Resuming cycling after illness


New Member
I used to be a keen cyclist prior to getting MS. From losing my balance (and ability to walk unaided for long distances) to slowly improving I have got to today. , I hadn’t rode a bike for 10 years, but then I re-learnt to ride a cycle. The main motivation was so that I can join my son on short bike rides around our block of streets. But also I want to stay relatively fit, and as I can no longer walk, cycling seemed an attractive proposition.
1) I can only push off from my bad foot, as this would allow my good foot to easily find the pedal, to then cycle and keep the bike moving. Before the MS, I didn’t used to give it a 2nd thought as to which foot I am pushing off with. Now it feels like I’m waiting an age to sort the pedals in to the right position to allow me to set off. Any tips? Is it just a case of beginning to push off with either foot and gradually retrain my brain to find the pedals? Or if I modified my bike so that it has shorter pedals (so that I wouldn’t have to raise my bad foot as high)?
Would adjusting the pedals and handle bars help? Which adjustments would you recommend? Would changing the generic pedals to the ones which look like they have teeth (serrated) tops help in any way? The best adjustment I feel would be to have shorter pedals, as in theory at the top position I wouldn’t need to raise my bad foot as high.
2) I am struggling to stand up and cycle. I find myself sitting down even when going up a big hill. Could there be an explanation for this other than simply fear of falling? May be my arms aren’t strong enough to hold the handlebars and allow me to stand up. I don’t have the strong thigh muscles anymore to allow me to not stand up for a hill.
Any thoughts?


Have you thought of a Trike bike. I see a fair number of riders in my area using them, some competitively on time trials
I would echo the sentiment about looking into a recumbent trike, but if you're committed to remaining on an upright, good luck.

It's possible that clipless pedals may be a solution to the issue of positioning your feet, but clipping and unclipping requires some coordination that may be difficult to perform reliably, and I'm not remotely qualified enough to say whether they would help, but it may be an avenue worth investigating.

As for the standing on the pedals; don't worry about it, it's not necessary. Sitting and spinning up hills is far more efficient than grinding up them in a gear you struggle to push. Focus on your cadence - don't be afraid to change out your gearing so that you can spin up the steepest hills without feeling the need to get out of the saddle.
It might not be the solution in your case but I prefer clipless (oxy moron), SPD's and the like, for getting the pedal in the right place quickly to push off. The other foot remains unclipped for as long as I want. There's some good cycling mobility charities out there to help you get the right solution for your case. IIRC @mickle is involved in one. Good luck :okay:


As long as I breathe, I attack.
As above a trike , recumbent or "normal" sit up style would be an option.
I applaud you for your determination .
Have you considered contacting some charities and funding for an adapted bike to suit your needs , i believe @mickle ? has had involvement in all of this .


Not quite sure what you mean when you say "shorter pedals"? If you mean shorter cranks and the issue is at the top of the pedal stroke, then shorter cranks could help as the knee is not bent as much. I switched to shorter cranks (150mm) for different reasons, but find them comfortable and my thighs don't keep banging into my stomach as much. To keep the same pedaling efficiency, the saddle needs to be raised appropriately.


Über Member
I think the pushing off thing is just a case of practice. I'm heavily one-side dominant and only ever push off from one side - I've been meaning to try and balance myself up in this respect but it feels very odd. That said I have managed to make myself near-enough ambidextrous in other other forms of exercise so it's certainly possible to re-learn with enough practice.

I'd think pedal-wise you'd probably want large, serrated offerings as the bigger they are the easier they'll be to find (from which point you can adjust your foot position accordingly). If you lack confidence and strength I'd advise against clipliess in case you have issues getting out.. plus if co-ordination's a problem clipping in in the first place might also prove problematic. Toe cages might be an idea though - either just the cage to give you a fore-aft register, or with the loose straps attached to give some lateral positioning as well.

Not sure about the crank length - if you have reduced range of motion in your joints you might want to look at shorter cranks, but changing would be a reasonably costly pain (and typically the range of sizes is limited) so with some consideration before diving in.

The aversion to hills could be for many reasons, but it's probably best just to get going on the flat first to build some confidence and gently work up the gradients. If you struggle to get out of the saddle (plus if you have strength issues) you probably want to look at something with a wide / low gear range to make climbs easier in the saddle.

Fair play for your tenacity and good luck :smile:


Über Member
In an ideal world you would be assessed by an OT with a knowledge of cycling who could give you constructive advice for your individual situation.
In the current Coronavirus situation these options, if they even exist in your area, are sidelined. I think if you follow up cyberknight's suggestion and link you might find more options. I don't know what type of bike you have, but off the top of my head, a bike with flat bars and a low stepover seems a practical way to go. I don't know how much strength and coordination you have in your hands and fingers to manage standard gear changers for example, whether you have a grip shifter or trigger shifters. Lower gearing is probably a good idea, as you say you no longer have strength in your legs, and it is more useful to be able to get up small hills and inclines and even on the flat into a wind than to have higher gears you might not use.

As for getting going, although there is a certain amount of muscle memory which returns with practice, you might consider mounting from a kerb or on the side of the bike on which the ground is higher. It takes a bit of forward planning but it could help overcome the initial confidence issues as well as giving less of a height to lift your bad foot. Having larger pedals, maybe something like Bear Trap pedals which have raised studs rather than serrations, preferably in plastic, gives a bigger target to aim for. Also even with good coordination, you can whack your shin on a pedal, so maybe plastic will hurt less (don't ask me how I know!).

Crank shorteners:

available as left, right, or a pair. May not be quite what you want.

As Wafter says above, the choice of cranksets with shorter cranks is limited, and you might also have the extra faff of changing derailleurs and chain length to suit whatever gearing they come with. With the above items they simply attach to the existing cranks and you can experiment with the alternative lengths provided by the different holes for pedals. Still a bit pricey, but if you are registered disabled you will be able to deduct VAT.

All credit to you for wanting to keep mobile. The psychological and physical benefits of getting out and about on a bike are immense. A bike can be a life enhancing mobility aid. Someone else will no doubt be along shortly to give more advice.
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