fixed gear, the sores and the complementary do’s

First of all I need to say that I’ll be writing from my own, short experience of a 25 year old girl who has only been riding fixed gear (pretty vividly, though) for a bit more than a year.

All repetitive positions and habits bring sores, while the body is accommodating to be in the wrong or the right alignment and balance. If you’ve been bending your back in a weird way for a while, it’ll be a pain while you’re trying to correct it, until you actually do it; and then another pain to keep it right, because from casual furniture to sometimes our bikes, pretty much nothing in daily life contributes to pose cleanliness and correction, unless we obsess with it. I can’t be bothered with more obsession, so I just care about it, try not to lose the eye on it, which I find to be a must for a rider.

The commonly affected danger zones are knees and upper back/neck. Apart from my youth, I hadn’t noticed the pains because I had been practicing Hatha yoga strongly for the last 5 years, and if something was momentaneously wrong, the yoga practice would fix it or make it feel better. It wasn’t until I left it for some months that I became conscious about the potential damage you can get by not doing well, but that happens everywhere in life!

Before riding, I guess you’d always have to check your bike, especially measures and angles. After choosing your correct size (which changes depending on the brand and its geometries), is also very important to set your saddle the correct height. All this is really personal in the end, but there are some standards that you shouldn’t skip, like not letting your leg extend completely on the most stretched part of the pedal spin. Here I leave a reference that I found useful:

LINK

Concretely riding fixed gear, choosing the correct gear ratio is also really important, that will change according to your fitness, the kind of riding you’re doing, how hilly or flat is where you’re living and riding, etc. But for daily urban track cycling between cars and nutty people seems crazy for a girl like me, that has to do many other things, to be pushing it over a 80 gear ratio. Currently I ride 44T/15 but would like to try other common combinations, like 48T/18.

I don’t feel enough read or tested as to give you more advice about the bike, but I really want to encourage you to complement the fixed gear cycling with other sports towards strengthening knee and back muscles, often very mistreated. Swimming is a proved favor to the back, but requires coast, shore or pool, so I’ll recommend an even easier option. I found a really good complement in Iyengar yoga. Another advantage of it is that it’s austere in material terms, doesn’t require special equipment or placement conditions, just a lot of attention, having done digestion and being clean. After that, you can give these exercises a try. It’ll only take some minutes of your day and if you do them alright you’re certainly going to notice the difference!

Yoga increases the stabilizing action of the leg’s big muscles. When the inner and outer quadriceps are equally strong,  they exert an equal pull on the ligaments, which keeps the kneecap in alignment. In fixed gear, it’s particularly important to work on the equal development of both legs. Sometimes we tend to push harder with one leg, skid mostly with one leg or trackstanding with the same leg forward. For this reason, I’m enhancing a daily practice to avoid an extreme decompensation of the muscle mass and capability.

There’s a main and magic pose (Asana) in Hatha yoga that is routinely recommended to keep knees healthy. It’s extremely important to get it right, so pay attention to this schemes and try it out.

VIRASANA

TECHNIQUE (From the book “Illustrated light on yoga” by BKS Iyengar)

1. Kneel on the floor. Keep the knees together and spread the feet about 18 inches apart (45cm)

2. Rest the buttocks on the floor, but not the body on the feet. The feet are kept by the side of the thighs, the inner side of each calf touching the outer side of its respective thigh. Keep the toes pointing back and touching the floor. Keep the wrists on the knees, palms facing up. and join the tips of the thumbs and forefingers. Keep the other fingers extended. Streich the back erect. (Back view: Plate 42. Front view: Plate 43)

3. Stay in this position as long as you can, with deep breathing.

4.  Now interlock the fingers and stretch the arm straight over the head, palms up. (Plate 44)

S. Stay in this position for a minute with deep breathing.

6. Exhale, release the fingerlock, place the palms on the soles, bend forward and rest the chin on the knees . (Plate 45)

7. Stay in this position (or a minute with normal breathing.

8. Inhale, raise the trunk up. bring the feet forward and relax.

9.IMPORTANT If you find it difficult to perform the pose as described above, try placing the feet one above the other and rest the buttocks on them or place a rolled blanket or a wood block the size of a building brick under your buttocks. Gradually move the toes further apart, separate the feet (Plate 41) and bring them to rest outside the thighs. Then, in time the buttocks will rest properly on the floor an d the body will not rest on the feet.

EFFECTS

The pose cures rheumatic pains in the knees and gout, and is also good for flat feet. Due to the stretching of the ankles and the feet, proper arches will be formed. This, however, takes a long time and requires daily practice of the posefor a few minutes for several months. Those suffering from pain in the heels or growth of calcaneal spurs there will get relief and the spurs will gradually disappear.

The pose can even be done immediately after food and will relieve heaviness in the stomach.

More about this concrete position and its goodness here 

VERY IMPORTANT!

WHILE PRACTICING, ALWAYS NOTE:

  • Avoid hyperextending
  • Always align your feet to your knee and, of course, look that your hips are the same height and aligned, hip misplacement is directly related to knee pain
  • Keep your knees in line when moving into deep knee bends
  • Tune in to subtle signals. Oftentimes, the knees don’t give immediate feedback. Only later do you realize you’ve gone too far. When it comes to the knees, the sensation that would normally proceed the red flag is the red flag. If you feel achiness when you come out of a bent-knee pose, you may have worked too hard.
  • Build strength through balance, specially beneficial even for later doing tricks on fixed gear, where a great balance is often required. Especially good those that require moving through a bent standing leg, like GARUDHASANA:

TECHNIQUE

1. Stand in Tadasana. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot.

2.Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.

3.Press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so that the palms are now facing each other. The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the little finger of the left. Now press the palms together (as much as is possible for you), lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling.

4.Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms and stand in Tadasana again. Repeat for the same length of time with the arms and legs reversed.

 

  • Warm up with hip openers. “If your big joints aren’t open, your small joints will always take the stress,” yoga instructor Sandy Blaine says. “Many people hurt their knees doing Lotus when their hips aren’t ready.” She recommends warming up with hip stretches like Baddha Konasana.

TECHNIQUE

1. Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, raising your pelvis on a blanket if your hips or groins are tight. Exhale, bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together.

2. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as you comfortably can. With the first and second finger and thumb, grasp the big toe of each foot. Always keep the outer edges of the feet firmly on the floor. If it isn’t possible to hold the toes, clasp each hand around the same-side ankle or shin.

3. Sit so that the pubis in front and the tailbone in back are equidistant from the floor. The perineum then will be approximately parallel to the floor and the pelvis in a neutral position. Firm the sacrum and shoulder blades against the back and lengthen the front torso through the top of the sternum.

4. Never force your knees down. Instead release the heads of the thigh bones toward the floor. When this action leads, the knees follow.

5. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. Then inhale, lift your knees away from the floor, and extend the legs back to their original position.

This has been a little glance to make you work but more to make you curious about the fact that if you take fixed gear riding seriously, you also have to take other practices seriously to delay the natural anatomic aging processes and being able to ride on your maximum capabilities for a longer time without the least physical hassle.

Any improvements, suggestions, add-ons, etc. always welcome.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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