I recently restarted cycling to work. I did four round trips. After riding back from the fourth trip, my stomach muscles started to tense and cramp.

I heard that stretching before and after a ride, as well as remaining hydrated, could prevent this. Is there anything else I could do to prevent cramps? I intend on riding four days next week too because of the lively feeling I gain from cycling.


There is nothing abnormal about my medical circumstances.

I ride 9mph on average in one direction (using cycle paths rather than roads) and slightly less coming back.

A one-way trip is under four miles.

  • 1
    A better/different question title might be - "What cause and cure for tense or cramped stomach muscles?"
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 12:07
  • None: I do no exercises, before and after cycling (except a tiny bit of walking: down two flights of stairs, then carrying my bike up a 1/2 flight of stairs, before the ride; and after the ride, walking into an office building and taking the elevator). Very occasionally I'll stretch calf muscles during the day when I get up from my chair at work. And Tai Chi for an hour or two, but only once/week these days.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 12:16
  • Related: Will stretching make me slower? Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 16:40
  • 2
    You never mentioned how far it is to work? How fast you ride?
    – Moab
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 2:52
  • 1
    Also, you don't mention your current physical condition.
    – user313
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 19:05

5 Answers 5


Given the information that you provided and knowing nothing else about your physical condition...

I recently restarted cycling to work. I did four round trips. After riding back from the fourth trip, my stomach muscles started to tense and cramp.

You may want to consider some sort of torso (core) strengthening and flexibility routines. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. The methods include things like: traditional strength training, yoga, pilates, tai chi, and others.

Sounds to me that you're re-starting an activity that your body isn't quite ready for. So, maybe you just overdid it to begin with?

After riding back from the fourth trip, my stomach muscles started to tense and cramp.

It's not certain that the cycling caused this. Sounds like your first 3.5 trips were ok; it's just the latest return trip that caused the tense and cramped stomach muscles? Unless this is a recurrent issue, I would not blame it on the cycling.


Of course, as with any exercise, stretching is worthwhile. Mostly a few slow warm up laps around a short course, or taking it a bit easy the first few trips out, as you get used to riding a bike again. Mostly, try riding 2 or 3 days a week, with a rest day between, until you get fit enough to ride comfortably.


If you were going longer I'd suspect dehydration, but no way you can get dehydrated in eight miles unless the temp and humidity are both in the 90s.

It's vaguely possible you're OVER-hydrating, but more likely your riding position is too awkward -- perhaps reaching forward too much (given your waist circumference & general condition), or perhaps you're seat's too low.

Find some sites on the web about bike fit and make sure your bike is reasonably sized and reasonably well-adjusted. Raise your handlebar a bit higher, if it's not already at the warning mark.

There are some medical conditions that can be "revealed" from more intense cycling, but not likely at the level you're doing.

Added: One other possibility is cycling in too "high" a gear (on a multi-speed bike). This places unnecessary strain on the entire body, especially the knees, but also the leg and lower torso muscles. Generally (on the flat) one should adjust gearing so as to pedal at a rate above 60 RPM (ie, one complete revolution of the pedals per second), and experienced cyclists will tend to pedal at 70-90 RPM (for some reason getting slower as we age). Another way to gauge pedaling speed (that works pretty well across a range of effort levels) is that you should do at least one revolution of the pedal for each breath you take, and preferably two revolutions per breath. It's OK to slow RPMs somewhat on a hill, but don't go so slow that you're "grinding".

The two most common mistakes made by new cyclists are to have the seat too low and to pedal too slowly.

  • I concur - most likely culprit is riding position. Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 20:44

I just warm up on the bike, taking the first ~1 mile of my commute fairly gently.


How much effort does the 9mph require for you? (note that for some people it would require super human effort, for others, not so much)

I used to find that when I rode my commute with annoyingly younger, fitter, male friends, that I would push very hard to keep up/impress them (I know, why?!) and when I got home I would have gut cramps. This was the only circumstance that this happens for me (and I bike a lot).

So I would have been breathing harder for sure. Perhaps not breathing enough? I am not sure the medical/physical cause, but I thought if your 9mph is pushing hard, try easing off and see if you still get them.

  • An added benefit of pedaling faster than you breathe -- it forces you to ease off on the effort when you're pushing too hard. Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 0:10
  • 9mph is easy to achieve downhill
    – Phil Helix
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 11:22
  • My 62-year-old polio legs can average 11mph on an 80 mile ride (though that admittedly is with a slight tailwind). Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 11:53

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