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  1. #1
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    Sore Knees from too much spinning ?

    Hi All,

    I have been riding regularly for awhile, mostly morning "exercise" rides of 10-25 miles 4-6 days a week. Then on weekends doing a longer ride of 25-30 miles or so. This spring I lengthened my weekend rides to 30-40 miles. I rode my first 80 mile century in early June on my mtb w/knobbies. My time was 5:39.
    http://www.hatcitycyclists.org/cycle...efest2006.html

    I did fine except for some leg cramps late in the ride. However I noticed my knees began to get sore from 40 miles on or so (just after the length of my longest training ride). After the ride I put 100psi slicks on my bike. My knees were a little sore but were about back to normal within a week. I adjusted my training rides to be a bit more flat so I could concentrate on spinning more. Normally, since I don't have much time to ride on weekday mornings I make my rides very hilly so I can get a good workout in. I'm a "stand & climb everything" kind of guy typically anyways. I also again lengthened my weekend ride to 50-70 miles.
    Yesterday I completed my first 100 mile century in nearly 20 years !! My time was 6:43.
    http://www.ctcycle.org/century.htm

    Again I felt fine except for my knees from about 40-50 miles on. The pain I get is on the outside of the knees, more on the left yesterday, and actually more on the right the first century, go figure ? The pain comes from spinning, no matter what cadence I use although higher is slightly more comfortable. Towards the end of the ride I was standing and climbing nearly every bump in the road in order to avoid having to spin against any resistance. Someone gave me an Aleve at one of the rest stops at 80 miles and that helped alot.

    My question is this. We're now half way through the Summer.
    I have a 75 miler planned for August 6th. http://www.tourofthelitchfieldhills.com/
    I would like to try Greylock 100 miler the following week. http://www.berkshirecycling.org/rides/greylock.php
    And the pinnicle of my cycling season will be the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee on August 26th.
    109 miles, 11.3K of climbing, 70% on dirt (town maintained dirt roads)
    http://newhorizonsbikes.com/page.cfm?PageID=347

    How should I approach and/or alter my training towards these rides ?
    I am willing to shorten or cancel any but the Deerfield ride if I have to.
    Do I need to have more frequent long spinning rides ? Rest more ?
    I should mention that I do weights (leg extensions, etc.) twice a week, nothing crazy but I am consistent.
    My bike position is fine and nothing else seems to bother me until I get beyond 40 miles or so.
    I don't want to do any lasting damage to my knees as this is my first season doing centuries again and I am still only a young pup @ 43 yrs old.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cadillac's Avatar
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    Sore knees

    Be sure the distance between the pedal and the saddle is correct.
    Get someone to hold the bike while you pedal backwards a few times.
    With the crank in line with the seat tube, put your heel on the pedal.
    Your leg should be almost straight.
    Adjust your seat height to obtain the correct distance.
    Then do the same measurement with your other leg (lots of people have different leg lengths and don't know it).

    This distance factor may not be causing your knee problem, but it can be the source for some people who extend their leg too far so that the knee takes the "slack."
    "Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
    The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
    But then begins a journey in my head,
    To work my mind, when body's work's expired"
    -- Shakespeare Sonnet XXVII
    Click here to visit Motorera.com

  3. #3
    Senior Member Marcello's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT
    My bike position is fine and nothing else seems to bother me until I get beyond 40 miles or so.
    Are you 100% sure that the bike position is fine? I had similar knee problems this spring, and they seem to have disappeared after tweaking the position of the cleats very slightly. Even minor changes in the saddle and cleat positioning can make a significant difference in your knees after tens of thousands of repetitive motions.

    Stretching before a ride and after about an hour of riding might help as well, especially if you are having leg cramping.

  4. #4
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    I had a fit kit done some years back and I've kept the measurements from the fitting so that I could apply them as I've changed bikes. I've been thinking about calling her to bring my current bike in just so she could troubleshoot any in my position that I'm not picking up on in my shorter rides.

    Is there any signifcance to the fact that my knee soreness is on the outside, or two o'clock position ?

    Thanks,

    J.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcello
    Are you 100% sure that the bike position is fine? I had similar knee problems this spring, and they seem to have disappeared after tweaking the position of the cleats very slightly. Even minor changes in the saddle and cleat positioning can make a significant difference in your knees after tens of thousands of repetitive motions.

