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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-29-09, 01:18 AM   #1
Namgah
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Granny bike hurts my knees

I've used a granny bike for commuting the last two weeks, but I'm worried about the pain I get in my knees. What could be the problem?

I've tried different saddle hights and angles. I know it's a heavy bike so I keep reminding me to gear down. I intended to use the bike during the winter, but if the knee problem doesn't go away, I have to find another solution.

Suggestions? Thank you in advance.
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Old 07-29-09, 01:43 AM   #2
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So you're being reminded to gear down, but how often do you actually do it? Since I've switched to a recumbent, I too realize how easy it is to be riding in a gear that is too high and my knees let me know about it the next morning. I would suggest really focusing on the gears that you're using and when in doubt, use a lower gear that you would normally use in a particular situation.
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Old 07-29-09, 01:48 AM   #3
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Have you just started cycling altogether on this bike, or did you ride another type before with no knee pain? The real difference with the granny bike is the rider's posture, which is usually much more upright than, say, a mountain type bike, and certainly a lightweight. When we call upon muscles to act in ways they're not accustomed to, they often protest, usually temporarily. There's probably an optimum combination of handlebar height, saddle height and fore-and-aft adjustment, which is best left alone once you find it. After that, it's maybe just a case of letting your leg muscles get used to your being in that position. A good hot bath after riding may relieve any pain. Generally, you'd expect to suffer fewer aches and pains riding an "Omafiets" than a more modern bike, because the posture is so natural and relaxed. Maybe worth seeing a physician just to be sure everything's all right with the knees?
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Old 07-29-09, 04:28 AM   #4
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There are quite a few threads on knee pain on bike forums. I suggest you do a search on that for answers. Where in your knees the pain is is important too. We need more details.

Is your ride hilly? I began a hilly commute and the answer for me was to wear elastic knee supporters till my legs became stronger.
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Old 07-29-09, 04:54 AM   #5
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I experience the same problem when I ride one of my Dutch granny bikes over any real distance. I am confident that the problem is the saddle position in relation to the cranks. The seat tube is very laid back. You're not really over the pedals, but mashing at them from behind.

The seat on my other Dutch bike has the seat clamp reversed and the seat is shoved forward on its rails. Much closer to a proper knee angle. No problems with pain on this bike. Thus, it's the one that I choose for any ride more than a couple of kms.

Try getting that seat as far forward as you can. You'll likely need to raise the post a bit when you do.
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Old 07-29-09, 06:39 AM   #6
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I agree with Metzinger that a likely source of your knee pain (assuming that it's new to you on this particular bike) is the saddle height/position. Try making minor adjustments and bring a multi-tool with you so you can adjust at your destination or somewhere along the way.

Love that bike! Do they ship to the U.S.?
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Old 07-29-09, 06:54 AM   #7
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lower gear, higher cadence. make sure you can pedal backwards with your heals on the pedal without your hips rocking too much. if you can't then lower your seat until you can. when pedaling regular, make sure your knee is over the middle of the pedal. if not move your seat forward or back until it is.
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Old 07-29-09, 07:59 AM   #8
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Thank you everybody for the input.

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Originally Posted by Jay D View Post
I would suggest really focusing on the gears that you're using and when in doubt, use a lower gear that you would normally use in a particular situation.
I know the rout very well since I've rode it for more than a year on a faster bike. Maybe I unconsciously try to keep up to the same speed.

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Have you just started cycling altogether on this bike, or did you ride another type before with no knee pain? <snip> Generally, you'd expect to suffer fewer aches and pains riding an "Omafiets" than a more modern bike, because the posture is so natural and relaxed.
I normally ride a 3x8 speed, 16 kg city bike, without knee pain. The relaxed posture was partly the reason I'd try this bike. My shoulders/neck don't get stiff and my palms don't get numb, but if I have to chose, I'd rather have those minor problems instead of aching knees. I got Schlatter's syndrome as a teenager (I'm 40+ now) and I'm scared to death of getting long lasting problems.

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There are quite a few threads on knee pain on bike forums. <snip> Is your ride hilly? I began a hilly commute and the answer for me was to wear elastic knee supporters till my legs became stronger.
I'll do a search. The ride is 2 x 16 km, not very hilly. I get no pain with my other bike so I don't think it's a muscle problem, unless I'm stressing other muscles now. I'm using neoprene knee support/warmer during the winter. Maybe it is time to put them on.

