Mountain biking, it’s a great way to explore the outdoors and get fit but it’s also risker than hiking. With risk comes the potential for injury but that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid or minimise mountain bike injuries with a little bit of preparation and some common sense.
Mountain bike injuries can either be traumatic e.g. where a rider hits the ground, trees, rock etc. Or non-traumatic caused by the overuse or abnormal use of joints, muscles and ligaments.
Below are some of the more common mountain bike injuries and tips to prevent them –
Many cyclists say they experience back pain which is caused by hunching over the handlebars and using the lower back to pedal. To prevent biker’s backache, exercise and strengthen your abs and back, the muscles that support you when you ride, a few times a week. Raise your handlebars so you don’t have to hunch over. Shift positions as you ride, occasionally leaning back or standing up to relieve pressure on your back. Also, work on your aerobic conditioning, because you’re more likely to lean forward when you’re tired. If your back pain doesn’t improve, see your doctor.
Or cramps anywhere in the body for that matter are painful as well as annoying. A cramp is a sudden, involuntary contraction or over-shortening of a muscle and while they are generally temporary and non-damaging, they can cause significant pain, and a paralysis-like effect on the muscle.
There is no known cause of cramps however the current theories on why we cramp include muscle fatigue, low electrolyte levels, hyper-hydration, dehydration and personal susceptibility.
To prevent cramps –
- Train for your ride. By gradually pushing harder and longer than your muscles are used to it ensures your muscles are used to working for extended periods.
- Consume the right amount of fluids for your body to prevent hyper-hydration (too much fluid which dilutes the electrolytes) and dehydration.
- Choose salty foods or sodium rich sports products before, during and after exercise. Anyone for another Banana?
Ok, while helmet hair is not really an injury unless you consider yourself a hipster, wearing a helmet does prevent head injuries. Never ride without a helmet as it can save all sorts of brain injuries, superficial cuts to your head and of course death. Oh, and if you are worried about helmet hair try wearing a buff/bandana/scarf under your helmet.
Aching wrists and hands after a long ride is fairly common. These pains are caused by all the shocks and impacts travelling up through the front forks and being absorbed by the hands. It can also be caused by not changing hand position for extended periods or from you being tense.
To avoid these injuries ensure you remain loose and relaxed on the bike, your suspension forks are well maintained and serviced, wear good quality riding gloves and try fitting bar ends to your bike. These will allow you to move your hands around more but if all else fails try taking your hands off the handlebars and shake them to restore circulation.
Sore knees can occur when riding which is hardly surprising when you work out how many times your knee bends in your average 1-2hr ride. To prevent knee injury ensure you are warmed up properly, your saddle height is correct and you’re in the appropriate gear for the terrain your riding. Never try and push big gears as this will almost guarantee injuries. A good practice is to drop gears as you approach a stop. This will make pedalling easy when you start riding again and be kinder on the knees. Riding with your knees in line with your pedals instead of pointing out/ in will also prevent injury and soreness.
Saddle sores develop in the crotch where your upper thigh and bottom touch the saddle. They start when friction causes the surface of the skin to break enough for bacteria (that live on your skin normally) to get underneath. This irritation, plus the bacteria, form a sore that can be difficult to care for given its location. The wrong sitting position, sitting for too long, tight clothing and excessive sweating may all lead to saddle sores. To prevent saddle sores–
- Shop around for the right saddle and shorts that are both comfortable and fitted to your body type.
- Always wear clean shorts (that means doing laundry!).
- Don’t wear underwear under your spandex mountain bike shorts. Trust me – you’ll be much more comfortable with just the chamois.
- Gradually increase the length of your rides.
- Take a shower post-ride and wash thoroughly, the less time spent sitting in wet shorts the better.
Prevention is always best but if you do get one here’s how to care for it:
- When off the bike, keep it clean and dry. Let the area breathe by wearing underwear made from breathable fabrics or no underwear at all.
- Warm baths and hot compresses can be soothing.
- Don’t squeeze it. That prolongs healing and increases the risk of a larger infection.
- Take a few days off riding.
- See a Doctor if the area gets red, hot or swollen or if you get a fever.
Scrapped skin occurs when you fall off your bike or get too close to an obstacle. While it usually presents as gravel rash it could also be from branches flicking back or any number of other mechanisms. While it might sting and bleed it does not usually prevent you continuing your ride after some minor first aid. To prevent gravel rash or other minor skin injuries consider wearing a long sleeve shirt while riding and a pair of gloves in case you fall.
Elbow and knee pads also help prevent traumatic injuries in the event of a fall however most weekend or casual riders find these unnecessary. If you opt to wear them make sure the pads don’t affect your ability to pedal or steer.
Stitches are caused by your diaphragm being pulled under your ribs. To prevent a stitch don’t cycle hunched over the handlebars but straighten the back giving the chest room to breathe.
Still keen to ride? Check out our Munda Biddi Bike Tour and sign up here.
Anna – Inspiration Outdoors