The News-Press, August 27, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Do you love to ride your bike, but find your back, butt or joints are telling you to head home before you’re ready to stop?
You might want to try a few adjustments – or perhaps even a new type of bike.
The first step to tackle biking pain can be to head to your local bike shop or cycling expert and ask them to fit you to your bike. (Ideally, you should do that when you’re buying your bike – so you make the right choices – but after-the-fact fittings can still make a big difference.)
A good fitter – which you can tell by reputation as well as certification – can adjust your bike to make your riding position more comfortable and efficient. A little tweak in seat position or handlebar stem length can make a big difference in comfort, making a fitting worth the cost.
However, they’re not a panacea for all pains. Sometimes, soreness cannot be sized away, or the answer is changes in you (working on your core strength, say, or changing your riding technique) rather than in your bike.
You also need to consider that what and how you rode in your 30s is not going to hold up a few decades later, that your body has changed in ways that may necessitate changes in your bicycle (and, alas, in many other areas of your life, the subject for a different day).
One such change may be to switch from your traditional upright bike to a recumbent, which changes how you sit and pedal in a way that can help ease your sore body parts. Rather than sitting on a narrow seat hunched over your handlebars, you’ll be sitting upright and pedaling by pushing out, not down.
|Photo: Caloosa Riders|
What are the positive aspects of recumbents?
- Comfort: A wider seat is easier on your butt, and the handlebars (which can be in a number of configurations) take the pressure off your wrists and hands.
- Speed: Being lower and with less frontal area means less wind resistance, making you faster -- or at least making it easier to go as fast for a longer period of time.
- More physically forgiving: Many people who no longer can ride a regular upright bike can still ride a recumbent, regardless of the physical challenges they face.
- A better view: You’re sitting back and looking ahead rather than down, so you can see the scenery more easily (and keep it easier on your neck as well).
- Safer: Particularly if you opt for a recumbent trike, it’s easier to overcome balance issues. (But see below for the flip side of this.)
However, there are disadvantages to recumbent that need to be factored in your decisions whether to switch:
- More expensive: You’ll spend a lot more on recumbents, even the entry-level ones.
- Bigger and heavier: Especially the trikes (they’re also wider).
- Less visible: They’re typically lower, which can be a problem if you need to be seen by motorists who don’t look down much when they’re driving.
- Not as good on trails and hills: Both because of their size and riding position, since you can’t stand on the pedals when they’re in front instead of below you. (Hills are less of a concern around here, which is one reason you see more recumbents.)
- Still some physical challenges: Switching to a recumbent takes some practice, and the two-wheel ones require a different sense of balance… and the change in riding position may aggravate some body parts (knees and hamstrings) while it takes the strain off others.
Still, for many cyclists recumbents let them keep riding when the upright bike won’t. They’re particularly good for touring, both for their greater efficiency and comfort (which lets you ride longer) as well as for their potential to haul your goods while giving you a great view of where you’re riding.
If you’re considering making the switch, head to your local bike shop and test-ride a few to see if they work for you. It may take some time to adjust to the new position – and the new way your body is being worked – so be patient.
Ready to ride or run?
Nothing new on the race calendars, just virtual events and the promise of racing to return come the fall (Covid willing). Keep checking the usual websites for updates… be prepared to sign up, but also be prepared to deal with postponements if the rules on gatherings don’t change.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.