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Old 07-27-13, 04:36 PM   #1
milesofsmiles
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Saving Your Knees

I looked around here a bit but didn't find a thread about knee health, conditioning or the like. I am 54 and just got back into biking (after about 35 years) a couple of weeks ago. I know my knees aren't the greatest and I don't want to hurt them more. I rode last weekend and started feeling pain in my right knee while riding. I ride a mountain bike and have had some trouble with keeping the seat at the right height, I think I solved the problem. I know when I have knee pain wrapping it with a bandage helps a lot. I plan on doing that tomorrow when I ride. I know it will take some time to get my legs in shape and I have to keep from over working them. I am trying to avoid too many hills right now and making sure (learning) the right gear to be in on what ever ground I am riding.
So I was wondering what riders here of any age do to keep there knees and legs in shape, keep from straining them. Right now I only ride on the weekends so I have time to rest my legs/knees.
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Old 07-27-13, 05:26 PM   #2
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You don't mention where the pain is in your right knee. It might be helpful in identifying what the problem might be if you can tell us whether it it on the outside, at the kneecap, or in behind.

A slipping seat post might appear to be the immediate cause. In this case, the pain may well be at the front. How have you fixed the seat post so it doesn't slip? Also, do you ride with flat pedals, or straps and clips, or clipless pedals? And what sort of shoes do you wear?

Otherwise, have you had the bike fitted to you? Use lower gears so you spin the pedals in, say, the 80-90rpm range.
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Old 07-27-13, 05:54 PM   #3
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I try to keep my saddle high enough that I get a smooth spin around 90 rpm, but not so high I get hip rocking and abrasion. Unfortunately I think all the warrior poses I'm doing in yoga are not easy on the knee. It's a new issue this summer.
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Old 07-27-13, 05:55 PM   #4
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The pain is mainly on the top of the knee (not the knee cap) and a little on the sides. It's not so much the knee itself but all around it, an aching leg that the pain kind of shifts around on, if you know what I mean. I have standard flat pedals, no straps or clips, and wear tennis shoes when I ride. I ride mainly on paved trails and one unpaved trail. I'm waiting to hit the hilly unpaved trails for a while.
The seat clamp is a quick release. I have tightened up the nut so when I close the QR it is tighter on the seat pole.
Fitted to me? I am 5' 10", the bike has 26" tires and an 18" frame, I guess that's fitted.
A question I had about riding on hills, should I stand up and pedal on hills instead of sitting to keep my legs straighter?
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Old 07-27-13, 05:57 PM   #5
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I haven't counted my pedal rpm yet, just learned about that, so the next time I go out I will start counting them and get a system going.
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Old 07-27-13, 06:25 PM   #6
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Hi,

Set the seat height so you legs fully lock out with your heels on the
pedals. Bit more, your instep locks out, but not the ball of your feet.

For hills its up to you, drop the gears and pedal, or don't and stand.

Long hills in the saddle is better.

rgds, sreten.

Last edited by sreten; 07-27-13 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 07-27-13, 06:29 PM   #7
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staying on top of your gear one thats just right for your speed and terrain..

since people complain that their clipless pedal adjustment when wrong, hurts,
you might forgo those.
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Old 07-27-13, 06:44 PM   #8
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since people complain that their clipless pedal adjustment
when wrong, hurts, you might forgo those.
Hi,

Already stated that :

"I have standard flat pedals, no straps or clips, and wear tennis shoes when I ride."

FWIW I find stiff soled walking shoes better than most others riding.

rgds, sreten.
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Old 07-27-13, 06:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by milesofsmiles View Post
The pain is mainly on the top of the knee (not the knee cap) and a little on the sides. It's not so much the knee itself but all around it, an aching leg that the pain kind of shifts around on, if you know what I mean. I have standard flat pedals, no straps or clips, and wear tennis shoes when I ride. I ride mainly on paved trails and one unpaved trail. I'm waiting to hit the hilly unpaved trails for a while.
The seat clamp is a quick release. I have tightened up the nut so when I close the QR it is tighter on the seat pole.
Fitted to me? I am 5' 10", the bike has 26" tires and an 18" frame, I guess that's fitted.
A question I had about riding on hills, should I stand up and pedal on hills instead of sitting to keep my legs straighter?
Okay, the pain above the kneecap is not unusual when starting out and pushing a harder gear than needed. Shift to an easier gear on all your riding for the present. sreten has some good advice on setting your seat height, but be prepared to move the seat up and down an eighth of an inch or so until you feel comfortable. Get out a spirit level, check the floor to make sure that is level, then lay the tool across the top of the saddle front to back, and adjust to make sure that is level, too.

