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Cycling with RA

  • By Dave

    I was diagnosed with RA about 2 months ago. I had been an active cyclist for about 25 years until spring of last year when I had to give it up because of sever foot problems. My rheumatologist said that the foot issues were probably the RA at work. I had been under the care of a podiatrist for quite a while and his take of the problem was that bunions on bot feet had pushed all my toe joints out of line. A year ago I thought that I would probably never be able to ride again but thanks to the meds that I am on my feet have improved to the point that I AM riding again! I am in the process of easing back into it. I certainly don’t want to get crazy and set everything back to where I was and having been off the bike for over a year I am not in the best shape of my life. I am still learning how RA works and It is going to be a matter of trial and error as to how intense I can get with the cycling. I have been having problems with my shoulders for about 2 years. (orthepedic Dr. said probably torn rotator cuff and did cortisone injections 2 times after a trip to the ER with screaming pain in left shoulder and more than one sleepless night with pain in both shoulders.) Wound up in ER again with extreme back pain. Knew something was going extremely wrong, just didn’t know what it was. Last Jan. my right hand swelled up really bad. GP x-rayed it and tested for gout. Still no answers. About 3 months ago my right knee went bonkers and both hands swelled, still having shoulder problem. My Dr. Was out of town and the office made me an appt with my wife’s GP who tested me for RA. tests came back positive and he referred me to Rheumatoligist. Thanks to him and the meds that he has me on I am able to function again and to ride! Any other cyclists here? If so any advice pertaining to cycling with RA will be appreciated!

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Dave~

    That is fantastic that you are able to ride again! Cycling is actually a great low-impact from of exercise for many of us with RA. You are right that it will be a process of trial and error to figure out how much you can cycle without aggravating your RA. It sounds like you are going about it the right way, taking it slow and taking what advice you can get from your doctors. I think it would also be particularly important to make sure your bike is properly fitted to you and as comfortable as possible.

    Best of luck to you!

    ~Mariah~

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  • By Dave

    Thanks, Mariah. As I said I have been at it (cycling) for a very long time. For the most part I ride road bikes and bike fit is not an issue. If anything is out of adjustment I know it immediately. I used to have a mountain bike that I used as a diversion riding Rails to Trails project here in the county but never was into mountain biking as such. I have already learned that it is a day to day thing. I had planned on riding this a.m. but my body said “no!” I just said “Oh well, I’ll just postpone it!” I am 64 years old and I realize that I am very blessed to be able to ride and enjoy it. Gonna keep at it as long as is possible!!!

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Dave ~
    I wish I had better advice to offer you – but I do think you are on the right track! My husband is actually an avid cyclist and this September he will be riding in the Arthritis Foundation’s California Coast Classic for the third time (and I will be volunteering as support staff). The ride goes from San Francisco to Los Angeles – it’s pretty epic! There are actually a fair number of people who do the ride and also have various forms of arthritis. If you want to maybe give me an email address I could probably get you in touch with some of them if you were interested in chatting with them about cycling!
    Best of luck!
    ~Mariah~

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  • By kwithanie

    Hi Dave,
    Not sure this will be helpful but here’s my story about RA and cycling…I was diagnosed with RA in my early 20’s, now 6-0….took up cycling and spin classes (live in New England…snow hampers road trips) about twelve years ago. My treatments have been long term plaquenil (20+ years, no issues with eyes at all) then a switch to methotrexate injections a year ago, with Enbrel added last December.
    Part of reason for med switch were flares, primarily foot issues that got more painful when I cycled or did a spin class. I thought I was going to have to give up my bike and classes.
    In talking to my rheumatologist, he asked if I used clip ins, which I didn’t at the time. Tried them in spin class and the new pedal stroke took pressure off my foot. Got clips for my bike and I am amazed at the difference in how my feet feel after biking. The meds have definitely helped, but I do believe the clips have made a huge difference.
    You may use clips already. If not, give them a try (on grass outside to start and get the hang of ’em). If you do, keep paying attention to when the body says NO. It knows.
    Take care.
    K

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  • By Dave

    Thanks, kwithanie! It is good to hear from a fellow cyclist! I have been using clips for years, wouldn’t think of riding without them. My rheumatologist switched me from oral to MTX injections about 2 weeks ago. I am doing pretty well. Am in the process of coming off prednisone I will be totally off it in about 5 more days. I am hoping to avoid going on a biologic but I guess time will tell.

