UT Southwestern sports medicine doctor pedals advice on gearing up for safe cycling season

DALLAS April 21, 2005 So what if you're no Lance Armstrong, six-time winner of the Tour de France. Even beginning cyclists should be armed with health information that can help reduce strain, injury and infection, says Dr. Luis Palacios, associate professor of family and community medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Palacios a cyclist himself explains that staying safe while on a bike means more than wearing a helmet. Proper fit between bike and rider, following preventive measures and knowing first-aid are essential for a safe outing.

For instance, knee and back pain can afflict the most seasoned riders. But most bike shops will help you find the right-sized bike and even adjust the seat for a proper fit, which will head off most joint difficulties.

"These problems are usually associated with bike positioning as well as training technique," Dr. Palacios said. "When the seat is too high, it can increase stress on the lower back and hamstrings. If it's too low, problems with the distal quadriceps and anterior knee can occur."

Once you have proper fit with your bike, it's important to know the best riding techniques. If you pedal slowly with high resistance (using the big chain ring and smaller cogs), you can strain your quadriceps or knee. Pedaling fast with low resistance can cause increased pressure on the base of your pelvic region and back, said Dr. Palacios, who has developed a sports medicine clinic in the UT Southwestern family practice residency clinic. Most experienced cyclists will have a cadence (revolutions per minute) between 90-100. For beginning cyclists, a reasonable and energy-efficient cadency might be between 60-80.

Preparing your equipment and mastering your riding technique shouldn't be the only things on your "to-do" list. Whether you're riding a 100-mile race or just exercising at a leisurely pace, getting the right mix of carbohydrates and protein before, during and after a ride is essential.


Contact: Katherine Morales
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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