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  1. #1
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    HTFU or fit issue?

    I just got back into cycling recently and my lower thighs and the outside of my knees have been on fire (lactic acid, not actual pain) if I pedal for more than 45 seconds. Cadence is irrelevant, I get the same burn at 110rpm in a low gear as at 80rpm in an intermediate gear, though it manifests nearly twice as fast at 110rpm. It's always localized to the very bottom of my thighs - right above the knee cap, running across the whole width of the thigh, as well as the outside of my knees along the skin (nothing deep in the knee). Saddle height doesn't seem to have an effect either. The only reason I think it might be a fit issue is because the majority of my thighs are fine and my breathing is steady.

    Or is this normal for a beginner and I need to HTFU?

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    Are you riding a lot of hills? What exercise did you do before starting to ride?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenji666 View Post
    Are you riding a lot of hills? What exercise did you do before starting to ride?
    Lots of false flats but not many hills. Before cycling and still today I do about 3 days of fencing practice a week and occasionally a tournament.

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    I'd look at leg extension; put your heel on one pedal (while you sit comfortably on the saddle), rotate that pedal so it's as far from you as it can get. Is your leg straight, knee basically 'locked'? If not, adjust your saddle until it is. Then try the ride again.

  5. #5
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    I'm curious about the OP's symptoms. Does the burning sensation continue if you stand and continue pedaling out of the saddle? Or does it lessen? I'm thinking that you have something going on with your saddle and pelvis, with some pressure impinging on nerves.

    Have you tried rolling your pelvis forward or backward gently while pedaling? Does the problem lessen over time when you ride (not as bad 30 minutes into the ride as it had been only 2 minutes in)?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    I surely agree with checking the saddle height. Discomfort on the front of a knee, above or below it, is for me a sign of saddle too low.

    Even the 80 rpm cadence may be too fast for a newbie. What happens if you don't push it even that hard?

    In general, HTFU is at the opposite end of the spectrum from "check that your saddle height and tilt are as good as possible."

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    80rpm cadence is not an issue; leg extension seems to be. The only way 80rpm would be an issue is with too high a gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
    I'm curious about the OP's symptoms. Does the burning sensation continue if you stand and continue pedaling out of the saddle? Or does it lessen? I'm thinking that you have something going on with your saddle and pelvis, with some pressure impinging on nerves.

    Have you tried rolling your pelvis forward or backward gently while pedaling? Does the problem lessen over time when you ride (not as bad 30 minutes into the ride as it had been only 2 minutes in)?
    1) Standing on the pedals feels about the same, maybe alittle less burning and little more pain in knee cap after a sustained effort.

    2) It's at its worst from 3min-40min into a ride and then gradually fades away from that point on unless I hit an incline where it's at its worst.

    3) I do change position in the saddle regularly and it doesn't seem to have an effect.


    Quote Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
    I'd look at leg extension; put your heel on one pedal (while you sit comfortably on the saddle), rotate that pedal so it's as far from you as it can get. Is your leg straight, knee basically 'locked'? If not, adjust your saddle until it is. Then try the ride again.
    It was a cm off so I adjusted it and it does feel markedly better but it's still persistent (which could be irritation from it being set wrong in the first place and might vanish.)


    During yesterday's group ride it was pointed out to me that I have a tendency to go above 120rpm frequently and that I need to work on soft pedalling as I tend to accelerate rather than maintain my cadence. On the hand pushing a large gear at 80rpm is definitely irritating my knees when trying to keep up with the group :/ So I guess I have some more base building to do and checking the leg extension definitely helped today's ride.

  9. #9
    It do, but it don't.
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    if you've got the time and money, going to an experienced professional fitter would be worth it. there are so many variables that can impact your knees (foot position inside your shoes (arch support), cleat position, float, stance width, seat height, seat fore/aft, pelvis angle, etc.) and having a trained eye take a look at each of the variables will be much more helpful than trying random things without having a direct understanding of how it impacts the other variables and ultimately your knees.

    is a "pro fit" gauranteed to fix your knees? no. but if the time and money are available, it's worth it. imo.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flechensabre View Post
    1) Standing on the pedals feels about the same, maybe alittle less burning and little more pain in knee cap after a sustained effort.

    2) It's at its worst from 3min-40min into a ride and then gradually fades away from that point on unless I hit an incline where it's at its worst.

    3) I do change position in the saddle regularly and it doesn't seem to have an effect.




    It was a cm off so I adjusted it and it does feel markedly better but it's still persistent (which could be irritation from it being set wrong in the first place and might vanish.)


    During yesterday's group ride it was pointed out to me that I have a tendency to go above 120rpm frequently and that I need to work on soft pedalling as I tend to accelerate rather than maintain my cadence. On the hand pushing a large gear at 80rpm is definitely irritating my knees when trying to keep up with the group :/ So I guess I have some more base building to do and checking the leg extension definitely helped today's ride.
    Would you say the knee irritation is in the front of your knee? If so, it often means you would benefit from raising your saddle a few mm at a time. I also find my spin becomes smoother as my saddle approaches the right height.

    For me the upper limit in raising the saddle is that I can't keep my foot in contact with the pedal full-stroke without excessive hip-rocking, and the painful abrasion that causes.

    I think HTFU is just an invitation to excessive pain and possibly injury. Get your fit fixed.
    Last edited by Road Fan; 07-08-13 at 08:54 AM.

  11. #11
    自転車整備士 oldskoolwrench's Avatar
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    Whatever you do... DON'T get sucked in by all of your riding buddies who push the 53 all the time. 80 - 85 RPM cadence is just fine; find the gear that allows you to pedal at that rate comfortably.

    Pushing a high gear ratio all the time = burning your knees up and potentially turning you into an invalid, which your riding 'buddies' wouldn't give a hoot about. Ride your ride, and don't get drawn into 'harder is better'... your knees will thank you later in life.

    Last edited by oldskoolwrench; 07-08-13 at 10:03 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
    I also find my spin becomes smoother as my saddle approaches the right height.

    For me the upper limit in raising the saddle is that I can't keep my foot in contact with the pedal full-stroke without excessive hip-rocking, and the painful abrasion that causes.

    Well that's the thing. I haven't had the time or money to see a fitter but I know my saddle is at it's maximum height. A few mm higher and the pain goes to the back of my knees. Any lower and the pain around the knees get worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
    Would you say the knee irritation is in the front of your knee?
    Moreso around the top of the knee and the sides rather than the front.

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