Cycling has a restricted range of movement, so why should we stretch? Stretching does more than just increasing your running stride, it is the cheapest performance enhancer and injury prevention you have access to.
The Effects Of Stretching
When you stretch, you are increasing the flow of vital fluid to your muscles which clears out lactic acid and brings with it nutrients to repair and rebuild. Stretching also improves the amount of vital fluid that can go to your muscles which greatly improves performance during exercise. Have you ever felt stiff and sore the day after an intense workout? This performance decreasing feeling can be made better through a regular stretching routine. Remember that even if you aren't working hard on the bike, it doesn't mean that you can't be improving performance.
When To Stretch
The best time to stretch is directly after exercise while, your muscles are still warm. Stretching after a workout greatly improves recovery, making you better, sooner. It is also great if you can include one or two flexibility sessions during the week as this will greatly improve your results. All you need to stretch is an open bit of floor, so it is easy to slot in a session when you are watching TV or surfing the web.
Stretch everything to gain maximum effect. Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, back, triceps, shoulders, pectorals and anything you think I've missed. Aim to hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and even repeat for a greater effect. If you don't know how to stretch a certain muscle or area please ask me by leaving a comment or by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By stretching your muscles, your joints also gain flexibility which will greatly reduce injury, both acute (happens in an instant eg, after a fall) and chronic (develops over time/overuse injury). Having flexible muscles also reduces the risk of a tear. Mountain biking is great in that it is low impact making it gentle on your joints, however as we all know, if you get on a bike, you will fall off at some stage. For an article on how to prevent falling and how to reduce injury check it out mountain bike anti-stack training.