    Stretching before a ride and after about an hour of riding might help as well, especially if you are having leg cramping.

  5. #5
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    I agree with Cadillac's statement about getting the seat height correct. Generally having the seat too low can cause knee pains. Also mashing, or using too high of a gear and spinnning too slowly can also cause knee pain. I'd ice the knees after and proactivly take Alieve durring the ride.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Yesterday I completed my first 100 mile century in nearly 20 years !!
    It's pretty typical to develop overuse injuries when returning to high volumes of exercise. Especially when one uses very old memories and experience as a guide to what they can currently tolerate safely.

    If your knees hurt, it's unlikely that the source of the problem is due to your cadence. More likely, you have an inherent pedal-stroke style that is causing joint pain in the face of the volume of exercise you are maintaining. Your age, your bike-fit and your gear-selection are all contributing to your knee problems.

    Either adjust these factors, or reduce your exercise volume to a level where there is no pain or your're headed for trouble.

  7. #7
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
    More likely, you have an inherent pedal-stroke style that is causing joint pain in the face of the volume of exercise you are maintaining.
    Either adjust these factors, or reduce your exercise volume to a level where there is no pain or your're headed for trouble.
    Love the screen name
    My best friend & I call each other that from time to time..

    What exactly do you mean by inherent pedal-stroke style ?
    As far as adjusting exercise volume what would you suggest ?
    Fewer but longer rides ? More frequent shorter rides ? Fewer weekly miles period ?
    If I never rode over 40 miles at one time I'd never have a problem....

    The main difference between my training rides and the centuries (other than total distance which I understand is part of the problem) is the ratio of hills to flats. The centuries I've ridden have many more miles of flats than climbs and I feel that it's been the spinning for hours on end that's done me harm. My training rides are hilly to the degree that I'm either climbing (usually but not always standing), descending, or pedalling a short flat to the next hill.

  8. #8
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Another thing to consider is how you pedal. A fit kit is based on pedaling with your foot essentially flat during the pedal stroke. I have a natural tendency to point my toes. Which, in effect, causes me to bend my knee more than I should, thus mimicking a seat that is too low.

    Also, just because it isn't painful at 30 miles doesn't mean it is the right setting. If your ride is short enough, just about any configuration can be moderately comfortable. A mm off in seat height is not noticed in shorter rides, but if you ride for 6 hours, that mm starts to really cause some problems.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    My answer is based on the same principles as knee and or joint rehabilitation routines. Generally, unloaded movement of a knee joint accelerates circulation without stress or deformation of the joint due to resistance. When circulation outruns stress, the joint remains healthy, or return to health from damage. (unless trapped in a particular pedal/shoe configuration or similar restraining fashion)

    If stress, or resistance is added to the joint, the supporting muscles tend to fail to hold the joint perfectly and as the joint "deviates" during movement. Either ligaments, tendons or cartilage are stressed. (big gears cause this)

    Therefore, the spinning a "lightly loaded joint" only causes problems if the joint is deviating. Of course, disease is another issue altogether.

    So look closely at your setup and fit. Or realize that your current exercise volume is producing arthritis- like symptoms.

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    Although I've never ridden more than 50 miles at a time, I used to have knee pain when putting pressure on the pedals during longer rides. What worked for me was to move my saddle forward so that my knee was aligned with pedal axle at the 3 o'clock postion (see kops) and to switch to speedplay frogs clipless pedals, which allow my feet to rotate freely through the stroke. It's possible that the mountain bike you ride is set up with the saddle far back for steep decents and powering up hills. I also stretch those outside "bands" that run from your hip through the outside of your knee. All of those tricks made my riding pain-free.

  11. #11
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    Outside knee pain probably means that your cleats are in the wrong place on your shoes. Your knees are probably being forced into an unnatural position. You might want to try moving them around some to see if you can alleviate the problems, or switch pedals. FWIW, I had knee pains when I rode SPDs, but it went away when I switched to a pedal with a bit more float (road 225 miles this saturday with no pain other than muscle soreness).

  12. #12
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phoible
    Outside knee pain probably means that your cleats are in the wrong place on your shoes. Your knees are probably being forced into an unnatural position. You might want to try moving them around some to see if you can alleviate the problems, or switch pedals. FWIW, I had knee pains when I rode SPDs, but it went away when I switched to a pedal with a bit more float (road 225 miles this saturday with no pain other than muscle soreness).
    Holy Crap !! 225 miles ! You go boy !!

