Leg cramps...

While riding with me on the weekend, Elder Son had some pretty harsh leg cramps: at one point he had to leap off the bike and lie on the grass for fifteen minutes for it to go down. To some extent this was expected and we dealt with it using magnesium tablets when we got back: next time we'll carry them when we ride.

He's since told me that he has these cramps on or off the bikes every couple of weeks.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I don't want him to feel put off riding because he associates it with cramping in his leg, and it also concerns me that they seem to happen rather more often than they should.
 

johnblack

Über Member
While riding with me on the weekend, Elder Son had some pretty harsh leg cramps: at one point he had to leap off the bike and lie on the grass for fifteen minutes for it to go down. To some extent this was expected and we dealt with it using magnesium tablets when we got back: next time we'll carry them when we ride.

He's since told me that he has these cramps on or off the bikes every couple of weeks.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I don't want him to feel put off riding because he associates it with cramping in his leg, and it also concerns me that they seem to happen rather more often than they should.
I tend to cramp in the quads a few hours in, recently started using a magnesium spray and although I can't put it down just to the spray I haven't had an issue since.
 
Does he stretch? How's his flexibility? Which leg muscles cramp?
Assume you've had any specific medical causes investigated?
Lower leg/Calf muscles. I didn't know until this week that it happened occasionally. He's 17 and pretty fit so he's put it down to growing pains, but we're wondering if there may be a medical issue to check.
 
First of all, any medical issue should be discussed with a professional.

Back in the day it was not unusual for me to be on my feet 15-18 hours a day and after particularly busy days I would suffer leg (calf) cramps at night when I lay down.
When I started to ride a bike it became a bit of an issue on longer distances (longer for me! ^_^).
It turned out that I was not hydrating properly.
At work too much caffeine, on the bike not enough water. I'd ride for an hour or two, then drink, so my system was always playing catch up. So I forced myself to drink more regularly and the issue was reduced.
 

Glow worm

Legendary Member
Location
Near Newmarket
I get cramp like pain sometimes though in my case its quads (or v occasionally glutes). My muscle cells produce too much glycogen, and I need to burn the excess off with exercise or it causes pain. If I have (and this explains perfectly why I'd often be in pain on holiday while off the bike) 3 or more days off the bike, I get the pain.

So for me- the answer has been good- to do more cycling! Whenever I'm on holiday I'll always hire a bike. I've gone from 40-50 attacks per year, to 2 or 3 minor ones by this method. So I'm pretty sure it must be the glycogen thing I have.

It's pretty random and no doubt v unusual (I know of no one on CC with the same condition) so it's unlikely to be the answer for you, but, it just may be or may help someone else. It does seem to be a cyclist specific thing AFAICT.

Magnesium may help, I've used cherry juice too and co-enzyme Q10 to help relieve pain. And strong lager of course.
 

bridgy

Legendary Member
Location
Cheddar
Agree with previous post - if concerned, discuss first with a doctor. But in case its useful I can offer a few thoughts from my own experience.

I tend to be prone to cramp when doing a hard cycling effort that goes beyond what I'm usually used to doing. This is pretty normal (see footballers going down with cramp much more during extra time in matches as opposed to within a normal 90 minute game), although some people do tend to just be more prone to it than others. I did the 100 mile Tourof Cambridgeshire ride last weekend and towards the end I can tell you there were A LOT of riders by the side of the road suffering with cramp - clearly another example of people pushing hard for longer than they were used to (plus the warm weather and a bit of dehydration too no doubt).

Things that help me a lot are 1) stretching - before, during and after exercise; 2) good hydration - which particularly on longer rides means electrolytes not just water; 3) more training to condition the muscles to be used to the effort.

I don't tend to suffer with cramp off the bike like your son does though, so that could point to other causes than the above?
 

bluenotebob

Über Member
Location
France
I agree with @bridgy 's three points above - and I'd also add saddle height on the bike. I had terrible problems with cramp in 2017 and 2018 - to the extent that I had to tell my neighbours to ignore screams in the middle of the night that emanated from my house. At the start of this year, with the help of a couple of guys in my LBS, I made sure that my saddle was positioned at exactly the right height for me - and I have ("fingers crossed") not had a single problem with cramp in 2019.

If your son is growing quickly @Andy in Germany , then perhaps it's worth keeping an eye on that? but stretching and good hydration are fundamentals too.

Good luck finding something that works so that your son can enjoy being on his bike.
 

Mo1959

Legendary Member
He has my sympathy. I get way more cramps than I used to even although I try and drink plenty including electrolyte drinks and magnesium supplements. Seriously thinking about going to the doc about them. My calf muscles also twitch like crazy. I blame sciatic nerve damage since I first seemed to notice it after my first bout of sciatica.
 

Globalti

Legendary Member
I know this will sound like some internet clickbait but I have a cure that really works: when cramp hits you, stick your head under the bedclothes or inside your shirt or even put a paper bag over your mouth and inhale your own breath. It's miraculous; the cramp will disappear within a few breaths.

My cycling buddy is a physician and he reckons it might work by acidifying your blood when you re-breathe carbon dioxide.
 
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ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
I used to suffer really badly from cramp when I first started cycling again as an adult. I think that I was getting dehydrated on rides in those days. I drink more now and no longer suffer. (Better fitness may also be a factor in causing the improvement?)
 
Location
London
I know this will sound like some internet clickbait but I have a cure that really works: when cramp hits you, stick your head under the bedclothes or inside your shirt or even put a paper bag over your mouth and inhale your own breath. It's miraculous; the cramp will disappear within a few breaths.

My cycling buddy is a physician and he reckons it might work by acidifying your blood when you re-breathe carbon dioxide.
Interesting. May try in extremis.
Though can't help but wonder if you just want an excuse to zip yourself in a bag with a citrus fruit in your mouth.
The other idea that popped in my head I'd better not mention.
 

Fab Foodie

hanging-on in quiet desperation ...
If you google cramp and it’s causes and dig down past the anecdata and sales-pitches, you’ll discover that not much is known about cramp during exercise (a little more is known about night cramps).
While hydration/salts are often mentioned they are really not a big factor unless really seriously dehydrated which none of us get when riding a bike.

There does seem to be some suggestion that it’s related more to over-all fitness and ‘condition’. If you search CC’s pages I reckon all the cramp threads will be early season when people are overexerting without much fitness.
The bike-fitter you get the longer and harder you can ride without cramp.

@bridgy seems to have it about right.
 

ColinJ

Puzzle game developer
While hydration/salts are often mentioned they are really not a big factor unless really seriously dehydrated which none of us get when riding a bike.
Speak for yourself... :whistle:

I was telling someone the other day about a very hilly ride I did one baking summer day. I hadn't drunk enough and got severely hungry and dehydrated. I found a country pub which appeared to be open but the landlord told me that the pub was shut and told me to clear off. I offered him a couple of quid for a glass of water but he shoved me out and slammed the door in my face. Lovely man! I was so desperate that I jumped off my bike when I found a muddy puddle and drank from that ... :eek:
:laugh:
 
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