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  1. #1
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    Bad Knees & a Recumbent

    Hello All,

    I am the classic, "used to be athletic, strong, etc when I was young" kind of guy who now finds myself overweight with bad knees. I have a 30 year old Trek 18 speed hanging in my garage but a bit concerned about putting it back in riding condition due to my knees. I have a bit of a hard time walking normally and have real difficulty with steps; going up or down. Nonetheless, due to countless other medical problems I've overcome, I have become overweight by about 40 pounds and need to shed this weight. Since a treadmill is out due to knees (I used to use a Nordic Track), I am considering moving back to some kind of bicycle so I'm wondering what the pros and cons are between an Wedge and Incumbent as far as the impact either has on the knees.

    Any input is appreciated in advance.

    Thanks,
    RMV

  2. #2
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Far as I know, it's a tossup on potential for knee damage between traditional upright bikes and recumbents. Either style should be better than running, walking, running up stairs, etc.
    For either style, the key is to use lower, easier-to-spin gearing.
    Have you tried riding a bike?
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  3. #3
    Senior Member linnefaulk's Avatar
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    Get the bike down, get some new tires and ride it!
    My knee and ankle were ready for the bin and I started riding. I can ride without pain and even walking is better. Biking gets the blood flowing without the stress to your joints. Blood flowing is what helps the healing process.
    sharon

  4. #4
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Recumbents aren't going to be any better (or worse) on your knees than a regular upright bike. Cycling in general may help you strengthen your knees, though. For range-of-motion issues, you can get short cranks, which decrease the amount of leg bend you need. They'll work on both styles of bike, but it's more common to talk about such things on the recumbent forums. The big difference between uprights and bents is the seat.

    OTOH, if you're trying to lose weight, walking is probably better than cycling. My advice would be to fix up your old bike and do both -- ride it and walk to ease yourself back into shape. In the meantime, if recumbents interest you, by all means check them out.

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    FWIW...(all have at least small sections on "rehab" that may be of interest/applicability)
    1. Fast Facts About Knee Problems
    2. Knee Injuries and Disorders: MedlinePlus (scroll downward to see "handouts" and other pages of interest)
    3.The Knee Problems From a Recumbent Bike - The Knee Problems From a Recumbent Bike | LIVESTRONG.COM (short summary of injuries/problems - deceptive title)
    4. http://www.livestrong.com/video/1010850-chafing-tailbone-recumbent-bike/ (okay, not about knees, but an oft-overlooked issue)
    5. Is a Recumbent Bike or an Upright Bike Better for Knee Pain? Recumbent Bike vs. Upright for Knee Pain | Knee Exercises | Howcast - video by certified physical therapist
    6.How to Prevent Knee Pain When Using Recumbent Bicycles - How to Prevent Knee Pain When Using Recumbent Bicycles (summary - spin, spin, spin)


    Basically, different opinions depending upon who you talk with and what specific injury/rehab problem you have or are trying to prevent. At least that's how I read it.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Shahmatt's Avatar
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    For running, I suggest trying the front foot landing style.

    Landing on the front of the foot (ball of the foot) and only just touching the heel on the ground allows the stress to travel into your calves and avoid the knee and other bones. It is also the more natural method to run.

    In order for you to run in this way properly you will have to shed the conventional running shoes. These have stiff soles that do not flex. The flexing of the foot is important for the impact to be transferred to the calves. So get simple bendy footwear like the Adidas Jawpaw, Kurobe, or buy Vibram Five Fingers, or run barefoot.

    Vibram Five Fingers and running barefoot allow you to splay your toes. This helps to provide lateral stability to your foot. Landing on the heel (with normal running shoes) does nothing for stability and you can easily roll and cause ankle injury.

    If you decide to try front foot running remember your calves may never have been used to absorb shock and your weight. Transitioning is usually slow, results in really sore muscles, and can take months. But as your muscles get stronger you should find it easier to run. Patience is key! Also IMHO I think it's worth it.

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    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    As someone with "moderate" osteoarthritis in both knees, I suggest a recumbent with:
    Short (150mm for a 6' guy like me) cranks and gearing low enough to spin at 80 rpm+.

    There is nothing specific about the recumbent platform that is better/worse for your knees. Cadence and pedal pressure is the issue regardless of platform.

    My osteo specifically mentioned that walking is Not Good if you have arthritic knees. Ride the bike.
    Last edited by delcrossv; 07-21-14 at 12:24 PM.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    Senior Member linnefaulk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    My osteo specifically mentioned that walking is Not Good is you have arthritic knees. Ride the bike.
    +1
    sharon

  9. #9
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shahmatt View Post
    For running, I suggest trying the front foot landing style.

