SINGAPORE: Before you fire up that bike-sharing app on your handphone, there is one thing you can to minimise injuries and make cycling more enjoyable: Adjust your bike’s seat height.
While shared bicycles don’t allow for much adjusting - unlike road and mountain ones that can be customised to suit the cyclist’s body - this is one tweak you can make to your rented bike, said Dr Dinesh Sirisena, consultant in sports medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, a member of the National Healthcare Group.
Getting the seat height right can go a long way in preventing “excessive pressure on the knees, hips, shoulders and other areas of the body. Over time, this may cause chronic pain symptoms in these areas,” said Dr Dinesh.
Some cyclists may lower the seat too much as it makes them feel more confident when cycling. However, when the seat is positioned too low, the knees can be forced to bend excessively, and in some situations, the cyclist may rotate his knees externally and away from the body, said Dr Dinesh.
“With time, cycling in this squat-like position can cause tightness in the iliotibial band (ITB, a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin) and quadriceps muscles, and may eventually lead to knee pain,” he said. Typically, the pain can occur over the front of the knee and can be associated with swelling.
On the other hand, if the seat is too high, the cyclist may over-stretch his legs and lead to calf strain or an inefficient cycling form, said Dr Dinesh.
“In both situations, there can be excessive hollowing (seat too low) or over-arching (seat too high) of the lower back to compensate, leading to pain symptoms. If this posture is not corrected, the cyclist can develop chronic pain in the lower back, shoulders and neck over time,” said Dr Dinesh.
“A general rule of thumb is this: When seated, ensure that the knees are bent at a 25-degree angle when the pedal is at the lowest point of the pedal stroke,” said Dr Dinesh.
Here, he shares other checks and tips you can follow before pedaling off.
Check that the front wheel is aligned with the bicycle’s frame and back wheel when the handlebar is straight. “This will give you better control of the bicycle,” said Dr Dinesh.
Make sure the front and back reflectors are intact, said Dr Dinesh. It is also a good idea to ensure that the light at the front tyre is not broken. Not many people pay attention to these features but they can increase your visibility in dimly lit conditions.
TYRE AND BRAKE CHECKS
Ensure the tyres are not bald. “There’s no need to check the tyre’s pressure as these shared bikes use solid tyres,” said Dr Dinesh. “But check that no pieces come off.” Then, come down to the pedals and rotate them by hand to see if the movement is smooth.
You’ll also want to give the brake levers on the handlebar a squeeze to see if they work. And be aware which brake lever controls which brake. “The right lever controls the rear brake. Always use the rear brake to slow down the bicycle to prevent the bicycle from flipping over,” said Dr Dinesh.
“These checks are particularly important with shared bicycles as the previous user may not have used the bicycle properly and you cannot be sure about the bike’s maintenance,” he said.
WEAR A HELMET
“As someone who has had tumbles on the bike, I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of wearing a helmet,” said Dr Dinesh.
He acknowledged that helmets are not convenient to carry around, especially if you’re not a regular user of shared bikes. “An option to consider is a foldable helmet,” he said.
USE THE BASKET FOR YOUR BELONGINGS
It is safer to place your belongings or shopping in the bicycle’s front basket than hang them on the handlebar, said Dr Dinesh. “The basket is secured to the bicycle so it is stable,” he explained. “But make sure that nothing is poking through the basket as that can get caught in the front wheel.”