Bike fit, odd knee pain, etc.
I've been lurking for about 4 months since I got into cycling. Very appreciative of the wealth of knowledge and information on this forum.
A little background, I'm a 25 year old male who runs 20-30 miles a week. Even during tough training regimens I've never had ANY type of knee issues ( plenty of other aches and pains but never the knees).
I picked up a Defy 2 and started riding pretty regularly, starting with 10-12 mile rides, and actually enjoyed the bike far more that I thought I would, and I was also not bad at it for a Noob. As I upped mileage and distance began to have some knee aches on the front inside of my left knee but nothing that kept me off the bike, and all the while no matter how bad my knee ached during a ride I could run 5 or 6 miles on it the next day and be completely fine.
I assumed that it was something about my bike setup that was tweaking my knee, so naturally I jumped on google and became a bike fit expert over night. Well by the time I messed up my bike past the point of no return I had finally learned enough to know that I had no idea what I was doing (and even if I did probably didn't have the patience to get it right). The next step was a professional Specialized Body Geometry bike fit. Made several changes to my set up including lowering the saddle, moving the saddle forward, and adjusting cleat position. i took the next week off from cycling since I was traveling for work anyway.
Got back on the bike Monday and did a short but intense ride and the knee still ached, but it wasn't any worse. Tuesday ran 5 miles and no problem, so of course when a buddy wanted to ride this evening I threw judgement out the window and agreed. About 4 miles in and on the first big hill I tweaked something big time. New type of sharp pain vs the previous dull ache I had grown accustomed to. Continued riding taking it easy and would eventually build back up to putting more torque on the knee, and then I'd catch a jolt of pain, after about the 3rd time it was bad enough that it scared me off of even trying to push and I took a short cut back and peddled the last 4 miles with just my right leg pushing and pulling (that was fun).
I doubt anyone has made it this far through this post, but if you have thanks for reading. My question is has anyone experienced this? If you did was it a knee issue or a bike fit issue?
I have an appt with the orthopedist next week, but I can get in to see my bike fit guy before that, just don't know if it's worth it. I really don't think I have a serious knee issue because i can still run perfectly fine on it.
Really have enjoyed getting into road cycling, but I don't want to risk taking myself out of half marathon training (fall race), and honestly I don't have time for a million tests and scans, and certainly not a knee surgery right now.
I have experienced this. I do have old knee injuries from improper weighlifting technique that I believe were the root cause of my pain, but I also believe that the improper fit, leg length, and possibly pedaling technique as well, aggravated the condition.
I am only about fourteen months into biking. When I began to get quasi-serious last December and started upping my weekly mileage, my right knee got progressively more and more painful. Like you I became a Youtube bike fit expert and like you I finally threw in the towel around late April and went in for a professional fit. Simultaneously I also went to the chiropractor and discovered that my right leg was approx. 1" shorter than my left. She adjusted most of that out and I am now shimming the remaining discrepancy with my footwear. In the last couple of months my knee pain is almost gone, despite climbing almost 32,000 feet of old logging roads on a steel fat bike in June and riding a double century two weekends ago with 75# of cargo bike and camping gear.
Edit - After years of heating pads, I also finally discovered ice.
Last edited by trainsktg; 07-22-15 at 09:09 PM.
Hi JCM, first of all, take my advise with a grain of salt since I'm by no means a fit expert or have been riding trouble free. with that said.
As far as I know, the knee pain mostly comes from:
a) Saddle adjustment - fore/aft, angle and height
b) cleat adjustment.
I think the two of above are the easiest items to address and you can give it a try yourself first with a friend/family/partner. they require no special tools and would put you in the ballpark.
You can also ask the store that sold you the bike to give you at least that kind of fit for free, it's not time consuming, and in my opinion it is expected from a LBS, when you go to a store to buy a bike you are paying a premium over what you would've found online. I expect them to give me at least that basic fit service otherwise it would be a deal breaker to me.
If all of above fails, look for a reputable professional. Some people out there just do whatever is in the book and consider it done, others like Steve Hogg for example, offer you a satisfaction guaranteed on his services, you can come back up to 3 or 6 months later and get a full refund if you are not satisfied. So make sure your professional stands behind his services
I can relate from experience regarding knee issues. I would be very, very careful of exacerbating your condition. It appears that you are subconsciously thinking that it's not a huge deal and that it'll go away, hence your attempt to continue to ride despite escalating pain and hence you mentioned that you don't think it's a "serious knee issue."
