Many cyclists wonder why they experience pain -- typically in their knees or back -- during long bike rides. For some, the answer is simple: Sit on the seat, not the handlebars.
For others, the solution might require a little more work. Assuming you've already confirmed that your bike fits properly (poor bike fit can contribute to back and knee pain), you might take a lesson from a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual conference in early June. That research shows that core strength -- strength of the abdominal, oblique and back muscles -- is key for cyclists who want to pedal strong for long distances.
The study examined 15 competitive cyclists ages 23 to 45 who completed a series of cycling exercises at a University of Pittsburgh research facility, then returned a week later for a regimen of core-fatiguing exercises followed by another cycling workout. The results: Core fatigue resulted in altered cycling mechanics -- namely, adjustments in knee and ankle position -- as the participants tried to maintain pedal force.
Those adjustments, which recreational and competitive cyclists make automatically in response to core fatigue, could be at the root of many riders' complaints, said John Abt, the study's lead researcher and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Sports Medicine. "If you are continually fatigued or weak, you are setting yourself up for the potential for injury."