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  • By kwithanie

    I was leery of adding the Enbrel but saw a leap in improvement about 6 weeks arfter starting. A big difference too was that the exhaustion side effect from the MX shots went away. Felt like I was more normal in terms of energy. I am hoping to wean off the MX in the next few months. I took a 6 week break from MX in May/June when my husband and I did a bike trip through Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Happily no flares and no joint pain issues just the good tiredness and achiness from riding most days. Fingers crossed that I will be off the MX by Christmas!
    Happy cycling!
    Kathie aka kwithanie

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  • By Stephen

    I know this is late but I hope it still finds you or someone else like us. Anyway I am an avid cyclist too. Use to race back in my college days. Got diagnosed with RA around 27 now mid 40’s. On Remicade, plaquinel, minocycline, prednisone(5 mg can’t ween from it), tramadol.

    I don’t have any sure advice but I know what has worked for me…

    I started to get back to riding about 5 years ago after a long hiatus. Let me tell you there were times I wanted to give up, thinking I will never get back to form. After 2 years of solo training I went on my first group ride in a long time, got my butt handed to me on the first major hill, my hips gave out on me…just needed 30 sec of recovery time to work the heat/pain out but the pack kept driving on…got left behind (this was a competitive ride, I knew in advance).

    After several more attempts, each getting a little but not much better I wanted to quit thinking I will never be even a shadow of my former self…

    Long story short I now can hang, take my turn with pulls, and do 60 miles and still have energy to play with the kids after.

    What I did was not give up. It took a long time. You have to be smart with training, your riding style may have to change(I use to be a climber but now suck at it). I find its a gradual ratcheting up with intensity helps better than all out with intervals or mad hill climbs, the latter are just too stressful.

    A big thing for me to learn is recovery time is longer and you better use it. Also don’t be afraid to take a mild pain killer, tramadol, to smooth over any acute pain you might get doing short bursts. (also keep meds with you on your rides, I usually carry some tramadol, predinisone, and some hydrocodone for when your are 30 miles out and your favorite ach of the day is really bothering you)

    I have to have my handlebars up higher and angled to be easer on the wrists and neck.

    The best thing about cycling is that the stronger I get, the less RA will bother or limit me. RA will never go away but cycling helps to control it. I don’t know how to explain it better but being fit helps to manage RA. When your body falls apart and all you do is rest to get better but better for us never comes, then managing RA becomes a downward spiral. But when your body is fit, you can cope better.

    You don’t have to ride like me, I use to race. It’s in my DNA, can’t give it up. But being fit helps so much to cope. Just 30 min a 3 times a week should be enough.

    But believe me there will be time when you just ach too much and want to quit. Don’t hurt yourself but don’t give in. Fatigue will set in and you wont have the energy (sometimes this is when you must preserver and ride). Fatigue is always present but gaining stamina helps to deal with it.

    Don’t confuse recovery time with RA induced fatigue, recovery time is needed more so with us. But RA fatigue is a silent killer and will slowly pull you under. Go out even when you don’t feel like it…and one day you will just feel like it cause you need it 🙂

    Another thing that has helped me is the Strava app to track your performance. Don’t get too carried away going for KOM. Set a series of small personal goals to get to. Chip away step at a time. This app (its free) will help you visualize your gains even if you don’t feel it. A bunch of small steps lead to a long journey 🙂

    If you have any questions ask… I am also curious about your RA adaptions that help you.

    Like you I know no one with RA, especially with RA and cycles. My cycling friends try to offer advice but don’t really understand why fish oil alone won’t make me better.

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  • By Dave

    Thanks so much, Stephen. It is good to hear from you. am doing really great right now. Dr. started me on Humira and it has really done wonders for me. I haven’t ridden much lately but have been involved in other activites. I usually don’t do too much riding in the winter months but plan to get back at it come spring. Thanks for the advice. I know that I will never reach the level that I was once at. I am 64 years old and because of the time away from the bike I have lost too much to ever get back there even without RA being a part of the equation. Regardless of all that I will be back on the bike enjoying the ride.

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hey Dave~

    Great to hear that the Humira is helping you! I’m also planning to start riding in the spring so maybe we can keep each other encouraged!

    Hope you stay well and have happy holidays!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

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  • By mtnhaah

    Not sure if anyone will see this, but… !!thank you!! So wonderful to find a community of other serious riders hampered by R.A. Reading your posts has given me the boost to try out my roadie and my MTB again this summer. I’m pretty done with just having great rides in my memories and in my dreams.

