Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Safer Cycling for 'Bump on Wheels'

Being a bit of a cycling nut, I was reluctant to hang up my wheels during my pregnancy. In the very early stages I continued to cycle as normal – there was nobody to tell me different and I wasn't asking. Denial actually worked very well for me for the first while. However, a bit of a scare and a near miss when tearing down a hill on my mountain bike made me sit up and take notice. At this point I decided it was time to face the music, and when the line appeared on the pregnancy test confirming that I was indeed two months pregnant as I suspected, I decided the mtb had to go, or at least riding it on steep and technical trails. Cycling safely when pregnant is about risk minimisation.

However, I really didn't see why I couldn't continue on the road bike but felt I needed some advice and support to do it. I knew the general attitude out there for pregnant woman was “anti-bike” so cunningly picked an easy target to ask for help – my coach. He was already well on board as we were working towards competing in the world track cycling masters the following October. I came clean one evening after training. Being the third person to know I was pregnant after my hubby and mother, he was a bit shell shocked to say the least and told me afterwards he felt ambushed! 

                       Cycling at 7 months - luckily I never got too big!

I convinced him I needed to keep up a reasonably amount of saddle time if I was realistically going to have any chance competing the following autumn. He could see how determined I was so had no choice but to help me. Not having a clue when it came to pregnant women let alone ones who wanted to ride their bikes he turned to a friend of his, an elite cyclist who had trained through her pregnancy for advice. 

He produced a set of guidelines to enable me to continue cycling safely which I stuck to the fridge and followed religiously.  They were common sense but it really helped to have them listed. When I stuck to these guidelines I felt I was doing something to stay safe and was happy to be on the bike. They were as follows:
  •     Safety is always about attention to detail. Risk can’t be eliminated but it can be absolutely minimized.
  •     You should always cycle in your comfort zone but be mindful that that can change week by week as pregnancy progressed
  •     Slightest hint of frost - no ride at all.
  •     Avoid cycling that involves uneven surface or where there is risk of collision with trees or rocks. 
  •     No more group rides - too many variables and we can’t put your safety into other people’s hands. Also you can’t control the pace to suit you in a big group.
  •     No rides on your own either! You need someone with you and their job is to look after you. When cycling as a pair you are more of an obstacle and safer from traffic. The rider must match your pace, whatever that is on the day. Finally your buddy can cycle behind you when you single out to allow cars to pass or if the road narrows, staying outside and a few feet behind your wheel therefore forcing any overtaking cars to take a wide berth.
  •     Nutrition - more than ever you need to have sufficient drink to stay hydrated and food for energy. You should snack frequently as you will need extra calories and also it will prevent low blood sugar and lapses in concentration, keeping you mentally switched on and safe.
  •     Means to fix a puncture would be good. Or at least bring someone to do it for you!
  •     Only cycle on quiet roads without heavy traffic. Better to drive out a few miles to the quieter roads and cycle from there if necessary.
  •     Finally don’t worry if you feel you’re going too slow, remember being pregnant is like training at altitude so you will reap benefits even from these easy paced spins.
Of course every pregnancy is different and what you can do at any stage relates to the size and position of your bump. For my part I was lucky and the bump didn't expand sufficiently to stop me and I was able to cycle right up to the end. I treated every cycle as if it was my last, not knowing whether I would able for it the following week. Time ticked by and all of a sudden I found myself out on a 50km spin on my due date! I decided at that point it was time to call it a day so it was without any regrets I said goodbye to my road bike for a few weeks. I got my sneaky fix from the odd spinning class during the ten days I was overdue! 


  1. Thanks for sharing all these tips and your other articles as well! I really appreciate them as there are so few decent resources online for how to best road cycle when pregnant that aren't just fear-mongering ones that tell you not to ride at all. I'm 20 weeks in with my baby girl and my doctor had me keep my heart rate below 140 for the first trimester, and then my OB is just telling me to not worry about a specific number in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters but focus on staying comfortable and not do anything that would risk falling or anything I might regret, so I've been so happy getting out and more active again now that I have energy. I have found good bib shorts and jerseys with no elastic on the bottom to be my saving grace for a comfortable ride. We've got a great bike path network here in Ottawa and Gatineau, Canada so at least it's easy to go for a long ride with minimal road time.

  2. Thanks Sheri, Just read your comment - somehow i missed it until now - Sounds like your getting great support there which is always good to hear. Hope you're still going strong on the bike, and all is well with your bump!