Biomechanics, the study of external forces on the living body, plays a crucial role in efficient, satisfying cycling. For example, when seated on a bike with hands on the handlebars, the hands, shoulders, and front axle should all be in line.

By enhancing the biomechanics of the foot, podiatric physicians specializing in sports medicine can improve the mechanical functions of related body parts. If, for example, an experienced cyclist's knees hurt after a 30-mile ride, the problem may be a biomechanical imbalance. A podiatric physician can alleviate the pain by correcting that imbalance through prescription orthotic shoe inserts. Training and conditioning methods should also be evaluated.

To preclude pain before it starts, podiatrists advise stretching the major muscle groups used in cycling -- the gluteals, the quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings -- before and after getting on the bike. Riders should start slowly and work up to normal cadence, or rate of pedaling. The seat is at the proper height when knees are slightly flexed and hips are over the knees.

Podiatrists recommend the use of a pulse monitor for a cycling-based training regimen. Some models strap around the chest, while smaller units wrap around the wrist or the thumb and display the pulse rate as you ride.

Ask your podiatrist about an appropriate pulse rate while you ride. Usually, the same criteria applies as with running: your pulse should be 60-70 percent of the maximum for efficient training.