Select Page

When told that someone is planning on a long bike trip, the immediate reaction is to crouch as if in pain and mimic a painful posterior. Doesn’t that, you know, hurt? People actually ask this. If you cycle a bunch, you get the feeling for what kind of saddle works for you, and if you have that, and at the right height, and some decent shorts and a good riding posture, you’re fine. Really. My sitting portion was fine on this trip. Thank you for asking. I did have one minor chafe day but quickly figured out where I had gone wrong (saddle maybe .5 of a degree off of true) and fixed it, and was fine.

I had three main physical complaints on this trip (four if you include the part where I gauged myself in a some kind of masochist cyclist scarification ritual that involves rubbing filthy grease into your wounds, this on the biggest chainring after stopping pedalling on the Haast Pass.)

My complaints were (in order of appearance)

1. Left shoulder. I get tendinitis in my shoulder when I ride for a long time, especially if I ride downhill alot. It’s the result of a bike injury I like to call, they bumped into me and I went splat. Oh, and then I had many months of physical therapy. Probably I actually have tendosynovitis, which means I get a build up of synovial fluid around the tendon. This I know from an MRI after which I was told “you’re not claustrophobic.” Which trust me, really helps the claustrophobia. Dries that sweat in an instant. Anyway, sometimes it’s achy. Like can’t sleep achy. I took some ketaprofen and paracetamol (tylenol) together, because that’s what my nurse/roommate at the hostel in Haast told me to do.

2. Hands. Numbness. Like really alot of numbness. I have never been diagnosed with carpal tunnel, and don’t think I have it. I think if you spend many hours leaning even a small portion of your weight on your hands, they will go numb. I had really great wide bike grips that helped me to change position alot, and some gel gloves, but still the numbness persisted. I did a lot of flailing and waving to get the feeling back in my fingers, and after about the 10th day of riding, no longer woke up with numb hands. This was pesky, but not horrible.

3. Across the ball of the foot pain. I ride clipless, which is to say that I ride with cleats in the bottom of my shoes that click onto the pedal (clipless refers to the fact that you don’t use use toe cages/clips). The pedals are quite small, and all that pushing down on the one point of my foot caused pain, but pretty much only when I rode up very steep hills (on about 4 occasions), or for more than about 70 km and three or more consecutive bike days. I might have been able to wear more padded socks, or try to concentrate on pulling, rather than pushing, but I think maybe I should have taken more breaks or that this is just something I will have to deal with if I go on a long biketrip again. Hurtiness: substantial, but not debilitating.

I don’t know what kind of physical complaints other cyclists had, though one person asked me how my wrists were. My wrists were fine. I was surprised by number three, but had experienced 1 and 2 before. Next time I would pack paracetamol, the hydrocortisone cream a pharmacist recommended to speed the healing on the gouging (and I may have used for some sand fly bites as well), and some antibiotic cream (borrowed from the pharmacist, not to be confused with the nurse), though I would prefer to avoid the gouging to begin with next time. Seriously. It’s been weeks, and I’m still wounded. But about this time last year I was just getting the stitches out of my hand from a kitchen accident, so I figure that by someone’s measure, I’m still coming out ahead.

Hope you’re not hurting out there, but if you are, I hope you’ll join in on the kvetchy fun! Happy cycling, hiking, walking or whatever floats your boat, and hopefully doesn’t cause you any pain.