What Are the Disadvantages of Cycling?
Cycling comes with wide-ranging advantages, which include getting to feel the refreshing breeze outdoors. Also, it helps develop strength and stamina and is a fun way to become physically healthy.
However, it has its disadvantages too. You must know how to prepare yourself to either avoid them or cope with them.
What are the disadvantages of cycling? Among the disadvantages of cycling are possible nerve damage and artery compression, repetitive stress on the hands and other areas of the body, pollution, road hazards, saddle soreness, lower and upper back pain, and the fact that it is time-consuming.
Read on to learn the disadvantages of cycling and whether it is possible to avoid them. Also, I will mention some of the advantages so you can decide whether or not cycling is ideal for you.
The Disadvantages of Cycling
As mentioned earlier, cycling might be a perfect exercise to get fit and improve your stamina, but it also includes some disadvantages that might ruin your experience. Learn some of them below:
Nerve Damage and Artery Compression
It is possible for people who spend a lot of time cycling over many years to experience nerve damage as well as artery compression. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, cycling involves sitting for too long on a hard bicycle seat, which compresses the arteries and nerves that are connected to the reproductive organs in the body.
When the nerves and arteries are compressed for a long time, an individual will feel numbness in their legs and lower back. Along with these are other negative effects connected to nerve damage and compression of the artery.
However, you don’t need to be discouraged, especially if you are planning to start cycling to get fit. This is because all these issues are avoidable and reversible.
Almost one-third of the strains associated with cyclists involve races and weekend rides and affect the upper extremities, including the hands. The same is true of people who are not adequately trained in cycling and who join a 150-mile ride.
Despite the use of the best preventive measures and top-notch equipment, riding a bicycle, especially on rough roads, involves constant vibration and a longtime gripped hand position.
As a result, it can lead to repetitive stress conditions such as handlebar palsy or tunnel syndrome.
Aside from the constant vibrations and gripping the handlebar for a long time, cold weather is another variable that increases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Low temperature can make the tissue more distensible.
To better understand the two conditions mentioned earlier, read below:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This health condition occurs due to pressure on the median nerve. For starters, the carpal tunnel is located on the palm side of your hand. It is characterized as a narrow passageway surrounded by ligaments and bones.
When activities like cycling cause nerve compression, specifically on the hand, you will feel a tingling sensation, numbness, and weakness in the hand and arm.
To prevent this nuisance when cycling, here are some tips:
- Improve your posture when cycling – When you don’t practice correct posture, you roll your shoulders forward, which shortens your shoulder and neck muscles. This will compress the nerves that are serving your neck, which will soon affect your hands, wrists, neck, and fingers.
- Keep your hands warm – As mentioned earlier, a cold environment can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. So, keep your hands warm by wearing fingerless gloves while you are cycling or at work.
- Take short but frequent breaks – If you are doing tasks that involve constant vibration, such as cycling, it is best to take short breaks so that you can bend and stretch your hands as well as your wrists. Do it frequently, too. Taking a break for a few minutes every hour of cycling to prevent the occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome is advised.
- Relax your grip and reduce your force – It might be risky to relax your grip while cycling, especially on rough roads, but you should consider reducing the force on your hands at times. An ideal way to do so is to choose a handlebar that is easy to grip.
- Watch your form – When cycling, do not bend your wrist all the way down or up. It is best to do a relaxed middle position. For this reason, you have to use the right handlebar to keep your hands in proper form while cycling. This also helps to prevent handlebar palsy, which I will discuss later in this article.
Ulnar Neuropathy (Handlebar Palsy)
Medically known as ulnar neuropathy, handlebar palsy is a health condition that is also caused by repetitive stress. When the ulnar nerve receives direct pressure at the wrist and hand, which usually happens after gripping handlebars for a long time, it leads to hyperextension or stretching of the nerve.
The ulnar nerve controls sensation in the little and ring fingers. It also controls the hands’ muscular function. To treat this health condition without surgery, you can take anti-inflammatory medications and rest.
You can also try stretching exercises to relieve the pressure on your hands after cycling for an hour. This applies to those who ride motorcycles, too.
While most of the tips to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome also work for handlebar palsy, here are some additional tips you should note:
- Include additional handlebar padding – Additional padding on the handlebars helps to reduce bone-shaking vibration due to road friction. You can choose whether to add handlebar gels to your bike or tapes to increase the comfort of your bike’s handlebars.
