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buzzbee 01-04-14 11:26 AM

Here is something new I
learned about my own experience.

I agree that if I could hike downhill as much as I cycle, I would not experience this pain.
But, for me, that is not practical since I ride 12 to 13 hours per week (commuting), and I work full time most of the year, etc...

Based on my recent experience having more than a week off the bike on travel and holiday events,
and based on the idea that the bundles of muscles fibers when rubbed together under force in one direction (cycling)
build up a grain on the muscle bundle edges, I decided to try something new to reduce the pain.

After a few days inside with no exercise and needing to return home, I also had to go down many flights of stairs to move belongings.
The same pain happened acutely during this activity, so I stopped and for 10 minutes where I sat on a high chair and swung my legs freely front and back so that the knees bent and straightened and the quad muscles would be flexed and rub together, but not be under tension.

I thought this action might slowly reduce the scarred edges to the muscle fibers (assuming that's what was there).
I then resumed walking down stairs.
The quad pain was greatly reduced and almost eliminated, and from experience, this was a huge improvement.

So, although this result does not prove the muscle fiber theory, it at least supports it.
And it gives me a way to reduce the pain when it happens.
I might work these leg swinging actions into my daily routine.

DesertCrawler 04-16-14 11:05 AM

I've been managing the same problem since I started taking spinning classes years back. Lately I've taken on biking 4-5 times week and I experience the same issues when taking more than 2 days break. Even shorter breaks of 36h make me legs feel "funny" for the first 30 min into the bike ride. I have a desk job and I'm convinced that the problem is due to the leg muscle unbalance. What works for me is to do squats at the gym, once a week, 5-8 sets of 15-20 reps using maximum weight I can handle. Hiking seems to help too but requires way too much time.

jfowler85 04-18-14 11:33 PM


Originally Posted by buzzbee (Post 12292099)
I think the stretching is helping to reduce the occurrence; it seems my naturally short tendons down the back to the legs could be part of the problem. They and the hamstrings perhaps are pulling on the nerves for the front of the leg, so it is a referred pain. Doing daily stretches for the back of the legs has helped, but not completely eliminated the problem. Perhaps reducing my commute mileage would also help, but I would rather not do that.
It took months of added stretching before I noticed any improvement, and I cannot be certain that it's not just changing on its own. If I do not exercise for 1-2 days, or longer, and I do not stretch on those off days, then I will get the pain going down a few flights of stairs or hiking downhill. So I stretch even on my one off day each week.
good luck.

Have you been diagnosed with relatively short tendons/ligaments in the posterior of your upper leg? My first thought upon reading your symptoms was to hold suspect the muscle group which counterbalances the forces acting on your bones by your quads (biceps femoris and semitendinosus, roughly). A deficiency in the elements which anchor said counterbalancing muscles may account for this.

Is this a burning pain or a cramping pain? Have you tried treating it with rehydration salts?

You may hear something like "you cannot cycle too much" but this is not correct, as it is impossible to make such an assertion without knowing the intimate details of your muscle physiology, which even your PCP won't have the time or funding to know. If you ride hard enough while cycling, perhaps your physiology is such that the repeated concentric contractions during a hard ride while commuting causes a sustained injurious state within the quad's myofibrils, which is only revealed when the quads are used for eccentric contraction while hiking a downhill grade. A simple way to diagnose this is to run a trial wherein you discontinue cycling for a significant period of time while retaining your hiking schedule; if the pain decreases or disappears altogether, the culprit is logically cycling, or at the least has to do with cycling.

jfowler85 04-18-14 11:38 PM


Originally Posted by shawnh (Post 16255376)
FBin NY: I am a qualified doctor with 30 years experience.

Qualified in what?

jfowler85 04-18-14 11:41 PM


Originally Posted by DesertCrawler (Post 16676282)
I'm convinced that the problem is due to the leg muscle unbalance.

This is not a bad route to pursue, and my sentiments with respect to the OP's problem.

buzzbee 04-19-14 03:51 PM

I'm not sure if I've been asked this question...
But, yes, I have proved it is commuting by bike that causes my problem.
If I stay completely off the bike for a few weeks or more, then this pain never appears.
The pain is not sharp or stinging, but starts off as twinges, and gets more acute within minutes.
I have not found any medicine that helps.

My current theory is that the constant cycling builds up a grain direction (like in wood) in my quads, and walking downhill goes against the grain. If I hike the day after riding I do not get the pain because the scar tissue has not built up yet on those muscle grains.
What I do to help prevent the pain is to swing my legs freely for at least 10 minutes, perhaps this reduces the amount of exposed grain or breaks down the scar tissue...
It's just a theory, but it seems to match the data.

