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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 03-26-09, 05:32 PM   #1
IbikezLA
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back pedaling

Is it harmful to your knees over time? I only have info from word of mouth and I'm having trouble find info on back pedaling. I'd really like to know if it is harmful so I know how much to rely on my brakes to stop. Do you know of any articles I can read?
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Old 03-26-09, 07:11 PM   #2
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Not that I've noticed. I'll be 54 in a couple months and ride fixed at least as much as I ride geared and my knees aren't giving me trouble. But then I don't do skids or stunt riding, so maybe that's the real knee-killer.
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Old 03-26-09, 07:11 PM   #3
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It's less harmful than running into something. Just use your brakes. (That's 'breaks' to some of you.)
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Old 03-26-09, 07:34 PM   #4
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i backpedal at low speeds when theres just no need to use the brake. for quick stops i use the brake, and also to bleed speed on downhills
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Old 03-26-09, 07:47 PM   #5
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Your knees won't explode after doing one skid. If you are riding a certain way and backpedaling, and your knees get sore at some point, adjust your riding style. Your knees will tell you if there is a problem.
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Old 03-26-09, 08:25 PM   #6
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If your knees start hurting, lower your seatpost a bit. Most pain from riding any bike usually comes from fitting or incorrect positioning.

You should be fine. Just have a brake and use your brain.
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Old 03-26-09, 08:37 PM   #7
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I'm not talking about skidding. I hear a lot that back pedaling really damages your knees over time. I wanted to know this for a fact so I went searching for articles but I can't find anything. I do use a brakes rather than back pedaling. I'm also in a bit of an argument with someone who doubts mashing or back pedaling does anything to your knees.
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Old 03-27-09, 02:51 AM   #8
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You can't technically back pedal on a fixed gear bicycle... So if you're not talking about skidding then double-U-Tee-Eff?
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Old 03-27-09, 03:06 AM   #9
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you mean resisting?

I do it all the time, everytime I slow down. It makes my knee joint feel good. Also, the pain in my sciatic nerve is gone. I don't skid though, I just resist and use the brake when necessary.
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Old 03-27-09, 09:45 AM   #10
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sure I guess I mean resisting, but everyone I know calls it back pedaling.
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Old 03-27-09, 11:57 AM   #11
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for me riding a fixed gear bike for the first time it caused more muscle pain - and maybe other soft tissue pain - simply related to using different leg muscles to ride & moderate cadence than with freewheel riding. Maybe folks get muscle pain confused with joint pain? I know I do sometimes with knee & back pain.
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Old 03-27-09, 12:00 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by IbikezLA View Post
Is it harmful to your knees over time? I only have info from word of mouth and I'm having trouble find info on back pedaling. I'd really like to know if it is harmful so I know how much to rely on my brakes to stop. Do you know of any articles I can read?
From my experience, no harm, more help.
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Old 03-27-09, 09:12 PM   #13
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over time it could....its the same as doing heavy lifting from the knees. you're exerting a lot of strain on your legs against the forward momentum of the bike. the bigger the gear ratio the bigger the strain would be.
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Old 03-27-09, 10:03 PM   #14
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over time it could....its the same as doing heavy lifting from the knees. you're exerting a lot of strain on your legs against the forward momentum of the bike. the bigger the gear ratio the bigger the strain would be.
+ 1

Use a front break and let your legs go dead (I think some people say "go gumby"). Minimal backpedaling isn't going to do much damage, but your main means of stopping should be your front break. With that said, some factors that predispose you to a higher chance of injury include an improper fit, really high gears, and genetics (seriously). If you want to understand the physiology behind it, look up eccentric contraction in google.
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Old 03-28-09, 12:36 AM   #15
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After my FIRST day of riding fixed, I experienced sever knee pain. I am an avid road biker so I am used to soreness, but I experienced a sharp pain in my knee unlike anything I have ever felt before. Of course, I was learning how to skid for like 5 hours...
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Old 03-28-09, 04:36 AM   #16
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After my FIRST day of riding fixed, I experienced sever knee pain. I am an avid road biker so I am used to soreness, but I experienced a sharp pain in my knee unlike anything I have ever felt before. Of course, I was learning how to skid for like 5 hours...

I'm no physiologist but I'd venture to say it's because your body (namely your connective tissue) wasn't used to it. Pedaling forward and pedaling backward (or resisting) may use the same muscles/CT, but doesn't use them the same way or in the same proportion. If you go out and rage, then suddenly apply a crazy amount of back pressure to joints that aren't up to the task then that's going to happen.