When we refer to bike fit, it can be quite simple, such as something like adjusting the seat height, to being complex such as a change to stem length. But for what you want right now, just concentrate on getting the seat height about right.

Pain at the outside of the knee is a little more serious, and has to do with the iliotibial band. This can be strained by putting too much load on the knee, as in mashing or slow pedalling in too high a gear. Again, use a lower gear and try to cultivate a higher pedalling speed. This will be important, too, when you get into the hills.

When counting the pedalling speed, just count for 15 seconds on, say, your right pedal, then multiply by four.

There is a technique to standing that is related to your aerobic capacity and changing gears... for the moment, just stick with staying seated, but select a low gear that enables you to keep spinning comfortably.

This also is presuming that the bike is reasonably modern and not out of the 1980s. You had better let us know what it is.

Last edited by Rowan; 07-27-13 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 07-27-13, 08:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by milesofsmiles View Post
I haven't counted my pedal rpm yet, just learned about that, so the next time I go out I will start counting them and get a system going.
You need to get a bike computer with cadence. Even the wireless are dirt cheap. You need to stay in low gears with minimum pedal resistance and maintain a moderate cadence. How fast depends on you. Keeping the pedal resistance down is important to prevent causing more knee problems. Of course, this assumes your saddle and cleats are adjusted properly. If you plan to continue cycling long-term, a professional fitting is a very wise, one-time investment.
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Old 07-27-13, 08:57 PM   #11
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...This also is presuming that the bike is reasonably modern and not out of the 1980s. You had better let us know what it is.
Many of my bikes resemble that comment.
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Old 07-27-13, 09:08 PM   #12
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This thread should probably be in the Fitting forum - the knee issue is not a 50+ issue.
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Old 07-27-13, 09:11 PM   #13
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Be sure you don't have a toe out problem that requires fitting cleats to your posture. I'm putting on this Sugino Compact Crankset this winter so I can sit and spin uphill like Chris Froome in my own mind.

I used to go by a rule I read somewhere to stay off of serious hills for the first several hundred miles each season. I kind of stuck to that rule coming back from an eleven year hiatus but my knees still have ached just a little after jumping up a few little hills lately. I think I might be getting old.
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Old 07-27-13, 09:18 PM   #14
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This thread should probably be in the Fitting forum - the knee issue is not a 50+ issue.
Or equally in the Training and Nutrition Forum because it relates to knee pain that could be not from fit.

