What causes cramp when cycling? The theories and fallacies behind the pain

We go in search of the causes - and possible treatments - for that lightening bolt of pain which seemingly comes always at the worst moment on a bike ride

Male cyclist riding his bike outside on a country lane
(Image credit: Future)

Most cyclists have been there at some point: it's a tough ride - long, hilly, fast, hot, or all four. You’re keeping pressure on the pedals at a constant rate and then a spasm like an electric shock tears through your calf, hamstring or quad.

Muscle cramps are common, though they affect individuals to varying degrees and there are a number of theories as to the cause.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan the Editor of Cycling Weekly website. An NCTJ qualified traditional journalist by trade, Michelle began her career working for local newspapers. She's worked within the cycling industry since 2012, and joined the Cycling Weekly team in 2017, having previously been Editor at Total Women's Cycling. Prior to welcoming her daughter in 2022, Michelle raced on the road, track, and in time trials, and still rides as much as she can - albeit a fair proportion indoors, for now.