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Cycling can be a Pain in the Neck – part 2

By Mary Paterson cont’d from Part 1

In part 2 of Cycling can be a Pain in Neck, Mary tells you about other corrections you can make on the bike to eliminate neck pain.

Handlebar Reach

Correct shoulder angle for cyclingYour skeleton, not your muscles should support your upper body on your bike. A shoulder angle of between 80 and 90 degrees, depending on your torso angle, provides the most stable support for your upper body. Just like a table leg, a crooked leg is less stable than one which is straight down at 90 degrees. If weight were applied to the table, it would collapse unless an external force was applied to counterbalance the force of gravity. On a bike, stability equates to less work required for the shoulder and neck muscles to support your upper body against gravity. Overworked muscles lead to painful fatigue and wasted energy. Wasted energy robs the leg muscles of important nutrients and oxygen needed to propel your bike forwards. Overworked neck and shoulder muscles will also restrict your ability to breath in a relaxed, open fashion.

Handlebar Reach is too Short

A reach to your handlebars that is too short, less than an 80 to 90 degree shoulder angle, will force you to use your upper trapezius muscles to maintain good posture. It will be easy to slouch and hard work to hold your chest up to keep good posture. Poor posture and overworked muscles, in time, will lead to fatigue and neck pain.

  • Switch to a longer stem

Handlebar Reach is too Stretched Out

On the other hand, if your reach is too far ahead, greater than a 90 degree shoulder angle, your upper body will be supported by your shoulder muscles rather than your skeleton. Your latisimus and trapezius muscles will have to work hard to support your weight. Again overworked muscles will cause shoulder and neck muscle fatigue and pain.

  • Switch to a shorter stem

Handlebars are too Wide or too Narrow

Ideally the handlebars should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Handlebars that are too wide or too narrow will take your arms out of their most stable position and cause unnecessary shoulder muscle work.

  • Change handlebars to match your shoulder width

Poor Glasses

Wearing smaller rimmed glasses, or ones that slip off your nose will cause you to tilt your chin up to see through the glasses.

  • Switch to wider rimmed glasses and look through the top of your glasses

Poorly Fitted Helmet

A poorly fitted helmet or a helmet rim/visor may partially block your line of sight, forcing you to hyperextend your neck to see down the road.

  • Make sure your helmet is fitted properly and remove the rim if it is obstructing your view

With correct posture, changing positions regularly and a properly fitted bike, your ride can be a pain free, enjoyable experience. You do not need to suffer from neck pain every time you go for a long ride. If you continue to experience neck pain after trying some of the above suggestions, consult a bike fitting professional.

 

Mary Paterson is a physiotherapist and a certified bike fit professional. An avid road and mountain cyclist, Mary has over 19 years of sports medicine experience. Her business, Bike 2 Body, offers physiotherapy and bike fitting for cyclists.

Mary brings her medical knowledge of sports injuries and biomechanics to the diagnosis and treatment of cycling injuries and applies them to the ideal bike fit.

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