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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 02-18-13, 12:44 AM   #1
Stix Zadinia
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Tips for avoiding knee pain from my commuting?

..other than stop riding, if possible!

Now that my commute is getting longer and I've been at it for almost a full year, I've started to develop equal pain on both my knees. I've already taken some measures I believe could help the knees: For instance I started out riding in tight jeans (which were very uncomfortable and pressed on my legs, btw), but now I'm using comfy sweats instead; I'm sitting more on the saddle while riding (even though I find it uncomfortable sometimes), I've set up the saddle higher too, and I'm finally starting to realize the benefit of avoiding high gears and a low cadence (I think I was really messing up on that one)..

My bike originally had a Shimano M171 (42/34/24) triple crankset, now I'm using a double crankset on the outer SG B52 ring.. Should I go back to the original crankset or something similar? (I sold the original). This new crank is uncomfortable to use on the lower gears because the chain wasn't changed (lengthened) by the mechanic who changed the crankset, and so it's too short for the bigger ring, but everyone at the shops keeps telling me to just 'wear out everything before thinking of changing anything on the drivetrain'.

Is there any advice or tips to follow? I'm kind of weary now since my commute is probably going to keep getting longer anyway (work-related issue). I'm absolutely in LOVE with riding, but I'm starting to get more worried as the discomfort (slowly, but steadily) keeps on turning to pain.


Thanks much for your advice

Last edited by Stix Zadinia; 02-18-13 at 12:53 AM.
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Old 02-18-13, 02:18 AM   #2
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I would guess that since both knees are hurting it's not an issue of 'stop and go' commuting, where you are starting out from too high a gear. I would guess that you might need pedal extenders. If your pedals are too narrow, or foot placement is too close to the crank arms, then your knees have to turn (usually) out placing them in an akward postion that stresses the tendons and ligaments. I was having that problem with my bike and solved it with 20mm extensions that pushed the pedals out from the crank.
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Old 02-18-13, 02:20 AM   #3
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I'd buy a new chain so that you can use the whole cassette with the big ring. They're not that expensive.
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Old 02-18-13, 06:36 AM   #4
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I would guess that since both knees are hurting it's not an issue of 'stop and go' commuting, where you are starting out from too high a gear. I would guess that you might need pedal extenders. If your pedals are too narrow, or foot placement is too close to the crank arms, then your knees have to turn (usually) out placing them in an akward postion that stresses the tendons and ligaments. I was having that problem with my bike and solved it with 20mm extensions that pushed the pedals out from the crank.
+1

http://www.kneesaver.net/
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Old 02-18-13, 06:46 AM   #5
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If you really want to avoid screwing up your knees then stop mashing big gears...You need to gear down a little bit and spin more, it's much healthier for the knees.
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Old 02-18-13, 07:21 AM   #6
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In my experience, knee pain can be caused by several factors:
-- Saddle too low or otherwise improperly situated (but usually too low).
-- Mashing big gears rather than spinning.
-- Starting out pedaling too hard on rides without warming up sufficiently.

Like others said, get your chain fixed so you can shift properly. Make sure your saddle is the right height. Learn to spin.
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Old 02-18-13, 07:41 AM   #7
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First off, make sure you don't use clipless pedals at least for now until you can heal that up. Being clipped in will be much harder on your knees because you cannot move your foot around on the pedals if needed to get comfortable. Next as mentioned above, don't use high gears and pedal real hard just gear down and spin it up a little more. Pace yourself, take it easy and don't apply too much pressure as you pedal. Just the weight of your legs and momentum should be all you need to keep going except when climbing and try that out of the saddle if you can.
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Old 02-18-13, 08:00 AM   #8
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First off, make sure you don't use clipless pedals at least for now until you can heal that up. Being clipped in will be much harder on your knees because you cannot move your foot around on the pedals if needed to get comfortable.
I agree that with clipless pedals, the same area on your foot contacts the pedal each time (modula moving the cleats around), but when you compare clipless to platform pedals with pins, you can get a lot more float with (some) clipless pedals than with pinned platformed pedals. I've read about many people who have much better luck with clipless than pinned platform pedals for this reason.

To the OP: Here's a random website I googled about knee pain. It lists several things I was looking for: pain in the front of the knee suggests seat may be too low. In the back suggests it may be too high.

Cheers,
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Old 02-18-13, 08:05 AM   #9
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+1 with the seat positioning: Perhaps move the seat back a bit farther, which will put you in a more "bent-over position" which will engage your glut muscles a bit more. Bilateral knee pain is often a tendonitis, overuse issue of the quadriceps. ie, they are working harder than they should. Engaging your gluts will help save the quads from overworking (this is why you can pedal faster/harder in the drops).
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Old 02-18-13, 08:09 AM   #10
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Bike fit, even if you do it your self, will help you a lot. As the others have said stop mashing high gears and get that chain corrected. Things will escalate fro your knees to other areas if you don't straighten the problem out pretty quickly.