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I am confident that the problem is the saddle position in relation to the cranks. The seat tube is very laid back. You're not really over the pedals, but mashing at them from behind. <snip> Try getting that seat as far forward as you can.
Metzinger might have a point here. In fact, I have moved the saddle as far behind as I could. The reason is I'm not totally used to the upright posture. I was flexing my arms in order to lean forward (must have looked silly). I tried to lower the handlebar, even flipped it up-side-down (looked really silly), but it felt like I would trip over. So I moved to the saddle to the rear in order to achieve a slightly less uppright posture.

I'll try to move the saddle forward, possibly with combination of another handlebar. If I can't get to work, I have to realize a granny bike might not be for me.

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Love that bike! Do they ship to the U.S.?
Only to Europe, it seems: http://www.pilencykel.se/site/en/aterforsaljare-int

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when pedaling regular, make sure your knee is over the middle of the pedal.
In what position? With the leg stretched out?
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Old 07-29-09, 08:13 AM   #9
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I ride a "granny bike" 3,000 miles annually, year round, in hilly terrain, with never any knee pain. I suspect that the saddle is too low -- can you get full leg extension with your foot on the pedal?

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Old 07-29-09, 08:20 AM   #10
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... when pedaling regular, make sure your knee is over the middle of the pedal. ...
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In what position? With the leg stretched out?
People sometimes suggest this: Front of knee directly over middle of pedal spindle when crank is in forward position.
Here's an article debating this strategy.

That bike of yours looks very nice.
What's the spring for?
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Old 07-29-09, 08:34 AM   #11
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My guess is, bad frame geometry. I shot my knees riding an upright "comfort bike" for a couple of months. But the Pashley Princess I am riding now is fine on my knees, even though it has even more of a granny geometry than the comfort bike did.
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Old 07-29-09, 09:47 AM   #12
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I would guess the spring keeps the wheel in a forward position when either the bike is being carried, any situation where the front wheel is off the ground, or possibly assists in hands-free riding.
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Old 07-29-09, 10:31 AM   #13
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Love that bike! Do they ship to the U.S.?
Not directly, but one of their dealers might, no internet sales either.

http://www.pilencykel.se/site/en/retailermap
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Old 07-29-09, 03:31 PM   #14
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Beautiful bike. It's meant to be ridden upright. Trying to do otherwise will cause a lot of the problems you are experiencing.

Raise the seat so that on the lowest part of the downstroke, your leg is almost straight -- not locked out, ram-rod straight but nearly straight. Then move the seat forward a little. Also make sure that your handlebars are adjust to that they are at least 2" higher than the seat.

Lastly, learn to downshift to lower gears and ride with a higher cadence. You're putting far too much stress on your knees by trying to muscle your way through higher gears which only compounds the problems on a maladjusted bike.
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Old 07-29-09, 05:24 PM   #15
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I've found that my knee pain is significantly helped by wearing an ordinary drugstore knee sleeve. YMMV.
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Old 07-29-09, 09:57 PM   #16
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Your saddle might be too low, that's it a lot of the time.

but I would definitely ride that bike.
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Old 07-30-09, 01:33 AM   #17
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Everybody -- Thanks a lot for your suggestions! I'll take the rest of the week off (i.e. go by car or public to the office). I'll do adjustments according to your tips during the weekend and I'll bring tools with me on next week's commute.

KitN -- You're right. Striving for a posture the bike wasn't ment for, is probably asking for trouble. I'll go back to square one.

Metzinger -- Extensive article. Thanks for the link! I'm not sure about the spring, but as Sailguy suggested, it might help aligning the front wheel while off ground, or improve stability while riding (which would be kind of bad - shouldn't the frame be stable enough by itself?).

Thanks everybody!
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Old 07-30-09, 01:55 AM   #18
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shouldn't the frame be stable enough by itself?
The self-steering tendency of the front wheel when in forward motion is a function of the caster angle. On such an upright machine, the angle is probably small. This, combined with the fact that these bicycles are usually ridden slowly, has probably made the fitting of a spring seem desirable, to prevent wobble at the front. I'd be a little wary of such an arrangement, I think.
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Old 07-30-09, 02:16 AM   #19
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to prevent wobble at the front
Coincident I've noticed some wobble tendency when I lean forward and grab the handlebar near the centre. Why on earth...? I do that occationally on straight stretches to decrease air resistance. Then again, I'm trying to ride the bike in a way it wasn't intended for.
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Old 07-30-09, 02:30 AM   #20
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Update:
Did 2 trips yesterday on above mentioned bikes, paying attention. Confirmed earlier report.
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