body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Taiwan Even Cycling Indoors Is Unsafe

Cycling on Taiwan's streets poses a number of hazards to riders. Weaving scooters, poorly trained or impatient drivers, cell phone driving, blind alley merges and dooring are all regular hazards that come with the territory, forcing many riders off the streets into the safety of the gym, where an instructor can lead them through an hour of spinning in an air conditioned room without the additional expense of equipment. More experienced riders also attend these spinning classes to improve fitness and operate at a higher cadence.

Now, a Taiwanese doctor has come out to warn these stationary riders that their little corner of the cycling universe is also fraught with danger.

According to a report in Taiwan Focus, stationary bikes can be a hazard to your health. According to the article:

Although cycling is deemed a fairly safe form of exercise, Pan Hsiao-ping, chief of the Su Tien Urology and Ophthalmology Clinic's rehabilitation center, said excessive stationary bike workouts can damage the knees, neck and wrists.

"Most patients are unaware of the potential harm of cycling indoors, " said Pan, explaining that some people adopt inappropriately intense exercise regimens in their efforts to lose weight and improve their fitness levels.

Stationary bike users, especially those in group spin classes, get so excited by the accompanying music and the instructor's exhortations that they forget the limits of their own bodies and fail to notice that they possibly have poor posture, she said.

She said that riders in a more upright position, for example, can put too much weight on their wrists, while cyclists with too-low handlebars that are not adjusted to their height can hurt both their neck and wrists.

There you have it. Cycling of any form can be harmful... if it is not done right.

I think the real lesson here is that being properly fit for a bicycle is essential to avoiding injuries. Many cyclists are not injured by cars or road furniture, but by their own bikes.

What the article really highlights is how a laissez faire attitude toward bike fitting can become a health disaster. The risk of fit injuries becomes greater as the distance increases and the repetitive motion starts to put strain on the joints and tendons. This can be true for both bicycles and stationary bikes.

A proper fit should balance the weight bearing load between the sit-bones, wrists, and mainly the core muscles of the body to limit stress.

In Taiwan I see many novice riders outfitted on mountain bikes for road use with the assumption that they will be more comfortable due to a more upright position. I have even had the owners of a bike shop insist that road bikes were uncomfortable due to the more extreme position. With their extreme compact geometries, they can throw more riders over the bar of a mountain bike and sell more stock... fit or not. Many riders are also not taught about proper fit and set their seats too low resulting in knee pain.

The doctor makes an excellent point in how an improperly fitting bike with an upright position can put stress on the wrists and necks.

With stationary bikes, as the proverbial town bike, everyone can have a ride and many people in spin classes simply hop on and don't worry about fit. Many instructors do not emphasize this point either, resulting in lasting injuries to the participants.

A properly sized and fit bicycle, whether stationary or mobile, should eliminate pain, discomfort and injury to its rider. Even a fit problem that doesn't manifest itself in one hour, may become a problem in two, three or four hours... or even over the course of a week or a month. Listen to your body and don't get beat up by the bike. If you haven't been properly fit, get fit by a professional. In Taichung, Rocky and T-Mosaic charges NT500 for a good fitting. The service is of course free with a purchase. My wife, a novice, was fit for her road bike with traditional road geometry and could ride in total comfort from Day 1.

It is not so much the bike, but the fit.

Hello Dali... goodbye Schweinfurt! SRAM exports German jobs to Dali in Taichung.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I think one of the biggest issues with pain associated with riding is the lack of proper fitting by a qualified professional. I'm a big supporter of listening to your body in terms of how a bike fits you. There is a field dedicated to bike fitting but at the the end of the day the researchers still ask the questions of "how does this feel on a scale from 1-10" or "how does it feel?". This still makes bike fitting a very subjective, case specific topic with no set formula that will work for everyone. Short distances are manageable but those long 100-km rides will not mask improper bike positions on any bikes. Of course bike position is also specific to the type of riding that is done too. A professional's position will be more extreme than that of a amateur's cyclist's where they require a more relaxed and less aggressive positioning. My advice to most is to have a set of a guidelines setup to help with proper fitting and then follow it. Make minor but meaningful changes as most new bike positions need at least a few hundred kilometers to get a feel for before the rider can make any concrete judgements on the modified position. A slight adjustment of maybe 5 mm whether it'd be stem, saddle, handlebar, crank can mean the world of the difference so have a notebook to track down the changes and have a column for comfort level. Cycling is a sport associated with suffering but after a while you should be able to discern cycling pain and just pain from the positioning. Your body will tell you. Or you could just drop down 12000 nt at the Specialized Store to get the BG fitting system……My final thought towards bike position and fitting is that the best ones are the ones you don't feel. When you can drop 100, 150 or even 200 kms and not feel that you've been on the bike, that is the holy grail of all bike positions.

  3. The doctor's article is utterly confusing. Knee problems are due to saddle height. Too many people have the saddle too low causing problems in the front of the knee. Too high also causes stress on the back of the knee, Two reasons for neck pain: [A] A too low handlebar causes extra force on the head/neck and when fatiguing causes the neck shift forward on the cervical vertebate. [B] Too low handlebar may cause superextension of the neck and pressure on the vertebral discs. Both can cause vertrebal discs to shift (protude) touch the nerve and cause low ot high level of pain. Even headaches can be a pre-sign of this phenomenon. Lowering Intensity does not fix his issues, it may release fatigue and this shifting as described a [A]. BTW: Everything is unsafe when done too much or incorrectly. This all applies on any other exercise. Also don't wait to ask how to ride a bike until you get discomfort. Be proactive an ask before you step on te bike.

  4. I agree. There are lots of things that don;t quite add up. Too low should be front of the knee.

    I think I simply tried to capture the overall message that people take fit for granted and then hurt themselves... It is not as easy as riding a bike.