I think it's quite happy here, and these sorts of threads in the 50+ help blur the focus on the snarky threads
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Old 07-27-13, 09:59 PM   #15
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Proper fit and spinning are two ways...
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Old 07-27-13, 10:56 PM   #16
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Female rider here, late 50's, with several vintage quality steel frame bikes with quality component upgrades, 10 spd 12 spd 24 spd, and a brand new Marin mountain bike, have not updated my "bike list" lately. Key to conditioning is conditioning. Don't get too eager right off the bat. Consistency is key, the body adapts to what we ask of it, if we ask kindly. A 15 minute ride daily is usually possible no matter what the schedule or job demands. If weekend rides are the only option, go easy, flat ground, find your easiest gear, go at it for about 10 minutes, then increase the pace and/or the gear, 10 minutes, push hard, then wind down for another 10 minutes. Over about a month like this your 10 minutes will increase to 20 minutes. Question: is your goal to regain bicycling for a lifetime pursuit? Then what is the hurry? Slow down, pace yourself, build strength then stamina. Next trick: get a massage from a qualified "sports" or "injury treatment" therapist on your legs (front and back) and lower back and deep abdominals, ask for trigger point therapy or myofascial release. Avoid deep tissue therapists who have no finesse, get someone experienced, pay the money. Third trick: stretch before and after riding, especially stretch the front of your thighs. Last word: do not give up your vintage bikes for some gizmo that costs money at a bike shop, or spend $200 for a professional fitting unless money is no object; they only have an equation to work from and that is just an average. Fiddle with it yourself, move only one thing: seat height (1/8" at a time), seat position on the rails (backwards or forwards until your sit bones sit on the widest part of the saddle); handlebar height. Ride it, check it, take notes. Bottom line: your knees hurt because the muscles in your legs tighten up when you suddenly start moving them. Go slow, stretch, do other types of exercise, be consistent, and don't give up. From the experience of a massage therapist 20 years in the business and back on the bike.
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Old 07-27-13, 11:05 PM   #17
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Shorter cranks & lower gears.
I'm 5-11 with a "bad knee".
175mm cranks and I simply won't ride because of the chronic pain.
170mm and I'm on the verge of chronic pain.
165mm I did 40 miles the other day.
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Old 07-28-13, 01:19 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by milesofsmiles View Post
I looked around here a bit but didn't find a thread about knee health, conditioning or the like. I am 54 and just got back into biking (after about 35 years) a couple of weeks ago. I know my knees aren't the greatest and I don't want to hurt them more. I rode last weekend and started feeling pain in my right knee while riding. I ride a mountain bike and have had some trouble with keeping the seat at the right height, I think I solved the problem. I know when I have knee pain wrapping it with a bandage helps a lot. I plan on doing that tomorrow when I ride. I know it will take some time to get my legs in shape and I have to keep from over working them. I am trying to avoid too many hills right now and making sure (learning) the right gear to be in on what ever ground I am riding.
So I was wondering what riders here of any age do to keep there knees and legs in shape, keep from straining them. Right now I only ride on the weekends so I have time to rest my legs/knees.
Slipping seat post, the cure is to swap out the quick release for a standard bolt, unless you do some really technical mountain biking, the only thing the QR does is make it easier for some low life to steal your seat and seat post. Another thing, you can try, pull the seat post out, wipe it down with a rag dampened in degreaser, add a very thin layer of grease to keep the post from rusting into the frame, then reinsert it. If you have a carbon fibre frame or seat post, there is a special stuff you can get from bike shops to use instead of grease for this.

Bike fit, is an involved process, of using measurements and special tools to get the bicycle dialed in to the rider. This can get expensive, especially if they need to swap out parts like seatposts and stems to get it right.

For gearing, a bicycle computer with cadence is a good investment, your shooting for 80-95 RPM. If you get below 80, you down-shift, if you get above 95, you up-shift. This range is really the human power band, after a while you learn to go by feel and you can ignore the cadence. I have the computer with cadence on the mountain bike, because I am more likely to need it on the mountain bike.

You really should try to get in at least one mid-week ride. What I do, the night before I set up my gear, bike clothes ready, shoes at the door, bottles in the fridge, tires inflated, set the alarm an hour earlier then usual. Hop out of bed with the alarm, change, grab the bottles, and go.
I ride by the clock, so if I normally get up at 7 and set the alarm for 6, to get in a ride, then I want to be pulling into the driveway at 7. Yeah I know that will often mean needing lights a good part of the year. When I get back, I head to the shower and start my usual day. When you only ride on weekends, the muscles, tendons and ligaments get to stiffen up during the week, and you never really get to improve. Adding a mid-week ride means your getting a ride in before they can stiffen up.
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Old 07-28-13, 06:10 AM   #19
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I don't see any mention in your post about the distance and intensity of your rides. After 30+ years off the bike, you need to work back into it gradually, to give the muscles and especially the joints time to get used to it. Don't go too hard or too far at first. Slowly increase the distance or time of your rides, and intensity of the effort. Give your body time to adapt and adjust to the demands of cycling. Good luck.
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Old 07-28-13, 06:28 AM   #20
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Or equally in the Training and Nutrition Forum because it relates to knee pain that could be not from fit.

I think it's quite happy here, and these sorts of threads in the 50+ help blur the focus on the snarky threads
Good points, Rowan. It's just that I and some others are saying many of the same things in many places. But back in perspective, that has been happening for the whole time I've been here, and doubtless for millennia before that! We always had the 'Net, didn't we?

And to be fair, Fitting has a few threads about "What bike should I get?" which may well be age-specific issues. Perhaps these little thread matters are not really problems ... this is proof I should not become a mod.

Here's to 50+ Redemption!
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Old 07-28-13, 06:52 AM   #21
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Good points, Rowan. It's just that I and some others are saying many of the same things in many places. But back in perspective, that has been happening for the whole time I've been here, and doubtless for millennia before that! We always had the 'Net, didn't we?

And to be fair, Fitting has a few threads about "What bike should I get?" which may well be age-specific issues. Perhaps these little thread matters are not really problems ... this is proof I should not become a mod.

Here's to 50+ Redemption!
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Old 07-28-13, 07:37 AM   #22
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Two things:

Accurate seat height. You should consider a bike fit from a reputable dealer/fitter. If you're riding a MTB or hybrid bike it shouldn't be as involved as a road bike fit.

Exact foot placement. This will involve adopting clipless pedals, a properly fitting shoe and probably cleat wedges or orthotic footbed. Wedges have eliminated knee issues for me on my road bike by ensuring leg/knee alignment. Mountainbike type pedals/cleats are a little more problematic, but can be addressed. A good LBS should be able to measure the degree of cleat alignment required and check your knee action. This should be part of a good bike fit session. In fact it should start from there.

Sneakers and platform pedals will not be able to provide the degree of accuracy of placement and consistency your knees require for comfort.
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Old 07-28-13, 12:00 PM   #23
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You need to get a bike computer with cadence.
I was thinking about that very thing while I was riding today. I have a Schwinn bike computer on my bike, it has 20 functions so I will have to see if it has the cadence feature.
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Old 07-28-13, 12:00 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by milesofsmiles View Post
I looked around here a bit but didn't find a thread about knee health, conditioning or the like. I am 54 and just got back into biking (after about 35 years) a couple of weeks ago. I know my knees aren't the greatest and I don't want to hurt them more. I rode last weekend and started feeling pain in my right knee while riding. I ride a mountain bike and have had some trouble with keeping the seat at the right height, I think I solved the problem. I know when I have knee pain wrapping it with a bandage helps a lot. I plan on doing that tomorrow when I ride. I know it will take some time to get my legs in shape and I have to keep from over working them. I am trying to avoid too many hills right now and making sure (learning) the right gear to be in on what ever ground I am riding.
So I was wondering what riders here of any age do to keep there knees and legs in shape, keep from straining them. Right now I only ride on the weekends so I have time to rest my legs/knees.
Invest in a pair of "Kneesavers" to ensure your legs are in correct alignment during each pedal stroke once you get your seat issues fixed.

http://www.kneesaver.net/
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Old 07-28-13, 02:00 PM   #25
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Thanks for all the good comments and advice. I counted my rpm today, I was a bit surprised it was so low, about 50-65. I lowered a gear and got 80. When I first started riding a couple of weeks ago I pedaled some at that speed but thought it was over pedaling, too much spent energy, and went up a gear. Today I saw the difference and stayed at 80 a lot more. I can see the difference it made on my legs. I rode seven miles in one hour on almost flat ground. I ride at a casual pace. Which made me wonder about the speed/rpm balance. If I want to ride at a slower speed I would drop a gear to keep up the rpm, true? The speed I was going in third gear at 80 rpm was faster than I wanted to go. I have nothing against going faster but I like the laid-back slower pace. I hike at a laid-back slower pace to, it's my style.
I bought some glucosamine today. I am going to work on a strengthening routine, riding, squats, and nutrition.
I think I solved the slipping seat problem like I said. It didn't slip at all today. I am still going to look into a better QR or regular bolt though. I figure it can't hurt to have a back-up.
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