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    • By Dave

      Thanks for your input, glad that we can be an encouragement to you! Good luck and keep in touch so we can keep one another going! Dave

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  • By Kelly Dabel Moderator

    mtnhaah, Thank you so much for sharing! So glad to hear that this community has been an encouragement to you! Thank you for being here and please stop by anytime. Happy riding. Kelly Dabel – RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

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  • By kwithanie

    Welcome! Get on your bike and make the dreams real. I have found this group very helpful. Nice to know I am not the only one pedaling with the RA aches. Stephen’s reminder about RA fatigue recovery versus exercise fatigue recovery is a good one (and a new mantra for me on some days). Husband and I are training for our next week long bike trip in Europe. I, like others, find more exercise makes the RA symptoms less. My favorites are pilates, circuit training and stretching in addition to spin and road biking. Gotta keep moving.
    Best of luck as you get started again.

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    • By Jillian S Moderator

      kwithanie,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story and enthusiasm with our community!
      It is motivational members like you that make this such a supportive and inspiring place to be.
      Your week long bike trip in Europe sounds absolutely incredible. Good for you and your husband! What a feat that must be. It is wonderful that you have found exercise to mitigate your RA symptoms.
      Do let us know how your trip goes!
      Best,
      Jillian (Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team)

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  • By Stephen

    Hi everybody, just checking back in now that spring is in full force (it was late to come in New England this year) to wish everyone a safe cycling season… and to give this thread a bump because its time to ride 🙂

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    • By Jillian S Moderator

      Stephen,
      It is so good to hear from you!
      Love your enthusiasm about getting this thread going again.
      Wishing you and everyone else a safe and enjoyable cycling season– we truly admire how strong and motivated you all are. You’re a true inspiration to our community and we are lucky to have you.
      Looking forward to hearing about your rides, how you feel and any tips you have for other cyclists.
      Best,
      Jillian (Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team)

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  • By kwithanie

    Hi Stephen and everyone…Spring really has come late to New England and doesn’t seem to be sure it wants to hang around. Let’s hope. Have been riding quite a bit getting for our trip and looking forward to a long ride on Sunday, a fundraiser called the Tour of Barnstable. Will be cool and windy but it doesn’t look like rain.
    Stephen, I so appreciate your advice back in December about fatigue…wish my MD had talked about it more!
    On the RA front I have not been able to come off the methotrexate shots like I hoped, starting with a new MD in June, so will see what she has to say. Had been having a lot of left foot problems – and very frustrating for MD and me as only area not responding to the Enbrel and methotrexate. Well, turns out I had two broken bones (toe and metatarsal and no idea when I did this) that had healed (badly) but a great orthopedic/foot doctor and a shot solved the pain issue.
    So hoping for more Spring like weather and safe riding to all.
    Kathie

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    • By Jillian S Moderator

      Kathie,
      Thanks for posting- it is great to hear back from you. It is awesome to hear that you have been riding a bunch even though Spring hasn’t been too convincing this year!
      Don’t be discouraged about not coming off the methotrexate shots quite yet. Hopefully your new doctor will help you work towards this goal.
      I am also glad to hear that you were able to solve the pain you were experiencing in your left foot.
      We look forward to hearing about your rides and of course feel free to let us know how your appointment with the new MD in June goes.
      Best of luck.
      Jillian (Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team)

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  • By Dave

    It is about time that I checked back in here. Things kinda fell apart for me since I posted last. I had to come off Humira because the cost was astronomical after I retired and went on Medicare. It worked really well for about three months and had tapered off and really wasn’t doing much for me anyway. Disease activity has ramped up and my feet are a mess again. I started on Cymzia, got my second round of the”loading” protocol this past Wed. Time will tell on whether or not it will work. Here’s hoping and praying it will! I have been doing some biking, nothing drastic but what the heck, I am riding and that is a good thing. We just press on and let tomorrow take care of itself!

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  • By Stephen

    Dave, sorry to hear about the Humira, hope the cymzia works out for you! Hope to cross paths with you someday on the road when you start feeling a little better and not flaring.

