Hip Pain from Bike Riding: Causes and Solutions

Riding a bike is one of the greatest feelings on earth. Few things compare to the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere with just two wheels and two legs to get you home. But there are also a few things as frustrating as trying to enjoy a ride when your body is full of aches and pains, especially if the pain is in your hips. So, is hip pain normal for bike riders?

While actively pedaling, your hips are constantly working, and, as a result, hip injuries can be pretty common. The common causes of hip pain injuries include training incorrectly, having a poor bike setup, or having a hip impingement. Most hip injuries can be healed through correct exercise.

A hip injury doesn’t have to set your exercise and bike riding back by several weeks or months. However, it is important to find out what is causing your hip pain and fix that problem before you continue making it worse.

Common Causes For Hip Pain And Bike Riding

Unfortunately, like all the weird and wonderful pains that can occur while riding a bike, hip pain has no definite cause. But there are a handful of “most likely” common causes. It’s vital to understand what may be causing your hip pain and solve that problem before you continue riding.

Remember that these are just a few common causes and short-form tips, so if you are experiencing severe hip pain, it may be time to consult a medical expert.

A Bad Bike Setup Can Cause Hip Pain

Let’s start with the most common cause of just about all aches and pains that suddenly appear after the bike bug bites you and you start riding for real: a wrong setup.

Bicycles in various shapes and purposes must be tuned or fit to their rider. Imagine for a minute a motorbike engine. That engine has several moving parts and needs to be tuned precisely to balance all those moving parts.

Well, on a bicycle, your entire body is the engine, and having a bad bike setup means the engine isn’t tuned, and things aren’t running in harmony. This can stress your joints, from your wrists and knees to your hips.

If, for example, your saddle is too high, your legs will overextend on the down stroke, causing your hips to rock back and forth on the bike. On the other hand, if your saddle is too low, your knees will rise too far on the upstroke, putting more strain on the joint rather than the muscle.

The same goes for your handlebar reach and height. Too far back, and your riding position will be too upright, and vice versa.

So before you continue fault-finding your body, ensure you get your bike fit set up correctly. Here is an excellent video to get you started:

Overtraining Can Cause Hip Pain When Bike Riding

The next most common cause of hip pain can actually be considered an injury because of overtraining or training incorrectly.

We’ve all been there. Once you really start enjoying being in the saddle, it’s hard to stop. And once you start gaining some fitness, it’s hard to properly pace yourself and train correctly. Unfortunately, your body isn’t exactly built like the death-defying 10-year-old you used to be, and you find it more difficult to keep up with your willpower. We understand these facts of life are hard sometimes.

A typical mistake many riders make is working against their bike, or rather, working too hard when you have a bike with several gears to help carry the load. Sure, many pro riders even prefer using harder gears, but they also train their various leg muscles to compensate for that preference.

If you haven’t built up the muscle support system to cope with being in tougher gear ratios the whole time, then chances are your joints will be under strain, which can lead to hip, knee, or back pain. So, while you are building your fitness and strength, make sure to use your gears optimally.

It’s also important to combine your time training in the saddle with time training in the gym. By focusing on building specific muscles like hamstrings and glutes, you can shift the workload to them.

Without strengthening them, it’s easy to overwork them, which can lead to something called wallet syndrome, which causes the leg to rotate outwards and results in pressure on the nerves.

Hip Impingement Can Be Causing Pain While Riding

If your bike is set up correctly and you don’t have any hip injuries, then the next logical thing to check is if you have hip impingement.

Explaining hip impingement can be a little complex and medical, but in short, it relates to how much movement and flexibility you have in your hip joints. As the name suggests, some people have limitations or impingements in this rotation, which puts pressure on nerves.

To try and avoid this, your body will have a few natural compensations. One of those could be turning the knee outward on the upstroke. Or you may find that your hips rock excessively even though there is nothing wrong with your setup.

This means that hip impingement can cause more than just hip pain; it can put stress on your knees and lower back as well.

There are a few exercises you can try to add flexibility and strength where it is needed, or you can even try short cranks to force your knees in line. But if you have severe hip impingement, it’s best to consult a professional for advice.

Here is a video showing some helpful tips to fix hip impingement:

Conclusion

Hip pain while bike riding is commonly caused by a lousy bike setup, training incorrectly, or hip impingement. Start by making sure your bike is correctly set up for your height and reach. Also, combine riding time with training in the gym to strengthen vital muscles. Finally, if you have a hip impingement, try exercises specifically focused on that, or consider seeing a medical expert.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles