Stretching for cycling
Stretching aids recovery, injury prevention and relaxation. It should always be done in a controlled manner and after a warm up or at the end of a training session or race.
On the bike stretching
In training it's a good idea to do some stretching after your initial warm up, or at the end of a ride as you warm down. You can do this on your bike but you need to be careful (don't do it on busy roads!) and have good balance - you may need to take a least one hand off the handlebars. Hold each stretch for at least for 10 seconds.
Place both hands on the brake levers, with one pedal at the bottom of the stroke. Stand up out of the saddle and drop one heel with a straight leg to place your body weight through it (with clipless pedals this shouldn't be a problem, as the rear of the pedal will retain your foot - but make sure you are clipped in properly and that your pedals and cleats are in good condition). This will stretch the top calf muscle, the gastrocnemius, which is attached above the knee. For the lower calf muscle, (the soleus), which is attached below the knee, bend the leg slightly. Repeat with the other leg.
The 'quads' form the big muscle that runs across the top of your thigh, from your hip to your knee.
For your right leg: Sit in the saddle with your left hand firmly on the brake lever or the top of the bars, stop pedalling and unclip your right foot from the pedal. Bend your knee, and lift your foot up behind you. Grab your ankle with your right hand and bring it up towards your backside. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Freewheel (so you'll need a section of flat or slightly downhill road or trail). Lift yourself off the saddle and straighten out your back, stretching out towards your neck and your backside.
Off the bike stretching
Make sure you are warmed up before you stretch off the bike. Never do it 'cold', ideally you should stretch immediately you finish a ride, or you could stretch after a warm shower or bath.
- Stand up straight and bring your heel towards your backside
- Grasp your ankle with your right hand
- Keep your knees close together
- Pull your heel back and up, towards your backside
- Repeat the other side
- You may find it helps your balance to place your free hand against a wall.
- Stand on the edge of a step with the ball of your feet over the edge
- Drop your heel, using your body weight to get the stretch
- You might find this better my doing one leg at a time, hanging the leg not being stretched behind you (similar to the on the bike stretch, by bending your knee you can stretch the soleus).
The head and neck are placed in unnatural position on the bike, so often need stretching. Do not do 'head circles' to stretch the neck, as this not good on the vertebrae.
- Sit or stand with your back upright
- Bend your head forward and bring your chin to your chest. Hold it there for about 10 seconds
- After each stretch, bring your head back up to the upright position before starting the next one
- Then bend your neck to either side
- Finish off by leaning your head backwards. Hold it there for 10 seconds and return to the upright position.
Bike riders are renowned for having short (or tightened) hamstrings, as the position on the bike never allows the legs to be fully stretched. There are number of ways to stretch the hamstrings, many of which are not ideal. The simplest method is to:
- Stand in front of a chair and place one heel on the seat with a straight leg
- Place your hands on your hips (to feel if your pelvis is moving)
- Keep your back straight and bend forwards from your pelvis
- You may only need to move a few degrees before you feel a stretch, but over time you will become more flexible and able to stretch further.