    Kathie, I hear you about the methotrexate, I never liked the side effects very much at all(a lot of brain fog) but it did work for me. Sorry to hear about the broken bones. Fatigue is killer no one ever prepares you for it or gives you coping strategies and its one of the worst aspects of RA. Try and push through the fatigue to get some exercise in but don’t skimp on recovery time either. For me I was always resting trying to heal but the thing is we will never heal, its chronic.

    If anyone is in the greater CT area and want to ride, let me know. Maybe we can start an all RA group ride 🙂

    happy cycling….

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Dave – I also home that the Cymzia works well for you! I’m currently on my fourth biologic and it is honestly the best one for me yet, so hopefully you will get similar results!

    Kathie – I hope that your foot is feeling better and you are able to continue riding!

    Stephen – wish I was nearby, as I could use some RA buddies to ride with! I am currently training to try to ride in the Arthritis Foundation’s California Coast Classic in September – which is a 525 mile ride from San Francsico to Los Angeles to raise money for kids with arthritis to go to camp! I’m very excited about it but also nervous, so I’m open to advice for training from you or anyone else!

    Best to all of you!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

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  • By kwithanie

    Hi! Checking back in after our trip & recovering from jet lag. Energy has been a real issue for me since we arrived home, getting better but not where I want to be yet. Our trip was amazing…loved Prague, we tried e-bikes to do a city tour which were very cool and I now understand better why people may want one. It would have been impossible to bike the city under my own power. It is one of the few European cities that you don’t see a lot of bikes. We walked a ton in Prague (3 days over 10 miles each) and my feet were great – yay! The bike portion of our trip was a lot of fun, biking not too intense and mileage averaged about 28 miles a day. Now if I can just get my energy back…am back into my exercise routine and biked today on the Cape Cod Rail Trail 34 miles with our trip friends. May sound like the energy is normal but I haven’t gotten out this chair for over an hour!
    Saw my new MD & she says continue with the methotrexate, especially since she detected some inflammation in my hands and elbows (biking effect maybe?). We talked a lot about the Enbrel, mostly possible side effects including issues with MS, not the cancer I was warned about in the beginning. Enbrel made such a difference for me, so I am reading trying to better understand the issues. Why can’t something just work??
    Dave – sorry to hear things went bad with the Humira. Frustrating when something stops working. Hope the new meds are making a difference.
    Mariah – no training advice but you go girl!

    Bye from Cape Cod…keep moving somehow, some way. Best, Kathie

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Kathie ~

    Sounds like a really fun trip! And I can certainly understand the energy issues you are facing – it can be so frustrating to have our energy levels be so unpredictable. But I’m really glad that you were able to enjoy your trip and your ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I’ve heard great things about those rails to trails routes!

    It is a frustrating process of trial and error to find the right combination of medications for each of us. And sometimes, unfortunately, there isn’t a “perfect” answer – just the best we can come up with out of the options that we have. It sounds like you are doing the right think by discussing all of your concerns with your doctor in detail. I hope that the two of you can continue to work together to find the best solution for you.

    As for me, I am struggling to increase my mileage on my bike without triggering my RA to flare badly. On Sunday I did the longest ride I have ever done – 35 miles. When I finished, my first thought was: I’ll never be able to ride in the CCC! The first day of the ride is about 90 miles! But my husband reminded me that I really shouldn’t be focusing on what I can’t do, but what I CAN. I rode 35 miles and that’s pretty awesome! I know I am working as hard as I can to accomplish as much as I can, and I just need to find a way to be content with that!

    Best,

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

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  • By Chris Long

    Hi. Does anyone have any suggestions for what type of bike might help me? I struggle with my wrists. They don’t like the ‘bent back angle and weight on the palms’ aspect, and after 30 minutes of cycling they hurt so much I want to stop. I’m a weekend cycler so don’t need anything fancy and currently have a trail/cross type bike with straight handle bars with additional handgrips on the sides which allows me to change position which helps a bit. Finding the comfiest grips available has also helped, but it’s still my wrists that limit how far I can go. I’ve been going round shops and have come up against two issues – few have lady’s bikes to fit 1.8m height. And the wrists. I’ve had some lovely assistants, who’ve tried really hard to adjust bikes to find a solution but I end up with the feeling that we are trying to make standard bikes fit a situation they weren’t designed to fit, and I wondered if anyone has come across a bike design that’s a bit different and has worked for them.

