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cycling leg pain

If you experience from time to time a cycling leg pain or muscle contraction during your bike rides, you’re not alone – many other riders feel the same, including me.

Did you know...?

Cycling Leg Pain

Did you know lactic acid buildup is the primary cause of cycling leg pain?

An easy way to minimize lactic acid buildup is to perform cool-down stretches after cycling.

Another great way to counter lactic acid buildup is to go for regular deep tissue sports massages, which help to push the lactic acid out of your sore muscles.

One moment, you feel on top of the world, full of joy and happiness after another successful bicycle ride, and immediately afterward, you start to feel a sudden annoying cycling leg pain, or even worse - your muscles stop functioning properly, at least for a while.

Let's make some order here and explain exactly what happens when we suffer from muscle pain in legs or muscle contraction: what are its causes, and more importantly, what can we do to avoid cycling leg pain?

Do You Suffer From Cycling Leg Pain?

You may feel cycling leg pain during the ride. It will disappear a few minutes after you stop cycling or at the end of a long, challenging climb. This is called "immediate muscle pain."

The cause for such muscle pain is the accumulation of "waste products" such as lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid is formed in the muscle in almost every physical activity. Still, during a very intense and continuous bicycle ride, the acid's production rate exceeds its evacuation rate. At this point, we start to feel muscle fatigue and pain.

If you experience cycling leg pain during an intense climb, try to change your cycling speed. Shift to a "lower" gear to reduce the load on your muscles. Avoid a sudden stop: reduce your pedaling rate gradually and let the muscle get used to a lower load. Only then - stop riding completely. Give your leg muscles rest during the day or two after the ride. If you are in the middle of a bicycling tour, and you have to continue riding, try to make the following day an easy one.

Rubbing your legs with cream containing glucosamine, Arnica, and MSM is a good treatment for cycling leg pain. These creams are quickly penetrating your muscles, relieves the pain immediately. (It is worth a try, but my experience shows that you should not expect immediate relief).

Sample Glucosamine, Arnica and MSM

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Pain After the Ride

Cycling Leg Pain

Delayed cycling leg pain appears several hours after the ride and can last another 48 or 72 hours. The cause of such pain is microscopic tears in the tissues of the leg muscles.

This phenomenon is normal, especially after a long and intense ride. It is the recovery phase of the muscles after they are damaged during the ride. The direct reason for pain is inflammation and temperature rise in the muscles.

What can we do about delayed cycling leg pain? You can perform leg warm-ups before each ride, do stretching before and after the ride, and give your muscles the required recovery time. In most cases, the pain will disappear after a few days.

What to do if You Still Have Muscle Pain in Legs?

What happens if you do everything as explained above and still feel fatigued and have a sense of "muscle contraction" in the legs after the ride?

The best way to know the source of the pain is by checking each potential cause, one by one. The main action you should take is to change and improve different aspects of your diet: it might help you eliminate your cycling leg pain problem.

Drink Water!

Water is essential for all life forms, and humans are no exception. Water assists in digestion and adjusts the body's temperature. It also removes toxins from the body. You must drink enough water while riding to maintain your performance and capacity. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, general fatigue, dizziness, fatigue, and cycling leg pain. Could you make sure you carry and drink enough water while riding?

You can read here more about bicycle hydration.

Balance the Lost Salts

Water is not the only element lost through sweat while riding. Have you ever noticed how salty your body gets after a long ride? We exude a fair amount of salt when sweating. Maintaining a balance between water and salt in our bodies is essential. Salt is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Beyond the direct effect on cardiac function and normal muscle contraction, Shortages in salty elements may cause pain and fatigue in the leg muscles. Here are some solutions to complete the salts:

  • Isotonic water drinks: Sports drinks such as Gatorade, PowerAde and others, or homemade drinks (made by diluting fruit juice with water, and by adding a pinch of salt) contains salt. They also contain some glucose for taste and energy. These elements are essential for proper body functioning during bicycle riding. Oh, and they are tasty, too!

  • Salt capsules: These capsules are my favorite! Every capsule contains different amounts of salts and should be consumed during the ride according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

  • Magnesium: You can consume magnesium daily to get the recommended amount per day (from 300 mg to 400 mg, depending on your sex and age), and check if there is a positive effect on your muscles during the ride.

  • Nutritional supplements: The market is flooded with many other nutritional supplements such as Glutamine (helps the immune system function), BCAA (specific amino acids which are supposed to slow down the process of muscle fatigue) and more. It is possible to add such capsules to our bicycle riding diet menu, but it is essential to follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Selected Bicycling Leg Pain Treatment Products Online

Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain
Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain
Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain

Eat and Drink Properly

Make sure to follow the guidelines listed in the article why is nutrition important. The most important days you should be strict with your diet are a day or two before the ride, the days during the ride, and the day after the ride. Read more on the subject of cycling nutrition in these articles:

Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain Relief Products from Wayfair

Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain
Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain
Bicycling Leg Muscle Pain

Books About Leg Pain

More information about leg pain can be found in several informative books. Take a look:

Cycling Leg Pain
Cycling Leg Pain
Cycling Leg Pain


You should listen to your body if you experience fatigue or cycling leg pain during a bicycle ride. Try to understand the root problem by checking every possible cause. This research may be a bit long and expensive, but it is ultimately well worth it.

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