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Thread: Arg! My knees!

  1. #1
    Devil's advocate 8bitevolution's Avatar
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    Arg! My knees!

    I bought a Surly Cross-Check complete about two weeks ago and I've been having problems with my knees. Specifically, my right knee.

    My LBS has put me on a trainer to watch me pedal, checked the angle of my leg when I'm at the bottom of my pedal stroke and checked to make sure that my knee is above the spindle of the pedal. After making these adjustments, my knees are still giving me problems!

    It's mainly my right knee (usually my left knee is fine) and it's actually above the knee cap, not below. The last thing I can come up with is crank arm length - the Surly comes with 170mm crankarms. Bicycling magazine had a formula for crank arm length this month (0.21 mm x inseam in mm) and that puts me around 165 mm.

    Should I be seeking out a new set of crank arms? Or is there something else I should investigate? When I take it easy, my knee doesn't hurt but if I start going at a higher cadence, my knee starts hurting. I didn't have these problems on my Trek so I can only assume that I'm not doing anything completely wrong. This also rules out, I think, the one leg is longer than the other theory. Or maybe not? I don't know.

    I just want to ride my bike without pain.

  2. #2
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    Ebay those cranks and get 165.
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    Lower the seat a bit(1 inch) and try riding that way for a while before you spend any money. I have the same problem in my right knee when I put the saddle at the "right" height.
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    I agree, I had the same problem with my left knee. Lowered the seat about an inch and it hasn't hurt since. If that doesn't work, look into the crank arm.
    Pain don't hurt.
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    Devil's advocate 8bitevolution's Avatar
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    That's what's weird. When I first got the bike, the seat was pretty low to begin with (probably as low as it'd go) and I had the pain so I started going up.

    However, raising and lowering the seat costs nothing so I'll give that a try.

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    This might be worth a try (you know what they say about free advice).

    I used to get knee and hip twinges once in a while. Not any real pain and not all the time.

    I adjusted my cleats and pedals so that my pedalling motion more closely matches my normal walking stride. So far everything is hunky-dory, no matter how hard I push.

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    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    After adjusting or trying this or that as a last resort.........

    Go to a orthopedic doctor. I know. At age 56 I had to have a
    double knee replacement. Don't mess with this to long,mate.

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    Higher gearing and a stiffer bike can magnify knee problems too. Even a stiffer crank or a much lighter bike.
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    I would try to recover first by riding in a lower gear. Moving the saddle forward may also help too. Whenever I start to feel the least bit of discomfort in any knee, I unclip from the peddal and it (pain) usually goes away later on. I did it this past weekend when I started to feel some discomfort, I unclipped and was later able to get back in without any pain. You have to have the peddal from Shimano that uses SPD and provides a platform on the opposite end.

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    I have had knee pain for a while... I had the pain in the same place as the OP.. on the top of the knee cap.. I think this pain is just a weakness in the tendons/muscles... All I did was to reduce the gearing so that there is less load, and gave myself time to adapt to riding ...

    The pain is completely gone now... ...

    Here are my tips.

    1. lower the gearing to reduce the stress on the knees.
    2. move the seat farther forward.. more weight on the pedals instead of stress on the knees (?)...
    3. stretch, every time you ride, at the very least stretch right after you ride.
    4. massage the area of the quads above the knees when you feel pain. (improve blood flow)..
    5. raise the seat (if it doesn't help, lower it instead)...

    good luck !
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    I have no idea if this will help at all, but I found that if I conciously (it's automatic now) make sure my knees are slightly angled in towards the top bar throughout the pedal stroke, I have zero pain, no matter how hard I mash.

    This seems to keep the "circling motion" of the knee joint to a minimum during the stroke.

    Now when I see a cyclist ahead of me with his knees sticking way out to the sides I cringe... Looks PAINFUL!

  12. #12
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    I have had knee problems for years from cycling and so far, I have managed to keep on riding in relative comfort. So have hope!

    It's not possible to diagnose a knee problem without actually seeing you. My stock answer to this kind of question is to find someone who deeply understands bicycle biomechanics, and ask them to watch you ride. Their recommendations can come in at least four flavours:

    1. Substitute bike components. The frame is too small or too large, cranks or stem too long or short, etc. Hope that the problem isn't the frame!

    2. Modify bike geometry. The seat, cleats, handlebars, etc. are not positioned correctly. It takes an experienced eye to spot subtle problems. I had knee problems once because a cleat was out of alignment by about a quarter-inch!

    3. Modify your pedaling technique. You may not be pedaling correctly. For example, some riders's knees describe a large figure-8 as they pedal, and this torquing motion puts tremendous stress on the knees. This was my bad habit for many years (for my right leg only) and I did not even realize it until it was pointed out to me. It took me a whole season to unlearn this habit: I had to learn to apply force straight down into the pedal, and resist the "natural" tendency of allowing my knee to drift horizontally/outward during the rest phase.

    4. Stretching, strengthening, icing, heating, etc. Your problem may stem from a muscular imbalance, a slight difference in leg length, or a subtle skeletal misalignment. Knee problems sometimes respond to doing the right exercises in the right way. It is important to do the exercises properly. A sports medicine doctor told me that my quad strengthening exercise was likely making my problem worse! He showed me a better exercise, which I still use. Note that you may be doing exercises for several weeks or months before you get results. It is not a quick fix. For me, I do exercises for two to three months to restore my knees to their proper shape after an incident. (This past winter, I started jogging again, and that caused a knee flair up.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by huhenio
    Ebay those cranks and get 165.
    +1

    Also spin higher revs in a lower gear. You may also want to visit a podiatrist to see if you have excessive pronation.

  14. #14
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
    I have no idea if this will help at all, but I found that if I conciously (it's automatic now) make sure my knees are slightly angled in towards the top bar throughout the pedal stroke, I have zero pain, no matter how hard I mash.
    We have a winner! No one asked the OP about the leg alignement. Ms Huhenia complains about knee pain but she does zero effort in keeping her legs straight through the rotation. I do not have knee pain, and it could be part of having my leg angle just right for my knees.
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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Pain above the kneecap tends to indicate too low or too far-back of a saddle. Too high or too far forward tends to cause pain on the back of the knee. I'd scoot the seat forward about 1/2-1.0 inch and try that for a while. Basic test for saddle-height is put your heel over the pedal-spindle and spin it backwards, you should NOT be able to reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke with your heel. Should be about 1/4-1/2" higher than pedal depending upon thickness of shoes and pedal-cleats.

    Yeah, watch out for your knee motions. A lot of people have a knee that wanders outwards on the upstroke, then slams inwards quickly on the downstroke. This is due to changes in force on the pedal, zero force on the upstroke (actually the pedal's pushing your foot up on the upstroke), and 100% force on the downstroke. This wide variation in force is tough on the knees. Better to have an even smooth pedal-stroke that doesn't vary in force much 25-50% force the whole way around. This is done through pedaling-exercises to develop a smooth even stroke and using lower gears and spinning faster.

  16. #16
    Devil's advocate 8bitevolution's Avatar
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    I've kept an eye on my knees and I seem to be keeping them fairly straight, not wandering outwards at any point during the pedal stroke. However, I don't angle them in at all, either, and I might give that a try.

    As Danno said, moving the saddle forward should help and it seems to be. I'm also doing stretches and trying to spin more in lower gears. I'm also gradually moving the saddle up and it seems to be helping so I think the combination is starting to get things straightened out.

    Thanks for everyone's advice!

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