of forward-lean handlebars are drop bars, which are seen on racing bikes, and flat bars, which are often found on mountain bikes.
When using both, you are bent over the handlebars, placing more weight and pressure on your hands and back.
It’s also important to remember your posture once you get off the bike.
If you work at a screen or spend much of the day looking down at your phone, you may well be continuing to strain your neck muscles.
While at work or using your smartphone, you should regularly check your posture.
As a general rule, try to look down at a phone without lowering your head.
You can also try back-strengthening exercises to prevent neck pain, which are usually caused by tense, hardened muscles around the vertebrae of the neck and upper back. – dpa