NCTV Episode 91

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • 15 ways to reduce your chances of injury
  • Some useful products to enhance your ride
  • How to prep your body
  • Riding posture tips
  • Elsa from Frozen


If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 91 which is all about how to prevent mountain bike injuries.

While I’m not saying this advice will stop you getting mountain bike injuries, you can help yourself to reduce the time off your bike by implementing a few (or all) of these nuggets. Injuries through crashes are not really avoidable, but it’s worth bearing in mind that fatigue (both mental and physical) affects your concentration and ability to balance and adjust your body according to the trail. This can contribute to a fall, so ensuring your body is strong, well-trained and well-fuelled can go a long way to reducing injury risk. In case you didn’t think there were many things you could do to reduce your chances of injury when mountain biking, here are 15 of the blighters:-

1 Warm up before each ride. Tight muscles can lead to torn muscles, but a proper warm-up and cool-down will save you the soreness. Spending the first 10-15 minutes going easy, you’ll steadily increase blood flow, flexibility and range of movement.

And don’t forget to cool down by progressively decreasing the pace. Off the bike, you can use a foam roller, such as the (Manta Roller) post-ride to help you loosen up tired muscles, and increase blood flow and mobility, just go slow and be gentle on the sore spots. Stretching before and after a ride can ensure good posture on the bike and good joint mobility which in turn contributes to performance on the bike and reduces your risk of injury. Your osteopath or physical therapist can give you specific stretches for your body.

2 Don’t skimp on rest days. Muscular and cellular adaptation to training actually takes place during down-time, so don’t be fooled into thinking it won’t matter if you skip rest days. Overtraining can cause muscle damage that leads to a reduction in strength and endurance as well as disrupting your sleep and immune function. If you feel you still need or want to do something then “Active rest” is doable via light cross-training, which could involve doing a swim session or light walk. Remember, hands on treatment like osteopathy or massage is also a key element in rest and recovery. Your practitioner can pick up on any niggling areas of tightness that could predispose an injury.

3 Fuel properly for every ride. An empty tank is one of the primary causes of hitting the wall during long rides, but running on empty doesn’t just wreck your performance, it’s also associated with damage to muscle fibres. Choose slow-release carbs like oats, wholegrain bread and sweet potatoes at each meal to drip-feed your muscles energy, and aim to consume 30-60 grams of carbs in the form of energy supplements every hour, during rides which last more than an hour. Solid foods and sports drinks are equally effective, so choose what feels most comfortable to you.

4 Pre-ride check. Before setting out on any ride always give your bike and other equipment a once-over check. Always check both wheels are securely fastened and that the brakes and gears are working. Bike maintenance and regular servicing of brakes, tread and tyre pressure are important in preventing an accident.

5 Wear a cycle helmet. More than 80% of cycling-related deaths are due to head injuries which could have been avoided if a helmet had been worn.

6 Wear cycle glasses. Glasses offer invaluable eye protection against wind, mud, dirt, sand, insects and branches. These will also enable clear visibility at all times, thus preventing potential accidents.

7 Knee and elbow pads. Many mountain bikers wear these to help prevent traumatic injuries in the event of a fall.

8 Carry out a ‘recce’ before a downhill section. If you are riding in an unfamiliar area it is always well-worth dismounting from your bike and inspecting a downhill section on foot before committing to it on the bike. Quite often dangerous obstacles can be hidden on steep ground and if you hurtle down in the unknown…

…then the first time you see a hidden danger might be too late.

9 Avoid wrist and hand injuries These are caused by the many shocks, vibrations and impacts traveling up through the forks, as well as by the hands not altering position for prolonged periods. They can be avoided by ensuring your suspension forks are well-maintained and serviced and wearing good biking gloves with padding. Fitting bar ends allows you to move your hands around more freely and adopt more efficient biking positions. Remember to take your hands off the handlebars occasionally and shake them to restore circulation.

10 Keep well-hydrated. Both heat stroke and exhaustion can be caused to by not being sufficiently hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water prior to your ride but also during your ride. ‘Hands-free’ hydration systems such as CamelBak, Platypus or similar designs offer significant advantages over water bottles.

11 Ride within your skill level. Never listen to your buddies when it comes to a section of trail you think is above
your ability. Get off and walk that section if needs be or take it really slow. There is no shame in being safe. Plan to ride with friends of similar ability and preferably review the trail or plan before the ride, so you know what to expect.

12 Too much, too soon. Errors in training are a factor in injury development, especially overuse injuries. Regardless of your experience you should. Take care not only with duration of your rides but also intensity – this can include speed or doing too many hills and climbs with insufficient fitness. It’s tempting to take advantage of a good weather window or a weekend warrior scenario, but this can often lead to injury.

13 Prepare your body. Riding fitness is obviously best achieved through riding however a huge component of injury prevention is preparing your body.

– Upper and lower body eccentric and isometric strength training of your arms and shoulders as well as your glutes and thigh muscles is essential. A strong stable pelvis can help prevent knee pain.

– Also, core abdominal strength will not only help prevent lower back pain but also improve your ability to balance and shift your weight on the bike, potentially preventing a fall and injury.

– Next it’s good to focus on functional movements rather than isolated exercises. For example squats, lunges and plyometric exercises are good for strengthening your legs.

– And a final body prep – Enhance your endurance by challenging your aerobic and anaerobic capacity with interval training and cross-training like swimming, running, or rowing

Your osteo or other physical therapist is best equipped to prescribe exercises for you. Every person is different with underlying muscle weaknesses, imbalances and occupational considerations, all of which can affect your riding ability and increase your risk of developing an overuse injury.

14 Know about good body positioning. Stay centred, with your weight evenly distributed between your front and back wheels. This requires moving your body back and forth in the cockpit as you climb or descend, and this will help you stay on your bike.

15 Get out of your saddle. One of the most common mistakes beginners make is always staying seated. Getting out of your saddle takes the weight off YOUR saddle and onto your pedals, moving your centre of gravity lower and making you more stable (think Formula One car low to the ground, versus double-decker bus). So, when the going gets rough (ie. technical terrain) or when you’re going over undulating terrain, get out of your saddle.

That’s it for this week’s bitesize bit to help your health flourish.

See you again next time!