    So what are you riding for pedals now ??
    I tried Speedplay frogs awhile back for a short time but I wasn't blown away by them......
    Tomorrow morning I'll have time to do 30 miles.....
    I had my fit person put wedges on my cleats so I'll see if that has made any difference.

    Thanks !

    J.

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    All the above is probably good advice, but I can't believe no one has mentioned to STOP DOING LEG EXTENSIONS! They're not good for much, other than stressing your knee joints.

    If you want to build up strength in your quadriceps, try wall squats using a fitness ball. Other choices that would be better to build leg strength would be the leg press machine or deadlifts - make sure someone who knows what they're talking about checks your form. Of course, if you're riding a lot, you might want to save the non-bike specific workouts for the off-season.

  14. #14
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    I ride with eggbeaters. Despite all the talk I've heard about people getting hotspots with them, I haven't had any problems.

  15. #15
    Member PeterMac's Avatar
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    This is very interesting too me. I am 44 and new to cycling, and anything over 40 gives me the same type on pain that JO is describing. Did my first century yesterday, and the knee was the only problem I felt the whole time (except the 20 MPH head wind for the last 15 miles).

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  16. #16
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    RC's the one to listen to. Illio-tibial band (ITB) strain comes from pushing too hard uphills, as the OP admits he is apt to do. That is, pushing a high gear with low cadence, or pushing a heavy touring bike with low cadence.

    I've had it several times and it takes time to heal because we are dealing with a long fibrous tissue that extends from the hip down to the calf that is not as well serviced by blood vessels as muscle.

    Over exertion needs to be avoided, and spinning is a good idea. Fit generally is not the issue, although lack of float in pedal cleats can have a role if the leg-to-foot plane is twisted, or the outside of the foot drops away.

    I could continue to ride the bike, but only by spinning, and letting the recovery processes take their course, including appropriate stretching. According to a triathlete friend, there is a PT cure; it's a quick manouevre but painful. If you haven't already, it really would be advisable to seek the opinion of a physiotherapist or somesuch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT
    Holy Crap !! 225 miles ! You go boy !!

    So what are you riding for pedals now ??
    I tried Speedplay frogs awhile back for a short time but I wasn't blown away by them......
    Tomorrow morning I'll have time to do 30 miles.....
    I had my fit person put wedges on my cleats so I'll see if that has made any difference.

    Thanks !

    J.
    I use Time Atac pedals for the large degree of float they offer, but like any of the variants that use brass cleats, there needs to be some caution. The brass can wear quite rapidly inside where the cleats clip into the spring traps on the pedals. If your foot and ankle have a predisposition to drop sideways as you pedal, the wear pattern will reflect this. Slowly, your foot will assume a dropped appearance, and this is what was aggravating my ITB on my right leg. It may also affect power transfer from the leg to the crank. The solution I have found is to renew the cleats sooner rather than later... or change to SPDs.

  18. #18
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT
    As far as adjusting exercise volume what would you suggest ?
    Fewer but longer rides ? More frequent shorter rides ? Fewer weekly miles period ?
    If I never rode over 40 miles at one time I'd never have a problem....
    I'm very interested in opinions on this too (though I'm skeptical that there is a lot of BS floating on this thread.. ie. if your cleats are positioned wrong, why can't you just move your seat forward or back?)

    Anyway, is the best way to deal with knee, butt, or wrist pain to just ride long and endure it? -- Or is riding often but below the pain threshhold useful? or better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by godspiral
    Anyway, is the best way to deal with knee, butt, or wrist pain to just ride long and endure it? -- Or is riding often but below the pain threshhold useful? or better?
    The best way to deal with any pain on a bike is to identify what is causing it and fix it. It may be fit (bike, clothes, saddle, shoes), it may be technique (cadence, gear selection, positioning). But riding often and below the pain threshhold is no solution and definitely only useful for helping to ID problems.

    Be aware that to fix a problem may require incremental adjustment. Never change more than one thing at once. Keep a log of what is changed and where the starting point was so the adjustment can be returned to the original position if that option fails to work.

    All based on my own experience.

