Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Hidden Cost of Daily Cycling?

As merely an inveterate tinkerer on rusty old clunkers, I wouldn't normally presume to weigh-in on such lofty topics, but in the last couple of weeks, I've seen that two of my bike-blogging comrades (Pete of The Bicycle Commuter Trials and Alan of EcoVelo) have fallen victim to tendonitis brought on by daily bicycle commuting. Pete blames his over-zealous and quite sudden conversion to bicycling, while Alan suspects that his saddle height adjustment might have played a role. My bicycle-commuting neighbor has also experienced similar problems with his knees. Whatever the cause, I'm curious to know others' experience with repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, etc. brought on by daily riding. We all know (or, at least the males among us) about the threat of crushing certain, uh, "necessary" equipment, but what sorts of other injuries have people experienced? Lower back pain? Wrist or elbow issues? Foot/ankle issues?

If you're reading this blog, you're probably already convinced of the health benefits of daily cycling, or cycling for daily transportation, but perhaps we need to be having a more explicit discussion of the physical costs as well. I'd wager that most would agree that "active" injuries like tendonitis are somewhat easier to swallow than the long-term health effects of a sedentary lifestyle (obesity, diabetes, etc.), but I suspect there are folks out there who want or need to start using a bike instead of a car, who might well do serious injury to themselves, thus preventing them from getting back on a bicycle. It's certainly something to be aware of.  As our mothers used to say: an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.

Oh, and I found the image here.


  1. Hmmm, I've suddenly developed numbness in my right hand, much like my husband got in both his hands after riding Paris-Brest.

    In my case I think it's more from work than cycling - it hurts when I'm mousing. Perhaps I should work less and ride my bike more? Please?

  2. Yes, I believe that is the recommended course of treatment.

    Of course, if you ride more, you might develop tendonitis in your knees, then you'll have to work more and ride less, leading to a relapse of your hand numbness. It's a vicious cycle (ba-dum-bum).

    By the way, I also have that occasional right-hand numbness from mousing. Stoopid compruder.

  3. Other then my knee, I did have a nasty pain in the lower area of my thumbs. I’m sure it was brought on from the pressure of holding the gear shifters; though, it has since faded away. I think new people to cycling (like me) need to keep in mind their bodies will go through a process of becoming part of a greater machine (the bicycle). That’s going to take some time and unfortunately comes with some pain as the body becomes adjusted.

    Still, the good brought on by frequent cycling definitely outweighs the bad.

  4. I have nominated your blog for an award. Details are on my blog in the post entitled "An award for me?". Hope you approve. Best wishes.

  5. I switched from a mouse to a Wacom Tablet a few years ago and said goodbye to my computer-related wrist ailments.

    I'm not too worried about my current bout with tendonitis of the knee - I've learned from experience that staying off the bike for a while always solves it. The tough thing is keeping myself from starting back too soon!

  6. Justwilliams,

    Here's the thing, I'm glad you felt like nominating me, but I've looked about at the site you mention, and I just can't figure out what the heck is going on there. I like the idea, and sure am flattered that you'd like to bring more readers my way, but I would much rather see this blog continue to grow organically, rather than sticking my nose in where I'm not entirely clear on the purpose. But, really, thanks again!

  7. Cycling on a regular basis should not cause recurring pain, at least once you become acclimated to it. People's bodies change as they age, build up endurance, etc. I suspect the more you ride an ill/improperly fitted bike and the more advanced your years the more likely you are to have issues. I have found that a gentle stretching routine first thing in the morning whilst waiting on the coffee to finish perking/dripping does wonders. I have also changed my riding style over the decades, when I was younger and more foolish I rode as fast as possible with my head down clutching a curly curved bar all in the name of reducing wind resistance and increasing speed. Fast Forward a few decades and now you will find me sitting upright loosely holding a handle bar that falls readily to hand. No I am not as fast as I once was, but I am still enjoying the ride, the health and the freedom a bicycle provides.

    And as pointed out by the wondrous Mr. Brown...cycle fit is very important.


  8. 2whls3spds raises two great points--bicycle fit and bicycle style. After the 10-speed boom of the 1970s, many Americans came to believe that a 10-speed racing-style, drop-handlebar bike was the *only* kind of bike, and then there was the mountain bike boom of the 1990s. Both bike styles were designed for competition and athletes, and if you want to ride one, you should probably prepare like an athlete--stretching, off-bike training, etc. A bicycle built for transportation or comfort is a different machine, especially if you get one that fits correctly. While stretching is still important, riding a bike that puts you in an upright position should be, above all, comfortable and relatively non-taxing (depending on where you're riding, of course).

  9. I read that spinning helps with tendonitis knee problems. First you need to get the sweelling down: rest, ibupproferon, ice. Especially rest. Then ride in that unused lower gear. Spinn and go slow.