    Any thoughts gratefully received. I don’t know even if it’s normal for arms to be supporting body weight while cycling. I’ve be told they shouldn’t on a properly adjusted bike. In which case, I’ve yet to sit on a properly adjusted bike. I’ve also been told that I’m putting to much weight on my hands because my back isn’t very strong (which is highly likely 🙂 and that it will improve the more I cycle, but that’s easier said than done.

    Is it just a case work though it to get fitter or is there a bike solution out there for me?

    Many thanks

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    • By Michael Booth Moderator

      Hi there Chris. Thank you for posting. Sorry to hear of your bike related troubles. I’ve got a lot of cycling experience before I was diagnosed with RA, so hopefully I can point you in a good direction. First off, you are not alone with difficulties with bike fit. I used to be very dialed into my bike, spending hours on rides pain free. Then RA changed that and I have had to adapt.

      Here are some ideas:

      A good bike fit should keep most, but certainly not all, weight off of your hands. The bent forward position is common on many bikes, but how much weight is on your hands can be augmented. The reasons for too much weight might be: seat too far forward, too far back, or too high. Your handlebars too low or Stem too long. All of those can make you reach for the bars, which then forces you to support your upper body. A professional bike fit by a trained fitter is pricey, but spending two hours with someone completely adjusting your bike based on some good methods and measurements could make the difference for you.

      Another option is a different style handlebar, called a road drop bar. This would likely require a new road bike rather than the trail/cross you have, since all of the break and shift levers are going to be different. If you are on a road bike with this style bar, you will have numerous hand position options that are not the bent wrist you mention. I notice that I prefer my road bike positions over the flat bar positions I have on my mountain bike.

      There are myriad styles of bikes these days, from race specific road bikes, to recreational, to trail/cross fitness bikes, to dirt bikes. A few companies like Specialized and Giant make women specific bikes and in small sizes. The recreational style bikes tend to sit you up more, which could help.

      Another option entirely is a recumbent bike. Not sure if that is an avenue you are interested in, but it would take all weight off your hands.

      I hope that helps and that you find a fix for this. Best wishes!
      Michael (Rheumatoidarthritis.net team member).

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    • By Bebe2

      I use braces made for Carpal tunnel syndrome. The metal strip keeps my wrist straight. I had to adjust to them, but now I cannot ride without them.

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  • By Chris Long

    Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. I had never considered a road drop handlebar. I just had the impression that it would make things worse so ruled them out without thinking. But you’ve made me think again and so I will give some a try.

    I had thought about recumbent bikes. The price, the fact that you are less visible to cars and the fact that they are harder to transport, puts me off a bit. But I’ve found a company where you can borrow one for an afternoon and that seems like too good an opportunity to miss.

    And finally, while browsing this website, I saw the knob attachment to car steering wheels for one handed driving, and thought, there’s an idea. Some foam and packing tape later…. and I had two rounded hand holds on top of my handlebars. I haven’t yet found the ideal solution – reaching the brakes would need looking at, but it has helped me identify that I like a more upright position. So that needs more investigation. Plenty to look into…..

    The village along from ours has just got a new bar. Excellent incentive for cycling 🙂

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  • By 55rider

    re:Cycling with RA-recumbent and drop bars.
    I did buy a “bent” a couple of years ago because of wrist pain. There is very little stress to the wrist joint. But…steep learning curve. For the first couple of weeks I thought I had made a big mistake. Visibility and maneuverability are issues also. Best for lower traffic rides without frequent stops for intersections. Lights and hi-vis gear a must.

    For my road bike with drop bars, I’ve added clip on aero bars. Not for speed, but so my upper body weight is supported by my elbows. Again, not ideal for city riding. But great relief on the wrist joints. I find flat bars to be more painful than drops.

    My rheumatologist is going to prescribe a TNF inhibitor next time I see her. Wrist pain has been pretty intense recently. Particularly in the mornings. I’ll ask her about a steroid injection too.

    Many thanks to all who have posted. Really informative and encouraging.

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi 55rider ~

    Just wondering how your wrist pain is doing? Did your doctor prescribe the TNF inhibitor and is it helping? Hope to hear things are doing better!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

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  • By esther231

    Anyone using electronic shifters? Disc brakes? I find
    shifting hard. Right now using the shifters on road bikes.
    When I have to move both together it’s hard. Also wondering
    if anyone uses compression gloves while riding? Is it doable?
    I miss riding terribly. I haven’t been on my bike since
    I got RA I’m September. I seem under control right now
    and tried the trainer last night. I am torn between being terrified of starting up a flare and missing riding.