I spend a considerable amount of time in the squat rack and see stuff like that happen all the time... you get some dude who jumps in there who can rep 315, 10 times (which means they *should* be able to rep 405 at least once), then they stack up 405, lower and bottom out; but if you give them just a little bit of a lift, past the point where most of the stress is off the CT and onto the muscle, they'll lift it just fine. Some of the newer sports medicine lit that's come out in the last few years highlights the higher percentage of injuries related to CT in professional sports over the last 10ish years and theorizes that it comes due to an increase of steroid usage because while steroids help your muscle tissue recover from micro trauma really quickly it doesn't do so for your connective tissue and the weakest link is always going to break first and if you don't give your CT time to recover properly, it's gonna be that.
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Old 03-30-09, 03:18 PM   #17
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The phrase "back pedalling" can cover a number of techniques.

I don't skip or skid (intentionally) because I ride with expensive tires, and I think I can stop faster by back pedalling than by skidding.

Back pedalling works best with gear ratios below 72 gear inches.

And, back pedalling involves more technique than it does strength.

Really, nothing about a fixed gear bike should cause knee injuries.

If one feels symptoms, then the fixed gear bike has only revealed a pre-existing problem, and has not caused the problem.

Riding a fixed gear bike, regardless of technique or style, involves much lower stresses and loads than the knee experiences while running or going up and down stairs.

In any event, one should have a saddle position low enough to allow the full drop of the heel with the pedal at the bottom of the cycle.

This applies on any bike.

Most people ride with their saddle too high.

Look at professional road racers.

They sit much lower than the average non-elite rider.

When I back pedal, I drop my heel as much as possible, and I allow the aft rising-pedal to rise at a controllable rate.

I also keep my seat barely in contact with the saddle.

If I try to stop the pedal, I can't, and I actually become less efficient.

I don't (at least not very often) try to keep the front descending-pedal from descending.

Rather, I concentrate on dropping my heel, keeping it dropped, and controlling the rise of the pedal.

If I put any upward force on the front descending pedal I will often times skip or skid, and, besides wearing out my tires, a skidding tire does not stop as fast as an adhering connected-to-the-road tire.

Above 72 gear inches, either learn to skid (and wear out tires), or use a front brake, or both.

Remember, drop the heel and keep it dropped, and keep your bottom lightly in contact with the saddle.

Let the pedal rise.

With practice, you will find that you can more effectively slow down the bike with good technique than you can with brute force.
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Old 03-30-09, 03:41 PM   #18
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there was a guy on BF a couple months back that started a thread about his knee problems. I am not sure what caused them specifically, but I do remember him saying he got help from his neighbor and fixed his knees by dropping his gear ratio down to like 55 gi and learning how to spin more. He slowly brought his gear ratio back up to something more normal around 70 gi and buy the time he had (not sure how long it was, but it was a while) his knees had recovered.

My theory on it is that if you ride an appropriate gear ratio, then resisting the pedals is just another form of building muscle. It will build up the muscles around your knee and actually protect your knees over time, not harm them. You simply need to be careful not to put too much pressure on them before the muscle is built, that is when you cause injury
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Old 03-30-09, 05:37 PM   #19
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I've been talking to some people about this myth, as it is right now until I can find facts, and they claim that the problem over time back pedaling, exclusively to slow the bike, damages your cartilage. I'm really frustrated that I'm having trouble finding stuff. Am I just search engine stupid?
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Old 03-30-09, 06:13 PM   #20
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I've been talking to some people about this myth, as it is right now until I can find facts, and they claim that the problem over time back pedaling, exclusively to slow the bike, damages your cartilage. I'm really frustrated that I'm having trouble finding stuff. Am I just search engine stupid?
No, there just isn't real evidence that resisting the pedals will ABSOLUTELY give you knee problems. I play a sport with my friends every Spring when the weather gets nice, and it involves punting a volleyball a lot. Playing this sport put a lot of strain on my knee from the constant, sudden flexing of my tendons, specifically the patellar tendon in the knee. My knee got sore and swollen, and was pretty painful, and I had to give up riding for 2 - 3 weeks before the tendonitis cleared up.

If you are resisting past your comfort level and are really putting a lot of stress on your knees while resisting, then you will be putting the same type of stress on the patellar tendon, and it will get sore, just as any other part of your body would get sore or damaged from overuse.
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