Having aches and pain from cycling is not unusual, but it can be reduced. There are many reasons as to why you may experience leg pain both during and after cycling.
In this article, we explore the top 3 reasons behind cycling leg pain.
#1 Poor bike setup
Having a good bike setup is akin to having a pair of running shoes that fit properly. At many times, a poor bike fit is the cause of cycling leg pain. Thus it is paramount to ensure that your bike setup fits your body comfortably.
Riding a well-calibrated bike for your body size is one of the simplest ways to prevent pain. Additionally, it helps you to generate greater power with minimal muscle fatigue.
Conversely, a poorly calibrated bike that does not suit your body can have a negative impact on your cycling mechanics. This results in the failure of various muscle groups to work in tandem to generate sufficient power.
When certain muscle groups become handicapped, other muscle groups are forced to work harder to compensate for them. This can lead to muscle fatigue and injury within the over-recruited muscles, especially your hamstrings and outside quadriceps.
There is no universal rule for a suitable bike setup as no two bodies are the same. Thus it is advisable that your bike is set up for you with the assistance of a bike fitter. It’s important to pay attention to the following to reduce cycling leg pain:
- Type of seat you are riding on
- Seat height
- Seat setback
- Cleat alignment
- Cleat float
- Handlebar height
- Stem length
#2 Lack of training variety
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. The same concept applies to our muscles.
Going for long constant rides all the time without any variation in your training is not going to improve your cycling efficiency.
Lack of enough variation also prevents sufficient muscle recovery hindering your optimal muscular performance. A monotonous training routine can lead to constant muscle fatigue and soreness. This is all a result of the lack of invigoration or variety for these muscles.
Muscles need variety to get stronger. Thus, your balanced training program should include tempo rides, intervals, hills, long steady, and sprints. Apart from training variety, also consider the relative frequency and intensity of your training program.
Training at high intensity (whether that be frequency, duration, power output, distance) week in week out will lead to muscle fatigue and increase your risk of injury.
Thus to reduce cycling leg pain, cycles (pardon the pun) of high and low-intensity training over the course of weeks or months are required to cultivate happy and efficient muscles.
#3 Ignoring recovery
Caring for our muscles outside of riding is key to minimising cycling leg pain. It ensures that every time you are in the saddle, you can ride effectively and efficiently.
Many understand the importance of recovery but fail to incorporate it into their training regime. Recovery methods often include facilitated and static stretching, sports massage, foam rolling, and low-intensity cross-training.
These not only help to reduce muscle tightness but also eliminate waste products such as lactic acid from your muscles after training.
Additionally, it minimises the feeling of delayed onset muscle soreness the next day. If your muscles do not recover well, then they can be at risk of developing pain, tightness, fatigue, weakness, and also be at a higher risk of injury.
Through proper recovery, we can minimise these unwanted outcomes to allow ourselves to train in a more efficient manner and to allow us to perform closer to our peak.