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  • By chrisvdv

    Hi esther231, I was diagnosed with RA in 1998 when I was in my early 50s. Took up cycling about 2 years later and never looked back. The benefits of cycling for people that suffer from RA is huge. My inflammation levels was so high that I could barely get out of bed. I cycle three days per week in a group of 6 to 8 and we usualy do 50 kilometers on Wednesday and Friday mornings and then do a longer ride of about 70 to 80 kilometers on Sunday mornings.

    About 4 years after I was diagnosed with RA I developed severe deformities of both my hands and feet. Since then I’ve had 3 operations on my feet, fusing the toes on both feet plus other remedial work. At the beginning of May 2016 I developed cervical spondylosis and the use of my right hand was severely limited due to the pinching of the nerves to my right hand. That plus the fact that my hands were deformed made changing gears on my road bike almost impossible. After discussing my predicament with one of the bike shops in my town, I opted to buy and install an Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting on my bike.

    Because you have numerous options to configure the shifting, it makes it a very obvious choice if you want to keep on cycling but have problems shifting. With the new software installed and configured I do all my shifting, front and rear, with my left hand. I can really recommend electronic shifting.

    I will recommend that you talk to a reputable bike shop and discuss your options with them. Just do not stop cycling.

    Best of luck

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    • By Kelly Dabel Moderator

      Hi chrisvdv, Thanks for sharing. Great tips that I’m sure will be helpful to our community! Appreciate you taking the time to share. Glad to hear that you are finding ways to keeping cycling! Thank you for being here. Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

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  • By glgeorge

    Hello, I was recently diagnosed with RA. I am 54. I started cycling in early 40’s. I am an avid cyclist myself.. I took about six months off last year due to neck, shoulder and wrist pain. Felt worse by not exercising. More fatigue and sleeping. I have been back to training since February 2017. I began eating clean diet as well. Just now regaining speed and strength on bike. I try to ride 4 or 5 days a week. Recently started on plaquenil and have been takin meloxicam last six months. My biggest struggle is losing energy towards the middle or end of rides coupled with shoulder pain and numb hands. I have had a good bike fit in the past. It’s hard to know if this is the RA or not. I am very competitive and hoping to do some racing.. Somedays i feel I should just accept I will not be fast again. It’s really hard to push through once my body says ” it’s done”. Any thoughts?.

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  • By Kelly Dabel Moderator

    Hi glgeorge, Thank you for sharing your story. Glad to hear you are back to training! I hear your frustration at struggling to sustain your energy throughout your ride. There are some things you can try in terms of your diet. You mentioned that you’ve begun eating a clean diet, which is awesome! Take a look at your pre-workout meal. Are you getting adequate carbohydrate and protein for fuel? You’ll want that pre-workout meal to be lower in fat so that it can be more easily digested. Are you able to fuel your body during a ride? Some simple carbohydrate. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, even a banana works for many. Given your history of cycling I’m sure you are well aware of using food to fuel you but perhaps experiment with making adjustments to your meal routine. In addition to speaking with your doctor, and a Sports Nutrition Dietitian, this article may be helpful to you, if you haven’t already seen it: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/athletics/. Your cycling may look different than pre RA and it may take more time than you’re used to to reach your goals, but keep it up and enjoy the ride! Kelly Dabel, RD, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

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  • By jhbishop

    I have always liked spinning at the Y but they now own bikes where I cannot adjust the handlebars to be comfortable. I am very tall and bringing the handlebars all the way up moves them farther away. There is an adjustment to bring it closer, but it does not go far enough for me. Do you know of any adaptations I can make to keep spinning?

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  • By dja1925

    Hi just diagnosed with RA (not on meds yet) and a former spinning instructor. Now trying to get back in the saddle but notice major pain in the left ball of my foot. I use clip in shoes which I’ve used for years since I taught classes for 7 years. Anyone recommend shoes or inserts for a more comfortable ride, mostly on the hills? I am mostly an indoor cycling person.

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    • By cmac

      I, like you, dja1925, was just diagnosed in July, with RA. I’ve been patching pain management together for a few months, but I’m about to start methotrexate next week. I am 53 yrs old, an avid cyclist and spinning instructor for 10 years. I’ve taken a medical leave of absence from instructing, and haven’t been on my road bike since May due to the pain. It started in the balls of my feet and became unbearable. I tried new wider cycling shoes and inserts. My wrists and hands are now involved, and don’t think I could even squeeze the brakes at this point.