  20. #20
    Seņor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    Someone saying that they stand to ride hills, tells me that they've either run out of gear, or run out of patience. In either case, doing this repeatedly is not going to make for happy knees. It sounds to me that your legs are accustomed to riding this way for the distance you've been training, but that mashing gears for longer periods is beyond your body's tolerance. One you reach that point, nothing is going to feel comfortable, and it will contribute to cramps as well. Try easier gears going up the hills (from the beginning of the ride), and try to keep as smooth and easy a cadence as you can, your legs will last a lot longer that way.
    The search for inner peace continues...

  21. #21
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro
    Someone saying that they stand to ride hills, tells me that they've either run out of gear, or run out of patience.
    Zorro, I appreciate your feedback but in this instance it's just the way I ride. Here in New England we have plenty of short steep hills and I find it's just plain easier/faster to stand and climb over them. Now please note, you may have a mental picture of someone standing and grinding the cranks in their last gear @ 35rpms and believe me it's not the case. I'm guessing that when I stand & climb I'm probably turning the cranks @ 65-75rpms. Plus don't forget, I'm riding an mtb, I have gears down into the teens in gear inches. Could I sit and spin up these same hills that I currently stand & climb ? No doubt, it's just not the way I prefer.

    I did go to my fit person and she did shim my current SPD cleats as she noted that my knees had a tendency to rock towards the top tube at the top of each pedal stroke. This has been corrected with the shims but now I would like to go the extra mile and get the extra float that the Frogs have. I'll let you all know how I make out.

  22. #22
    Seņor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT
    Zorro, I appreciate your feedback but in this instance it's just the way I ride. Here in New England we have plenty of short steep hills and I find it's just plain easier/faster to stand and climb over them. Now please note, you may have a mental picture of someone standing and grinding the cranks in their last gear @ 35rpms and believe me it's not the case. I'm guessing that when I stand & climb I'm probably turning the cranks @ 65-75rpms. Plus don't forget, I'm riding an mtb, I have gears down into the teens in gear inches. Could I sit and spin up these same hills that I currently stand & climb ? No doubt, it's just not the way I prefer.
    No worries. We've no shortage of short/steep here too. From what I've been told, 90 rpm is kind of the arbitrarily defined cutoff between mashing and spinning. If the other remedies don't work - perhaps it wouldn't hurt to give it one try.

    Good luck with it. It sure ruins the experience when pain sneaks into a ride.
    The search for inner peace continues...

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    glucosamine

    proper saddle height

    proper Q factor

    try a lemond wedge for a while


    spin high rpms 100-120

    recovery

    do not do squats, and avoid all stairs if you can avoid them. use elevators


    all the above should eliminate knee problems

    if not better, then see a doc

  24. #24
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro
    From what I've been told, 90 rpm is kind of the arbitrarily defined cutoff between mashing and spinning..
    I agree, as it relates to rpms sitting.
    When it comes to standing cadence I think you'll find the average is much lower.


    Quote Originally Posted by USAZorro
    It sure ruins the experience when pain sneaks into a ride.
    Again I agree.....
    Hoping I'll have better luck with the Speedplay Frogs..

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT
    Zorro, I appreciate your feedback but in this instance it's just the way I ride. Here in New England we have plenty of short steep hills and I find it's just plain easier/faster to stand and climb over them. Now please note, you may have a mental picture of someone standing and grinding the cranks in their last gear @ 35rpms and believe me it's not the case. I'm guessing that when I stand & climb I'm probably turning the cranks @ 65-75rpms. Plus don't forget, I'm riding an mtb, I have gears down into the teens in gear inches. Could I sit and spin up these same hills that I currently stand & climb ? No doubt, it's just not the way I prefer.
    The point is that you have sustained an injury which to me seems very much like ITB strain/syndrome. This also is reinforced by your OP with the calf-cramping issue that seems more likely to be the onset of shin splints, which I believe are directly related to the ITB.

    From my understanding and experience, the injury is caused by pushing too big a gear sitting or standing when the strength isn't in the band (yet). You will need to let the strain heal fully and build up to your standing cadence, and that may take some time (even months). But in the meantime if you wish to continue riding, spin and avoid loading up the pedals on hills, plus do the stretches. ITB strain can be a debilitating affliction. It prevents strength development in the leg, and can hang around for a long time unless you concentrate on appropriate gearing and do the appropriate stretches. It occurs in hilly country more often, and I would say few flatland riders would suffer from it. Ulitmately, it's your choice what you do, but I would think a consultation with physiotherapist would be one of those choices.

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