10 May 2016


At some point we all run out of talent, technique, luck or grip, and down we go onto the tarmac or the dirt – it doesn’t matter which, as ultimately it ends with the starchy folds of the hospital bed. And while the moment of injury is fleeting, climbing back to where you were is potentially long and painful. So it’s a good idea to avoid making it any longer or more painful than necessary. Here are our top tips to a quick and successful return to fitness.

Understand what went wrong
Not every serious injury comes from a dramatic spill. There’s pain you can ride through, and there’s pain that’s telling you to stop or you’ll make a problem worse. It’s vital you accept a real injury for what it is, minimize the damage, and start your recovery as soon as possible. It’s also important to understand the cause. If you have smashed yourself up in a crash there’s little you can do – beyond learning from your error so you don’t repeat it – but if the injury has come through riding, clearly something needs to change. Don’t think you just need to toughen up. Look critically at your bike fit, warm up routines, training and anything else that can contribute, and find the solution.

Pay attention to your body
Proper nutrition and hydration is even more important when your body is mending, so don’t neglect it just because you’re not riding quite as hard. And if you’re suffering pain, you’re probably pushing too hard or too soon.

Supplements can help with recovery, including glutamine (which minimizes the breakdown of muscle and boosts protein metabolism) or a mixture of glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM (which is good for joint and cartilage repair). Wondering what that mysterious-sounding MSM really is? It’s methylsulphonylmethane. So now you know.

Be realistic
The longer you’ve been off the bike, the more fitness you’ll have lost – though the precipitous early rate of decline does taper off after month or so. So it’s vital to take it easy at first and build up, and to set achievable goals.

Pushing too hard too soon (because you can still remember how fast you were) or failing to ‘beat’ the injury in a matter of weeks can be damaging both physically and mentally. As with any training, keeping it up on a regular basis is key, and you’ve aggravated your injury and broken your own will to continue, that’s not going to happen. Accept your current limitations, and chip away at them.

See a physio
An injury can heal completely but still cause problems. Break a leg, for instance, and you may not get back all the lost muscle because you’ve learned – without noticing – to compensate with the other leg. This can then lead to aches, pains and injuries on the other side of your body that are hard to understand. A physio can help fix such imbalances with exercises, stretches and other miserably painful things!

Get more
Consider part of your rehabilitation on the turbo – it’s really difficult to fall off, and is a great way to build back strength after a lay-off.  Technique is one part of the injury-avoiding jigsaw; check out our road descending tips here and for MTB riders, our singletrack riding tips here. To keep your bike in great condition, helping to minimise the risk of an accident caused by a mechanical, read our M-check guide. Of course, looking on the bright side of life, every wheel-bending, bar-snapping crash is an opportunity to upgrade!