    Landing on the front of the foot (ball of the foot) and only just touching the heel on the ground allows the stress to travel into your calves and avoid the knee and other bones. It is also the more natural method to run.
    I see nothing natural about landing ball-first. Your feet are not constructed to land that way, and doing so will over-stress the tendons in your lower leg. It's a great recipe for shin splints or worse.

  10. #10
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    I see nothing natural about landing ball-first. Your feet are not constructed to land that way, and doing so will over-stress the tendons in your lower leg. It's a great recipe for shin splints or worse.
    Regardless of whether you run on the balls or your feet or the heels, running isn't really recommended either.

    Interesting Times blog about running and strike position.

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/0...ype=blogs&_r=0
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    Something to remember and think about...as a personal trainer I want to remind you of one important thing. Your weight and health ate 80% what you EAT and 20% how much you move.
    I also have bad knees, two surgeries since Sept.

    Do some research into your diet. Cut out simple carbs. Rice, pasta, bread, starch (corn and potatoes) are sugar to your body. Might as well be eating spoonfuls of pure cane sugar. Get your carbs from green veggies like broccoli, green beans, etc. Include fruits that end in 'berry' to help curb the sweet tooth. Take these thing one day at a time. Cutting out white food and sugar is like stopping smoking or drugs. Hard and takes great willpower. One day at a time.

    Step on the scale every 3 days in the morning. It will be your cheerleader.

    Good luck. PM me if you need me. I'm good at my job.

    Ginny
    Sun EZ SPORT AX

  12. #12
    Senior Member Shahmatt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    I see nothing natural about landing ball-first. Your feet are not constructed to land that way, and doing so will over-stress the tendons in your lower leg. It's a great recipe for shin splints or worse.
    My claim to the naturalness of the front foot strike is based on the fact that there is is no need to wear running footwear. Any footwear that is worn is optional and only used to protect the skin from abrasions and not to absorb impact.

    By landing on the heel where does the impact go? What supports the heel? Is it muscle or bone. Just do a standing jump while barefoot and land on your heel. Do your muscles feel used? In fact you may feel nothing at all. That's because the jolt went into bone and into your knee joint and traveled all the way up to your spine.

    Bone is bad at absorbing shock. It's hard and brittle. Can you run barefoot while landing on the heel? I think this would be very difficult. And so we use the running shoes with cushioning to take on some of that shock. But shoes can only do so much and eventually something must give - most likely at the joints or at the back.

    Consider the alternative. You land on the ball of the foot and the first thing that happens is that your foot flexes across its length (there is no flexing going on with a heel strike as your foot is usually muted by the shoe). The ankle and knee joints rotate and cause your calves and thigh muscles to be tugged upon in tension. The impact bypasses the joints and so those weak points are spared.

    More interestingly toes suddenly become activated. They splay out and lend lateral stability, resisting the ankle from rolling. Suddenly ankle sprains become a thing of the past. Can the nicely round shaped heel resist roll? I think not. The front of the foot is naturally wider than the back I think for this very purpose. Toes are the natural stabilizers of the foot and entire body. It is easier to balance the body when landing on the front of the foot than the back.

    As for the injuries you have mentioned. If you are a seasoned runner coming from a normal running shoe background you will have an excellent cardiovascular system but poor training of calves and tendons in the matter of absorbing the impact of your entire body weight. These may only ever have been used in propulsion. That is, pushing off after landing. If you are older it may take you a long while to condition your tendons and muscles to do their job. Some seasoned runners don't get it, and get injured quite easily, and the media love to hear their views. But with care it can be done, and it's great fun when you get the hang of it.
    Last edited by Shahmatt; 07-22-14 at 01:16 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
    Far as I know, it's a tossup on potential for knee damage between traditional upright bikes and recumbents. Either style should be better than running, walking, running up stairs, etc.
    For either style, the key is to use lower, easier-to-spin gearing.
    Have you tried riding a bike?
    Hello and thank you for your response. No, I have not tried riding since the more severe pain has set in. I guess the best thing to do is try riding an excercise bike to see what kind of pain I'm experiencing. Was just curious of the benefits, if any, of the recumbent over traditional. There seems little to be little to no benefit either way. Thank you again.

