The cause of back pain while cycling is not necessarily found in the back. Among other things, incorrect bicycle adjustment – the distances of the grips and handlebar, seat and pedals – can in fact cause complaints. Aside from the correct adjustments however, ergonomic bicycle grips can also make a contribution to healthy cycling.
Spending a few euros more for the new bicycle does not fundamentally guarantee that back pain will not be an issue while cycling. Adjusting the bicycle to the user’s individual physical characteristics is the key.
Most bicycle grips have a round or slightly oval shape. That may be OK for short distances, but often leads to problems during longer trips. Depending on the sitting position, the heels of the hands have to support the weight of the upper body, which means several kilograms of weight are resting on sensitive body regions. Bending or overextension of the wrists also occurs in many cases.
Permanent compression of the nerve tracts and the malposition of the wrist can cause numbness in the fingers and hands as well as tense muscles in the arms, shoulders and neck region. Carpal tunnel syndrome is possible as well. In this complaint, the median nerve leading from the forearm to the fingers is pinched. That leads to dull pain, prickling and burning. More than 300,000 German citizens require surgery every year due to these complaints.
But that is far from everything. Suboptimal grips and an incorrect gripping position inevitably lead to an incorrect sitting posture on the bicycle, which has negative effects on other body regions. Tense neck muscles and back pain can occur even after a short trip. This can cause cycling, which is healthy in and of itself, to degenerate into torture. Ergonomically shaped bicycle grips can remedy this situation when they meet some important requirements.
Bicycle grips should be anatomically shaped, meaning they must have a much larger contact surface. This is accomplished by means of a wing that supports the wrist and better distributes the pressure applied to the palm. It is comparable to good insoles. Optimal stabilisation of the wrist can be easily accomplished as a result. Continuously variable adjustment of the bicycle grips is important as well so the wrist and forearm can be aligned in a comfortable position. Aside from a significantly improved posture, the median nerve can no longer be pinched as a result – the best protection against the feared carpal tunnel syndrome. Depending on the individual anatomy, different grip sizes also result in an optimum form fit for the hands – a larger supporting surface of the grip distributes the forces more effectively, avoids point pressure loads and does not irritate the nerves.
The grips are about the only bicycle component that is in direct contact with the body and thus the skin for extended periods of time. So it should be obvious that the material needs to be hypoallergenic and slip-proof, even with moist hands. Furthermore, no toxic substances can be permitted to enter the body through perspiring skin.
Adequate gripping variability is appreciated, particularly over longer distances. This can be accomplished with angle-adjustable small or medium-sized vertical grip extensions, known as bar ends. Regular posture changes contribute to wellbeing, also on a bicycle. If the grips also promote precise steering and shifting behaviour, nothing stands in the way of the cycling experience, which is after all one of the healthiest means of transportation in existence.
That being said, back-friendly cycling includes a bit more than just the right bicycle grips, for instance a fitting seat. Anyone whose bicycle does not have a luggage carrier needs a back-friendly bicycle backpack. But the bicycle’s individual adjustment is the most important of all. While it is part of the service offered by good bicycle shops, you can easily do it yourself with corresponding instruction. Find tips on these AGR web pages:
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