TransitBiker 04-19-14 10:16 PM

The impact of walk/hike/jog is going to make a difference too. I pretty much never stretch (my knees are too wonky from crashes), and i've never had any issues. I have had pains here and there, though i doubt they are cycling related. Proper potassium intake is just as likely cure as anything to do with repetitive exertion.

Hope that helps? :thumb:

- Andy

jgoerke 08-10-14 03:54 PM

Buzzbee: Thank You! for starting this thread. I've read all the entries, and your original symptoms especially as summarized here in entry #70 sum it up for me.

I am a fellow sufferer.

My history: avid cyclist, 56 years old, ran a lot in my late teens, but knees started to act up so switched to cycling. I used to race a bit of minor Cat 4 road stuff in my 30s and 40s. Then infrequent riding for 10 years or so. Started to ride more, then a lot more when I took a couple years off of work including bicycling across the US and the bicycling the west coast from Canada to Mexico. I currently ride 100-175 miles a week, 5-6 days a week. Walk short flat distances with wife and dog every day. No running ... typically. Every year for the past 4 years this exact scenario plays out:

My wife and I take an annual trip up to Canada and I do not bring my bike. I still crave exercise so I head out for some hiking and jogging, everything is fine including anaerobic slogs up steep hills until my first downhill, then ... excruciating pain in my quads. Have to hobble home and hope there is not too much downhill between where I am and where I need to be. The first time it happened I totally freaked out, thought I'd ruined my legs in some way. Did the usual, rest, ice; later hot tub, stretching, gradually working up distance. That first year I searched the internet and found some articles that were slightly relevant, but really didn't seem to hit it. My quads always seems to get a bit better as the vacation progresses, lots of time in the hot tub, stretching, trying to get the cycling legs used to the new activity. Internist, Orthopedist and physical therapist all at a loss to explain cause.

For me definitely related to: lots of cycling every week, a couple days off traveling, then no cycling but some jogging, then as soon as I hit that first downhill, however gradual, after a 1/4 mile or so: POW. No way to continue, feel almost sick to my stomach and unable to push through. If I could find a route that only went uphill for 6 miles or so on this little island we're staying on near Victoria then a gondola ride home, I'd be set, maybe we'll have to change our travel plans to Switzerland every year ...

Another couple weeks of not cycling ahead, it seems to be getting better, I'd like to build up to being able to at least jog down the hills I'm running up, so frustrating.

I'm going to try your leg hanging thing.

Don't know how I missed this forum and thread, but I'm subscribed to this now :-).

Thanks again, so great to know I'm not alone.

e0richt 08-10-14 05:52 PM

it is a muscle imbalance but its because a bike does not have any "negative" contractions for legs... its all a positive contraction... when hiking you have to use the legs in a more complete way which includes negative contractions. Especially for down hills / stairs, mostly negative contractions.

interestingly enough, according to Arthur jones (nautilus) negative contractions are the ones that cause the most strength / muscle gains

gregf83 08-10-14 07:58 PM

Most people experience this to some extent. I think the solution is to not start out with a big downhill hike but build up to it slowly. The going up part is easy as it uses the same muscles as cycling so you have plenty of capacity to get up but then are stuck having to go down using seldom used muscles with eccentric contractions.

I was at Whistler a few weeks ago and decided to hike 1200m up the ski hill. Fortunately, I was able to take the chairlifts down so I saved my legs. If I would have walked down I'd have been very sore the next day.

The other thing that helps going down is some walking poles.

cooker 07-31-15 07:21 AM


Originally Posted by berendm (Post 18030466)

Has anyone had any progress in diagnosis, or found any new solutions? Maybe we should ask around if anyone has similar symptoms on a non-cycling forum.

Welcome to bike forums! Sorry to hear of your problems. This thread seems to get resurrected every year or two. Since your problem is a bit different than the original topic, and isn't related to commuting specifically I suggest you start a thread in a more appropriate sub-forum like road cycling or training and nutrition. You can see a list of all subforums on the main page. Hope you find answers.

But, while you're here...

Since you're 16 and probably still growing, I wonder if your intermittent pain is related to your muscles being stressed by growth spurts in the femur etc, but that may be completely wrong.

Also my understanding is that CK is a sign of stressed muscles, but it still doesn't explain why they are stressed.

coldizoard 10-14-15 03:25 PM

Hi guys

I am from switzerland, ambitious rider doing about 10k km per year, 45 years old and dealing with the problem for a long time. It comes up after 2-3 rest days from cycling. I have searched the the net a lot about this issue: there are other people dealing with this problem. i found the following link and recently found also this forum:

Extreme quadriceps starting pain after 3-4 rest days | Cyclingnews Forum

so far the cause for this is unknown. but basically it results in extremely high CK values (up to 20000 - normal 100-200). This means the muscle is terribly inflamed and temporarely damaged. why it only happens after restdays is a mystery.
there are several theories discusses:
-genetic defect which results in glycogen processing (Mc Ardle Disease)
-simple over training

different people believe that it is related to nutrition. Others encounter it only after strong workouts. Many person have been to many doctors without any results. The symptoms can be as strong that you collapse completely or need to be hospitalized. if the CK values get over 20K it can be dangerous. the symptoms seem to weaken after years of training.