  14. #14
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RMV4285 View Post
    Hello and thank you for your response. No, I have not tried riding since the more severe pain has set in. I guess the best thing to do is try riding an excercise bike to see what kind of pain I'm experiencing. Was just curious of the benefits, if any, of the recumbent over traditional. There seems little to be little to no benefit either way. Thank you again.
    Just remember that exercise bikes are just an approximation of real bicycles. But they should let you know whether or not you can tolerate bicycling. Good luck!
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

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    I am in your same situation, I got bikes hanging too but at 265 lbs, I can't physically enjoy them and consequently won't ride them and I know it. So...I justified the Greenspeed trike based on I had test rode one 10 years ago and loved it but other hobbies made the likely hood I would really ride it small. Fast forward and I really want and need to find a way to get some exorcise so I went trike shopping and I am having a blast riding, only doing 6-8 miles a night but could easily go further right from the beginning but giving myself a bit of adjustment time before pushing anything too hard. Also my daughter and or wife are riding with me as well and to my surprise I am as well off riding as both of them and I would not have expected as they are both in what i thought to be better shape than me.

    Consider the fact that, if it is fun you might just actually do it !! I ended up buying 3 machines but 2 would be great too if you got someone to consistently ride with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by imagesinthewind View Post
    Something to remember and think about...as a personal trainer I want to remind you of one important thing. Your weight and health ate 80% what you EAT and 20% how much you move.
    I also have bad knees, two surgeries since Sept.

    Do some research into your diet. Cut out simple carbs. Rice, pasta, bread, starch (corn and potatoes) are sugar to your body. Might as well be eating spoonfuls of pure cane sugar. Get your carbs from green veggies like broccoli, green beans, etc. Include fruits that end in 'berry' to help curb the sweet tooth. Take these thing one day at a time. Cutting out white food and sugar is like stopping smoking or drugs. Hard and takes great willpower. One day at a time.

    Step on the scale every 3 days in the morning. It will be your cheerleader.

    Good luck. PM me if you need me. I'm good at my job.

    Ginny
    Sun EZ SPORT AX
    LISTEN TO GINNY, she's so right. I dropped 53 pounds from 217 to 164 doing exactly this over an 18 month period. I swam as well, which is probably the absolute best activity for anyone with joint or pain issues. Unless you have a problem spending lots of time in chlorinated water.

    YOU CANNOT OUTRUN YOUR FORK........I feel bad for those I see who are very overweight trying to lose weight riding a bike, especially a hybrid for 2 miles with a sugary energy bar. You just know it's a waste of time. Or those trying to treadmill off what they ate yesterday. Give up now, you're wasting your time. The hardest exercise is pushing yourself away from the table.......I'm not saying don't exercise, rather 80% of your weight loss will be connected to what you eat.

    I don't attribute much of my weight loss to cycling, even the years I rode 4-5,000 miles. But I'd ride even if it didn't drop an ounce, just too much fun.

  17. #17
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Or maybe get a trike with a triple and lower gear inches. Let you knees tell you how hard you should pedal. However in the long run the exercise done right will be good for you IMO.

  18. #18
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    I never was a
    "athletic, strong, etc when I was young"


    However, I do
    now find[s] myself overweight with bad knees.
    I ride a bent because it is more comfortable and more comfort leads to longer distances at higher speeds. I agree with the people who said a trike (even though I am holding off on a trike right now). I also agree with those who added to keep it in a low gear and just turn the cranks fast. Done right there is very little pressure in the knees.

    The advantage of a trike is that using this approach you may go pretty slow in spots; but, the trike will remove the need to try to balance at those low speeds. Last weekend I was riding my bent up a hill and I ended up getting off ands walking it because at the speed I was going I was wobbling about; on a trike that isn't likely to happen.
    As a nation we still continue to enjoy a literally unprecedented prosperity; and it is probable that only reckless speculation and disregard of legitimate business methods on the part of the business world can materially mar this prosperity. Theodore Roosevelt, Sixth Annual Message, December 3, 1906

  19. #19
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    Having run cross country in high school and college, having run for years as an adult, my opinion (everybody's got one) is that running is bad for you. It is destructive, and although its the most efficient way to get aerobically fit, it will break down things like knees and back, and after 20 years of it, you are done with running due to knee and/or back problems.

    As a long term bike rider, I now love the recumbent platform. Riding any kind of a bike is easier on the knees than walking or running, and if you have extra mass plus years of inactivity, you may have other issues that will eventually cause problems on a DF bike. Recumbents solve those issues. A recumbent will not put stress on shoulders, neck, wrists, and hands, and butt. But it will give you a platform to have mobility as you exercise. Plus you can see where you are going, because you are looking straight forward, not at your front wheel. I hope you try out a recumbent trike or bike while you are thinking about a strategy to get in shape and lose weight.
    Last edited by Bob Shaver; 07-29-14 at 01:42 PM.

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