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Leg cramps and bike fit: Is there a correlation?

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Leg cramps and bike fit: Is there a correlation?

Old 09-30-19, 07:18 PM
  #1  
sgtdirt
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Leg cramps and bike fit: Is there a correlation?

i suffer from extreme leg cramps.
yes, i've tried;
-hydrating before, during and after
- electrolyte formulas
- salt pills
- mustard
- pickle juice
- salt laced waters
- bananas
- magnesium
none of those seem to work.
now, i'm wondering if my fit could lend to my problem. could the saddle height or crank length be the perpetrators?
thoughts...
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Old 09-30-19, 09:11 PM
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Sure there is. If the saddle is too low in particular.
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Old 09-30-19, 10:14 PM
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If the saddle is too wide and partially cutting off circulation to the legs, that can do it too.
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Old 10-01-19, 12:23 AM
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Do you cramp up when walking, too?
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Old 10-01-19, 09:48 AM
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In general, I've found hydration, electrolyte intake, fit, flexibility/stretching, and general fitness to be the factors that can influence likelihood of cramps.

I've done many hours' of swimming in the ocean, where lack of hydration combined with the intensity of the swim (very large waves) were two prime factors on the "cramping" days.

I've had a relatively poorly-fit saddle (height, fore/aft positioning for reach) contribute, causing the legs to have to work beyond the level of fitness I had at the time. I'm fairly convinced the overwork on those occasions was a key factor.

I've also had some months, over the years of athletics, in which I've been less than ready for the amount of work, load or route challenge (ie, hills, speeds) demanded. (Soccer, swimming, cycling, running.)

Would suggest at least considering each of these areas, as I think they can contribute.

Hard to say which one(s) it might be, in your case. Might take a little while to go through all the possibilities, but you'll probably get a better fit, re-check your technique, validate your training regimen, consider your fitness as compared to the routes/challenges you're expecting your muscles to cope with. Not a bad thing, even if it takes awhile to "nail" the actual issue(s).

Last edited by Clyde1820; 10-02-19 at 09:06 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-02-19, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
In general, I've found hydration, electrolyte intake, fit, flexibility/stretching, and general fitness to be the favors that can influence...
This. Add to that good health or more precisely the lack there of and you have your answer(s).
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Old 10-02-19, 02:48 PM
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All of the above, but mostly it's riding fitness. Early in the riding season, I might get cramps after a ride of X miles, but later in the season, that same ride (and hydration and all other things) won't phase my legs at all. I may instead be vulnerable to cramps at distances of 2X. And yet later, 2X miles can be a piece of cake.

If I am riding more than my legs are accustomed, I can be vulnerable to terrible cramps - the kind where I can't even get off the bike or, later, sitting on the couch, make me nearly scream in pain when I try to stand. But if I have enough miles in my legs, I can toss off a century without even thinking about the possibility of cramps.

People have all kinds of crazy ideas about the causes and cures of leg cramps, but assuming a reasonable intake of fluids and electrolytes, the number one issue is fitness.

As to fit, yeah, maybe, but it's unlikely to be the major cause. Further, lots of other joint (or back) issues are likely to make themselves known owing to fit issues, well before leg cramps. If your knees/hips/back/etc. don't hurt on your rides, then probably this is barking up the wrong tree.
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Old 10-02-19, 09:33 PM
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If you're riding say 150 miles a week on similar terrain and similar effort every week, have been doing that for a couple of months, and are still cramping, let us know because there is something unusual going on. When I used to ride more competitively, a 500' anaerobic climb, followed a few minutes later by an all-out hill sprint could cause nasty cramps, but understandably.
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Old 10-03-19, 04:51 AM
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What part of your legs (calves, quads, hamstrings)?
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Old 10-03-19, 07:30 AM
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There is still no clear consensus as to why cramps occur. I've ridden ~200 miles a week every week for five years, and still get calf cramps sometimes--- mostly when I'm asleep in bed. Sometimes a leg will cramp up while I'm just reaching to put something on a shelf.

So when folks start saying it's down to bike fit or rider fitness, that is most certainly not always the case. I've fought a cramp at mile 100, I've fought one at mile 15. Hot weather, cold weather, doesn't matter.

For clarity: I'm not a "chronic cramper." Haven't had one on the bike in about 4 months, haven't had one off the bike in 2 weeks or so. But they are not to be prevented or predicted in my case. They just happen.
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Old 10-03-19, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There is still no clear consensus as to why cramps occur. I've ridden ~200 miles a week every week for five years, and still get calf cramps sometimes--- mostly when I'm asleep in bed. Sometimes a leg will cramp up while I'm just reaching to put something on a shelf.

So when folks start saying it's down to bike fit or rider fitness, that is most certainly not always the case. I've fought a cramp at mile 100, I've fought one at mile 15. Hot weather, cold weather, doesn't matter.