Originally Posted by JCM 1420
One could argue that you indeed have a knee issue, either in spite or because of poor fit. Said another way: you're experiencing knee pain, so regardless of the source, that is a knee issue. The only question is whether it's invasive or not.
I had a similar experience two years ago. I was 33 at the time and never had a single joint or tendon problem, despite sending considerable time in the gym. That summer, after doing a lot of plyometrics and squats, I developed similar issues AND started cycling. The pain would escalate and then go away. I continued doing what I was doing, but at some point the pain escalated quickly. I went to a doctor, learned I developed serious tendonitis, and spent the following 2-3 months in P.T. It took a full year for most of the pain to be alleviated and for my tendons to heal, yet I still feel some tendon sensitivity/pain after applying extended exercise to my knees.
A lesson I learned was that the pain was an indicator that I should stop and have my knees checked out, and not assume that it would work itself out. As such, I'm glad you're going to see an orthopedic, and you might want to see someone who is more of an expert on knees.
I don't believe you indicated whether you are continuing with your cycling, but since you're not a pro I would recommend deferring any more cycling until you get yourself checked out first.
On another note:
I've been having bike fit issues lately, and I also have been feeling sore knees on rides longer than 15 miles (due to my knee tendonitis). Someone recommended I set my saddle all the way back, from a very central position, to solve the fit issue but not necessarily my knee issue; this put my knees behind the bottom bracket. As a delightful surprise, I'm positive this has helped me alleviate pressure on my knees. It hasn't completely dulled the sensitivity, but it has significantly helped. Your mileage may vary; a fitter may recommend something different.
There is a school of thought that suggests that the "knee over pedal" position is not a holy grail and that changing this position may be beneficial to the cyclist depending on his/her body geometry.
Anyway, good luck with this and I hope the ortho gives you good news!
Long Distance Cyclist
Maybe you've already come across this site?
CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS - Knee Pain
I'm not a doctor but when you say the pain is inside, if you mean behind your knee cap, then you're probably giving yourself chondromalacia patellae. I don't know how long you have to lay off but when you do get back on the bike you'll have to stop pushing of high gears and learn to do the speed you want by increasing your cadence at lower gears.
It sounds like you're using clipless shoes and pedals. My first advice is - stop doing that. Put regular pedals back on the bike, wear regular shoes. (If you don't have anything that would work well, Chrome makes shoes with a flat sole (no cleat attachment) specifically for biking).
There's a good chance that will clear up all your knee pain. If it does, then you know that it's not biking that's the problem, it's biking with clipless/cleats.
The main advantage of clipless is keeping your foot attached to the pedal at high cadence. Whether or not you gain any power or efficiency using clipless is highly debated - studies in the lab have shown no improvement using clipless (despite feeling like there is one), but they're not in the real world. Point is - there's no "huge" efficiency advantage from clipless.
There are drawbacks to clipless, like you're experiencing, in that having your foot held in one position increases your chances of having foot/knee/leg issues over the course of a ride.
The first place to start, in my opinion, is to stop using clipless and see if that solves your problem. You might want to go back to the fitter to have your seat height readjusted (different shoes put your leg at a slightly different height).
While this is true, it is just a symptom that something about your shoes/pedals is not setup correctly. With a proper fit, this should not be an issue. But you may have to go to a professional fitter to fix the issue. And you may have to change the type of clipless pedals/shoes that you use. I hear that the Speedplay system gives more float than a lot of other systems.
Originally Posted by PaulRivers
That's not true.
Originally Posted by ColaJacket
It's true that for some people they never have issues with clipless.
It's true that for some people they have issues but a fitting takes care of it.
But it's also true that for some people neither helps at all and clipless continues to be a problem even with the correct fit.
I personally went to 2 fitters trying to fix a problem where my right knee would always hurt after riding clipless. I bought new shoes, new inserts, etc - did not help.
After 15 years or so of this, I happen to get into weightlifting (which cause it's own problems later, partially due to me not warming up like I should, but that's a different story). After getting my form down to being right, and doing squats, my right knee pain with clipless went away. Finally. But all those fittings? They did not help me personally at all.
I suspect a few people's body layout just doesn't let them use clipless, though they'd be a minority of people, as well.
Either way, my point is you're not gaining any sort of "huge" advantage by using clipless. The first thing to try is not using clipless. It's cheap and fairly easy, and isolates the cause of the problem. Past that you can choose to look into it further if you want.