Hi there! I've fairly recently, as in this past year, gotten back into the swing of biking -- the result of cleaning out the garage and getting bikes off the ceiling and into a spot they could be accessed
Anyway, I try to ride a bit in the evenings, and usually will do about 2 to 3 hours' riding on the weekend. I'm just shy of six feet tall, and my weight's been teasing me between 200 and 210.
I ride a Diamondback Apex (from about '95) mountain bike, and I didn't have any problems earlier this year. However, I've started developing knee pains (or slightly below the knee pains) while riding, even though I'd raised the seat to a pretty high point (have to dismount to stop); usually the pains develop about an hour to two hours into the ride. I find that while riding, if I change my foot's position to the heel being over the pedal and point my toes down, the pain disappears. However, the pain does persist for about a day afterward, particularly noticeable if I have to do any kind of squatting.
Having taken the bike and myself to a few shops, I've gotten mixed statements from them; most have said the bike itself is too small, while a few have said a couple adjustments could be made to resolve the issue. One of the ones that stated the bike looks small also commented that some adjustments might alleviate my problem. I'm either too used to being on my mountain bike, or am too used to being a sardine, that I don't really notice my current bike as being uncomfortable until a couple hours into it -- which doesn't seem to help me when looking for a comfortable bike to ride.
The type of riding I do is mostly hard-top, asphalt or concrete, though I wouldn't want to risk a road bike with the roads the way they are in this area. Most of the shops recommended a hybrid. However, each pretty much suggests the models they carry: Fuji, Specialized, Cannondale, Raleigh, and since I'm not really an aficionado, I don't really know much about the various makes.
So, after all that the questions I have are fairly straightforward:
How can I tell that a new bike would actually resolve the knee problems?
If I get a hybrid, what bike models are good, solid bikes?
Are there solid US manufacturers still out there?
My beloved 2001 Litespeed Tuscany and my 2014 Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Team bike
Go to a shop that will do the adjustments on the bike you have. Then do your usual ride and see if the knee pain goes away. If so, then try a few new bikes that they suggest. If the knee pain persists, its time to see an ortho doc.
One of the big problems your may be having with your knee is that your fore/aft saddle position is wrong. You did the first thing correctly which was to raise your saddle height. A really broad based rule of thumb to get a rough idea if it is high enough is to sit on the saddle with the pedal in the 6:00 position (the bottom of the pedal stroke) and then have your heel just be able to touch the pedal when your leg is fully extended.
The second adjustment which I'm not sure if you've done is to set the fore/aft position. The general rule of thumb is to sit on your bike and have the pedal in the 3:00 position (pedals horizontal to the ground) and with your foot on the pedal with the balls of your feet over the pedal spindle there should be a vertical line from your lateral condyle to the pedal spindle. You'll really need someones help for this measurement because it is impossible to do yourself. You have to make sure your bike is upright and that you are squarely seated.
I have a feeling you are too far forward on your bike and this is causing your knee pain. If so the adjustment is pretty easy, as all you have to do is slide the saddle back on the rails. This is called the "set back" and many pro cyclists like this more relaxed position especially as the miles add up.
Setback is getting to feel better these days .. Knee over the pedal thing.. or further back, for low cadence riding ..
I dont spin them fast, but like to have a light feel on the pedal, so getting the ratios wide enough to not labor a high one counts..