You already know the positive changes that cycling brings about in your body, but it's not all advantages. There are also "negative" or not-so-positive effects (depending on how you look at it) that sooner or later become apparent. Especially if you spend a lot of time on the saddle and if you train hard for racing or self-improvement.
Let's start where we left off, with muscular imbalance: a noticeable difference between the lower and the upper limbs. You can become a kind of "T-Rex cyclist" with very developed leg muscles and much less muscular arms.
Apart from the arms, the trunk is another neglected area not only because we do not work its muscles but also because the fat loss can become so pronounced that we can easily become a human body skeleton for anatomy classes. That is why additional gym exercises are crucial to strengthen the entire trunk and upper limbs.
There can also be a lack of balance in the leg muscles development. The hamstrings work much less than the quadriceps plus they shorten due to pedaling, so stretching, massage and specific gym training is required. Muscle shortening means that sometimes when you stand up after sitting for a long time or bend your leg after having it stretched out on the couch or in bed for a long time, the muscle becomes stiff and you’ll need to do some stretches or have someone help you stretch your leg.
Pain is something a cyclist gets used to. There are many types of pain on the bike:
Neck and shoulder pain due to the body position and carrying too much weight on the arms. Can be corrected by adjusting the position on the bike.
Leg pain when going up stairs or steep slopes. Don't be surprised if you start complaining or grimacing when climbing a flight of stairs and ask yourself: “What is the slope gradient here!?”
But among all the pains there is one that really takes the prize, especially when you start cycling: the pain in the butt and crotch. It can be awful and scare you away from the bike after the first serious ride. The butt gets used to it and the pain goes away or at least decreases with time. It can be avoided by choosing good bib shorts, a proper saddle and the right position on the bike.
Another very common effect in this area is numbness. Be careful, get off the saddle and use the same solution as for the pain in the buttocks: bib shorts, saddle and correct position. This area may also be exposed to other problems due to chafing. Redness, itching, pimples and even wounds can ruin a day on the bike and the next few weeks if you don't have a good pair of bib shorts or you’re not wearing them correctly (remember not to use underwear). Apply some cream before riding (there are specific chafing/chamois creams against friction) and also after showering to keep it moisturized.
Speaking of creams, there is one more area of your body that needs special attention: your hands. The more time you spend holding the handlebars, the more tanned your hands will get. The solution is wearing gloves, which will also help you avoid numbness and protect you in case of a fall. Besides, use special creams to take proper care of your hands as otherwise they will never be soft and delicate.
Sunscreens, however, won’t protect you from getting different shades of uneven tan. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use sunscreen - quite the opposite - you should use it at all times. The more time you spend on a bike, the better protection you’ll need. But sunscreens have their limits and we’ll most likely end up with streaks and stripes all over our skin. For mere mortals, our weird, patchy tan marks don’t make sense and draw stares at the pool or beach, but among cyclists they are a source of pride, like the scars of the main character in Jaws. Here are just a few of those signature tan lines:
Start getting used to having white feet like the famous Two Socks wolf in the movie Dances with Wolves. And depending on the height of the sock you wear, the white tone will go up the leg.
Cycling sunglasses often leave white area around your eyes while the rest of your face is tanned, which might make you look like Spiderman or a spectacled leaf monkey (called this way for a reason, you don’t need visual aid to see where this is going).
The nose will be darker than the rest of the face, and the same will happen to your arms and the quadriceps area of your legs, as those are the areas most directly impacted by the sun.
White hands due to the use of gloves and white stripes on a tanned neck as a result of your body position on the bike.
These marks are left by the sun, but cycling can also leave scars on your body as a result of a fall, accident or injury. Let's hope that if you do fall or have an accident it’s nothing serious so that you can just patch it up and keep going!
Another effect of cycling is that we get a runny nose more than usual. Especially when we are on the bike, even more so if we are allergic and it’s spring. The runny nose is mostly due to allergies, but the fact that we breathe more intensely and are exposed to cold, humidity and wind, makes us become some real snotty bikers.
In the article about the positive effects of cycling on our body we said that our metabolic rate increases and that makes us hungry. We eat more and make our digestive system work longer and more regularly. All this combined with body movement from exercising and the fact that we eat a healthy diet with loads of vegetables, and it's no wonder we break wind, float air biscuits or use natural gas power for the climbs.
We hope you had a good laugh with us and, most importantly, that you’re not planning to change sports or stop riding your bike after reading about these "negative" or not-so-positive effects. Everything can be solved following our tips, so keep your spirits up, spring is coming and you have to start working on those tan lines.