People are always talking about how cycling is easy on the joints. I’m just saying, “it depends.” My right wrist is sore today from impact while riding my bike a couple days ago. I did NOT fall off at any time. However, in my effort to lift my bum so that various divots in the bike path would not transfer painfully to my hind quarters, I apparently kept my arms too stiff.
The unique pressures of riding a bike have had effects on different parts of my body. For a while, I was problem solving numb toes. I finally determined that minimalist, non-confining footwear helped immensely. Now, I ride both my outdoor bikes and the spin bike wearing Luna sandals. I invested in high-tech bike seats to help protect other delicate regions, but also was coached by my husband, who is a more experienced cyclist than me, to not sit so heavily in my seat. That is, use my legs more. Says the man with legs like tree trunks, but I am trying and it helps some.
All of this problem solving also led to his advice to reposition my foot on the pedal. For whatever reason, I naturally try to pedal from the ball of my foot. He said I wouldn’t have so much numbness in my toes if I used the region just a bit more mid-foot. That has also helped. He knows better than to try to talk me into clip-on shoes, both because I refuse to have my feet pinched and because it would be a disaster waiting to happen.
Fingers going numb has also been an issue, which I was able to partially address by getting some slightly padded bike gloves. I can also reposition my hands more easily than my feet, although even though my face-breaking bike accident was several years ago, I still have a strong desire to firmly grip the handle bars with both hands at all times. I have never heard of any runners having nearly the bone crushing injuries from crashes that cyclists have. If a runner trips or runs into another runner, it is not as dramatic as someone riding a bike smashing the pavement or flipping through the air.
Still, up until yesterday, I have never gotten such a jolt to my wrists. It is probably safe to assume that it happened this time partly because I was thinking about all the other parts of my body and positioning. I think that in anticipation of hitting a few unavoidable crevices, I stiffened my whole upper body. Apparently, that is the wrong thing to do. It resulted in minor earthquakes in my wrists, and, yes, it hurt a lot. It was not quite enough to make me stop riding and did dissipate some.
I was trying to problem solve this as I was riding, but after about the third time, my nerves were all a jangle and it didn’t seem I was doing things much better. I wasn’t quite sure what to do better. I mentioned what was happening to my husband, who was handily riding near me for this ride. He said I “needed to use my elbows as shock absorbers.” I surprised myself by understanding this statement, and proceeded to ride with my elbows more bent, but relaxed. With this seemingly small modification, I could let the force of impacts ripple through me and out. Somewhere. All I know for sure is that it didn’t hurt any more and I felt much more fluid. To top it off, I now felt, well, wonderfully like those videos of professional cyclists. Smooth and cool. Mind you, I don’t know what I looked like, but it was fun to feel that good!
When I got home, I found the ache and bruised feeling in my right wrist persisted. I felt the need to baby it and rub it gently some. For a while, I wondered if I had actually compacted some little bones in there, but nothing swelled or turned aberrant colors. The discomfort was less the next day. I am thankful that it was just enough to teach me an important lesson in using my elbows as shock absorbers, but not enough to do serious damage.