- Squeeze an Iso-Ball – This handy item also works for people with arthritis. It might look like a typical stress ball at first glance, but it contains natural grains that massages your palms while you squeeze it. It mainly offers moist heat therapy, which doctors advise for relief of arthritis, joint pain, and nerve damage.
Reducing the risk of handlebar palsy by utilizing these tools is better than curing this condition.
Bike commuters who regularly ride in traffic are exposed to different kinds of pollution, such as air and noise pollution. In terms of air pollution, cyclists might inhale a lot of carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that vehicles omit due to gasoline.
While pedestrians are also exposed to such gas, a 2011 study from the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Amsterdam suggested that bike commuters inhale 2.3 times more black carbon than pedestrians.
The reason is that when you ride a bicycle, you take deeper and more frequent breaths, leading to inhalation of more carbon monoxide from the air.
This study was done in London, which has a higher level of air pollution than the biggest cities in the United States, like Los Angeles and New York City.
You can reduce the risk of air pollution while enjoying cycling by avoiding bustling roads. Determine how you can arrive at your destination without passing along roads with a lot of vehicles. Even skipping a high-traffic route one block away makes a huge difference.
If you are a bike commuter, you definitely encounter motorists who think that you should not be on the road. Even courteous cyclists might experience motorists yelling or honking at them. However, this is not the real problem. In fact, it is when drivers don’t see you.
According to a study from 2011, fatalities involving bicycles in the U.S. have increased by 8.7 percent. Aside from that, more than 48,000 cyclists were injured due to bike accidents, usually caused by vehicle collisions.
To stay safe on the road, wear bright clothing. Aside from that, never leave home without a helmet.
For those people who are planning to ride in low-light conditions, install reliable bike lights. These devices are often rechargeable or battery-operated, so make sure they work properly before you head out. Bike lights can increase your visibility at night, helping other motorists see you better on the road.
Also, study and obey traffic laws. You should ride defensively and attentively to anticipate and avoid accidents.
Among the pain that professional cyclists experience is groin and butt pain. The main reason for this is sitting for a long time. Another factor that can increase the risk of these discomforts is when your bike has an inefficient saddle. Because most of your weight rests on your tiny sit bones, a small saddle can be a challenge.
The first thing that you might think about is replacing your bike’s saddle with a bigger one. Utilizing a good pair of padded shorts can also help. The use of chamois cream also relieves butt and groin pain.
Lower and Upper Back Pain
It is pretty common for people who sit for a long time to experience back pain. Also, most bicycles force you to hunch over to ride. You will stay in such a position for a long time, causing stress on the lower and upper back, which results in pain and tightness in these areas.
Another disadvantage of cycling is that it consumes a lot of time. In fact, even getting ready for a ride is time-consuming.
Before riding your bicycle, prepare a bottle of water or anything that will keep you hydrated along the way. Aside from that, the cycling clothes you’ll wear should be ready beforehand. Your preparation time might last for over half an hour. Also, check that your bicycle works well before you head out.
Among the things that you should check on your equipment are the chain, tires, handlebars, etc. Make sure that all of your bike’s components are in good operational condition to avoid accidents and delays.
Why Is Cycling Still an Excellent Way to Get Fit?
Knowing the disadvantage of cycling might make you think twice about riding your bicycle. However, its advantages are still greater. All the caveats of cycling can be avoided, so you don’t need to forget about getting fit and enjoying the day with your family outdoors.
To inspire you, here are some of the benefits that you can enjoy from proper cycling:
- Reduced cardiovascular disease
- Sociable activity
- Weight control
- Improved lung function
- Good for the environment
- Improved strength
- Low impact
- Reduced stress
Regardless of whether are cycling in a place surrounded by fresh air, on a bike bath, or on your way home from work, you are going to acquire the benefits of cycling that were mentioned earlier.
On the other hand, you should always remember that how your cycle is a huge determinant of whether or not you can reap such benefits.
First, practice the right posture and ensure that your wrists are not bent all the way down or up. Also, take short, frequent breaks to stretch your hands. You might also consider having an Iso-Ball with you to relieve numbness in your hands while taking breaks.
Finally, make sure to equip yourself with bright-colored cycling clothes and a helmet, and to install reliable lights on your bicycle to prevent road accidents.