Biking Tips for Neck & Back Health

The weather is warming up, the sun is here a little more often, and people are starting to take out their bikes for daily commuting and for weekend fun.

 However, biking after a long break may cause many people to start developing pain in their neck, back, and hands. In many of these cases, poor bike ergonomics plays a huge role. Like any other sports equipment, a proper fit is essential to ensuring a positive, pain-free experience. Many bike shops, such as Commercial Drive’s Bikes on the Drive provide expert bike-fitting services, focusing on proper arm and leg extension and the alignment of the hips and shoulders.

In a bike fitting, the first step is always to make sure you have the appropriate type of bike for your intended use, and the right frame size to fit your body. Commuting and touring bikes provide the best ergonomics for daily riding, while more aggressive downhill frames are designed to optimize balance and efficiency on trails and uneven terrain. Using the wrong type of bike can have long term effects on the shoulders, neck, low back, hips and knees.

Once the right bike is identified and sized correctly, the comfort of the riding can be enhanced with the right accessories, with specific symptom-related goals. For example, the type and style of pedals help with knee and ankle issues. The correct size, type and position of the seat can prevent low back and hip issues, and the proper position and height of the handlebars can reduce low back, shoulders, neck, elbows, and wrist strains.

After tailoring the bike to your body, make sure that you dress for the weather and for your riding, and that you stay visible to prevent accidents. Vancouver weather varies greatly, and both comfort and safety relies on your preparedness for the elements. Wind and cold can cramp up muscles and affect joints and tendons. Gloves reduce road vibration and insulate hands against cold. Shoes can even affect your riding comfort, as hard soled shoes spread pressure more evenly over the pad of your foot, reducing strains on your lower legs and feet. Remember that safety is directly related to visibility, so use fenders, lights, safety vests, glasses, rack and panniers to stay visible and flexible. And don’t forget your helmet!

Thank you to Tobias Cain at Bikes on the Drive  (1350 Commercial Drive) for tips on proper bike fit.  Dr. Anne Stacey is a Vancouver-based Chiropractor.