Biking & Your Hips
By Colin Hillson, B.Sc. (Hons), R.Kin, CPT
Kinesiologist & Bike Fitter
For many people a barrier for riding bikes, especially ones that are more aggressive like road and mountain bikes, is back pain. Everyone should experience the joy of riding bikes, so how do we let you ride that super flashy road bike you’ve had your eye on without needing to lay in bed for the rest of the week?
The answer… Hip Mobility! When you have tight hamstrings and hip flexors, your pelvis will sit very vertical on the bike seat. This will cause you to need to round through your spine to get your hands down to the bars. This causes your spinal erector muscles to work very hard to keep your back from collapsing, as they have been stretched out of their natural position. However, if you have the mobility to let your pelvis rotate back on the saddle, your back will remain in a much straighter position, and your spinal erectors don’t have to work as hard to keep your back stable. Giving your back muscles less work to do while riding will reduce muscular fatigue, and therefore the pain you feel at the end of the ride!
There are two easy stretches to increase your hip mobility for riding your speed machine (or any other bike for that matter). The elevated foot hamstring stretch will isolate your hamstring muscles from your back, and allow you to stretch the hamstring even if your low back is tight. Secondly, the couch stretch has been a classic for increasing hip flexor mobility. It can be modified by changing the height of your back foot, as well as how close or far you are away from the couch or chair. Remember, stretches only cause long-term changes if you hold them for long enough! Holding the stretches for 30-60 seconds at least twice on each side will have you riding with less pain in no time.