For clarity: I'm not a "chronic cramper." Haven't had one on the bike in about 4 months, haven't had one off the bike in 2 weeks or so. But they are not to be prevented or predicted in my case. They just happen.
Off the bike, evening and night cramps are for sure idiopathic. For me, an on-bike cramp has always been from doing something unusual compared to my recent riding. More frequently, my cramps happen when I attempt to get off the bike, for example after a hard-fought pass climb late in a long ride. I usually lay the bike down so I can walk away. But not for you? You go for a usual day ride on your usual routes and cramp? If so, you're a singular case because in over 20 years of weekly hard group rides, I've never seen that happen to another person. Or maybe it's just that individuals who do weekly hard group rides seldom cramp, IDK.

Do you stretch every day? Mineral supplements? Gym?
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Old 10-06-19, 09:07 PM
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the reason i'm exploring bike fit is; i switch between my drop bar bike to a flat bar bike for racing. i do ride my flat bar bike often enough to feel very comfortable but it's not my everyday/club ride bike. although, i have also suffered debilitating cramps with the drop bar bike too, i have never experienced them like i did in my last race while riding my flat bar bike. for the most part, i can either; ride through them or stop and suffer. this time, my vastus medialis (the tear drop shaped muscle next to your knee) would not stop cramping.

i think i'll head into my LBS for a rudimentary fit on the flat bar bike.
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Old 10-10-19, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by sgtdirt View Post
the reason i'm exploring bike fit is; i switch between my drop bar bike to a flat bar bike for racing. i do ride my flat bar bike often enough to feel very comfortable but it's not my everyday/club ride bike. although, i have also suffered debilitating cramps with the drop bar bike too, i have never experienced them like i did in my last race while riding my flat bar bike. for the most part, i can either; ride through them or stop and suffer. this time, my vastus medialis (the tear drop shaped muscle next to your knee) would not stop cramping.

i think i'll head into my LBS for a rudimentary fit on the flat bar bike.
Cramps in the legs Could Be vein constriction and Arteries narrowing : Maybe even blocked : Have you had a Pelvic Scan ???
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Old 10-10-19, 11:00 AM
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I'll 2nd that a saddle too wide, especially at the lower edge and especially as I get close to the sit bone area, is a real issue for me as it cuts off blood circulation to my legs.

Ben
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Old 10-11-19, 06:29 AM
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Been drinking a lot of beer?
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Old 10-11-19, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
In general, I've found hydration, electrolyte intake, fit, flexibility/stretching, and general fitness to be the factors that can influence likelihood of cramps.

I've done many hours' of swimming in the ocean, where lack of hydration combined with the intensity of the swim (very large waves) were two prime factors on the "cramping" days.

I've had a relatively poorly-fit saddle (height, fore/aft positioning for reach) contribute, causing the legs to have to work beyond the level of fitness I had at the time. I'm fairly convinced the overwork on those occasions was a key factor.

I've also had some months, over the years of athletics, in which I've been less than ready for the amount of work, load or route challenge (ie, hills, speeds) demanded. (Soccer, swimming, cycling, running.)

Would suggest at least considering each of these areas, as I think they can contribute.

Hard to say which one(s) it might be, in your case. Might take a little while to go through all the possibilities, but you'll probably get a better fit, re-check your technique, validate your training regimen, consider your fitness as compared to the routes/challenges you're expecting your muscles to cope with. Not a bad thing, even if it takes awhile to "nail" the actual issue(s).
This is a good template for narrowing down the cause(s). I would add one additional qualifier, did the cramp occur before a full warm-up, at the outset of the ride, or did it occur after an hour or more on the bike?
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Old 10-14-19, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
This is a good template for narrowing down the cause(s). I would add one additional qualifier, did the cramp occur before a full warm-up, at the outset of the ride, or did it occur after an hour or more on the bike?
i thought so too.
the cramps happen anywhere between miles 25 and 60. i've never suffered cramps off the bike (i.e. in my sleep or resting on the couch)
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Old 10-14-19, 06:06 PM
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Sometimes I get quad cramps if I ride a bike, after having walked down a lot of stairs earlier that day. I've seen the part about walking down stairs mentioned in several other discussions of this topic.

When I got cramps on the bike several months ago, it was while riding a new bike, on which I had been playing around with the fit (fore-aft saddle position, height, etc.) and it was within the first 5 minutes of the ride. And I had walked up and down four flights of stairs, in a building with very high ceilings, equivalent to 6 regular floors. And I always take stairs two at a time.

So I guess with everyone they're slightly different, but that was my experience, and these were around 9/10 on the pain scale. I was in agony, and could not even figure out what caused them, and am still not 100% sure.
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