what do the people to deal with it:
- DO NEVER STOP CYCLING -> people bought ergometers to cycle at home when the weather is bad.
- changing nutrition (this is a philosophy)
- adapt the cycling workouts -> do not train too hard

when it starts there are different methods for resetting:
- if you encounter it during cycling which might be the case already after 1 rest day -> NEVER use high gears, take the strong gears !!! Apply high pressure and pedal slowly and GO OVER the pain - ride for another 45 mins . the next day you are fine.
- other people do not ride anymore at all when it started. they say the risk is too high to damage the muscle resulting in dangerously high CK values. with this method you have to stop for 1-2 weeks because the symptoms peak after 5-6 days. the CK values then go down rapidly again from 1 day to the other- another mystery.

I still did not find any solution to the problem but riding every day. this is not always possible. i try the strong gears after 2-3 rest days; this can be sometimes extremely painful but it works.

I would be happy to know one day what is the cause of this disease, but probably not during my lifetime. Anyway it is good to know that you are not alone.


Manno101 01-21-16 01:15 AM

Quad Pain after Cycling

Originally Posted by buzzbee (Post 10588154)
Could this be related to commuting too much?
I commute 150 miles per week on the bike and rarely get any leg pain while cycling. I've been commuting for years, I'm not a youngster, and I stretch almost every day.
If I hike on the weekend, particularly on Sunday after a day of rest, I can get pain in the quads while hiking downhill or down stairs, the pain can be acute. When it happens, the quads hurt as the knee is bent. MD's, PT's, sports MD's have not figured it out yet.

Am I cycling too much?
Anyone have this problem before?
I'm not asking for a diagnosis, just more data points.

I suffer from the same excruciating pain. I have been steadily increasing my distance on the bike over the last 12 months and throughout the last month have cycled around 150-200k per week. I have not ridden for the last 3 days and attempted a bush walk/run this afternoon. On flat ground I have no problem. When I attempt to descend the stairs or steep decline, however, I can feel a cramping sensation coming on to the point of total seizure - like my quads have gone into shock. Afterwards the sensation is like bad bruising pain for a couple of days.

Gazbeast 08-29-16 05:54 AM

I just had another episode after 4 days off the bike. I also found another forum with the exact same problem as us.

Extreme quadriceps starting pain after 3-4 rest days | Cyclingnews Forum

I hope we can is out one day, it's properly buggering up my racing season.

sea coil 08-29-16 07:03 AM

Walking downhill is an eccentric movement - the muscle lengthens under load or tension. Bicycling is a concentric movement - the muscle shortens under load. When I go back to hiking after time off, my quads always scream on downhills.

wphamilton 08-29-16 02:56 PM

It could be a good thing, that muscle pain. Otherwise you might have kept pushing it until those relatively unused tendons and other soft connective tissues were damaged. Cycling uses specific muscles, hiking running and other athletics use others. The stronger we get cycling, while not doing anything else, the relatively weaker those other muscles get which makes it pretty easy to injure them.

buzzbee 08-29-16 04:15 PM

I agree with the idea of not over doing it.
But, I think this issue which I have had on a regular basis since 2008 has to do with scar tissue in the muscles.
So, it's the same muscles (quads) but used in different ways.
I think the muscles get scar tissue with a grain going one way for cycling, and the opposite way for walking down hill. Since I'm cycling 12 hours a week, every week, the transition to walking from cycling is worse.

Anyway, who knows? The main thing is that I figured out how to live with it and avoid the most likely scenarios for pain, and have still managed to do 7 long distance walks (>100 miles each) without too much pain.
I freely swing my legs for 20 minutes on the off days thinking that breaks down the scar tissue more gradually.
But again, who really knows if this is voodoo or not.

f4rrest 08-29-16 09:42 PM

I've been following this thread for years, since this affects me too. The symptoms are exactly the same.
150-200 miles/week, take a couple days off, walk down stairs and BAM! Quads get intense cramping pain without the contraction of cramps. Then they feel really bruised for a few days.

On the other hand, if I'm cycling daily, I can totally run downstairs with no problem whatsoever.

Additionally, i found that having 1 or 2 alcohol drinks the day before brings it on even more severely, so there might be something to dehydration and/or mineral imbalance, since alcohol depletes them while it's excreted.

Over the past few years, I've increased my quad / hamstring / hip flexibility with stretching 2-3 times/day. Also have been foam rolling each quad 5-10 minutes / day. It's helped.

Unfortunately, magnesium supplements give me severe runs.

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