      Anyway, I am delighted to find this site, and this conversation in particular, because I know no one with RA, and certainly no cyclists with RA. Just knowing others have been and are in the same boat in somehow a comfort. It’s so inspiring to read all the success stories in this thread, and all the helpful suggestions given by members who have been there. Thank you all.

      Thankfully, I’m able to do strength training sessions in the gym with a wonderful personal trainer who adapts the workouts to my abilities, so at least my core and leg muscles are still strong. My plan is to get back to cycling when the pain is under control, which I sure hope is soon. For now the strength training and 5 minute stints on a stationary recumbent bike is it. I am wondering about making changes to my road bike (which I dearly love) to accommodate my wrist/hand issues. Thank you again.

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  • By Michael Booth Moderator

    Hi dja1925
    Sorry to hear of your recent diagnosis. Like you, the balls of my feet hurt unbearably in my cycling shoes after my RA diagnosis. I’ve figured out a few things through trial and error.

    1. Your feet may change shape, even if the inflammation is absent. I wear wide shoes now, on and off the bike. If the shoe is tight in the toebox, it squeezes your metatarsals together, which hurts. I also sized up half a cycling shoes size.

    2. Heat moldable custom shoes helped. A few brands to look at: Lake, Bont, Shimano (shimano r320 and r321 older models were heat moldable. I got an unused pair on ebay for cheap and am very happy with them)

    3. Orthotics or custom insoles can help: They can redistribute your weight to reduce pressure under the ball of the foot.

    4. Move your cleats back: If you normally keep your cleats under the ball of the foot or thereabouts, try going 5-10mm back towards your heel. This will take weight off the ball of the foot. If you are not a sprinter, you will likely not lose any performance (be sure to lower your saddle a bit to make up for moving your cleats back).

    5. Saddle position: this is a big one. If your saddle is too high, or too far forward, you will be pushing through your toes rather than using your whole foot to transfer power into the pedal. I found my feet hurt much less with a lower saddle height than I used to ride. Just 5-7 mm lower made a big difference for me.

    6. Wider platform pedals: If you are using road pedals, I found wide platforms better distributed the weight. I use shimano spd-sl pedals. They spread the pressure more evenly.

    7. Strengthen your foot and arch. RA is a risk factor for collapsing arches. You can read about RA and foot pain due to arch changes here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/fallen-arch I do calf raises at the gym and spend time flexing my feet by pointing my toes and holding it. Though anecdotal, it has helped with my foot pain while cycling and walking.

    Best of luck to you,
    Mike

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  • By dja1925

    Thank you so much! I almost cried doing hills which are my most favs in class. I will try this on my spin bike at home and adjust my cleats. I used to have some great old Shimano shoes. I can not thank you enough, I have searched all over for this kind of information. You may have saved me. RA is all new to me with just learning about this last month and trying to find my way around is somewhat over whelming at times. Again thank you!

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  • By Michael Booth Moderator

    Dja1925,

    Happy to help and glad to provide useful information. I hope things improve for you. Reach out with any questions or just to give an update.

    Best,
    Mike

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  • By dodo

    Hi,

    I was diagnosed three years ago and quit riding. New meds have improved my situation to the point that I took the road bike out of storage. I have managed the foot thing in the past, but it is my hands that are having problems. Does anyone know of a brand of gloves that is super padded? Also, mechanic is replacing cables to loosen up the brakes so they aren’t so hard for me to pull. Has any one else dealt with this? thank you for any help!

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    • By Erin Rush Moderator

      Hi dodo!

      I hope some of our riders reply to your questions! I do not personally have any glove recommendations, but I know other members have invested in special handlebars, electric bikes, or even electric gear shifts to help minimize pain and stress on the wrists and hands.

      Also, you may see if electric options for your bike are doable, should the loosened cables not be adequate.

      Good luck and happy riding!

      Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

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  • By patty1

    Hi dodo,
    In addition to the above suggestions, could also look into extra padding that could be added to the handlebar (thicker/softer handlebar tape, foam grips, gel pads, etc.)
    I hope that you find something that works for you!
    Patty

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  • By Bebe2

    I ware carpal tunnel syndrome braces, which keep my wrist straight. A little hard to get use to, but now I can’t ride without them.
    Bebe2

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