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Old 02-18-13, 08:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
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+1 with the seat positioning: Perhaps move the seat back a bit farther, which will put you in a more "bent-over position" which will engage your glut muscles a bit more. Bilateral knee pain is often a tendonitis, overuse issue of the quadriceps. ie, they are working harder than they should. Engaging your gluts will help save the quads from overworking (this is why you can pedal faster/harder in the drops).
Agree with this, and it depends on your ability to be in the hunched over postion and bending your neck up to see while you're in the drops. This will require a balance of both. I can only speak for myself, as I cannot use the drops because I can't bend my neck up anymore and my arms and shoulders hurt alot when I put my upper body weight on them. Getting more upright solves that but is harder on the knees so getting the right balance is critical. There is no right and wrong fitting here, just set it up for minimal stress on your body.
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Old 02-18-13, 09:01 AM   #12
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I can attest to the saddle being too low affecting the knees. I was on a group ride awhile back and the seat post started slipping, to the point where it was about 2 inches too low. My knees were killing me, until I stopped to raise the saddle up again, and also tighten the clamp a bit more. Instant relief.
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Old 02-18-13, 10:44 AM   #13
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Also consider the LENGTH of your cranks.
I have a bad knee and found that switching to 165MM cranks from the previous 175/170mm ones made a world of difference.

Also SPIN, don't MASH!
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Old 02-18-13, 10:50 AM   #14
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the cold is also rough on the knees.
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Old 02-18-13, 11:27 AM   #15
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+1 for shorter cranks. I've always heard this helps. Your knees have a smaller range of motion with a shorter crank.
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Old 02-18-13, 01:01 PM   #16
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Start early, so you dont have to ride hard to make up time.
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Old 02-18-13, 01:59 PM   #17
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Do the bike fit and do yoga
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Old 02-18-13, 05:22 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by dramiscram View Post
I was looking for something that would tell me what to measure, as I think this may help my knee pain as well. I have my cleats adjusted for slight toe out, but I'm about as far as I can get without my heels hitting the cranks. I'll keep looking around the site. Thanks for the link.
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Old 02-18-13, 05:30 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
If you really want to avoid screwing up your knees then stop mashing big gears...You need to gear down a little bit and spin more, it's much healthier for the knees.
This ^^
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Old 02-18-13, 06:06 PM   #20
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If memory serves, you are the one who was wanting to go to an even larger front chain ring (IIRC, it was 60+ tooth count) so that you could increase resistance on the legs and give the impression of moving fast without spinning the cranks...

So looks like mashing that high gear hasn't exactly worked out for you. Now some of the changes that you have put into place to alleviate the knee pain is starting to create issues with comfort in other areas... sounds like a possible fit issue. Might even be the geometry is totally wrong for your body.
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Old 02-18-13, 06:08 PM   #21
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my knees always hurt when i ride .but are worst on hills i screwed em up back when i ran 10k
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Old 02-18-13, 06:15 PM   #22
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1. your bike shop is giving you bad advice. riding with a dangerously short chain is brutal on more expensive components.
2. if you are still experiencing knee pain with a double then definitely get a compact or triple.
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Old 02-18-13, 06:51 PM   #23
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Invest in a good bike fit someone who is certified in bike fitting and that will get rid of your problems-spend the money it will be the best dollars you spend.-
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Old 02-18-13, 08:52 PM   #24
Stix Zadinia
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Thanks much everyone for the responses. I'm yet to find someone at the LBSs who talks to me about proper bike fitting, I'll have to keep looking I guess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
If memory serves, you are the one who was wanting to go to an even larger front chain ring (IIRC, it was 60+ tooth count) so that you could increase resistance on the legs and give the impression of moving fast without spinning the cranks...

So looks like mashing that high gear hasn't exactly worked out for you. Now some of the changes that you have put into place to alleviate the knee pain is starting to create issues with comfort in other areas... sounds like a possible fit issue. Might even be the geometry is totally wrong for your body.
Your memory is spot on my knees have been bringing me down to reality as of late (coincidentally enough, I started noticing discomfort right after that thread haha), so I guess I need to put on more muscle? or at least learn to use them more, instead of 'riding with the knees'. Not sure what you mean by 'causing discomfort in other areas'; the only thing I have a problem with are my knees.

As I mentioned I'm also trying to sit more -rather than standing on my legs while on the bike-, the higher saddle feels more comfortable too, now that I have some experience with it (it was rather scary when I was starting out commuting).

Quote:
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Start early, so you dont have to ride hard to make up time.
I like riding hard; it's just my knees don't seem to share the sentiment
In any case I'm always late for stuff, so it's not like I have much of a choice most times

The tips about the glutes and moving the saddle to the back are interesting (even though I don't have drops, it's a MTB), I will try them out.
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Old 02-18-13, 08:57 PM   #25
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About the chain, the reason the people over at the LBS keep giving me is that the cassette/chain wear out and adapt to one another (or something to that effect), and so they tell me to wear these components out and wait to replace everything altogether.

And that's kind of weird, since I would assume they'd be eager to sell me more stuff instead.
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